Posts Tagged ‘Miles Davis


Miles Davis: Magic Celebration At The Hollywood Bowl

For some time I’ve been aware that the US Postal service was breaking new ground by issuing a new generation of Forever Stamps which would feature Superstar Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and French Pop singer Edith Piaf. Karen has been keeping me abreast of the ramping up of this historic event from early on. It’s historic as well because this is one of only a few times France has simultaneously released similar stamps through La Poste. Both artists visages have been immortalized in this co-release. I received my invite to the event at the Hollywood Bowl Museum dedication with a little more than a weeks notice. I had seen the press on the New Your dedication and I was impressed!

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The day arrived and I made a trek I often avoid because of traffic and crowds. Not that I don’t like the Hollywood Bowl, because I do. It’s simply the mechanics of getting there that brings on immense misery. But the pleasure I was to experience overrode my overall consternation. Parking was a bear but I made it and I totally scored! I thought I was there for the dedication only, but there was to be more to this night than I would’ve anticipated. I was able to arrange a parking space where I could leave at anytime. I found the Hollywood Bowl Museum where I successfully discovered the terrace of the museum via the elevator. Upon arriving Joshua Ledet was laying out a soulful version of the National Anthem. While I was up front photographing Ledet, then followed by Bubba Jackson, Erin Davis, was nice enough to call to me quietly to say hi. It was good seeing him. I was excited for Erin, Vince and Cheryl. This is a tremendous honor and such a wonderful situation to celebrate Miles’ artistry amongst celebrities, friends and family. New York’s dedication had such notables as Cicely Tyson and Don Was (Was Not Was and President of Blue Note Records), while the group gathered for this event included Henry Rollins, Robert Trujillo, Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller. Bubba laid out a nice tribute, Henry drove it home with his personal anecdotal story of his Mother’s love of Miles’ Kind Of Blue, although Miles’ left Henry’s Mother behind or so she felt. Henry joyfully picked Miles right back up. Henry’s introduction to Miles’ art for us this night was filled jabs of passion, insight and praise for Miles’ performances and commitment to the music. This was followed by Marcus Miller’s account of being in Miles’ band. Marcus shared his admiration and influence from his mentor, who both, challenged him and inspired him. In all their accounts you could sence and feel Miles presence: his effect on them, it is a living thing, that was moving and palpable. I could feel the man Miles must have been while hearing these stories and much deserved accolades. I’ve always felt Miles Davis was the real deal, not one to put up with fakes and frauds. Who’s ultimate and singular goal and passion was for the music. So for me to be here and to have it fleshed out right before my own eyes was truly remarkable. I count myself among the very fortunate!

After the proceeding finished I was steadily moving towards the rescue of my car when I ran into Bob Lee of The Los Angeles Beat. Bob was looking for a photographer for the Miles Davis Hollywood Bowl tribute to 3 stellar albums; Kind Of Blue, Bitches Brew and Tutu. I immediately said yes! As the sun was fading I was guided through the VIP area and amongst the other photographers. As I was ushered into the Bowl proper Jimmy Cobb, the last remaining member from Kind Of Blue, was in full tilt and deep into So What. I started snapping away trying to capture the spirit of the event in my photos. I had 15 minutes to shoot from the aisle right behind the last row of boxes. This was a harder shoot than The Wiltern. Yet I manage to get some sparkling moments of the band playing. Waiting for the next performance with Vince Wilburn Jr.’s band playing Bitches Brew I ran into Earl Gibson Jr. He was shooting for Miles Davis’ Estate, grabbing the best moments of the night’s proceedings. We shared a few laughs and it was back to work. Cobb’s band put on an amazing performance of Kind Of Blue when the stage began to move in a circular fashion to my left exposing Vince’s band who lit right into Bitches Brew. From then on till the end of the set I had free reign shooting the band. Vince was brutalizing the skins as this improvisational maelstrom of collaborators who preformed and included: Mino Cinelu, Jackson Blackbyrd McKnight (whom I rode up in the elevator earlier at the museum), Nicholas Payton, Robert Irving III, Badal Royand and DJ Logic. After shooting, shooting and more shooting I took a moment to really take it in. Vince’s band, The Electric Band, brought about a moment of awe in me as each artist soloed. The density of the music and yet the space you could simultaneously hear from the performance was breathtaking. In many ways the band left me with the impression or the sensorial presents you get with a well executed classical performance. The idea I got from my discussions with my friend Kenny Dennis, a consummate Jazz drummer, was that the mid-century goal of Jazz musicians and Jazz music were to go toe to toe with the classical expression. Listening to Bitches Brew I felt that bar had been met in musicality and structure. It was marvelously 3 dimensional as the different instruments pulled you in different directions. I felt as if Miles was still at the helm. Still guiding everyone in that Ne plus ultra of musical experiences. Simply impressive! During all of this I had run into Karen, who was radiant that night, after pulling off a world-class event. I was happy for her and very impressed. She had an extra ticket. Henry’s ticket, I’d find out later. I stood for most of the performance shooting but I really wanted to be immersed in this phenomenal experience. I sot out the box for some rare access. I found myself setting behind Greg Burk, LA Times’s Culture Monster, reviewing the show. We have a mutual friend, Casey Dolan, who wrote for the LA Times and was Entertainment Editor. We chatted about Casey leaving the Times and our mutual interest of writing and music. Karen joined us as Marcus Miller took command of the stage to bring the recording and collaboration with Miles for Tutu to life again.

Once Marcus had finished with the set of Tutu he took a moment to shared his own story with us of his and Miles’ collaboration. How he had left the band to study composing with Miles’ blessing and of his return to create with Miles again on Tutu. It was rather inspirational moment and showed another side of Miles. A look at him we don’t usually get as a mentor and a collaborator that so importantly demonstrated Miles focus on the music honing in on Miles’ desire to remain relevent and involved. Marcus felt it was fitting and in the spirit of Miles’ own sense of creativity to continue that legacy of reinvention and creativity by introducing one of his own compositions, Jekyll And Hyde. Jekyl and Hyde was to carry the nightto it’s finally. It matched the cadence and tone of Tutu and proved to be appropriate closer for such a remarkable night. We were all moved and impressed by the superb musicianship and the remarkable remake of not one but three ground breaking and watershed Jazz albums. May the house of Miles live on forever!


