Friday, November 17, 2023

Martin Zellar Headlines Fantastic Night At The Mint, 11-16-23

Martin Zellar has been on tour, celebrating the release of his new album, Head West, one of the year’s best discs. Last night he delivered an excellent set at The Mint in Los Angeles, playing songs from the new release as well as some old Gear Daddies favorites to an enthusiastic crowd.

The night got off to a good start with a set from Morrison Conway, a singer and songwriter from Oregon. He and his band stepped onto the stage at 8:05 p.m., and a young kid in the audience immediately cried out. He told the crowd that was his daughter, and started the set with “Hurricane,” a good rock song with some catchy elements, particularly in the delivery of the title word. He followed that with “Bury Me In Bakersfield,” then told the crowd they were doing a somewhat eclectic set, saying the next song was a gypsy polka. After a song in which he sang “Even though she’s a cowgirl, she gets the blues” (a Tom Robbins reference, I assume), he asked his daughter if she liked that song. “That’s the only approval I need tonight,” Morrison said, which, yes, was just as adorable as you imagine, particularly as it was honest. But it seemed everyone in the room was enjoying his music, not just his daughter. His set ended at 8:41 p.m.

Morrison Conway

Kelly’s Lot, known primarily as a blues band, did something a little different last night, choosing material largely outside of the blues realm. For this show, Kelly’s Lot was a five-piece band. No horn section, no keyboard. They went on a little early, because at 8:58 p.m. they were ready to go, and when this band is ready, there is no waiting, no holding back. They opened the show with “Pistol,” a song they’d included on Live In Brussels, one with a fun rhythm, and followed it with “Back To L.A.,” a sweet number which Kelly Zirbes dedicated to someone in the audience who had left Los Angeles and has now come back. They then did a rocking rendition of “Can’t Take My Soul,” and it was shaping up to be a fun set. Interestingly, they then chose to do a cover of “Walking After Midnight.” Yes, the country song, because these guys can do anything, and do it well. They totally nailed this song. There was a delicious country ache in Kelly’s voice. They went back to original material with “Foolish Try,” a song from the band’s 2020 release Another Sky, and apparently also heard in the recent Ghostbusters movie (now I want to see it). This is a slower, pretty song with a timeless quality. “I want to lie beside you ‘til the end.” Kelly dedicated “Lock Me Up” to anyone in the room “with a warped personality.” The cha-cha-cha ending made me laugh out loud. From the band’s latest release, Where And When, they played the title track and “Ship.” And with “Ship,” the band was getting into the blues. That song featured some great stuff on guitar. That was followed by “Butterfly,” which Kelly dedicated to Prince and other talented musicians who have left us. In her introduction, she mentioned talking with Martin Zellar’s band backstage and learning they’re from Minnesota, where Kelly was also born. They followed “Butterfly” with “Today,” a song with a delicious groove, one that is fun to dance to. It was included on the band’s 2009 release, Pastrami & Jam. They wrapped up the set with “Mon Ami,” a delightful and sweet ending to a great set. Their set ended at 9:47 p.m.

Kelly's Lot

Martin Zellar also fronted a five-piece band. He played acoustic guitar and harmonica, Wilson Zellar was on electric guitar, Randy Broughten was on pedal steel and acoustic guitar, Nick Ciola was on bass, and Scott Wenum was on drums. Before they even began, folks were shouting out requests. There was some good energy in the room. At 10:10 p.m., they checked the levels, and when everything was just exactly right, at 10:14 p.m., Martin announced, “We’re going to start it off slow.” They opened with “Statue Of Jesus,” a song from the 1988 Gear Daddies album Let’s Go Scare Al. And the moment the song started, the crowd recognized it and cheered. The song featured a nice, mellow jam. Martin followed that with a song from the new album, “Anyone But Me,” the first of several from Head West the band delivered at the show. “Mr. Broughten is going to play guitar now,” Martin told the crowd. As Randy made the move from pedal steel to acoustic guitar, Martin teased him, “Take your time.” They then played “Wear Your Crown,” a Gear Daddies song that was included on Billy’s Live Bait. Randy stayed on guitar for “Head West” and “Goodbye Maria.” He then returned to pedal steel for “Goodbye Wild Bill,” another song from Head West. I loved the pedal steel work on that song. Then Martin delivered some really good work on harmonica on “Sonic Boom,” another song from Billy’s Live Bait, a sweet and slower number.

