A champion for good live local music in Los Angeles, Jeb Milne, died earlier this week. He was a stupendous performer, and his venue, Witzend, is the best listening room in LA.
Jeb created Witzend as a place where the performers felt encouraged, special, and loved, and he did the same with the audience. He put his love and energy into every aspect of Witzend, and because he would make us all feel so good, everybody at the shows connected through the music and the whole experience. Every venue and music booker should learn from Jeb’s example.
Witzend is a beautiful listening room with clear sound and a comfortable and classy vibe, Jeb cared about every little detail. Before Witzend, Venice performers had spent the previous years playing in local coffee shops, bars, speakeasies (shut down by cops), house parties (also shut down by cops!), etc. These were are all good and great fun, but we needed a nice venue to perform in when it was time to rise a little bit above the bohemian grunge and find out what we sounded like through a good sound system.
In the first weeks when Jeb was just starting Witzend as a venue, sometimes he would call during the day when it was closed and I would come over and we’d sing a few songs together and talk about great songwriters etc, and just hang out for while. We dug many of the same bands, and disagreed about plenty of artists, but more often than not, we’d geek out over The Beatles. He often requested that I play ‘Mercy’, one of my songs that he liked to sing along to, and eventually we worked it out with him on piano. He told me about his times in London, and we joked about being in the Canadian Mafia. Jeb sparkled when he sang, it was great to watch. It’s funny, now that I’m thinking about it, many of my memories of Jeb and Witzend are from when the doors hadn’t even opened yet.
I could never thank him enough for making such a beautiful space for music performance, but believe me, I tried. I miss being in Venice during times like this, I wish I could be there for his memorial. Jeb cared about artists and he cared about the audience. He was one of the best venue owners and talent bookers, and also one of the kindest and most encouraging people I have known. Jeb Milne cared about music deep down in every fiber of him.
I hope he knows we love him for it.
With much love and gratitude,