There I was, in the middle of a dimly-lit bar venue. Aged books were all around me. Cool fog from the air cast a smoky blur.
It was well past midnight on a Thursday in the heart of Hollywood Boulevard’s star-strip. Bougie blonde chicks dressed in leather jackets, camera-ready locks and fashionable booties held their hipster-bearded friends and hubbies close-by. A familiar Disney Channel girl’s face popped out the front of the venue, signaling towards her friend behind me who she asked to be let in. A young earnest-eyed gentleman with booze-in-hand was dressed as Santa Clause as celebrities, musicians, bandmates, music industry professionals and whoever else found themselves in that room took photos at the photo-booth around him. People walked in-and-out for smokes or air as we latecomers stood quietly in line, allowing other VIP guests to go in as security checked the crowd. It was a generally small and “exclusive” crowd, as most were on the invite-only guest list who were frustrated by the venue having reached capacity.
I have to be honest–I wasn’t expecting any of this. I sometimes laugh at myself for the kind of situations I get myself, or rather put myself, in.
I had received an invite from Mr. KMGMT himself and decided to send my name and +1 to the guest list just in case I decided to go. Considering it being the Thursday right before my finals and having had plans every night for the rest of week, I was debating whether it’d be a smart decision to go. (A writer like myself tends to procrastinate ’til receiving that “spark of inspiration;” but knowing my crazy “what’s there to lose,” “might as well put yourself out there,” “take these opportunities as they come” kind of mentality, I decided to just suck it up and go. “Live while you’re young,” ya?)
Initially, I was expecting a smaller, mellow event. Perhaps I have been too “Meg & Dia”-fied and gotten used to their intimate kinds of shows and “innocent” events. But boy, was I wrong! First, I was having trouble even finding a +1 considering it was finals week; second, it’s pretty difficult finding friends even remotely interested in these kind of “indie” events; and three, it’s a bar and 21+ and finding someone of that age that I’d be comfortable going to this kind of “intimate” event with was difficult.
Once I got there, however, that all didn’t even matter anymore. Once you were in, you were lost in the crowd.
After an hour of waiting, I handed my ID over and walked past Debby Ryan (Disney Channel’s “Jessie”) who hugged her friend once he got in. I had tweeted before that I was “Totally at the same LA party as Debby Ryan from Suite Life on Deck. What is this…haha,” not realizing the kind of party I was at (I later realized once I got home that she had favorited my tweet, along with a handful of other Disney fans, and that may have been the reason she was staring at me, haha). I took a photo with my friend Luke (who graciously decided to come along just to kick it for fun, which I am so thankful for) at the photo-booth and we were thoroughly confused and did not know what to do. As we walked into the main venue (the front area/lounge was connected to the outdoors; another door led inside to the main-stage/lounge), we saw a bunch of older folk dancing around to DJ music by Carlos QuixOfive with drinks in hand and grooving as hilarious as could be. We decided to walk closer to the stage to look around more and I noticed that Carlo Gimenez of Meg & Dia was plugging-in/setting-up his guitar. He was probably a little surprised to see me and we couldn’t hear anything with the party-music blasting in the room, but we shook hands and smiled. Brian Dales of The Summer Set was cue-ing up as well, as the whole band behind him was starting. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I was in the front of the little ledge they were on as they started to play their music. I didn’t even realize it was Chimney Eat World.
— Rachel Ann Cauilan (@rachelannc) December 12, 2014
They started to play familiar tunes that I almost died from hearing. Hall & Oates’ (who melted my heart a couple months ago) “You Make My Dreams” sung in the fashion of The Summer Set meets Carlo Gimenez. R. Kelly’s “Remix To Ignition” went on (in which a familiar band called Meg & Dia covered quite some time ago, as well). Tom Petty’s “American Girl” played. And how about my favorite 80’s classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears? My goodness, was my heart melting! (P.S. Carlo, you seem to have improved greatly. Your guitar sounded amazing on all the tracks as your swift, raw, pedaled grooves and licks were so tasteful!)
There’s something about being in a room with all your close-friends and familiar faces, totally jamming out and having fun to these wildly fun classics and feel-good songs, drinking and having a good time, not having to worry about fans or unfamiliar faces or people who might do something. It was an entirely electric feeling of just plain, pure, feel-good feelings. (How the heck did I get myself in here?)