SXSW: Saturday, Rollin Deep and On The Downlow!

I was up earlier because I felt I needed to get more done. Once again, I nested at Bouldin Creek and doodled on my computer, writing my first SXSW blog: SXSW: Tidbits To Tie You Over. I knew that Karen had another busy afternoon putting together the SXSW Tribute to Soul Train hosted by Don’s son Tony Cornelius and NPR’s Dan Charnas with a Q&A to follow. The event included great archival footage, stories & anecdotes of the legendary Host Don Cornelius. I could tell from Karen’s text that she was back on track now she’d had enough rest. The plan was for me to wait at the W at the Nylon party till the Soul Train Tribute had run its course. I knew that this was an important event for a lot of folks. I remember the music and the performances my brother and I would enjoy as teenagers watching Soul Trian. It familiarized us with Black/Afro-American culture in a way we couldn’t receive anywhere else at that time. It expanded my ideas of music and blew my teenage mind to witness all those amazing dance moves. It was an amazing counter-culture experience as compared to American Bandstand, which was my first experience with Pop music from the medium of Television. Soul Train personified the anything goes late 60’s and 70’s in a way few programs did at the time. Don Cornelius allowed it to be a forum of free expression that drove Pop Culture. I was a big Elton John fan and Elton’s performance of Bennie and the Jets was staggering in my youthful eyes. I got to see David Bowie do Golden Years on Soul Train. Yet another mind bending experience. There was The Temptation, The Spinners, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Billy Preston, Ohio Players, Dazz Band among many, many others I experienced through the program. My friend Josh got to go to the first Soul Train awards and many of the proceeding ones from that time on. Soul Train provided me with a foundation that opened me up to other legendary performers like Michael Jackson, Cameo, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Grace Jones and Rick James. Rick James being one of my greatest heroes with the Punk Funk!

Form Bouldin Creek I found parking next to Republic Square Park. Again, the powerful parking god found favor for me. I sauntered through the Austin Farmers Market as it was closing down. It was nice to walk through the park and see something that was part of the city’s regular rhythm. I had time and I could take the circuitous route to the W if I wished. Before I settled in to the W I stumbled upon The Ginger Man. Peggy Ellithorpe and the RVIP crowd had beers there earlier in the week and I was curious. It’s a damn nice pub! It’s the closest thing to San Francisco’s Toronado in Austin. I walked inside, where it was dark and cool. It was warm outside so this was a relief. The Blurt Magazine and Dog Fish Head IPA party was in full tilt with Milagres half way through their set in the out-door patio area. I remained inside because I’m a vampire. The band played on as I ordered a pint of a mild IPA and dug the vibe of the place. It’s a place you can get to know people and maybe start friendships. It’s cozy and the pint prices are reasonable. Still I felt the W calling me.

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Once at the W Nylon Party I awaited Karen’s text for her arrival. Okay, so I’m pool side lounging on woven chaise lounge looking at others resting and sunning themselves on other woven chaise lounges. Dance music to my side, a bevy of model types to my right representing Nylon and Guess, while I’m gazing at a well designed pool area with a fascinating glass facade that reaches to the sky. Everything was sun drenched while I was cooling it in the shade. I considered the model types good eye candy but they’re too skinny and potentially vapid to interact with or pursue. I lounged there, people watching, indulging in my much-needed rest. I got a text from Karen letting me know that the Soul Train event was running long. She was being thoughtful and considering I might be getting restless or bored. She was unaware of the stress free bliss that I was experiencing while recharging my batteries at the W. Karen was involved in an important process that should take as much time as needed for people to honor Soul Train and Don’s legacy. Everyone there was wanting to have closure and say goodbye to a man who carved out a little piece of history for everyone. It would be selfish of me to ask for it to turn out any other way. Waiting wasn’t difficult at all. It was an honor for me to wait while people said there goodbyes and honored Don’s memory. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Near 4pm I got the heads up! Karen walked up to me in my bliss daze and shook me out of my W Roof Top Pool fantasy land letting me we know we were on the move. Wow, energy was returning to my idle mind. I scooped up a few more photos of the luxury in my kin before I descended into the labyrinth of the W. We played text tag for about 15 minutes when the word came they were all down at Trace restaurant’s patio. I arrived to see all relaxed setting round the table. It was nice to see Erin and Vince again. Much to my surprise Tony Cornelius had join us all after the Soul Train tribute. I locked into my seat and immediately the conversation turned to Jack White’s solo performance the night before. The Black Bells played and Jack had played with a male and a female band: 2 separate bands! Word had it that BP Fallon was consumed and totally Rockin out for the whole show. Erin and Vince were mesmerized by Jack White’s show. We all riffed on what we knew and what we’d seen of Third Man Record’s vertical approach to marketing. I spoke of The Dead Weather‘s free performance and the adjacent Third Man Record Pop Up Store. I was so amazed when I saw people walking out of the store with rare vinyl, special editions and other merch that more than compensated the band for their show. Erin was amazed by the Third Man Record Pop Store he’d seen the night before at The Stage On Sixth Street. The whole package was stunningly brilliant. The idea being bounced around by all of us with our conclusion being that Jack White is an effin genius! Vince referenced Jack White’s commitment to music by bringing up the documentary It Might Get Loud. Vince had to coax me a bit to bring the memory back I had from that documentary. It hit me and then I responded about the scene where Jack was playing this old Lp by Son House “Grinnin In Your Face” which is Jack White’s favorite song. This drove home the point of the power and purity of performance. Vince started referencing all the music that had come from Inglewood Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, tieing it in to what Soul Train had achieved. Soul Train had been connected and influential in projecting and representing Inglewood’s talent that had been spawned there by mainstreaming that community’s range of talent into national prominence. Vince named off some 15 or so groups hailing from Inglewood. I can only remember the Chi-Lites and Kanye West. Tony chimed in agreement. Watching and participating in all of this made realize why they were so curious and innovative in re-inventing Miles catalog. I remember the release of Miles In India, how smart it was as a concept and how cool it sounded. I also remember my reading on Miles in the eighties. Of all the Jazz musicians I listen to I respected his music and his ideas toward to music the most. I loved his persona and attitude towards making music. Listening to Vince and Erin I can see how he infused his ideas into both of them. They’re thoughtful and insightful guys. It was such a pleasure being around that kind of energy. My world was getting rocked!

