Music Friday Blog

  • Hirie on tour: birth of a legend of reggae love.

    on_stage_mic._blue_filtered300.jpgThere is a reason why Hirie’s fans adore her so much. She is a compact package of high energy reggae love.  Whether she is dancing center stage with her bass player, tooting  her melodica or cheek kissing and holding hands with her fans at the edge of the stage, she returns the love, many, many times over.

    That love was evident as early as 8 pm Friday night at the famous Roxy in Hollywood, CA., as the club floor was packed and the line stretched outside – unheard of early in Hollywood where the crowds don’t arrive until 10 pm. But everyone wanted to be as close as possible to Hirie and bask in the love, the spiritual uplift and the healing joy of her music.

    The show at the Roxie is an early stop on a two month Western States tour in support of her new album Wandering Soul, recorded with funds from a Kickstarter and promoted with help from the  Rootfire Collective in San Diego, her home town.  The show at the Roxie included Iya Terra and Arise Roots who poured out smiles, energy and shout outs for the Water Defenders at Standing Rock.  Arise Roots and Hirie worked together on Roots’ official video for “Cool Me Down Tonight”, which featured Hirie singing. The crowd was hot, sweating and moving when the Arise Roots finished its high wattage set and the stage crew began setting up for the seven-member all-star band Patricia Jetton assembled and called Hirie, the name that has stuck with her.

    Hirie had already raised expectations  by surprising the audience during Arise Roots’ set, dancing out onto the stage in a turquoise blue backless mini dress that showed off her legs and her tattooed back. She rapped with the band, touched hands with fans and danced off. After the Roots’ set, the Hirie band -  Chris Hampton on saxophone, melodica, accordion;  Andrew McKee on trombone, guitar, didgeridoo and percussion;,  Andy Flores on bass, Blaine Dillinger on lead guitar ( who played world class riffs – behind his back at one point), Joey Muraoka on drums -  rocked an intro, setting the scene for Hirie’s entrance.  She skipped out on stage to applause that drowned out the music until the band launched into Queen” and “You Won’t Be Alone”.  Hirie’s feet went nonstop, Dillinger’s guitar lit up and the Roxie practically elevated.

    And elevated it stayed for twelve songs from  her albums Wandering Soul and Hirie ,  plus singles and dubs and a three-song encore. One of the highlights for me was “Woman Comes First” from Wandering Soul and introduced by Hirie as a song for women everywhere.  It has special resonance, as Hirie is one of the few women leading a reggae band, joining her inspirations Tanya Stepens and Dezarie and following in the footsteps of pioneers like Sista Nancy, Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley.

    She mixed it up; new songs and old favorites. “Wiseman” from the Hirie album followed by a Matisysahu medley, “Renegade” from Wandering Soul and “Lost and Found”, also from Hirie. All that set the scene for the highlight of the night for many fans, “Don’t Take My Ganja”.  They were prepared;  the sweet smell of ganja started early in the evening but when Hirie took center stage and announced the song, cheers and smoke went up together.  Joints floated throughout the audience, up onto the stage and back.  At one point, so much smoke had drifted onto the stage that the keyboard player vanished in the haze. Hirie powered through, regaling fans, dancing, holding hands and slapping high fives through “Ganja”, “Sensi” and “Stoned in Love” before the stage lights blacked out and the band disappeared into the dark.

    But the break was illusory; if Hirie is anything she is a show woman and a savvy entertainer.  She knows how do build drama, raise excitement and make an entrance.  The blacked-out stage began to vibrate in strobe lights and jungle drum beats as the band appeared, one by one, upping the tension and layering the music.  Into this swirling mass of strobe light and drum pulse strolled Hirie, bathed in a blue spotlight, singing the title song from Wandering Soul.  Las Vegas could not have done it better.

    The band headed into the stretch with a dance take on “Boom Fire” from the Wandering Soul album and finished up with one of the most heartwarming and authentic thankyou's to her fans I have ever seen.  The love was as thick as the smoke as she left the stage.  But of course, it was not over.  As Hirie has said, one of her driving motivations – next to her husband and daughter – is being on the stage, and she came back onstage with a vengeance for the encores:  “Good Vibrations” from Wandering Soul, “Smile” and “Come Alive” from Hirie. Another round of high fives, selfies, cheek kisses and hand touches and she was gone, but the music and the love still vibrated in the room.

