By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Jennifer played and sang from an early age, clubbing in bands before going solo. On top of her own making of music, she teaches the subject. “I really like working with children. I teach people to give themselves permission to make their own discoveries and get over the monkey-mind bullshit in the head that prevents them from being free.” She’s also an instructor in hip-hop dance, a physical fetish that seized her in her younger years and has never let go, though she has no special attraction to the culture or the sound. She lives with her husband and bassist, Brendan Statom, in conservative but nature-friendly Santa Barbara, “probably the worst place for the kind of music I do.” Well, she has friends there. She markets her CDs on her own label, Grizelda. (The name has personal connotations of witchery and ostracism.) “I’m not anti-record industry,” she explains, “I’m pro-music.”
Looking small and frail, Terran sits all by herself behind an electric piano in the bar at the Echo Park restaurant Taix on a Friday night in March. The room’s transition between extended happy hour and nightclub is not going smoothly. Terran sings a couple of songs, her voice wafting through the sounds of guffaws, cell phones, and Golf Expo conventioneers falling off their stools.
Terran stops, gets up from her bench and marches to the center of the room, where a table of post-middle-agers are whooping it up. She invites them sort of nicely to put a sock in it. They do. Shocked, a little.
Quite a few people have come just to hear her. The bar gets quiet as she asks permission to sing hurtin’ ballads. “Can you only hear me when I’m happy?” goes one lyric. “Beauty doesn’t always come in symmetry,” goes another one. And “I feel like a secret/I feel like a coiled snake.” On piano, she plays a strange but grabby little counter-riff behind her chording here, inserts charming “wrong” note choices there. Without Brendan’s bass, she sounds extra-fragile. She ends a tune singing a long, unresolved note and letting it drift.
When Terran is finished, she takes a Buddhistic bow and tells the audience she’ll be performing her encore in a few minutes ¾ outside. After packing her gear, she gathers her faithful, many of whom she knows; pattering on a miniature drum, she leads them through the door.
She stands against a brick wall in the parking lot, under a floodlight, still slapping a rhythm. She sings “Sticky Sweet 8-to-5 Lady”: “She’s so different from me/And she sings so off-key/But she does make me see/What it means to be . . . me.”
Watching her like a movie, people stand semicircled around Terran: some next-door-neighbor types, some casually arty types, a boho who pleads to marry her, a kid in a Marilyn Manson T-shirt. One, two, three . . . In all, demanding their last song, there are 19. It’s late, and it’s cold. Nineteen: You’ve got to figure she’s at least seven up on Jesus.
Jennifer Terran plays at the Mint, Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m., and at Genghis Cohen, Tuesday, April 17, at 10 p.m.