Last week's Sunset Junction fiasco left many folks disappointed, but the crowd at Charles Bradley's Sunday night Echo gig couldnt've been farther from it. The Screaming Eagle of Soul and his eight person band touched on the themes of sorrow, adversity, resilience and love; not a bad fit, given the circumstances.
Attendance at the show was light, however, a far cry from the sold-out, line-around-the-block crowd at Bradley's last performance at the Echo in May. But it's impressive that the venue got anyone there at all; because of all the chaos, in a matter of days the Bradley performance had been scheduled for three separate venues.
Bradley spoke with West Coast Sound before the show about the fallout.
He said it was “too bad” about the festival's cancellation. But, while he was disappointed, he made lemonade, noting: “I'm just happy that we still get to play, and people still want to come out to support.”
His associates weren't quite so forgiving, however.
“We didn't hear anything about [the festival's cancellation] until we read it in the newspaper,” says band leader and longtime Bradley collaborator Thomas Brenneck, adding that he was “very concerned” that they wouldn't get paid. “Losing [Sunset Junction] meant losing a major financial anchor of our tour.”
Brenneck said that they were fortunate to find a replacement venue, and noted that many bands hadn't gotten so lucky. “Had we not had this show, the situation would not have been as cool.”
Bradley tour manager Chris Phillips credits Liz Garo and Mitchell Frank of Spaceland Productions for going out of their way to find them another concert, “even at their own risk and even at their own expense.” While no one wanted to get into financial specifics, he adds that they received a “very respectable guarantee” for the replacement show at the Echo.
As for the cancellation fees owed them by Sunset Junction, Brenneck says the band has yet to receive any word about them. Phillips notes that they did, however, receive a “heartfelt, personalized” email from festival booker Jennifer Tefft almost immediately after news of the cancellation broke.
“She communicated with me really well,” Phillips says. “But [the cancellation] was definitely a disappointment.”
He remains optimistic about the festival's future and says folks shouldn't hold a grudge against the organizers. He does, however, believe that Sunset Junction needs to clean up its act. “What happened [with the overdue fees] certainly doesn't seem like a way to run a business. If that's why the festival was canceled, then certainly some bands who are owed guarantees should have some recourse.” But he speculated that many bands won't take Sunset Junction's organizers to court, if only because of the legal hassles.
Local indie rock outfit Hands, who opened for Bradley, also received a personal apology from the festival's booker. While the band lost money as a result of the cancellation, bassist Alex Staniloff says it was worse to lose the opportunity to play in front of a big crowd.
“It's too bad, because playing Sunset Junction would've been great exposure. But playing with Charles Bradley's crowd was also great,” he goes on, “so we're pretty happy.”
More on Bradley's Sunday night show is below, with pictures.
At the Echo, Bradley sweated and howled through songs like “Heartaches and Pain,” “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” and “Trouble In The Land,” leaving both himself and the crowd in tears. At one point he came down to shake hands with fans, who hugged the 63-year-old like old friends reunited.
With his polyester suit and funky moves, it's easy to how Bradley spent years
moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator who called himself “Black Velvet,” while at the same time trying to make ends meet as a cook and moving all over the country. And while his voice is arguably up there with the Godfather's, Bradley is more than an old soul revival act: his songs, honest and at times fiercely political, move audiences in almost sermon-like way.
After a rumor spread that it was Bradley's birthday, the crowd conspired to surprise him with “Happy Birthday” — only to have him politely correct them that his birthday is actually November 5. “But your heart was in the right place,” he noted. One could say the same thing about him.