The Muse Café in Hollywood is a rustic old storefront turned into a neighborhood vegan coffee shop.
I headed out on a Tuesday night to hear the Brian Travis band play a set. I always love the creativity a musician can muster at a smaller venue, and Brian brought it out, and customized it just for that room.
Brian has played around town and on various recordings enough to have a good body of work, and the songs he pulled out for us at Muse Café were fun, even as some of them tried to hide a little pain.
In fact, his music can be so compelling that a Sunset Strip a club owner set his bar on fire to celebrate a great performance from band, at Isla Cantina on Sunset Boulevard. As the band dove into the opening notes of the Burning Man-themed crowd favorite “Gasoline,” a row of flame whipped across the top of the bar.
“We were firing on all cylinders that night,” says singer and guitarist Brian Travis. “The place was packed and we were charged up. Our best shows don’t just rely on execution. They happen when we’re playing with great energy and the kind of momentum that pushes rock and roll forward, tapping into the spirit of the music itself.”
Before a note was played, I was glad to see drums, which aren’t really a fixture in the acoustic scene, and one of my favorites, a mandolin.
It was obvious to me that the people filling that little brick room with the high ceilings were his fans, and they knew him well.
No one has a corner on the market of pain, or heartache. Brian expresses his without metaphor in “Gasoline.”
There’s a sense right away of trying to start over, and “make it right,” but not only does he want to get away from the past, Brian Travis wants to “pour some gasoline to make it brighter.”
He tells us he wants to take that past, and “burn down everything, start all over, make it right.”
I’m sure a lot of us would like to flash fry the past, and even though he knows he can’t, really, Brian seems to lash out at it, right before he turns to let it go.
His lyrics are thoughtful, at times powerful, and all the while he maintains a rhythmic and even folky sense of being open to the audience.
Those straight-forward lyrics can slap you around, as well as make you think. “In The State I’m In” is a perfect example, “If you leave me in the state I’m in, don’t you come back this way again. I’ve been drinkin’ since 10 am, and I got me a gun and I’m wasted.”
To just read those words, you think maybe he needs some help, but listening to it, they take on a sort of a classic, country, ‘lost my dog, lost my truck’ feel, and the song works.
As a stranger to his music, I felt right at home in the Muse Café, with a capacity crowd slinging jokes back and forth with Brian, and drummer Mark Wickliffe and bassist Steve Weil.
Songs like “Hate Bein’ Broke (hate workin’ more)” make the audience laugh right along while the bleakness of that sentiment hides.
One of my favorite things in hearing an artist new to me is coming away humming a melody or remembering lyrics.
I was singing that one to myself as I walked back to my car that night. It’s a great live song, because even if you’ve never heard it, by the end of it, everyone in the room is anticipating that refrain, and some are actually singing it aloud with him.
Visiting his MySpace page (/BrianTravisBand) will give you a good sense of his writing, but this is a band you’ll need to see in person in order to get the full sense of the melodies and lyrics, and how universal they are to an audience.
It really was a fun show, and I’m looking forward to seeing him play next time with a full band.
Sean Patrick is a blogger and music writer for WeHo News.