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GRACE MCKAGAN // Live at Winston House. 05/10/22

A few weeks ago, I received a message from Grace McKagan. She invited us to her private show at the Winston House. I initially thought this was going to be a DIY house show at a guy's place named Winston. I had heard of those Winston House shows happening in Venice and I was eager to finally make it. Turns out the once-private house shows have now materialized into a real venue. Correy McGuire and his group of friends (none of them was named Winston by the way, the name is a nod to Correy's childhood dog) started to organize shows every Thursday in 2016 in their loft. At first, it was a kind of work/live situation, yet Thursday after Thursday, they grew a real community of artists and fans. Things started to hit off after a couple of A-List performers started to perform. The buzz factor proceeded from the very fact you'd never know in advance who was going to perform. You could discover an amazing up-and-coming artist (Billie Eilish performed early in her career for example) or be part of the happy few attending the top-secret show of an established act like Weezer. I will never know the charms of the old Winston House but the new version of it is quite stunning. Check it for yourself. Fancy doesn't always mean tasteless, and in that case, it's pretty much the opposite. Every corner of the venue is carefully designed and wood is everywhere, which makes it so cozy. The beautiful lobby with the main bar, the venue itself, the Mezzanine that offers an amazing view of the stage, every corner of every room is designed to be as equally important. The wall of vinyl records, the checker tables, the additional bars, no detail was spared. I'm not gonna lie, it also makes it highly Instagrammable. Wherever you are, even in the hallway leading to the restrooms, it's always a great spot for the occasional selfie.

I brought my friend Julien with me, he’s also a film photographer and I thought we could improvise a short photo session with Grace if we had time. Luck was on our side because, right after we parked, we stumbled on Grace who was having a smoke break under the typical arches of Windward (the iconic street with the Venice sign by the boardwalk). I said hi and thanked her for inviting us. She explained to me that the purpose of the night was to do a showcase for some industry people and her friends.

Grace McKagan - By Vincent Walter Jacob (Canon Sureshot - Kodak Trix400 - Home developed).

Her music is different than what you would expect because of her filiation. Yes, she’s the daughter of a famous couple but she’s carving a path of her own, not compromising any bit of artistry for easy fame. Being the daughter of a high-profile rock star has certainly some perks but she's also probably dealing with all kinds of expectations. Anyhow, Grace is sticking to her vision, a very English garage rock with hints of Blondie, Grunge accents, inhabited by the careless and free spirit of Eagles Of Death Metal. And even if it's branded as a solo act, her band is very important in the making of that vision. Blues Williams (Guitar), Trent Pelz (Bass), and Mike Robinson (Drums) are core elements of her sound. Her music is made to be played live.

Julien and I ordered a drink and toured the place before taking place in the audience to check the opening band. Corey McGuire, the face of the Winston House, got on stage and took pride in reestablishing the values and the concept of the night. There's one thing he insists on: everybody must be silent during the performances.

I had a weird feeling when Indio Ink, the opening band, took the stage. The singer was ostensibly inspired by Kurt Cobain in the way he presented himself and I initially thought they were going to be a tribute band. Same long hair (although not blond), ripped jeans, classic 90's MTV shirt, the signature cardigan, a pair of worn Converse, and a Fender guitar, he had the whole panoply of the perfect Grunge boy.

Indio Ink (Singer, Guitarist), by Vincent Walter Jacob, iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 90’s and Grunge music. After all, I was there when it happened. Well, not exactly… I was still living in a small village in Burgundy, France when the Grunge revolution happened. I didn’t have MTV but I had a friend who had cassettes. He notably played Nevermind and Superunknown for me. I didn’t understand the lyrics of course but I could relate to what they expressed through their music, attitude, and sense of (anti)fashion. I felt the same suburbian ennui and the generational anxiety they expressed and it was enough for me to feel I had found my tribe in the Pacific Northwest. It was my first encounter with rock n’ roll and it changed my life because, for the first time, I felt that I belonged to something bigger. I wouldn’t probably live in the US if it wasn’t for the moment I heard Nirvana for the first time. Finally, someone gave a voice to a whole generation of people who felt unfit. It helped us relieve the pressure to be part of a norm we rejected, allowed us to stay in the margin and be creative. It offered values of inclusiveness that we embraced and proudly opposed to ambient bigotry in the world and around us. Of course, I soon imitated my new idol, I ripped my jeans, got my first guitar and I grew my hair. I learned to play the first two chords of "About a girl" and reversed them. Bam! I wrote my first song. Soon, it was all about Seattle and the US. I got the whole Kurt panoply and I looked exactly like the Indio Ink singer. I guess that’s why I had that weird feeling when they arrived on the stage. It took me back to my teenage years. I'm glad to see Kurt has a renewed impact on this new generation of artists.

I got from their social media accounts that Indio Ink just rebranded, they got a new name and a new lineup around the lead singer. The drummer was debuting with the band for that particular performance. They indeed played songs inspired by the Grunge era, combining simple but rather efficient power chords with catchy melodies. Some of the arrangements reminded me of The Pixies. Again, not an abnormal reference for a Grunge-inspired band. The keyboardist added some colors to the mix, bringing the band to unexpected and welcome territories.

Soon after, Grace and her trio of musicians took the stage and delivered a stunning performance. The band was tight and Grace was on fire, uninhibited and magnetic. They’re about to go on tour with Slater and I’m telling you, don’t miss them because they will certainly kick some serious ass. They played a rather short set but it was fuelled with energy, starting with a bang with the well-named « So Hyper ». They then performed an impressive new unreleased track called « Get you high » immediately followed by « Texas » a Pink Slip cover (Grace’s first band). « Check Mate » was another new and exhilarating unreleased track. I can’t wait to be able to hear the studio version of it so I can drench myself in Blues’ reverb and tremolo sounds. Right after, they played their newest single « Baby that’s rock n’ roll », an efficient song that reinforces Grace’s rock ethos and cinematic imagery. The set ended up with « One you love » and « Surrender », my personal favorite. Like I said in a previous live review, they have a clear vision of their sound, it’s referenced but tastefully crafted in their unique way. We recommend it.

They got everything they need: a charismatic singer, a tight band, and a great sound.

You should check our episode with Grace if you haven’t yet.

- Vincent

Vincent Walter Jacob - Canon Sureshot - Kodak 400 tri-x (home developed).

Julien André - Contax G1- Ilford 3200 (home developed).


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