We celebrated the release of Jon McLaughlin‘s new LP — Promising Promises — last Thursday night at Doug Weston’s Troubadour, #afterthebreak….
Jon McLaughlin at The Troubadour
I don’t know how I made it through my busy memorial day weekend without the help of Jon McLaughlin‘s “Promising Promises” blaring from my car stereo. It’s auto CD family of Keane, Jason Aldean, John Mayer, and Kendrick Lamar was starting to lose that fresh exciting flavor that has kept me occupied on my daily drives in the days after Stagecoach. A sign I saw as fare warning to this author surviving on 4 hours of sleep attempting to drive the 35 miles out of West Hollywood back to my bed by midnight.
Then I saw ‘it’, sitting on the merchandise table, looking up at me while eliminating what concert shirts they had in extra large. Ten bucks the handmade note read. Decent deal for a man on a brutal budget. Normally, would’ve waited & picked up a copy online but I needed a new music fix to remedy my exhaustion. Turned out to be a key to a troublesome problem as ”Summer is Over” got my blood pumping. Making it home without any issue.
However, there wasn’t a moment during the non-stop duet that I didn’t recall what we just witnessed on the stage of the haunting candlelit Troubadour (that felt more like a old western bar than a famous concert hall). When the pop siren, Sara Bareilles, graced us with her quick presence halfway through Jon McLaughlin‘s set. Ow, still get chills thinking about it.
Had a feeling it was going down too. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. Every album release party needs a moment like that. Buzz that you can tell at the water cooler the next day. Luckily, all my doubts faded when the female roadie brought up a second microphone during Jon‘s lengthy detailed complex story about the love struck couple “Summer Is Over” was based upon. You know, one of those tragic summer romances that ends with both parties saying goodbye with a feeling of regret rushing over them. A magic Jon and Sara capture in their hauntingly upbeat performance. They are two expert bluesy-pop pianists…cut from the same cloth. No wonder why they make beautiful music together! It was a moment that stole the night.
Sure, Ms. Bareilles gives this showcase bonus points. That’s expected. But how was the rest of the show? Surprising. Was blown away by Jon McLaughlin, the performer.
Can I pause for a second. If you’ve gotten to this point not knowing who this artist is then click here and all will be revealed. Yeah, he’s that guy! (haha)
Okay back to business.
Being a fan of his debut record — ‘Indiana‘ — made ingesting the new songs a bit easier. Same sort of vibe: forgettable indie pop, with a focus on the heartbreaking dark side of love/relationships to sexy melodies. A demographic he panders to with almost every track. It’s not his fault, as he told us, during the many ‘sweaty’ interludes. He’s been happily married for six years and yet he still writes songs about heartbreak. It’s something that has always connected with his soul. Artists are usually looped in with ‘tragedy’ anyway and here’s just one more example of that cliche.
The heartbreaking lyrics wasn’t what hooked me though. It was his sheer talent at the piano that really blew my mind…tickling those ivories with god like precision. Channeling the indescribable rhythms directly into your body. Add a soulful ‘Billy Joel‘-like harmonica to the mix and behold a intimate triple threat sparking every feeling in your body. He didn’t even have to sing. Just play the piano for a good hour & half. That would be worthy of the price of admission. Next time, much rather be seated in a saloon with a bitter beer then pressed up against the wall of my ‘home court’ venue.
If this sounds intriguing to you, take a listen to his cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” that he performed acoustically with us for his encore…a track that Jon considers “the greatest song of all time”. Notice how the piano and harmonica take a life of their own by the end. It showcases everything I just wrote about better than I could.
Jon is just one of those old school piano men, made in middle america, just wanting to touch a person through song. Do you think Mr. Joel would be proud that there are few more artists willing to take up the great american songbook in this jaded-pop obsessed age? I hope so. He’s one of those naturally talented artists that everyone should have on their IPods.
Overall, couldn’t ask for a better showcase: good music, entertaining stories, big surprises, AMAZING pictures from my tiny little point & shoot, and picked up an album I’ll be bumping for the rest of the year. I’ll be needing it too if I’m gonna survive more of these. What a ‘guerrilla night’! Can’t wait to share the next one.
Only thing left to do is to formally introduce you to Jon McLaughlin…piano man 2.0. Whether you’re there or not, he’ll be singing a damn good song.
[PS: Sry for typos!]
Learn more about Jon:
—Picture Highlights (feat. Sara Bareiilles)—