-=Edit 10-30-09: I had to update this post fixing some grammatical errors, add some new info and just flesh out the details a little more. Hope (har har) you enjoy it!=-
After adoring Hope Sadoval's work with Mazzy Star and The Warm Inventions for 15 years, I finally got to see two live performance in as many days this last week. The first was in Santa Barbara (9/28) at the local hot spot Soho, and then once more at the Hollywood Forever cemetery (9/29). The following is my experience, as a whole, with both shows.
First I would like to point out that the experience I'm about to convey is something really, only the true fans--like the fine folks who visit these forums & my beautiful wife--have the capacity to appreciate. Most, if not all, of my friends (unfortunately!) don’t even know who Hope Sandoval is. So for me it's a real pleassure to share with everyone here.
Recently I read a piece about Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions that referred to the band as a sort of "California Psychedelic Dream Pop". Surprisingly I liked the term quite a bit, but it wasn’t completely applicable to their style. When I think of Hope in any capacity the word "Pop" never comes to mind. iTunes has placed Hope in the "Folk" genre--It's a little more applicable I suppose--but not completely. Now that we've seen two shows, my wife and I've have come to the conclusion that the new description or genre should probably be "California Psychedelic Dream Blues". Overall it's a moot point though and has nothing to with the shows. It's just an opinion that was solidified by my experience and I wanted to share with everyone.
Seeing Hope Sandoval (and The Warm Inventions) in concert over the last few days has been a stunning experience that has emotionally moved me much more than I was originally prepared. Though I absolutely adored her music before going to these performances, I had no idea it would have such a lasting effect on me moving me closer to her as an artist. The sheer amount of anticipation leading up the first performance (SoHo) was verging on giving me a cardiac arrest. I was wondering what this mystical creature would really be like on stage? For the longest time she was just a beautiful, longing ghost crooning my nights way. Though the wait was long (both for the night of the concert to arrive and for them to take stage--verging on ridiculous), every concern melted away within seconds of her taking the stage.
Seemingly out of nowhere she slinked on to stage. Careful not to make any eye contact, her shyness and anxieties were so strongly felt amongst the crowd it was palpable, but it was nothing but endearing to us fans. She adjusting and teased her equipment as she settled in with her almost imperceptible presence. Without word, Hope looked back at her bandmates with a gaze of wonder that seemed to ask them when to begin. Suddenly Colm began clacking his sticks, all heads focused on their instruments in hand and suddenly we were no longer on Earth. In that instant Hope changed into something otherworldly. With eyes sealed tighly behind her dark flowing flowing locks she rested her arms comfortably at her backside as she prepared to sing. Her chin slightly jutted forward and she released ghostly whispers that lashed out at the mic, and then in turn the audience. You could see it then and there--she was doing exactly what she both loves and fears most--opening up herself to the very people who love her. Though she was hiding from us in the darkness, she began to tell us of her tales crooning away the haze of trepidation that surrounded her. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Behind her projected on the wall were clever uses of looped Victorian-era imagery that helped conjure up emotions that ranging from loving to fearful. It complimented the music quite beautifully and I began to really enjoy it as the night went on. At one point I realized that it was there to seemingly steer our attention away from Hope, helping us focus on the feelings the music and images were involking. Once I let go of my concerns with the "much too dim"lighting and Hope's visible fears letting the experience she's specifically crafted for us to consume, I found it to be completely mesmerizing--all of it. Her warm melodies slowly wrapped themselves around my eardrums, so soothing it felt like a motherly hug before being tucked into bed. It was both comforting and beautiful.
There was one stunning song in particular, "Courting Blue
" that,unfortunately, is not on the album. Getting the chance to hear it live once more after the SoHo show felt like nothing short of a blessing.
What was really interesting is--due to both technical and physical limitations of the SoHo venue--the projections I spoke of were forceably splashed across her face for the better part of the show. It must have frightened her to death--no seriously! At one point she even lifted her tiny hand up to shield her eyes from the piercing light of the projector. Once they completed the original setlist and then the encore, she was suddenly whisked away and promptly disappeared.
Through a series of incredible events My wife and I actually met Hope's brother before the show. He turned out to be incredibly gracious. I'll refrain from using specifics about the family from here on out as they were so very friendly, giving and (obviously) private about their affairs. I would never want to jeopardize their anonymity. I know everyone can respect and understand that. But somehow (and I'm still dazed here) he extend an invitation to us to meet Hope (and the rest of the band) after the show.