Somewhere in all of this social heat being generated Kimiko Tokita join us, who is an Austin based marketer and publicist, whose company is called White Crowe. As things began to settle out Kimiko and I had a conversation revolving around entertainment. Kimiko handles David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez and Rosie Flores. I have interest in this because they were all part of the LA Punk scene now living the sweet life in Austin. I also dated Antoinette, a cousin of one of the members of Los Lobos. I feel slightly related. Then out of the blue Tommy Lee and his entourage popped through door to sit close to where we were at on the patio. Karen dropped by to say hi, since she’d worked with Motley Crew in 96′. Tony and I had a very interesting conversation on what contemporary ment. Of course the food had arrived and everyone was snacking while we all to continue to banter about various subjects. Soon to follow was Frankie Banali and Regina Russel. Bringing the Quiet Riot vibe to the patio. Austin can be a small town! It was all so cool and relaxed that more than 2 hours had passed with little effort. The plan now was to roll to the Puma party house. Kimiko was our driver as we all loaded in to the black Navigator. What a great group to go on a gifting adventure. We arrived at the Puma Social House party. For me this was great fun. There was an open a bar and free Puma T-shirt give-away.  We drank and played while the DJ played one the most sexually charged Hip-Hop songs I’ve ever heard. So much so that the lyric became so profoundly explicit that the record got pulled form the turntable with a bump and a scratch. Then this “Smart-Ass” DJ, I like to call him the Smart-Ass DJ, introduce himself, as if we cared, and starts singing while jumping from the stage and jumping around on the grass. A there few were dancing and I found myself laughing my ass at the guys antics. It was nice to let go for a while but then we needed to reel it in and we headed back to the W. From there the group broke up. Karen and I carried by heading Rachael Ray’s VIP House Party at the old Big Red Sun space. There we refreshed our drinkies and really visited. There was a band playing when we got there and to save my soul I can’t figure out who they were. We enjoyed our shots and mixed beverages made of Patron’s Coffee liquor while I bemoaned the loss of my phone. Somewhere along the way I had misplaced my phone. I was having phone separation anxiety. No check ins and cruising the web, no nifty FB post. But it was the loss of the phone that was going to make easy things much more difficult. Once we had destroyed this party. We headed back to the W where I thought I had lost it when I ran into the girl I’d met 2 SXSWs ago. She still remembered me after all that time. I passed on my card and I believe at that moment dropped my phone inside the W arm chair. After checking the W’s front desk I was proved right and received my phone, but not promptly. We were back on the streets again. Hunger had hit again. We saw that PF Chang’s was still open and we thought this was a good place to refuel. PF Chang’s was positioned well to hit the Four Season if we were so inclined. The booze was wearing off and the exhaustion was setting in. The guys reach out to let us know that the Four Season wasn’t going to happen. We enjoyed our food and planned for tomorrows adventure at the Continental Club for Alejandro Escovedo and Friends. We both had a full and exciting day. I couldn’t think of a better way to end it with two good friends sharing a meal.

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SXSW: Bounced in Austin On A Thursday With A Splash Landing Into Miles Davis House

As I sped down the road towards Austin away from Sherman in my rented red Ford Focus. The mile peeled away under the cloudy sky, clouds like white pillows or cotton balls rallied around me, billowing out in all directions under the wide open spaces of Texas: through the greenery of rolling hills of North East Texas, the towers and tangled express ways of Dallas that then gave way to Highway 35 and the arid flat lands of South East Texas that eventually opened to Austin. To say the least it’s a long drive to the largest Interactive/Film/Music convention in the world. The traffic thickened after Waco making it more a challenge to reach my destination in a timely manner. This was my third year at SXSW. Foursquare called me a sophomore, not knowing of my first outing 3 years earlier when I stayed with my gracious host Mary Kate. This year’s event loomed large and rather intimidating for me with over 120 RSVPs locked in and 5 artist I wanted to catch while I was “down in it” in Austin for the weekend.

I was fortunate enough to network through Christine, a social buterfly from Dallas, I had the pleasure to meet while having sushi in Silverlake with Doug and Johnny. We had made contact originally through Facebook. It so happened she popped in on us while she was visiting LA when we dined on tasty Sushi and enjoying multiple sake shots together. She’s a marvelous ball of fire and quite the conversationalist. I was working a number of Austin options that appeared to be on the fade when Christine came through and introduced me to Mike. Mike had opened his home to me for the few days I’d be staying in Austin. I would come to know as time passed and as this story unfold that Mike and I share some similar connections that go back to Dallas a city I lived in for 2 years. I arrived in Austin with all the deets to crash at Mike’s place and set up camp.

