The first time I heard Tijuana Tears play, it was at a ridiculously awesome house party at Frank Sinatra’s old mansion (Toddchella). What I remember most from their set that night was that their original songs were solid. For any recording artist, it’s the songs that matter most. Style and talent can get you far, but if the material you’re performing isn’t any good … well … then you’re career is going to be pretty short. These guys had some original songs that I really got into. If I’ve never heard the song before, and I’m singing the hook half way through “Phantasmic Consciousness”, I’m pretty sure that song is a keeper.
I finally got a chance to see them again live at a venue in Silver Lake called The Virgil. By the time I walked into the venue, I noticed a small group already crowded around the merchandise table to buy the band’s newest screen-print t-shirt. The band before them was still playing and I walked around the venue to check out the digs. I bumped into a couple of the guys in the band, and they genuinely thanked me for coming out to see them play. Very appreciative. Very humble. Reza noticed the music pins on lapel of my concert backpack, and ran over to the merchandise booth to grab me one. Although I had only hung out with them once before, their kindness went a long way to make me feel like family.
The guys took to the small stage and started their set off with a new song that I hadn’t heard before, and continued to rock through songs from the 5 song EP they released in 2012, which you can download from their bandcamp site by naming your own price: http://tijuanatears.bandcamp.com/album/phantasmic-consciousness.
They played all of the songs that I remember them playing from that raucous evening months ago, and I still enjoyed each song, and the way they performed, as much I did then. This time sober. They filled the room with an infectious energy, and while looking around between songs, all I could was smiles. And if the audience wasn’t smiling, they were singing along. After the set, Matt M. (the guitarist) shot me a text with the set list. The first song of their set was, at the time, untitled, but after checking out some other clips online, it seems they’ve titled it “The Narrows”. The setlist texted is below:
They have a gig coming up at The Satellite Monday, August 12th 2013. If you happen to be in Los Angeles that evening, and you like what you see/hear in the video link below, I highly recommend that you see these guys play. If you’re busy that night, you should go ahead and check out their website (http://www.tijuanatears.com) to find the links to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud and catch them at a small venue before they’re playing bigger ones.
House parties in Los Angeles can be hit or miss. More often misses, than hits. At Toddchella, I discovered what it takes to make a house party a sure-fire hit (i) have the house party at a really cool location, (ii) have fully stocked bars with bartenders, (iii) have vending machines that dispense party essentials (i.e. lighters, cigarettes, condoms…), (iv) have a free taco truck, (v) have a very cool photographer capture the evening, and (vi) have live music that kicks some serious booty.
Held at the Penfield Mansion, Toddchella celebrated the birthday of Todd Hurvitz. Though I had only met Todd once- perhaps twice- before, I’ve hung out with his friends on several occasions at concert events like Coachella, and they were the ones organizing the shindig. The location aside, the party flyer listed three bands that’d be performing that evening: Tijuana Tears, The Record Company and We Were Indians. Me, being the music junkie that I am, checked out each band’s music. I immediately RSVP’s for the festivities.
Penfield Mansion is located in Woodland Hills, so I booked an inexpensive room at a local hotel so I could have a place nearby to crash. Such a good call. Unaware that there would be full spread of food at the party, I stopped by a local market to pick up some late night munchies (roast beef sandwich, mac and cheese, and a large bottle of water) just in case. After settling into the hotel, I called a cab to drive me 2 miles to the spot.
I have the cab pull me up to the entrance of the driveway, and I notice a black SVU parked out front. Inside is my friend Lyndsey who was one of the peeps in charge of putting the event together. I say, “Hi,” then let her alone to take care of her business with the bouncer of the event. After walking up the steep driveway, I let myself into the house that Frank Sinatra once lived in.
