My very first concert was Janet Jackson at Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA in 1994. My second concert was Whitney Houston during her Bodyguard tour in the same year, same venue. Seeing two vocal powerhouses in a short period of time really set the bar for me and my concert experiences. I go to a lot of concerts by a lot of different artists. And like I said last night, I can't just go once. I have to go repeatedly. Part of my addictive personality. I wrote in a previous blog post that Our Lady Peace was one of my favorite shows. I'd say they're in my Top Five shows of all time.
I not only like going to rock shows where I can't hear when the show's over, my taste gravitates toward singer/songwriters. One of my favorite venues in Los Angeles is the Hotel Cafe. They provide a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere to see artists perform. It's a great venue that promotes artists of all kinds but I've mostly seen quieter artists there. One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Jay Brannan. I discovered him in the movie Shortbus directed by John Cameron Mitchell.
Though his big scene in the movie was sexually explicit, what really caught my attention was his voice. He sang his song called Soda Shop and I was addicted. His voice is so soft yet manages to have edge. He can sing a melody line that sounds so smooth, a voice that sings these beautiful, round notes so perfectly. I discovered that he had a YouTube channel and a website and I downloaded the four songs he had available: Soda Shop, Ever After Happily, Drowning, and Lower My Gun. I listened to those on repeat. Constantly.
As his EPs came out on CDbaby, I bought every single one of them. The very first show I went to was at this small restaurant/venue called Genghis Cohen. I didn't even get inside. I was outside, sitting on a stool by myself, near the restaurant, and I could barely hear him through the glass. He passed me several times and yet I couldn't utter a word. It was like I was frozen in place, intimidated by someone who was a regular presence in my iPod. I'm always extremely nervous around people I really admire -- whose talent I really admire and I have been let down by people I've admired. Part of me didn't want to feel the surge of disappointment I knew I'd feel if meeting him didn't go as planned.
I didn't meet him that night but I listened to his songs, a little muffled by the glass because it was blocking the sound. I wish I could say the next time I saw him it was awesome and spectacular but drunk people ruined both my mood and the concert experience. It's only in recent shows have I been really, really happy and content with the audience. The music's always been amazing but the mood and atmosphere can play a really huge part in my enjoyment. Thankfully, his recent shows have been great but I'll always remember those earlier shows where I either couldn't see, couldn't hear, and all I wanted was to be close to really experience the music.
His music has evolved since he started posting his videos on YouTube a few years ago. He's made great studio albums with backing instruments that never compromise or overshadow his voice. His last full album (all originals) called Rob Me Blind is really spectacular. Every song, every note rings so clear and so interesting like musical ear candy.
Rob Me Blind
I urge you to give his music a try because it's amazing and I really, really wouldn't steer you wrong. And to end on an even happier note, though I still feel intimidated at times to say hello, I have not been disappointed when I've met him. He takes the time to meet with every single person who wants to meet with him, signs every autograph, poses for a lot of photos. You can tell how grateful and appreciative he is that there are fans there to watch him perform. Well, I'm equally grateful and appreciative that he's there to provide me with music I feel connected to. Thank you, Jay Brannan.