I set out from his place to find The Victory Bar & Grill where Karen organized and set up Miles Davis House. I finally deciphered the layout of The Victory Bar & Grill. Among the distractions set before me I decided to head down a long hallway that led into a large back room. It was dark and I immediately saw the stage to the left and booths to the right. I nested in the booths. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I saw some familiar faces. Earl E. Gibson III (an exceptional photographer) and Erin Davis (Miles son), both came up to say hi and made me feel at home. Soon Karen was in the mix. We visited for a while and Vince Wilburn Jr. came up to give me a big old hug. Vince always puts a smile on your face. It was good to see him. Karen pointed out that Left Over Cuties were playing at the moment. I was amazed how much they had improved from the summer at El Cid and Sunset Junction party. I had arrived late and I had missed the only viable time to catch The Magnetic Fields, a band I yearned to see and the prospects for Fiona Apple were looking grim. While these unsatisfied expectations were on the back burners at the moment I couldn’t resist exploring The Victory Bar & Grill before I headed out. I landed outside where I met 2 young and talented musicians Alexandra Lee of Alexandra and the Starlight Band and Zachary James of Zachary James and the All Seeing Eyes. We all had a great little chit-chat. I got them to pose for a few shots and then Stuart Johnson, the drummer for Left Over Cuties, jumped in to add energy and kookiness. From there on the group shots explored their interpretations of Metal poses with all the gravitas of Rock gods. After all this passion I took the time to shoot a few shots of Vince and Erin outside The Victory Bar & Grill before I jaunted over to see Fiona.

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I left the Victory Bar & Grill to arrive near  the Austin Texas Central Presbyterian Church where a host of showcases were taking place besides Fiona Apple’s. One of the brutal truths of SXSW is if you arrive too late for a show, YOU ARE TOO LATE! No badge, no connections, no begging will lift you through the threshold to magically transport you to the center of the action. I came upon the badge line first. An exceptionally long line to arrive at 10 minutes after 8pm. Fiona was on at 8pm. I knew all was lost. But to make sure I cruised over to the wrist band line to see my hopes utterly dashed upon the steps of that Presbyterian of the church. This was a tough blow, although, I think of Fiona Apple as a nice second to say The Shins or The Magnetic Fields. Having 3 and 1/2 hours sleep under my belt I decided not to squander my flagging energy waiting in a line: a line that I’ll never see the virtue of being inside the sanctuary to see the barefoot chanteuse. I decided to hit South Congress to do something more than snack as I had The Boiling pot earlier on my arrival. I love downtown Austin but I’ve longed over the last few years to get a grip on what South Congress is all about. So I headed to yet another axis of the SXSW experience on South Congress. I wanted tacos! I found a spot near Home Slice Pizza and Güero Taco Bar. Güero’s is always crowded and that’s year after year at this time. As I walked to the corner to cross the street bands were blazing out the Rockin noise at Home Slice with a Boho crowd clustered around the popular pizza joint listening to music and eating copious amounts of pizza. Once across the street and inside Güero’s I found the place full but the bar area was available. After some thought I figured it was in my best interest, time wise. to plug into the bar. I sat next to 2 gentlemen in the middle of their meals and waited to be served. One of them decided to ask me if I were press. I was surprised by the question because I always try to keep that stuff on the down low. Then it dawned on me that I was wearing my Fader Fort Presented by Converse Press wrist. So I admitted I was press. We spoke in between my ordering and eating about his love of Punk Rock. He told me he followed the Ramones like a deadhead would follow The Grateful Dead. His friend to the left of him endorsed the comment and I laughed at the idea. Our conversation continued in-between my bites. The tacos were nice Tex-Mex fare, the red beans were, well, red beans and the Mexican rice was the worst I had ever eaten. So I passed on the rice. The guys bid their adu and the weight of possibly missing Semi-Precious Weapons were taking their toll in my mind on my drive to catch some new exciting bands.

I sped over to The Victory Bar & Grill just in time to catch Semi-Precious Weapons in search and destroy mode. I don’t think I’ve seen more action on stage since Wendy O’Williams of The Plasmatics or Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks. Thankfully, Justin Tranter can’t lactate like Wendy did: although, he played with his nipple while on stage. But the show was amazingly messy. Everyone in the group was jumping , crawling, crashing, playing , singing, spewing liquids as if they were a bunch of crazy monkeys on speed. I said on my Facebook fan page  as a comment they put on a show, show, show! The fans, yes the fans, were  as out of control as the band blew up and played off the crowd. You could honestly say their fans were as much of the show as the band. The fans were giving out the energy and the Semi-Precious Weapons were giving it right back at ’em! This eclipsed into over 20 minutes of magical mayhem of performance by the group. Later I headed outside. Semi-Precious Weapons geared up for  more photo opportunities with Erin and Vince by Earl. Karen and I had time to catch up as the Semi-Precious Weapons were in interviewed by Beta Records TV. Karen with Erin and Vince’s help put together this ambitious all day event for Mile Davis Estates with a host of new talented acts. All the while interweaving the legacy of artistry and innovation Miles Davis represents and carries on by his son Erin and his nephew Vince with these new breeds of entertainers. Miles Davis House shook The Victory Bar & Grill for a history making SXSW inaugural that sets a great foundation for next year’s blow-up event in Austin. We sat there for a while and talked about the day at hand, when Greg my roomie from last year, pulled up on his bike and joined in the fun. It was nice to see my homeboy after such a long time. Then Karen then had to run. Greg and I had a bromance drinking beers and yakking about all that had happened in the last year. Greg still had party left in him but it was after midnight and the fade was hitting me pretty strongly. I had only three and half hours of sleep and a 6 hour drive under my belt I felt it was time to melt into my digs. In Austin you got grab your sleep while you can when you’re playing in the SXSW Hipster Olympics.

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SXSW: Tidbits To Tie You Over

The excitement of SXSW was palpable as I expectantly waited for it while I was staying with my parents in Oklahoma. I arrived in Austin exhausted and running late because of unforseen events like tight traffic from Waco to Austin, All the elements made me roughly 2 hours late. So for this outing I’m coloring the events briefly as high lights till I can muster for a full-blown report.  The Party got started at The Victory Bar & Grill where Miles Davis Estates through a party to build on the legacy of Miles Davis. Erin and Davis and Vince Wilburn Jr. along with Karen Sundell but together a bunch of talented buzzy and up and coming artist for this event the included  Left Over Cuties, The Furious Few and Semi-Precious Weapons. I cruised between parties and events as I was trying to get m sea legs after landing in Austin. The night went late but not too late!

