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A Celebration Of The Life And Songs Of Paul Lacques

By Michael Doherty
April 13, 2024
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Friends and family gathered at McCabe’s last night to celebrate the music of Paul Lacques. It was a beautiful, touching and joyous night featuring some of southern California’s best musicians, people that Paul Lacques had played with throughout the years in bands like The Underthings, Rotondi, Earthworm Ensemble, Double Naught Spy Car, and I See Hawks In L.A. And the money raised from the tickets to this sold-out show went to help Victoria Jacobs pay remaining medical bills (same is true of all money made at the merchandise table). This night provided a much-needed opportunity for people to come together to show their love and appreciation for the music, for Paul, and for each other.

Even before the doors were opened, folks were meeting in line outside, greeting each other with hugs,  checking in with one another and sharing fond memories. It was the kind of night where you knew everyone else there, or at least their faces were familiar to you, and so you were comfortable when the tears came. The music began at 8, Victoria Jacobs opening the night with “Clever,” a song she wrote when she and Paul Lacques got engaged. She stopped when there was feedback, a moment that actually lightened the mood for everyone. For this song, she was joined by Paul Marshall on bass and Dave Zirbel on pedal steel. It’s a beautiful song, and its last line, “There’s no end to our love,” was especially moving last night.

“Clever” by Victoria Jacobs with Paul Marshall

Rob Waller said that the celebration would move largely in chronological order, giving a taste of the different music that Paul Lacques gave to the world. One thing that was striking was the wonderful diversity, the great range, of his material. I had first heard Paul in Double Naught Spy Car in the late 1990s, followed quickly by I See Hawks In L.A., two bands that themselves are quite different from each other, and was only vaguely aware of what had come before. But when Richie Lawrence and Katie Thomas took the stage, along with Simeon Pillich and Shawn Nourse, to play a couple of waltzes, it quickly became clear how wide Paul’s musical tastes spread. And those songs – “Leaving You,” from the Rotondi album Preaching + Confessing, and “The Wonderful Waltz” from the Goin’ South Band album Home In My Heart – were absolutely wonderful. Anthony Lacques, Dave Markowitz and Mike Stinson then joined them for the delightfully playful “Corn.” A fun number from Earthworm Ensemble’s self-titled album that had folks smiling and laughing.

“Brand New Mind” by The Underthings

It’s interesting to me how Paul Lacques worked with certain musicians on multiple projects. Richie Lawrence and Simeon Pillich remained on stage as The Underthings, led by Stefanie Naifeh, continued the celebration with a fantastic rendition of “Home In My Heart.” I know my girlfriend will say the last thing I need to do is buy more records and compact discs, but how could I not want to add all this music to my personal collection? They followed “Home In My Heart,” with “Voulez Vous Danser,” a song written in French. Stefanie said that the lyrics translate, in part, to “There is no reason to dance/I will dance.” Wonderful! That seems to be the philosophy of the music right there. Peter Lacques then joined them on harmonica for “Brand New Mind.” By the way, Marcus Watkins of Double Naught Spy Car played guitar on these songs. Then Double Naught Spy Car followed, with Danny McGough on keyboard. They played “Danger High!” (and, yes, the crowd shouted out the song’s title at the end), “Kay Sara Sarah” and “jan-michael vincent rehab.com,” Marcus Watkins on lap steel for those last two. McCabe’s doesn’t really have enough room for dancing, but those around me were bouncing in their seats.

“Kay Sara Sarah” by Double Naught Spycar
“Teresa” with the Lacques Brothers featuring Bubba Hernandez

Paul Lacques was part of a musical family, and four of his brothers came together last night to perform the I See Hawks In L.A. song “California Country.” They were then joined by the fifth brother, Gabe Lacques, for an energetic rendition of “Hecker Pass,” also an I See Hawks In L.A. song. Anthony Lacques switched from bass to drums for “Teresa,” with Bubba Hernandez (of Brave Combo) joining them on bass and vocals, and Richie Lawrence was on accordion. What a fun song! It raised my spirits tremendously. Bubba Hernandez encouraged people to dance if they wished, and through there wasn’t much room, some people did. This song was on Rotondi’s Play On album, which I need to pick up at some point. Tony Gilkyson and Rick Shea then took the stage to deliver a couple more Hawks numbers. Tony sang lead on a beautiful, slow, touching rendition of “Hope Against Hope,” a song from Grapevine.  Rick sang lead on a pretty rendition of that album’s title track, the audience singing along at the end.