    Everything is falling into place for Hirie – an all-star band, an adorning fan base, an irrepressible style, world class songwriting and talent showcased by an authentic stage presence that is pure entertainment.  She is on her way to becoming not just a sold out, award-winning reggae star, but a legend. Catch the tour and watch the legend being born.

  • Indiana Grace a a new face, a new voice

    indiana_grace_looking_out300_sq.jpgI was recently introduced to the music of Indiana Grace Schmid, an LA-based singer-songwriter who goes simply by Indiana Grace.  She brings operatic singing and classical training to pop music in a way that sets her apart.  I am looking forward to previewing songs from her forthcoming album on Music FridayLive! this week.

  • Bellehouse back with us with more music, more people

    bellhouse_300sq.jpgI was so excited when Bellehouse got in touch with me and told me they had a new single out and were readying an album - and that they had expanded the band from 3 to 7 people..  the New York-based Americana group does everything from Appalachia to Celtic rock and are a kick to interview.  We will play the new music, here the new stories and have lots of musical fun - we always do with these women.

  • Homecomings this week. Halo Circus and Maggie Szabo 11/11/16

    GROUP._ROADNATION300.jpgMaggie Szabo has been in Europe and Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus has been all over America.  They both join us this Friday to tell us tales from the road, play new songs, and let us know what is in store for them now that they are back in good ol' Los Angeles.

     

  • Rock with a mandolin? Ryan Shupe this Friday

    ryan_shupe.band_agains_the_wall300.jpgRyan Shupe and the Rubberband are a tight, acoustic quintet  with a fanatical regional basecentered in Salt Lake City.  A second generation fiddle player, equally at home with an electric or acoustic guitar or mandolin, Shupe knows how to rock.  This is no quiet mountian boy folk singer.  He will be playing at The Mnt in LA the night of his interview and I am taking my family to see him.

     

     

  • Cosmos&Creature this Friday

    cosmos300.jpgI saw these two at the 4th-anniversary party for BalconyTV and loved them.  I loved them even more when I heard the backstory - how they had separate careers and combined forces in a way that made them even more popular.  Interestingly, Brandyn Burnette came to the duo with the biggest numbers - 3 million streams for his last song, but it is Molly who is out in front.  Of course, she is very talented, has great stage presence and has her own fan base, so it was a match made, well, if not in heaven, then definitely in Spotify. We will play their new song, "Young".

  • LA's unique The Tribe bring heart and soul to Haiti Relief at the E-Spot

    the_tribe__four_on_stage._ompressed.jpgWho says LA has no heart?  Not The Tribe, LA’s unique collective of  first-call session and touring musicians, vocalists and name artists who gathered on short notice at the famed the E-Spot jazz club in Sherman Oaks Sunday night to raise money the Haiti relief fund.  Heart was very much in evidence as 20 musicians donated their time and talent, entertaining the audience with over two dozen songs, plus stories, jokes, poetry and just plain fun while fans dropped checks and bills into Pure Water for the World’s collections buckets at each table.

    Coordinated by the indefatigable and irrepressible Lauri Reimer, the packed stage featured more talent than you see in a Grammy Awards night.  Moving on and off stage were Freebo (Bonnie Raitt, CSN), Marc Mann (Danny Elfman, Jeff Lynne), Rob Bonfiglio (Wilson Phillips), Ginger Blake & Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford (The Honeys), Jeff Alan Ross (Peter Asher, Badfinger), John Wicks (The Records), Dave Pearlman (Dan Fogelberg, Bobby Womack), Al. Keith (Dave Wakeling, Sugar Ray), John Pratt, Kevin Wachs, Jay Cohen, Michael Stern, Lois Blaisch, the poet Stephen Kalinich, Gary Stockdale, Adam Daniel, Scotty Mitchell, John McNeely, Steve Goddard and Pete Wagonhurst.  Also part of the group, but not onstage Sunday night are Albert Lee, Bob Cowsill, and Carnie  and Wendy Wilson, among others.