The next morning I was invited to MyMusicRxevent by Fader Fort. It was a charitable affair with delicious food and an open bar. More on the MyMusicRx event is located in my blog “SXSW: Songwriters, Performance and Super Stars” . I got my drunk on as I networked, listen to 2 marvelous bands: LP from New York and Yawn from Chicago. The Fader Fort and Converse event had the totally good vibes going on as folks talked about the good work being done by MyMusicRx for the Children’s Cancer Association through partnership with i-Tunes. It warmed up the day and me got ready for all the activities that were lined up. I followed this up with the Morning After Party where I continued my gluttony and drinking as some blues Rockers provided the Austin style soundtrack.

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My next stop was to drift by the Victory Grill once again for another showcase of International artist. I thought I was through eating when I was offered some crawfish monica. Robert Singerman turned me on to the party and a bunch of talented musicians that included Tiffany Shea, Ashley Faith and Nanna Larsen. I had a great visit with Tiffany and was surprised she was a fan of Rhett Miller. I so inspired her she decided to go the Rhett’s show on 6th Street. Once I departed the victory Bar & Grill I was on my way to Rhett’s show when I stumbled upon the Google party line that was pen to all. The artist who were playing included Jimmy Cliff and The Shins. I had to decide then and there what my priorities were and that ment hooking up with this show. Because this was the last chance to see The Shins, a band I discovered around 2000, but had never seen.

Once I was upon the 4th floor of this parking garage I could take in the whole city of Austin. What a beautiful and dramatic view. Jimmy Cliff was half way through his set and the crowd was thickening. It was time for more free beers and an energy drinks. I ran into Alexandra and Zackary, two young talents, I met during the Mile Davis House event the day earlier and we chatted. While we were talking, Vince Wilburn Jr. jumped in from backstage while Black Star finished and we all hung for a minute longer before they went off to the Jack White’s showcase. I continued there till The Shins finished their set. The place was packed and the fan were crowding in to catch every moment of this rare experience. The Shins delivered a great and solid set. I finally got to see a band I’d missed for various reason over the years. From there I had asperations to catch Rhett Miller later but I needed to score some food by that point and headed over the Death Metal Pizza. I locked in the pizza but all that cheese and grease hit me like a cannon ball and dampened my desire to log in a few more hours of music. I decided to load photos and video and when that was accomplished the call of sleep was strong. I decide to nest back at Mike’s place to pick up the SXSW gauntlet for Saturday because the party never ends at SXSW.

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Eagle Rock Music Festival: As the gods would have it!

My covering of the 13th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival had it seeds sewn early, as early as SXSW, in Austin this year. It was further fertilized by my experiences with Sunset Junction’s collapse has this story unfurling in a surprising and grand manner. Sunset Junction with it’s own legacy in the music festival circuit as the Mother of all LA based street festivals. Sunset Junction was the inspiration for the blossoming Eagle Rock Music Festival. The seeds were sewn with my introduction to the delightful Peggy Ellithorpe at an Interactive hoedown in the convention center in Austin, while I was covering Film and Music for the 10 non-stop-free-for-all days at SXSW. We share a common interest in film and music. The Artivist Film Festival arrived and I jumped at the chance to volunteer, knowing she was managing it. I had the best time, meeting some great creative folks and participating in a good effort. It so happened she was to be running the social media and volunteers for “ERMF”. I bellied up to the bar once again to one of her volunteers and to be a part of one of my favorite local festivals. As the days approached I was able to include a couple of friends to volunteer for the festival. I was rather proud of myself for doing so. I got a film buddy, Scott Marsall, involved with a new friend: a charming exchange student named Mocha, fresh from China. They both jumped on board to be a part of this very ambitious and difficult feat of helping in putting a music festival together. I won’t say I was counting off the days, but I was truly looking forward photographing the crowds and bands who were booked for one of the coolest street fairs in a beautiful part of Los Angeles.

I haunt places like Oinster’s, Columbo’s Italian Steak House, Cocoa Mexicatessen, Colorado Wine Company, Swork, Casa Bianca Pizza and Taco Spot. So being a part of my communities festivities is a complete natural. So when Saturday arrived, I was ready. I networked my networks and was ready to hatch the long anticipated plan. So I locked it in with my girl, Mocha, and my boy, Scott. I was considering live blogging the event. I started the process by putting up a brief article on my previous adventures at the Eagle Rock Music Festival the night before. Later that day I would discover that my dream couldn’t be realized. Swork, unknown to me, had shut down their network for the festival promptly 5pm. So after 5pm it was a total snafu! I was a bit bummed. Returning to the topic at hand, I picked up Mocha, near USC, where she generously added Tiffany to our ranks. From there we scooted through downtown till I found a Harbor Freeway entrance near Staples. In a flash we had nested close to Colorado, near the public Library on a shady street. It was nice getting to know Tiffany and catching up with Mocha now she’s full time at USC. Our next launch was to the volunteer station for check in and orientation.

