GRAMMY Week: Music Television: Cue the Music w/ Jason Mraz, Colbie Callait, Melanie Fiona, Solomon Burke, The Fray, Pat Monahan, and Jorge Moreno @ Wilshire Ebell Theater, 1/28/10

It would be the beginning of my GRAMMY adventure.

I had jumped off the plane, checked into my hotel, and had a production meeting at the AEG offices in the digital media department, to try to wrap my head around my participation in the huge undertaking that was GRAMMY Live’s 72 hour web stream leading up to the telecast. Slightly overwhelmed, I ran back to the hotel and hopped in a cab for the Wilshire Ebell Theater, which apparently no cabbie in LA has ever heard of.

The smallish venue is essentially in a residential area. I hop out of the cab and go up to will call, where I’m blankly looked at and given that ‘you’re not on the list’ comment, when I realize that this isn’t the media check in. It’s around the corner. So I go around and am handed a laminate and told that I can either go up the stairs to the red carpet, or go in the front since it’s about to begin. This would be the beginning of my, ‘what the hell, they offered’ line of thinking, so I went up to the red carpet.

It was my first red carpet…..hahaha that sounds so WEIRD. I didn’t even walk up to it, I just stood in the corner and was like, ‘so this is what it’s like!’. Basically people with cameras and videocameras were standing along the edge, and one person of note- the host of the evening, Shaun Robinson- was there at this point, and she just walks down and stops and poses and talks to whoever has questions. I stayed along the opposite wall away from the action, where other various crew, VIPs, and talent were hanging out. The whole thing just seemed so artificial- the carpet is just along one side of the room, so it’s like red carpet approved people of note have to walk into the room just like everyone else, but then they are filtered to walk down the carpet…I dunno, it was just weird.

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So I open the envelope that came with the laminate, and decide I should find my seat. I walk through the cavernous backstage of the venue to find an usher to help me. I get to my seat on the main floor of the venue, center section, towards the back, just as the show is about to begin. Some lady sits next to me, reeking of perfume and covered in fur, and I thought she was talking on a cell phone but she was really talking to herself. Oh, then she did talk on her phone….as the show started. And everyone around me was talking, getting up, and and coming and going all night. I reminded myself that this isn’t necessarily a show about the music, so all my rules needed to go out the window.

I was supposed to tweet the show, but I got absolutely no service in there. Instead, I tapped away on my notepad.

The night was entitled ‘Cue the Music: A Celebration of Music and Television’. It was an event for the GRAMMY Foundation and the Annual Music Preservation Project. The show began with a collection of clips of TV shows and their theme songs. It was great to begin that way, because we often don’t think about how powerful some of those pieces are, or even consider them the same way we do other music.

After a few introductions, there was another montage of musicians’ performances on television. It always amazes me to look at that clip of Elvis shaking his hips on Ed Sullivan and think about how controversial that was. And then to see the girls go wild for The Beatles in the studio audience. They also showed a great clip of Bowie singing with Bing Crosby. And then there was Sonny and Cher, which led us into the first performance of the evening.

I had previously lumped Jason Mraz into the Jack Johnson bucket- mellow singer songwriters that surf and sit on the beach with guitars in front of bonfires. I don’t know why. But I will have to revise my categorization, for he is much more soulful and interesting than Jack Johnson, who kinda makes me want to tear my ears off. The music to Mraz’s ‘It’s Not Unusual’ (oh- you’ve heard it, somewhere) start, and he enters the stage from the right and Colbie Callait comes from the left. They’re wearing white and are barefoot, and it’s all cute and stuff. I had heard mixed things about Callait- granted this is not my genre, but it seemed like she could sing. I should really stop reading Lefsetz. They transition into ‘I Got You Babe’, which is a cute duet, but Mraz > Sonny and Callait < Cher...so..... EVERYTHING is on YouTube

One of the cool things about the GRAMMY events is the archival footage show. There was an interesting piece interviewing how Les Paul about how he met his wife. Then, a montage on the music within TV shows: The Partridge Family, The Monkees, The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show (the priceless Rudy lip syncing scene), Zoo Rock, Hannah Montana, Ally McBeal (the dancing baby…), Fame, and I Love Lucy, which segued into the next musical act. Jorge Moreno came out and performed a spicy version of Ricky Ricardo’s ‘Babalu’, complete with bongo drums and gyrations.

A more fleshed out montage of themes in television came next. The title of the show wasn’t shown until the song played for a bit, so it was like a little guessing game. The clip include Sex and the City, Deadwood, Gilligan’s Island, Charlie’s Angels, The Office, Six Feet Under (which is one of my all time favorite shows, and when I heard the theme, amongst a generally foreign night of music for me, it was like a warm hello), Friends, and The Sopranos.

The curtain pulled back to reveal Solomon Burke perched on a king’s throne, as the heavy bass began and he belted out ‘Woke Up This Morning’, the theme song for The Sopranos. I really enjoyed it. Though he is obviously immobile, it did not stop the power of his voice.

We then moved into a montage of kid’s shows with musical content. Zoom, Electric Company, Sesame Street, The Muppets featuring Alice Cooper….why are kids’ shows so trippy?

Melanie Fiona, a Canadian R&B singer songwriter, then came out and did Rainbow Connection, which Kermit did in the Muppet Movie. Of course her version was better. And she had a beautiful dress on.

Then there were clips of MTV, which both makes me incredibly nostalgic and pissed off at the same time. This led into a somewhat awkward version of Video Killed the Radio Star by Pat Monahan, lead singer of SF’s Train. This was followed by a more awkward comment by the host regarding certain entities killing music….back onto the script.

The final montage covered music reality shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Glee (which I had to google…yeah), and The Hills, which led into The Fray’s performance, apparently because their music is featured in that show.

The Fray is a pop band that sometimes gets wrongfully classified in the rock genre…just my opinion. They are piano-centric, and remind me of when Coldplay used to be ok to listen to. Yeah, you read that right…don’t try to tell me you didn’t like ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ at least a little when in came out (of course, I was falling in love right then, so that always helps). But, to The Fray’s credit, they made the crowd stand up, the girls screamed, and they had some good energy.

I found the event to be really interesting. I have always been more drawn to TV shows with thoughtful music…if I had understood what a music supervisor was before starting down a path in school, I probably would have gone that route. Some shows that I always admired for their integration of music were the first two seasons of Nip/Tuck, for often extremely literal choices, CSI from when I used to watch it years ago, for subtle use of more underground bands, and True Blood for using modern, Southern tinged music to set the mood, and of course, there’s THE best- Twin Peaks!

I skipped the reception to prepare for what would be a long day on Friday. I had to call a cab and give them directions to the theater, while everyone around me scurried off to their SUVs and Mercedes.

Check out a GRAMMY blog of the night, which includes a video clip, here.

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