Jason Mraz With Raining Jane
By Lesa Browning
Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jason Mraz is in the middle of a huge world tour in support of his fifth studio album YES! The wildly popular folk-rocker has gone all acoustic this time around and is mixing things up a bit by collaborating with all girl, Los Angeles based band, Raining Jane. The pairing works beautifully. The on stage chemistry leads the audience to feel that it was always been meant to be. The YES! album release was preceded by a short film, We Can Take The Long Way, which premiered on June 20th and is streaming now on Mraz’s official You Tube channel. (linked below)
For this tour, Mraz made the decision to preform in smaller venues rather than his usual amphitheaters or arenas, sometimes doing multiples nights in the same city. I was lucky enough to have a center seat in the sixth row of Spokane’s beautiful INB Preforming Arts Center. While I have seen several great bands at this theater, it is not a typical concert venue. (typically you would find Broadway musicals in this venue, maybe the ballet… it is classy) This night would have a more intimate and casual feel right from the start, when Mraz himself stepped out to tell us how things would be going down. This was to be a special live streaming concert for a fantastic charity, The Melodic Caring Project. There would be several shout outs during the show made to sick children and teens undergoing treatment and the audience was encouraged to cheer along for the kids who were with us via their computers. We were also told there would be a short 20 minute intermission after which we would be treated to another 50 minutes of music. Because of the nature of this venue, and the lack of a center aisle, we were encourage to remain seated so that everyone could have a clear sight line to the stage. (most people followed the rules)
Raining Jane started us off by introducing themselves as an Indie Rock band from LA that formed in 1999 after meeting at UCLA. They explained that after a period of non stop touring, they opened for Jason Mraz in 2006 and that they were surprised that he actually watched their set. When he said that he would like to keep in touch they were skeptical, when he actually sent an email they were shocked. They began writing with Mraz in 2007. The group has remained good friends ever since. Raining Jane has cowritten the YES! album with Mraz and is touring with him on all 2014-2015 tour dates. They will be preforming the entire show as his band as well as opening the show, playing a few songs without him. Raining Jane consists of Mai Bloomfield, Becky Gebhardt, Chaska Potter and Mona Tavakoli. Right off the bat it is clear that Raining Jane is no ordinary Indie band. These four women are something incredibly special with their instrumental versatility and wide vocal ranges. The instruments that appear on stage are unique and never seem to end. We saw guitars, keyboards, drums, acoustic bass, cello, steel guitar, mandolin, sitar – the list goes on and on.
When Jason Mraz casually returned to the stage it was like he was happily coming in to jam with old friends. In fact HAPPY is the word to describe Mraz. He has got to be the most positive person in music I have ever encountered by far. It was amazing and contagious to feel his positive energy all night long. Seriously impossible not to be affected by him in a good way. (funny thing, I have since read a bit online, suggesting that he is too happy, a sentiment I find strange in this world that is overwhelmingly negative… but, to each his own I suppose.) Positivity is such a part of who Mraz is that he openly talks about it on stage, it was somewhat of a running thread or theme for the night. In fact talking was a big part of the night. Jason Mraz is a fabulous story teller not just with his beautiful music but also with his gift of gab. Just about every song he sang was preceded by a brief introduction or sometimes a lengthy explanation.
Mraz tells the audience that he writes the “same songs a lot” but that there is a reason for this. He explained that many singer/songwriters complain about writers block, but he is of the belief that you still sit down and just write what you feel, no matter what. He then sang Make it Mine. He also gave us a very real and detailed explanation of the three things to do when your life falls apart before launching into his song 3 Things. By this point I was starting to feel like we were old friends. We next learned that Mraz has quite the green thumb when he lit up the stage with gorgeous photos of his own southern California garden, showing us both the before and after photos. Apparently this is another of his passions and he likes to get his hands in the dirt. He has certified organic apple trees as well as many other fruits and vegetables successfully growing and claims he will have produce to feed his family of 60 this Christmas, it was quite impressive. This was the perfect back drop to start the song Back To The Earth.
The next amazing story and beautiful on stage backdrop was set in Antarctica. Jason Mraz is quite the social activist and works tirelessly to support many important causes including global climate change. Mraz told us the story in both words and gorgeous pictures of his trip with Raining Jane percussionist Mona Tavakoli to Antarctica with Al Gore in support of the Climate Reality Project. Mraz and the freakishly talented Tavakoli have amazing chemistry on stage and appear to be great friends off stage as well, both seem to very committed to the cause and it was inspiring to see the photo montage before the stage erupted into Sail Away. *Unfortunately this was the moment the folks in row five decided to stand up preventing the rest of the theater from not only taking photos but from viewing the rest of the show. (but you can find a great fun video of this on our You Tube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCYoJQ3XiZ3DDBMYmCaxubew)
Before the night was over, Jason Mraz and “The Janes” would entertain us with more than two dozen popular songs, old and new, including over half of the new YES! album. Some of the night’s favorites were The Remedy, We Can Take The Long Way, Mr. Curiosity and Lucky. There was even one point in the night when Mraz had everyone sing along as he played My Neighbor, the well known song from the children’s show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Mraz is a self admitted fan and recently recorded the opening and closing songs for the modern version of Fred Rodger’s classic children’s TV program, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
All in all it was a GREAT night of music, fun and POSITIVE entertainment!
Jason Mraz and the Raining Janes are currently taking the tour outside of the US for a while but will be back here to the delight of US fans in 2015 as the YES! World Tour continues. Be sure to check out the website and follow on social media for upcoming dates and ticket information. You will also find websites listed below for more information on several of the projects and foundations mentioned in this article.
*A special shout out to the featured kids of Melodic Caring Project from this night:
Haylee, Faith, Jade, Kylie & Juliette
Jason Mraz’s You Tube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCZDmobLj_UYkLbt136q2zKw
Support The Melodic Caring Project: www.melodiccaringproject.org
The Climate Reality Project: wwwClimaterelaityproject.org
The Jason Mraz Foundation: www.calfund.org/jasonmrazfoundation
Rock N’ Roll Camp For Girls LA: www.rockcampforgirlsla.org