The girls were excited to be a part of their first music festival. They couldn’t wait to sign up and start their shifts. We lingered a bit. The girls got their way and signed up; all the while we were sucking in the rather warm and very sunny afternoon. Once done we scurried off to Swork for refreshments and my meet up with Scott. We metaphorically spread our wings in the cool ease of Swork family friendly coffee shop. Scott and I made the necessary plans for my photo and video efforts for shooting the bands. The good news was there was a lot to work with and the bad news was the limited time to document all the entertainment. We had a full plate! After downing one “Prep” iced coffee we all headed back the volunteer center to get the ball rolling. The charming Zuleikha, Peggy’s assistant, was handleing the signing in and orientations for all the volunteers. Scott got several candid and posed photos form both Mocha and Tiffany to save some memories for later. Then much to my inner child’s delight my most favoritest volunteer, Nicki, rolled in with her own special style completely on fire as usual. She was punkishly pumped with effervescent energy and I was thrilled to see her. Being around her I feel both gay and straight, as she rolls out her fabulous and snickering devilishly dirty tails cronicaling her love life. Every story is purely a hilarious outrage of her love interests. Her and I kibitzed for 20 minutes dragging Scott into it, that included a ride to a ticket station while she lamented her “Burner love affair” with an artist who revealed his involvement with a French woman who was living in Paris. Now to Nicki’s outrage the French woman will soon be moving to San Francisco to take up permanently with the artist. I told her she’s not usually the third wheel in a relationship and I was surprised she had let this happened! As she told the story my ears were burning form the salacious naughtiness that was both intoxicating and outrageous, my ears were on fire form the dirt and outrage! I got a full dose of the good stuff and I didn’t want to leave it alone. I think there’s going to be a lot of hot sex and crying in San Francisco soon! Ultimately, we had to return to the sanity of our work. Mocha and Tiffany, my China Dolls, were given a station to collect donations, while Scott and I were on our merry way to collect images and memories.

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From this point on the playing was over and we were on the run! Scott was being my faithful assistant who held my tripod as we scooted up and down Colorado. Dub Lab was our first stage of the festival. The brochure referred to the the stage as Dub (Future Roots) Lab featuring Carlos Niño and the Arohi Ensemble. I was quickly intrigued with the two men with a combination of sitar and Cello going through the rigors of sound check. I popped off a few shots and eyeballed the situation long enough to get the jest of the overall set-up. I was lucky enough to get Carlos Niño sitting in the background of the shots. Later, I would return to hear Arohi Ensemble melodic trance raga and jazz mix where they had added a lilting flute to the mix that flowed evenly while intertwining, then the flute lifting elegantly as an accent to the drone of the sitar and melody of the cello. But for the moment sound checks can eat up time and we were on the move again. We jaunted up to the Emerging Artist Stage to find Kenan Bell all hot into it riffing and rapping over drum and rhythm guitar with a sweet backing vocalist. She belted out her backing vocals while shaking this amazing mane of cork screw curly hair like it was a San Franciscan freak flag! I kept thinking Chaka Kahn, Chaka Kahn, Chaka Kahn while she shook and flung that hair as she sung. A lot The Knux, Kenan Bell, has a bit of Rock interwoven in his Hip Hop. From the Emerging Artist Stage we moved to the Low End Theory Stage. Karen would later in the evening explain where the term “Low End Theory” to me. She’d explain how it came to be a cultural reference point from the album by A Tribe Called Quest to obviously embed as part of the Eagle Rock Music Festival’s stage name. The story starts with Q-Tip’s admiration of Jazz, in particular Miles Davis. In fact, so much so, that Q-Tip approached Ron Carter, a long time bass player for Miles, to play bass for him on what would become the album “Low End Theory”. Karen sighting the story where Q-Tip left a phone message on Ron’s message machine asking Ron to play for him. Ron didn’t know who Q-Tip was. Ron is far removed from that world and out of the loop. Ron called his son to get his thoughts. He ask his son in that conversation “What’s a Q-Tip?”. When his son heard this he told Ron, his Dad, he had to play for Q-Tip, knowing Q-Tip’s rep. Ron played on the Low End Theory album which was a defining moment in Hip Hop and Jazz synthesis. I was glad to get the DL on the low down on the etiology of Low End Theory. That story was still hours a way and the sun was still bright and the crowds were beginning to flow in as DJ Daddy Kev passed the baton on to Dj D-Style to spin the wheels of steel. We lingered there for a while and then took it back to base for my first attempt to live bloging. Soon the dream was shattered with Sworks no internet for the festival policy. That through me a devastating and time consuming curve. Nonetheless, f the ashes of dreamy dreams I refocused and Scott and I were back on our way to cover the music!

We caught Ellen and Matt at the Family Stage jumping franticly: singing, spinning bringing joy to the little soldiers who were gleefully mirroring what they were seeing and listening to from a bag of magic of inspiring songs. I’m going leave this performance, as simply as a good thing, as apposed to finding some critical thread and intellectual drive behind “Good ole fun”. Yes, we marched on returning to Dub Lab long enough to catch Mia Doi Todd simple acoustic singer songwriter style grace a captivated medium size audience with her beautifully lilting melodic folk/soul music. It was her, a guitar, a voice with a shaker providing light percussion pacing along with her vocals and her guitar. The sun was fading at this point and she was serenading us in the dusk. Scott and I made a last stand to check on Mocha and Tiffany who so dutifully taking donations. Their location allowed them receive the full blast of the Low End Theory’s bass barrage. We bid our farewells as the street were thickening further unknowing seeing them for the last time. We pushed up the second time towards to the Low End Theory stage. The smell of weed was in abundance as we sifted through the crowd to finally break out on the other side to glimpse Panang, the aesthetic harbor for both the Ship and Kingsize Stages. I’d been dreaming of the Kingsize stage for the last couple days and felt it was my mission to make it! These stages were turning over the music acts at a frantic pace with lots of straight on Rockin’! Scott, ever faithful to the calling of assisting me was ready to set up at any moment. As the dust began to settle around us Karen peeked through the crowd and garbed me. It was good to see her and we Kibitz while making the introductions. She was there to support Ronna, an old friend, and the bands of Kingsize Sound Lab. It wasn’t long till we were treated to a great sound from a San Francisco band called Buffalo Electric‘s performing an energetic set delivering their Gaurage/Punk inspired music. They brought it with bright searing guitar, rumbly bass and pounding drums! They drove it home with verve pulling on strong Rock N’ Roll traditions. They had both Karen and I bumping and bopping through the whole set. They had the “look” too: skinny jeans, sharp black shoes, mopish hair with big fat chops. I know that Low End Theory had the big crowds but the future was staring us right in the face and we were staring right back at it! Next on the Ship stage was Molino a fine indie ensemble, tight polished and professional that kept the crowd pleased in the Panang’s parking lot. They were the only band to use a smoke machine. I might add, that the smoke made for some mighty fine photos! At this point I was well aware that if we didn’t drift soon, it was my job to drift, I’d be locked in for the rest of the night at Ship and Kingsize because of the splendid roaster of talent to close the night out. So we slipped back in the direction of the volunteer center, but not before getting a little jiggy at Welcome Inn Stage staring Bonne Musique Zydeco. We arrived to a full parking lot of shaking booties. All around us was “Big Easy” merry making! Yes, there were beads while Bonne Musique Zydeco was playing like nobody’s business from the balcony of the Welcome Inn. That’s right, lifting the bar for SoCal by putting the “Partay!” into the word party and so lifting our spirits by bringing me back to those special qualities I so fondly embraced from my adventures in NOLA. It was the real deal using all the right elements like accordion, washboard, rhythm and bass guitar and managing a drum kit up on the balcony.  Bonne Musique Zydeco delivering classic Zydeco to all of those in the parking lot. It was simply marvelous as we soaked up the flavor. Sadly, Scott had to make his way home to get ready to hit Vegas for some upcoming work so we had to roll. We said our goodbyes at the volunteer center. I was very grateful for his help. By this time I had completely lost Mocha and Tiffany. Sure there was a lively text thing going on between us. On one occasion the text was Chinese script. For the record they were out and off on their first adult playground experience. I’m not the no guy when it comes to that kind of thing!

