Bootleg Theater Presents
Lauren Ruth Ward, Thayer Sarrano
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90057
This event is 21 and over
To borrow a phrase from heaven’s new poet laureate, Leonard Cohen, Nicole Atkins was “born with the gift of a golden voice.” But somewhere along the way she misplaced it. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is the story of Nicole finding her voice, and how, in doing so, she went a little crazy.
Great Art is born of struggle and Nicole was struggling. The problem was that she felt nothing. Her fans responded to her performances with the same fervor they always had, but Nicole felt nothing. Her new husband loved her and doted on her, but she felt nothing. She traced it back to her drinking and decided to try to learn to live without booze. But that first day of sobriety brought with it an unexpected additional test — Nicole’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. This Jersey girl, whose big voice was tethered to a big heart, and whose reaction to the mundane setbacks of everyday life had always been equally overblown, suddenly faced a real problem. “It toughened me up,” she says.
And the songs started to come. Little bursts of therapeutic creativity. Thorny feelings transubstantiated into melodies. Beginning with “Listen Up,” a wake-up call to a lucky girl who hadn’t realized how lucky she’d been, Nicole started to find her redemption in these songs. They rang true in a way no songs ever had before. They came from a deep, vulnerable place. If Nicole had been living an unexamined life, she wasn’t anymore.
She needed her newfound toughness though, as in the midst of all this turmoil, she prepared to move from her native Asbury Park to Nashville. Having spent more than a decade as the de facto queen of Asbury, Nicole was finally leaving the warm, but often stifling confines of her hometown. During one of her final nights before the exodus, a song came to her in a dream. “I Love Living Here Even When I Don’t” summed up the complicated feelings she experienced as she said goodbye to the only real home she’d ever known.
In Nashville, Nicole’s once hectic life was very different. Left home alone as her tour manager husband plied his trade out on the road, Nicole found herself writing songs that examined “feelings of separation and being scared of new surroundings.” In particular, the songs “Sleepwalking” and “Darkness Falls” echo like ghosts through an empty house.
Unsurprisingly, her sobriety faltered. She drifted in and out of it. Nicole knew the wagon was good for her, but she had a hard time staying focused on what was good for her. As it went on however, the clarity of those sober days started to shine through. And she was able to string them together in longer stretches. For the first time, she was able to offer a shoulder for others to lean on, rather than always being the one in need of a shoulder. It helped that she had to be strong for herself in order to be strong for her dad. Much of what she was feeling was painful, but it beat the hell out of feeling nothing.
She reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak who encouraged her, in the midst of all the soul-searching and soul-baring, to write songs that emphasized the one trait that most sets her apart from the mere mortals of the industry, telling her, “Atkins, you have a very special thing in your voice that a lot of people can’t or don’t do. You need to stop shying away from that thing and let people hear it.” To that end, the two of them collaborated on Goodnight Rhonda Lee‘s standout track, the instant classic, “A Little Crazy.”
Great Art is a journey — and Nicole Atkins traveled quite a distance to bring us Goodnight Rhonda Lee. As Nicole explains it, “This record came to me at a time of deep transition. Some days were good, some not so good. What I did gain, though, from starting to make some changes and going inward, and putting it out on the table, was a joy in what I do again. Joy in the process and a newfound confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever had until now. The album title, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, also came from those feelings. Rhonda Lee was kind of my alias for bad behavior, and it was time to put that persona to bed.“
The direction in which these songs were headed was obvious. Nicole’s voice had always recalled a classic vinyl collection. She is the heir to the legacy of “Roy Orbison, Lee Hazelwood, Sinatra, Aretha, Carole King, Candi Staton.” She is untethered to decade or movement or the whim of the hipster elite.
In order to capture the timelessness she sought, Nicole enlisted a modern day Wrecking Crew: Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, TX, who had just risen to national acclaim as Leon Bridges‘ secret weapon. “We spoke the same language. We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul.” The album was recorded in five days, live to tape. The album that Nicole and the boys came up with in those five days, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, is nothing less than Great Art and a quantum leap forward for Nicole Atkins who, no matter how much she grows up, will always be a little crazy.
Lauren Ruth Ward
Baltimore-bred, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Lauren Ruth Ward is back in the studio recording new material as a follow-up to her recent self-titled EP.
While integrating herself into the L.A. community as a barber, Lauren is also tirelessly performing at venues such as: Bootleg Theater, The Echo, The Lyric, Dirty Laundry, Viper Room, The Mint, Echo Park Rising, Hotel Café and partnering with organizations like SoFar Sounds LA, World Arts, and Play Like a Girl.
