Tonight’s the night for a prequel to the LP & The Sayers Club story: lights on Bardot!
Photo courtesy of Mark Jablonski and The Bardot Club
THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
All right, let’s get to it, shall we?
Europe, 2017. Teddy bears. Drawings. Toy dogs. Toys for the dog. Balloons. T-shirts. Cups. Badges. Teddy bears, again. More teddy bears. The stage overflowing with teddy bears. And drawings. And toy dogs. And…
One. “Black Dog.” Gold headband, phone in hands. No room for compromises. Pure, purest, wild rock and roll. Her, ready to embarrass anyone who would dare to challenge the undisputed ruler.
Hollywood, 2010. Mostly alcohol. A lot of ecstatic screaming. A lane of raised hands, swinging to highlight each note she utters. The silhouettes of people throwing their bodies towards the stage. Some uninhibited and very much uncensored cries of endless admiration.
Two. “Back In Black.” No headband, same swagger. Same phone, tossed sky high, there it goes up to meet the ceiling. There she goes, getting her band oh-so-high. Nick Rosen flies away to rock and roll heaven.
This is all beyond interesting, no matter if you look at it from the wide, sociological perspective, or from more a narrow one – the winding roads of LP’s image evolution from one continent to the other. Maybe it’s about the concept of her which people have in their head and those features of hers they are all falling for. We like to take those aspects we like best, focus on them and let them overshadow all the rest. Apparently, what seems to resonate with Europe most is LP’s sweet offstage demeanor, cute smile, and protective approach towards her fans, especially towards those who really seem to need her care. This is the state of affairs as of 2017. So now, let’s have a closer look at a very different perception of her onstage/offstage persona nine years back, 5,958 miles West. We’re taking you back to 2008.
Three. “Creep.” All in black, a beer instead of the phone. Infinite notes. (Where does the air go?) Jason Scoppa in the first row, which is on stage, with his jaw in his lap.
A tiny red stage at the club called Bardot, located in Hollywood, over another live music venue, Avalon club, is a space we should all be thankful for. Performing there was one of the reasons LP came back to being a recording artist. When asked about that, LP told the Build Series: ”There was this night at this place called Bardot out there. And there was a live band singing covers. Me and my songwriting friends would go there and I’d jump up and sing a song. And then I started doing it every week. […] People started coming to see me and I fell in love with that again. […] When I was singing all those songs in this club I was just, like… I was just on fire.”
Four. “Uninvited.” Oh. My. God. Endless standing ovations. The fiddler who went crazy for her.
The place opened in 2008. Live music events were hosted by the Hollywood nightlife architect duo, Jason Scoppa and Alexi Yulish, who moved to Bardot from their previous night club, The Green Door. Let’s stop for a short while in The Green Door, just to sense the idea and the desires that got transplanted into the Bardot Club later on. We’ll give the floor to Jason himself here. In 2008, he told Black Book magazine: “When we started Green Door, it was your typical night in LA. I found it to be unfulfilling. Same DJs, same crowds, and it was boring me. I wanted to do a throwback night inspired by rock. Chateau Marmont 1968, China Club New York City, you get the idea. It’s a rotating set of songs and accomplished musicians covering everything classic and everything that will be a classic. Guests can feel free to get up and play. Many of them have their instruments in the trunk of their car. Prince shows up and gets down often; John Altman shows up with his midget sax when he’s in town.”
Five. “So Real.” Whispers and screams. Love and hurt. Giving and taking. Stand up and cheer for your Queen.
Jason and Alexi created almost a magic formula, which after a while they moved from Green Door to the new place where they hosted live music – Bardot. The Daily Truffle, a bit twisted and intrusive space on the internet, describes the process quite concisely and accurately: “The two most gracious men in Hollywood are moving from Green Door, and their stylish European crowd is going with them.” Yay! Let’s join them!
Six. “Invincible.” So what if it’s blurry. So what if it’s cut. Everyone knows what’s going on on stage. Being invincible is going on there.
