Manu Chao at KCRW
Live: Manu Chao at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio
OCT. 20 | SANTA MONICA-It’s not often Manu Chao comes to Southern California to play a show for his fans here and every time he’s been in town for a festival or rare headlining date, I always seem to miss out on seeing his performance for any numerous conflicts that arise. Already scheduled to play at Cypress Hill’s Smokeout Festival and at the Warfield after not playing locally for a few years this month, my chance to finally see Manu Chao had finally arrived. Before I decided to make the trek to see him in San Bernardino, a message in my inbox came inviting The Scenestar to a intimate show featuring Manu Chao at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica. I couldn’t say yes fast enough and anticipate the evening to arrive.
Due to the small size of the venue, I was instructed to keep the show a secret and not share details about the upcoming « secret » show to anyone. Fortunately, we were able to announce that Manu Chao was playing his smallest publically ticketed show ever in the US the night before the Apogee show at the Troubadour so at least I was able to give our readers information on attending a show equally as special as the one I was invited to attend. The Troubadour show sold out hours after tickets went on sale making this month even more memorable than it already was. This also included a stop at USC’s Annenberg Auditorium on Monday with a free Q&A, including performance, with professor Josh Kun so already Manu Chao will have gone through a jam packed itinerary within the six days he’s in California from San Francisco on Friday leading up to Santa Monica on Wednesday.
Wednesday finally came and I was off to Santa Monica alone, anxious with anticipation in seeing one of my favorite artists live finally after so many years of being a fan. Finding parking along a long line of Priuses, I was finally at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studios. I had been at this location one other time to see Jesca Hoop perform and probably was the best sound of any musical performance of any venue in Los Angeles. Add to that the fact that legendary producer Bob Clearmountain will be mixing the session tonight made it even more special.
KCRW, who were taping tonight’s Manu Chao performance to air for Morning Becomes Eclectic on Wednesday, November 10, really knows how to make their guests comfortable with an open bar of beer and wine courtesy of Father’s Office. A few brews in me and a handful of potato chips laid out for guests and I was ready to enjoy Manu Chao’s live set surrounded by KCRW DJs Jason Bentley, Anne Litt, and even fellow KCRW supporter Will Ferrell who is a big fan of the radio station. It was also nice to see Ozomatli’s Wil-Dog Abers and former Tijuana No! vocalist Ceci Bastida in the audience as well.
Jason Bentley introduced Manu Chao performing as the trio, l’Aventura, a stripped down version of Radio Bemba crew that includes Madjid Fahem and Philippe Teboul, to the audience for the intimate show that everyone in that room were lucky to be invited to. Manu Chao’s self declared « jam session » was broken down in two parts with KCRW’s own Tom Schnabel interviewing Manu Chao in between sets to air in November with questions raging on his thoughts on his album, Clandestino, joking about marijuana and his work with Colombians through the power of his music.
It didn’t take long for Manu Chao to get the 150+ audience at Apogee Berkeley Street Studio to get moving again after the interview, especially with the social lubricant of wine and beer flowing since members of the audience got a chance to get their refill during the break. Along with the crisp sound of Manu Chao’s guitar strumming, along to that distinct voice of his, it’s nearly impossible to not get caught up in the music. We didn’t get the same performance or playlist in our set compared to the one at the Troubadour the night before but the intimacy and sound more than made up for it. It also helped that the majority of the audience weren’t scared to dance as evidenced by KCRW Music Publicity Director Rachel Reynolds dancing the night away right next to me with hands clapping and feet moving.
About 90 minutes of music later, Manu Chao called it a night for the standing room only crowd at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio. A number of people in the audience took off with a good number of attendees sticking around to talk about what a great evening of music they just witnessed. I was able to get a set list but had to give it up to Nacional Records in order for them to document what was played and distribute it to those that needed to be in the know. Lucky for me I found a smaller version behind the drums to keep as a souvenir. Not ready to leave just yet because of my alcohol level, I decided to sober up a bit and talk to fans that stuck around.
Manu Chao changed and was nice enough to say hello to those who were patient enough to wait for him to come back out. He spent his time answering questions including talking about his plans to fly to London the next day in order to play for a non-profit Columbian organization on the 23rd and taking pictures with smiling fans who were lucky enough to meet their musical hero.
Sitting down later at a table with Madjid Fahem in the lobby while he jammed on his guitar and me banging on the glass table, Manu Chao came back from hanging out outside and started a second encore for those of us that stuck around! The set consisted of three songs including one of my favorite Manu Chao songs, « Zapato Viejo » while he sat next to me smiling while playing to a captive audience. We eventually had to clear out and take the show on the road but it’ll be a while before the smile on my face cleared up after spending an intimate evening with one of my favorite artists, Manu Chao, giving him a big hug on the way out before heading to the El Rey Theatre to try and race to catch the end of the Sleigh Bells show.
l Automne Est La
Si Loin De Toi
Eu Beije O Sol
Expresso De Hielo
Amaluca De Vida
Vivir Sin Ti
Bienvenida A Tijuana