It’s been over two years since I last stepped into Hollywood’s The Hotel Cafe, so last Thursday night’s show was a welcome return to the intimate venue. With headliner Jesse Malin back in Los Angeles, the venue had a full east coast bill for the evening.
Scene veteran Marko DeSantis (knowing for his work in Sugarcult and Bad Astronaut) DJed the night with classic cuts from Tom Waits, The Replacements and many other quality tracks.
Opening the show was New Jersey native Matty Carlock, who wore his Springsteen influences on his sleeve. With his rough, punk-inspired vocals over chunky acoustic guitar riffs, his style brought to mind similar Boss-devotees like Brian Fallon and Dave Hause (so as you can guess, I loved the sound). While he admitted to his earlier work being in the rap world, he proved himself an excellent singer-songwriter storyteller, such as on tracks like “The Punks That Had Enough”. Fittingly, Jesse Malin guests on a track from his album The Jailbirds.
Shilpa Ray brought a completely different aura to her set, opening with a long song played on the harmonium. Her melancholic torch-style soared when she let her incredible, jazz-inflected vocals blare out on lines like “You’ll be lucky when she runs out of desire”. There was certainly a salty dark humor to her lyrics, wishing burning eczema on an ex in her next song which she performed on a keyboard. She also has a talent for extravagant song titles, like on her final California-knocking “Colonel Mustard in the Billiards Room with Sheets of Acid”, (or any track off her album Door Girl) which concludes with chanting of “California one day you will dissipate into the clouds”.
When Malin hit the stage, he wasted no time kicking things into high gear with newer track “The Way We Used to Roll”. The energy he had, you would think the man had been cooped up for a year and a half (oh wait…). I had almost forgotten what a really loud show was like, but Malin and his band reminded me quickly as they powered through their opening tracks. They brought great harmonies on “Shining Down”, and Malin showed off perfect rock star charisma on stage through tracks like “Whitestone City Limits”. The evening wasn’t a full-on rock barrage. Breaking out his acoustic guitar, Malin performed some numbers from his most recent, Lucinda Williams-produced album Sunset Kids, playing the folkier “Room 13”.
Anyone who has seen Malin before knows he always has a number of entertaining stories in his pocket, and he regaled us with a memory from a UK show where The Pogues Shane McGowan made a surprise appearance onstage and joined the band in an Elvis Costello cover. This led into a rowdy cover of The Pogues’ “If I Should Fall From the Grace of God”, appropriately.
It didn’t take too long for Jesse Malin to venture into the crowd, taking a stand on the Hotel Cafe bar following “Todd Youth”, and then blazing through the room during a raucous cover of The Clash‘s “Rudie Can’t Fail” (which he hilariously interrupted after a hiccup by pretending there was a Nazi-saluting racist int he back of the room he had to shit talk and send packing). The rock then continued with his catchy new single “State of the Art”, followed by “Dance With the System”, “Death Star” and “She’s So Dangerous”.
“Meet Me at the End of the World Again” had an anthemic feel, but nothing compared to “Wendy”, the track that made me a Malin fan almost twenty years ago, and which remains just as memorable today. After sharing his sincere thanks to the fans, Malin closed out the night with the punk rocker “All the Way From Moscow”. He then spent the remainder of the evening hanging with the crowd (I shared a tequila shot with them) while he played his new album for everyone.
After a drought of live music, there’s nothing like experiencing the energy of a real rock n’ roll show again, and Malin seems duly aware of this. He’s a great performer with a huge catalogue of tracks ranging from hard core punk to gentle piano ballads. The New York rock scene runs through his veins and comes out in his music in glorious fashion.
His new album drops this fall, and you can check out his new tracks here. Check out our Instagram (@TheIndyReview) for more photos and videos from the show!