Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg (9:30 PM)

Valerie June (8:30 PM)

Wed, January 16, 2013

8:00 pm


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This event is all ages

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Jake Bugg - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Jake Bugg
There are lightning bolt moments in the career of every artist when their fame is thrown into
sharp relief. For 19-year-old Jake Bugg it happened in the summer of 2013 before 17,000
people at the Splendour festival in his home town of Nottingham. Two years earlier, the
unknown and unsigned Bugg had been the opening act there on the smallest stage. Now he
returned as victorious local hero and main headliner. Looking out into the crowd he noticed a
familiar face. A girl in his class at school who, once upon a lunch break, had told him “I’ll
never listen to your kind of music because I don’t like it.” The same girl who was now
bouncing aloft on male shoulders, singing her head off to every word falling from Bugg’s lips.
“It was funny,” he says, “but also a bit of a mad realisation.”

Such is the “mad” nature of this Bugg’s life since last October’s self-titled debut album
entered the charts at number one, announcing one of the most electrifying young British
singer-songwriters to emerge in recent memory. In its wake have come multiple award
nominations including BRIT, Ivor Novello and Mercury Music Prize, prestigious supports with
Noel Gallagher, The Stone Roses and The Rolling Stones and a euphoric globetrotting
summer from Glastonbury to Japan, Australia and America. “I’ve had an amazing year,” says
Bugg. “A lot of crazy experiences. Glastonbury alone, just being on stage and looking out
and realising all those thousands of people were standing there to see me. It blew my mind.”

Any other teenage artist in his position would be forgiven for spending another 18 months
lapping up the adoration and resting on their laurels. But then Jake Bugg isn’t any other
teenage artist. Barely a year after his debut, in November 2013 he returns with its bar-raising
follow-up, Shangri La. The album shares a title with the Malibu studio where it was made,
once the 70s haven of Bob Dylan and The Band, now the creative hub of legendary
producer Rick Rubin, the recording Titan whose jawdropping c.v. spans from Def Jam and
Johnny Cash to Adele and Kanye West. Rubin first worked with Bugg earlier in the year on a
re-recording of haunting debut album ballad Broken. Jake confesses the secret to their
musical bond was his relative ignorance of Rubin’s track record. “It might sound daft that I
didn’t know much about him,” he laughs, “but it allowed me to build a friendship with Rick
without being in awe of him.” Rubin, in turn, was so enamoured with Jake that his original
offer to come back and demo two songs flourished into a whole album. “I called the album
Shangri La because it means a place of peacefulness and that’s exactly what Rick’s place
feels like,” he adds. “Some people really worry about their second album. I’ve worked hard
on it, but at the same time making this record has been like a holiday. Creatively, you can’t
help but feed off the studio’s therapeutic atmosphere.”

Rubin’s assembled wrecking crew of Shangri La session regulars includes guitarist Matt
Sweeney (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Neil Diamond, Endless Boogie), bassist Jason Lader (The
Mars Volta) and drummers Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Pete Thomas (Elvis
Costello). Yet for all its stellar cast and production kudos, the real star of Shangri La is,
unquestionably, Bugg himself. “They’re great, experienced musicians and they all bring their
own ideas to each song,” he explains. “But it was a case of me letting them experiment and
then telling them what I did or didn’t like. From the off, I went in with a strong idea of how the
album should sound and I stayed true to that.”

Grabbing the baton of his debut’s tales of teenage life growing up on his Clifton estate in

Nottingham, Shangri La runs further and faster with the gritty urgency of Kingpin, Slumville
Sunrise and mighty opener What Doesn’t Kill You. “That song was written after my mate
Olly and myself were in Germany and came out of some place,” recalls Bugg. “These guys
asked if he wanted to buy some stuff, he went off with them and when he came back he’d
been robbed. It wasn’t a big thing, and where I’m from that happens all the time. But it sort of
taught me that wherever you are in the world, that kind of thing goes on. So it was a small
event for me and him, but the song itself is a large message.”

The album’s rich seam of classic guitar pop stretches deeper still on the irresistibly romantic
Me And You and the exhilarating Messed Up Kids. “I feel like I’m fortunate to live my dream
and do what I love,” says Bugg, “so I wanted to sing about real stuff that happens. I did it a
lot on the first album but when I went back to Clifton not much has changed. There’s still the
same problems and some aspects of it are even worse. So Messed Up Kids and some of
the others on this album are just me going back and taking a last look at where I’m from. But
the point of the song is there are messed up kids everywhere, not just Clifton.”

