Steve Espinola and his electric tennis racket played Echo Park Film Center last night in a rare LA appearance (okay, yes, I put those last three words in there to sound more reviewerly, but this piece is not really a review).
I’ve known Steve for a long time, but I haven’t seen him play in seven years. We go all the way back to the nineties when I tried to burst American Musical Theatre wide open like the alien bursting out of John Hurt in Alien. Unfortunately, I got blown out of the airlock. It happens. Fortunately, space is big and full of sequels.
Steve is an awesome singer/songwriter. His songs are a combination of sentiment, pain, humor, and angst. Just when you think you know where one of his songs is going, he turns a phrase or hits a chord, and a jolt of electricity will zap your backside, and you will wonder and maybe laugh or maybe just guffaw.
When we get to the post-apocalypse, I hope Steve is still playing his songs on piano and electric tennis racket (it’s a cool sound, you gotta hear it). As a performer, he allows himself to make mistakes. In front of an audience, he gives himself time and space to mess it all up and get it all back together again.
Back when I first met Steve, I was all about making stuff perfect. Yes, I was a little perfectionist alien during the Clinton years. I didn’t understand Steve’s sloppiness. Now that I’m a little older and a lot less perfect, I look at Steve with a great deal of admiration. Besides, hot damn, he can play, and his songs are really good.
Opening for Steve were a duo called The Here and Now. As soon as they started playing ukulele and suitcase drum, I immediately liked them. While footage from their travels in Russia and the Ukraine played, they sang songs about love.
Their first song was a simple song about love, and it was so sweet that I had to smile. Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my late thirties, but I felt really happy hearing a love song about love and not about desire, fucking, or dumping. Do you know that happy girlie lollipop feeling that comes when you fall in love and that your hipster ironic friends joke about? I was feeling that. Listening to their song, I wasn’t feeling cynical or ironic or tired. I was feeling the love.
They ended their set with You Are My Sunshine, my favorite sunshine song, and we all sang along to the chorus as sunflowers from the Ukraine appeared on the screen. The images changed to Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea. We had gone around the world and back again.
It was Tuesday night in LA, and I had gone to see my friend Steve play. I hadn’t seen him play in seven years. The last time I saw him, I was on the verge of a big adventure. I wonder what the rest of the week will bring.