story + pics / Ericka Clevenger
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the best music venue in Los Angeles, a comment I will take to my grave. It’s affordable, easily accessible, spacious and never failing to attract some of the biggest, most popular talents in the industry. They host amazing outdoor shows, beautiful intimate performances in the Masonic Lodge, home to the sunrise music sets and Cinespeia.
I drove into the cemetery excited to see the talented LA native Jillian Banks, aka BANKS play a sold out hometown show at the Masonic lodge. This fall Banks opened for “The Weekend” in the US and UK, gaining her enough notoriety to headline her own show in the US. Banks recently released her second EP “LONDON” and has been receiving great notice, hence this show at Hollywood Forever selling out in only 30 minutes.
When I first arrived to the venue, it was dimly lit and fairly empty. Only a few groups of people stood around sipping wine and quietly talking about the architecture of the space, as a DJ played music to a small group of people who were dancing. Within twenty minutes the room began to quickly fill up, and I slowly struggled to make my way towards the stage.
As I stood with the rest of the packed house patiently waiting for the show to begin, I couldn’t help but realize the perfection of Banks playing at this amazing venue at the cemetery. The show began and Banks’ painfully nostalgic vocals bounced off the walls of the room, captivating everyone in the audience. Her tremendous ability to understand her range and utilize her vocals to the fullest extent was apparent in her live show. Sometimes during her set instrumental production would take over and yet when her voice was raw and stripped down it still was equally impressive on it’s own. From strange constant hums, to full on wails mixed with sultry, yet punchy R&B lyrics, Banks owned the stage.
The narrative nature of her music creates a relatable connection between herself and her fans. Her triumphant sadness expressed within her music is proof of strength to the people who support it. Her desire to connect with her fans is so strong that she even has her personal cell phone number on her Facebook, where she encourages her fans to reach out to her. Everyone around me seemed to know Banks as they sang to her songs and swayed around to her proclamations of life.
Her songs dripping with the painful remains of a broken heart, yet sung with a manner hopefulness. Like the beginning of “Waiting Game” which sounds like a choir of female ghosts calling out to their lost love with determination that could last an eternity. Instantly broken with a powerful almost spoken word anthem about understanding the complications of distant, fleeting love.
Moving her hips like a slinking cat while hiding behind long locks of black hair lost in the moment, her performance is captivating and alluring as she raises her arms to the air in a victory, only to let the song drop to silence. She allows enough momentary silence that when she begins to sing again; she almost gasps for air as if sucking the words back into her soul. As if this performance was a meaning of survival for both the crowd and performer alike. Banks gave a truly beautiful performance and I look forward to seeing all the music she will bring to the world.