There are, for me, two unexplainable mysteries of the LA music scene. The first is how anyone could end up missing a show that had they had known about it they would have gone. That experience has befallen me more than once and it is always gut wrenching. The first time was when Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Bill Vitt and Merle Saunders played the Ash Grove in 1973. Fortunately for me they played two more shows the following night and I got close enough during the second set that second evening to see the Camels that bassist John Kahn was smoking were the unfiltered shorts and that he and drummer Bill Vitt were telling each other a lot about what was coming next with their eyes and expressions. More recently Regina Spektor somehow slipped into and out of LA last August without my hearing even a whisper.
The mystery in this scenario is: How could anyone NOT know that shows like these were scheduled . . . then coming . . . and then – HERE?? We don’t have enough media in LA?
But, even granted the vexation the ‘not knowing about a show I would have gone to’ trap has caused me, there is a more inexplicable mystery that I presume has plagued others as much as it has me. That would be the ‘Why do I sometimes pass on shows I know I should get out and see?’ puzzle. Not knowing is one thing – and while I still probably deserve some of the blame (I could have picked up that copy of LA Weekly or I could have done a wider web sweep, or signed up for one more distribution list), I can at least put the lions portion somewhere between the artists management and the venue. But when I know about a sure to be terrific show and still let the weight of work or knowing that the Dodgers and the Lakers will both be adding to the traffic around town – or that I haven’t spent an evening at home in three weeks – divert me from tending to the needs of my music loving soul . . . why do I do that? Why do you?
Friday night (April 5) at McCabe’s (3101 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica) you and I are both going to have a chance to see a show neither one of us are going to want to have to look back upon one day (probably as soon as Saturday but for sure by Monday morning) and say ‘I knew about it and could have gone – but I didn’t.’
Syd Straw is one of those artists whom, once they hit your radar, keep you watching the schedules at every legit ‘singer-songwriter’ and ‘music-as-healing-salve-for-all-the-painful-things-that-happened-last-week’ venue in town. If you already know who Syd is and have heard her work you aren’t reading any further but have instead gone to your computer, smart phone or other piece of electronic gadgetry and are busy reserving tickets for Friday’s show. For those of you who have yet to discover this terrific artist – you have some great times ahead of you.
Syd first caught my ear as singer songwriter with The Golden Palominos where her ability to sing soft or sing loud, sing cool or sing tough set her aside from a whole bunch of other bands front men and women who could do one or two of those things really wonderfully, but then ran up against boundaries of genetics, music IQ or soul. If Syd has boundaries they must derive from what she doesn’t want to do because I’ve never heard anything that she has done that doesn’t sound like a talented artist in full control of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.
Her solo work was where she really came into her own as a composer. If it’s all new to you, jump in any place you want – but 2008’s ‘Pink Velour’ which Syd says will be well represented in her selection of material for Friday’s show, is one of my favorite offerings from any artist over the past decade. Listen to ‘Actress’ from that album and see if it doesn’t stand as strong in the pantheon of works about artists and the irony of fame as Ray Davies’ ‘Celluloid Heroes’.
She has worked on stage and in the studio with Rickie Lee Jones (their version of ‘Rebel, Rebel’ with Brian Setzer is one of the GREAT covers of all time and I wish someone would stop taking it down from YouTube), Michael Stipe, Ry Cooder, Jorge Calderon, Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Parks, Tony Levin, Matthew Sweet, Pino Palladino, They Might Be Giants, Wayne Kramer and Brian Wilson. In addition to being joined by her frequent musical companions and multi-instrumentalists Willie Aron and Robert Lloyd, her guests for Friday’s show will also include the wonderful singer, musician, composer Cindy Lee Berryhill and legendary southern California writer, bandleader and guitarist Dave Alvin (The Blasters, X, The Knitters and a whole bunch of work with artists from The Flesh Eaters to Little Milton to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott). Other friends and musicians will be showing up to play and sing as well. It is going to be a great evening in one of LA’s very best small venues.
So , we have eliminated the first mystery resulting in missed LA musical magic – the not knowing. The only remaining question is, will we be liking the world a little better on Saturday morning after letting Syd and friends make us laugh, cry, ponder a bit and maybe even know one or two things with certainty – or will we be lamenting that we passed on an evening that we should have embraced?
I know I’ll be tapping my feet in a folding chair in a cozy theater back behind the legendary music store on Pico . . . how about you?
For ticket information for Saturdays’ show contact McCabe’s: http://www.mccabes.com/condata.html
You can visit Syd Straw’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/syd.straw?fref=ts
In my experience, the best way to find out about shows is to sign up for artists’ mailing lists, venues’ newsletters and show sites like Goldstar or Songkick, etc. It’s annoying to get extra emails but it does help!