Live Review: Benji Hughes - El Cid, Silverlake
Mon, 18 Aug 2008 06:29:00
Benji Hughes Videos
Los Angeles loves irony. It's especially appreciated by the uber-cool-sarcastic-hipster set that lives slightly on the fringes of Hollywood's glitzy, social veneer. Yes, Silverlake, Echo Park and Los Feliz, that's you being referenced. In some ways, it's no surprise that Benji Hughes, a long-haired, burly, bushy-bearded rock crooner from North Carolina, would be a bona fide hit at El Cid. Benji transformed the mild-mannered indie rock haunt into a bombastic, rollicking good time filled with more arena rock bravado than the Sunset Strip had in 1987.
From the deer-antlered chandeliers to the paintings of Jesus on the outdoor patio, Silverlake's EL Cid exuded a strangely inviting vibe. The stage featured a shingled overhang that made it look like the porch of a home somewhere in the middle of nowhere. That was fine for Benji, because he's more than at home on stage. Peering through his dark sunglasses at a packed crowd, Benji cast an hour-long spell, playing songs from his two-disc New West Records debut, A Love Extreme.
Benji's band took the stage before him at around 12:30. They spent a few minutes tearing through smoky classic rock leads in order to—as Benji put it—"Get the vibe just right in the room." Then he appeared, slowly sulking across the stage—thinly veiling a raw rock passion. From the first lines of his set, "Love Is a Razor," it was on. A gaggle of pretty girls in the crowd immediately ate up Benji's soulful sound, and dancing commenced on the floor in front of the stage. Benji's croon oscillated from an Eel's style trance to a Danzig-like howl. However, it evoked a big arena confidence above anything else.
Both Entourage's Adrian Grenier and recent front page headline subject Jackson Browne got to experience Benji, and both seemed pretty pleased. Their presence in the crowd was subtle though. Since this was Silverlake, not Hollywood, no one bothered them for MySpace page photo opps. The singer on stage had already stolen the audience's attention, and Grenier and Browne were simply faces in the crowd.
Benji brought a vocal vitality to the upbeat mood swings of "I Went With Some Friends to See The Flaming Lips." "Tight Tee Shirt" coupled electronic keyboard flourishes with guitar braggadocio, and Benji steered the ship with those big vocal melodies. One standout track, "You Stood Me Up" was somewhat pained, and it truly showed Benjie baring his emotions about a cold female's duplicitous rejection of him. "Neighbor Down the Hall" infused a sense of fun into a classic song structure ruminating on neighborly duties.
At one point his inner rocker came out. Benji joked, "We need a whole bunch of beers to the stage, stat!" He was promptly met with a cache of Tecate. He responded, "The service is something here. I know a dozen is 12, but what's a bunch, like 49?" The crowd laughed, and the joke showed another side to the pensive man onstage.
The crowd may have seemed hipper-than-thou but Benji drew a huge response from them. It show filled with great songs, jokes, celebs-as-civilians and beer. What's cooler than that?