I’m playing a show this Wednesday, May 21 at Malo in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. It’s really been toooooo long since I’ve played a show and I’m super grateful to Surely Lorraine and Kondo Exurbia for including me.

I’ve been working up new songs because what happens when you don’t play is you forget ALL your lyrics and when you get on stage your brain turns off completely its ability to recall such information and since there likely won’t be a teleprompter it’s better to get it memorized!

I decided I wanted to do a cover because covers are fun for everyone especially when in my case all this material is new and I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. Some songs work live and are kinda lame on an album, and vice versa. So I thought about doing “I’m On Fire” which I’ve always played on the cello but I thought perhaps I’d think of something not done so often (Bruce’s popularity has risen yet again and to my relief his street cred is much higher than I think it used to be… I remember people would ask who my favorite musicians were and I’d say Bruce and they’d think I was joking, which is absurd! Because, well, you know, he’s the best songwriter perhaps ever.)

ANYWAYS so I was letting my mind wander and I was walking down Sunset Blvd. and I happen to live really close to where the show is Wednesday and I realized that the “Elliott Smith wall” is right next door to the venue.

Which is weird and for me kind of eerie and moving because:

• Elliott Smith influenced my life and especially my identity as a songwriter probably more than any other musician. Either/Or changed my life in so many ways. If I had to put it into words (poorly) I would say because he made me realize that beauty and melancholia are not necessarily taboo to all people. People love his music rightly so and it’s sad but not sad at all because it is just aching and oozing with so much life, and feeling FOR life. I’ve never written anything as beautiful as his, but it certainly gave me a context for where my music fit in to the world. And I don’t know if my music is especially sad, I don’t think so and I never set out to make it that way or any way, but people have often told me that in one way or another. So it makes sense, the kinship I felt, musically.

• Elliott Smith kinda really, as silly as it sounds, or naive, is the reason I moved to Portland. Again, I just figured “if music like that is being made there, I need to be there.” And so I moved there, and I walked Elliott Ave. in Ladd’s Addition many many times, often on my way to the Red & Black where I played my favorite shows in that city. And I was enveloped in the rain and the comfort Portland is and it was a beautiful, beautiful time.

• Elliott Smith moved to LA and here I am. And I don’t know where “From a Basement on the Hill” was specifically recorded, but I ended up on a hill in Los Angeles and I never, ever ever would have guessed that. And I’m still making the music I do, for what it’s worth.

• I’m still mad at Elliott Smith for dying. Yeah, I know he “killed himself” which makes me more mad at him… but there’s some doubt and I’ve always felt how if it is true that he stabbed himself in the chest with a kitchen knife there’s so much sadness around that act and everything surrounding his death that truly I can barely listen to his music anymore. Which is a shame. To be clear he wasn’t my hero. But he was a beautiful inspiration.

And so, for what it’s worth I’m going to play an Elliott Smith cover on Wednesday, by his wall, and maybe some closure will come about and maybe I’ll blow it and forget the lyrics! Who knows! It’s unknowable.

It would be nice to see you there, if you are in the neighborhood…

Had a good rehearsal yesterday. Me and Tripp played at Bedrock Studios over in Echo Park. A big room, horror movie posters on the wall, huge amps, and a little time. We haven’t had time to play lately and so it was good.

If you are a musician out there trying to get better, let me tell you, if you can book a gig, any gig, that is the key. Basically you are forced to get your act together, literally, and it will speed up the process of developing your material exponentially.

Also: rehearsal studios = good. Never thought I’d be a fan, but now I kind of am. It’s nice, for one thing, to get away from the house to play. It’s nice to have all the equipment set up and ready to go, and then to walk away from it. And it’s also nice to see and occasionally meet all the other musicians in your peer group coming and going from their rehearsals. You can hear them through the walls and get a feel for where other bands are at.

Opened up the book of songs we’ve been playing. Six or seven tracks off of “Tomorrow Was” that are manageable live and that are propulsive. Good to play those but wow they take a lot of energy. Playing a super fast song for three minutes is one thing. Playing a string of fast six minute songs is different. So we kind of played around with new “material”, improvised is why it’s in quotes, and it was exhilarating.

