hotel cafe

“A Better Part of Me” and More From Connie Lim

A page from a singer-songwriter’s story on her album

When I was in elementary school my dad, who is an OBGYN, told me that I had perfect surgeon hands. I remember telling him that he was the one who had the perfect surgeon hands and that my hands were better suited for the piano. Yes, I was also the kid who pretended to sing country songs on my tennis-racquet-turned-banjo when my dad had me play on the middle school tennis team. Needless to say, Papa Lim had to adjust his expectations because I became a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter.

I started writing songs at the age of seven and started classical vocal and piano training early too. I started to publicly perform my originals with a band during sophomore year of college and sang as an award-winning soloist for UC Berkeley’s a capella singing group, Golden Overtones.  I just released my debut full-length album, thanks to the help of my fans and supporters from Singapore to Germany to the good ol’ United States.

Some people may know the backstory to my album, but I wanted to re-tell the story to some of the new friends of FAME’US magazine. I was so enraptured by the process of making my album that I unknowingly kept a bit secluded during the process of creating it. So, allow me to share a bit of how I was able to accomplish a life-long dream of mine: release an honest and meticulously crafted album.

In November 2012, I successfully got my first full-length album funded via Kickstarter. Many readers may be wondering why I would put myself through the trouble of making a full length album during an era of singles and EPs. It’s true that on the digital platform the single and the EP is king. However, at a live show, the album is a perfect way to solidify the link between the audience member and me. In 2012, I went on a series of nationwide tours selling my The Hunted EP. I figured that it was time for me to also have a full length CD available at the merch tables while I perform live. Merch sales are everything for touring independent artists these days, and I wanted to pad my arsenal with more music to sell. More merch equals more metaphorical and literal fuel for my journey.

(Full article available in print.)

“A Night at the Hotel Café, the Half-Hidden Musical Gem of the Cahuenga Strip”

Hotel Cafe

Just a few songs into her set, the formerly Oakland-based Anna Ash admitted that she hadn’t yet emerged from the standard Los Angeles adjustment period. She felt especially unused, she emphasized, to still sweating in the middle of January, but had made enough progress to accept the idea of Los Angeles as simply “a different beast” from other cities. Enjoying a metropolis like this one — not that many metropolises resemble this one — doesn’t come naturally; most have to learn how to live well in it for themselves, picking up the knowledge essential to doing so however and wherever they can.

For music lovers, one bit of knowledge proves particularly helpful for the enrichment of their cultural life in Los Angeles: the existence of the Hotel Cafe, on whose stage I first saw Ash and her three-man band play. You’ve got to do a little work just to find it, given its location down a black-painted alley off Hollywood’s Cahuenga strip. Still, only by the standards of 21st-century self-promotion (especially as practiced Hollywood) does the place count as hidden; the management have put up a logo on the wall outside, albeit a tasteful one (especially, again, given the usual definition of taste in Hollywood).

While not, of course, literally a secret, the Hotel Café tends to come up in conversation as the sort of place people call a city’s “best kept secret” – known, in other words, but not known to the point of ruination. Starting off as a coffee shop in 2000, it expanded its size over the following decade and refined its methods, establishing the systems and the reputation that makes it one of the most abundant live music rooms in greater Los Angeles, offering, for a single cover charge, three, four, five, six acts per night, nearly every single night.

Next on stage the night of my introduction, this conceptually simple but consistently intriguing cultural space, came the Oahu-born singer-songwriter Simone White who, after spending the 2000s winning acclaim in the United Kingdom, has more recently relocated to Los Angeles. After her appeared an act with deeper local roots, the five-piece rock/”dream pop”/”slowcore” band Spain, formed here in the city and fronted by Josh Haden, son of famed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, for more than twenty years. They’ve become Hotel Café mainstays; I’d caught the third gig of the four they would play there that month alone.

After Spain, the audience, who at that point had filled every available table and then some, would hear from Blind Date, the Late Great Fitzcarraldos, Satchmode, and Fire & the Romance. I’d seen — and more importantly, heard — a representative evening at a venue that, tucked away in the middle of one of Los Angeles’ several urban cores, has popularized a few names (especially those of young female solo artists like Rachel Yamagata, Sara Bareilles, and Adele), but continues to offer a reliably various stream of new sounds and voices — and of food and drink. Even if the performer they’ve put up on stage at any given moment hasn’t captivated you, I find it hard to imagine anyone displeased by their spinach empanadas.