    Mistress of Ceremonies Reimer not only kept all of the musicians in line and on schedule, but sang and accompanied herself on the tambourine…smiling all the way through, an impressive feat all by itself.

    High points abounded, from The Honeys singing the Everly Brothers hit “All I have to Do is Dream” to Freebo’s heart rendering “No Place Like Home” to Gary Stockdale’s sly “Smoking” lampooning the tobacco industry – after informing the millennials in the crowd that yes, there was a time when most people smoked, even on TV.  The Beatles made an appearance (of course) with “A Little from my Friends ” sung by Kevin Wachs and “All you Need is Love” by  Pete Wagonhurst – all with giddy  and mostly in key audience participation. For me the song that still vibrates a day later was “Hallelujah” by Adam Daniel, backed up by Reimer and Lois Blaisch.

    Given that Reimer had only two  and half weeks to assemble and promote the evening, and that some of the musicians were actually travelling and flew in for the concert – with only an hour to spare in one case – Haiti Relief went off extremely well.  The only disappointment was that it did not sell out, even with a ticket price of only $20.  It was by far the best musical bargain in LA on Sunday night.  To get that much talent together, rehearsed, geared up and giving their all to the audience was worth much, much more. 

    The nature of The Tribe is what made it possible, in addition to Reimer’s organizing and artist herding skills. The Tribe are all LA-based musicians whose mission is to gather and perform for various cause;  it is what they do. Selling them on the idea is the easy part; getting them all onstage at the same time in less than three weeks was quite an accomplishment.

    If you missed the Haiti Relief show at the E-Spot, there is still time to donate at  www.purewaterfortheworld.org  and to see the Tribe at the upcoming  Peace, Love and Understanding concert at Cal State University at Northridge Plaza del Sol Performance Hall, Dec. 4.  If it is anything like the Haiti Relief concert it will be the best music bargain in LA, and it will have  a lot of heart.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Eljuri at the Gibson Showroom: exuberant, exciting, explosive and far larger than life

    el_judi_musica_estacy_300sq.jpgWith the energy of a 20-year old and the chops of one of the nation’s most seasoned rock guitarists, Eljuri blew the roof off the Gibson Showroom in Beverly Hills at a special Girls RockLA performance Thursday night, produced by The Living Sessions.  It wasn’t just the guitar riffs – although they were incendiary, and it wasn’t just her singing – although she growled and soared and dug into our ears and our brains with best the best of them.  It was her presence – the there that Eljuri is:  exuberant, exciting, explosive and a woman who knows  herself, where she is going and how very, very good she is.

     In LA for a quick stop, Eljuri gave 1000% to the crowd who managed to get into small but prestigious venue.  Ripping through ten songs from La Lucha,  her new album released this month,  that  ranged from the anti-gun-violence hard rocker “Bang Bang” to the more melodic (but still rocking) “Salvame”. Working with an abbreviated band  from her native New York, consisting of Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums, Eljuri (whose full name is Cecelia Villar Eljuri), filled the guitar-strewn showroom with a sound that spilled out across the street to the Civic Center.

     Eljuri is a first class entertainer as well as stellar musician. The performance was bi-lingual and the music was interspersed with stories from her days in punk bands at New York’s famous (and now gone) punk club CBGBs, as well as her travels and some of  her social views.  With a mile-wide smile, twinkling eyes, wild curls and long rangy body and arms that easily encompass not only her large Gibson Les Paul guitar, but seemingly everyone on stage and in the room, Eljuri is far larger than life.

     It is no wonder she is such a fascinating individual as well as a superb musician. Born in Ecuador but raised mostly in New York City, she easily straddles both Latin and gringo cultures and many musical genres. She grew up in the New York punk scene and played with English language bands like the early alt rockers, the Trouble Dolls. She started playing music as a young child with the blessing of her parents, her father Paco Villar, the Ecuadorian broadcaster, and her songwriter mother, Olga Eljuri de Villar.  They encouraged her to learn piano at the age of five and by 12 years old she had started her own rock and roll cover band. She decided to learn guitar at 14 and started writing punk and rock songs. She loved  playing in English language bands but her Ecuadorian heart (and manager Paola Romano) called her to concentrate on Spanish-language writing and rock en español.  She formed  her own band, Grupo Fiesta (with Cindy Padilla on lead vocals), and in 2006  went solo, releasing two solo albums and touring simply as Eljuri (pronounced “El hoodi”). La Lucha is her third album.