I feel certain that if we work together on a new album, making material from rehearsals and live shows, that we will be onto something really cohesive and cool.  Recorded part of it too. I’m not sure that it warrants sharing per se, but you know that I’m always down to share stuff that is borderline fit to listen to. I like raw. So I’m ok with it.  So yes, a show Tuesday night near downtown LA at The Airliner. Midnight Door plays at 9ish. Cover is $5. I think it will be a really fun night out, given that there are DJs and other rad bands and live painting. I’m looking forward to it.

This Friday, April 9, I’ll have the honor of again joining Chuck Ragan on a few songs at the House Of Blues in Anaheim as he opens for the legendary, highly influential Bad Religion. Considering how many hours of my life Bad Religion’s music has consumed, I’m really excited to get to play at this show!

*warning = this is a loooong rant.

Luke Janela live at The Catalyst, January 28, 2010 - Photo Credit: Pete Geniella, petegeniella.com
Photo: Pete Geniella

Last Thursday, January 28th, I got to open for AFI, one of my favorite bands. We played The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, and all the pieces fell into place for a great great show.

The show had been big in my mind for too long, I knew it was on, but the band I had recorded REDWOOD SUMMER with wasn’t to be available. I thought, ok, we’ll just make it happen for a good long while, and yet the band wasn’t nailed down, even just a couple weeks before the show.

My own fault, because the obvious choice for the best drummer was right in front of my face; I finally realized that I needed to call one of my best friends and bandmate of many many years Mr. Keith Feigin. He was with me for my first show ever, he recorded Blue Star, he recorded The Key, he is an amazing drummer. However, he hadn’t played drums, literally, for 5 years. Nonetheless, he was open to the idea. We’d jam on the songs, and if it worked, great. If not… welllllll….

My brothers pointed me in the direction of a guitar player they knew also in Ukiah (Keith lives there now), my hometown. A really talented guy who knows the business, touring all the time with his band, Luke Slinkert. Fortunately for me, Luke is also a huge AFI fan, which meant that the expenses and time spent practicing and traveling, especially when compared to the nominal guarantee we were getting to play (standard for opening bands) were worth it.

So I headed up to Northern California with less than a week to prepare for the show. A new band, I didn’t know Luke S. that well, and I didn’t know if Keith was going to be comfortable playing drums at all. I didn’t know how well my cello would play live, if my amp would even do the trick, if this was really realistic at all, or if it would all sadly implode.

I was optimistic, however!

Got into Ukiah, really really excited and anxious for our first practice that day, stopped by a friend’s apartment, bent down to pet the cute gigantic growling pit bull and promptly got bit in the face by said dog. Everything was suddenly chaotic, the dog got pulled off, I looked down at my hand and blood was dripping everywhere. Asked where the bathroom was, went in, and saw my lips looking pitifully mangled, kind of hanging there, as if confused, in all kinds of directions.

We rushed to the hospital, Keith was there, my brother Nate was there, my Mom showed up soon. I was sitting in the emergency room and I was on the verge of tears not because of the pain, which was pretty intense, so much as the idea that we would not be able to play this show. I wanted, I needed to play this show. It mattered to me.

The doctor stitched things up and took his time. He was great because he seemed to care and methodically put 28 stitches in my lips and face. He did a nice job. I went home, high on morphine and still wondering about the show.

The next morning things were good enough in my face to go ahead and schedule a practice, albeit without vocals from me. We’d play through the songs and kind of evaluate if it was even conceivable to go up on a stage in front of 1,000 people in less than three days. Things went well. I don’t know how, but Keith could really really bust it out still. Luke S. had memorized all the songs quickly and instantly was laying them down. The first time through the set was a little scary. The second time, the songs already sounded great.

So we had two more rehearsals to go. And they went really really well. Our set was only 6 songs and went like this:

True North
Strobe Light
The Unattended Ball
Time Is Near
Closure
Fever Saved Me

It clocked in at about 25 minutes, and we played it over and over again, just one song leading into the next. The last rehearsal we played through the set 5 times straight. That’s all we could do.