So what is Bardot besides its one-off stage? Here’s what The New York Times had to say about it: “It is not Bardot’s intention to become a hip celebrity hangout. The designer of the three-room lounge, David Touster, said he keyed off the Avalon’s 1920s architecture to create a space ‘where both Lauren Conrad and Catherine Deneuve would feel comfortable.’ […] The idea was to create a cool sanctuary for those in the know, and keep it on the down low. […] Indeed, Bardot – with its plush couches, multicolored glass and wrought-iron light fixtures, its eclectic mix of antique and modern tables and assortment of vintage oil portraits of dogs, a subtle nod to Brigitte Bardot, an animal lover – looks like the kind of place an eccentric, wealthy older woman threw together with pieces from her attic.” If this doesn’t give you the full picture, Bardot’s picture gallery certainly will.
Seven. “Dog Days Are Over.” Two monarchs this time, and the second one is watching. Watching the phone in hand. Listening to the tone. Joining her on stage. Bending the knee at final notes. There shall be only one ruler.
Into this very spot Jason and Alexi brought their idea of live music nights. They hosted them two nights a week. The live band consisting of the great musicians who rocked the stage all night long, while different singers performed one or two covers picked for them by Scoppa. Not long after the club’s opening, LP became one of the performers. In 2014, for the documentary “Night at The Sayers Club,” Jason Scoppa told the story of how this happened: “I met LP five or six years ago at my previous venue. My friend said: ‘You need to listen to this… this girl LP.’ And I said: ‘Well, bring her by soundcheck.’ She walked in, she kind of had this, like, ‘Dylan’ vibe and I was like: ‘That is one interesting chick, man!’ She gets on stage and she belts out those fierce lyrics. I was like, WOW. Like, this girl is something special. I like to see how the people in the audience react to an artist. And watching people smile, watching people say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that’s just happened in this little room,’ is really what I live for. I try to look for artists that are gonna do that for somebody. I think that’s what she does very well. She pulls people in. LP actually has a real connection with her fanbase. Feels like, there’s a pulse in the city every time LP’s gonna play one of her shows.”
Eight. “Into The Wild.” Metronome needed? Who cares. Wild, wild, wild vibes when the rock and roll kisses the pop. At Bardot!
In LP’s career timeline, the year 2009 was all about songwriting, and a lot of her songs got picked up by other artists. She hasn’t been performing for a longer while and her singing was limited to recording demos. But after the metting with Jason Scoppa, LP became one of Bardot’s regular performers. She made her debut there in 2009, and she conquered whatever crowd she found. And not only the fancy crowd of Bardot’s regulars (stars, stars, stars…), but also of the music business and musicians themselves. In 2012, The MixOnline quoted LP recalling her first appearances there: “’I decided I wanted to play out again, but I was having trouble finding musicians.’ That changed one fateful night in early 2011 when she stepped on the stage of Bardot in Hollywood. […] ‘That was the night my band was born,’ she says, ‘because, after I sang a song, every musician on the stage and in the house gave me their card. I became a fixture, and A&R people started coming down to see me, which was totally unexpected. The first time I did one of my own songs, everybody flipped out.’”
Nine. “Levitator.” Ukulele at Bardot’s famous gate. It happened.
And indeed, a part of Bardot’s band soon became LP’s band. The person LP chose for her musical director was Nick Rosen, and here is how he remembers building the band around LP: “I am very excited that my good friend L.P. has asked me to be her musical director for a upcoming showcase and some gigs in the next few months. L.P. is a truly incredible person and has one of the most amazing voices around. I have had the pleasure of working with her a bunch with the Bardot Sessions and it is always fun to see what she would do with all the covers that we did. […] It seems like she has all the right kind of momentum behind her; she also is writing some absolutely incredible songs these days. I am putting together a truly amazing band for her and I can’t wait to start playing around showcasing her and her awesome new material.[…]”
Ten. “Edge of Seventeen.” Six minutes, seven seconds. “Sounds like she’s singing / Ooo, baby, ooo said ooo.” Tree haunting chords, one haunting voice. Fuck the video sound quality.
But coming back to LP’s Bardot performances. Here are the Minx Society’s 2012 observations: “If you’re an Angeleno, you may very well get chills the moment you hear someone utter the letters LP. This evokes vivid memories of that beautiful sound, her powerful, awe-inspiring voice that’s made Jason Scoppa’s cover nights at Bardot […] legendary.”
