I’m not going to lie. I was not exactly excited about leaving my house on a Monday night to head out into the bitter cold and make may way across town to Hollywood’s Fonda Theatre, but Lissie Maurus, the Kopecky Family Band, and Chase Cohl made the trek well beyond worth it.
I had actually never been to the historic theatre that was built in the 1920s and has hosted a wide range of music’s greats from Stevie Wonder to Radiohead, and as I wandered into the venue for the first time, I was immediately enveloped by the soft glow of the many sconces lining the walls of the lobby and creating the ambiance of a plush, old hunting lodge.
In the main auditorium, a small crowd of Chase Cohl fans, Kopecky Family Band followers, and die-hard Lissie-devotees milled about the venue stiffly as they tried to thaw out from the atypically frosty temperatures outside, but things warmed up quickly as the stage curtains lifted at half past 8 to reveal the Los Angeles-based Canadian singer/songwriter, Chase Cohl, and the other members of her band. It would be hard not to notice the superficial similarities between Chase and Lissie, both summery blonde California beauties with an affinity for Americana, but Chase’s musical style is distinctively more melodic and folky and she did her best to squeeze in as many songs as possible before the curtains dropped again at ten ‘til 9p.
The venue had just started to fill in creating some much needed warmth in the room by the time the six members of the Nashville-based KopeckyFamily Band took to the stage and completed the defrosting process with their mix of folk rock and dream pop and an ebullient performance that included ample sing- and clap-alongs, jovial conversations with the crowd, and on-stage antics that you might expect amongst family members at a holiday gathering.
As the Kopecky Family finished up their set and the curtains dropped once more, the energy in the room heightened as fans who had been following Lissie for many years eagerly anticipated the show that marked her homecoming after several months of a whirlwind tour that has included stops all over the US and abroad as well as spots on “Conan O’Brien Presents: Team Coco” and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. At 10:15p the curtains lifted for the last time to the sounds of Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie”, and the crowd cheered as they caught their first glimpses of Lissie and her band-mates, Eric Sullivan (guitar) , Lewis Keller (bass and foot drums), and Jesse Siebenberg (drums).
Lissie opened her 17-song set with “Bully” from her 2010 debut album Catching a Tiger and instantly commanded the stage with the easy charisma of the rock legends to which so many have compared her. As she sang, her vocals shifted fluidly from breathy child-like crooning reminiscent of Stevie Nicks to a weathered and raspy soulful style that called to mind blues rockers like Melissa Etheridge or Janis Joplin. As she sang, she poured everything out on stage, often with head thrown back and eyes closed as she clearly reconnected with the feelings that inspired the music that poured out of her, sometimes like a gentle stream and others like a rushing torrent.
As she paused briefly between songs to chat with the crowd while switching out guitars, people intermittently declared their love for Lissie and requested that she “play the whole album”, much to her amusement. It’s obvious that over the years Lissie has built a dedicated following by sharing herself so openly in her lyrics and performances, and throughout the show, she often prefaced songs with confessions about the circumstances that led to their birth.
Over the course of the evening, Lissie shifted between tender and sometimes sorrowful anti-ballads like “Love in the City” and “They All Want You” to all out rock anthems like “Shameless”, “Further Away (Romance Police)”, and “In Sleep”, which features an epic guitar solo, but the thread that tied it all together is the raw honesty of her performances. At moments, she seemed almost possessed by the music as she wailed on her guitar and rocked out on stage with total abandon.
At the end of the night, Lissie gifted the audience with a three-song encore that included the nostalgic “Oh Mississippi” about growing up in Rock Island, IL, a newer cover of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home”, and the always crowd-pleasing cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”. In classic rock style, she closed out the night with an exhilarating musical blow out and as she and her band-mates walked off the stage, she left her fans with a warm buzz that just might have made it a little easier to head back out into the cold to continue on with the start of another week.