Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peter Himmelman at The Federal Bar, 7-20-14 Concert Review

Peter Himmelman performing "Kneel Down"

Peter Himmelman’s new CD, The Boat That Carries Us, is one of my favorite discs of the year, and today I finally got a chance to see him perform in concert. He played at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood as part of the Mimosa Music Series put on by Gary Calamar, DJ for KCRW.

I got there early, as I am wont to do. Well, I’d been given three different start times for the show – 11, 11:30 and noon. I figured the earliest call was out, so I left my apartment at 11. It’s so great to attend a concert that is within walking distance of home. When I arrived, The Beach Boys’ “The Warmth Of The Sun” was playing, and on the television screens was some warped children’s program, The Bugaloos. It seemed a bit too early for that. Or perhaps a bit too late, as my acid days seem to be behind me (though you ever know).

I took advantage of the free mimosa ticket I was handed on the way in. I’d never had a mimosa, didn’t know what it was, but alcohol seemed to be key. The other ticket I was given was for a free bagel. I love bagels, but bagels and alcohol are certainly an odd combination, so I passed on the bagel. Well, after one sip I learned something about myself: I don’t like mimosas. Turns out it’s made with champagne, and I have never cared for champagne.

By this time, The Kinks were playing on the speakers: “This Time Tomorrow,” from one of my favorite records, Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One. It was followed by one of my all-time favorite songs, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” and I was suddenly in a fantastic mood. The mimosa was even beginning to taste good.

And moments later, Eric D. Johnson, or EDJ as he goes by these days, opened the show. He took the stage at 11:48 a.m. (so none of the times were correct – okay then), and did a really nice solo acoustic set, focusing on material from his upcoming CD release. His second song had the lines, “Even though it’s been so long/Even though I got you for a song,” which made me laugh. It’s a funny expression coming from a singer/songwriter, because it can certainly have an added meaning, and perhaps a more literal one. At one point during his set, he thanked the folks for being there, and said, “It’s my favorite of all the breakfast shows I’ve done,” which got a laugh. You might know Eric D. Johnson from the band Fruit Bats, and he did play “Singing Joy To The World” (from their 2009 album The Ruminant Band). He also played a couple of covers – Ted Lucas’s “I’ll Find A Way To Carry It All” and Robyn Hitchcock’s “Trams Of Old London.” He has a great voice, and the new material is excellent. I particularly liked “Mostly Just Fantasies.”

Peter Himmelman then took the stage at 12:35 p.m., kicking off his set with “Kneel Down” (from Imperfect World). He played acoustic guitar, accompanied only by Jimmy England on percussion. He joked, “I should have planned my set better.” He immediately created a connection with the audience, joking with a family about their children drinking beer. As he started the next song, he said, “I made up this thing, it’s called the blues.”

Most of the rest of the set was made up of songs from his new CD, The Boat That Carries Us.  He played “Mercy On The Desolate Road” on piano, saying that he’d never played it on piano before. It is one of my favorite songs on the CD, and it sounded so beautiful today. That’s one he played unaccompanied. After that song, he joked about how the presence of children in the audience changes his show significantly, that for example there would be no devil worship. Then he actually stepped out into the audience with the microphone, and asked the children directly what they thought of their parents.

Some folks shouted out requests for “Mission Of My Soul,” and so Peter Himmelman played it, asking Rachel Assil to come up from the audience to join him on vocals. It was a really good rendition. And he followed it with another of my favorites from the new CD, “For Wednesday At 7 PM (I Apologize),” which he performed on piano. He did “Tuck It Away” on piano as well, this one unaccompanied (though he said if anyone in the audience had a trumpet, now was the time to break it out – no one did).

After “Afraid To Lose,” he talked about The Who and played just a bit of “Magic Bus,” and then played a nice long improvised song about Gary Calamar and The Federal Bar. Toward the end of the song, he invited Rachel Assil back up to join him on vocals, which she did. While singing this song, Peter joked, “By the way, this show ended ten minutes ago.” He then traded hats with an audience member, did a short improvised piece about him, and then finished the show with the new album’s title track.

This was one of the best concerts I’ve been to this year. It was a ridiculous amount of fun. If you ever have the opportunity to see Peter Himmelman in concert, I highly recommend you do so.

Set List

  1. Kneel Down
  2. (blues song – I’m not sure of the title)
  3. Green Mexican Dreams
  4. Mercy On The Desolate Road
  5. Mission Of My Soul
  6. For Wednesday At 7 PM (I Apologize)
  7. Tuck It Away
  8. Afraid To Lose
  9. Gary Calamar (Sunday Morning)
  10. The Boat That Carries Us

The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. The next show in the Mimosa Music Series is Phil Alvin and Dave Alvin, on August 3, 2014.

Here are a few photos from the show:

EDJ performing "A West County Girl"
"Kneel Down"
"Mission Of My Soul"
"Gary Calamar"
"Gary Calamar"
"The Boat That Carries Us"

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