Eleven. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Lyrics in hand, mandatory beer. Disco lights, disco beat, three rock guitars. The ‘80s got resurrected.
Well, yes. After a few years break from live performances, LP took the stage of Bardot only to be called “legendary,” yes, “legendary” in the press a couple of days later. This is how Shane Drake, the director of the “Into The Wild” video, described this period: “I used to frequent a dope little club called Bardot that would showcase new talent on Thursday nights. My buddy Jason, who was responsible for the night, called it ‘Sessions.’ The first time I saw LP was on the sessions stage. She was this short little girl with a massive fro, bottle of beer in one hand and microphone in the other. When the first notes came out of her mouth I was utterly floored. She had power and originality that belied her stature. Over the next few months I got to know her as a friend and watch her grow as an artist.”
Twelve. “Shadows Of The Night.” Only a snap, not enough.
Cover nights, Bardot Sessions, live music nights… The nomenclature varies depending on who’s talking, and LP is not of much help here. She tends to crush all Bardot’s prestige and glamour, calling it “this place I’d jump on stage and sing a song,” as if it’d be some random karaoke bar around the corner. And so, her nonchalant manner wouldn’t take us any closer deciphering the proper status of those nights. But it seems that so called “cover nights” were those standard, weekly live events, while Bardot Sessions were even more special occasions, when both stage and audience were full of stars and R&A people. The LA Times described one of the Session’s 2010 nights in detail, and they quoted Jason Scoppa talking about LP there: “This chick can save rock ‘n’ roll. Now people really freak out. The night has helped her create her own fanbase. It’s really exciting to watch.”
Thirteen. “Get It While You Can.” So it was possible to be more edgy than Janis after all. Interesting.
Those times were very busy for LP songwriting-wise, and quite often she arrived to the Bardot stage quite tired after a long day of writing. One of her most popular and beloved performances of that era happened exactly on a night like this. Here’s her memory of it, as she described it to After Ellen in 2012:
“After Ellen: So, I’ve probably seen your Bardot Sessions with Florence Welch at least 20 times at this point.
LP: Aw, I find that kind of embarrassing now.
AE: Why? It’s incredible!
LP: Well because that night, I was working sessions all day and I never really knew what song I was going to do that night. My friend Isa (Isabella Summers), who was announcing and is Florence’s keyboard player, she’s my buddy and was staying at my house, was like, ‘Oh you should do my song,’ because she’s the one who co-wrote ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and it wasn’t really big here yet. Like it was here but not big big. And, I do know the song of course but it’s different when you sing a song without any help. So that night, Isa was like, ‘Oh yeah, Florence might come out.’ She doesn’t usually come out, so all of a sudden I hear that she’s going to be there and I’m like, ‘Oh hell no, there is no way I’m singing that song because no one can sing it better than her.’ But I couldn’t get out of it by this point and at the last second, I was like, ‘The only thing that would be good is if I don’t butcher the song and she comes up to join me.’ I was really embarrassed and felt badly that I didn’t know the words inside and out yet. But it was cool. She was very gracious.”
Fourteen. “The Kill.” Necklaces, curls, beer, phone. Fiddler again. The arrangement. Every. Single. Note. Infinite 5:20 – 5:45. WHERE DOES THE AIR GO.
When Jason Scoppa moved his party from Bardot to the Sayers Club, LP followed and conquered Sayers as well, obviously.
Fifteen. “Cannonball.” First refrain. Phone flip. 3:37. It’s obviously not hard to fall.
Watching the Bardot and Sayers performances from 2009-2013, and experiencing events around LP in Europe now, for when on stage she is even more intense and refined than before, we feel like some geomagnetic reversal happened. Like, as if this stereotypic old, perverted, bored, discerning Europe became stereotypically young, shy, sweet, infantile America when it comes to LP. As a phenomenon, it’s more than absorbing to watch, but sometimes, only sometimes, when it’s only the two of us, we wonder what really happens in the mind of the Queen of the night when she accepts another teddy bear.
Sixteen. “Sober.” Fiddler for the third time. 2:30, 3:44, camera shake, adlibbing, fire, the roof raised and burned.