Martin Zellar playing "Statue Of Jesus"

How much in between song banter you think I got?” Martin teased Randy as he made some adjustment on his pedal steel. Martin dedicated the next song to someone who is a big Neil Diamond fan, and I wondered which song they were going to cover. Of course, coming from Massachusetts, I have a soft spot for “Sweet Caroline,” which was big there even before it began being played during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. But I love most of Neil Diamond’s work. Strangely, the band played an original song, “Ten Year Coin,” which was included on a Martin Zellar & The Hardways live album. At the end of the song, his son whispered something to him, and Martin said, “Oops, I did the wrong song.” Shall we blame the extended in between song banter? It was a funny and delightful moment, and it led to a seriously good rendition of Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” Perhaps they gave the song an extra little something because of the gaffe. Even after the song, Martin was trying to figure out how he forgot to play it after introducing it. They then returned to material from the new album, playing “Boats Slowly Sinking,” one of my personal favorites. “That’s one off our smash hit new album,” Martin said afterward. And he followed that with “Texas Just Won’t End,” also from Head West. When that song kicked in, everything was right with the world. It ended too soon, however. I wanted them to jam on it some more.

“She’s Happy” was a crowd favorite. I looked around the room, and more than half the audience was singing along to the whole song. One fan got so excited, he went right up to Martin Zellar during the song, standing in front of him, singing and taking it all in. After that, Martin joked about Randy having wanted to play “Born In East L.A.” at the show. Remember that song? Cheech Marin even made a movie based on it, which is kind of crazy, making a movie based on a parody song. I never saw it. Is it any good? The music video was like a short film. Anyway, they didn’t play “Born In East L.A.,” instead going into “We Ran Wild (Back In The Day),” a song from Head West. Randy was on acoustic guitar for this one, and for the next song, “Big City Man,” also from the new album. Several requests were shouted out throughout the set, and Martin said, “All right, by request,” before playing a cover of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” Randy was back on pedal steel. Martin Zellar went straight into another Prince song, “When You Were Mine.” That’s always been one of my favorite Prince songs, though I’ve been partial to Cyndi Lauper’s rendition. Martin played just a bit of it, then changed gears for “Forty Years Along,” playing harmonica on this one. That was followed by “Let Go,” which led straight into “Cut Me Off,” a fun Gear Daddies song. Martin Zellar wrapped up the set with another Gear Daddies number, “Stupid Boy.” The moment he started it, the crowd cheered. “Thanks for staying out late on a school night,” Martin said before exiting the stage. The set ended at 11:40 p.m.

"Cut Me Off"

While the band was back stage, one guy in the crowd began chanting “Drank So Much,” and banging on the table. And soon others joined him. The band came back out and played the song.  Why not? It was that kind of night, and the rapport with the crowd was strong. They followed that with “Don’t Look At Me,” and the power behind Martin’s voice was fantastic. That’s how the night ended, finishing up at 11:49 p.m.

Martin Zellar Set List

  1. Statue Of Jesus
  2. Anyone But Me
  3. ?
  4. Wear Your Crown
  5. Head West
  6. Goodbye Marie
  7. Goodbye Wild Bill
  8. Sonic Boom
  9. Ten Year Coin
  10. Solitary Man
  11. Boats Slowly Sinking
  12. Texas Just Won’t End
  13. She’s Happy
  14. We Ran Wild (Back In The Day)
  15. Big City Man
  16. Little Red Corvette >
  17. When You Were Mine
  18. Forty Years Along
  19. Let Go >
  20. Cut Me Off
  21. Stupid Boy


  1. Drank So Much (Just Feel Stupid)
  2. Don’t Look At Me

Here are a few more photos from Martin Zellar’s set:

"Wear Your Crown"

"Boats Slowly Sinking"

"Forty Years Along"

The Mint is located at 6010 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, California.

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