October 2, 2018

Concert #845 - Madison Violet at McCabe's Guitar Shop (September 29, 2018)


When Lea, my Amsterdam-based  niece, and her husband Erez, first told me about their upcoming visit to Southern California, I went straight to the web site of my favorite venue to see what was scheduled for September 29 and 30, the only two dates that were available for us to attend a concert at McCabe's - you know, no trip to Southern California is complete without catching at least one show at McCabe's! 

On the strength of a couple of decent YouTube videos, I bought tickets to see Madison Violet, a duo I had not heard of. It turned out to be an exceptionally inspired choice.

Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, collectively known as Madison Violet, grabbed me from their very first song and they kept me under their spell for the entire duration of the show. As the frequent concert attendee that I am, I know quite well that after you hear a few good songs, you are bound to be served a few forgettable ones, but there were no second-rate songs Saturday night at McCabe's. Indeed, one of Brenley and Lisa's strong points is their stellar songwriting - all of their compositions, whether uptempo or not, had one trait in common: their high quality. And they can sing, too - as I write this, two days after the show, their beautiful vocal harmonies are still echoing in my brain.

Madison Violet at McCabe's
Bookended by two gorgeous ballads, "Heart Working" and "Small Of My Heart", Madison Violet's set was something to behold. Most of the songs they sang for us were self-penned, I suppose, and even at first blush, they all sounded great. I absolutely loved the catchy "Come As You Are" (not the Nirvana hit) and the tuneful "The Ransom" and "Ohio", three songs that illustrate the perfect alignment between their melodic sense and mine. The included covers were equally great. Driven by Brenley guitar, Gram Parsons' "Ooh Las Vegas" and the traditional "Cindy, Cindy" brought the house down and so did Nirvana's "All Apologies".

Madison Violet at McCabe's

Brenley and Lisa did just fine without a backing band. Playing the entire set without a single support musician, these ladies put their instrumental prowess to good use. In addition to their acoustic guitars, we got to see a few other instruments in action: Lisa's violin playing infused a lot of energy into their act. I also liked her skillful playing of the mandolin.

Madison Violet at McCabe's
I so badly wanted to impress my European guests with a great show at McCabe's and I must say that not in my wildest dreams was I expecting to catch a concert as good as the show put on by Madison Violet Saturday night at McCabe's. My guests had a heck of a good time, too, and they rewarded me with hugs and kisses for my outstanding choice!

A few weeks ago I had no clue who Madison Violet was and it took Brenley and Lisa no time at all to make a passionate fan out of me. I can't wait for their next appearance at McCabe's.

The set list
Lisa MacIsaac chatting with fans after the show
Madison Violet T-shirts
The stage
The stage - Detail
Lea and Erez, my satisfied guests, in front of the venue

August 24, 2018

Concert #841 - Tony Joe White at the Grammy Museum (August 21, 2018)


The Grammy Museum opened in 2008, yet inexplicably, Tuesday night was my first time to walk through its doors. I'm glad I did. I paid $26 for my ticket, while parking set me back a whopping 30 bucks. Welcome to the LA Live district of Downtown LA!

Sticking with the venue's typical event format, Tony Joe White and museum executive Scott Goldman chatted on the stage for about fifty minutes, then Tony Joe delivered a set of medium length, I'd say forty minutes or so. This was a thrilling event for me, as I count myself among Tony Joe's earliest fans. Indeed, my love for his music goes back to the late sixties, when I first heard "Groupie Girl".

I listened with great interest to every word uttered by Tony Joe with his delightfully heavy Southern accent. He spoke about his earliest musical influences, Lightnin' Hopkins in particular, as well as his earliest days as an aspiring musician in Corpus Christi, Texas. He also spoke about his subsequent interaction with Elvis Presley and Tina Turner, among others.

Tony Joe White (left) & Scott Goldman at the Grammy Museum
The musical part of the evening kicked off with "Stockholm Blues", played by Tony Joe solo, after which he was joined by Bryan Owings, a drummer with impressive credentials. To these ears, the highlight of the show was Tony Joe's guitar playing and the distinctive sound of his wah-wah pedal.

Tony Joe White at the Grammy Museum
Tony Joe White & Bryan Owings at the Grammy Museum
The Set List
Stockholm Blues
Baby Please Don't Go - Boom Boom
Heartbreak Hotel
Bad Mouthin'
Big Boss Man
The Guitar Don't Lie
Polk Salad Annie
Untitled Instrumental Number

This was a very special evening for me, as I have been idolizing Tony Joe White since my teenage years. I hope and pray that I'll get to see him again.

The stage
The LA Live district of Downtown Los Angeles

August 10, 2018

Concert #838 - Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater (July 21, 2018)

Once a year, my Better Half and I host Sara and Kate, our two Seattle-based granddaughters. While scouring the net in search of some suitable form of entertainment, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a low-budget and most likely amateurish stage production of Mary Poppins. Good enough for my six and seven year old young ladies, I said to myself, so I bought four tickets, which - at $28 each - set us back a little over one hundred bucks. Was it money well spent? Read on!

Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what was in store for us. From our front-row seats, we witnessed an incredible performance with excellent singing, outstanding acting, dazzling dancing and, overall, lots of pace, color and professionalism - take it from someone who has seen both the Broadway and Los Angeles production of the same musical. From Mary, Bert and the Banks, to the Bird Woman and Miss Andrew, everyone on stage was practically perfect in every way! Mesmerized by the show, our granddaughters remained focused way past their normal attention span and they celebrated with enthusiasm the demise of the terrifying Miss Andrew and her Brimstone and Treacle potion. And just like the rest of, Sara and Kate absolutely loved Sadie Fisher and Ethan Kuwata, whose performance as the Banks children was exceptionally good.

Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
L to R: Ethan Kuwata, Philip McBride, Sadie Fisher, Amanda Greig

Main roles
Mary Poppins: Amanda Greig
Bert: Philip McBride
George Banks: Spencer Johnson
Winifred Banks: Eileen O’Donnell
Jane: Sadie Fisher
Michael: Ethan Kuwata
Bird Woman: Kelly Gable
Miss Andrew: Kim Peterson

There's nothing like going to a show with low expectations, only to be knocked out by the performance and that was precisely our experience at Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theater. It is obvious that talent is not in short supply in Los Angeles and vicinity!

Amanda Greig as Mary Poppins
Image result for Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
Philip McBride, Amanda Greig & the Living Statues
Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
The chimney sweeps
The end of the show
Kate (left) and Sara at the Morgan-Wixson Theater

Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theater

August 7, 2018

Concert #837 - Bob Neuwirth at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 14, 2018)

This was my first time to see Bob Neuwirth as a headliner, after having seen him a number of times as a participant in events featuring multiple artist. I went to the show hoping to see a few unannounced guests, hear some fun stories, listen to a few good songs and I'm happy to say that, in all respects, my expectations were met.

Anchored by multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield, Bob's band also included Steven Soles (guitar), Tony Gilkyson (guitar) and Bob Thiele, Jr. (piano, guitar). They provided great support throughout the evening. Later in the show, it was time for the band members to have their own solo moments: Tony sang "Rattlesnake Boy", Bob Thiele delivered "What A Wonderful World", a song written by his father and Steven sang a love song whose title I did not catch.

While affected by the passage of time, Bob Neuwirth's singing voice still sounded pretty good for someone in his eightieth year of existence. He played without a set list and even though I was unfamiliar with most of Bob's songs, I could easily tell that his songwriting was and still is top-notch.

The evening's surprise guest turned out to be the legendary T Bone Burnett who was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy himself quite a bit. I first saw him almost thirty years ago, also at McCabe's, and I must say that his voice has remained pretty much unchanged, in spite of the passage of time.

The evening kicked-off with an exceptionally good set delivered by Don Heffington and his small band. I had seen him many times before, but always as a percussionist, so I had no idea that he could write great songs and also deliver them as well as he did. I liked all of his songs and was knocked out by Timothy Young, Don's guitarist for the evening. I enjoyed tremendously watching Tim in action.

Bob Neuwirth at McCabe's
L to R: Steven Soles, T Bone Burnett, Bob Neuwirth, David Mansfield
T Bone Burnett at McCabe's
Tony Gilkyson at McCabe's
Bob Thiele, Jr. at McCabe's
David Mansfield at McCabe's
Bob Neuwirth thanking the crowd
Don Heffington at McCabe's
Timothy Young at McCabe's
Don Heffington's set list
The stage

July 1, 2018

Concert #836 - Gal Holiday, Nocona & KP Hawthorn at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 29, 2018)

This was a triple-header of sorts, with three different acts delivering sets of decent lengths, all this for a whopping twenty dollars ... I wonder how these musicians can support themselves via making music.

KP Hawthorn and her band took the stage just a few minutes after 8 PM. Her set was the shortest of the three. I did not know any of the songs she sang for us and, except for the set-opening "405", neither of them was an instant hit with me, as is often the case when I hear new music. KP's band included Rick Shea on guitar and KP was gracious enough to allow him to sing one of his own songs, "I'm No Good Without You".

KP Hawthorn & Rick Shea at McCabe's
KP Hawthorn's set list
After an intermission, Nocona took the stage and played a set of music that was all new to me. While rooted in Americana, their sound had all sorts of other influences, including psychedelia, believe it or not. Just like KP Hawthorn's set, Nocona's music was not instantly accessible, at least not to these ears. The band included Chris Isom (vocals, guitar), Adrienne Isom (upright bass, vocals), Justin Smith (drums), Elan Glasser (mouth harmonica) and Dan Wistrom (pedal steel guitar). By the way, Chris and Adrienne are married to each other.

Nocona's Chris & Adrienne Isom at McCabe's

While I had some trouble embracing the music of the evening's first two acts, I had an instant connection with Gal Holiday's far more accessible songs. Accompanied by her band, the Honky Tonk Revue, Gal delivered a joyful set of mostly original material and also a cover or two. One of the covers, John Prine's "In Spite Of Ourselves" turned out to be the evening's only song that I knew. I loved Gal's voice and singing style and I was totally taken by her relaxed but confident stage demeanor. She received excellent support from her band, which included Matt Slusher (electric guitar), Justin LeCuyer (acoustic guitar), Rose Cangelosi (drums) and Corey McGillivary (upright bass).

Gal Holiday at McCabe's
Gal Holiday and bassist Corey McGillivary at McCabe's
Gal Holiday's set list
The stage
The merch table
Concert poster
Sign in the window at McCabe's