Such breakneck moments are tempered by Bugg’s ever-broadening musical palette, from
the stripped-down folk of Pine Trees to the Crazy Horse squeal of All Your Reasons, the
country swing of Storm Passes and the slapback rockabilly hysteria of Beast which
magically invokes the spirit of Sun Studios in Memphis where Bugg first demoed it. Yet
scratch beneath Shangri La’s surface sound and fury and at its core we find an emotional
depth and soul-baring honesty that place Bugg in a different league from his peers. Listen to
the open heartache of the delicate Pretty Lady or the howling tour-de-force Simple
Pleasures (Rubin’s personal favourite) and remind yourself that Bugg is still only 19 years-
old. Or swoon at Song About Love and try and picture how many festival fields will be
hollering themselves hoarse to its soaring chorus come the summer of 2014. Collectively
these dozen tracks see Bugg strolling with effortless grace towards his ever-nearing horizon
signposted ‘Classic Songwriter’. “I’m just pleased I managed to get 12 songs together so
quickly that I feel are good enough,” says Bugg with characteristic modesty. “I always
thought it would be a nice idea to have two albums before I turned 20. I’m proud I’ve done

Asked to compare Shangri La with its predecessor, Bugg concludes: “My first album felt like
a list of songs, whereas this one feels like a whole entity with something to say. Or if my first
album was the colour of grey reality, this one’s the colour of the sun.” The colour of our
planet’s nearest star. Or maybe the sound of a new star intensifying their musical colours.
Listening to his second album you dare to wonder where a talent like Jake Bugg could find
themselves in ten years’ time. His prediction: “Up front for England.”
Valerie June - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Valerie June
If Valerie June had been a roots artist in America 80 years ago, and she often sings as if she was, she might have been a principle influence on today’s myriad retro troubadours, hers a stunningly emotive amalgamation of blues, folk, gospel, soul, Appalachian and bluegrass (including irresistible banjo). She exists, however, today, an artist as modern as an iPod Shuffle, a musician for the generation which carries the entire history of recorded music so casually inside its phone.

Like a potent distillation bubbling on a Prohibition-era porch, Valerie June makes self-styled “organic moonshine roots music”, music for the porch parties of today, a party where she strums her guitar, plucks her banjo, opens her mouth and delta-blues-country stridently sashays out, a stunning peal somewhere between Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday. Or is it more Wanda Jackson and Shirley Goodman, you know, from Shirley & Co, who sang Shame Shame Shame so disco friskily in 1974? Valerie June does this to you: reaches inside your musical brain and shakes it, unleashing ghosts, emotions and memories, all fluttering like countless musical flakes inside the snowglobe of your mind.

A self-taught musician, singer and song-writer from small-town Humboldt, Tennessee (population 8,000), she honed her astonishing sound in the vibrant Memphis atmosphere, her spectrum of influences the history of music itself: Elizabeth Cotten, Leadbelly, The Carter Family, Whitney Houston, Van Morrison, Dolly Parton, Roscoe Holcomb, Woody Guthrie, Nico, Junior Kimbrough, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tracey Chapman, Billie Holiday, The Rolling Stones, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, Elmore James, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie…

“Being from Jackson and Humboldt, Tennessee, I was raised one hour from Memphis and two hours from Nashville,” lilts Valerie June, in her sing-song, southern belle way. “It was and still is hard to go anywhere without hearing

country and blues music. It always reminds me of home. It’s the place in art where the colour lines of the South seem to blend.”Her debut album, though, is that most rare of contemporary concepts: unique.

Pushin’ Against A Stone, released on Rob da Bank’s stellar boutique label Sunday Best, was mostly recorded at The Black Key’s Easy Eye studio in Nashville. Produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) and Kevin Augunas (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Florence & The Machine) it’s a sonic postcard from the universe, where the atoms of history live.

“I just love old records,” she smiles, a beautiful woman with old-school dreadlocks spiraling out towards freedom. “I like the crackle, the gritty sound. So do a lotta other people! I think we just wanna hear real music. Alongside the modern beat-machine music. For a while it was only moving in a new direction and people started missing the old stuff. I think it’s something people long for.”

The debut single, Workin’ Woman Blues, is a riot, a brand new bona-fide blues-pop anthem, as if Bobbie Gentry fronted a Stax soul-revue, those mesmerising vocals telling it how it is: “I ain’t fit to be no mother, I ain’t fit to be no wife, yeah, I been workin’ like a man, y’all, I’ve been working all my life.” Elsewhere, there’s the delicate yet rousing triumph of Somebody To Love (featuring the iconic Booker T. Jones), the traditional folk-gospel charm of Trials, Troubles, Tribulations, the spectral, swampy wooziness of Pushin’ Against A Stone (The Specials meets Phil Spector) and the dizzy, harmonised, Shangri-La sashay of Wanna Be On Your Mind, Valerie June’s voice sounding, somehow, both as old and wise as mother nature and as playfully naïve as a schoolgirl skipping home. Staggeringly, she’d never worked with a producer before, the experience opening her up to infinite new atmospheric possibilities.

“It was different,” she says. “ I’d been holding on to a particular image of what I wanted to be as a folk musician, a country musician, a southern roots musician. But when I heard the producers’ ideas I thought, ‘think bigger’. I looked at the careers of Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Joan Baez and they’ve put out all kinds of

music over the course of their careers so far. If I wanna put out a punk rock record next week, that’s me. It’s all coming from me. Even if I have to continue juggling jobs, I am a career artist.”

