Earlier this year I wrote about the malaise in the guitar industry and that one result was that Gibson Guitar Brands, maker of the iconic guitars like the Les Paul and Epiphone and Baldwin Pianos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. An immediate local impact of that was the closure of the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Beverley Hills, which doubled as a private music space for invitation- only industry events.
I attended many of those events, including the introduction to La of the Brooklyn-based Flor de Toloache all-female Mariachi band a few days before they took home a Latin Grammy, and the Spanish rockabilly-master guitarist, El Twanguero. Its closure was a loss to everyone in the LA music community, but especially to the American Latino Music (ALM) world because the Gibson Showroom became a kind of gathering place to introduce Latino fusion bands, both local and touring. I spent many happy nights munching on tacos and sipping cerveza courtesy of sponsors like BMI’s Latin Division while meeting new AMI artists I might not have seen otherwise.
So I was delighted a few weeks ago to learn that Gibson was opening a new showroom in Hollywood and last night I finally got a look at it . I also got a look at a couple of very hot artists: an alt-rock band from Chile, a singer/songwriter from LA via Buenos Ares, and bi-lingual songwriter from the Francisco Bay Area.
The new Gibson Showroom is on the west end of Sunset Blvd. on the edge of Hollywood, out of the craziness of central Tinsel Town, which makes parking easier (no $20 a night lots) and lighter traffic. The Gibson name is on the glass doors and when you step up into the room you are greeted with wall-sized paintings of guitars and the famous “Gibson Throne” made up of dozens of bronzed guitars. The room itself is a long rectangle, rather than a big square like the former showroom. The bar – hosted courtesy of the promoter, Luis Polanco and his firm Sunset Eclectico – was at one end and the stage was at the other end. In between is a full-scale Black Baldwin Grand piano, a very substantial light and sound board, Edwardo the DJ and a high end table, and the famous Gibson Giant Guitar, leaning against the wall next to a rock and roll pinball machine. And of course, there are guitars covering every square inch of the walls, front and back.
Although the space was smaller than the original Showroom, and lacked its green rooms and balcony, the exceptionally high level of talent continues unabated. Polanco and his team introduced the Chilean fusion, hip-hop/ rock/ funk/urban electronic band 8 Monkys. Led in Spanish by Nahuel Viera on vocals and Papa Monky on guitar and vocals, the five guys from Chile rocked, kicked, danced and wore masks while playing songs from their debut album, La Ira, and from their currently in-production second album, including the new single, “Bomba Atomica”.
The 8 Monkys act and their music was much larger than the stage at the new Gibson Showroom – their more usual experience is filling stadiums in Latin America — but they fit and were able to live up to the name of their new single, “Atomic Bomb”, with kicks, gyrations, jokes and non-stop energy. It was actually a treat to see them from three feet away and then talk with the band afterward over drinks instead of squinting my eyes to make out the dots on a stage in a sports stadium.
Fitting perfectly in the intimate stage and room was the first act introduced to us, Michelle Leclercq, an La–based, Argentine born, rising singer with a 1000-watt smile and a load of talent. Backed by a quartet of polished musicians – Fyto Pérez , Harrison Flynn, Lucas Lenny, and Hassan Dahik, including one of the happiest guitar players I have ever seen, she performed 4 songs that all hit home. Singing in Spanish and English, Leclercq took us through love songs and fun songs, including a song that brought noted Vanacore Music songwriter and performer Annalisa Corral out of the exclusive audience to the stage to join Leclercq in an all-Spanish ballad. If Leclercq had been the warmup act for 8 Monkys in a large venue, that probably would not have happened and I would not have been able to chat with them afterward.
I will be on the lookout for more invitations now that the new Gibson Showroom is back and I will let you know about them. In the meantime, buy more guitars.