Audra Mae at Hotel Café 04/22/08
Tuesday nights in LA can be slow in the Spring; the energy of activation to get prettied up and brave the slick streets is much higher than that required to crack open a beer and settle on the couch. But when a heat wave hits with its concomitant restlessness, suddenly a weeknight outing is not only desired but sorely needed. It was in this fitful state I found myself making my way down a back alley off Cahuenga Blvd to check out songstress Audra Mae and finding a performance alight with the weather.
Hotel Café is a curious presence in Hollywood, more of a collective of true talent than a mere venue, and all shows seem to elicit a familial response upon first entry. Emerging into the second bar, strong cocktail in hand, I realized I had arrived in the middle of some between song banter, Mae holding down the semi-circular stage with brash and swagger in blood red skinny jeans and pumps. Pushing damp hair from her forehead, she kicked into a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” appropriating Mick’s sexual longing into rawness decidedly more substantial.
With a band of family and friends behind her, Mae showcased a powerhouse of a voice at odds with her tiny stature and gentile off-stage demeanor, and it’s hard to imagine anyone so lovely and sweet belting out goose-bump-inducing heartbreak and aching loneliness. On ballads “The Moon” and “Turn Around,” one can’t help but compare her to those of Country’s illustrious past (Patsy Cline and Lucinda Williams come to mind) and you know her Nashville tenure was well spent. But when she closes with the rocking crowd favorite “Rain on Me,” it’s clear LA has it’s claws in her, and that’s a good thing. Mae is able to keep cocksure and clever while remaining genuine, and you feel like you’re in on the next great thing. A hot night, for sure.
Photos by Osmany Rodriguez/LAist