At this point my feet were made of lead and throbbing sore. So we rested. Karen and I nibbled and sat to recoup before our final phalanx to cut through all those shrink rapped packed bodies at Low End Theory Stage. We caught a ride on one of the carts which stalled in the middle of the crowd at Low End Theory Stage, but not before we ran in to Tim and Miki who passed us walking. This gives you an idea of our speed on the cart. We jumped off and started walking pushing through the crowd. Through the crowd I ran into Eva Juneau who works with Edgar Varela at EVFA. We hi-fived having no opportunities to hug. Karen and I finally pressed through to find ourselves in front of the Kingsize stage again just in time to catch Chicago legend Dorain Taj, a former member of “The Articles of Faith” play! Hitting the stage Dorian Taj was “ON” from the get-go: they were a Rolling Thunder Review, an E-Street Band or a Rolling Stones performance on steriods. They were far from synchronized but they pulsed with every ounce of their bodies and souls making them riveting to watch and listen to. I kept getting Hurricane Carter stuck in my mind when I was taking in the  performance. They were vibrant, a Rock N’ Roll narcotic, rummaging on stage delivering tasty licks, urgent soulful vocals with a bluesy indie Rock feel to the songs. They didn’t let up till they left the stage. The audience was all agog at what they had witnessed and followed Dorian Taj’s exit with a round of applauding praise that thundered long after their power serge performance. Next up was Blonde Summer. Their sound has an indie vibe reminisant of Von Bondies or Death Cab for Cutie with a little more bite in it. Blonde Summer had a solid performance locking in a tight performance, but to be honest a bit of a come down after Dorian Taj manic stage attack! The whole night in the Panang’s parking lot bands were rifling back and forth between the Ship and the Kingsize Stages. To me the best bang for the buck because there was little down time in between sets. Hailing for Portland, Adventure Gallery, who have been recording at Kingsize Soundlabs pounced to plant themselves on the Kingsize Stage. Adventure Gallery are not the shy types either! I kept rehearsing how they were from the same seedbed as the Dandy Whorhals. They shared similar attitudes in their writing style but the music drifted from a Warhol’s sound. Adventure Gallery filled the stage and I mean “Filled” it, literally, completely across from left to right. Adventure Gallery is a high energy ensemble with a combination of Rock energy and Dance fever. At times they vibe like Airborne Toxic Event or Duran Duran without Simon Le Bon or a bunch of randy boys with guitars and keyboards on a mission! The crowd that gathered around them in Panang’s parking lot were ready to dance! The band only encouraged them all by raising the pitch, winding everyone up with every new pulsing song. Great music and a solid engaging performance tightened up the crowd at this point. The bar was lifting toward the next band Shadow Shadow Shade performance. Strangely, a week ago I notice that I had a link attributed to them observing my blog. That link brought me to a page where Shadow Shadow Shade‘s music was featured. I gave them a listen and I liked what I heard. All of this making the world seem a much smaller. So I was keyed on their performance to catch the live version of the recorded version I’d heard the week previously. They were introduced as one of the oldest bands in LA and I find that hard to believe knowing of Rick Wilder’s Mau Maus, The Weirdos or the Gears. But I played along. The opening riff of their set starts like the Sex Pistols Anarchy In The UK but by the second bar they had made it their own, pushing forward into their own material. Their sound embraced more or less an alternative garage inspired Rock sound that hinted of Lou Reed structure with mostly male leads that were accented with just the right amount of intertwining male/female harmonies with effortless intoxicating affect. The fans were drawing in close and I might say they were fanatical. The crowd was resisting my moves forward to get the better shots. I had to get all “Photog” on them to make any headway to lock in any quality images of the band owning the stage. Karen was already there getting her groove on. So I moved closer to her seeking refuge from the very focused fans. They had a well paced show that keep the tempos changing from song to song. Some songs more Rockin’ and those that were more etherial and dramatic. They put an effective power packed show leaving folks wanting more, but alas, the set were clocked in at 30 minutes and there was no leeway to make room for the next band. For me this was an appropriate rapturous end to a frenetic, eventful and exciting day. I bid my farewells to Karen to finally relocate to the volunteer center to catch up with Peggy on photos, festival close out and final sharing our mutual delight and exhaustion. Right after that I had a chance run in with Tonya as I was scooting towards my car. She’s a great drummer, an inspiration of joy and determination in the music community. She was good enough to invite me to an after party but once she really looked me over she determined I had had plenty of party for the day. We shared a big hug. I was off to the car with plans to get the photos up by the next day. This 13th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival was every bit as challenging as anything SXSW has thrown at me and every bit as rewarding as SXSW has been, for me as well. It was a day and a night of mixing with enthusiastic crowds, working and playing with wonderful friends and listening to amazing bands! All the adventures and exploits of the day are going to some make bright and warming memories that will last for years to come. My hat’s off to another offering from the Eagle Rock’s Center For the Arts for putting together their most stunning music festival yet!


