CONCERT REVIEW: Essence Inspires at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

Written by Jessica Klausing

 From left to right: Kevin Glaz (guitars), Essence, and Danny Eisenberg (keys) at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

From left to right: Kevin Glaz (guitars), Essence, and Danny Eisenberg (keys) at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Hotel Café may be the best music venue in Los Angeles. This place is a treasure trove of profiling indie talent. Last Thursday night I was introduced to San Francisco singer-songwriter Essence (Yes that is her real name) and her brutally honest poetry-in-motion lyrics.

Essence performed all of the songs off her fifth and newest release, Black Wings. The album chronicles her struggles in a failed marriage through humor and wit. In an industry overrun with many sugar-coated breakup songs, Essence is not about any of that! Songs like “Bullshit” are a raw look into the uglier side of a declining 10-year relationship. Essence explained that this album was her therapeutic way to let it go. And she does just that.

Essence opened her show with “Headed North,” a cowboy ballad about venturing out into the unknown. Essence’s honey-sweet voice laced with sass and a strong pluck of her guitar set the mood as she sings, “I’m headed north/Don’t try to find me.” Dana Miller would pound the drum as a dramatic reinforcement to her determination.

 Essence and Ethan Gold perform "1000 Pieces." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Essence and Ethan Gold perform "1000 Pieces." Photo by Jessica Klausing.

More fiery passion followed in “Camels & Diesel,” as she belts out, “I think it’s time you done give back what you stole.” Of course, nothing compares to her rebellious howl in “Still Running.” Bassist Mike Anderson and Guitarist Kevin Glaz even upped the Southern Rock dosage with the unembellished chords. Those unfamiliar with Essence’s music received a shot of Whiskey to the system with that one.

Essence covered Kris Delmhorst’s “Honeyed Out” beautifully, but it was her softer “1000 Pieces” that touched the crowd. Ethan Gold came onstage to lend his backup vocals. Essence bared her soul with “There goes the last of my heart/What’s lost can never be found.” Keyboardist Danny Eisenberg really shined on this tune. His precision-like keys helped capture the power within the song’s vulnerability.

In between songs, Essence regaled the stories behind each of them, a memorable one being the title track, “Black Wings,” a dry humored tune about falling in love with a toxic person. Strumming a Ukulele, she declares, “I found you/You found me/You’re fucked up enough for me.”  Other notable songs of the night were “Over My Head,” an anxious track about meeting her husband’s prostitute and “She Said,” a song inspired by her grandmother’s friend advising her to never settle for less.

 Essence at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Essence at Hotel Cafe. Photo by Jessica Klausing

Essence closed out the show with “Roots,” in which she leaves us with a verse of wisdom, “The future aint the same as the past.”

Essence’s music is a gift to the Americana genre. Her lyrics are simply put yet bold enough to reflect the sad reality. Her music guides you on a personal journey of finding redemption through heartbreak. It’s a common theme that most young women face today. Thankfully Essence is that reassuring voice that inspires new beginnings.

 

SETLIST:

Headed North

Camels & Diesel

Still Running

Honeyed Out

1000 Pieces

Black Wings

Bullshit

Over My Head

She Said

Roots