The wildlife of Echo Park inspired these artists to sing

Written by
Ralph Gorodetsky and Weba Garretson

Singer and performance artist Weba Garretson has lived in Echo Park for over 20 years, long before the yoga studios and cafes and condos began indelibly changing the landscape there. Along with an unusual feature for most LA domiciles–a basement–she was drawn to the tree-lined backyard and the wildlife at the house that became her home: the skunks, hawks, owls, birds, bees and cats that shared her backyard.

One day, her musical partner Ralph Gorodetsky, composed a haunting song that reminded her of her recently-deceased cat, devoured by a less welcome neighbor: local coyotes. “That was really traumatic,” she told me as we sat in the shade in the lovely, restored Echo Park. “I started singing a song to the music he’d written.”

Eighteen songs later, the duo is preparing to perform the song cycle “What Must the Hummingbird See?” this weekend with a multi-media embellishment: Movies of the backyard (by Susan Mogul), sketches of elusive wildlife (by punk-rocker and visual artist Joe Baiza), and even shadow puppets comprised of objects found in the yard (created by Weba’s niece, Frances.)

“We wanted to amp it up, give it more of a performance aspect,” Garretson said. “Studying the compost, the worms in your hand. I wanted to give the audience a sense of the place and how amazing it is. It’s amazing to see animals in an urban context, and what that brings up. We think we’re above them, but we aren’t really.”

The duet’s performance, she said, is an homage to the fragile balance of man and nature, especially as it changes each day with development. “It’s an homage to the Echo Park I’m living in now but may not be,” she said.

This Friday, Saturday, Sunday at Automata on Chung King Road in Chinatown