Music In LA – Episode 1
It’s been so long since I have blogged that WordPress has undergone a UI overhaul! I approve the changes, clean, streamlined, and simple. The general tech design move towards simplicity is a welcome trend, but I’m off topic.
I recently relocated to LA from the San Francisco area, and naturally one of my first objectives is to experience the vast local music scene that the City of Angels has to offer. Apart from mozying through a small vinyl shop in West LA to hear my friend’s band Manzanita (who are fantastic by the way), I’ve attended two shows so far at well-known music venues, The Roxy and Hotel Cafe. Although the two performances, by Outasight and Bernhoft, impressed in numerous ways, ultimately most noteworthy was that for both occasions my pre-conceived notions met with a different reality.
Last spring during my indoctrination to the musical mayhem known as SXSW, I discovered an up-and-coming WMG artist by the name of Outasight. Perhaps I identified with, even envied, Richard Andrew from Yonkers, NY, part rapper, part singer, full entertainer, showcasing catchy pop melodies above hip hop dance beats. I kept tabs on him ever since, and when I noticed he was gracing the Roxy stage, I pulled the trigger. Friday night, headlining at the Roxy, one of the premier music venues in the city, I was convinced he would bring down the house. That expectation did not materialize, and not for lack of effort or performance value.
I observed several factors contributing to what I would almost call an anti-climatic concert environment, including audience demographic. Outasight’s music certainly appeals to a young crowd, centered in the 18-25 demographic. I was expecting these folks to show up in droves for a Warner Bros. artist, with marketing clout, radio play, and promotional power behind him, yet they did not. This led me to wonder if the Roxy crowd (at least on this evening) was composed of more compulsory teetotalers than not. Not that you need to imbibe to enjoy a concert, but given the circumstances I was expecting slightly more debauchery.
As I rocked out to his set, and I give myself credit for trying to stay oblivious to the listlessness around me, I noticed that the crowd had slightly dissipated from what it was a half hour earlier during the performance by The Ready Set, another Warner artist on the Sire imprint. Thus, my second conclusion was that concertgoers on this eve were more keen on the opening act(s) than the headliner. On the other hand, perhaps Warner/Roxy made a mistake in setting that set order as opposed to appointing Ready Set as the headliner. After all, they are the ones with a platinum single – “Love Like Woe.” My expectations for a raucous sold out show of screaming fans for a party artist on a Friday night at a big Hollywood venue fell flat.
Last night, attending the Bernhoft show at Hotel Cafe, I encountered that energetic environment when I least expected it. Hotel Cafe is a much smaller venue in scale and prestige, and Bernhoft is an obscure Norwegian singer. Or so I thought. Only one night with Bernhoft was originally scheduled, but the Wednesday appearance sold out so quickly that HC organized a 2nd show for him – the Tuesday show I attended, which was also sold out. As I was entering I overheard the doorman letting a prospective customer know that this was “not a night to just show up.” Not for Bernhoft. Yes, Bernhoft, not Bowie. If you need further proof of the power of YouTube, look no further. A Norwegian with one highly-viewed YouTube video sold out back to back shows in the United States’ second largest music market. See the video below:
I do not mean to discredit Bernhoft at all. That video alone compelled me to buy a ticket. Bernhoft is also a major label talent, and was for a time signed to Universal Music Norway, so he is proven by traditional industry standards. And yet even now I am still wonderstruck at his popularity. I expected a modest turnout with a more subdued audience, which again was off base. This crowd, noticeably older and rowdier than the other, sang along to half of Bernhoft’s set, and even knew the lyrics to his songs! On a Tuesday night no less. I guess I’ll have to head to the next show with no expectations. That could be difficult.