It was as if the Buffalo Club in Santa Monica was transformed into the Cafe Wha? circa 1962 on Nov. 13 as a star-studded crowd packed the venue to be wowed by the power of unadulterated vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments.
The occasion served as a salute to the Joel and Ethan Coen and music producer T Bone Burnett and their film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” about the early Greenwich Village folk scene and one hapless singer’s plight for artistic recognition. Oscar Isaac, who plays the title role, was among the performers, including the Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek and the Milk Carton Kids, singing such songs as “Fare Thee Well” and “Green, Green Rocky Road” from the film’s soundtrack. Steve Martin, too, got up on stage and treated the assembled to a bit of banjo, as well as a certain fiddle player named Sara Watkins, who sang a heartbreaking version of the rather obscure Bob Dylan tune “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.” But the real scene stealer was a guy named Willie Watson, who wailed on “Hills of Mexico” all the pain, sorrow and struggle suffered by every itinerant musician who never got a break.
Among the assembled were the pic’s John Goodman, the aforementioned filmmakers, producer Scott Rudin, looking rather preppy in gingham and a lambs wool V-neck, and many of the actors who no doubt would like to work with them: Thora Birch, Jennifer Jason Leigh (who has), Illeana Douglas, Fred Willard, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, writer-director Stephen Gaghan, too many film composers and music execs to name, and grande dame Barbra Streisand.