POP MUSIC: Song Shop, You never know
what you'll find - Monday night at Long Beach's Blue Cafe is a time
By MARK WOODLIEF
Mike Martt, the front
man for Los Angeles' Low and Sweet Orchestra and the host of Mike
Martt's Song Shop, wants to make sure people know the evening isn't
an open-mike night. It seems there has been some confusion at prior
shows, where Martt gathers Southern California songwriters on the
third Monday of every month for a round table performance of their
Open mike or not, Martt
said the Song Shop is full of suprises, Whether it's leftover barflies
from the Blue Cafe's preceding happy hour or a rare glimpse at a
song's genesis, anything can happen, he said.
There was the time, at
the inaugural Song Shop, when David Baerwald and Bill Botrell, who
both assisted Sheryl Crow in writing and producing her 1993 debut
album "Tuesday Night Music Club" wound up performing an
impromptu version of "Leaving Las Vegas"
"It was awesome"
Martt recalled. "It was raw and to the bone. We got to hear
how a song was born, to hear how it sounded in its infancy."
"Thats why I wanted to do the
Song Shop" he continued. "To work on songs and create
something new or different for the Song Shop."
While the monthly series
round-table format has been widely used on the folk festival circuit
for years, Martt picked up the idea after playing similar shows
hosted by The Plimsouls' Peter Case in Los Angeles. He approached
Blue Cafe booker Steve Zepeda with a plan late last year and received
the green light.
"I've always liked
and respected Mike, and its an interesting format." Zepeda
commented. "Its not a folk thing per-se, its more like a songwriter
showcase. I don't think anyone is doing this, at least not around
here. And what can I say, Mike has some really good friends."
Some of those are old
friends, Martt's former Thelonious Monster band mate Bob Forrest
played at last month's Song Shop, and some are new, such as Johnny
Jones, whom Martt met at his favorite Long Beach hangout, Mambo
Studios. Martt met Rolling Thunder-era Bob Dylan sideman Bob Neuwirth,
who also played last month, while the two worked on an independent
film in Seattle. "We were kind of like roommates put up in
the same house together," Martt recalled. "We wrote a
song in the kitchen one morning over coffee."
Tonight's group of songwriters
includes famed punk producer Geza X (Grammy nominated last year
for his studio work with Meredith Brooks), former Suburban Lawns
member Billy Ranson, and Jula Bell, ex- Bobsled guitarist. To keep
things lively, Martt will try a question and answer session at the
show. As usual, the audience should expect the unexpected.
"Jula Bell does
this thing on the autoharp that's really fantastic, and Billy's
been playing just acoustic stuff for a while now."Martt said.
"Geza, we're pulling him out of his element. I don't think
he's played in front of an audience for a long time. And once you
get him talking, he's funny as heck. So it should be quite interesting.