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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