I was vacationing in LA last week, seeing folks for the holidays and celebrating birthdays (more on that next column). I had no plans to visit my old haunts in Hollywood and DTLA and the Eastside – I am on vacation and I know that if I go to a music venue, I will not be able to suppress the urge to shoot video and stills and write about it.
But when my wife said that her friend Mark and the Tiger was playing at the famous Whiskey A GoGo I said OK, let’s go, although I did not know him. It helped that two of our oldest friends from northern California were visiting and they did not know LA and wanted to do the tourist thing. What better tourist visit than LA’s most famous club, the birthplace of the Doors and many others, especially when we know the band and can get passes. What I didn’t know was that the BSquared Mgmt music agency had taken over the club for the night to showcase some of their bands in what was branded a Billy Idol night, headlined by a tribute band, IDOLX.
It got better and better. We pulled up and in front of the club, there was Mark himself with a TV crew following him. He gave me and my wife big hugs and then hugged our delighted guests in full glare of TV lights. This was Hollywood at full tilt.
When we got inside there was a big party going on upstairs with a photo backdrop, photographers and a video crew taking shots of all the bands. Drinks were flowing and the sound of talking and laughter upstairs was almost as loud as the warm-up rock band on stage, Dear Elise. I shot some video of Dear Elise, which consisted of four teens: two girls who fronted on lead guitar and bass and a drummer and second guitarist. Very competent musicians and lots of fun.
A singer-songwriter soloist (who was not on the marque or web lineup) followed and then the club took a break to set up for Mark & the Tiger. By that time there were fifty or sixty folks on the floor and another forty or so partying and listening on the balcony – still light, but not empty. But all the booths were reserved and people were pouring in, so by the time Mark hit the stage at an unheard of early 8 pm the crowd was large and happy.
I had never seen Mark and the Tiger before and I had no time to do research so I didn’t know what to expect. Wow. No wonder a line was forming outside to get in…these guys rocked.
Originally from Maine, Mark Haberland formed the Tiger in 2015 after 5 years of crafting his style in California. With flavors of the late 80s, 90s and early 00s, the music of Mark and the Tiger is anything but predictable. All you know going in is that the band tells stories in an eclectic musical style and personality to match. And the stories and style tore up the Whiskey and got people dancing and singing and clapping. My friends loved it: they got to meet the rock star, be in a video, and jam in LA’s most famous club. But there was more – much more.
After Mark and the Tiger wrapped up with a soaring anthem, Joey Stuckey, a blind blues player from Macon, Georgia, was led to the stag. His band plugged in, he settled his considerable bulk into a chair, and played a single hot lick that electrified the room.
Stuckey is a true prodigy. Despite his physical limitations, Stuckey knows no boundaries in music. Winner of dozens of awards, including an Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame Cotton Carrier Award and an EATV Lifetime Achievement Award, he is accomplished at songwriting, sound engineering, performing, recording, and teaching. He has released several albums, including Mixture, which reached #9 on the CMJ Top 40 Jazz Charts for North America. My friends were transfixed by his guitar playing, at one time whispering “he is as good as Hendricks”. I don’t know about that, but I had no idea when I walked into the Whiskey to see my wife’s friend, I was going to be treated to one of the best blues guitarists I had ever heard.
The bands took a break and we decided that, since I was co-producing a concert the next night, we would head home. But the tourist experience was not over. After a run up Sunset, waving to the cool people in the rope lines, and down Hollywood Blvd, singing with a pretty high group on a bicycle-powered open-air miniature party bus and bar, my friend announced she was hungry and wanted to go to another famous LA landmark, Pink’s Hot Dogs.
So that is how we found ourselves just before midnight in a long line of all kinds of people inching our way into the 1938 landmark hot dog stand, bedecked with photos of actors and celebrities eating dogs, some of which were named after the celebrities in photos. I can’t say that hot dogs with chili at midnight was great for my digestion, but it made a great ending for an unforgettable impromptu visit to the Whiskey A GoGo.
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