Entrance at Village of Love, February 14, 2017
It's 9:00, exactly 50 minutes after I lapped the Teragram Ballroom for the first time. Nearly an hour and exactly $13 later, I finally approach the show I've circled the streets of LA to see, and perhaps unlike exorbitant parking fees near downtown, I know the money being raised at tonight's Panache Booking Village of Love Valentine's Day extravaganza is going to a good cause: Planned Parenthood.
Something about the venue felt cavernous, and after wandering through a dark hallway, I ended up at the stage, where my valentine for the evening was stage right. Immediately, I felt the presence of couples standing in each other's shadows, as expected at any Valentine's affair, but the vibe felt much more open than that from the start. Consistently throughout the show to come, the audience was united together in not only a shared holiday, but for the greater cause, and the love in and of the music and musicians amplified it.
Entrance, the project of Guy Blakeslee and company, started their mid-show set by immediately handing a check of a more than a thousand dollars over to the evening's Planned Parenthood Los Angeles rep, which came from the proceeds of a recent single, "Not Gonna Say Your Name." In its live incarnation, the cyclical harmonic structure coupled with its message and emotion-ridden yet simplistic harmonies from red-clad bandmates set a perfect tone for the evening that saw many local music heroes (Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Bleached, etc) at their most emotionally deep, at least in a performance sense.
There has been a spate of Planned Parenthood benefit shows recently, notably "Love Trumps Hate" at the Bootleg Theater, that have been so celebratory of an LA response to this new normal, so much that this cycle of benefit concerts itself has become a new but welcome normal. It's a noble cause, but what this even got so right was the timing of it all: With emotions already running high on the night of the Valentine's holiday, poignant, two-to-three-love-song sets with beloved musicians was the perfectly genius way to connect the benefit with the holiday. At ties, it felt like we were just chilling in the LA music scene's collective living room, and everyone passed the mic around for a few like a fun little roulette spin every 10 or 15 minutes.
Each musician took the theme of love in entirely different ways. By and large, covers were a big part of the collective spirit of the evening. Jessie and Jennifer Clavin of Bleached picked a couple, ending their set with a "Friday I'm in Love" cover, post-conversation about seeing Fifty Shades Darker that day and not recommending it. By the time Mikal Cronin hit the stage, the alcohol had set in for a whole bunch of people who were eagerly riled up and loose for his three songs, which included an especially poignant rendition of his own "I've Been Loved." Stray observation: His hair gets shorter every time I see him, and at this point, it feels like I'm following former Bay Area musicians back to LA.
The back-to-back sets of King Tuff and Rodrigo Amarante were trance-inducing, though their public personalities were opposite to what I expected. King Tuff was serious—and even nervous — through the bassiest rendition of a Willie Nelson love song, while Amarante was vividly excited and gushing about the opportunity to be at the show. His cover of Angel Olsen's "Unfucktheworld," whom he described as one of the greatest songwriters of our era, was a highlight.
At about just past halfway through the show, the show's first surprise, Julia Holter, put forth the standout performance of the night in the most humble manner. She started with a magnificently reverbed a cappella piece read from sheet music, but what came next was totally unexpected. At once, her and her keyboard and reverb that she multiple times expressed a great love for transported the scene into a lush, spritely dream. But the spectacle so abruptly ended as she slinked off the stage with her backpack in tow. Regardless, her avant garde performance starkly stood out from the rest.
Kevin Morby and Ty Segall were another back to back two sets that seemed to compliment the other. They're both legends in their craft, but they can get serious on acoustic, and boy, they did. Morby's first song was essentially one chord, but it was certainly not mundane. Nay, it was the opposite. Insightful and poetic, a Freddie Gray reference gave it an even deeper theme. Ty Segall, similarly, started out the set with some serious songs — an original about his hometown and a cover — but the night took a silly twist when he busted out a cover he admitted was "shady." Turns out it was Mariah Carey's "Living Without You," and his commitment to such an unabashedly cheesy song, complete with friend Mikal Cronin joining him on wailing vocals and guitar, gave the evening some music-appreciated levity in its sheer gusto.
Something small that seemed to stand out about the whole night was that no one seemed to introduce themselves. It seems like it wasn't really about who they were, but more purely about the music and emotion and cause (Planned Parenthood) bigger than everyone. It plays into the idea that The Teragram Ballroom turned into Planned Parenthood and LA music's collective living room. Some wise words from the Planned Parenthood LA rep really drove it home, that we're all Planned Parenthood and we truly sustain it in every kind of way. It's a truly great thing that more of these joint benefits are cropping up, and the interconnectedness of activism and music shone greatly at this show, as did the super-secret surprise guest of the night: Mac DeMarco.
The surprise guest picked up at the sentiment right where Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin left off with their Mariah Carey cover. If it holds true that each and every band that performed last night had a different love-tinted emotion to flavor the night with, Mac Demarco made that point of so clear. In the living room scenario, his set was the point when the weed has majorly kicked in and it leaving everyone feeling sensual. Demarco became a giggly, spritely emcee, guiding the crowd through unironic covers of Billy Joel, Burt Bacharach, and Burt Bacharach by way of The Carpenters. Panache Booking's Village of Love had crowned its left-field mayor as a wacky nightcap to a night of musical twists and turns.
LA Bridged is The Bay Bridged's spin-off into the music scene of the Los Angeles area. Got any hot tips? Reach out to Hailey Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: Mac Demarco, Mikal Cronin, Panache Booking, Ty Segall