We don’t hear so much, these days, from the old-school working class girls, the ones who can’t afford the freedom to pursue their most daring dreams. Valerie June, the eldest girl of five kids (who’d often pretend to be the Jackson Five), first learned to sing in church, both a black church and later, a white church, when her family moved to the country. People sang in church, “even when they couldn’t sing” and she’d mimic them all, “from homeless people to wealthy people until my own voice just started coming out, a mixture of everyone”. She had her first jobs as a teen, helping her dad, both a promoter for local gospel singers and in the construction business (she’d hang posters in town and then head to the demolition sites). Soon she was constantly singing, writing songs, a freedom-seeking spirit who went travelling as a wandering songbird up and down the American west coast, then the east coast, a gypsy nightingale and holistic craftswoman who’d sing for tips in subway stations and sell her own handmade soap. By the time she moved back to Memphis in 2000, she had a plethora of songs written and finally taught herself guitar and banjo, as neighbourhood eyes were raised. “Black people aren’t supposed to play the banjo,” she laughs, “it’s seen as country and bluegrass but it’s an African instrument. I love it.” Soon, she was testing out her tentative musical skills in Memphis bars and restaurants, “which was more teaching myself in front of people,” she notes. “Memphis is a good town for being born as an artist. If you make a mistake people are like, ‘we heard the good part’. They nurture you. You can take your time.”

With a dream to make a studio album and no cash to fund it, “it’s hard to think about making a record when you’ve gotta pay rent”, she went to work full-time, now tunneling her way to freedom like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption through daily, determined graft. She took on numerous service jobs: housekeeper, dog-walker, babysitter, vegetarian meal cooker, house sitter and personal assistant to the wealthy. And that was just the morning. “In the

afternoon, I’d work in a herb shop, Maggie’s Pharm. Then I would go play a gig, just me and my guitar.”

She began to musically emerge, playing the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, the International Folk Alliance Conference, the Cooper-Young Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, AR, finally making enough money for three lo-fi recordings which she sold as CDs on tour: the raw, acoustic The Way Of The Weeping Willow (recorded in an 1800s farmhouse), the vocally mesmerising Mountain Of Rose Quartz and the haunting Valerie June And The Tennessee Express, a collaboration with Nashville bluegrass troupe The Old Crow Medicine Show (who’ve toured with Mumford & Sons). “They’re very successful at what they do, they loved my music and said ‘hey, don’t worry about money just come and record a few songs with us’.”

In 2009 she was a featured artist on MTV’s online series $5 Cover (following the lives of Memphis musicians attempting to make ends meet) and eventually raised $15,000 through crowd-funding website Kickstarter to record a debut album proper. Then, the universe intervened: through word-of-mouth, the manager for producer Kevin Augunas heard Valerie’s music, sent it to Augunas, who loved it so much he flew into Memphis the following day. He asked who she’d like to write with and she suggested Dan Auerbach, whose solo work she’d loved (and who had recently moved to Nashville). Valerie, deliberately, had never signed to a record label before, although there had been no shortage of offers from both major and independent US-based labels, and was spotted playing in France by Sunday Best’s label partner Sarah Bolshi. “I never signed a label deal because it didn’t feel right,” she says. “I need to be with people who not only like this record but my stripped down stuff too. People will tell you, ‘you can do whatever you wanna do with our label’. I didn’t trust anybody telling me that until I met Sarah! And it’s more me, a speciality label.”

Pushin’ Against A Stone is so-called because that’s the story of her life – and the story of her forebears, too. “I feel I’ve spent my life pushing against a stone,” she says. “And the jobs I’ve had have been fitting for getting a true feel for how

the traditional artists I loved came home after a hard day to sit on the porch and play tunes until bedtime. That’s one reason why they were older before anybody cared. When I first started playing instruments I thought, OK, I’m probably not gonna be the next Beyonce, this is not gonna happen for me until I’m very very old. Like…Seasick Steve! Who I love. And then maybe somebody will come see me play in my shack in Mississippi. That’s kinda how it is for many artists who make roots music. So I’m just really happy it’s happening now and I’m not up there with my cane.”

Good things come to those who wait and Valerie June’s time is now, the last year bringing rave reviews at SXSW, a collaboration with Grammy-nominated Fugees producer John Forte (on the hip-hop-blues song Give Me Water) as the word-of-mouth whisper has gradually grown into a collective global holler. This September, one of her friends sent her a Facebook message saying she’d seen a video of her glorious Bestival Performance. “And she said, ‘you’re gonna be a huge star’,” smiles the captivating Valerie June. “A while ago I would’ve been like, I dunno about being a huge star. But now I’m like, you know what? If I can get a break? I will take it. I deserve it. I have paid my dues! I can’t work on Maggie’s Pharm no more. If you wanna bring me a coffee, yeah, I’ll let you bring it. Because I have been the person bringing the coffee. I don’t need any more experience in that. Now, being a queen? M’Kay! I think I can use a little spoiling. Bring it on.”
Venue Information:
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069

All lineups and times subject to change