Live Review: Lucy & La Mer at LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival

Material: Lovable Lucy LaForge leads 
a merry pack of throwback musicians
 whose relationship with folk is more than 
a dalliance—it’s a full-on love affair. The effervescent group plays with ease and
 even slips in a sardonic twist with songs
 like “Please Don’t Be Evil,” and winks and nods with covers of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” These bubblegum renditions are sure to be addictive to fans of Feist and Inara George, and provide easy access to the group’s original material.

Musicianship: LaForge’s baritone ukulele and luscious-yet-campy vocals make comparisons between her and Shirli McAllen—the ukulele- wielding frontwoman of retro group Leftover Cuties—almost inevitable. But Lucy & La Mer has undeniable music cred, as Cook (he of L.A. Percussion Quartet note) has a Grammy Award under his belt. Add expert jazz bassist Keenan to the mix, and there’s undeniable talent to be found in Lucy & La Mer.

Performance: Folky as their sound may be, the band actually came dressed to the vegan fest in rockabilly attire: LaForge wearing a peppermint- stick pinup dress and her backing band clad 
in red bowties. That presentation might have worked liked a charm—but, alas, the musicians’ set started shortly after the Rose Bowl doors opened and ended before most of the masses grabbed their first beer. A few dozen onlookers seemed pleasantly satisfied, with many of them snapping their fingers at LaForge’s meek request, but in a just world, there would have been hundreds of fans dancing instead.

Summary: LaForge has strengthened her sea legs in La La Land by singing backup at Moby concerts. Meanwhile, her band has found its footing through performances at various festivals and at a Sierra Club event attended by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. The musicians’ growing support is evidenced by a Kickstarter campaign that fully funded their first music video and slots as semifinalists at the International Songwriting Competition for newcomers. But while Lucy & La Mer seemingly have the whole package—talent, charisma, ambition—it remains to be seen whether their understated approach can click in an era overrun by social media cliques.

Players: Lucy LaForge, vocals, baritone ukulele; Matthew Cook, percussion; Jon Lee Keenan, bass; Cathlene Pineda, keys; Adam Snider, slide guitar.

Venue:  Los Angeles Vegan Beer and Food Festival at the Rose Bowl
City:  Pasadena, CA
Web: listentolucy.com

– Kurt Orzeck