As pianist Annie Stela mused between songs: “I was living in L.A., and I was hurt and I was ready to leave,” then, while taking a walk with her dog, she looked up the street and saw a canopy of blossoming purple jacaranda, “That’s the thing about Los Angeles. Just when you’ve given up, it surprises you.”
The songs were as soft as the butterflies Money Mark regretted not seeing any longer before he sang “Black Butterfly.” While the Disney Concert Hall was built to resemble a rose, the allusion to the rigid building material in the series’ name and Shepard “Obey” Fairey’s crimson cover art for the show rendered the steel monolith even more menacing. But inside, on a stage where the performers sat around in a mock L.A. apartment, it was a subtle experience.
Each of the 14 performers was allowed two songs each, with time to explain the inspiration behind their words. Biirdie began the evening with their bittersweet “LA Is Mars,” and the evocative lyrics “Out of the darkness of Griffith Park/We took the last train out of the dark.” Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson borrowed Biirdie to perform a ballad with lyrics based on lines gathered from ennui-infused Glasgow teens whose only respite in town was the Electric Box – not a pub, Jackson deadpanned, but an actual electric box. Inara George toned down the psychedelic Brazilian of her work with the Bird and the Bee to join Van Dyke Parks for the “post-Bukowski” teetering-on-ragtime Randy Newman penned “Vine Street.”
Each of the remaining performers – Franklin Bruno, Zach Rogue, John Doe, Marc Bianchi, Zooey Deschanel (with M. Ward), Sondre Lerche, Kyp Malone, Bob Mould and Daniel Rossen – brought their unique signature to the theme of the evening, but leaving the hall they all somehow coalesced. It was no longer earplugs held, but cameras to capture the soft beauty of the city.