LA/LA Land: Books, lasers and the joy of surprise music.

Features La/La Land

One of the reasons I like to go to clubs, as opposed to concerts ( I do those too!), is that I am so often pleasantly surprised by the talent I don’t know when I go to a club  to see talent I do know.  When you shell out the big bucks and attend a  venue or stadium concert with a well-known headliner, you usually know who the warm up acts are.  They would not be onstage with the headliner if the majority of the audience did not know them.  But at a club, especially a showcase club that presents three or four acts a night, I usually don’t know the acts other than the one I want to see, especially in LA where there are at least 500 bands doing something every day, plus a couple of dozen touring bands filling everything from Hollywood Bowl to the Bootleg Club. That is what happened recently at The Study.

The Study is one of the Hollywood’s “velvet rope” clubs – you know the type;  the rope line goes up, young hip fans, often in the latest outfits, line up for the intimidating doorman in a black suit (he was really very friendly) to approve their id and give them the correct wristband. I recently lined up to see X.ARI; I knew none of the other acts.

Inside, The Study is designed to look like a library in an old English castle.  There are floor-to-second-story ceiling book cases with real books in them, many leather clad and musty. The entry lobby, behind thick hedges that separate it from the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk has comfortable couches and chairs, as if you were there to relax and read instead of rock and dance. The stage is at one end of the library, the bar is along one side and booths line the back. Lasers embedded in the shelves between the books  and in the ceiling shoot bright green  lines across the room while strobes flash to the music.

X.ARI was releasing new music that night, including her powerful song, “Vapors”. I am a big fan of her sophisticated live electronic compositions, primal screams and  pointed lyrics, often derived from her struggles with depression and mental health.  I also appreciate her style – costume and performance – which is always light years into the future in both in artistic statements and the thinking it provokes.  I wasn’t disappointed. She gave us six songs:  “Cattle Call”, “Kingdoms Fall”, “Teachers”, “Stay v Go”, “Miss U”, and ended with her new release “Vapors”.  She electrified the room as she danced and shook and screamed from the stage, surrounded by professional camera crews shooting footage for what I assume will be a new video.

Seeing X.ARI live and up close  would have been more than worth the trip to Hollywood and the velvet rope line at the door (made more pleasant by conversation the South African singer BINX, in line with me). But there was a surprise; the singer Ray Little and her band was on the bill. I did not know her but was knocked out by her. Later I realized that her offstage name is Lauren Little and that she is the former frontwoman of Los Angeles rock band, Queen Caveat.

Ray Little turned The Study into a Night of the Witch. Onstage in a black diaphanous gown over black pants and top, with heavy eye makeup and a wicked smile, she put on a set that stepped up the power  and the audience frenzy with each song. Then the stage was bathed in blood red light, billowing fog, screaming lasers and storming lightening strobe flashes. The hour was near, the climax was coming, the culmination of the night was about to arrive.  A half dozen young women dressed in black wearing pointed witch hats and waving lit sparklers crowded on stage. Ray Little jumped offstage into the packed crowd which somehow parted before the invisible power emanating from her vocal chords.  She swirled and danced on the swarming floor while belting Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”;  the coven onstage added backup vocals and the band went into an uproar along with the crowd. Ray Little put a spell on The Study that brought the house down!

Seeing X.ARI was a breathtaking joy; encountering Ray Little was a exhilarating surprise.  And to do it surrounded by books and lasers – well, what could be better?

Patrick O’Heffernan

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