And it sounded good. I can honestly say that I wish I could re-record a version of REDWOOD SUMMER with the songs recorded in this raucous, garage/punk style that we had formed together in few days. Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Vocals. Simple, sweet, short.

There’s a kind of crummy sounding/looking recording of it available for the curious here:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/4262515

We drove down to Santa Cruz the day of the show. I went to college in Santa Cruz and knew it oh so well. I learned to really play cello there. I played the clubs and coffee shops (mostly coffee shops when I was there) often, it was my town. It was epic to return to the big venue in town and be loading my stuff in.

AFI’s bus and equipment truck were there, and the equipment had been unloaded. To me, it was an impressive setup, boxes and boxes of gear and stage equipment. The stage was already setup, with AFI’s huge banner tied like a curtain behind the drums. Davey Havok was walking around talking to all the folks at the Catalyst (he is a verifiably super-nice person by the way), Adam, their drummer was there. I love Adam, I don’t think I know very many people, musicians or otherwise, who are as cool, kind and humble as he is. Smith was running the show, Fritch was selling the merch. Much of the AFI crew was intact from the last time I had seen them play, only since then they had gone on to sell millions of records and land a #1 billboard debut. And yet they are still real, down to earth, nice people. No BS. And they are GOOD if not AMAZING as a band these days. I watched their sound check and they now have this amazingly fluid sense of their own sound, super super tight and just, in their element. I suppose the countless weeks of touring will do that for you.

Pre-show AFI, at the Catalyst

My nerves were crazy. I was still on antibiotics for my wounds and couldn’t really eat well so I had been on a liquid diet for the whole week. It was an enormous and woozy feeling. All my favorite people in the world, my family and my girlfriend to name a few, old college friends, showed up pre-show.

At one point me and Keith walked around the block to go grab a protein shake for me and a bite to eat for him, and the line to get in the club was already around block. That recognizable AFI crowd, dressed in black, non-conformist, devoted. Then we were scared… would they boo us off the stage? Also, up on the marquis, my name alongside AFI and Ceremony. Really cool for me, a good image, unexpected, and great.

The Marquis

Then we just tried to be not nervous. And soon enough it was time to get on stage. And we’d have to not blow it, of course.

Keith pre-show

And we got up there and just tore through the songs. The crowd was amazing. They were kind and into it. There were a lot of people in there too, 500-1000, I can’t really say a good estimate, but a lot. And the sound ruled, and my bandmates NAILED IT. And it was fun. This was it, a good show, good music, that euphoric state that musicians live for. It really was… yeah. It was great.

I had a lot of people to talk to when it was over, and thus I missed Ceremony. AFI put on an incredible performance, as they always do. Those guys play their hearts out EVERY TIME they go on stage, and that is often. They give everything to their fans, which is how it should be, in my opinion. The songs were so tight and so good, they played a couple really old ones, and a couple new ones off of Crash Love, and a few from in between. I was kind of in heaven, I had a great view, and I love seeing AFI play.

AFI performs live at The Catalyst, January 28, Santa Cruz

My brother took some amazing pictures of AFI that night, check them out here.

So the night settled down, nothing to crazy that evening, as my stitches were still healing and that was a good excuse to kind of get to ruminate on the whole thing. I couldn’t have asked for a better show, with better people around me. I’ve already directly said my thanks to all mentioned, but to my family, my girlfriend, my friends, to that crowd, and to AFI, I have a lot of gratitude.

Now it is on to the next big show. I’m eager to get it all going. I’ll let you know as it unfolds… Thanks so much for stopping by…

Chuck Ragan's new album

I’m super excited to report that I’m gonna get to play a show with someone I’ve admired musically for a long time!

Chuck Ragan is a member of the hugely influential band Hot Water Music. He has released two solo albums recently, which are excellent. A couple months ago we recorded; I played cello on a few tracks on his upcoming album, he sang on a track on my upcoming album.

