Song of the Day #4,677: ‘L.A. Arteest Cafe’ – Stew

‘L.A. Arteest Cafe’ is the final song (not counting several hidden bonus tracks) on Stew’s 2003 album Something Deeper Than These Changes. It’s a quirky, playful tune about an ill-fated trip to Los Angeles.

After a trio of winning solo albums and another few with his project The Negro Problem, Stew kind of fell of the map, at least in terms of album releases. He focused on his theater work, and found success with Passing Strange, which hit Broadway in 2008 and was captured on film by Spike Lee a year later.

I just discovered that Stew released a fourth solo album, titled People, in 2019. A quick sampling of it reveals it to be some kind of hard rock experiment, with none of the hallmarks I love about his earlier work. I applaud his versatility but that one ain’t for me.

I left L.A. way back when
When it was still breedin’
To pitch a tent in Brooklyn
And simulate a heathen
But one day I decided
To surf the cold Atlantic
So I hung ten to Amsterdam
Said goodbye to the panic

Everything was swingin’
I became a speculator
I looked up from a table
It was twenty years later
So I jumped into a plane
Said, Take me to L.A
I’ll only be a week
I’m gonna sleep
At L.A. Arteest Café

(L.A. Arteest Café)
L.A. Arteest Café
(L.A. Arteest Café)

See, I wanna see some friends
Who knew me way back when
I wanna see the trends
All the girls are squeezin’ in
I wanna search for traces
Of all my ancient places
Sip some cappuccino
Holdin’ court at my oasis

I see the smoggy skyline
I shed a little tear
The bird touches down
I break into a cheer
I’m scribblin’ ideas
For a freaky one-act play
But most of all, I’m thinkin’ bout the hang
At L.A. Arteest Café

(L.A. Arteest Café)
L.A. Arteest Café
(L.A. Arteest Café)

Pilot says we’re gonna have to
Taxi for an hour
The stewardesses got sweeter
And the passengers got sour
I slipped into a dream
Aided by Jim Bean
And the lullaby flight attendant’s
Passing magazines

First dream is of Moses trying to part the 405
Helicopter gargoyles
Broadcasting it live
A policeman with fangs
Says, Are you in a gang
No, but do you know the way
To L.A. Arteest Café?

(L.A. Arteest Café)
L.A. Arteest Café
(L.A. Arteest Café)

Second dream, I’m crawlin’
‘Cross a sidewalk made of sand
Trippin’ on mirages
Canteen in my hand
People waiting for a bus
Just melt into the fray
And Satan asks me, Is it hot enough for you today?

A guy on the divide
Selling oranges and peanuts
He’s really Raymond Chandler
But the secret’s just between us
So I take over the store
And we sell metaphors
And similes to Mercedes and SUV’s galore

Business gets so good
That Ramona’s out the hood
To a condo in Grand Wood
With the mondo spread the waterbed
And one day, by the pool
He says, ‘Member that day
We met
You were on your way
To L.A. Arteest Café

(L.A. Arteest Café)
L.A. Arteest Café
(L.A. Arteest Café)

I wake up in the plane
Cleaning crew thinks I’m insane
Now I’m crusing LAX
(“Sir, this way to baggage claim”)
There’s a lady from the government
Interested in me
Twenty hours later
She says, Go home now, you’re free

Hop into a taxi
And the driver looks thirteen
Decked out in some finery
That I ain’t never seen
All that metal in her face
Made it clear to me
That she had a magnetic
Personality

She said she had a day job
At a respectable chain
I said, You’re flipping burgers
She said, Coffee, tea and pain
I said, I’m fascinated
She said, Yeah, it’s okay
It’s just a gig to me, working days
At L.A. Arteest Café
Incorported
L.A. Arteest Café
Incorporated

She said, Where you goin’?
I said, Back to LAX
She said, What’s the problem?
I said, It’s way too complex
Said, Don’t be disappointed
The future’s hit-and-miss
Now, tell me your story
I said, it goes like this:

I left L.A. way back when
When it was still breedin’
To pitch a tent in Brooklyn
And simulate a heathen
But one day I decided
To surf the cold Atlantic
So I hung ten to Amsterdam
Said goodbye to the panic…

One thought on “Song of the Day #4,677: ‘L.A. Arteest Cafe’ – Stew

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Hard rock? Interesting, but I hope he returns to a sound closer to today’s SOTD.

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