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July 10, 2007

Kathleen Smith/Dave Lichens/Libbie Schrader/Andrea Wasse, Room 5, Los Angeles. July 7, 2007

I can't pretend that this entry was not precluded by a mild, frenzied panic on this mobile blogger's end. Without a Billboard sponsored show on the calendar for me this weekend, I was planning on seeing a local artist who had been selected by an unnamed rival magazine as one of MySpace's Top 25 artists on my own dime tonight.  Unfortunately, I discovered at the last minute that the venue misprinted their calendar, leaving me to spend the weekend either reading "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities" or watching "Everyday Italian," furthering my crush on Food Network hottie Giada de Laurentiis.  While this wasn't an altogether unpleasant prospect, I was skeptical that the good folks at Billboard would publish a blog entirely about a mild-mannered Asian kid's fantasies of sorority girls and tiny Italian chefs with inexplicably magnificent cleavage.

I decided that somehow, someway, I was going to go out and find a show to cover for the Mobile Beat tonight. At the expense of a friend's birthday party (happy birthday, Mar), it was time for me to step out from under the umbrella (ella...ella...ella... ey...ey...ey...) of my Ryan Seacrest-encrusted comfort zone to check out some local artists.


I was going to find an act, plop myself down in the front row  (luckily, most everyone in LA arrives late, so all I have to do is be on time), and take it from there. I figured, if that dreamy Lacey Schwimmer can learn a randomly chosen dance style every week on "So You Think You Can Dance," I can see an artist that I otherwise would never have even known about to expand my own musical taste. I must confess, however, that while en route to this transcendental musical experience, I couldn't help mouthing the words to Kelly Clarkson's "Never Again" as it blasted inside my car.  Ah, to be 23 years old, love pop music, and be shameless about it...  Wait...

Needless to say, I went into this show with completely different expectations when compared to last week's Fall Out Boy show. Last week's concert had a mosh pit, people stripping on stage, and pre-pubescent girls screaming at tattooed men with mohawks.  By contrast, the mellow second floor of the Room 5 Lounge near Hollywood would provide none of that, unless I personally made it happen, and had I done so, I'd probably be blogging this on my nifty LG enV phone from Verizon Wireless (what up, sponsors?) in a seedy jail cell with a hairy, drunk biker whispering sweet promises of a good time into my ear; diminutive Asian men don't fare so well in prison. Despite the absence of this almost manufactured type of energy, I had the privilege of being in the audience tonight for four incredibly talented LA area musicians - not just singers - who brought their passions on stage to the delight of those in attendance.

First on stage was Reno native Kathleen Smith, whose sound and style (which was primarily composed of Smith's voice and keyboard) immediately reminded me of Norah Jones. After her set, the sweet and incredibly gracious Smith, who also often utilizes a smooth falsetto, told me that I wasn't the first to make that comparison. This was a small personal victory for me because, over the course of her set, I had developed a mini-crush on Smith, with her calf-high boots, gently parted hair, and dazzling smile (*sigh*), and I was half afraid I would freeze up and spit out some mindless comment about how I wanted to put her in my “Top 8” on MySpace.


Other artists that came to mind after listening to Smith included Joni Mitchell and even Sarah McLachlan to an extent, but Smith told me that Paula Cole was a big influence on her musically. Incidentally, Smith graduated from USC just one year before I completed undergraduate studies there, but we had never run into each other on campus, shared a spontaneous embrace at a football game, or randomly spooned at any of the Trojan Swingers parties I attended, at least as far as I could remember.

One of the most entertaining parts about Smith's set and stage personality was that she had such a warm stage presence, but her songs are generally very "low and sad," as she described them. Highlights of her set included the emotionally charged "You Try" and "Back to Me," the latter of which just had a beautiful keyboard arrangement. Because she conveyed her upbeat personality so well between each song, she was well received by the early arriving audience. She finished off her nine song set with the title track to her upcoming album, "Dolls," and provided a confident conclusion to a strong set, kicking off the evening on a proper note.
Next up was Oregon's own Dave Lichens (with Adam Culvey on percussion), who would end up being my favorite performer of the night. Upon first glance, Lichens and Culvey resembled a couple of long-haired surf bums who rolled in straight from the beach, but once Lichens began performing, the audience was immediately drawn to his energy and passion on the guitar. I would probably compare his sound with that of Tom Petty, but it also wouldn't be too far of a stretch to liken him to a mellower, acoustic version of the band Live. The Bono and Petty-influenced Lichens, who normally performs with a full band at larger venues, put on an acoustic-alternative eight song set, and I enjoyed literally every song, something that doesn't even happen for many of my favorite groups.