But, there was something I realized when they were playing.
Although the venue was dark and pictures and videos were nearly impossible to take (probably a scheme so as to not let media out, or either it’s just how the venue is for a bar, haha), I saw Chelsea Staub-Kane (DC’s “Jonas”) swaying with her hubby a few people away from me. My friend and I decided to get a beer from the bar right next to the stage (Downtown Brown, thank you very much). But, being in that space, playing to your heart’s content and really going all out was such an amazing feat to witness. I now understood why they put on these Casa de Awesome events. There’s something so special about being in a room with all your close-friends–a “getaway,” perhaps–and being able to do what you do.
That was the first time I had ever seen The Summer Set; I had been familiar with their faces due to KMGMT managing that band and seeing some collaborations with Dia Frampton throughout the years. But dang were they a ton of fun! Frontman Brian Dales totally had fun dancing all around up there; and drummer Jess Bowen is one cool chick who definitely goes all out with her rhythm. Combining all those talents up there on that stage for one cover band and one night only was a totally rare, raw and exciting thing to see.
The video above pretty much describes all that the night was: smooth and swoon-ful cover songs under dark, barely-visible vision as I (embarrassingly) scream and gush into my friend’s ear of the realization I had of the night. Played to the tune of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
Perhaps I was overwhelmed by everything that was happening. A young baby-faced 21-year-old college student who isn’t a party-freak or Hollywood-crazy girl at all? It was just too funny of a situation to be in.
I ran into Jonathan Snyder, bassist of the late Meg & Dia, and I said hello and told him of how I heard he’s this great, recognized chef at all of the top LA restaurants; he was glad to have seen me come out and even invited me to let him know if I ever wanted to come to any of his dinners. I also ran into Ross Lynch (DC’s “Austin & Ally”), knowing he was a familiar face, said, “Haaay you look familiar,” “I do?” “Are you from DC?” “Yeah” “Are you still on it?” “Yeah,” then we awkwardly walk away not knowing what to do (funny that that kid is under-aged to even be in there; Disney and Hollywood, for ya!). I also talked to Mike/KMGMT a bit, giving my thanks for inviting me to the party and that it wasn’t what I was expecting and snapped a photo. Jess and Brian were both in the room, chatting with Mike and friends, but I didn’t introduce myself for some reason–one part overwhelmed, other lazy (I had wanted to let them know how darn fun they were on-stage; but considering we were all in the same room, they saw my face). At the end of the night, I talked to Adam Halferty of American Tomahawk. I wasn’t sure if he remembered me, but I totally went up to him asking if he remembered me as “the girl who spied on his house” last month. He remembered, of course, and then went on to clear up a relationship story and said, “Don’t be a stranger” and come over to their place anytime. He also lectured to me to be a true artist and don’t be afraid–listen to the records you love and hold them close–knowing I’m a smart girl, and just “get out there and don’t be afraid.” It was touching (but a reassuringly drunken conversation, for sure, haha).
All in all, even though I thought I was “too cool” to get starstruck and thought I had past my own capacity for having that feeling, that night was just one huge overload of it all. First, it was an intimate environment where everyone is close friends/familiar with each other; and second, I wasn’t expecting any of this going into the event. I beat myself up for not having mingled or taken more photos, but then again, this wasn’t really the place to do that. Rest assured, I was glad to have gone in the first place and at least show my face (maybe I won’t be as “surprised” next time, haha).
It was definitely just a lot of fun being in that environment. And taking it all in with my friend was just enough.
In hindsight, I would’ve never expected myself to go through or experience any of the things I have been experiencing these past couple of months; but, at the same time, I feel so very blessed. As someone who’s always fought to “put herself out there” and really “make a name” and give meaning to my existence, it’s nice to know that some people can see and value that. It really is dear to my heart, for I’ve always just been that quiet girl from the outside-looking-in. Slowly, but surely (and I hate to say things like this), but perhaps I am slowly putting myself in… (But hit me please, before and if ever I get in over my head!)
As my friend Luke told me, “They see something in you. And that’s cool.”