Tag Archives: The Black Keys

Under the Covers with Jessica Lea Mayfield


Jessica Lea Mayfield knows a thing or two about life on the road. The well-seasoned traveling musician was playing in her family’s band before hitting her ninth birthday.

A nomadic lifestyle was cemented when Black Keys’ front man Dan Auerbach heard Mayfield’s “White Lies” EP – six songs the then-15-year-old recorded in her brother’s bedroom – and agreed to produce her first two full-length albums.

Mayfield, now 25, spread her creative wings with 2014’s “Make My Head Sing,” adding new sonic textures and self-producing with husband/bassist Jesse Newport.

But with tour dates for “Make My Head Sing” winding down, you’d think the perpetually homesick performer would take some time off.

She’s not.

Instead, she’ll head back out on the road to promote her upcoming, long-in-the-works Elliott Smith covers record with The Avett Brothers’ Seth Avett.

“We started it about four years ago,” Mayfield told DiscoverSD from her home in Ohio. “It was one of those things that we did when we could. I went to North Carolina, and Seth came up here, but it’s always hard to find that time — especially for a project where we’re doing it for fun.”

Appropriately titled “Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith,” the project came from very modest beginnings.

“We were on tour together and just hanging around backstage,” Mayfield said. “Seth was playing the song ‘Twilight’ on the piano, so I started singing along. It really was born out of shared love for Elliott Smith’s music. Neither of us have ever done anything like this, but it’s something we definitely have in common.”

Mayfield also shares plenty of parallels with her muse. From guitar playing, songwriting and admission of unease in the spotlight, to the uncompromising, personal and candid lyrics of both artists, they share plenty of ties. But Mayfield admits that with Smith, it runs even deeper.

“I’ve felt a connection to his lyrics since I was a teenager,” she said. “But I meet people and they tell me that they relate to my songs. It always surprises me that people can attach their emotions to them. But Elliott Smith is one of the only songwriters that does that for me.”

After her solo shows wrap in February, Mayfield will hit the road with Avett in March. It’s undetermined whether additional dates will be added, but Mayfield is already working on her next album. And the strange paradox of a shy homebody who spends her life on the road will begin again.

“I can’t pretend to be normal,” Mayfield said. “I’ve made it this far in the real world saying what’s on my mind and I haven’t been locked up yet. Art brings out emotion. It’s embarrassing, interesting and intriguing. But a lot of times I want to hide all of these things inside me. I feel like I’ve given away too much insight and too many puzzle pieces. But I’ve put myself out there for a living. It’s strange, but it’s all I’ve ever done.”

Originally published by DiscoverSD



The Creation of the Casbah

“Nirvana, the White Stripes, Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, the Black Keys.”

Casbah owner Tim Mays could go on. As a matter of fact, he wants to but stops himself, knowing that even the fascinating list of bands that once played to half-capacity or less in his small clubs by the airport is far from telling the full story.

Born in Los Angeles, Mays moved to Barstow when he was young, shortly after his parents divorced. He came to San Diego to attend SDSU in 1973 and fell in love with the city. A self-proclaimed “huge music fan,” he continuously attended concerts and soon started making the trek back to L.A. to see the onslaught of punk rock shows there in the ’80s.

After a while, he decided to ditch the commute and began to try to bring those same punk rock shows down to San Diego.

And it worked.

Sort of.

“I started as a punk rock promoter,” Mays said recently. “I put on punk rock shows in the ’80s at venues all over town. But you didn’t own back then; you rented. And I did that for five years or so. And, really, there weren’t a lot of places to book shows at that time. You’d be at a place for awhile and then the neighbors — or the police, or somebody — would get upset, so you’d have to move on and find a new location. I worked my way through venues all over town. Then I got tired of it for awhile, because of all the violence and the skinhead problem: It wasn’t good, and it really took away a lot of great opportunities, so I quit.”

Mays didn’t leave his place in the music business for long, though.

“I ended up opening a bar with a few friends called the Pink Panther,” Mays said. “It was really successful, and it gave us the opportunity to buy another place that had the license for live music, and that was the first Casbah [which was just up the street from where it is now]. And before we knew it, the opportunity came along to triple our size and buy the location we’re in now from a woman who was running it as a lesbian bar. So we bought it and moved here. It gave us a full liquor license and gave us the patio, which wasn’t a big deal back then. But then they passed the no smoking rule, and it became a huge asset. It was during that time we started doing shows at other locations as well. So now, we develop bands at the Casbah, and when they get bigger, we work with them at every level that we can beyond the Casbah.”

As evidenced by the appearance of the club’s ubiquitous crescent moon and star logo on show ads all over town, Mays regularly secures gigs at venues throughout the city for bands that have outgrown the Casbah. And while he enjoys seeing those same bands extend both their fan base and need for performance space, Mays has no interest in anything but keeping the Casbah exactly the size that it is now.