It was an interesting transition to move from the mellow groove of Kathleen Smith on the keyboard to the acoustic guitar rock of Dave Lichens. Lichens not only displayed strong vocals, but incredible passion, stomping his feet to the beat and wailing feverishly on his guitar.  He displayed a confidence and a joy to be on stage that was appreciated by the audience, who continued to file in as the night progressed.  There wasn't one song when Lichens didn't dive straight in and squeeze the most out of every note, nor a moment where you felt like he was holding back for the smaller venue.  I wouldn't have been surprised if he started throwing the microphone stand around a la "The Academy Is..."

My personal favorites of his were "Get You Alone," "Break My Fall," and the playful cover of Madonna's "Material Girl" with strategically changed lyrics, which gave everyone in the audience a laugh. Every song that Lichens performed tonight was blessed with an extremely catchy chorus. I was clearly out of my genre with his music, but his set was so infectious that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  After his performance, I had the opportunity to speak with him, and he expressed how much he loved the night's acoustic setting and the opportunity just to have fun and jam on stage. I'm hoping to catch Lichens with a full band this summer and I highly encourage anyone in the Los Angeles area to do the same.
Easily attracting the biggest audience of the night and filling the lounge to capacity, Libbie Schrader, who has previously opened for artists like Jewel and Michelle Branch, seated herself at the keyboard and was greeted by a symphony of applause. Schrader has been a featured artist on MySpace and was a previous winner of the Pantene Pro-Voice competition in NYC's Central Park. Accompanied by Greg Pajer on guitar, who had some incredible solos despite battling a malfunctioning pedal, Schrader set up to begin a diverse, well-executed, eleven song set.

Immediately after Schrader began singing, it became obvious why she's attracted such a following.  She possessed the uncanny ability to transform her voice into an instrument that effortlessly hit any note at will, and the piano became a rock instrument in her capable hands. Her performance was polished, and every note worked perfectly with Pajer's background vocals; it was a nice change of pace to see a female lead accompanied by a male on harmonies. While Schrader told me her primary influences were U2, Fiona Apple, and Sarah McLachlan, I'd also compare her pop-alternative sound to that of Tori Amos and Jewel, with flashes of Evanescence's Amy Lee when she uses her upper register.

While Schrader joked that her songs are generally about "my heart, the moon, and boys that don't like me," her set was diverse in subject matter and even more so in style, ranging from jazz, to pop, to alternative, to something in between. My favorite performances were "On the First Try," "A Little Longer,"  "Now You're Good" (a pre-Wreckers Michelle Branch-esque track from the "Hotel Paper" days), "Everything I'm Not" (which was a little similar to "Boston" by Augustana), and "So Sweet," which she co-wrote with Alissa Moreno, who has been featured on the soundtrack to one of my now not-so-secret vices, MTV's Laguna Beach (I love that LC). After finishing what was easily the most diverse and best received set of the night, Schrader and Pajer were rewarded with the loudest cheers before they met with the fans who immediately approached the stage to greet them.
Closing out the night was Canadian musician Andrea Wasse, who was joined on stage by my favorite artist of the night, Dave Lichens. Wasse's modest stage demeanor and appreciation for the audience's applause was apparent. Of all the night's performers, Wasse might have had the most "pop friendly" voice, despite the fact that she was fighting through sickness to perform. While not her personal favorite song, I thoroughly enjoyed "Calling You Out," which easily sounded like a radio hit or the song you always want to become a single on your favorite artist's CD. Wasse joked after the show that the song's use of high notes made her sing like a "12 year old girl," but it could have easily become a popular Michelle Branch track with its catchy melody.

Wasse's eight song set may have included the performance of the night. Libbie Schrader requested that Wasse perform "Perfect World," a song that Wasse performed to win the Pantene Pro-Voice competition that Schrader had won the year before. When Wasse couldn't remember all the chords to the song she wrote years ago, Schrader came on stage to play the piano for the song from her own memory. Together, Wasse and Schrader found the chords on the guitar and piano respectively, and Lichens fed off the two artists, playing by ear to join in on a fun song for everyone in attendance. Together, the three artists put together an impromptu performance that never could have taken place at a larger concert, and it was a great way to culminate what I took out of the night.

