It takes a lot to get me to come out to Santa Monica during the week. I hope west siders don’t take that as a slight; it isn’t. I figured it would be busy when I headed out to see Hanni El Khatib at the pier, but I greatly underestimated how many people would be so eager to walk in front of a moving car because the crosswalk was “too far away.”
If you’ve never been out to one of these free shows, I suggest going one evening. Similar to the ChinaTown Summer Nights block parties, the Twilight Concerts series on the pier is one of the few events that makes LA feel like a community.
It’s free, so the pier becomes a swirling mass of humanity drawn from across the city. You have hipster youths rubbing shoulders with their future selves: grey haired, lifelong KCRW members, and middle-aged couples with children in tow. People bring blankets and chairs. There are pop-up food vendors everywhere. It’s a melting pot of sorts. More than that, though, it’s an excuse to hear some great live music for free.
Full disclosure: I couldn’t understand anything that Bombino said. That said, I didn’t really need to. Bombino’s chief attraction is that kick-ass blues guitar. Their band is every bit as soulful live as they sound on this recording.
Playing on the pier is kind of challenging. There is a lot of noise and and open space and distractions for the audience. And yet, despite the smell of buttered corn and street tacos wafting through the air, the audience didn’t budged, in part because Bombino is a great live band, but also to ensure a good spot for Hanni El Khatib.
By the time the Hanni took the stage, the sun had already retreated past the horizon. There was a chill in the air. I felt a little bad for the barely dressed girl in front of me. I get that it’s summer, but come on, a sheer blouse and booty shorts are not appropriate attire for a night on the pier. She knew something I didn’t, though.
See, Hanni El Khatib and the Black Keys are cut from a similar cloth. They’re just solid rock. What you don’t think about is how much energy their shows have. When Hanni started playing, people started moving. A lot.
“Family” especially got the people moving, and he also played his other popular songs. “You Rascal You” saw a notable amount of people in the crowd singing along (there’s something chilling about a hundred people howling “I’ll be glad when you’re dead” into the night sky). My favorite was actually a cover of the Cramps he played. I wasn’t expecting it, and he rocked the hell out of it.
There are only four more shows before the end of the Twilight Concerts series. If you’re wondering whether or not this is worth the drive out to Santa Monica, I’d say go for it. This was a real, full-length, I-probably-should’ve-paid-money-for-this concert with fantastic musicians. Easily worth dealing with horrible traffic and psychotic westside jaywalkers.
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