gigs LA

in the woods yesterday, on art walk Thursday

I played a strange and amazing gig yesterday in deep woods north of LA, put on a by group called Natural Stage that describes the shows this way:

Hikes without Mics is an event usually held on the first Sunday of the month (but always check the calendar as that may change). Locations vary but generally involve a mild 1-4 mile (roundtrip) hike to a “Natural Stage” where a concert occurs. Some concerts will include a mix of short folk, jazz, classical, experimental, etc. sets by various performers.

In practice what this meant was a longish walk on a barely-visible trail by a creek, at the the end of which was a pretty waterfall with a woman standing in front of it to sing indie-rock type songs while she accompanied herself on ukelele. I did the hike with my Estralita on my back in a gig bag for bass, and instead of the bowler and brogans I usually wear I had a coonskin cap and psychedelic emerica sneaks. I ran into Pamita halfway up the path. She was rocked out in cowboy boots, a dress, and fishnets, which is an outfit that’s just slightly better adapted to scrambling over boulders than the corset she usually wears.

There was no real crowd to speak of, but there were plenty of musicians there to play and play for. The acoustics out in the forest were special and listening to the other acts was a profound pleasure.

Because the issue is lurking, I should point out that this was not a Grateful Dead setup like a drum circle. These people knew irony. The tactic is along the same lines as a dance party on the subway, where a group meets up at a subway car and dances to electronic music on a boom box for a few stops, then gets off and disperses. This was an acoustic flash mob.

Next show for me is on Thursday night 6:30-7:00 on the Hippodrome bus on the Art Walk in downtown LA:

WHAT: The Hippodrome, a rolling curated salon on a custom vintage school bus

WHEN: Every Second Thursday (October 9, November 13 etc.) during downtown LA Art Walk, 6-10pm nightly

WHERE: The shuttle route circles Gallery Row (Main and Spring Streets between 9th and 2nd Streets)

If you live in LA and you haven’t done the art walk, you oughta. It’s the closest thing to vibrant street life downtown. The people watching is untouchable, and hanging out on the Hippodrome gives a sense of connection and community. The whole thing is the opposite of the Bergamot Station / Santa Monica vibe for looking at art.

It’ll never make sense to play resonator guitar on a street corner or on a festival stage, but then again it’ll also never make sense to set up a drum kit in a rolling curated salon on a custom vintage school bus, or to drown out a little waterfall with electronic riffage from a laptop. I love getting to make art in these deeply un-digital situations.

4 replies on “in the woods yesterday, on art walk Thursday”

What a fun set of places to play! It’s too bad there was not more “crowd”, as that would be a sublime way to experience music–mid-hike.

Playing on an art bus is also a fun idea. It’s great that you’re doing these quirky things.

I love getting to play outside of normal nightlife places like clubs. It’s cool that what started out as a bit of liability — playing solo in real-time — has turned out to create opportunities that I didn’t anticipate. Both of these locations are totally unexpected. I wonder what else there is out there?

Also, how far could the deep woods idea grow without turning into a big mess of partying people and losing the peacefulness?

I find that more and more my favorite “live music” spaces are small by design. In our metropolis, a local yoga studio hosts folk concerts in “silent space”–no more than 100 tickets, no alcohol, no chatting. A similar thing is run by a finger-picking guitar fellow in a northern suburb near me, with crowds by design less than 50. The church-basement-coffee-shop idea is done well here, by a weekly event called Uncle’s Calvin’s, just as Neighborhood U/U in Pasadena, I believe, used to do something similar on a slightly less formal scale. House concerts are now such a big thing, as well as “corporate entertainment”. I think all of this is healthy for the enjoyment of music–smaller spaces, more one to one, less commodification of rockstars.

There’s still the old economic problem of how to get compensation to the musician, but I much prefer almost any show to a bar or arena event.

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