Upon entering Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park, I was pleasantly surprised to find people reading quietly – on a Friday night in LA, mind you. Moving through the hushed bookstore, I emerged onto a cozy back patio where a small space was being prepped for that night’s performances. Chatting pleasantly was a group of LA’s most prominent local musicians, including Lauren Ruth Ward, as well as representatives from the event’s organizers: PR company Purple Bite and musical collective Play Like a Girl. The second installment of the new music and networking event Commune was about to begin.
First on stage was Alex Lilly, who was as unendingly charming as she was witty. Flanked by a trombone and an accordion and occasionally picking up an acoustic guitar, Lilly spun a handful of sweet and quirky songs, full of intimate lyrics and soft moments. She wasted no time posturing on stage, instead forging a quick bond with the crowd over self-deprecating jokes and stories of her jet-lagged brain. She played through a few unreleased acoustic songs, covering topics such as the importance of listening and most people’s inability to do so. Closing out her set, she queued up a drum track and her best robotic dance moves for “I Can’t Tell You,” a song from her 2016 EP Paranoid Times.
Up next, SAÍGO performed an equally brief, yet compelling set, accompanied by upright bass, electric guitar, and an electronic track. Standing behind the mixing board was friend and producer Gueorgui Linev of Kan Wakan. Though the set was stripped down, it only worked to showcase the nuances of SAÍGO’s soulful voice, as his gentle vibrato melted into the cool night. Tracks like “Thieves” and “Keep It” were given new life, thanks to the deep richness of the acoustic bass, lovingly plucked by bandmate Cooper Appelt. Audience members were treated to the world premiere of a track entitled “Worst of Me,” which SAÍGO introduced by pointedly asking, “Why would you wanna see the worst in people?” After ending his velvety smooth set, SAÍGO was swallowed up by the lingering crowd of friends and colleagues, who shared bright smiles stimulated by glasses of wine.
Overall, the night was a beautiful representation of the vibrant musical community that LA harbors, if only a small cross section. The feeling of connection being forged became a palpable electric current that pulsated through the small back patio, making the evening feel more like an intimate house party than a public show. As I made my way back through what I had forgotten was a bookstore, I marveled once again at those who sat quietly absorbed in their reading, as if nothing had happened. I have to think that they felt the electricity too, inescapable even in their reverie.