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Arts and Entertainment

Ben Lee and Friends @ The Little Room at Largo 1/15

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Photo by Leslie Kalohifor LAist

The most beautiful thing about Largo is that it's silent. The man who runs both the Coronet and the Little Room forbids all electronics including cell phones from being turned on in the theater with a vigilance that would impress the Soup Nazi. Due to the strict enforcement of this rule, the sound quality at these concerts are unparalleled. There are no distractions, no talking, and you can give the artist your full attention. But this also means that covering an event at the Little Room is unheard of. You could be from the New York Times or the BBC and that man wouldn't let you into that room with a camera.

That is, until last Thursday on January 15 at around 9:05pm PST the manager looked at my feeble request for a photo pass and said, "Ok." Not trying to jinx it, my wonderful photographer, Leslie, and I rushed into the Little Room where she started taking pictures of everything inside. The room to the best of my knowledge had never been photographed. Unfortunately it was so dark, there wasn't much to work with. The manager then came by and told us we had to sit in the back and only had one song to take pictures. When the show started, Leslie's photo clicks were so loud that people started turning around. I thought, "Holy crap. The manager won't have to evict us. We're going to get lynched right here."

The newly married Ben Lee positively radiated happiness at the Largo where he debuted tunes from his upcoming album The Rebirth of Venus which will drop in February. "This will probably known as my feminist album," he announced with a smile. With songs like I'm a Woman, Too, Yoko Ono, and A Song to the Great Mother of the Universe he may have a point.

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With this new found spring in his step, Lee insisted that this concert was not going to be about just him. On a few of his songs he had the crowd sing with him, which we did sheepishly at first, but by the end of the night with real confidence. There is something empowering about having a room full of people singing the chorus of What's So Bad About Feeling Good which is, "No guilt! All pleasure." Proudly Ben announced that his step daughter, who is two, wrote the hook for the song on some pots and pans. "I stole it from her. That's the nice thing about kids, you can steal from them and they don't fight back," he grinned.

Between sets Ben had his friends Cary Brothers and Ariana Bashir take the stage for three songs each. Probably to bring some melancholy to his otherwise incredibly upbeat set list. Ariana, who is of Afghan descent, rewrote a lullaby that her mother used to sing to her that lamented the fate of women in Afghanistan. Her other numbers were of in a similar vein of gloominess with odes to the dying environment and Martin Luther King Jr.’s sacrifice to the world.

Cary Brothers, who is best known for his song Blue Eyes, which featured on the Garden State soundtrack, played an equally quiet mini-set featuring Blue Eyes, Honestly, and debuted a new song Under Control.I had always pinned Cary Brothers as a shy retiring singer/songwriter from the tone of his music, but boy was I wrong. He took to the stage after Ben Lee had dedicated a cover of the MGMT song, Kids to his bride, and said, “It’s kinda weird that Ben keeps referring to me as his bride. I don’t know what that’s all about.” The cheeky devil continued to throw out friendly jibes a Ben from the stage. Who knew?

The show ended with a rousing ode to Mother Nature in A Song to the Great Mother of the Universe, in which everyone was required to participate. It had almost a pagan feel to the tune, but the call and response made the song feel warm and uninhibited. As if we were all going to rush out of the theater, grab a tree, and squeeze tight. Which, who knows, maybe if there had been trees around we may have. All and all the show had a delightfully old fashioned almost vaudeville quality to it, and if you have the chance you should catch Ben before he goes back to Australia.

Ben Lee will be playing at Largo on Jan 22. Go and embrace the feminine spirit with some mischievous pop music.

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