I’ve seen Madi Diaz 3 times this summer and I would go see her again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that if I could. I literally cannot get enough. Over the weekend, Madi played a perfect 45 minute set at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, with opening acts Holly Conlan and The Young Romans.
I walked in not knowing much about the openers, but had heard some positive remarks about Holly. Imagine my surprise when Holly Conlan turned out to be the girl from All Spots to Black, a band I reviewed a couple weeks earlier and did not really like. However, for All Spots to Black, Conlan is more of the back-up token chick and when her music is front and center, the result is much more successful. Conlan falls into the Sara Bareilles pop-singer-songwriter category. While Bareilles is far from my cup of tea, Conlan performs perky pretty pop tunes centered around core piano melodies with similar results – enjoyable tunes that are easy to listen to and enjoy.
Up next came The Young Romans, a four piece group, the heart of it being a female guitarist/singer and a male keyboardist/singer, Sari Mellafe and Brad Hooks. The harmonies between the singers are star, although Hooks really seemed to command the stage and sound. Their sound is reminiscent of The Swell Season (from the movie “Once”), where both members are solid individually but together, their ethereal blend of layered vocals creates something truly special. They’re best known for their tune “Where You Go,” which is featured in Ewan McGregor flick “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” which has a strong beat and folky vibe. After their set, I made a mental note to check them out further and am excited to see them again when they start their residency at The Hotel Cafe in October.
2 hours into a great show, it was time for Madi Diaz. Two other bands played after her, but to me, this was the main event . It’s almost impossible for me to write about this Nashville based artist without gushing: she’s just that good. Madi started off her set alone, just her voice and a guitar. Diaz is absolutely adorable on stage. She has a girl next door sweetness that makes girls like me want to be bffs with her. She’s down to earth and playful, just as her folky, indie-pop music would suggest. Later she was joined by friend Adam Popick, who played a variety of instruments from guitar to bass to drums, sometimes impressively simultaneously. With just the two of them on stage, the set was stripped down, which works great for Madi’s sound as it finds success in simplistic subtleties. She doesn’t need a full band to grab everyone’s attention – her thoughtful songwriting skills and expressive voice are more than enough.
Madi played songs from her album “Plastic Heart,” with notable favorites being “Down We Go” and “Love You Now,” both a bit melancholic with touching lyrics about everyone’s favorite subject – relationships. You can feel every emotion in her music through her emotive playing. As she’s working on a new album, she performed several songs I’ve never heard before, creating excitement for her new release. She ended with crowd pleaser “Every Time I Reach Out,” which is fun, joyful and ended the set on an upbeat note. While Madi’s recordings are more than fine, her live performances are truly something else. Her voice is effortless, always pitch perfect and sort of timeless in a way that’s appealing to anyone with ears. You can almost overlook her talent because she just makes it appear so easy as she her voice floats over quiet tender moments and moves into strong rising climaxes that are quite literally chill inducing. Luckily for me, and the rest of Los Angeles, Diaz has relocated to the west coast so we can count on many local shows in the future!