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A Lebanese blueswoman rocks an Irish pub in a Jewish neighborhood on World Peace Day

LA LA LAND 9.26.18

Molly Malone’s is your classic Irish pub.  Long and narrow, it is all dark wood paneling, well-worn-leather booths, long gleaming wooden bar well stocked with Jamison’s, Bushmill’s, Guinness, and pear cider, TV sets tuned to soccer, and of course a dart board.  The walls are covered with paintings by noted Irish portrait painter Neil Boyle depicting Irish notables and longtime Molly Malone’s patrons and staff.

And it is loud.  The space separating the bar stools and the booths is narrow and always packed with people waiting for drinks, talking, laughing, cheering and singing.  You could be at The Palace Bar in Dublin or Myles Lee in Galway. The only difference is the bars in Ireland are filled with children and Molly Malone’s is filled with millennials. Oh… and it is in the Fairfax District, one of LA’s distinctive Jewish neighborhoods. The pub’s neighbors are  synagogues, yeshivas, Jewish foundations, delies and on Friday nights, orthodox families walking to temple.

But, Molly Malone’s is also music. If you shoulder your way through the crowd around the bar and get past the dart pitch and turn the corner into the short passage with the bathrooms you will find a large black door.  Open it and you are in the Snug, one of LA’s best mid-sized music venues with a high-rise stage, solid PA, a range of lights and a full-sized sound board and top notch sound operator. The floor is mostly clear for dancing, but along both sides are chairs and tables where you can sip your Guinness and chow down on your Dublin Bay Fish and Chips, Kildare Hot Corned Beef Sandwich or Tipperary Tacos (hey, its LA, and you can get tacos in Dublin, although I wouldn’t).
  Since 1969, The Snug has been presenting Irish and Celtic talent and rootsy, listenable music to LA,  including artists like Flogging Molly, Joan Osborne, Jeff Healey, Lucinda Williams and Lenny Kravitz to name just a few.

Suffice it to say it is not the first place you would look for a tall, blond, green-eyed blueswoman from Lebanon, backed by a finger-picking saz player (long-necked mandolin) who earned his chops in Turkey,  and a down-to earth, rock solid blues band. But that is exactly who musically celebrated World Peace Day at Molly Malone’s Friday.

World Peace Day was declared by the UN General Assembly as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples, and to rededicate itself to the UN’s goals of sustainable development.  Abizaid gave the crowd a musical tour of World Peace Day with original songs, celebrating not only the day, but the fact that her music career in LA was launched from that very stage on an open mic night several years ago.

Her trip to Molly Malone’s was circuitous to say the least. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to an American mother and a Mexican/Lebanese father. She traveled the Middle East and Europe with her family until she was ten when she moved to the United States. Her first exposure to music was Middle Eastern music she heard at home combined with the late 70s American influences of Alice CooperElton JohnCrosby, Stills and Nash, and The Beatles. She studied drama, music, and hairstyling, then took up modeling, eventually walking the runway for names like Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Nina Ricci. But her musical talent would not stay quiet for the runway, so, now in LA,  she began singing as a backup vocalist and recording vocals for TV shows, including the voice for Ally Sheedy and Charisma Carpenter on the TV show Strange Frequency. She moved to a new level when her soundtrack recording of The 4400 became a hit. 

The crowd at Molly Malone’s probably knew most of that since they were obviously fans, but her experience certainly showed as she deftly delivered eleven mesmerizing songs, punctuated by her soulful flute, and sharp-as-a-tack arrangements, blending Middle Eastern rhythms and notes with blues and rock..  Pulling the audience closer to her with that smile and laughter and conversation, she made the night intimate for a very good, but not overly packed crowd.

Abizaid opened with a salute to World Peace Day, her two songs “One Love” and “Of Kings and Prophets”, then drew from her albums Walking in Twos, This Life and Be in Love for the rest of the set.  Along the way she gave us the unreleased songs “Everyone” and “My Hero”, and then closed with the inspiring call for love and tolerance “Walking in Twos”.  All of her music is at the top of my playlist, one reason I was delighted to see her at an Irish pub or anywhere else. Seeing her live with her flute and her the band and experiencing her swaying Middle Eastern notes smoothly swirled into blues and pop and rock was an experience I will treasure.

A great way  to celebrate World Peace Day – a Lebanese blueswoman in an Irish Pub in a Jewish neighborhood singing songs and playing notes that can calm and delight the most warlike heart.

(Photo credit: Laura Calcaterra)

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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