The show is this Friday, July 10, 2009 at 9pm at the Blue Lamp in Sacramento, CA. Tickets are $12 at the door.

Click here for more details!

I played at St. Joseph’s in Grass Valley this past weekend and it was seriously one of the most fun shows I’ve played in a while.

I always love playing there, even just being in that room, but this was super cool and fun and good. Got to play with Molly Allis of Huff This! on a couple of songs, and later in the evening she returned the favor and played with me.

And it was all about the crowd: they/you ruled. As soon as Molly started pounding out awesome drum action, everybody was on their feet and dancing and we ripped through new material off the upcoming album “Redwood Summer”… people danced to ‘The Unattended Ball’, ‘True North’ and then it all got crazy and everyone got loose for ‘Fever Saved Me‘. I mean, I’m telling you it was great.

Thank You!!! to all who made it, I had a ton of fun.

Dec 14, 2008 
I’ve been working like mad lately and in my late night hours I’ve been burning through my music list. One of the tracks from my old band “The Key” came up and I decided I’m really proud of this whole album, especially in retrospect. Especially in retrospect because I wrote this song about the approach of the US warplanes at the beginning of the Iraq war from the point of view of an innocent kid. Maybe my age, maybe in Baghdad… I still think it fits. The sounds at the end are from a giant (80,000 plus people) anti-war rally on the eve of the war. Before that scumbag W. pulled the trigger. Listen and enjoy…

In other news, I’m super busy in life and otherwise.

This Thursday I’m playing a show in Sacramento with Aaron Ross & The Heirs Of Mystery at a new club. Go to his myspace page for more details…

After that I’m driving down to Los Angeles to do some cello recording with Huff This! They’re putting together their album and I’m super glad to be able to contribute perhaps.

In the meantime, good progress is made on the solo cello album, the new cello/beats/vocals album. Those two will probably be released at the same time, in early spring.

Yes. That is what is. Hope you’re doing well…

 

I’m looking forward to this awesome show that Huff This! from NYC put together in Nevada City… I’m playing cello with Huff on a few songs. Their music is really haunting and beautiful, passionate and well written. Piano, and drums, and sometimes guitar. 

Black Bear, who also are really so great will also be playing, and there will be an art installation from Matthew Gottschalk… seriously this will be fun, come out!

“Huff This! with Black Bear and Dolli Melaine Huff This will be accompanied by Luke Janela on a few songs, Thad Stoener-guitar/bass, Dolli Melaine-vocals, Pete Newsom-drums and there are gonna be dancers! also Black Bear is going to be in its full six person formation which is totally dope. Matthew Gottschalk is going to be do a crazy string vortex istallation. and Dollie Melaine (back from Vienna) is going to kick off the evening with her dramatic vocals. we will not be selling alcohol.”

So this song is totally flooding your inbox now if you are subscribed to the podcast. I had a delay in my website being working, so, thanks to Tyler Booth at Stephouse.net, things are back in action!

Now that I’m playing these songs out live a lot, the recording of the new album is coming along… more to come, but for now, Candle:

[display_podcast]

September is here, and the air has cooled almost imperceptibly. I’m still looking for a long summer. Yes I have been very busy lately, hence the lack of a voice here in website land.

This weekend I had so much fun it’s hard to put into words recording Aaron Ross‘ new album with him and Cody Feiler in the old church at St. Joseph’s in Grass Valley. Last night was the last of three nights recording there, and we were all banging on drums at midnight. It was some of the finishing touches on the most productive recording weekend I’ve ever been a part of. His album is so amazing, I’m listening to the roughs of it right now and it is so amazingly complex, varied, smart and moving I can’t wait for it to get out in the world.

