Hotel Cafe Brooklyn

November 3, 2008

Most shows I see start with a crappy opening band that is followed by another one that’s slightly less crappy, until you finally get to see the least crappy one that you came to hear. Hotel Cafe this weekend was a solid collection of talented singer-songwriters. All five women were great, even the special guest was good. They all played slightly different styles and together, they made a great combination on stage. The strange thing about the Hotel Cafe format is that no one plays a full set. Each girl played a couple of songs at a time and then came back to the stage later to play a few more. I thought this was terrible for the flow of the show, as soon as you start to get into one singer, she’d leave; and even after three hours I didn’t hear enough of my favorite musicians.

Thao Nguyen was as awesome as my friends had said. She was a great performer with awesome energy and the best guitar parts of the show. Can’t believe I didn’t have any of her music before today. Bag of Hammers was insane.

Thao Nguyen – Beat (Health, Life and Fire)

The first Meiko song I ever heard was a free download on iTunes last fall. I didn’t get into her until I heard the set she played on Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW this February. I remember finding her southern accent so endearing in the accompanying interviews with Nic Harcourt. So I think it’s fair to call myself one of the first on that boat. Although some of her songs tend to mold together in my memory, I like them, and I love watching her strum her guitar open-handed. To quote CSS: Meiko is my hot hot….

One of the greatest things I’ve heard live, ever: Meiko’s sensational cover of Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You. I wish someone would record that so I could buy it.

Meiko – You and Onions Make Me Cry

Rachael Yamagata was great, but eight songs for a headliner with now more than two albums of material, is not enough. She played all of her most popular songs, which were all great live, but Elephants was even more amazing than the recording. She sang it without her band or her piano, and it was so good that I wanted her to do it again in the encore. I actually posted a version of this song performed live in my last post without even knowing where it came from. Listen to it again.

Rachael Yamagata – Elephants (live)

PS. What’s up with all of the PDA at concerts lately? I put up with it on the street because it’s in passing, but it’s not acceptable when you grind on your girlfriend and suck on her neck hair during a three-hour acoustic set. You’re gross and I wish you knew it.


October 30, 2008

The first time I really looked forward to an album was when Rivers snapped out of his Ivy-League dream and recorded the Green Album. What a serious let-down that was, along with every following Weezer record. Sometimes I don’t even realize how much I had been anticipating a release until I’m hearing it for the first time. It was this way with Rachael Yamagata’s newest album “Elephants… Teeth Sinking into Heart.”

Four years after Happenstance, Rachael Yamagata is back, singing about her profound melancholy in the way only her smoky and sultry voice could do. While I liked nearly all of her first album, none of the tracks moved me more than the rest; it took time to develop favorites. With “Elephants…” though, the first track is so immediately engrossing that it feels significant. It feels like it marks an important event, like when Kanye rewrote “Hey Mama” after his mother died for the 2008 Grammy’s, or when you went to go see The Dark Knight opening weekend. “Elephants” feels so right and so well-timed that it’s hard to contain my satisfaction, similar to how Tina Fey’s Palin skits on SNL were so perfect. The difference between these events though, is that Yamagata’s lyrics and images obviously describe something ultimately more significant and personal than an awards show or a movie.  I don’t want to know what that is just yet.

Rachael Yamagata – Elephants (Demo Version)