Songcheck: The Real Laguna Beach

Authentic and unpretentious might not be the first descriptors that viewers of ‘The OC’ and ‘Laguna Beach’ associate with the rich coastal communities nearby UC Irvine, but on Friday, June 8, Matt Russell’s Songcheck Live, which benefits The Mosaic Project, will seek to change that.
After leaving local music venues unsatisfied with the atmosphere, Russell decided to start Songcheck Live to create a more intimate platform on which artists could talk about their music. The Laguna Beach-born singer/songwriter says Songcheck Live is a ‘true showcase for artist performance.’
At Seven-Degrees in Laguna Beach, Songcheck Live will feature videos taken at Hollywood’s Brookledge Theatre of intimate musical performances followed by the artists asking each other questions about their musical inspirations.
Performances at the extended concert will stretch from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and cost $40 a person,.This buys access to many hours of STAR 98.7-friendly rock, like headliner Brett Dennen, a mystery guest revealed at midnight and a special bite-sized set by Ingrid Michaelson which will almost certainly include ‘Keep Breathing,’ the song from this year’s season finale of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’
Headliner Brett Dennen, who will open for John Mayer this summer, crafts his own blend of coffeehouse-rock on his latest album, ‘So Much More.’ The 2006 release reveals an artist who sounds slighted by the restraints of a packaged CD. A live performance will hopefully have a soulful Dennen to complement his pleasing, foot-tap-able yet slightly derivative music.
Russell originally saw Dennen perform at the Gypsy Den in Costa Mesa and was impressed. They conversed musician-to-musician and afterwards Dennen mentioned that he had been involved in the non-profit organization The Mosaic Project since his college days. The organization strives to bring fourth and fifth graders of all backgrounds together for four-day, five-night camps that teach skills for success and also stress ‘peace is possible.’
A Martin acoustic guitar signed by previous Songcheck performers will be auctioned off and t-shirts designed by artist Jesse Miller will be sold. Fifty percent of the profits at Songcheck Live will go to The Mosaic Project.
Other lucky singer/songwriters performing sets at Songcheck Live include Tom Freund, Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles on the main stage, with Jay Buchanan, Marianne Keith and Alec Bridges on the Martin Guitars Acoustic Stage.
Why lucky? According to event Publicist Diana Karaca, music labels have been asking if there might be space and time for various artists to perform at the booked event. The one-on-one interviews between artists have also struck a resonant chord with local musicians.
Those interested in getting involved with the videotaped performance and interviews should contact Russell or hope to be invited by other artists already featured in a Songcheck taping.
With about five hours of music in the multi-artist concert, the Songcheck videos might help to smooth set change transitions and provide a welcome look into the creative minds of the musicians. This inviting mood will hopefully carry over to the live performances.
Although taking place in a club holding around 300 people, the suggestion of intimate acoustic performances helps Russell to project a different image of Laguna Beach to the community: one with soul.