“Hope Against Hope” and “Grapevine” with Tony Gilkyson and Rick Shea

I See Hawks In L.A. is one of my favorite bands, and last night Rob Waller, Paul Marshall and Victoria Jacobs were joined by Rick Shea, Tony Gilkyson, Richie Lawrence and Dave Zirbel. They started with one of the band’s more recent songs, “Salvation,” with Paul Marshall on lead vocals. In the introduction, Paul said it was the last song he and Paul Lacques wrote together. It’s an excellent song, and after the show a guy looking at the CDs for sale asked which one had that song on it. Unfortunately, it has not been included on any album, though I know a new album had been planned. They followed that with an energetic rendition of “Humboldt,” with Mike Stinson joining them on vocals. A seriously great jam. They kept the spirits high with “Good And Foolish Times,” with Rick, Tony, Dave and Richie all taking turns at leads. “We certainly had some good and foolish times,” Rob said before they started that song. Indeed. You could feel everyone in the room reflecting on some of those times, remembering and even rejoicing at those memories, and thankful to have experienced them. Then, in introducing “The River Knows,” Rob mentioned writing that song with Paul Lacques one morning while they were staying in Ireland. It was a beautiful and moving rendition. A certain number of songs had been planned, but the Hawks decided to add two more – “Carbon Dated Love,” which Victoria mentioned had not been rehearsed by the folks playing with them, and “I See Hawks In L.A.” The moment Dave Zirbel began that one on pedal steel, everyone in the room recognized it.

“Humboldt” featuring Mike Stinson

The Lacques Brothers, along with their sisters and the other musicians, joined the Hawks for the final song of the night, “Ride My Soul,” a song that was included on the Rotondi album Preaching + Confessing. Everyone in the audience was singing along too. It was a wonderful conclusion to the night. When the music was over, no one was in any particular hurry to leave. Eventually, an announcement was made asking folks to move to the front room so that the chairs could be put away. It was in that room that the merchandise table was set up, with all the money from sales going to help Victoria Jacobs covers the medical bills. I added two Rotondi records to my collection – Preaching + Confessing and Polka Changed My Life Today – as well as a cassette copy of the self-titled release from The Underthings. Obviously, there is a lot more music that I wish to explore, and that makes me happy, knowing that there are other Paul Lacques recordings that I have yet to hear. It’s not the same thing as getting to see him perform, but it is a way to keep that spirit going. His music is going to live on in these recordings, and in all those who continue to listen to the magic.

“Ride My Soul” Finale Singalong with the Lacques Family

Set List

  1. Clever
  2. Leaving You
  3. The Wonderful Waltz
  4. Corn
  5. Home In My Heart
  6. Voulez Vous Danser
  7. Brand New Mind
  8. Danger High!
  9. Kay Sara Sarah
  10. jan-michael vincent rehab.com
  11. California Country
  12. Hecker Pass
  13. Teresa
  14. Hope Against Hope
  15. Grapevine
  16. Salvation
  17. Humboldt
  18. Good And Foolish Times
  19. The River Knows
  20. Carbon Dated Love
  21. I See Hawks In L.A.
  22. Ride My Soul

Paul James Lacques (1954-2024)

I See Hawks In L.A. is brokenhearted to announce the passing of Paul Lacques, the driving force of the band.  Beyond his virtuoso guitar and lap steel playing, Paul was a vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and producer of prodigious talent and energy. A successful playwright, a committed political activist, a satirical cartoonist, a tender and loyal friend.

Never shy about sharing his opinions with anyone, he was averse to sharing his personal pain and problems.  Few knew of his battles over the last several years with the cancer that finally took his life.  That was the way he wanted it.  

He leaves behind an astonishing body of work, not just with ISHILA, but with Double Naught Spy Car, Earthworm Ensemble, the historic polka rebels, Rotondi, The Bonedaddys, The Underthings, numerous other bands, and the many, many artists for whom he contributed sometimes blazing, sometimes sensitive, always appropriate guitar, lap steel, jews harp, drums, production, songwriting, and more.

His ear for detail combined with a tireless mission for work provided the impetus for the Hawks’ 10 albums and steady touring and gigs.

Forever curious, often challenging, occasionally contentious, at his heart of hearts he was a gentle, sweet man, whose default was caring for others, not just his family and friends, but frequently complete strangers.

To say we will miss him is a monumental understatement.  But we hope and pray, and believe that his spirit will soar, like the hawks he loved to watch, free from pain, while his body rests in peace. He is survived by his beloved wife and Hawks drummer Victoria Jacobs, eight brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, and all who loved him and his music. 

