Saturday, April 6, 2013



Temecula, CA – During my occupation at Occupy LA, a Filipino friend asked me with a slight attitude, “Well, are you going to move to LA?” 

Lee Koch
She, as well as my readers know, detected my growing infatuation with the city of LA. But I told her “No,” because the ‘magic’ read creative energy here is unique in swerve from what you feel in LA. Friday night at the Temecula Theater in Old Town, Lee Koch (‘Cook’), echoed that sentiment in his radio friendly, country-flavored, fiddle-strung song, ‘Celebrities’.

As I sat there in the darkened TV studio-sized playhouse, a perfect place to showcase the type of talent I cut my teeth on in becoming the local ‘scene historian’, I looked around at the newly exposed older patrons to gauge their reaction. The standing ovation given Lee, his fellow musician band mates, and the songs that were all proceeded by a heartfelt introduction before the evening’s encore, said it all.

I could flashback here and give you a background story, but I’ll cut to the chase. The music scene that I cover, the underground music scene, exhibits songs made by artists for listening to by people who appreciate music and talent, not to be confused with people who like to be entertained by music and stars.
With that said, the music field in this valley has been and still is, vibrant in talent. A few of the very talented musicians also share a gift for attracting other stars who compliment them with their talent. This is the case with Lee’s long time friend/fellow live-music fan, Jesse Olema, the lanky musician who plays his fiddle sometimes like a fiddle and other times picks the fiddle like a lead guitar. The licks he hit during his standout solos melted the faces of the ‘snow tops’ like a heat ray applied through the ears.

The show started promptly on time with The Brewer Boys (The X Factor) warming up the crowd as a duo with an added djembe player (Tom Wiker) providing a beat for the range of genres, from new country to bluegrass with pop and folk rock songs mixed in, that mark the wider appeal geared toward the T-town music market who attend community sponsored events and fundraisers. The current combination of acoustic guitar and mandolin, as seen on the popular Geico commercials, is just as appealing, maybe even more so, when the two musicians are 18 and 15, respectively.

After a short set-up break of maybe seven minutes, Lee, a Temecula Music Fest alum, and his current band cast, Jesse, the aforementioned fiddler, another Jesse [Siebenberg], drums/percussion, plus a newly added bass player who doubled on synth to cover organ and sax parts, seemed a member longer than 3 weeks. After that, the talent of like attracting like shown out for all to hear and see in song, as intros ran from poignant to humor to insightful, followed by the tuneful examples written* by self-taught singer/songwriter/harmonica/guitarist, Lee Koch. Holy Shades of Bipsy!

Jesse on fiddle (far right), TMF organizer Bill Gould, left from Lee, center, with guest drummer Phil Locash
 Accustomed to a more relaxed environment, the group took a perceived break to give the audience a chance to stretch their legs mid-set. Upon return, the majority of the row in front of me did not return, which was a pity. A story would later be told by Lee’s mother about the spontaneous connection baby Lee made to his father Bob and the sound of his Martin guitar almost at birth. Lee did My Father’s House, a song his father wrote* as he played his father’s Martin onstage for his old hometown.

Fresh from a break and heartened by the old hometown reception/applause, Lee and company returned ‘warmed up’ and the fiddle solos commenced with some song jam breakdowns in what was clearly a looser, ‘tent show revival’ second half. That brought the encore, always a plus at any music show.

Lee Koch, onstage, Temecula Music Fest

A Lee Koch show features original songs that run from blues, jazzy blues, country, new bluegrass, new Christian, and new Americana, each done to a beat spin appropriate for its genre (as in, duh, fresh!). Lee’s voice has a timbre that is unique for capturing a song’s essence and then resonate that soul into a sound.
The latest CD, Whole Heart, is being promoted on 2013's diy Free From Misery Tour, which commenced after an all-too-brief appearance on TV’s The Voice seen on one of the corporate networks. This release records Lee’s journey after he left T-town, moved to Ventura, a surf community that wouldn’t let the promising songwriter/story teller swap singing for baking, and got married. The journey for this CD to your heart starts to unfold with the very first track and winds up, not down, with a rousing 'settlement house' rocker that rides in on a standup piano with a choir called, Keepin’ On, and it's done live!
Though the song topics occupy the typical range of subjects facing a person today, especially one newly married (3yrs) having a 2 month old baby girl (the ‘honeymoon’ stage of having kids), the poetic lyrics and vocal styling’s of Lee’s genuine unprogramed tones are what sell every song like a great B&W still. The additional ensemble of talented band member friends, as you could tell they are, just turn that still into a color movie of motion, which was effectively showcased in the theater’s stage lighting.

In loving memory to Siskel & Ebert, who are once again sharing the aisle seats, the personal journey CD release, Whole Heart, gets ‘two thumbs up’ from me. Get your copy and then catch the Free From Misery Lee Koch Tour. Next tour stops close by are today at the River Walk in Fallbrook and tomorrow in O-side at the Black Sheep Yoga Studio.

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