This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
Joan As Policewoman @ The Hotel Cafe - 6/13/2007
Wearing a slimfit, pin-striped pantsuit, and a giant, gold medallion, Joan Wasser, the prolific NYC singer-songwriter who performs as Joan As Police Woman, made a rare, solo, appearance last night at the Hotel Café in support of her new record Real Life, out now on indie-friendly label Cheap Lullaby Records. Switching and bewitching between piano and guitar, she cast all variety of soul-punk voodoo on the captivated crowd.
Her voice -- like Chrissie Hynde during a sensitive moment, like PJ Harvey when infuriated, like Joni Mitchell if Mitchell was a punk rocker -- was moving and exhilarating with barely audible, delicate tones and uninhibited powerhouse belting.
Amused by the partially-covered sign on stage that read DO NOT MOVE (PIANO) she confessed to having a psychological battle with the directive -- attempting at first to abide daintily, and then lashing out against the order with a wild and flailing defiance. “That’s just my personality,” she said laughing.
Her soft spoken, free association, stage banter covered extensive pop-culture topics from Whitney & Bobby, to Erik Estrada, to tacos. And though Joan has been a touring member of Antony and The Johnsons and is deeply rooted in NYC art/music scene (contributing to studio work and live performances with Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Sparklehorse, Nick Cave, Scissor Sisters, Tanya Donelly, etc.), I think if you listened carefully you could hear her love for LA growing with each deep breath.
She played a large chunk from her new record -- a masterful effort as musically inventive as it is cleverly emotional -- full with hinky timings, complex lyrics, extraordinary phrasing, and incredible honesty.
“The Ride,” a sadly sweet, merry-go-round of a song, was potently hypnotic live, while “I Defy,” (with an opening that inexplicably sounds like Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen”) was a triumph even without the Antony-duet dynamic that you’ll find on the record. “Eternal Flame” was a beautiful sock to the gut and “We Don’t Own It,” a song written for Elliot Smith, showed up with evocative precision. She ended her set with the love song “Anyone” dedicated to the dedicated folks at Cheap Lullaby. Aww.