I don't know anything about music. I definitely don't know if music is cool or not. When I was a kid, the only radio station I was allowed to listen to was my parents' oldies station, which gave me a profound appreciation for Creedence Clearwater Revival but left me utterly at a loss when a sixth-grade classmate squawked, "HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW ACE OF BASE?!"
But I know when I love something, because I'll play it nonstop for like two weeks. I had an ex-boyfriend who used to give me a mix CD every month filled with brand-new music he'd found after scouring various music blogs--when I told him I still listened to the first one he gave me, the disgust on his face was unmistakable. Apparently, that was not cool.
So I know I love Jaden Larue because I stumbled across one of her singles, "Tennessee," online and immediately downloaded her new album, In My Bones, when it became available on iTunes--and I have been listening to it on repeat. When I was invited to review the album release show at The Hotel Café, I accepted enthusiastically, despite my complete lack of qualifications.
The Hotel Café also happens to be one of my favorite venues for a night out in Los Angeles. It's an intimate space, with maybe ten small tables and a good amount of space to stand around. There's a large bar with no seating, but a nice lounge/antechamber between the front door and the music hall where you can sit, sip, and chat if that's your pleasure. But I was there for the music...
While I had yet to meet Jaden personally, I'd started following her on social media because I was interested in the Silverlake Music Sessions, a monthly pop-up music event that she founded and hosts. I think going into the show I was mostly curious to find out more about her than her music. On social media, she seems like this incredibly genuine, generous artist--maybe I'm just overwhelmed by all the actors and musicians I know who are endlessly trying to cultivate a "cool" internet persona, but there was something that was just so refreshingly nice about the way Jaden comes across online.
I was not disappointed in person. In fact, I was kinda blown away. Jaden Larue reminded me what it looks like when an artist wholeheartedly pursues her passion--and opens her heart to anyone willing to go along for the ride. She reminded me why I love the people of Los Angeles as much as this magic city itself.
Jaden took the stage with no fewer than SEVEN musicians. If you've ever been to Hotel Café, you know it's not a huge stage--they had to get pretty cozy. And I think this says literally everything you need to know about Jaden--she's not worried about being upstaged or getting drowned out. Her supporting artists looked like they could have been the cast of a sitcom about a hipster band, including two violinists (maaaybe viola-ists??) that reminded me of mythical Sirens and a drummer with a man-bun who made me think of the MailChimp monkey if he was a male model. Did Jaden feel the need to dress in some sort of wacky head-singer ensemble to make sure your eye was drawn to her? Nope. And yet, there is this sweet vulnerability and gentle confidence about her that draws your eye every single time she opens her mouth.
She opened with "Tennessee" (woohoo!) and then knocked out a few songs right in a row, glancing at her set list from time to time. At one point she paused to remind the crowd that her album was now available on iTunes and Spotify, and implored us all to "share with five of your friends!" before joyfully jumping into the next song, deftly navigating that tightrope between self-promotion and pure performance.
It was about this point that I just totally fell in love with the earnestness and confident joy that imbues both the artist and her music. She's not embarrassed telling the audience how to get her album--she's poured her heart into it, and she dares to believe that you'll be supportive of her dream and get your friends on board, too.
Nor is she embarrassed to show you her process. Before one song, she paused momentarily, eyes absently cast skyward, as she soundlessly fingered the necessary chords (I SORTA KNOW WHAT CHORDS ARE) and adjusted her capo repeatedly (I EVEN KNOW WHAT A CAPO IS, THANK YOU COLLEGE BOYFRIEND). Later, she asked a girl named Sarah, taking photos in the front row, to go somewhere backstage and get a different guitar for her. By this point, any attempt at polish had broken down--and this is where Jaden Larue just shines. She was simply an artist living authentically--in her bones--onstage, and it was beautiful. Before she sang the title track, she looked around the room and declared, "I feel home." And she just was.
The whole thing reminded me of being at my own artistic home, Sacred Fools Theater, where the daily struggles of life in Los Angeles melt away as truly great artists take the stage all around you and become electrically alive. And the ecstasy of the friends performing together at Hotel Café was infectious and inspiring. I was so overcome with gratitude that I'd gotten off my couch and been there for this. By the time she sang "Calamity," I was close to tears.
On the drive home, I thought about this gratitude, and how I don't think I'm the only person who feels this way about Jaden. The popularity of the Silverlake Music Sessions (you now have to enter a lottery to attend) indicates how badly Los Angeles needs people like her, who are somehow capable of bringing together the myriad artists who otherwise float alone like candle-lit lanterns through the city.
I was so inspired by Jaden as an artist that I called her up to interview her for a profile piece--you can check that out here. You can even buy jewelry handmade by Jaden herself on her website, and if you can make it to one of her upcoming shows, I highly recommend it!