By guest writer Jennie Roberson.
In a musical sense, the playlists I conjure in January for myself are always a dichotomy of ice and fire. Sometimes I like to lean into the bareness and self-reflection winter brings on. Other times I fill my ears with rollickin’ tunes to lift my spirits and remind me the long nights won’t be around forever. January’s show at Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe for “City Girls/Country Music,” both an extension and a homecoming for founder/singer Cindy Jollotta, satisfied my aural cravings with the best of both these worlds.
While the project is still in its infancy, CGCM has booked serious venues and seriously cool talent, filling rosters with names that will definitely be the mouths of musical tastemakers sooner rather than later. And that’s exactly how Jollotta wants it; after seeing a dearth of female country representation at festival after festival, she decided to take action in a way which would lift other women who deserved a chance to rock the mic. It seems her idea is one whose time has come - the project has put on concerts in three major cities (four in April with its upcoming traipse to The Big Easy), with artists on the roster proving they deserve a place on everyone’s Spotify rotations.
Kicking off the line-up was Heather Lomax and her band, delivering roadhouse tunes that got the whole room toe-tapping along with them. A five-member crew with Lomax heading it with her smoky vocals, her rockabilly arrangements set the tone for the night, making sure that the space (and stake) was claimed for country girls in this part of Tinseltown. Lomax reminded me of a grittier Bonnie Raitt, both in aesthetic and sound - and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
But that wasn’t the only soulful sound that filled the space in the Hotel Cafe. Cindy Jollotta, with honeyed tones and touching songs, made sure Lomax’s simmer didn’t roll into a boil, adding depth and vulnerability to the roster in unexpected ways. From tearfully singing “Now You Can Wait” (a song written to her anxiety) to closing with the randy “Room In My Pants” number, Jollotta turned in one of the best sets of her new solo career - and this reviewer has seen this singer enough times to give that testament its proper weight.
Three-woman band Loretti took the stage next, ushering in breathy pipes and soothing melodies, offering a musical balm after some fiery opening acts. While some of the songs were more contemplative in nature, they were nevertheless arresting and worthy of close attention. Of particular note was “The Country Song". Lead singer Aimee Lovett Sommer divulged she resisted writing country songs because her father pestered her, until she gave in and wrote that ditty. I hope she keeps writing in that vein, and it seemed I wasn’t alone; when I looked around, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was closer Phoebe Silva. Starting off onstage solo with an electric guitar and a few dreamy songs, Silva admitted that introspective tunes were new to her this creative year, and I had no reason to brook argument with her. I was perfectly happy to close out the night singing these ethereal songs to myself. But when Silva was joined by two bandmates to round out her sound, the bubblegum-pink haired chanteuse busted out white-hot vocals, proving she had jazz-singer range as she belted out tracks from her previous recordings. No one in the audience expected it - and it proved , once again, that we underestimate women at our own peril.
If I’m being completely honest, I have attended more live shows in Los Angeles than I can count. Most of them were, sadly, forgettable. But City Girls/Country Music put on one of the best live sets I’ve seen in my entire residency in this town. And I hope to hell they grace the town again.
Get ahead of the Spotify algorithm and make sure you catch these shows so you can say you knew them when.
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.
Photos by Benjamin Ford Photography