Collin Herring at Hollywood's Hotel Cafi: Turn Off the Phone and Turn On
Brian Dowell
7/5/2005 7:43:39 AM

Los Angeles is generally a crappy place to be a country music fan. LA, as a whole, is not a city that relates well to a genre of music documenting the tribulations and celebrating the accomplishments of this nation’s white working class. While a local country music radio station advertises itself as, “The Most Listened To Country Music Station In The World,” discerning country fans know that very little of what’s on country radio is any good--the best country music rarely finds its way onto corporate country-format radio. However, most country stars with any show business savvy maintain residences here and play Los Angeles often.

So, although I’m a big fan of his most recent CD, The Other Side of Kindness [ I expected to have a miserable time at the new, big deal ‘alt-country’ crooner, Collin Herring’s show in Hollywood, especially since the venue is in an alley, around the corner from the annoying summertime scene on Hollywood Boulevard with decent, free parking anywhere close impossible to find. I parked a mile away and wandered through seas of tourists, eventually finding the Hotel Cafi; an impossibly small, dark and narrow dive. All the Hollywood barroom trappings can be found here: horrible lighting, mahogany walls, red velvet corners. As soon as I walked in, Herring and his band were climbing onstage. Herring, an affable, unassuming guy with glasses and messy brown hair, doesn’t resemble a country singer—he looks more suited to a Weezer/Sebadoh cover band. The band features a standup bass player and Collin Herring’s dad on backing vocals and slide guitar.

Herring’s voice is evocative, the band played beautifully, and the music was creepy in the best of ways; reminiscent of some of REM’s slower songs. One could do without their country instrumentals that feel like the height of pretentiousness, but thankfully, these did not overshadow the set. But when Herring is singing, it’s enough to move anyone with any kind of love for the country way of life.

Unfortunately, the sentimental journey Herring was leading us on was interrupted by trendy Hollywood music industry types invading the place, engaged in loud, shallow cell phone conversations, oblivious to the fact that there was a show going on that paying audience members and crazed redneck music journalists might actually want to enjoy. In any decent hillbilly venue, the rude behavior of these hipsters would be quickly dealt with. They’d be taken out back, hog-tied, repeatedly sodomized and never heard from again beyond vague, late night drunken references from bar regulars to the fact that Californians make good alligator bait.

Collin Herring is a really talented vocalist and songwriter, and a welcome, refreshing change to the country music scene as a whole. Let’s hope to catch another show soon--as far away from Hollywood as possible.

Upcoming shows:

Lubbock, TX

Dallas, TX

Armadillo Palace
Houston, TX

Photo from Border's live gig, posted on


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