Rocking Renaissance Blues
Jake La Botz heads back to the Redwood Bar
By Bliss Bowen 05/08/2013
When last seen here in town, former Angeleno Jake La Botz had just managed to catch a flight out of New York City, where fires sparked by Superstorm Sandy’s chaos had burned down homes in his neighborhood but thankfully spared his own. He was still savoring enthusiastic reviews of his performance as the Shape in last year’s Atlanta production of Stephen King’s play “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” which found him adapting songs by John Mellencamp to his own gritty, blues-rooted style. He was also anticipating the release of Walter Salles’ film “On the Road,” in which he had a tiny but memorable turn as an Okie hitchhiker.
La Botz is one of a small handful of resourceful artists who manage to use acting to support their musical careers — and vice versa. He says he never knows where his acting roles come from (“I’m looking out the front window and they come in the back door, every time”), but their visibility has unquestionably broadened the audience for his myth-sprinkled, spiritually minded brand of rocking blues. It’s a cinch that more people heard the sometime meditation teacher perform his song “Hard to Love What You Kill” in “On the Road” than ever heard his intense 2008 album “Sing This to Yourself … And Other Suggestions for a Personal Apocalypse.” Likewise, the snippets of “Wishing Well” and “Tiny” that he sang as a mercenary in Sylvester Stallone’s 2008 “Rambo” popcorn flick helpfully boosted sales of his 2006 album “Graveyard Jones” and scores of YouTube hits.
Right now La Botz, who was mentored as a Chicago teen by late blues greats like David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Homesick James, is focused on music. He’s currently in the midst of his latest tour through tattoo parlors — a cross-country circuit he cobbled together several years ago with helpful assists from fans and social media “friends.” It’s a natural fit, considering the amount of ink he sports on his skin, and reflective of his earthy originality. He’s also playing more traditional venues, including the Redwood Bar, where he held down a weekly residency when he still lived in LA. He reunites with his band there this Saturday. Expect a rowdy evening of colorful road stories, gutbucket blues, grooving jams on obscure gospel chestnuts and rocking crowd-pleasers like “Further You Drive Me Away,” “Riding the Dog,” “It’s Gonna Rain,” “Getting Closer” and some newer tunes he hasn’t yet recorded or released. Get there early and dress to sweat.
Jake La Botz returns to the Redwood Bar, 316 W. Second St., downtown LA, at 9 p.m. Saturday; the Burning Dolls open. Call (213) 680-2600 for door charge and other details. jakelabotz.com