Pershing Square Amps Up Its Summer Lineup With Well-Known Acts on Wednesday Nights
by Julie Riggott
We’re an L.A. band, so if we can’t give something back to the city, what good are we?” said Burleigh Drummond, whose group Ambrosia will play a free Pershing Square concert this week.
Ambrosia, a Grammy-nominated band with a following of progressive rock and R&B fans, is the first of four national acts scheduled in the new Pershing Square Downtown Stage Summer Concerts, taking place Wednesdays from 8-10 p.m. After Ambrosia’s July 30 concert, Pedestrian takes the stage on Aug. 6. Sophie B. Hawkins performs on Aug. 13, and the Gin Blossoms wrap it up on Aug. 20.
Despite the fact that the city Department of Recreation and Parks is only paying expenses for the bands, Drummond said Ambrosia is excited to play on the Downtown Los Angeles stage again. (They actually played there about a decade ago.)
“We come from L.A., and we’re proud of it,” said Drummond, who plays drums for the band that spawned such ‘70s and ‘80s hits as “Holdin’ on to Yesterday,” “How Much I Feel” and “Biggest Part of Me.” “I don’t think people realize that L.A. has a little more pride than people give it credit for. People tend to bash L.A. as being just where you come to make it and that’s the only thing that’s important. Where I live, it’s my home, and my neighbors are my family in a way.”
It might come as a surprise to hear so much community-minded enthusiasm from residents of a city that is home to 3.8 million people. But Louise Capone, the senior recreation director for Rec and Parks who produces all of the Pershing Square entertainment, heard it from Hawkins too. When Capone told the singer-songwriter about efforts to grow the Downtown stage into a summer draw for the entire city, “she was on board in a flash.”
“Being invited is such as compliment,” said Hawkins, who earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist when she broke on the scene in the early ‘90s with the hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” “It’s so great to be a part of something in the community.”
Hawkins, who relocated to Venice from New York City, said playing Pershing Square, bounded by Fifth, Sixth, Olive and Hill streets, immediately appealed to her because the outdoor venue is the “essence of music and summer.”
“I just love the idea, being a New Yorker especially, that suddenly you just appear on the street and start doing something and it attracts a whole motley crowd you’d never get if you were selling tickets at a theater. I love that,” she said. “In fact, when I was campaigning for Hillary [Clinton] I would end up singing a lot on the street.”
Hawkins, who plays guitar, piano and drums (and will bring along two musicians), wanted to contribute to the growing arts scene at the heart of Los Angeles. “The city is becoming more vibrant; Downtown L.A. is becoming more of a place where artists are going all of the time, and there’s more of a street life,” she said.
Besides the musicians, other community members have stepped up to make the Pershing Square series take shape. Downtown’s O Hotel is putting the Gin Blossoms up for the night, Cafˇ Pinot is serving up hospitality for the bands backstage, and radio station Jack FM is running free ads.
Richard Rees, president and CEO of Earthtone Music Inc., is booking acts for the Pershing Square concerts without taking his customary agent’s fee. Rees, who also brought the Young Dubliners to the park in March, hopes the summer series will be as popular as those in cities such as New York and Chicago. “I want to enrich the cultural experience in Downtown L.A.,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I see L.A. getting better and better.”
Along with the big names, Rees has brought in some new talent, including Pedestrian, an indie rock band composed of musicians who have recorded or toured with everyone from Alanis Morrisette to Gnarls Barkley and Jane’s Addiction. Also, Sugarwall was picked by the Gin Blossoms’ manager to tour with the ‘90s band that had a slew of songs on the Billboard charts such as “Found Out About You” and “Follow You Down.”
Sugarwall, who just released their debut album and claim the Rolling Stones, the Who and early Aerosmith as influences, have played noontime concerts at Pershing Square and are looking forward to opening for the Gin Blossoms, having just played with them in Las Vegas.
“I always like playing at Pershing Square because it’s outside,” said Sugarwall guitarist Mitch Mills. “Everybody’s always treated us very nice. I’m looking forward to the late-night show.”
While Ambrosia has played everything from intimate rooms to state fairs with 400,000 people, Drummond said, “Pershing Square is probably just right. It’s not too big, and it’s outside.”
All concerts begin at 8 p.m. at Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., (213) 847-4970 or laparks.org.
Summer Fun at Pershing Square
The Wednesday night concerts are just the latest addition to the entertainment lineup at Pershing Square. Here’s what else is happening through August.
- Summer Lunchtime Concerts run Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon-2 p.m. This week brings rockabilly with King Creole on July 29 and Latin ska from Upground on July 31.
- Salsa Sundays fall on the third Sunday of the month. Last chance is Aug. 17 when OPA OPA plays from 4-6 p.m.
- Pershing Square Kids brings arts and crafts, juggling, music and storytelling on Fridays. The Moo Doo Puppets show up on Aug. 1 at 12:30, followed by music in the Brasil Brazil Show at 1:30 p.m.Contact Julie Riggott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey Julie, you sound so confident… Hope you Rock the night… All the very best… GOOD LUCK…
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