Last Friday I attended a release party for X.ARI at the Sayers Club in Hollywood. X.ARI is a Canadian synth-pop singer based in LA and she was releasing her new video and song “Break Point” (see review here). Sayers is an upscale hip club in a non-descript building on a side street between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. It opens late – doors at 9, show 10 pm or later. You know it is there when a velvet rope line is set up on the sidewalk outside of a plain door, and the entry staff gets ready to check i.d.’s.
Once through the door, you are not actually in the club. You are in a very plush bar where you are held until the actual club opens, around 9:30. Of course, you are free to buy one of Sayer’s special – and quite good – cocktails. While you are sipping, a friendly young woman guards the entrance to the club, through beaded chains. Once inside you find rich leather couches, coffee tables, a long bar a stage and cocktail tables in the standing area. The couches are generally reserved for “bottle service”, sometimes by people you might recognize from TV or movies.
Sayers has remodeled since my last visit, almost a year ago. The original small center stage has been replaced by a large stage at the end of the venue, more like a standard rock club, with the floor couches moved to the periphery and standing room cocktail tables facing the new, very large stage. They have also upgraded their already very good light and sound system, making it an excellent place to enjoy forward Hollywood pop.
Another hallmark of Sayers is the friendly staff. I go to a lot of clubs in LA and the treatment of customers, artists, and the press ranges from indifferent/hostile to great/friendly. Sayers is at the top of the great/friendly scale. From the outside door staff, to the bartenders, to the security folks in the venue, they are among the best trained and most respectful of any club in LA, and that respect is shown equally to journalists and others standing on the floor and to the glitterati and hipsters spending hundreds on bottle service and reserved seats.
I had an experience at Sayers that drove this home Friday night, while I was waiting for X.ARI to hookup, mic check and get ready for the show. Given that the video was set to be projected on a specially installed screen before she appeared, there was a little more connecting and testing than usual so while waiting for the venue to open I headed for the men’s room.
The restrooms at Sayers match the upscale quality of the venue (or at least the mens does – I have not seen the inside of the womens). They also sport a feature I generally don’t like, a bathroom attendant who squirts soap on your hands and hands you a towel and expects a tip. I have never seen the point, but I understand they also keep the restrooms clean. The attendant in the men’s room was a young, muscled Latino with short hair and a very neutral expression on his face.
When I was ready to wash my hands he held out the soap container and asked “you want soap please, ” which told me his English was at the beginning stage. I took the soap, washed my hands and accepted a towel from him and asked, “¿Hablas Espanol?” His face lit up, his eyes sparkled and he broke out in a big grin. “Si, hablo, but I learn English.”
Since the venue was not open yet and the crowd has not arrived and there was no one else in the men’s room, I decided to try my nascent Spanish.
“Estudio español y necesisario yo practicar todos los días. ¿Puedo practicar contigo y tú puedes practicar conmigo? — Can I practice my Spanish with you while you practice your English with me?” He quickly agreed and we went on to have a good conversation helping each other with vocabulary and verb forms (Spanish has 14 verb forms – not even Spanish speakers know them all). We talked about Mexico where he immigrated from and where I have a house, the wonders of Jalisco State in Mexico where mariachi, charros and most important, tequila come from, and we talked about the music at the club and music in Los Angeles.
When I heard the Master of Ceremonies begin to welcome the audience into the venue, I said
“debo irme ahora por el musica. Disfruté hablando contigo” (I must go and listen to the music. I have enjoyed talking with you) and shook hands. He replied, “Please it is time for you to go listen to the music. I enjoyed talking with you.” And then he added with a smile “la musica, not el musica”.
I left the restroom and walked into the hall with a kind of glow from the interaction. I was happy my Spanish lessons seemed to be worth their cost, but the glow came mostly from the rewarding communication with an unlikely person in an unlikely place. Then the lights went down and X.ARI’s stunning video rolled. When the screen came down, there she was just a few feet in front of me, mesmerizing me and everyone in the hall with her deep, urgent music.
In retrospect, the messages of understanding and acceptance that X.ARI’s music carries was made even more available to me Friday night by a conversation in an unlikely place.
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