Saturday, February 19, 2011


Amanda Jo Williams performs at The Sanctuary
Amanda Jo Williams performs at The Sanctuary
photo by picksysticks

by JPegg

It was nearing midnight. He was about to leave The Sanctuary, a church in Santa Monica that appeared to have been gutted of its religion and god long ago. The exterior had the same eeriness of a church graveyard at night with a few burned out lights. On the inside, the pulpit and choir was now a stage, and the pews replaced by sofas, recliners, and cushion seats of yard sale variety. There was still wine, but also beer, both for three dollars, very cheap. The offering was a five-dollar donation at the door. Live music performances all night, instead of a fearful sermon. It was a very relaxed place full of friendly and festive youth hippies, basically. It almost felt like a homeless shelter after an apocalypse, a lot of dark linen and layered knits, keeping warm, but a safe haven where people forgot the outside world full of white-collar, money hungering zombies for an evening.

He was outside now, looking down the road to the bright Main Street a few blocks away where the college kids were hanging out, loud and obnoxious, in the typical bars and restaurants across from Starbucks. He saw and heard them and was glad he was in the dimmer, lesser known, little happening place of the church. Four bands had played and there was only one remaining.

He turned and almost left when he saw two interesting ladies talking. One was cute, tall and lean, bright sunshine hair, while the other was matted dark with tattoos with what looked liked scripture on her neck. It was like a yin and yang, day and night, looking at them. Sunshine was smoking a cigarette and Tattooed Darkness was drinking a clear liquid from a small fishbowl. He was so interested in them that he asked Sunshine for a cigarette. She had nice eyes too as she gave him a menthol. Then Tattooed Darkness offered to light it for a dollar. Sunshine kept out of it, letting Darkness do her thing. He gave a dollar to Tattooed Darkness. She tried to light his smoke, but could only make the lighter spark. He causally took the lighter from her unsteady hands and lit his cigarette himself. He offered Sunshine a dollar for the cigarette, but she declined.

They talked for a few, but the two ladies then had to leave, excusing themselves, saying that they were performing on stage with Amanda Jo Williams. He laughed hard inside of the odd coincidence, but showing only a grin, he knew now he had to stay and watch the last band.

Amanda Jo Williams sat center stage behind a kick drum and holding a ukulele sized guitar. Two shaggy beards were behind her, one on bass and other with electric guitar. Sunshine and Tattooed Darkness flanked opposite ends. Sunshine tinkered on toy piano while Darkness played with two empty High Life beer bottles and a taped-together tambourine. He saw this and felt sad that he had not given more than that dollar. As for Sunshine, he silently wished her the best of luck up there.

Overall, Amada Jo Williams was great with her childlike chipmunk voice (one comment was that she sounded like Sandy Cheeks from SpongeBob SquarePants) singing simple lyrics, “I am just a country girl,” babying her tiny guitar, and toe tapping the drum petal with her boot. All the other band members appear to flood the sound with unwanted instruments. The guitarist seemed like he was trying to do a solo between every breath, too much. Sunshine and Tattooed Darkness looked like they meant well, but off rhythm most times, playing catch-up or hopscotch. The good thing was that it seemed like they were all having fun, like a jam session in a barn or something. It looked to him like a group of musician relatives that have not met in a long while, playing together for the first time at a hoedown family reunion. Maybe, he thought, there was too much lightning in that goldfish bowl of clear liquid that was being passed around during the set. They were relaxed and having fun, but he thought it might be good to see Amanda Jo Williams perform a solo show next time, without the backyard folkies.