Play With Fire And The Hailers At Club Fais Do-Do, Friday March 9th 2018
Club Fais Do-Do on Adams Boulevard exults LA history, the place was built in 1930 at the height of the Art Deco period in what was known as the Sugar Hill District. The building, which was originally a movie house, became a bank then a neighborhood bar, allegedly frequented by legends such as Sam Cooke, Billy Preston and John Coltrane, but was re-baptized Café Club Fais Do Do in 1990, after the building’s New Orleans vibe and ‘the owner’s desire to create a racially mixed and musically diverse club which offers Angelenos a chance to extend their social, political, and musical boundaries.’ It’s always great to learn about the history of a place, and I had never been to Fais Do-Do before, despite the fact that Atoms for Peace played a very special show there a few years ago. But on Friday night, two bands, Play with Fire and the Hailers, performed for a good weekend starter.
Play With Fire may be an old-school Rolling Stones song, but it’s also the moniker of a band with a classic rock sound, led by singer/keyboardist Mark McKinniss surrounded by a large ensemble. McKinniss had definitively great vocals, strong and confident soaring above a layered sound, which sometimes evoked the classic sound of the ‘80’s with crafted guitar solos and sweet back up voices by singers Kaylie (McKinniss’ daughter), Carol Casey and Randi Douglas. The music was upbeat and as fun as a father-daughter musical dialogue, while his voice was soaring to some unexpected and out-of-the-range-for-your-average-guy heights. And this was especially true when they covered the famous Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic ‘I Put a Spell on You’.
Is that bad if I say I got the theme of ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ in my head during one of their songs? The song made famous by the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’? Probably not considering the 1987 tune won an impressive numbers of awards including an Academy Award, a Golden Glove Award and a Grammy Award!! But the band also got into much more bluesy detours during a few other numbers, in particular when guitarist Tommy Tequila took the lead on vocals for ‘Black Cat Bone’.
Bring’ em Back Alive’, one of the songs of their self-titled EP, was the most fired-up of the set, with a sort of Bo Diddley jungle-thunder and a powerful rhythm section by Matt Bragg on bass, and Billy DiBlasi on drums. The musicians of Play With Fire have obviously been around, but they played their first show ever just last year, opening for Rick Derringer and the Standells at the Palace theater in Downtown LA, getting closer to the dream for McKinniss, who did front other fun bands in the past.
The second and large band, the Hailers, had a loud and full sound, with even a horn section (a saxophone), which are quite rare in rock band these days. Equally led by Wales-born frontman, Robert Mills, on vocals and guitar, who refers to himself as ‘Lord Hailer’, and by his wife bassist April ‘Lady Hailer’ Mills, their band played a few rock songs often stretching to long full jams.
Their music has been qualified of ‘CARR’ music: Celtic-American Rock N Roll… which could be somewhat misleading because there was nothing folk in their mix of classic rock, blues and bombastic layered harmonies. There was a touch of ska during a song, a touch of Spanish guitars and south-of-the-border tempo with slide guitar during another very catchy one, which was repeatedly mentioning Mexico. But that was probably the blend of bluesy guitar, slide guitar, saxophone, bass, percussion with additional keys that made their music an unique combination, led by soulful vocals
Fais Do Do is alive and well, said Mills toward the end of the set, and nobody wanted to contradict him.