LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles is well-known for its hidden surprises, the trademark hole-in-the-wall places and inconspicuous, rickety buildings that genuinely shock people the moment they rush inside.
The Bootleg Theater is just one of these surprises. On the outside, the venue looks like a dilapidated warehouse that rests along a rundown street constantly undergoing construction. But the faÃ§ade does not reflect the beauty inside, as the building boasts an intimate ambiance for small shows and performances.
Last weekend the venue witnessed Jarrod Gorbel caressing a hundred hearts, bringing with him a handful of new, beautiful songs and an optimistic vision of a solo career that could finally separate him from his former outfit, The Honorary Title. Performing his set on an unconventional stage of finely polished woodwork before a small crowd, Gorbel played a fair share of cherished songs from his earlier days, in addition to some newer gems.
Throughout he was clear about his desire to play the songs that he wanted to play, he let concergoers know just as much that he wanted to allow them to hear some older songs like “I’ll Do Better,” which came before Gorbel brought Orenda Fink of Azure Ray fame onto the stage to help him with “How Long” and “Ten Years Older.” While the tracks did not necessarily seem any different from what The Honorary Title created, for Gorbel they were products of a change in approach. As a self-proclaimed solo artist, he was now able to have complete control over their structure.
“The content is similar, but it’s just the fact that I’ve grown up,” Gorbel told idobi. “There’s no more of the big ‘rock out’ drums. I was always pushing for the mellower side of things. Obviously, the core of it was my songs, but there was just some stuff that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
The audience listened on as he occasionally went into silly tangents about what was on his mind at that moment, from Chatroulette to the antics of close family members. He poked fun at himself from time to time, acknowledging that he has an immature side that can sometimes get a little overbearing. Nonetheless, the crowd laughed at every single quip and gesture.
“I’ve always been goofy and silly,” Gorbel told idobi. “I think once I gathered this kind of audience via [The Honorary Title], it just gave me an excuse to be as stupid as I seem to be, or just be like how I am with my friends. The songs are one side, but nobody’s somber all the time. I do get bummed out and I do get serious, but I’m also equally a total dork who just wants to make people laugh.”
Opening the quiet, cozy night was Fink, whose ethereal, dreamy set easily captured the attention of the crowd. With “Why Is The Night Sad” setting a gentle mood, her light and velvety music plus her ability to make incredibly fluid ballads with a few simple strums of the guitar lulled the small audience of about a hundred people into a quiet peace. With her airy, delicate yet commanding voice, Fink showcased some of her newer songs such as “The Fox” but also returned to her older works such as the ever-haunting “Easter Island.”
Gorbel, however, was the night’s main attraction. After taking the stage in a brisk yet unruffled manner he flashed a smile to the crowd, and then hit the first resonating notes of “Far More,” a song off The Honorary Title’s Scream and Light Up the Sky. After that he launched into crowd favorites “Stay Away” and “Along the Way,” which provoked a unified whisper from the audience in response to Gorbel’s strong presence and incredibly powerful voice.
But now that his focus has been honed and modified, Gorbel is able to start anew. By dropping The Honorary Title moniker and using his own name, he is able to change all that may have displeased him when he was dealing with the complications that arose from his former band. Nothing may really change in terms of his jawdropping vocal talents and intricate writing capabilities, but all of the liberty is his for the taking.
As he embarks on his solo career he is not alone. If his show at the Bootleg Theater proved anything, it is that he still has a handful of dedicated fans that support his efforts no matter what changes. What is also clear is that Gorbel is dead set on wanting to start a new chapter in his career. For him, the need to differentiate himself from The Honorary Title became increasingly salient once he realized he wanted to depart from the style with which he was once associated.
“In [The Honorary Title], we just toured with a lot of bands that were associated with Vans Warped Tour,” said Gorbel.“We never belonged there, but that was just where our friends were and, on the business side, who we associated with. I think a lot of people that didn’t know the band just saw the name and thought it was an “emo punk pop” band, and I just felt like I did not want that association.”