It was early, about 8:00pm, but the party seemed to have already been kick-started. I do a short walkthrough of the venue, especially impressed with the views and the full bar, then make my way to the kitchen/living room area where the early crowd had congregated to watch the end of the final four matchup between Michigan and Syracuse. I see a couple of my friends hanging out on the couches, and I pull up a wooden rocking chair to join them. Even though there was a full bar, I still brought a good bottle of scotch to sip on (Macallan 12) and open it up, pouring glasses for my friends that wanted some. Following the conclusion of the game, I head to the back yard where the bands had set up. The first band was about to take the make-shift stage.
Tijuana Tears was the first band to take the stage. A five man band that came together in 2012, they released a 5 song EP on September 14, 2012 called “Phantasmic Consciousness”. Team Toddchella did good in having this band open the night. Their sound was kind of music you want to hear when you’re starting the evening. It was the kind of music that lets you know that the party was about to get fun. Having only released one EP, their set was relatively short, but it was the perfect kick-off. Reza in the band gave me the set list, and it is below:
1. “Oceans”: When this song started, I felt that there was definitely a Cali influence. For some reason it reminded me (excluding the intro) of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The bass line and vocal melody felt very Flea and Keidis.
2. “Howl”: When this song started, I had a feeling that some of the guys in the band were from Texas. A very Tex Mex punk, hillbilly vibe.
3. Bryce Alber guitar solo.
4. “Beloved Venus”: A solid pop-rock song.
5. “Woman To Serve”: A solid rock and roll, blues number. A song that cresendos into a heavy frenzy.
6. “Phantasmic Conciousness”: They concluded their set with a song that I liked the most off the EP. It’s sound reminded me of Local Natives, but with more soul. Especially effective use of using call and response with the audience to sing along at the end with, “Whoa, what I say goes”.
The evening had officially started for me. This band got the adrenaline in my system pumping. As the band was putting away their equipment, I briefly introduced myself to the band. I ended up having a brief convo with Bryce, the singer. I offered the band some of my scotch. Bryce accepted.
This is a band that you need to see live. Their recordings are great, but their live sound has so much energy and joie-de-vivre. I was especially impressed with Bryce’s vocal timbre. With the scotch starting to set in, I think I may have made some silly comparisons, like telling Bryce that he reminded me of how Jamiroquai may have sounded if he grew up in the mid-west, and how during certain passages of certain songs I had Jeff Buckley flashbacks. Needless to say, I was impressed with his live performance.
I had noticed people behind me dancing with little LCD light bracelets, and I asked around to see where they got them. I was informed that a photography company named Harmonic Light was taking psychedelic pictures for the party, so I head into the nearby room (with a stripper pole) where they were set up.
With my scotch buzz settling in, I was cajoled into taking a pic. I think it turned out pretty cool.
The Record Company = Unfiltered, unadulterated roots/blues/rock. They’ve been around since 2011, but I was only introduced to this band through Toddchella. Marc Cazorla, Chris Vos and Alex Stiff are all Los Angeles transplants, and I couldn’t be happier to have them play this kind of music in Los Angeles.
They taste like the Black Keys, but are sprinkled with different spices. Chris Vos, the lead singer, has a voice that was as rich, or richer, than the 12 year Maccallan I was sipping on. A husky baritone with second tenor range, I was transported by the bluesy vibe that emanated from the make-shift stage while they were performing. I was particularly impressed with Chris’ work on the slide guitar (see the video- which happens to have the best light of all of the videos I shot- below).
They all seemed to have a good time, like performing this kind of music was second nature to them, and I was grooving with the sounds. After their set, I introduced myself and got the set list from Mark Cazorla. Mark is a good guy. Apparently, in my tipsiness, I forgot that I gave him my phone to write the set list. He went out of his way to find me and return the my precious life-line… seriously …. I’d be lost without my phone. The set list is below, with links to the original recording that I could find.
2. “Born Unnamed”
3. “On The Move”
4. “Whatcha Want” (Beastie Boys Cover): Freaking Awesome. I best they could blues out any hip-hop song they wanted.
