Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two Remarkable Concerts in One Night

Wednesday night (July 23) I was lucky enough to have a ticket to Tangier to see Inara George and Van Dyke Parks at the second of two sold out shows they performed here over the last two weeks. Arriving well before the appointed start time of 8 PM I was ushered into the first dining room where people were dining on what looked like very elegant food. Were it not for the instruments and sound equipment set up in the corner I would have sworn I was in the wrong place. Every time I've been to Tangier it was in the back room, but when Van Dyke Parks walked by and said "Hi, how are you" to me, I knew this was the place and I was on another planet. I've seen the guy performing with (and arranging) Joanna Newsom and her magical brand of hypnosis, but besides that, he's just a legend, so I felt pretty humble.

The room really got filled up by the time Inara took the stage. Van Dyke Parks got things started by playing a lovely overture on the piano, accompanied by Joe Carnes on bass violin and the equally talented Grant Geissman on, I believe, the mandolin. Ms. George introduced a bunch of new songs from her forthcoming release, recorded with Van Dyke and featuring his arrangements. Inara is such an enchantress; her personal style, stage presence and manner all meld perfectly into the easy style of her singing and the subject of her lyrics. The sunny, breezy sound of the music contrasts nicely with the clear-eyed, no nonsense approach to lyric writing. Like a contemporary Astrud Gilberto, she makes you feel like your on a beach somewhere sipping a pina colada or in a cafe in Paris. Superb orchestrations made the mood more cabaret-style than rock show, which was lovely.

The informality of the setting added an extra dose of atmosphere as Hyperion traffic flowed by the window reminding us that so much music is flooding this city now that they have to tuck shows into the corners of dining rooms. After a 15 minute intermission, Van Dyke played an entr'acte before Inara sang another set of songs from the CD The Invitation to be released August 12 and this new material is terrific. It's like a mix of '60's jazz/pop, orchestral and chamber pop with a little Kurt Weill and the more free-form Joni Mitchell thrown in.

My mood was somewhat elevated anyway because earlier in the day I'd learned The Stevenson Ranch Davidians were playing at 11 PM at the Three of Clubs on Vine St. for free, and if my energy held out, I'd be able to catch them on my way home from Tangier. Well this worked out perfectly. I walked down to Santa Monica Blvd. and caught the bus to Vine and walked into the club 5 minutes before the band went on.

The Three of Clubs is a small venue about the size of the Viper Room, but with a far less dilapidated appearance. It was very dark, but it almost looked posh (comparatively speaking) with a comfortable table/chair arrangement around the edges of the room. Taking a seat, I chatted with the fellow next to me who'd never heard this band, and, (I'm so comfortable wth this opinion) I confidently told him if he likes Brian Jonestown Massacre he'd love this band. After the first song I could tell he agreed. Since first seeing them at the Echo July 3 I haven't stopped listening to their CD, so this time I'd be a lot more familiar with their music.

Not only did The Stevenson Ranch Davidians not disappoint me, they blew my mind all over again! Song after song seduces you and when they build up to such gorgeous crescendos of pure beauty, I just melt. I can't believe it takes only 4 people to create their massive sound . Their music has such a sparkling quality and such memorable melodies, I find it's still playing in my head long after I've gone home. That night sitting there, I couldn't help feeling like some bacchanalian, feasting off the banquet table. I'd seen some light jazz/pop by the stunning Inara, taken a nice stroll through Hollywood in the dead of night (really 11 PM) then seen some super-solid rock by a superb band. I was satiated from a very rich head feeding.

By the way, if you get the chance, you must check out Classical Geek Theatre to read Mouse's blog while he's touring with The Airborne Toxic Event this weekend in the Pacific Northwest. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this guy can write! It's smart, witty, informative, has some terrific photos and, sometimes, it's just laugh-out-loud funny.


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