Getting there/parking -
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This HOB venue is off Hwy. 101, in Hollywood. Parking on Sunset Strip is at a premium; I self-parked for $10 in a lot across the street, by the Comedy Store. The HOB also has valet parking but I have heard complaints about the long wait for one's car after concerts. Walked across and down the rather steep hill around the corner to the box office, paid about $40 for my ticket, then walked down into the parking lot (their Porch restaurant and VIP rooms are on the upper street level). Got there about 20 mins. early and waited by the big double doors - didn't seem to be a big line this early autumn Sunday...
Seating/the Buffet -
The doors opened a bit after 1pm. There's a sign showing the venue capacity at about 230 - when everybody arrived it seemed about 2/3 full. I was shown to a rickety folding chair seat at the end of a long table behind the salad station (I kid you not - I could probably reach for a shrimp!) but it had a good sideline view of the stage. The buffet seemed standard fare for a brunch but not remarkable. Self-serve coffee/tea, couple of omelet stations, plus the usual breakfast, salad, hot dishes, carving station, bagels, muffins and other desserts. A waiter offered soft drinks but brought me water when I asked. There were only a few Southern dishes - biscuits/gravy, grits, chicken, mac/cheese - I expected more. The best dessert was the bread pudding. I tried a bit of the jambalaya, but like much of the food, it was nothing special.
The Entertainment -
After recorded gospel/jazz music with the buffet, the curtain went up and the live concert started at 1:45pm. The volume also went up; there seemed to be an imbalance of the mix out to the house that made the bass way too heavy, at the expense of the keyboards and the backup vocals (lead vocals were fine). That was improved about halfway through the hourlong show.
If you want authentic Gospel music, may I suggest you check out one of the larger urban churches in the LA area, say, West Angeles COGIC. You must understand that this is a show put on for tourists, having a similar relationship to real Gospel that a Luau at a hotel in Hawaii has to native Hawaiian culture. There was a lady in white costume and hat like on their Web page sharing lead with the male choir director, about eight backup singers who also did solos, and a five-piece band - keyboards, guitar, bass, drums.
They began with CAN'T NOBODY DO ME LIKE JESUS and went on from there, doing several R+B hits like WE ARE FAMILY with gospelized lyrics, and also some rap-like efforts (no Kirk Franklin, though!) and more well-known standards like O HAPPY DAY. All the tunes were uptempo, with frequent exhortations to say 'yeah', 'hallelujah', sing, and to wave our napkins in the air. There were also the usual birthday/anniversary/celebration kind of recognitions as well as a reminder to tip our servers (it's self-serve except for bar/soft drink beverages and bussing our plates during the show, so I left $5)
On this day there was also a visiting gospel choir from Japan - about 20-25 people who shared the stage with the local performers for the first couple of numbers and a few toward the end. The oddest moment had to be when this group performed a Japanese children's rhyme with koto and bamboo flute. Perhaps the most moving was after that, when the Japanese choir director was introduced and she expressed her love for Gospel (and God)...
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Kid Friendliness: Yes
Vegetarian Friendly: No
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Bring earplugs!
(to save your hearing) :-)
Best Suited For: Large Group