Written by Jessica Klausing
Free music, bagels, and a mimosa! What more could you ask for!?!
Gary Calamar presented his Mimosa Music Series at North Hollywood’s Federal Bar on a rainy Sunday morning. What originated out of Calamar’s living room in Laurel Canyon has become a monthly hit that features local singer-songwriters. January featured an upcoming folk band, Mt. Joy and the Bay Area rockers, Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express.
Mt. Joy was a musical delight from opening to close. Matt Quinn (vocals/guitar) and Sam Cooper (guitar) weave mid-tempo guitar chords into a coming of age lyrical mind trip. Their music touches on political topics but with a psychedelic spin to it.
“Astrovan” alludes to Jesus being just another stoner hippie up against ‘The Man.’ This soulful heartfelt jam has reached over 230,000 streams in just 10 days on Spotify. It’s easy to see why; beyond the drug references is an underdog anthem, “Life aint ever what it seems; these dreams are more than paper things.” The underlying message inspires those to rise above life’s setbacks.
Mt. Joy faced quite a setback during “Big Foot.” The heavy rainstorm caused a power outage in the middle of the song. The unfazed Quinn kept singing and playing the guitar like a true professional! The flickering lights created an eerie vibe during the “I know he’s out there” lyric. Mt. Joy might want to consider this supernatural gag for future performances! Power returned for the next song both metaphorically and literally.
The new single “Sheep” sounds off against racial discrimination. Quinn and Cooper detail a gruesome scene of police brutality for being of a different race. You could feel the intensity in Quinn’s voice during “Kids are getting ready for a long war/ Maybe I was born in the wrong skin/But those sheep are rolling in the mud again.”
Mt. Joy can reference serious topics without beating the listener over the head about it. These tunes are mostly chill with some alternative rock jams in the mix. The songs itself are not preachy but use metaphors and wit to prompt deep thinking.
After Mt. Joy’s set, Gary Calamar shared two new singles off his album, The Prince of Pico Blvd.
The first single, “Little Tokyo” is a whimsical pop track about his adventure through the colourful LA district with his daughter. The title track, “Prince of Pico Blvd” has a Velvet Underground influence that details hometown nostalgia. Both were sonically different yet endearing tracks. These catchy tunes were the perfect segue into the final act.
Chuck Prophet donned a black vest with a black and red tie cut in two pieces. The Bay Area native held up his vanilla colored Fender Telecaster with a devious grin plastered upon his face.
“I wanna teach you all a little something!” Prophet declared as his band, the Missions Express rolled right into the twang rockin’ “Play That Song Again.”
He sure taught us a thing or two about rock n’ roll!
Prophet sets the bar pretty damn high in musical composition. His music nods in respect to 60’s style rock, Motown grooves, soulful ballads, old fashioned rock n' roll, and Southern rock. To sum it up: it's catchy get-on-your-feet-and-dance music. Prophet has the vocal prowess as Bruce Springsteen alongside his technically solid band mates.
“Love Is the Only Thing” shows off James DePrato’s (guitars) Beatles-style guitar hooks. Stephanie Finch (keyboards) shined soulfully within the guitar anthem, “In the Mausoleum.” Vicente Rodriguez (drums) and Kevin White (bass) held up the rhythm backbone of the Honky Tonk jam, “Countrified Inner-City Technological Man.”
Prophet’s tongue-in-cheek humor gave the songs a playful edge.
An important announcement was made before launching into “Coming Out in Code” off of the new album, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. Prophet asked sternly if anyone was secretly recording the show. Due to the rise of illegal music sharing lawsuits, naturally, a few nervous glances were met throughout the room. Prophet quickly added with his trademark devilish grin, “because I need you to please record this one; it has very low views on Youtube.” Many cellphones were held up during this soulful groove.
He continued to captivate listeners through his earnest storytelling.
“Wish Me Luck, ” tells the comical antics of a persistent party animal. “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” mourns the dearly departed musicians of 2016. Another bittersweet sympathy was the “The Left Hand and the Right Hand.” This song spins the tragic tale of the San Francisco nightclub pioneers, the Mitchell Brothers.
No Chuck Prophet show is complete without epic sing-a-longs.
“Temple Beautiful” brought out enthusiastic chants from the crowd. However, the real highlight was “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat” As the audience wailed out the ‘woahs,’ Prophet portrayed a sports commentator with “the best thing about baseball and rock n’ roll is you never know what will happen next.”
Prophet closed the set with “You Did” (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp). He comically referred to this Motown tune as “the most hardcore one.” Thick bass grooves fuse with the delicate keys as Prophet asks “who put the ram in the ram a lam?”
Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express are a diamond in the rough. This group creates a musical space that’s personal but not private. Prophet openly invites listeners into his “California Noir” realm. He’s a master of guitar and storytelling complimented with a mesmerising and powerful sound. Together this group conjures a performance worthy of an arena.
Play That Song Again
Love Is the Only Thing
Coming Out in Code
In the Mausoleum
The Left Hand and The Right Hand
Countrified Inner-City Technological Man
Wish Me Luck
Bad Year for Rock and Roll
Willie Mays Is Up At Bat
You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)