Mishka: When the Raga Drops!

I was asked to photograph Mishka at the GRAMMY Museum some months back. All of this took place after a remarkable travel bender that started with SXSW in Austin Texas, then a bounce in San Francisco for Easter with friends and eventually ending in Seattle with a familial visit with dear my brother. So, once I touched down at LAX I had little more than two hours to make the GRAMMY Museum and Mishka’s visitation. I had made the GRAMMY Museum for a Miles Davis event some months back, so I had a tight bead on the location. It was the mass transportation variable that was going to make this a difficult hurdle to pass over.

So it all shook out just fine despite some tense moments. I was still able to catch Mishka‘s first performance where the kids are a part of the Grammy Jams program exposing children to music. Mishka, a father himself, did a family friendly set and answered questions for all these exuberant little ones. Later that evening Mishka played an acoustic set for an older crowd. After that set, Mishka was interviewed by Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli in the Clive Davis Theater, while taking a short break from supporting Kenny Chesney‘s “Going Costal” tour. The cosy environment of the Clive Davis Theater was a perfect setting for Mishka to talk about his upbringing, his new CD “Talk About” on JK Livin, his musical interest and influences. The interview revealed a thoughful artist raised on Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. He spent most of his youth and young adulthood growing up on a boat, living with his family, who sailed throughout the Caribbean, being exposed to Island life after his father quit the corporate world to live a more simple life. Mishka’s songs reflect those values intertwined with the spiriituality of the Rastas, merging them with the social awareness of the 60s and the modern concept of “Consciousness”. Afterwards, I spent a little time with Mishka and complimented him on his songwriting and tune smithing abilities. I could tell from the on stage discourse with Bob Santelli he wasn’t posing with his reggae drenched acoustic set. He is truly dedicated to the ideals of Rastafari and “Consciousness”. He truly has knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle. So I encouraged him to hook up with San Diego’s top Rasta, Makeda Dread. Makeda, in San Diego, was the primary promoter of Rastafarian lifestyle and “Consciousness”. She had San Diego’s first vegetarian restaurant and promoted Reggae concerts as seminal as any Punk Rock promoter during that period. She was instrumental in introducing me to Sly and Robbie, which I will be forever grateful! The time I spent with Mishka was validating on both a spiritual and emotional level. It was nice to see the Raga drop in the middle of such a pristine environment as the Grammy Museum.

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As things would have it my Mishka story wouldn’t end here. After a number of months performing the official Hard Rock pre-parties for Kenny Chesney’s “Going Costal” tour, once again, Mishka made a mainland connection for some special concerts and promotional shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, continuing his support of his i-Tunes and Billboard Reggae charting album “Talk About“. I caught up with him at Rogers & Cowan, getting ready for a showcase for the Rogers & Cowan Summer Concert Series that Karen Sundell puts together to create awareness and interest in the emerging acts represented by the company. The Summer Music Series gives all involved a little hump day time to chill and take in the arts. I was looking forward to Mishka’s set. Everyone circled around him as he performed a satisfying, simple and to the point set of his newest songs from Talk About and old favorites. The room roared with appreciation of the performances of his songs “Give Them Love”, “My Love Goes With You” and closing his set with “Guy With A Guitar”. Soon he was off to yet another event in a week of back-to-back activities that wouldn’t end till he flew back home to Maui. While a farmers work is sun-to-sun, a musician’s work is never done.

For me there was one more chance to catch Mishka lay it down Raga style and that was at Hotel Cafe. Hotel Cafe is the Hub of the singer songwriter scene here in Los Angeles. Mishka had a prime spot to show his talents in a premier LA “Singer/Songwriter” hot spot. I’ve covered Carina Round and Walking Sleep here. I’ve enjoyed drinks and chit chat with Tom Livemore (Carina’s guitarist), Steve Fishman (James White and Hugh Cornwell) and Frank Infante (Blondie). So, Hotel Cafe has had some interesting and warm memories attached to it for me. Some time after my arrival, Mishka dropped in with guitar in tow and headed into the “Artist” area of Hotel Cafe.

I could tell things were a brewing, for sure, inside that room as I quietly sat at the table in the bar area of the establishment. It wasn’t long before Mishka took the stage with his guitar. He powered into his set. Something was different this night. As much as I enjoyed Mishka’s songs and previous performances this was a completely different kettle of fish. He was on fire! He was fiercely intense and ferociously committed to his art. He was vibrant and he rattled and glistened as I had never seen him before! His delivery of the songs was that of a showman and a Shaman. It was riveting, intoxicating and the crowd responded in kind. He started his set with “Long Road”, blazing deep into the set with “Higher Heights”, “One Tree”, “Talk About”, then followed with a sizzling rendition of “Above The Bones”. He shared comments and thoughts with the audience that brought them in closer as he pressed through the rest of the set. Everyone there hung with bated breath, and with anticipation, clung tightly to the edge of their seats as this show enveloped around them. As I learned later, Mishka does nearly all of his shows extemporaneously. Meaning, every show and/or set is done based on the feel of the room and the mood of that moment. So, he kept giving the people what they wanted and finished the set with “Stars Will Be Shining”. The whole show ran white hot. As the show concluded, it was as if the room was blasted with a bolt of cleansing air by of his stirring performance. There were enthusiastic yelps and cheers as Mishka left the stage. For all involved, the night concluded on a high note with some mighty Raga fever!

Mishka is a deeply committed and rooted artist that blends integrity, intensity and gifted song craft into something everybody can relate to. Talk About is his fourth album and there will surely be more from this deep well of creativity. So let the Raga drop!

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