Obviously, tonight's concert was not the mainstream, radio friendly music that I am used to listening to. However, it was a refreshing change to see four talented MUSICIANS - all of whom wrote their own unique songs, played their own instruments, and truly owned their own style. All of the artists featured tonight perform fairly regularly on the West Coast and throughout the Los Angeles area, and all have MySpace followings that I look forward to being a part of as well. Tonight was about expanding my musical tastes in a random, "So You Think You Can Dance"-like manner, and it was a nice opportunity for me to discover some up and coming musicians who were not only all incredibly personable and gracious, but talented as well. For anyone else in the LA area who's been bitten by the mainstream bug, I'd encourage you to check these amazing artists out or discover them online!

I never thought I'd see the day where I was ok with skipping out on a lovely evening with Giada de Laurentiis and her "Everyday Italian" good looks and/or food, but this was one of those days.


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Dave Chung! Way to go the extra mile for the story. I remember spooning at Trojan swinger parties too. Ahh, good times.

Ina Kwon

i'm gonna have to do a little hunting on itunes to find some of these songs! great review! :D


Dave, you crack me up with all your little inserts about Food Network and LC. (BTW, if you don't already watch The Next Food Network Star, you should! Its judges make grown men cry! And...Giada sometimes serves as a guest judge.)

Anyway, thanks for introducing us to some local talent. It's a refreshing break from the media feeding us info only about big names, which, quite frankly, I'm sick of right now. Maybe these artists will break me out of my music rut...


Dave, you crack me up with all your little inserts about Food Network and LC. (BTW, if you don't already watch The Next Food Network Star, you should! Its judges make grown men cry! And...Giada sometimes serves as a guest judge.)

Anyway, thanks for introducing us to some local talent. It's a refreshing break from the media feeding us info only about big names, which, quite frankly, I'm sick of right now. Maybe these artists will break me out of my music rut...


Awesome review! Now I wish I were out in Cali checking out the music scene...


bro, what you need, is a tivo. THAT way you wouldnt HAVE to miss the delicious spice that IS Giada de Laurentiis. Then you could watch it over, and over, and over again. while still covering the back alley concerts.


Dave, if it helps, I totally watch Everyday Italian all the time.

Antonia Afamasaga

Good for you going above and beyond. Sounds like it was fun and worth it anyway.


It's always good to check out local artists!! You never know what kind of talent you'll find there.


Interesting blog

Nati G.

oooh DC...you are so entertaining to read...who needs a bathroom book when I can just pick up my laptop and take you with me!! FYI: if you ever cover BEP and don't tell me about it, I might have to NOT be your biggest fan anymore! can't wait to read about your next adventure!

p.s. why didn't you ever tell me you did the swinger thing at SC? we could've carpooled!


just letting everyone know that Andrea Wasse is playing with a full band--Including Dave Lichens--at Molly Malone's on the 17th. Her band, "Macleod" is on Myspace, so check it out.


definitely want to check out Dave Lichens sometime. Hotel Cafe always has really good, smaller shows too.


Tell them I'm available if they ever need an MC to rock the mic.

Boobie Quan

Ah another great review! I look forward to your next one like always.

and you should totally stalk lacey schwimmer!

J To The Izzo

DAVE!!! Your blogs rock socks off!!!


lovin the review dave! i started laughin so hard at the umbrella reference..soo funny! way to sport dlk while at it! :)


great review of the concert, wish i could have made it man.


dave - if you get a chance, check out james morrison...no, not jimmy.... a new artist. and also try and see John Butler Trio. both are new artists i saw in concert, and they ROCK! and also they are native to Boston.

P Shah

Dave stay repping the underground scene. It's refreshing to read about new artists and unique. Mostly everything you read is on the mainstream peeps. For sure gonna check out some of their music.

Nice Shirt too!!!!!!!!


What a way with words! Great review.


It's nice to see you catching the smaller acts out there. Keep it up, can't wait to see what's up next on the DC music tour.


Go Chung Chung Go!


hooray for dave chung - he could blog his way into your mother's undergarments!


Sounds like a concert I would have enjoyed. I'm going to have to find out where some of them are performing next.

And don't feel bad about being 23 and loving pop music. I think we ALL do deep down. Love ya Dave!

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