“People ask me that all the time, but I like this size,” Mays said. “There are a lot of nights where there are only 40 or 50 people in the club. On any given month, maybe we’ll sell out 10 or 15 shows. The rest of the time, it’s less than capacity here. And if the place was bigger, it just wouldn’t work. Plus, we have the opportunity to book the bands into bigger clubs when they outgrow the room. And they’re willing to work with us because we develop the bands from the ground floor. I’m perfectly happy with this size. I’m content.”

Part of that satisfaction comes from the “huge music fan” in Mays, who can routinely be found in attendance of many of the shows he’s booked. And while it would be impossible for Mays to name all of his favorites over the years, he doesn’t let that stop him from trying.

“There’s just so many of them: the Jesus Lizard, Jon Spencer, the Breeders — I could go on and on,” Mays said. “I mean, Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps came through when they were in their 70s and put on a fantastic show. RL Burnside was here and it was insane, amazing stuff. And right when they were getting back together, the Cult played here, and it was incredible. We’ve just been lucky to get a lot of good bands or bigger bands that come down to do a warmup gig for a tour or something. The proximity to LA helps in that respect.”

Whatever it is, the Casbah is now into its third decade of existence and shows no signs of slowing down.

“It’s amazing,” Mays said. “We’re on 22 years right now, and during that time, we’ve developed a lot of acts. And people can expect a lot more of the same. We’re always working on a number of things. I’ve got shows on hold through the summer, and there’s always some great stuff coming through the pipeline.”

Source: Creation of the Casbah | NBC San Diego
First published on NBC SoundDiego March 28, 2011

Black Lips (Photo by Zach Wolfe)

10 Best San Diego Live Shows of 2010

Because plenty of factors other than the music inform an opinion on live performance – the mood of the people that accompany you to the show, the guy with the ginormous head that stands directly in front of you, etc. – it’s musical Rashomon compiling one of these lists. That said, here are ten of the best things to hit San Diego stages in the last twelve months.

Black Lips (Photo by Zach Wolfe)

Black Lips – Casbah – January 24

I’m not quite sure whether this Atlanta-based “flower punk” quartet takes their music seriously, but it certainly doesn’t stop them from delivering high-energy, audience-friendly, wildly entertaining performances, and this night was no exception.

St. Vincent and Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Belly Up – Feb. 10

Not only did Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, make good on the promise of her two critically-acclaimed albums, singer Mariam Wallentin of Swedish opener Wildbirds & Peacedrums nearly stole the show with her amazing vocals and frenetic stage presence.

Bonobo – Casbah – April 20

It was unknown if Ninja Tune sound guru Simon Green, aka Bonobo, would be able to make his electronically-based down-tempo tunes translate on stage, but with an exceptional live band and vocalist Andreya Triana in tow, he did – and then some.

The Tallest Man On Earth – The Loft – May 5

He’s actually not that tall and hasn’t yet been able to shake incessant comparisons to Bob Dylan, but armed only with a guitar, Swedish troubadour Kristian Matsson had the entire audience smitten that night.

Billy Joe Shaver – AMSD concerts – June 20

Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of his songs of addiction, love, and loss played from the chancel of an old church, but this one-time songwriter for Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, and Kris Kristofferson delivered his outlaw honky-tonk as well as his engaging anecdotes.

Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson – Harrah’s – July 17

Yeah, yeah, I’m sure this might have been better 20, 30, or even 40 years ago, but these two legends didn’t miss a beat as they ran through some of the greatest classics in R&B/Soul history.

Joanna Newsom – SD Women’s Club – July 29

The pixie-voiced chanteuse ripped through her classical compositions with verve, switching back and forth from harp to piano, and charming the audience with her charismatic demeanor. Fleet Foxes front man Robin Pecknold opened the show with an engaging set of new tunes.

Seu Jorge and Almaz – Belly Up – August 11

The Brazilian singer/actor proved that he had far more up his sleeve than The Life Aquatic Bowie covers he’s best known for. Backed by members of the late Chico Science’s band, the mix of samba, rock, and Portuguese rhythms was electrifying.

The Black Keys – SOMA – September 25

I was sure that this Akron, OH, duo had lost some of its charm and power after expanding their sound beyond the lo-fi, garage-blues that launched them and adding additional touring members. I was wrong.

Mavis Staples – Belly Up – November 4

Working with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on her latest album, “You Are Not Alone,” infused this legendary gospel singer with new energy and those who caught this latest tour were the benefactors. She still belts it out with the best of ‘em and showcased why she’s been a respected figure in music for over five decades.

*Honorable mention goes to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Belly Up on October 3. The New York City punk-blues trio showcased their true professionalism and mastery of genre in their seamlessly orchestrated set.

Originally posted on NBC San Diego SoundDiego Blog on December 31, 2010.