MEET LOGGER PAUL

9/11 was a dark day for America, and a lighter shade of darkness for the self involved artiste known as me. Four hours after landing in Osaka, Japan, I watched the twin towers collapse on the TV in a performer’s dorm lounge, surrounded by bewildered Australians and Brits and numbed American musicians.

I was recently married, and cosmically coincidentally, my various music incomes abruptly dried up. We were broke. I abandoned my new and exciting project, an experimental country band called I See Hawks In L.A., for exile to Japan and performing a really horrible mishmash of American songs on really horrible instruments for Japanese tourists at the brand new Universal theme park in Osaka. An artistic nadir heralded by a national nadir we may never recover from.

Japan turned into a delightful two months respite from the military madness and ocean of red white and blue engulfing Los Angeles, and we didn’t want to come back. At LAX the change in atmosphere from enlightened and polite society to surly nihilism was palpable. Welcome home. What are these, sir?

I needed a job. My brother Anthony nepotized me into the lowly tape logging position at a History Channel production company, and I graduated to researcher, interviewing climate scientists, fusion scientists, anthropologists, candy makers, bomb makers, for the Modern Marvels series.

Seven years flew by and the company became a second family, full of stimulating conversations among the producers and writers, Quiznos and yogurt shops fulfilling your every Ventura Boulevard culinary need. I felt strange enjoying a day job as much as I did, even as my music projects also blossomed. Brother Anthony and I had been saving strange National Archives historical clips over the years just for fun, and envisioned a series of between-show non sequiturs showing up between History Channel shows. At a production meeting I finally proposed just that, and the execs said, yeah, let’s do it. And you’ll be the host. Logger Paul.

Putting coherent modulated sentences together was never my strong suit, and I begged off from the host job. But the powers that be insisted. I gathered raw footage of Mussolini’s son and Our Gang communing in Hollywood, dangerous early flying machines, twisted beauty pageants, bombs, Hitler puppetry, and a POW choir singing about their torture in elegant harmony at a White House dinner. This should do it. We shot 15 episodes, which were to appear once an hour between commercials around the clock on the History Channel. Yes. I was to be a nationally known talking head.

One episode aired, a long clip of the radically dense U.S. bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with minimally moralizing commentary. But the long haired mush mouthed hippie and volatile content was too much for the East Coast exec. Logger Paul was pulled after one airing, to zero surprise from me. But the clips have survived, and in retrospect I think they fulfill our goal: to be immersed in a tiny facet of human activity that illuminates the bigger times from which it was plucked. There’s some crazy things going on out there. Always were, always will be.

BENTLEY’S BANDSTAND reviews “On Our Way”

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I See Hawks in L.A., On Your Way. There were the Byrds, then the Flying Burritos and a few other notable music excursions emanating from Los Angeles in the 1960s into the ’70s that really paved the road for those who followed in that Southern California realm, but no other band has found the thread like I See Hawks in L.A. Their sound might be embedded in the Hollywood Freeway, but underneath it’s really torqued by the Mojave Desert. There is something just hallucinatory enough on new songs like “Might’ve Been Me,” “Know Just What to Do” and, really, everything on this ear-opening new album that it feels like a new day of music is rising. Band members Rob Waller and brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques formed the group going on 20 years ago, of course on a desert trek, and haven’t looked back. Now featuring Paul Marshall and Victoria Jacobs as the rhythm section, there is really no one like them, still, as they mix in visions and musical veracity into a style which opens a door full of surprises right below the surface. As each album has become more and more assured, I See Hawks in L.A. has now hit that point where they’ve cut the cord on influences and are spinning out in an orbit all their own. The quartet is all breathing as one, and the clear night sky full of stars is the limit. Listen and hear not only what has come before, but what is also right around the next bend. See the Hawks.

Bill Bentley

NORTHERN SKY REVIEWS “On Our Way”

