Even for a Tuesday night, the bar is desolate, with the exception of a few patrons standing quietly around, drinks in hand. From the door, you can hear a medley of random notes echoing from a far room in the back of the bar, seemingly unnoticed by the bystanders. Upon entering the back room, the band can be seen warming up, a jumble of instruments, cords, bodies, and notes.
Stepping from the shadows is a tall figure with dark sunglasses. After a few short words to the nearly empty room, the randomized notes coordinate to become one incredible sound. As if being commanded to attention, people literally come out of the woodwork—tiny side tables tucked into the walls—and crowd the small space.
Sol Luongo steps off the stage on the first strum of her guitar, not to return until the set is over. As if a spirit takes over her body, she mesmerizingly moves to the music while not missing a note. Daniel Cieplinski’s shades can’t hide his charismatic personality and he enchants the crowd with his suave demeanor and cool vocals. Jessy Bender adds a sometimes optimistic, sometimes sultry moodiness to the music with her saxophone and Skeeter Joplin holds all of the instruments together with the drums.
You can see the music pulse through the musicians’ bodies as well as the crowd watching. The music is at times dark and mysterious and other times upbeat and vibrant. At all times, it is rocking—a combination of classic rock, blues, and punk with a foreign, but comforting smoothness—blending so well it is challenging to tell one genre from the other. The music lures you in, seduces you, rocks you.
You would assume by watching them play that their sole life focus is on creating and performing music; however this is a luxury that is not gifted to all musicians. Like many other musicians in the Los Angeles area, The Vigils must juggle outside activities and responsibilities to support their passion. In other words: it’s challenging. But, if the love of the art of music is great enough, it will outweigh any sacrifices and obstacles in the way, as we can see with The Vigils.
The Vigils’ guitarist, Sol, is originally from Uruguay, Sol began playing bass when she was 13 years old and joined her first band at around 14. Her journey with music bounced her between a handful of different bands and locations over the years. In 2005, she finally landed in Los Angeles where she continued playing music with a variety of different bands.
In addition to practicing and performing with the Vigils, Sol manages a bar in Highland Park called “La Cuevita.” She is physically there six days a week, but mentally there seven. She plans the events, the cocktail menus, scheduling, etc. Some nights she goes into work at 3pm and doesn’t get home until 5am. She also does some freelance animation and illustration in her “spare time.”
A Washington DC native, Danny grew musically by singing in underground punk/hardcore bands in the metro area. Even as a young kid, Danny was dressing up like Mick Jones of The Clash and strumming on a tennis racket or singing along to The Cramps in front of a flashing strobe light in his room—his dream already coming into focus.
Daniel is a manager/driver at a high-rent residential facility for schizophrenic and other mentally ill adults in Van Nuys. He works varied hours throughout the week, sometimes waking up for work, hair still wet from a shower he took a few hours earlier when he got home from a show.
Jessy grew up in Columbia, Missouri listening to Bowie, the Stones, The Clash and 80’s new wave. She moved to LA to be in the film industry, in which she successfully entered, but she always held onto her childhood dream of being in a band. She is currently part of a 2 to 3 person team that mics and records the dialogue and sound for TV, movies, and commercials. This profession has random hours and can take her from Malibu to West Covina and from 12pm to 2am on any given day. Often, she has to get up at 6am after playing a midnight show the night before.
Skeeter grew up with guns, drums, and rock and roll in the backwoods of Oregon. Skeeter’s heroes were musicians, two of which were, and still are, John Coltrane and Patti Smith. In 2005, he moved to Los Angeles and landed in the heart of Hollywood where he currently lives with his girlfriend. Skeeter goes everywhere by train, including to his jobs at Amoeba Records and La Cuevita.
With all of their other responsibilities, you have to question why these artists do it. “It’s pure meditation… letting go and becoming music and letting your earth weight and expectations go,” Sol explains, “It’s the closest thing to heaven. An electric pulse of life.” Danny adds, “Performing is as good as it gets, a physical and emotional exorcism of sorts.” “Performing takes me to another place… Each song has a unique message in it… After a show, I feel I’ve been through an awesome journey,” Jessy describes.
These feelings seem similar to those that fans experience at a show. The feeling at a show, when the music comes together and forms a living presence in the room that can be felt, so much so that it physically touches you; it moves you. It is this same presence that moves the artist, that seduces them enough to sacrifice their time, money, and at times sanity and keeps them coming back for more… thankfully for us.
So perhaps this is an ode to the artist, a thank you of sorts for the sacrifice, the dedication and the struggle it takes to channel that presence so others can share in the soul-healing experience of music. As Sol put it so well, “Being in the moment only happens when you can rock out with your truthful soul.” And we are constantly looking forward to our next spiritual experience. Rock on.