Recently enlisting producer/engineer Grey Goon (Champagne Fever, US Royalty) for her full-length LP, Lauren has also partnered with former Paperhaus guitarist Eduardo Rivera, resulting in songs that draw from early '60s blues/psychedelia to today's pop while still maintaining her distinctly unique vocal style.
"It’s rare that a song strikes so perfect a balance between foreboding and sensual, but Thayer Sarrano gets it just right on “Shaky,” the title track from her new album. The tune is a study in contrasts, pitting hard edges against the soft allure of suggestion as Sarrano wraps her whispery drawl around a flat, forceful rhythm while vaporous tendrils of steel guitar float past." - Paste Magazine
"there is an aura of “southern gothic” via twangy guitars, deep woodsy echoes and a rhythm like cautiously trudging through those woods. But she also exudes a patina of the urban, opiatic tenor of ’90s gaze-girls like Opal or Mazzy Star." - CMJ
"A siren of the cypress swamp, Athens, Georgia’s Thayer Sarrano beckons you into the darkness on the throbbing “Touch My Face.” Evoking the mystical side of Stevie Nicks, overdriven guitars guide the listener through meandering paths that follow Sarrano’s smoky coos to what one can only hope is a mystical communion.” - Bucketful of Nails
"Thayer Sarrano is a force to be reckoned with in the ever-fertile Athens, Georgia scene, having worked as a touring and session musician with Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, T. Hardy Morris, of Montreal, Dave Marr, Kuroma, and David Barbe, among numerous others. This haunting track is taken from her upcoming third album, Shaky, a tour de force of Gothic Americana...We love it."- Big Takeover
Thayer Sarrano is forging her own path into a southern- psych-dreamland, bottling up ghosts and bringing them to life through her ethereal desert rock hymns. The tones tremble and bend, layered in swirling atmospherics. The angelic voice will pull you in close to share devastatingly beautiful and heart-breaking secrets, while shadowy figures dance in the background. This is music that envelops the listener and may transport you to another world or time. A magical place that is melancholic and haunting, yet bursting with heavenly light.
With her latest release, Shaky, The Athens, GA multi-instrumentalist sounds, more than ever, like where she is from. She grew up in a monastery and then the swamp in southern, coastal Georgia. Classically trained as a child, awakened by Grunge in the 90s, with chanting forever in her subconscious, she had always written instrumental compositions and poetry. Songwriting came when she landed in the vibrant musical community of Athens, GA and began to collaborate with friends to form her own band, as well as establish herself as a studio/touring session player (Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, T. Hardy Morris, of Montreal, Dave Marr, David Barbe, many more). Debut album, King was released in 2009 dubbing her “The new Queen of Shoegaze” - Americana UK. The sparse and raw album was recorded live in her living room in one day. Her follow up LP, Lift Your Eyes to the Hills , (2012), enters more complex arrangements and features the single “The Bend,“ written for Groninger Museum, The Netherlands, leading to consistent European touring. The record was produced by Thayer and Hank Sullivant (Kuroma, MGMT), and was an independent release as a charitable campaign for Nuci’s Space’s teenage rock camp, “Camp Amped,” of which Thayer is passionately affiliated. “Featuring heavily spiritual themes, it could have collapsed under it’s own weight, but ‘Hill’s manages to maintain a startling lightness of being.“ -Flagpole Magazine. Now, with Shaky, we see Sarrano at her bravest and most vulnerable.
Written in an unstable period of much loss, Shaky is still a record of grace and perseverance. The honest, painted lyrics weave the mystical with personal experiences. But to Thayer, it’s all real. “I’ll feel like I have to just make this quilt out of these patches of visions I’ve collected and then suddenly the song is finished and I realize it’s all true…” We start to believe her that these seemingly abstract visions are really happening, and in this other world we see pictures we can relate to. Pictures of dissolving relationships in “Crease”, "your memory unties my cells/ it breaks the line from your heart to mine…” Of the elusive in title track, "I trace your echo I follow your lead/ you’re shaky shaky but you settle me.” Of the search for something greater in “Glimpses,” “there’s a world at the same time as this one/it’s bright it trembles it glistens,” and of the beautiful ether in “Lost Art,” “their hands are open, call to the wild/ layer landscapes, breaking the sky/ I remember them from when I was a child/ it’s the same little image from inside my eyes…“
Dovetailing the thick twang of the country with the airy, echoing, spacious feeling of an empty church, Sarrano has carved out a pocket in which her otherworldly music has room to breathe. Or perhaps the pocket was already there and Sarrano stumbled upon it, becoming a vector for something deep and soulful and strange. Regardless, once you’ve stepped into that pocket with her, you’re bound to want to return.
Set Times will be posted on Instagram the day of show