I grew up in Pennsylvania watching movies about ordinary girls who run off to Hollywood, get discovered and become famous. By the time I was in my teens I had decided I would move to Los Angeles as soon as I could, to start my music and acting career. I finally moved to California in my 20’s, but to Northern California, which is a separate beast from Southern California. I love the Bay Area and would not live anywhere else, but I still feel a tingle of excitement over the prospect of LA, so when I saw an opportunity to play a show in Southern California I jumped on it.
Nette Radio, an internet radio show dedicated to promoting unsigned female artists, is hosted by Annette Conlon. Annette has combined her passion for music with her desire to make a difference in the world by putting together benefit shows once a month at The Talking Stick in Venice, CA. Any artist who submits music to Nette Radio is invited to play a show, and that’s how I came to be traveling down Highway 5 on a Thursday evening with my friend, Gina.
Taking a road trip sans les enfants is a bit hedonistic, so I was particularly glad the show I was playing was benefiting the Los Angeles Veterans Hospital. That helped balance out the guilt. Gina had suggested we stay the The Standard, a cool hotel in downtown LA. I had no idea how the hotel was going to tip the scales of hedonism versus altruism way over in hedonism’s favor.
We had an easy drive down to Los Angeles and pulled into the parking lot around 8:30 pm, except I couldn’t tell if this was actually a hotel or a disco because even with the car windows rolled up I could hear the thumping bass of dance music coming from inside the lobby. People in club wear milled about outside while the valets helped us unload the car and take our things inside. As far as I could tell we were checking into a nightclub.
Once we had our room key we headed up to the 6th floor. Despite the party in the lobby, the red carpeted halls were deserted. “We need a big wheel to ride up and down these halls like in The Shining,” Gina joked.
Our room turned out to be quite spacious with a 70’s minimalist flare. Two mattresses sat atop of dais, a phone sat on the floor between them. One of the mattresses was just a foot or so from a plexiglass wall which turned out to be part of the shower stall. Upon further inspection of the sparse, European style bathroom, there were two floor-to-ceiling shower curtains that made up the shower enclosure. The see through shower wall gave me pause, but upon inspection of the mini-bar I realized my suspicions were correct. In addition to full bottles of Patron Tequila, and splits of Veuve Clicquot champagne, one could also purchase condoms and scented candles, all at moderately outrageous prices. Spontaneity is expensive. It would appear we were staying at The (One Night)Standard.
Gina and I were starving so we decided to head up to the roof where there was food and drink to be had, but first we had to go back to the lobby and get a wristband to prove we deserved to be on the roof.
The rooftop bar provided an amazing view of downtown LA. There was a pool, cabanas and a large lounge area, all very crowded. Due to extreme hunger and the need for immediate gratification, we chose the Biergarten. Yes, I said Biergarten. Nothing says downtown LA like a good liter of Hefeweizen and a bratwurst. We sat at a white table surrounded by an ivy draped trellis, astro turf beneath our feet, 80’s pop music sung in German blaring from a nearby speaker, and for no reason we could discern, a movie projected on the wall of the parking garage across the street. It was sensory overload-a-go-go; completely surreal, like Disney World for drunken hipsters.
After our boozy, greasy repast, we headed down the street to catch the remaining few moments the Downtown Art Walk, did a bit of shopping at a nearby bazaar and then headed back to the hotel. I wish I could say we then turned in for the night, but we didn’t . . . “Early the next morning” describes both when I went to bed and when I woke up. It doesn’t get much rougher than that.
I spent most of Friday morning recuperating, and then finally pulled it together enough to set up my equipment and practice while Gina went to the hotel gym, which is apparently just as surreal and kitschy as the rest of the place.
We lunched at The Abbey in West Hollywood, where everyone was fit, beautiful, and potentially famous, before braving the late afternoon traffic over to Venice. I couldn’t help but feel star struck driving down Santa Monica Boulevard through Beverly Hills, although some of the awe was buffered by not moving more than 15 miles per hour for most of the trip.
I arrived at The Talking Stick a little after 6 pm. My good friend, Erika, and her family were already there, having made the two hour trek up from San Diego to catch my 25 minute set. Having both Erika and Gina there to show their support made me feel truly blessed to have such amazing friends.
The Talking Stick is a nice coffee shop venue with a full stage, PA and fun ambience. The tables filled up quickly and I was up first. One of the biggest challenges I face in my life is learning to speak up for myself and ask for things I need; in this case I needed more of a sound check than the other performers. The others were using acoustic instruments, save for a keyboard player using the venue’s keyboard. My electronic instruments are a bit more dynamic than the average acoustic guitar. When I hit the Roland sampler to trigger the drums for Fulcrum at the beginning of my set, the beat crashed through the PA in an auditory assault, causing everyone to cringe and jump. This was not my first time to cause an audience to cringe and jump, and sadly it probably won’t be my last. Still, I lost a bit of confidence right away, which never makes for a great performance. I did my best to pull out of it and put on a good performance, but my vocals felt off, and when I got to my final song, Fan Fic, the Roland sampler gave me more volume level problems. In a button-mashing panic to get things under control I screwed up the beat. I really should have stopped and started over again, but I pressed on, embraced my failure and sang like I didn’t care. Gina claims it worked, but I wasn’t so sure . . .
You can watch it all here on Nette Radio’s Ustream channel, as it was broadcast live.
The other performers were very good: Gypsy and the Merry Mystics played some beautiful acoustic rock that incorporated two guitars and a keyboard player who doubled on flute; Ann-Marita used soulful country music to tell stories of her incredible life, having found her way to America from Norway by way of Australia; and The Red Herring wailed out some blues with punk rock rawness on acoustic guitar and harmonica. The Conlons, comprised of Annette and her husband, Doug, finished the evening with joyful Americana music that showcased soaring harmonies and thoughtful lyrics.
I also picked up a cool Susan Nichole bag which was auctioned off as part of the fundraising for the evening. It was money well spent for a good cause.
Gina and I left the Talking Stick around 10 PM and the night was still young. We went back to downtown LA and walked around LA Live for a bit looking for a place to eat. We settled on Trader Vic’s and enjoyed some tropical drinks with our food.
On the way back to the car we came across a tent city. Thinking it might be an Occupy encampment we moved in for a closer look. It turned out to be people camped out for the “Twilight:Breaking Dawn” Red Carpet event that was taking place on Monday.
After that we were back at The (One Night)Standard. Gina and I both enjoy photography (which is not the same as “Photography, know what I mean? Wink Wink Nudge Nudge”) so we wanted to make use of the spectacle that was The (One Night)Standard. Camera in hand we went on a photo safari of the 70’s kind:
And made a friend who was feeling the vibe of The (One Night)Standard something fierce:
After our friend was escorted out by his friends, we continued with the photos:
The next day we woke up late-ish, grabbed some breakfast and hit the road by noon. I’ll admit I felt just a touch sad that I’d had no brush with fame during the visit; no coincidental chain of events sent Michael C. Hall into the Talking Stick for a soy latte just as Fan Fic began, where his eyes would meet mine as I deftly hit the “sexy serial killer” trigger on my Roland. . . Nope, didn’t happen, but a Pennsylvania girl can dream.