Only You @ Bootleg 5-16-13 Only You @ Bootleg 5-16-13

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Only You Photos by Ben Irwin

To hear Rachel Fannan sing is to have been captivated by her. My first such experience was down at the Casbah in San Diego circa 2010 when Fannan was singing with psych-rock band Sleepy Sun. Our encounter that evening was brief, but that performance will remain etched into my mind for years to come. I was in the back room as Sleepy Sun took the stage; cue the music starting, and I’m taking my sweet ass time doing God knows what. Then I heard that voice, and before I even saw Rachel for that first time, I felt her. Felt her like a locomotive draped in satin running full speed through my gut. That siren’s voice must’ve had me hovering into the main room because the next thing I remember was being belly to the stage, overcome with a strong sense of disconnect. In front of me stood an early 20s, porcelain skinned, pigtailed brunette, whose delicate 5 foot frame couldn’t have possibly produced the magnanimous tones that I had just been steamrolled by. Then Fannan started the next song and the only confusion that remained was why this woman wasn’t fronting her own band.

Almost 3 months later to the date Fannan would depart Sleepy Sun, and inadvertently I’ve been documenting Rachel’s musical career ever since.

Only You is Rachel Fannan, her mission, her heart. What started as an all-female band, who would try to share the creative load, is now Fannan and an assemblage of some of the premier musicians in East LA. There’s no confusion at this point, only one captain steers this ship. For visionaries like Fannan I think that’s really the only way it can be. With Rachel free to create and play the music that makes her tick, Only You has become a genesis for a reimagining of music from a golden age. Wherever the Great American Songbook meets up with Americana and Physc that’s where to find Only You. Artists that most of today’s youth have left for dead like: Roy Orbison, Aretha, Presley, Carl Perkins, Costello and Johnny Cash would’ve been right at home hitting the road with Only You.

Having a band that consists of a lot of moving parts is a double-edged sword. In this instance it’s the chief reason why this night’s show at the Bootleg Theater was Only You’s first official show in the better part of a year. Fannan is a steel frame amidst the storm, acting as both lightning rod and backbone. The show comes on like a rain so thick that it makes it impossible to remember what was happening before, or to take a breath and think about what comes after. Yet viscerally I still have that same gut shot feeling I had at the Casbah three years ago, though this time around I’m significantly more conscious of the narrative.

Rachel Fannan’s talent is several multitudes bigger than she is. This night it’s evidenced by the crowds collective tunnel vision stare, who stand as slack-jawed as I did when I experienced that voice for the first time. But this night there’s a huge difference, Fannan’s now armed with a confidence, courage and conviction that can only come from cutting the safety net and walking the high wire alone. Free to pursue her vision, Fannan now looks like a woman poised to seize the future. And as the crowd of the Bootleg bears witness to the launch of a bona fide talent, I can’t help but revel in the transformation.

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