El Cid Bar & Restaurant is a quaint and cozy venue located on Sunset Boulevard in the Silver Lake community. I discovered it one night when I went to see the most adorable group, the Ukulele Orchestra, perform. Aside from the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed myself (the music was great), I managed to have a very satisfying meal, park, and get a night of entertainment all for less than $25.00! What’s shocking about that? Well, the caliber of food, service and ambiance usually comes with a much higher price tag.
The thing about El Cid that really made an impact was the way they embraced the independent artist. After the Ukulele Orchestra finished their set, a series of musicians showcased their talent, and each group that performed brought with them something unique and solid. The sound system was great, too. Overall, I left El Cid’s that evening, wanting to be a part of this thriving haven for “indie” talent!
I have since spoken with Michael McCarthy. We discussed the possibilities of doing a regular night of jazz, and that jazz would be a really great addition to this forward thinking community . . . Oh yeah, and I managed to get a really great interview out of it too.
Interviewed by Kaylene Peoples
Responses by Michael McCarthy
How long have you been promoting at El Cid?
I’ve been involved with El Cid since January 2007, so a little over 5 years.
How did you get involved in music promotion?
I played in rock bands around L.A. for years. My band mates and I would frequent all the rock clubs with our flyers, meeting people and promoting our band. We met tons of bands along the way and made lots of friends. The owner of a place called Highland Grounds asked us to host a night of our own, so we gathered some local acts and put together a show. It was very successful. He asked us to do it again several times. They were always well attended, and the talent was amazing. Eventually he asked me to book Friday nights. In less than three years I was booking all the entertainment and hosting the biggest and best “open mic” in L.A. Lots of notable singer/songwriters played there in the early stages of their careers; Katy Perry used to come down and play. It was an awesome scene. Sadly, it closed in 2006. Hotel Café has filled that void and elevated the whole scene to a new level. It was then that I walked into El Cid and started a new journey.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Temple City, which is a quant L.A. suburb just east of the city. I come from a big working class Irish Catholic family. I put my parents through a lot of hell growing up. I spent most of my time playing music, performing at illegal backyard keg parties, and hanging with friends. Yet miraculously I still managed to graduate high school. I took a semester of community college and bailed on it immediately. It was so boring to me. I was done with school. I wanted to play music.
I visited El Cid for the first time to see The Ukulele Orchestra. I loved the
venue; it was so intimate. What kinds of performances are featured there?
El Cid is a true variety night type venue. That’s part of the reason I love it so much. We still do the Flamenco Dinner Show Friday through Sunday, which has been going for fifty years. We also do recurring film screening events, sketch comedy, variety night shows, burlesque, open mic, storytelling and many different types of live music. Most nights have a theme. Singer/songwriter, indie rock, alternative, country, hard rock, some avant-garde cross blends . . . you name it. We hosted an art rock opera singer recently, and of course you saw the twenty-piece ukulele orchestra play “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. So, it’s pretty mixed but in a really exciting way.
You will be bringing jazz into El Cid on June 13, 2012. Jazz has been scarce in Silver Lake in my experience. It seems to be a medium that has been somewhat misrepresented over the years. How do you feel that bringing jazz to El Cid will impact the community?
Improvisation and spontaneity play a big role in jazz music. It’s really exciting when the players take the music to a transcendent place and everyone in the room disappears into the moment together. I love that. Also, jazz music came before the big changes that occurred when rock stardom became the desired goal and motive for young people to pick up an instrument. Now that technology and economics are slowly dismantling the machine that has kept the rock star thing going I am seeing a lot more young musicians experimenting with pre-rock musical traditions. Old time blues, country, swing, etc. It’s working its way into their freaky alt rock thing. They don’t expect to be rock stars in this day and age, so they are taking more risks to make interesting music that is meant to be enjoyed on a localized level instead of chasing mainstream trends. Jazz is part of that tradition and I’d like to see it presented on the El Cid stage in its purest form.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about El Cid?
As of January 1, 2012, El Cid has been under new ownership. This legendary L.A. landmark is operated by people who truly love and appreciate the arts. I want to thank Scott Milano and Kelly Spencer for their unwavering commitment to providing a quality experience to our patrons as well as the great talent that graces our stage. Please join us on Wednesday June 13, as we introduce this new jazz night to the Silver Lake community.
Learn more about this amazing venue by visiting www.elcidla.com. El Cid is located at 4212 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90029