I moved to Los Angeles five weeks ago, and I still kind of can't believe it. I am a New York City garbage weed that has been transplanted into the California chapparal, every day is all smiley-faced sun and taco trucks and cacti on every street corner. I was in NYC for 11 years, flew out here, and maintained the willpower to not even bother writing a mournful essay about my favorite subway line or how I vowed to never eat pizza again. Call me Joan Didn'tian.
Recent nostalgia is a corrosive poison, so let's live in the moment. It was time to check out what live music is being played here on the local scene, so I was pleased to attend a Left Tracks show this past weekend in downtown LA, having interviewed Kabir Kumar, who plays music as Sun Kin and also as one half of Left Tracks, for The Alternative a while ago.
The older I get and the more life experience I acquire, the more I appreciate the miracle of musical collaboration. Being a person and having an ego, and then needing to do some combination of nurturing and sublimating that ego in order to play music with another person who is doing the same thing? And you have to vibe not just creatively but also just simply get along enough to get through hassles like playing live and touring and promoting your music and running a business and all that? Improbable and magical.
This is the main takeaway I had after watching Left Tracks (Kabir + Phil Di Leo, who also makes music as DI LEO) play. As the duo played new Left Tracks songs and songs from their solo projects, they traded off lead vocals, sometimes singing in uncannily-matched synchronicity. They seemed to vibrate on a communal frequency, even as they were performing a series of complicated musical transitions: switching instruments, changing tuning, looping backing tracks.
Despite their complex task, Phil and Kabir had a relaxed presence, bouncing around the small stage and delivering bittersweet-humorous lines ("What are you taking away with you? / Show me your go-bag") over their contemplatively groovy tunes with ease. Watching this Left Tracks show was like watching two people who know each other very well cook together in a small kitchen.
I left before the last band but also shout out Plum, who kicked off the show and rocked out in a crooked and kaleidoscopic way.
One music venue down and 3,000 to go, I thought, and then I reminded myself that I just got started here, I don't have to know everything and do everything just yet. In New York I had kissed every music venue, I had chugged every bookstore, I had eaten every rat and injected every shot and beer special in town. I know New York better than the back of my own hand — I actually don't know the back of my hand at all, who needs to worry about hands when you are in New York? You can't see the back of your hand when you're hailing a freaking taxi, not if you want to do it right. LA will be a slower process, more of an infusion. Like this coffee thing I saw in Silver Lake, a cold brew that was cold-brewing literally drop by drop in a huge elegant transparent rig that looked like an hourglass. I gotta be like that $8 cold brew. One drop at a time, baby.
I left the show, I drove home, twas late, I took the streets. Whenever I decide to avoid the highways now, I think of Frank Ocean: "It's rush hour / so take the streets if you wanna." A weird effect of moving to LA is when I drive, I am transported emotionally back to the last time I drove regularly, which was when I was a teenager. I still feel like my mom let me borrow the car for the night, ya know what I mean? Like I am getting away with something.