“We are having sound problems so you will have to go around to the alley,” said the affable young man at the door of the building housing the Lodge Room in Highland Park. I had never been to the Lodge Room, although I had heard about it. And I love Highland Park, an LA neighborhood with one foot in the millennial-21st century and the other in a gentler mid-20th century past. So while I thought that it was odd that a sound problem would relocate a door, I walked from the entrance on a side street off of North Figueroa around to the alley.
A knot of young people dressed mostly in black was congregated around a small alley door, smoking and talking. Just inside the door was a tiny ticket booth staffed by a bright-eyed, black-clad woman who offered to give me my wristbands but said I couldn‘t go in yet because of “sound problems”. But she added I could go back to the main entrance and upstairs to the restaurant and restrooms. So I went back around the old building to check out the restaurant, Checker Hall, across the second floor lobby from the Lodge Room venue.
Wow. I definitely walked into 21st Century part of Highland Park. A high tech central bar, tables and booths full of chattering young professionals, a great view out of a wall of full-length French doors and $12 glasses of wine and $8 small plates. I ordered one of each and enjoyed them while I listened for a change in the sounds coming from the venue next door, indicating the sound problem had been solved and the bands were starting up. It was never completely solved, but the bands went ahead about a half hour late anyway, so I headed out of Checker Hall and into The Lodge Room itself
I was not prepared for the magnificence. Builtin 1922 as the Highland Park Masonic Temple, the Lodge Room was reopened last year by the folks who operate the Teragram Ballroom in LA. It has been restored with loving care. Gleaming hardwood floors set off dark wood paneled walls with carved niches, a gorgeous hand-carved bar in the rising like an altar, gold-leafed plaster accents around the ceiling, bronze chandeliers, a huge inlaid gold star in the center of the ceiling surrounding an etched glass pentagon. All in all, pretty classy. Plus, the Room boasted a full theatrical lighting structure, a powerful(if problematic that night) sound system and a real sound and light board in a real control room overlooking the generous stage and the 500-capacity floor.
That floor was starting to fill in as the opening act, Springtime Carnivore, launched into its set, with lead singer/guitarist Greta Morgan bathed in red light from the rear stage spots, which unfortunately flared the lenses of anyone trying to shoot video. She got us up and moving to cuts from her Midnight Room album, setting the stage for Do Paoro, the night’s headliner.
If you don’t know Doe Paoro, you should. With almost 10 million streams on Spotify she is a force of nature. Her voice is born of training in Llamo, classical Tibetan opera, and forged in silent meditation that enables her to understand the space between silence and sound. She easily moves from R&B to pop to dubstep to soul to soaring contralto love songs. All of that was on display at the Lodge Room as Doe took the crowded room through a tour de force of her music from multiple albums. She grinned, she crooned, she danced, she wailed, and she rocked. She even slipped in a few jokes and turned the stage over to her band for some commentary on how the show was going. The crowd ate it up would not let her leave without an encore.
After her very long set, Doe joined the crowd in the lobby, the center of a literal crush of admirers. The flash of selfies seemed endless. There were so many people congratulating her that movement was almost impossible. All you could see was Doe’s 1000-watt smile and trademark curls surrounded by happy fans.
The sound problems never did get completely solved, but you know what, it didn’t matter.