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The Best of L.A. on a Summer’s Night

It’s one of those nights when Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal cruise on by and you find yourself thinking “what a cute couple” instead of “don’t stare at the movie stars.” There was no denying that, with the flagellation of the Michael Jackson Memorial and mourning, it had been a week where it sometimes felt […]

It’s one of those nights when Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal cruise on by and you find yourself thinking “what a cute couple” instead of “don’t stare at the movie stars.”

There was no denying that, with the flagellation of the Michael Jackson Memorial and mourning, it had been a week where it sometimes felt that all the light had been beaten out of the glitter and the grime of the City of Angels.

However, up at the Hollywood Bowl on July 12, it was one of those nights — in a town where everyone endlessly seems to be waiting for the sun to inevitably shine on them — where the splendor that Los Angeles can unravel itself to reveal seemed as serene as the fluttering of Gabriel’s wings.

In this company town, we so easily sometimes forget that the second largest city in America is also a home, a history and a place where not only the stars come out to play.

Streaming up Highland that warm evening, with bags full of treats from Trader Joe's and bottles of wine, fans of soul folkster Ray Montagne came to clear off the weekend by hanging out and hearing some music from the man from Maine backed up by the Bowl’s own orchestra.

In a way, it was the best of Los Angeles captured in a few hours.

Sure this was a perfectly disheveled KCRW crowd, but then again, as a part of its World Festival series, this was a KCRW event — and if there is anything the little-NPR-station-that-could knows how to do its good music.

“Without question the Bowl is a magical venue,” Jason Bentley, the station’s music director and host of the daily “Morning Becomes Eclectic” program said to me, “but it's the maverick spirit of these summer concerts that makes for an unforgettable music program.”

Bentley was certainly hitting the right note on Sunday, especially for this predominately hometown crowd that wanted to get mellow but not too mellow, if you know what I mean.

After openers, Jenny Lewis and her band — including songwriter Johnathan Rice, who played Roy Orbison in “Walk the Line” — kicked in with a perfect combo of plucky and savvy. The present Queen of the latest Laurel Canyon scene got the 17,000 to sing along to her song “Silver Lining,” which was very L.A  in a perfect summer day kinda way.

Getting into the summer stretch, the proms, with their form-fitting dresses and overstuffed limos, are over, Kobe and the Lakers’ victory parade is done, and it looks like there will be a Sunset Junction Street Fair and Concert in late August after all.

Already “Angels & Demons” seems so long ago, “Wolverine” and “Watchmen” now seem more Mickey Mouse than superhero and “Star Trek” just seems a memory.

“Public Enemies” and “Bruno” have arrived and, like well-behaved pets, quickly settled. Not that busyness doesn’t still abound. There’s the upcoming ensemble double-G of the animated “G-Force,” out on July 24 with star voiceovers from Nicholas Cage, Penelope Cruz and “The Hangover’s” Zach Galifianakis, and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” out on August 7.

Before that though, we’ll all take that trip to Hogwarts to watch “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Then the Emmys are announced on the 16th, the same day partially reunited L.A. punk pioneers the Germs, whose new lead singer is Shane West the actor who played the deceased frontman Darby Crash in the movie about the Germs, crank it up at the El Ray. The backbeat gets even faster come July 23, when Comic-Con, the Cannes of blockbusters, flings open its annual doors in San Diego.

And soon it’s summer 2010 and a whole new slew of sequels and blockbusters will be on the cusp of their wave …

But before that, just for a moment, it’s this Sunday night and headliner Ray LaMontagne is fitting nicely in with the Bowl orchestra.

Most of it is the sort of gentle lament you expect from the man and his music, the sort of songs that make it almost sad that looking up at the sky most of the lights you see are not stars but planes coming in or out of LAX.

But then it takes a turn.

On Montagne’s “Hey Me, Hey Mama,” the orchestra turned the rollicking tune into joyous Dixieland Jazz.  Like L.A. on a summer’s night, you’d think it could all fall apart faster than a High School Geometry project, but, just like the crowds later heading back down Highland to cars, buses and the unheralded subway, it all held together just fine — very L.A. in a perfect summer night kinda way.

From Presidential politics, celebrity culture & Hollywood, microeconomics, rock 'n' roll, the NoBrow tabloid obsessions of modern America & a touch of everything else in-between, Dominic Patten almost never doesn't have a TKO opinion on something. He's also TheWrap's "L.A. Noir" columnist. Check out more of Patten’s work here.