Inara George Hosts Eleni’s Song Club

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On Sunday October 7, one of Topanga’s favorite daughters, Inara George, brought yet another heaping helping of great music to the Theatricum Botanicum stage. Although an incredible musician in her own right, she’s also a huge fan of other songwriters—both established and up-and-coming—and enjoys showcasing their talent.

This year she hosted Eleni Mandell’s Song Club with the fellow chanteuse in which Los Angeles-based songwriters were given prompts by Mandell and required to come up with completely new compositions that they performed for the very first time. They either had to create a sad song with happy lyrics or a happy song with sad lyrics.

In a discussion moderated by John Horn, host of  KPCC’S “The Frame,” the audience got a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into their much-varied, usually solitary processes. The songwriters compared experiences and asked each other about their songs in a creative and supportive environment.

In an era of over-the-top, tech-oriented music, it was great to hear raw, stripped-down songs performed by true artists with incredible talent.

Also performing:

Inara, John, and Eleni talked about the concept of Eleni Mandell’s Song Club, which was songwriters coming together who had to perform a brand new sad song with happy lyrics or a happy song with sad lyrics that Eleni had only told them about recently.

Eleni Mandell, creator of the Song Club, songwriter and teacher, opened the show with a sad song with happy lyrics that she thought was destined to be a first dance at someone’s wedding.

Bhi Bhiman’s song was about how he’s always the third wheel when he goes out with friends who are couples.

Bella Porter’s funny tune on the piano was, “I miss you and you’re just in the bathroom.”

Richard Moore, a former student of Eleni’s played a song on the piano about how he spent a sad summer.

Mike Viola, who finished his song 20 minutes before the show, remarked, “The ink isn’t even dry yet.”

Inara George’s song was a brand new political song about “How it feels like some things never change….”

John Gold, one of Eleni’s original Song Club members, played a soulful song and accompanied himself on bass.

Wendy Wang’s song, written that morning, came from a fortune cookie that read, “Among the lucky you are the chosen.”

John Horn posed questions about the songwriting process, “Is it all fair game?” referring to people the musicians know and actual events, as well as, “Do you mind different interpretations” about how listeners perceive their work.

Fred Tackett of the legendary band Little Feat played a song on the Mandocello about his 50th anniversary with wife Patricia Tackett who was in the audience. The environment of the show was super supportive with the other songwriters getting to weigh in on the creative process

Dan Wilson, also known for his band, Semisonic, presented an odd take on love saying, “To a hammer everything looks like a nail,”

Lightning Round –Three sets of two songwriters submitted to the “Lightning Round” (one of Eleni’s teaching tools) during which fellow musicians wrote down a word that had to be incorporated into a song on the spot.

At the end of Eleni Mandell’s Song Club each artist talked about what was coming up for them including albums and tours. Among the standouts were Inara’s band, “The Bird and the Bee,” doing a cover album of Van Halen songs (the classic Roth years) and Fred Tackett celebrating 50 years of Little Feat with a tour celebrating the “Funky Feat.”


Photos and commentary by Katie Dalsemer


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