     GirlsRockLA’s program at the Gibson Showroom was magical, not only for Eljuri but also for the warm love songs of Valise Blue, up from Tijuana, and LA’s stunning singer/songwriter Nancy Sanchez. Congratulations to Julieta Isela of  The Living Sessions for nearly a year of shows, each one with increasingly more impressive talent and organization.  The Living Sessions have become a treasured institution in the LA music scene, both in English and Spanish and are beginning to branch out to other cities.  But Thursday night truly belonged to Eljuri. The intimacy of the Gibson Showroom allowed us to see up close the subtlety of the finger movements that create such pyrotechnical sound and enjoy the force of her voice and personality. But  having been up close, I can’t wait to see Eljuri with her full band at a venue large enough to contain her. That will really be exuberant, exciting, explosive and far larger than life.

  • Mariana Vegan at Musi cFridayLive

    mariana-vega_on_stage-300sq.jpgWe are so proud that Mariana Vega, a Latin American superstar, is stopping by Music FridayLive!  with her new album Camera Lenta.  We reviewed the album for New York's PEOPLE THAT MATER magazine (http://bit.ly/2dwD7DK) and we are delighted that we get to talk to the woman herself.  Literally millions of fans in Latin America and North America love her music and her videos.  So join us, call in, email in...it will be fun.

     

  • Leyla McCalla pulls the audience close with history and joy at McCabe’s in Santa Monica

    close_up_sitting_down.300.jpgLeyla McCalla brings her audiences close with smiles and stories and songs that cross the borders of time and culture.  On a cello, a banjo a guitar, in French, in Creole or in English – it doesn’t matter;   her songs lift us, pierce us, love us.  She is one of a kind, and that musical singularity was on full display last night at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica California for a jam-packed full auditorium. 

     We listened, we clapped, we sang with her, we cried and  we feel thankful that we had managed to get tickets to a one-of-a-kind evening at the historic venue that for 80 years has brought  LA the talent of the Americas. With a star like Leyla and a venue like McCabe’s, it pays to be early.

     Leyla McCalla is a New York-born Haitian-American living in New Orleans, a city whose jazz has powerfully influenced her music, which incorporates blues, Haitian ballads, and American folk.   She once dreamed of becoming a classical musician playing chamber music – hence the chops with the cello, in which she has a degree from New York University. But when she moved to New Orleans in 2010 she found herself  not in elegant suites playing Bach, but on the street busking – although still playing Bach. But the musical temptations of New Orleans proved too much for the discipline of the chamber and soon she was blending genres from folk to jazz.  The result was her acclaimed first album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute To Langston Hughes and the artist that mesmerized us from the stage at McCabe’s Friday night.

     Leyla sings in French, Haitian Creole and English;  she plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar, all with a delicacy and an energy that is something to behold. In live performance she is approachable, humble and funny, telling stories about herself and the music that pulls the audience close to her, making us friends for the night. Formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she has no artifice – she is what she is, and what she is beautifully talented.  Her music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty. It vibrates with history, but Leyla brings that history alive, engaging the audience with sing-alongs and jokes and just her very being, sitting on the stage with a cello between her legs or a banjo in her hand.  You truly fall in love for the evening.

     Her set was short -- four or five songs, mostly from her new album, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey.  She does tip her hat to Langston Hughes with a song or two from Vari-Colored Songs, which was named 2013’s Album of the Year by the London Sunday Times and Songlines magazine. Each song was a gem, carried by her cane-sugar sweet voice, her astonishingly nimble fingers and her creativity on the cello and other instruments, all perfectly blended and supported by the other members of her trio, her husband guitarist Daniel Tremblay and violist Free Feral.

     Leyla and her trio are on a tour with the irrepressible Dom Lemon that will take her from the West Coast of the USA to Europe, with a final stop in Antwerp.  The tour stops this weekend  in San Diego and Santa Barbara and then heads on up the coast  before crossing the Atlantic.  It is not to be missed.

    (Photo courtesty of McCabe's Guitar Shop)