I died. I leaned over to my wife and had to ask her if the offer had really been extended to us or if I was just hearing things.
After the show we were introduced to everyone else in the family that was in attendance that night. We chatted about music, various forms of art and of course the show. Frankly I was secretly restraining myself from asking any questions even remotely related to Hope. By the end of the night several of them were calling us friends of the family, once even going as far as to correct us when we reffered to ourselves as "fans". It was adoreable!
We were then invited by them to a little ballroom with a very high ceiling where the sort of after-party was being held. We slowly walked in not knowing what to expect. Suddenly we were being introduced several people including Sylvia Gomez (who was in "Going Home" with Hope way back in high school). We talked about the show, music and what she’s been up to. I asked her if she was still writing with Hope and she confirmed that she was indeed putting a smile on my face. Suki Ewers (Mazzy Star, Opal) then walks by and was prompted introduced to us making me grin from ear-to-ear. I tell her I’m such a fan and love her work and move on to chatting a bit about music once more. I find her to be extremely shy, but approachable. Jill Emery
walks by somewhere in the background and I start to get a little flustered. Sylvia and Suki tell us about writing music with Hope as recently as last week proving everyone is very busy and overflowing with creativity. I find them both to be inspiring. They smile, nod and then leave. The British guy who’s responsible for creating the visuals at Hope's concert then shows up and introduced. We try to chat him up but he's highly energetic and a bit all over the place as he tells us about how he met Hope (friend of a friend while in europe). We compliment him on his work and he proceeds to tell us the reasons he went with the kind of visuals and where they came from ("..just youtube, man. why not?"). This guy is extremely nice with a quirky flavor about him, but we do find him a little tough to talk to because he’s so all over the place. It's fun and we smile along.
I happen to look over my shoulder and 4 feet away Hope stands very elegantly holding a glass of wine. she's hugging, smiling and chatting with some friends. I immediately make eye contact with my wife and lean in to tell her how's finally arrived. My feet suddenly get extremely sweaty and eventually go numb a few seconds later. Her bother walks up, smiles and chats a little more with us checking to see how we're doing. Someone in the family then suggests to him that he should be the one who introduces us to Hope. "OHMYGOSH!" It suddenly hits me that this is a reality, and for a split-second I contempate running out of the building. A small panic attack I suppose. He beings to wave her over to us and the butterflies in my stomach freak out! I look over at the fire alarm and wonder what would happen if I pulled it.
Hope notices her brother waving and sort of tucks her head down smiling, waving back. She doesn’t immediately come over as I suspect she knows his intentions. She then takes a step toward us. My heart is pounding, and it doesnt help that I think everyone in the room can hear it! I try to act like someone important catches my attention on the other side of the room so that it appears that I don’t notice she's making her way over. I am then getting tunnel vision. I pan back and she's 2 feet away from me being introduced to my wife. They shake hands and she greets my wife by her first name, and then move on to greet me. My tunnel vision has now completely saturated my eyesight! I look to Hope smiling but cannot see anything but her nose. The hairs on the back of my neck are now standing straight up. She does a little bit of a curtsey, smiles and then flirtatiously says "Hello <my name>" in her small, soft voice. To be fair, the flirty part could have TOTALLY been fabricated by my own imagination. Ok ok--it was fabricated by my imagination now that I think about it.
Then suddenly she's gone and off to another part of the room hugging friends and family. I’m now completely made of Jello. Somehow we end up on the other side of the room and being introduced the drummer Colm. I open my mouth and something comes out of it regarding the comparison of the two shows we saw and someone standing next to me (who's drunk and speaking entirely too close to my face) disagrees. I look over at Colm and he's just shaking his head in agreement. I began to wonder who he's agreeing with--was it me or the drunk-in-my-face guy? I have no idea what’s going on now because my ears have seemed to shut down and I cannot hear anything. I decide to agree that I must have been mistaken and smile to both men. Instantly I think "My god what did I just agree to?" In the end it doesn’t matter though! I just met Hope Sandoval, man. Hell I could have just agree to the fact that I would be will to be set on fire and wouldnt know it.
Sensing that it's time to move on we thank Colm for the amazing show, say our goodbyes to our new family/friends and leave the building--but without looking to Hope one more time. My body then finally began to return to it's normal state as we walked back to our car. Hand-in-hand and smiling with my wife we quitly whisper back and forth essentially saying something along the lines of “oh my god! Can you believe it!?” knowing that this night was one for the books people.
"I've gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, leave me here, so that I may see myself once more."