Gossip in the Grain

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By the time Jenny Lewis followed Blitzen Trapper out into the bluesy, summer evening light and onto the Hollywood Bowl stage on Sunday night, I had lost count of the straw fedoras, bangled arms and thick-framed glasses shuffling by.

In hip-hugging overalls, a blue tank, and red lipstick, Lewis fit right into the KCRW-cool scene, her long hair swinging as she strapped on a guitar for “Fernando,” her set opener. Her voice was beautiful for “The Charging Sky,” rang out clearly during “You Are What You Love,” and dark and jazzy from behind the piano as she sang “Jack Killed Mom.” But it was during “Silver Lining,” that slowly haunting song off Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley’s 2007 release, that the wine bottles stopped clinking and the static chatter hushed.

When Ray LaMontagne took the stage an hour later, that hush turned to silence. Under the softest of spotlights just right of center and backed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, LaMontagne sang “Be Here Now,” “Sarah,” and “Hold You in My Arms,” with his eyes closed.  He sang from his gut and in the dark, his rough-hewn vocals more vulnerable, more grounded for his modesty. He gave “Let it Be Me,” “Shelter,” and “Winter Birds,” to the warm black air, then wailed Trouble” with so much raw emotion I held my breath til it was over.

LaMontagne never did look up, but I wish he had.  If he did, he wouldn’t have seen fedoras, bangles, or glasses, any posturing or hype. He would have seen a music-loving L.A. audience moved to stillness by his performance-less performance. I hope he heard it.

Photograph courtesy Flickr/pink_fish13