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One of Southern California’s leading alt country bands, I See Hawks in LA return with their tenth album to date, On Our Way, which is also the band’s first post-pandemic album.  Detailing a band’s lockdown practices and procedures is becoming almost obligatory in light of recent events, yet each circumstance is slightly different.  In the case of this band, Rob Waller and Paul Lacques would keep to a strict weekly songwriting schedule, adopting to Facetime one another at 4pm prompt every Friday afternoon, which seems to have done the trick.  With further assistance from band mates Victoria Jacobs and Paul Marshall, On Our Way has been developed under extraordinary circumstances, yet the results are probably better than expected.  Rather than focusing on the current crisis, the band turned to history for inspiration, honing in on such figures as Geronimo and Muhammad Ali, not to mention the odd Kentucky Jesus, who ‘knocked the Devil to the floor’ at one point.  Stylistically the band keep pretty much to their alt country, Americana and folk rock roots, with some occasional driving rhythms, gutsy blues and renegade lyricism to keep their fans happy.  The album also contains a song with a setting a few thousand miles from home, with “Kensington Market” adopting a pop sensibility that wouldn’t be too far out of place on some vintage ‘Swinging Sixties’ radio show.  I See Hawks in LA can be diverse when the mood takes them evidently.  On the subject of the old wireless, “Radio Keeps Me on the Ground (Slight Return)”, is a fine homage to those who have managed to keep us entertained during an unprecedented lockdown period.  Radio shows and online podcasts have certainly kept a good few of us on the ground over the last eighteen months.  The sprawling eight minutes of “How You Gonna Know” completes the album, where the band engage in some funky Doors-like experimental rhythms to keep us on our toes. 

Kensington Market is included in this week’s Vaults radio show.

SLIMCHANCE Reviews “On Our Way”

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There is something special about I See Hawks In LA, and I don’t mean the fact that they’re a rather fine americana band. I wouldn’t be discussing their work here if I didn’t think they were. But the thing is, no matter what record you pick from their seven album discography – or is it eight? – time and again there’s this sense of warmth and conviviality just radiating from it all. Not that they’re a party outfit – on the contrary, their arrangements often require close attention – but even more than many of their colleagues from the folk and americana world, this band always makes you feel like they’ve just popped over to your place for an impromptu jam session. Their latest release On Our Way yet again captures that cosy atmosphere very well.

And that’s quite an accomplishment, because this record was created during the first phase of the corona pandemic, while the band was adhering to all the rules regarding social distancing and self-isolation. What sounds like a band playing live in the studio – almost a pre-requisite within the genre – is in reality a digital collage of parts recorded separately from each other. And that doesn’t just include the band itself, but also a whole platoon of guest musicians. The rather outstanding quality of the songs as such doesn’t hurt either, of course. But whether it’s the relaxed country of the title track, somewhat reminiscent of the late Glen Campbell, and tracks like Kentucky Jesus and If I Move, or slightly more experimental tracks like Mississippi Gas Station Blues and Kensington Market, the quartet has absolutely succeeded in matching the spontaneity of their earlier work, thanks to the miracle of modern technology.

Lonestar Time (Italy) Reviews “On Our Way”

Google-translated from Italian
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More than twenty years together, twenty years of sharing, of love for the roots, for those sounds warmed by the Californian sun that represented a breath of fresh air and good vibrations. I See Hawks In L.A. they return with a new album to reiterate how close they still are and how their captivating and fresh mix of country music, folk and American is always as simple as it is effective. The guitars of Rob Waller and Paul Lacques, the bass of Paul Marshall and the percussion of Victoria Jacobs, their songs, their musical visions are a true ode to their land and in many songs they do not disdain deep reflections on the times we are living. , on environmental emergencies and social issues, celebrating again the many miles traveled together and the multiple influences dictated by sharing the stages with people like Chris Hillman, Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Lucinda Williams and Ray Wylie Hubbard, all, in a one way or another, inspiring what their current sound is. An inevitable pinch of psychedelia pervades some of the songs of "On Our Way", as well as solid are the reminiscences related to a rough and dirty roots-rock a la Dave Alvin in the abrasive "Mississippi Gas Station Blues". Often there are 'sixties' inflections as in "Kensington Market" in which vocal space is given to Victoria Jacobs while to embellish the arrangements there are here and there the fiddle of Brantley Kearns, veteran of a thousand sessions, the accordion of Richie Lawrence and the pedal steel by Dave Zirbel, protagonist of the splendid “Geronimo”, immersed in its fascinating western atmosphere. However, there are many moments to be mentioned such as the initial "Might've Been Me" and its acoustic plots, "Kentucky Jesus", intense and poetic, "Stealing" whose melody lazily rests on the Californian sea, "If I Move ”Which refers to the past Westcoastian seasons between country and rock as well as the title track“ On Our Way ”which retraces the paths taken by the Byrds most closely tied to their roots. A record that confirms the goodness of the proposal of a band that undaunted continues a genuine and sincere musical and human journey, a journey between the ocean and the desert that continues to bewitch those who loved the mix of roots and the most contemporary sounds and continue to do so despite everything.
Remo Ricaldone