The Echo Country Outpost put on one of the strangest, best shows of the week in a week of very good shows. The email announcing the record release of Amanda Jo Williams promised moonshine-soaked hillbilly music and free tequila. The forward note read simply, “Oddly Compelling?”
With the rest of the RFSL staff dispatched to other venues, I set off on foot to investigate. The Echo Country Outpost, located in the area of Echo Park once more commonly known as “Red Hill” is next to Echo Park Cycles and near the excellent Fix Coffee. By day the Outpost is a trading post purveyor of moccasins, woven rug blankets, a large selection of incense and original print books with titles such as Salty Sailor Talk, Entertaining with Fondue, and the simply titled Peyote.
When I arrived a longhaired gentleman later identified as Paul McMahon was singing folk protest songs to some ladies and their small children gathered on a rug on the floor in front of the stage. I posted up by the incense display. Most of the set was pretty standard one-man acoustic guitar folk of the school of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie with a sprinkle of NPR for timeliness. On the last song "Milk Me" this nice, fatherly-looking man broke out into unrestrained double entendre with lyrics about “shooting you his special sauce” in the dirtiest folk song since Woody himself was writing about Ingrid Bergman ‘making any mountain quiver/making fire fly from the crater.’
On that note I went to go investigate the liquid refreshments. Tequila, mescal reposado, Colt 45 and tequila cocktails with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice had been provided by Metl Reserva. Over the course of several hours that evening I sampled them all. The next band was pretty good.
The three-piece identified as Matthew O’Neill/6 Jaguar, a singer-guitar player, a drummer and bassist, describes itself as “21st Century Zen Mountain Funk.” They played loud country-tinged rock. The band didn’t quite fit on the stage, the bassist playing in front of the stage. The set was good, loud, fun, a group I will need to see again. He’s My Brother She’s My Sister and Henry Wolfe played as well, but unfortunately I didn’t catch their sets.
As each act took the stage, the crowd grew. It was a wild mix of people I had never seen in Los Angeles and didn’t know existed here. Early and most often there were straight up unapologetic hippies. Not bearded indie rockers or west side Flax wearers, but bread baking, Dead following, bio diesel refining, mushroom hunting hippies—and they were an electric crowd.
The entire evening there was a grill out front going full speed ahead with burgers, jalapenos, hot dogs and a whole array of fixins attended by a young man who insisted on a certain level of panache in plating the spread of burger, dog, potato chips (BBQ or sour cream & onion?) onto paper plates. Said gentleman had an appealing “Thag make fire,” attitude toward keeping the grill blazing all night long that kept the eclectic audience in high spirits all evening.
By the time Amanda Jo Williams took the stage, the Outpost was packed with an overflow crowd outside. The show was the re-release of Williams’ 2006 album Yes I Will, Mr. Man on local label White Noise. Williams sang and played a tiny kid-sized guitar backed by a band with a stand-up bass player, a drummer and an eight-year-old dancer/maraca player, Williams’ daughter. The songs including “Yes, I Will Mr. Man” and “Ohio” range from protest songs to broken down heart tales.
It was good, weird outlaw country music. If you took equal parts Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, Hank Jr. and Hee Haw, threw them all together and wondered how they got that way you have a small idea what the show was like. There was a lot of love in the room last Friday night. From the music to the audience to the free flowing food and drink, Williams’ off beat record release at the Echo Country Outpost lived up to the Outpost’s aim of creating “a new neighborhood gathering place.”