Lindi Ortega’s new album, Little Red Boots, is released today (online, CD, and, yes, vinyl). Last night was the release party at The Dakota Tavern and I was lucky enough to get in. Here’s the recap and some backstory.
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Well, I’m going to try to be unbiased for this but — full disclosure — I adore Lindi Ortega. So I doubt this will serve as an entirely objective review. That being said, I will make the effort to avoid bias.
Many, many moons ago, I sat on the patio of a very swanky restaurant in a super-trendy part of Toronto. It was the patio of Sassafraz in the cultural oddity of Yorkville, where there is much star-sighting, elbow-rubbing, and hobnobbing to do in the warm summer night air. I was there because my dear friend, whom I shall call Jitterbug (for I haven’t obtained what passes for a release form in the blogosphere), worked in the area and we decided to be out and about. Plus, she’s gorgeous and she makes me look good by letting me hang around.
While we tried to carry on a conversation over some delightful red wine (albeit wantonly overpriced — yay, Yorkville!), I found myself distracted by the music from inside. After I forced my attention back to Jitterbug, I realized she seemed too somewhat aloof that night. Eventually, though, Jitterbug being one of the more forthright people I know, she admitted she was having a hard time because of the sweet and distinctive voice which came from inside of Sassafraz. And if there’s one other thing you should know about Jitterbug, it’s that she has intuition which defies belief. I don’t believe in much beyond what my five senses tell me but when Jitterbug says she’s got a feeling about something, I listen.
“Let’s go inside and check it out,” she suggested. And so we did.
What happened is another story for another time but I was an instant fan and that has never changed, And [information redacted] years later, I stood in The Dakota Tavern to watch Lindi and her new band perform at the album release party for Lindi’s new disc, Little Red Boots, produced by Ron Lapota.
The weather outside was warm and inside, at the at-capacity venue, the weather was scorching. When Lindi took the stage, the already balmy tavern warmed up by several degrees. Standing tall in her little red boots (it ain’t just an album title, ya’ll) she greeted the eager crowd with her customary warmth and sincerity. Here we have someone on the rise, signed by a supportive label (Last Gang Entertainment), on the night dedicated to her new album, and as far as I’m concerned, poised for greatness. Yet, she was genuinely grateful for those who were there (and those who couldn’t get in but stayed outside to listen).
What about the show? Why is this stuff important, Angelo? Well, dear reader, it’s simple, really. That ability to connect with the audience is what makes the difference between a reasonably good musician and the genuine article. That’s how you build a following. That’s how you build a career. I’ve met a hundred musicians but only a few can get on stage and pull the audience in within a few minutes. And I can tell you, over the years I’ve known her, she’s felt that it was very important to acknowledge those who have taken their time or spent their money to listen to her. Despite building a loyal following and converting new ones all over the world while in tour with Kevin Costner or singing back-up to Brandon Flowers, despite all the glitz and glam of a marketing campaign, tour dates, and this launch party, Lindi Ortega has remained humble and grateful. And we, the audience, appreciate that.
She played new songs off of Little Red Boots — including “Little Lie”, “Blue Bird”, “Angels” (which she once played in a church during The Rapture), “Black Fly”, “All My Friends”, and “Dying of Another Broken Heart” (one of her older songs). And her two encore songs were “So Sad” and a cover of a Springsteen tune (more on that, later). All of these sounded not only as good as the sweet recorded tracks on the album, but even better. With her new bandies (Davide DiRenzo on drums, Justin Abedin on guitar, Drew Birston on bass, and Scotty the Wanted Man on keys), who are very talented players themselves, she rocked the joint. There’s one thing about Lindi “Bootsy” Ortega that’s been consistent throughout the years: though she’s a fine, fine musician in the studio, she’s always better live. Which is the reverse of so many Top 40 acts of today.
Which is one of the reasons I’ll champion her till the cows come home. And even after we’ve milked ’em. Even after I’ve thought of another inappropriate continuation of that saying. Probably after that, too. [Ed.: Okay. We GET it!] For the record, though, she’s hitting the charts, too (currently #10 on Roots Country at time of publish).
She also played my personal favourite, “I’m No Elvis Presley”, and that was more than just a musical treat. I’ll preen just a little cuz I got me one of them there dedications for the song and, y’know, I’m not taking that lightly. It meant the world to me. [Ed.: So, how’s that “no bias” thing coming?] [AB: Bite me.] It was both thrilling and humbling.
Here’s the thing, anyone who knows me well enough can tell you it’s no small wonder that I was standing in a country bar, listening to someone who’s now billed as Alt Country. Hell, I even contemplated wearing my black cowboy hat to the show (I didn’t, what with bein’ lily-livered and all). I’m not exactly Nashville’s biggest fan. Yet, there I was, stompin’ and hollerin’ to Lindi Ortega, a musician on a quest to find her Kris Kristofferson soulmate, and lovin’ every gall-dang minute of it. You see, I don’t cotton to just one genre in particular, nor do I turn my ear from everything in another. I just like what I like and make no apologies.
Whether it’s Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Martha and the Vandellas, Violent Femmes, Bob Marley, Tricky, Boney M, Pink, U2, Kenny Rogers, Massive Attack, Cee Lo Green, Robert Johnson, The Pixies, or Weird Al frickin’ Yankovic, I like what I like and I don’t much care if it doesn’t qualify as hip or trendy. Hell, if Top 40 club tracks is your bag, then more power to ya. Me, I just want good music made by people who can actually perform what they recorded. As far as I’m concerned, that’s Lindi Ortega. The real deal. The genuine article.
So, while she scorched The Dakota Tavern tonight, I found my mind wandering back to that summer evening inside Sassafraz where, near the door in a dimly lit corner of the room, she said something to us which I have never forgotten. Well, I won’t forget the notion but maybe the exact words escape me. She said something to effect of, “People have tried to change me [throughout my career] and I tried to go along with that but it didn’t sit right with me. Now I’m going to do it my way, be own self, and make music I think is good. It won’t be easy but at least whatever comes of it will be 100% mine.”
What she now owns is a burgeoning career, a whole new album of crackin‘ tracks, a growing fanbase, and a future that is not only 100% hers but also 100% red-hot bright. If you take Timbuk 3’s logic, that’s why she’s wearing shades.
It was appropriate that she ended the night with her cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” (also on the album if you buy it on iTunes or Amazon.com) because, a long time ago, I decided to call her Firestarter. There’s a reason for it which I’ll only ever tell you in person, so come out to one of her shows and ask me. Anyway, “I’m On Fire” was just the right punctuation point to the night.
Because, to steal a line from Almost Famous, last night, Lindi Ortega was incendiary.
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Lindi Ortega’s new album, Little Red Boots, is available now online at outlets like iTunes, or on CD and VINYL(!) from Last Gang Entertainment. Lindi can be found online on Facebook, Twitter (@lindiortega), MySpace, and more. Special thanks to Tia Brazda (of Eve and The Ocean) for the scoop on bandie names.
Also, as a treat, I give you the very first performance of “Little Red Boots” cuz, y’know, I’m cool like that.
<< Click that there picture for images from the show.
If you were there last night, what did you think of the show?