Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!,
The Chilean Band 8 Monkys (spelled without the “e”) routinely fills stadiums across Latin America and Mexico. They know how to fill a stage with motion and dancing and moves that engage the audiences, so I was delighted to be invited to a private concert at the new Gibson Showroom in Hollywood. But first a word about the Gibson Showroom.
Earlier this year I and many others mourned 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. During the day they demoed guitars for stars, in the evening the stars played the guitars. It was a great setup.
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 on its way out of Chapter 11 and 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: 8 Monkys, the famous alt-rock band from Chile, MIchelle Leclercq, a singer/songwriter from LA via Buenos Ares, and, Analisa Corral, a 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 parking lots charging $20 for 4 hours or valets asking for about the same with tip) and lighter traffic both to and from the venue – no small matter in LA. 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 gleaming black Baldwin Grand piano, a very substantial light and sound board, Edwardo the DJ and his beautiful high-end turntable, and the famous Gibson Giant Guitar, leaning against the wall next to an AC/DC 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 was able to recruit 8 Monkys, who took the small stage, 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 but they squeezed in 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.
The first act introduced to us, Michelle Leclercq fit perfectly in the intimate stage and room. A La–based, Argentine-born, rising singer with a 1000-watt smile and a load of talent she drew the crowd in tightly around herself and her band. The band was 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. Leclercq performed 4 songs that all hit home. Singing in Spanish and English, she took us through love songs and fun songs, including a song that brought noted Vanacore Music songwriter and performer Annalisa Corral out of the 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, especially if they are people I can usually only see in a giant arena. In the meantime, buy more guitars.
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