Melora Creagan
I’m already also excited about the Mondo Cello Fest, which is coming around sooner than I’ll know I’m sure. The bottom line is that this touring show is so packed full of incredible cellists and is like, going to be the best show ever when it comes through your town… I’m going to post all the info here for your reading pleasure, and in the meantime be sure to go to the

Click here to visit the MySpace Page for the Mondo Cello Fest for info on tickets and the performers

October 15th—Broadway Performance Hall Seattle, WA

October 16th—Aladdin Theater Portland, OR

October 17th—Slim’s San Francisco, CA

October 18th—The Unknown Theater Los Angeles, CA

(more…)

I love New York City, having had Oh So Much Experience there (I’ve spent a total of like, two weeks there). But it is super amazing. And I’ve been wanting to play this place Pete’s Candy Store for a long time. Much respect to it, a lot of my musical heroes have passed through there at one time or another.

And so, I’ll be there September 21, a Sunday evening, playing at 10:30. NYC People, come out and be there. Spread the word if you have friends there (it seems like we all do!).

Live at Amnesia - 07)31(08

Pre-PS… if you have any pictures that you’d like to share via flickr, go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/lukejanelalive and join in…

It was, indeed, the best show ever, and, though I can’t really sum up why, here are some of the elements:

1. My family was there. My cousin, two of my brothers, my sister in law, and my girlfriend were there, and it made me happy that they made it. I felt more at ease and comfortable pre-show (I am usually freaking out feeling ill with nerves) then I have in a long long time. I’m so glad that after all these years they’re not sick of my music (or me) yet!

2. My friends were there. A lot of my brothers’ friends showed up and it really meant a lot to me to see them there. They’ve been coming to my shows in SF for several years now, and I really can’t begin to say how much it rules that were there. I really respect them in general, and so it meant a lot to me.

On top of that, amazingly, some friends whom I had not seen in literally 7 years showed up. (One of them brilliantly sang for the headlining band SEAQUENCER). When I saw them in the audience (I didn’t know they were coming) I had to do a double take to believe that it was actually them. It was so good to reconnect. It kind of blew me away. It made me appreciate what real friendship is (you know… it stands the test of time, no words necessary to catch up, et cetera).

3. The venue/sound was perfect. Amnesia is a really cool bar, the ambience is dark and bohemian, the drinks are strong, the velvet plush, and the sound guy (thanks mike!) did a fantastic job with my absurdly over the top setup (two drum machines via midi, two cello pickups, vocals, and effects!). I felt really at home there, and the room glowed a cool red.

4. The crowd was really cool, and totally into it. Looking out over the crowd, the room was packed, some people were dancing (which I love), and everyone was just… into it. It was great… really great!

5. Things went right. I was playing all new material, and any number of things could have gone wrong… forgetting parts, pressing the wrong button, falling out of tune… it certainly wasn’t perfectly in tune (it is still a cello after all) but really, it was fun to play new stuff.

6. The SF Weekly review, and a blurb in the SF Ist… Honestly, I can’t say enough about the insightful, kind, and, I felt, poignant review in the SF Weekly. It did a lot to bring people out, and it did a lot to kind of affirm the sound I’m going for now…

7. On and on. I just really can’t sum up how much I enjoyed this show. Here is to many more. As a friend toasted at the end of the night:

“May the best of your past be the worst of your future.”

rad cello dudesers

I am extremely honored to get to share the stage this October with this unbelievable lineup of the best cello based indie music in the United States! Having this incredible group of musicians all taking the stage the same night is sure to be phenomenal.

Here are the dates and locations:

October 15th–Broadway Performance Hall Seattle, WA
October 16th–The Aladdin Theater Portland, OR
October 17th–Slim’s San Francisco, CA
October 18th–The Unknown Theater Los Angeles, CA

The Lineup:

Zoe Keating

Portland Cello Project

Bonfire Madigan

Loop!Station

Judgement Day

Merch

Luke Janela

If you are in these cities and you like the cello, you HAVE to go to these shows. You will love it because it will rule.

Much is falling into place, but slowly, more like leaves than rocks. I am very excited to have confirmed the following live performances.

July 13 – Portland, OR – Outdoor Concert – More details to follow
July 31 – San Francisco, CA – Amnesia

and for now last but not least
October 15 – 18 – Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles – The Mondo Cello Tour

Stay tuned for more details!