by Brad Roberts
On Monday, May 14, I decided it was time to catch up with The Henry Clay People (photo at right by A. Dola Baroni) and find out what they're up to. The last year has been topsy-turvy for the band as they shed band members, pursued solo and side projects, released an EP, and refocused their priorities. So I RSVP'd for the "School Night!" they headlined that night at Bardot in Hollywood. I saw that they would not be performing until 11:45, so I didn't even venture over there till 10 PM, thereby missing Les Deux Love Orchestra, who seemed to set Bardot buzzing. Sorry I missed it.
I've been to a few "School Nights!" and really enjoyed them all. It's very different to be among a Hollywood crowd on the roof of the Avalon, across from the historic Capitol Records Tower, being so used to the laid back hipsterishness of the Silver Lake area. But it's always a little lonely as there are usually only one or two people there I even know, Kevin Bronson is one, and I wanted to share this unique and stunningly beautiful venue with everyone.
Well, the east side decided to venture westward to see The Henry Clay People on this night and, as I walked in, I noticed one, two, four, six, twelve people I know. It takes a while because the club is so dark and atmospheric it takes a good ten minutes for your eyes to adjust to the low level lighting. It would be great for cats! Many, on their first trip to Bardot, were appropriately impressed for, no matter the Hollywood element, the crowd here seems somewhat more down-to-earth and human than the bizarre creatures that populate the street level clubs on Hollywood Boulevard. Maybe it's the KCRW influence.
This was a blistering set of mostly newer numbers and a few classics that had us rocking out deliriously. I can't say that I ever saw this band deliver a more inspiring set and they never paused for breath. And I've seen plenty of electrifying performances by this band. Joey Siara was on fire as he served up a body-bruising performance, leaping on speakers or monitors, even his drummers drums, and landing on his ass in a potted tree.
It's been a while since I've seen this band reach quite this level and it was heartening to see. The energy and focus were kind of amazing, given the raucous nature of the beast. But the band seems revitalized and quite capable of getting the crowd wrapped up in a state of controlled frenzy that is just more fun than a barrel of monkeys. The songs were great, and no one wanted to leave when it was over, in spite of the fact in was one in the morning.
In case I needed any re-affirmation on this front, I saw Joey Siara open the Torches record release show on Sunday night at The Satellite, and again, it was a striking set. (It was a great show!) He commandeered the participation of Jacob Dylan Summers to play drums on one number (beautifully) and Rufo Chan on another (also excellent) and played solo the rest. The audience was lost in rapt attention.
It seems like a perfect time for The Henry Clay People to embark on another national tour, and that's just what they're about to do to promote the release of a new album called Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives, opening for the equally fun Motion City Soundtrack. To be released June 26. Starting on June 14 at Casbah in San Diego, they continue with a stop here at The Troubadour on June 15 (already sold out!) then cut a swath across the central United States. They play San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis and Chicago and more. Ending at the Middle East in Cambridge MA on June 30 and July 1 in Baltimore. Great opportunity for The Henry Clay People and we wish them all the best.