For the past 29 years, the Santa Monica Pier has been hosting amazing free concerts during the summer season. The line up for this year’s Twilight Concert Series is particularly outstanding. From Meshell Ngegeocello and the Record Company to Jimmy Cliff to Trombone Shorty, it would simply be a shame if you lived in the area and didn’t make it out to at least one of the free shows. The first show I was able to attend this summer was Hanni El Khatib.
The first time I heard Hanni El Khatib perform live, he opened for the Black Angels at the Mayan. His set was so impressive, that I decided then and there that his live shows were not be to missed. This time, on the pier, he was the featured artist. Opening for him was a Niger-based musician named Bombino.
Bombino’s music is proof that music, regardless of genre, is universal. Bombino’s music is steeped with the native rhythms of his homeland. Over the years, Bombino has worked with and been influenced by a number of tremendous musicians like Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. Most recently, he travelled to Nashville to record an album under the production eye of The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach, “Nomad”. With his native rhythms meshing seamlessly with deep south, blues rock, Bombino has become, relatively quickly, the talk of the “blues rock” town. Call it what you want- rock and roll, worldbeat, afro-pop, desert blues, blues rock- it’s still good music. Though I wish I could have understood all of the lyrics sung, the music, in and of itself, was trance like and intoxicating. Bombino was certainly the perfect appetizer for the edgier blues rock that would follow.
The crowd had swelled to what seemed to be maximum capacity by the time Hanni El Khatib took the stage. He had just come back from touring internationally, so I was expecting a polished set and sound, and I was not disappointed. It was a raucous, rock and roll set that had the audience moving to the music, singing along with all of the popular songs. I didn’t know the name of every dong of the entire set, but I remember that Hanni performed “Nobody Move”, “Low”, “You Rascal You”, “Loved One”, “Penny”, “Fuck It You Win” and a new song I think is titled “Dangerous” or “Dangerous To Love” (which is the last snippet on the video clip below). He even covered a Cramps song, the name of which I can’t recall at the moment. A terrific set and worth the commute and $2 I paid for parking.
Hanni El Khatib is starting up a national tour supporting his latest album, “Head In The Dirt”, also produced by Dan Auerbach. I joked with friends afterwards while hanging out at Chez Jays (a dive bar which I just found out is a designated Santa Monica historic landmark and a perfect place to grab a beer after a blues concert) that the concert could have been dubbed “Dan Auerbach presents Blues at the Beach”. I’m planning on attending his upcoming gig in October at the El Rey, and if The Black Keys and blues rock is your thing, I highly recommend getting a ticket to check Hanni shred the stage.