5. “This Crooked City”
6. “The Burner”
7. “Medicine Man”: This was one of my favorite cuts from their set. Love the sound. Love the lyrics. Made me love my scotch.
8. “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely”
9. “In the Mood”
10. “That Alright Mama” (Ray Charles Cover)
11. “All Day, All Of Night” (The Kinks Cover)
At this point in the evening, infused with good music and good scotch, the evening started getting a little hazy for me. I had some nice conversations with various people … but I can’t remember any of their names… then again, that’s kind of par for the course for me, as anybody who knows me knows that remembering names is not my strong suit.
BUT, I do know and remember this. If you are having a hankering for some bad ass roots/blues/rock music and you’re in Los Angeles, check the current issue of LA Weekly, or start Googling, and see if The Record Company has a gig coming up. They will satisfying that craving. Trust me.
My buzz was still going, and I kept going to the bar to get more ice for my scotch. I tipped each time I ask for more ice. I never had to wait for ice. Tipping usually works that way. I head back out to the stage area, and by the time I returned to my spot, on cue, We Were Indians started to perform.
I found their Soundcloud site and listened to the four songs that they had posted. It was a small sample size, but when listening to their recordings I got excited. “Love Over Gold” felt like gothy, glam-rock. The lead singer on “Dream Store” sounded like young Eddie Vedder. “Long Way From Home” had hints of classic rock. This was a rock band, and I was anticipating a high energy, rocking set.
As We Were Indians started playing, I was immediately drawn to the lead singer’s stage presence. It felt like I was watching a dark version of David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger. He commanded the small stage and more and more people starting filling up the space around him.
Sometime during the first few songs, I felt some water drop on my face. Then again. I then turned to the guys next to me and said, “I think it’s starting to rain.” We started to looking up to the sky, when all of a sudden the lawn sprinklers went off full blast. The party goers immediately found trashcans to place over the sprinklers, and for a minute it seemed like the evening was going to end right there. I’m glad I was wrong.
After the sprinklers had stopped, the band made sure the water hadn’t damaged their equipment, and by created a barricade of towels from preventing the lawn water to overflow on the concrete, make-shift stage, and announced that it was time to rock-and-roll.
We Were Indians continued their set as if nothing had happened. The lead singer immediately captivated the audience. I took some photos during the set and recorded some video, but during the set the band announced that they didn’t want pictures taken. In order to respect their wishes, I’m not going to post the videos I took on youtube (the lighting was terrible though), however, I have to break their trust and post this one, dope-ass picture of the lead singer rocking out. It doesn’t get more rock and roll than this.
By the time We Were Indians had wrapped up, I had killed a whole bottle of scotch. Needless to say, I didn’t do it on my own (I’m not that much of a lush … coff, coff…), but I’d had enough to drink that my brain went into “water-mode”. I went to the bar several times to ask for ice water, and I remember tipping the bartenders for each.
I had a conversation with Mike McGill (the guitarist) after the set, and he was kind enough to message me a picture of the set list.
I’ve embedded the songs that are available on SoundCloud here so you can have a listen too.
Mike shot me a text that the next We Were Indians’ local gig is May 10th at King King in Hollywood. Barring anything else coming up, I may have to do the 40 minute drive into Hollywood to check them out again.
I have to give the party planners major props for the way they set the line-up of bands, because they really couldn’t have done a better job. They took three distinct sounding bands, and made it work seamlessly. It was the perfect soundtrack for a party; a soundtrack that crescendoed into a party that was truly, 100%, rock and roll, leaving everybody with an adrenaline high. On my way out, I gave props to the sound guy working the evening.
I woke up the next morning sans headache, which was surprising. I woke up in the hotel room and noticed that my LCD bracelet was still on. A subtle reminder of one of the best house parties I’ve been to in a while. Toddchella was dope. The bar has been set high, Coachella … you have some work to do…