Famed Chinese restaurant venue Genghis Cohen hosted on December 08 2023. by Harriet Kaplan
John-Robert’s EP release show for “Garden Snake” was the perfect reason and excuse to go back to Genghis Cohen on December 8th. It had literally been years since I have been to see live acts in the very small and intimate space inside the legendary Chinese restaurant. The food was always great and plentiful, but on this night, I choose a very sparse, simple meal of brown rice, and white meat chicken, was which was good. The restaurant was so busy, in fact, I was asked by the host, if I was going to be seated longer than an hour. I kind of laughed, and thought about it for a minute, before replying: “Oh, it may take me a less than a half hour to eat my food and finish my drink!” I really wanted to have the wonton soup but I knew I would never finish it and I didn’t want to bring food, even sealed in a container resting inside a brown bag, into the space John-Robert was performing.
Speaking of John-Robert, I had a brief conversation with this incredibly talented singer, songwriter and guitarist before he performed as the headliner to a sold-out crowd. He was being interviewed and filmed by a small crew about his music. Then I waited my turn and he asked me about LMN&R, and was a show review like a food review, I said in a way but not. I explained generally my process in writing one. John-Robert seemed very self aware and shrewd, not in a totally calculating way, about his music and career, and getting out there to perform, and reaching/growing his audience. Yes John-Robert wants to make money and a living. He spoke briefly about opening for Balien at The Troubadour February 16th which he seemed really excited about.
I took a few photos of him for my review as he sat talking to the camera crew for his interview. I didn’t know what to make of him with his haphazard, random look of a plaid shirt, scruffy jeans and grown out mullet until we talked. I was introduced to John-Robert with the fantastic, catchy “Sweet Child” chronicling a break up with a girlfriend in a light way but it belied the deeper seriousness of pain behind that offhanded facade. It touched, moved me and won me over immediately. It’s been on repeat for me ever since. But it was his performance at Genghis Cohen that just solidified my instincts that I was in the presence of a very good artist.
His story, and or creative journey, so far goes like this: he left his hometown of Edinburg, Virginia for L.A. in 2019 and had big ambitions and wound up being signed to Nice Life/Warner Records. John-Robert’s music has been described as a “lilting blend of traditional folk and Appalachian country into the modern pop landscape.” But it’s so much more: there are soulful moments and echoes of the famous vocal acts of the 1960s.
The live show delivered on all levels musically, with the strong arrangements and songwriting craftsmanship resting on foundation of John-Robert’s original perspectives on life and his experiences to date. His adept and capable backing band included guitarist Julian McClanahan, bassist Kyle Frankhuzien and drummer Ruby Lopez.
The audience was really supportive turning out in large numbers and happy to see John-Robert perform. He returned their enthusiasm and appreciation back. John-Robert was beaming and expressed repeated gratitude for them coming to the show and listening to his music. John-Robert is an engaging frontman, his demeanor and presentation, comes from a place of authenticity and sincerity. Though he would be glib and made subtle jokes or asides about aspects of being onstage and how to perform for and audience and what to say or not. As an artist he is developing his personal style and onstage presence.
The Genghis Cohen EP Release for “Snake Garden” could be seen as a warm-up and showcase of sorts for bigger venues for John-Robert. He is really on his way. Technically on paper, he is just getting started in his career, but he is already there artistically. John-Robert will obviously continue to further develop over time. This show is a stepping stone toward the greatness and promise John-Robert possesses inside him to further exploit in the best way possible toward the future gigs including The Troubadour.
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