2017 got off to a great start for me music-wise as I saw John Mayer play an hour-long acoustic set at the 165-cap Hotel Café in Hollywood, followed by Dave Chappelle joining him on stage for another 45 minutes of epic goofing off and heart-to-hearts.
My friend Rayyleww, who is one of a couple people that goes to more shows in LA than I do, dropped the link to buy tickets in my DMs on Twitter. I bought two tickets for $12.50 each and then shared the link on social media and directly with a few friends. All in all, about 10 people I knew also ended up getting tickets to the show.
I already had tickets to the Lakers game, so my roommate and I went for the first three quarters of the game and then bounced to Hollywood. We caught the last 20 minutes or so of Joey Dosik, this awesome dude that reminds me of Mayer Hawthorne. He had a couple of the dudes from Vulfpeck on stage with him, including Theo Katzman, who drops a killer solo record called Heartbreak Hits on Friday, January 6. Dosik closed his set with the basketball-themed “Game Winner,” while also throwing in some improvised lyrics about his Lakers squad – it was too perfect.
At about 10:15, Mayer took the stage. He has a new record coming out that he’s dropping songs in spurts for over the next few months. He played a fair amount of crowd favorites, opting not to just stick with new songs. Three songs in, he played “No Such Thing,” the song that brought him worldwide acclaim on 1999’s Inside Wants Out. The crowd lost their collective shit.
You don’t realize that even on his ballads, Mayer is a guitar god. He plays these little epic bridges so effortlessly that you take it for granted – but watching him up there ply the fret board like a champ was eye-opening. There’s a reason he joined members of the Grateful Dead as Dead & Company – he’s a virtuoso.
He played more favorites – from “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” to “In Your Atmosphere,” a song he hadn’t played since 2013 (per Setlist.fm) and a perfect one considering it’s about LA. All throughout his set, Mayer had funny banter and talked about how he’s grown up from his days of being kind of a douchebag, and it came across as really genuine.
Then things started to get crazy.
Mayer sang a new song “Moving On and Getting Over” to a backing track because he didn’t have a funky enough guitar to play it. It sounded great. Then all of a sudden comedy legend Dave Chappelle came on stage and they put on a show out of nowhere.
During that time, we saw Mayer play parts of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” all with a drunk Chappelle doing a bit of singing. Mayer even had a bit singing The Band’s “The Weight,” with Chappelle saying “I’ve never heard that song in my life.”
The two riffed together on stage with no difficulty. Their friendship, which goes back at least to when Mayer appeared on Chappelle’s Comedy Central show over a decade ago for the “White People Dancing” sketch. These two were also in opposing mindsets. Mayer said during his set he’s been sober since late October — saying if you do the math, it’s the same date as Drake’s 30th birthday party). Chappelle was a bit intoxicated, but was also extremely sentimental and warm and real.
Chappelle then gave the crowd a bit of a life lesson, speaking from the heart about a variety of subjects and sharing stories, like how Prince gave him some props at a White House birthday party for Michelle Obama. Chappelle just seems like the kind of guy you’d want to bump into a quiet bar at and shoot the shit over some drinks and a joint.
There was one bit where Chappelle pretended to be a younger version of Mayer, asking him what he would play to his younger self to show how good he got as a musician. Mayer responded by moving over to the piano to play “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me,” to which Chappelle responded a bit emotionally. Chappelle also busted Mayer’s balls asking as the younger version if he’ll ever have sex with a celebrity.
It was the kind of show that served as a stark reminder on why LA is such a special music town. It’s not every day you get to see two people like them have a blast in front of a small room. It was a great first show of 2017 and it’ll be a hard one to top in terms of what a great story it’ll be to tell people.
Don’t take my word for it? Here are some tweets from people lucky like me to be in attendance:
“Do not forget, in this digital age, what a real experience feels like.” – Dave Chappelle, last night, owning, at @thehotelcafe.
— Cary Brothers (@carybrothers) January 4, 2017
— Gia Hughes (@giannahughes) January 4, 2017
I’m at a John Mayer show at the Hotel Cafe and Kyle Jenner, Kanye and Dave Chappel are hanging out with me right now so take that.
— Tyson Motsenbocker (@tmotsenbocker) January 4, 2017
VIEW WHAT SEEMED TO BE THE FULL SETLIST FROM THE SHOW BELOW: