Posts Tagged ‘San Diego

24
Jun
12

Rhett Miller: It Started With A Cup Of Coffee

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It all started out simply and without any expectations. I had been living in Dallas Texas for a few months. I didn’t have any friends and I had recently started work for Macy’s at the Galleria. The surge in people’s interest in  and wanting quality coffee had brought about a boutique coffee shop I found right outside of Macy’s door in the mall. I’m speculating on the resurgence of coffee as a hip cultural thing to do, but I know here in LA, it had started with the Onyx and then expanded with The Pik Me Up.  The fever for a cool place to sip coffee spread across the nation and Dallas was no exception. This was some seven years from that inception in Los Angeles and Dallas was picking up on what had been thrown down. Deep Ellum had exploded with counter-culture fervor providing a crazy scene to support the lifestyle. It was easy for me to blend in because I knew the dialog and the style. I, being an original instigator and provocateur in the movement saw nothing but opportunity on that street. I simply waited for the right moment to leak into that world. Jaime, the girl who served me my morning brew was a very good-looking woman. In the morning we’d have brief exchanges. This habit had continued for a month or two before a defining moment happened. One morning I was complaining about one thing or another when you might say she said the secret password that would set her apart from the run of the mill or the blind and obedient. A word emitted from her mouth that would forever change both directions of out lives. Her response was nothing of particular import till she said the “cathartic” word. Everything stopped right there in a strange suspension, as my mind raced, as if a vast Nietzsche-ist void had appeared for a moment to be deciphered. I said, “Excuse me, what did you just say?” She repeated the statement with the “Cathartic” word in it. From that moment on there was no more polite and light conversation to bide the time to scamper away with my morning coffee. I ask her for her phone number and she wasn’t shy about sharing it. I left that morning filled with hope for a better fortune for my life in Dallas. It wasn’t long that we were out at Trees, Orbit Room (an unofficial Emo’s) or Deep Ellum Bar, maximizing the local energy, while running commentary on that scene. I offered my perspective on what was more or less a rehash of what I’d already done in San Diego and Los Angeles. Revisiting my old ideas for a new group has never stopped me from fulling exploiting an opportunity when it was presented me. So I did it with fervor! She was pretty much my guide to the cool stuff that was going off locally. We became drinking buddies. She introduced me to lots of cool and happening folks that made my life fuller, fun and engaging. Along the way she brought me to a local Pub I can’t remember now on lower Greenville where a national phenomenon was emerging. I would later find out that both of her parents belonged to Mensa. She was a smart lassie! She loved my take on things so much she’d deciphered my expressions for my non-verbal conversation. She pointed out to me one time that she knew when it was going weird by the way I raised my eye right brow. Jaime was an amazing drinking buddy and friend. On one of our forays, I think it was on a Tuesday night, with many Tuesdays to follow, there was cheap beer and cider at this lower Greenville Pub where the Rancero Brothers were the entertainment; two-thirds of the Old 97′s. Of course, the Dallas scene had the built-in infamous The Rev. Horton Heat, The Toadies, REO Speadealer or  Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. To answer all of your questions: yes, I’ve partied with Jim. Share a beverage or two with Mike and Dave of the Speedealer (REO Speedealer). Yes, I’ve flirted with Ursula, Jimbo’s ex-wife, but I tried not too, sort of…   It was hard not to flirt with Ursula with that hair and those amazing eyes and all those bad-ass tattoos. Never met the Toadies, but I did hang with Big Sandy at a festival and for me the crown of the Dallas experience was getting to see The Old 97′s and Rachero Brothers perform on a regular basis and getting to know Rhett and Murry.

The Old 97′s Dallas popularity was startlingly evident one night when we were at a new brew pub in town. Jaime, Phil and myself were there to celebrate the Wreck Your Life release. I’ve seen a few nutty things in my life, but nothing rivals this unique sighting. We were all standing there in the parking lots after the Old 97′s played to a crowd of hundreds. The biggest showing with the largest crowd I’d ever seen them play at the time. Rhett and crew went out for a meet and greet. Soon each member was sectioned off to chatting camp of their own. Rhett was taking to one or two young ladies when the phenomenon erupted. It was a massive female vortex surrounding him. At the core were was Rhett and girls, surrounded by more women who moved in closer to be further encircled by a churning body of women who were moving in a counter-clockwise manner around them like a hurricane or a whirlpool. It was in awesome and madness of that moment was jaw dropping. We all commented on it. Nothing sense or before has matched that moment in my musical experience when it comes to personality cult of sorts. Rhett was completely obvious to the raging pheromone storm twisting about him. His inert and oblivious lack of interest while focusing on those 2 girls didn’t quell the other women’s fervor, but rather antagonized it intensifying their desires to move in. It was insane with women looking for opportunity to squeeze in, perhaps, maybe for only a brief moment to be bathed in Rhett’s gaze and to be acknowledged. We were flummoxed. It was completely stunning!

From what I remember of the time Exene was a major supporter of the Old 97′s. I couldn’t tell you how she was involved but her name came up a number of times. As time passed, the Old 97′s were on the edge of being signed to a major. They faced a choice between either Mercury or Elektra. We, Rhett, Murry and I, were on the patio of this bar when the topic turned to their signing. I was a big fan of WEA. Steve Tip was reping first IRS records. He then moved to Warner Bros. where he had become a VP of Alternative music. Steve had worked at KCR an edgy college station at SDSU I had connections to. So I had my loyalties. I believed at the time WEA had better distribution. I was pretty lit by the time this conversation opened and maybe the boys were too. I couldn’t tell because I had my beer goggles on. I was a fan and I felt it was my duty to offer them the best advice I knew of based on my experience. I have no idea how persuasive I was but The Old 97′s eventually signed with Elektra.

Time passed and I left Dallas for greener pastors, or so I hoped, back in Los Angeles. Jaime had acquired a boyfriend that wasn’t fond of me. We still communicated for a year or so after I left. My relationship with Julie soured and she disappear into Mexico, while my interest in Monique brought me back to La La Land. The 2 years I spent in Dallas were defining and life changing. I had a marvelous circle of friends and a store of fantastic stories to tell. Somewhere in 99 a brand new and shiny Old 97′s would debuted their new Elektra album Fight Songs at the Troubadour. There was no chance of me missing it! To rekindle an old relationship and see a band that had made Dallas a more exciting place to live in. The terms that were bandied about at the time to describe the Old 97′s, were Country Punk and Alternative Country. The kind of music the Old 97′s played sprung from the well-spring of song writing of old Country hero’s like Jimmie Rogers or Hank Williams Sr. Tuneful crafted songs, brilliant harmonies, story telling, brandished with compelling intimate confessionals and the immediacy of Punk Rock. The night of the Old 97′s performance at the Troubadour was loaded with anticipation for everyone involved. The crowd was dense and on tippy toes, in other words, sold out and riveted!  The Old 97′s played the standards like Doreen, Victoria and Ray Charles.  We all sang along. Every song was greeted with massive applause and cheers. It was like a Texas home-coming in Los Angeles. I was already familiar with Lonely Holiday because it had been played back in the Dallas bar days. It was quite a celebration. After the closing of the set myself and a host of others, including some new acquaintances I had met during the show. That’s how tight the sense of community was with Old 97′s fans were with one another and the band.

We headed up to the upper level over the bar at the Troubadour where everybody in the band eventually joined in. There was general merriment and gabbing. I said hi to Murry and found time to set down and chat with Rhett. Besides his talent, I found another attribute of his I loved. The guy has a great sense of humor. We were talking and he stopped in mid sentence and ask me to look over to my left side. Of course I did! Upon gazing, i saw man who was seriously drunk. There was a couple in the sofa below him watching as the man dipped towards the girl. The man was passing out standing up above the couple. His head bobbing rhymicly, going lower and lower with every dip, into the lady’s scoop neck blouse. This went on for a minute or so when I turned back to Rhett. Rhett looked right at me with a half-smile and said one of the memorable statements of my life, “That’s my boss”. We would peer back to see what was to come of this. Eventually, he passed out on the woman, boyfriend watching, in slow motion debauchery. The man ending up, head first, slumped into her breast for a moment, while finally settling into her crouch. We both laughed. As with all good thing the party ended with great hopes and the anticipation of a band poised on the stardom or so we thought.

I would run into Miriam in 1999 at the 3 of Clubs, while I was having drinks with my friends Greg and Chris near midnight on a Sunday. She had just left her job at MTV 2 and was returning to Dallas. She had told me The Deep Ellum scene had died and was merely a shadow of its former glory. I credited its end to Texas copulating, coupling and child rearing combined with the emergence of Boy Bands and the rise Hip Hop. Miriam was part of a gaggle of gals I was occasionally associated with in Dallas. She was within the circle of the Old 97′s. I guess Miriam had more brains and drive than the others. I believe that she returned to Dallas because things were changing to a point that there was a disconnect at MTV 2 and her own personal sensibilities. Seeing her that night, for the most part, ended any communication with anyone I knew in Texas, as they all disappeared. All going their separate ways. My life became more anchored with my older Los Angeles friendships and blossoming new relationships. Occasionally, I’d see an ad for the Old 97′s and would want to go. But my social life was extremely busy and my attention was nearly always diverted to other activities. I still missed the old 97′s. I missed my Dallas hangs and pals too.

My social/business calendar started including SXSW. That infusion of new social currency from Austin’s SXSW social/musical powerhouse opened the doors to reconnect to my Texas past. As I recounted a number of times in my coverage of 2012′s SXSW, I shared my love and interest in Rhett Miller and the Old 97′s on every occasion I messed one of Rhett’s performances during the festival. With that being said, I emotionally and financially obligated myself to his June show at the Troubadour. While exhaustion always accommodates my wardrobe jobs and I’m busy working now. That exhaustion tried to rally against the greater goal of seeing Rhett. I was able to make it to his Monday night performance at the Troubadour. On Monday I parked my car across the street from the Troubadour. Then after securing my photo pass at the Troubadour I parked myself at Dan Tana’s for a couple prep beers. That tied up an hour. I then headed over tot the Troubadour for the opening act Spring Standards. The band was fronted by a lovely red-headed girl named Heather Robb. Spring Standards sound was a mix of Pop and Country with a lot of focus on harmonies. They presented a compelling set where members of the band would switch out instruments. Heather was spritely in nature with voluminous hair shaking and energetic jumping around. They were a good warm up band for Rhett. I took the lazy man’s way out and settled behind the bar facing the stage to made quick friends of the bar tender who was pleasant and attentive. Rhett and crew entered the stage from my left and with a big joyful introduction slammed into the set. He and the band lit into it up with Lost Without You off his 5th solo and new CD, The Dreamer . Rhett must have gone to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Shake it all over” school. I remember he moved around on stage but this was different. He was like Elvis on steroids as his energized fans were with him all the way. Soon he was intruding the song Murder (or a Heart Attack) that effortlessly flowed into another of his new songs, Long Long Long, that stumbled into Firefly, then to fall into Lonely Holiday. Heather Robb came in for three of the songs with supporting harmonies and equal energy. For the most part I was up and down throughout most of the set. By the time Lonely Holiday came about I was setting there soaking up the songs. It’s been some 13 years or so from the last live performance I had seen. I was totally engaged with every move and every note. I had no idea that this was coming, while listening to Lonely Holiday, I started getting misty eyed and sentimental. I’m generally not easily moved. But I guess all my sence memories came flooding back of the women in my life coupled with the years of Texas frolicking. This all mixed with the power of the lyrics ringing so true about the overly mellow dramatic elements and the dynamics of intimate relationships. Rhett had so smartly penned the song that it gotten under my skin with overwhelming and marvelous effect. The guy has amazing talent and his songs ring so true with immediate impact. I was slain right there at the bar with puffy watery eyes trying to put on a brave face. From there he played the more uplifting and naive 19. He closed the set with Four Leaf Clover. Of course, the crowd was howling for more and everyone held their place waiting for the encore. Not a single soul was disappointed when Rhett and the Serial Lady Killers positioned themselves on the stage once more. I was glad to get one last dose of fine songwriting form exemplary tune smithing. For me, the surprise of the encore was a Country/Electric Folk reinterpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression kept all eyes and ears focused on the stage. The generous encore was finished with Our Love. That properly finishing the night off with great music and entertainment. There wasn’t a moment that Rhett wasn’t totally on his game and equally drenched perspiration soaking through his cloths. James Brown has some competition! It proves to me after all these years Rhett hasn’t relented in the quality of his shows. The standard remains high and powered by a maturity and focus in his performance unmatched by his early days. Here’s an artist that grown to fill some big musical shoes and we’ve all benefited by that intensity and devotion. Here’s to many more years of amazing performances!

For those who missed Rhett Miller’s performance it appears that the Old 97′s just announced that they’re going to do two shows in L.A. in honor of the 15th anniversary of Too Far to Care. Aug 31st and Sept. 1st at the El Rey. The Darlins will be opening for them. I have to thank Kim for the tidy tidbit of news to kick off the fall season.

07
Feb
12

Under The Big Black Sun: One More Night In The Soul Kitchen

I was upfront, leaning up against the stage looking out on dozens and dozens of glowing faces. The close ones were white and bright, full of smiles drifting to darker and darker silhouettes to the back of the club. All were focused toward the stage I was leaning on where I slowly slide up on it, while the members of X paused between songs for a breather. I thought it was the perfect time to fire up a cigarette. Soon I felt a nudge against my back. I turned to my right to look up at Exene gesturing with her fingers, pressed closely to her lips, as if she was taking a drag from a cigarette. I smiled and she smiled back as her hand passed my shoulder and drifted by my cheek, she took the Camel nail from my hand that was lifting up toward her mouth. She then stood up for a second taking 2 solid drags from my camel straight and passed it back to me. Once returned I took another puff off the now moist butt of my cigarette as the band slammed into another Punk Rock classic. In front of me all were being driven wild  by the music. The churning of young hot sweating bodies were tangled weaving to the fast beat laid out by DJ Bonebreak, searing guitar work of Billy Zoom and bleeding edge harmonies of both John Doe and Exene Cervenka slamming against the walls of the Bacchanal. It was the sound of Punk mixed with break-neck speed Rockabilly from the album Wild Gift that tossed the Bacchanal into unrestrained chaos. X selling out 3 night’s of this 500 plus venue in Claremont Mesa in San Diego. The only commercial radio station that played X was KROQ. Everything that brought people together that night was essentially generated by word of mouth from all the Punks, while slightly crossing over to the mainstream. We refered to the mainstream as the “Normals”. That night and the other passed by with blistering Punk Rock ferocity for this Southern California musical power house who was the spearhead for the young and budding army of colored haircuts and leather jackets. It was revelatory, celebratory and lifestyle affirming as we participated in making history, changing culture, while Rockin’ to one of the most intelligent bands to emerge in years. Their songs had content, commentary and substance embodied in skillful song craft. Exene and John Doe’s relationship was an archetype that Punk couple aspired to and emulated. Their relationship was tough, funny and loving and it was reflected in the band’s lyrics and that made X unique among most of the SoCal based Punk Bands. As the years passed X never reached the multi-million status that they were at one time expected to reach. X losing some of their base after signing with Warner Bros. where they were being pulled in a more Pop direction by the guru’s at the label. That was followed with Billy Zoom leaving the band and then the dream couple eventually separating and devouring.

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X still carried on like troopers with new band members and new releases. But for most, the magic was gone. Punk Rock found new heroes and new mythologies to attach themselves to. Exene and John created the acoustic country folkish duo The Knitters a year later. I saw The Knitters for the first time in Tijuana at a Luis Guerena, of Tijuana No, produced show. There was a who’s who of the San Diego Punk Glitterati in attendance. All were eager to be a part of this new setup. All evolved wanted bragging right for seeing one of the first performances of The Knitters. I loved the new thing while getting hammered on cheap Mexican beer. The show was raided by the Federales and was closed down: Punks scattering everywhere. Therefore, the show was a complete success from a Punk Rock perspective. As the years past The Kniters virtually dissolved and John Doe explored a solo career and Exene took up art. With all these changes and morphing, I and we, stilled hung on to our majestic memories of X in their heyday. One night I was giving Jane Weidlin a foot rub at an after party from Cover 13 celebrating Retail Slut’s 20th anniversary. Jane and I got on the subject of how we missed Billy Zoom. We were so glad he had rejoined the band. Jane had seen them recently and said they had torn it up. Billy hadn’t lost any of guitar prowess being an air-conditioned repair man. Jane’s slave name escapes me now, but she was a slave of Sabrina belladonna that night. Jane had been assigned to me for the foot message by Sabrina. It turned out to be a perfect pairing. We carried on for nearly an hour going down the nostalgia road pleased at the reunion of both X and the GoGo’s. It was  a splendid night to rehearse the past. The scene was so close-knit and meaningful for all of us, Jane, myself and everybody evolved. Those memories were so dear that it could only hit a deep emotional and resonating chord with us all who shared this unique past. Our reminiscing validated our choices then and affirmed our love for the music and the scene’s characters, of which, every one of us were very much characters, role-playing, living out our dreams in this vibrant scene. After all the years X was still a vital topic.

I eventually ran in to Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek and I pressed him on the topic of Jim Morrison with what you could call a plan B strategy. I had read “No One Gets Out Of Here Alive” at the time of X’s rise in popularity. For me the book was a watershed read that helped me perfect and define my own Punk Rock persona. Of course there was plan B or the sub agenda I had for Ray. Plan B was to ask him about his producing X’s Los Angeles. X’s first album release. As I pressed Ray about Jim you could read the “sign” registering on his face that said, “They always ask about fuckin’ Jim!”. For me seeing that look was just as important as if he’d started telling me old Rock N’ Roll war stories. It was easy to switch gears and question him about one of our favorite band, X. As he reminisced about X his face lit up and he became open. His gestures and body language read way happier, as we talked music and X. A few years later we ran into one another again and picked up where we left off. X, is but one symptom of Ray’s obsession with music: new music, experimental music and how technology affects the communication of music and musical performances. I can see why Ray’s face lit up about X now that I understand his fascination with the new and the experimental expression of musical performances. That’s why X fit that groove perfectly for Ray at the time they worked together on “Los Angeles“. Clearly, X posed a defining moment in music, Punk and SoCal’s culture: I mean the low, the down and out, the disenfranchised subculture that bred rampantly during the late 70′s and the early 80′s in Southern California, The Punk Rock movement change California from only being seen as a sun drenched subtropical utopia. X was the hub, the nexus of this with a call and response declaration of the desperate, reaching for meaning and recognition during a dark time!

During Christmas, as is my tradition, I migrated down to North Park to hobnob with my people. Yes, the remaining Punk legacy of San Diego’s Punk Rock culture. It’s the deepest roots I have and it represents the longest and most meaningful relationships of my life. Of course I hit The Casbah, the echo of previous heroic days, to be imbued by the “sweet” stale smell of smokey air, mobs of old scenesters mixing with new hipsters for Christmas Eve’s Exile on Kentner. Tim Maze was gracious and said hi. We both exchanged Christmas greeting and goodwill for a yearly reunion we often attend. After, Exile On Kentner I relocated at Kevin’s, cuddling up for a welcome sleep after my drive to San Diego. Christmas morning, joyfully waking to Robyn, Kevin, Stevie and Hammer for a Punk Rock beer soaked Christmas! After the gift giving, the laughs and a Prime Rib Christmas dinner I had one of my musings. We were relaxed, lounging in the afternoon winter’s sun in the front yard when I mentioned to Kev and Robyn that the Under The Big Black Sun concert at MOCA with X, The Dead Kennedys and The Advengers was coming up in January. The Universe must have turned on a switch because it was on! Robyn said buy your tickets now because we’ll be coming down. So the plan was set or so it appeared. I, after all, was a sluffer, waiting to buy the tickets after I joined MOCA again. But I was real busy and time passed very quickly in the leading up to the show. Oddly, about the time I was deciding to purchase the ticket I decided to check the MOCA website. I starred in shock as the graphic on the web page read Sold Out! I was unaware that it would go public and I thought I had more time. Damn, damn and damn! Funny enough I received a text the next day from Robyn asking if I was ready and had I bought my ticket. I looked at the text feeling guilt ridden at my slacker ways and hesitated to respond. I broke the bad news to Robyn. Robyn being who she was, was magnanimous and supportive. This was about 10 days out. So I seethed and simmered in my juices for most of that time looking for a way to hook it up. Just about the time I was about to start pulling strings and asking for favors I got another text. This was Robyn letting me know that her and Kevin was dropping out. I was bummed for them and there was a part of me that felt I had let them down. It was a big weekend for me because I was planning on celebrating the Chinese New Year. Ilona Sampovaara, a wonderful lowbrow artist I had met had a showing as well. I was feeling a time crunch, torn loyalties, with great distances to breach and people to meet. Robyn made everything simple and brilliant. But Robyn is always able to pull out the bright side of a negative situation. She was good enough to let use the tickets. I was tremendously grateful. Robyn knows how to take oranges and make orange juice out of them. I thought a good course for the evening would be to bring Ilona along. Ilona has some remarkable art that demonstrates a witty sence of humor, has an observant eye, a sense of irony and clever commentary built into her paintings of dogs, cats and skewed youthful innocence. I thought the MOCA event would be perfect for her and give her a little more adventure to her visit here in Los Angeles from Mexico.

Saturday arrived with different degrees of drama at different times that would bunch up and then release, then linger like a dangling noose of anticipated till early evening. Ilona and I met. Then came our brief catch up session before we moved to rest Under The Big Black Sun at MOCA. We arrived, for me, in an uncharacteristic early manner to soak in MOCA’s vibe and art. I was surprised to see it was outdoors and in MOCA’s courtyard. We were early and the crowd was thin. We chatted for a while and the Avengers hit the stage after a long and momentum introduction. I hadn’t seen them before and was curious, but honestly I had low expectations. They were hard, they were tight and they were Punk Rock. The Avengers did a harder version of the Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black”. They had good stage presence. Brad Kent played searing guitar and had a great look. Their pedigree stems from, Penelope Houston, who was at the Winter Land performance opening up of the Sex Pistols. Brad Kent was part of early Punk bands that spawned groups like D.O.A. and the Subhumans. Of course, I left Ilona behind to get close to photograph the Avengers. At one point I ran into Kim Buresh an entertainment lawyer and friend. It was nice to see her. I started recording a video with my camera and the song happened to be “Fuck You”. What a laugh! I turned to Kim and said, “Of all the songs I would choose to video it would be the song “Fuck You!” We both laughed at the idea and after the song ended I drifted back to Ilona. It wasn’t long before the band closed and the audience began to swirl towards the bar and thicken for the Dead Kennedys performance. Shana Nys Drambrot appeared out of the darkness to say hi. We talked about the bands and her tweeting to her Twitter followers to let them know what was going down at MOCA. She had a press pass from either LA Canvas or the Weekly. She was “Stage Pit” ready! While I’m talking LA Weekly I should note that Falling James was occuping the front stage pit for most of the evening. But in a matter of minutes made 2 passes by us that had me think he was cruising Shana and myself like the boys do at La Jolla and Santa Monica at Circus Books. Then much to my surprise Gary Baseman popped out from nowhere, all Punked up with leather jacket and wildly arrayed pink spiky braids with some stylin’ red bondage pants. Then it got all crazy as I popped off a few shots only to further wind up the action even more as Anthony Ausgang jumped in when I was shooting Jeffrey Deitch and Gary. At that moment the “Lowbrow” scene was blowing up way bigger than the Punk Rock scene we were all here to catch and honor. It was 10 minutes of friendly, nutty horse-play with these “Lowbrow Boys”. Before you knew it, Gary was piggy back riding Anthony, then jumping around and making dramatic posses and fierce faced goofiness. It’s moments like this that take me back to my reading of early 20th Century artist. Gary and Anthony’s horse-play reminded me how wondrous and vibrant the art scene must have been then just as much as it now with mischief and shenanigans I had just witnessed. For examples of such play can be seen when Dalí tied a beget to his head with a scarf for the whole evening for one of his openings. The Dadaists and Theatre Of Hate performances stirring up the crowd to the point of fighting or the rows between Malevich and Tatlin in Russia. What a great moment as it all went spinning out of control! Boys being boys: It was for me the best opening act for X I could have imagined.

Next came the Dead Kennedys sans Jello Biafra. I’ve seen Jello with No Means No in Dallas at the Orbit Room in the 90′s. Sadly, I’ve never seen Jello and the band he spearheaded all those revolutionary ideas with some of the most stunning, the proactive art work to almost get pass the censors. I tend to be a purest. I know Jello did wrong and the band deserved better. But his presence is so huge and his delivery so spot on it’s hard for me to get past and it’s pretty much a deal breaker. But the band hit the stage to deliver a competent version of the Kennedys. They hit all the highs with Kill the Poor, Holiday in Cambodia , Nazi Punks Fuck Off,  California Über Alles and many more. I have to confess I was drawn in by the infectious California Über Alles, because it’s a classic and it’s the way I feel about California right now. I did sing along with a great deal of glee and nostalgia! Towards the end they tightened it up even more where the singer honed in on Jello’s sound. So it was a pleasing end. We all, Shana, Ilona and myself chatted for a bit more before X took the stage and Shana took off for a close up of the X’s performance.

By the time X hit the stage MOCA had hit it’s sold out state. Going in for photos was difficult. Members of the crowd were having their own private family reunion and they weren’t very accommodating or desiring to share their space with me. So I was pushed or shoved as I passed by with my camera. X opened with the “The Phone Is Off The Hook But Your Not”. The crowd was devoted and surprisingly stayed, but packed, with only few taking the opportunity to pogo or shake it on this night. Billy Zoom’s playing was as brilliant and effortless looking as always. DJ kept hammering the beat. John and Exene were wailing in harmony with those break neck turns and spins that come along with their songs. Los Angeles, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, Nausea, We’re Desperate and the list goes on. Unlike previous performances there were less antics and play between John and Exene. No teasing Exene in-between songs, like John did at Hootenanny or intimate chit-chat with the crowd like at Lobsterfest. Mostly, straight ahead Rockin. DJ got the drum solo of his career during The Hungary Wolf. It was much like the performance I had gotten to see at the Greek for when Under The Big Black Sun had first been released. Sharp, to the point and professional. I’m thinking their in full on concert mode because they’re touring with Pearl Jam in South America and Europe, which is a stunning mix of styles, but very similar ethos. X is finally making the money they so richly deserve. It was a great show and appropriately they ended their set with The Doors’ Soul Kitchen. A great cover of a classic I love. It’s quite a tribute to their art and staying power, to what was once a fresh and raw wet behind the ears struggling Punk band. Now X is being the driving force and focus of a tribute to an era with MOCA’s Under The Big Black Sun. It’s such a statement of devotion, when fans still come out to see such a great band play on a night like this and can only be seen as a strong statement for their future too. It’s like a friendship when it starts new, so young, played with such zeal and enthusiasm, then as the years go by it matures into something comfortable, pleasant and enduring. When Exene took a drag off my cigarette so many years ago I had no idea the legacy it would lead to, nor did I know that X would remain a focus of a generation that so pleasingly defined the enduring culture of Southern California’s Punk scene. We all share a remarkable legacy Under The Big Black Sun!

09
Oct
11

Culture Collide Blowing Up the International Indie and Alternative Music Scenes in Silver Lake

I recieved  an invite from Filter Magazine, of whom I’m a subscriber to their email updates, for the kick off of event for Cultural Collide Music Festival for the concert feature Nirvana: Live At The Paramount. A concert filmed in 1991 had been forgotten till recently. Once found it’s been cleaned up and edited from 16mm down to 1080P High Definition. While the invite suggested I should post this invite to my page with a “like” I couldn’t bring myself to do this. I did share it with a few of what I’d consider devotees of Nirvana or true music fans and close friends. I couldn’t stand the idea of fighting people to find a seat or standing in any line that were a quarter mile long. Thankfully, the tactic paid off making entrance easy and more exclusive. So the lesson here is if you want to be in the know you need to get your finger is the pie or you’re going to have to get your toes wet if you want to be in the action! This Wednesday at the Vista the showing took place with a sizable crowd but no nuttiness. I was very impressed with the feature. It was a perfect time capsule of the band represented and the Punk Rock culture of the time. First point of interest, for me, was when Kurt referred to was when he referred to the music he made as Punk music, not Grunge. So Kurt saw what he was doing as Punk and being true to those ethos. Awe, Grunge you are such a lovely marketing term. Another point of interest was the band’s dress or “Look” was composed: there was no stylist there throwing furs, bedazzling thingies or designer gear on them. Kurt had a sweater with a few moth holes in it, a tee and jeans. No dressing for success here! The sound of the feature was superb and the imaging was superior. For those who weren’t there when it happened it will be a revelatory experience, or others this will be a reminder of how genuine and real music performances were and can be. I left satisfied with the nearest thing to a live Nirvana concert one can receive now. It’s worth giving it a view.

Come Friday I was ready for some live music action and so directed myself to the hot bed of activity of Cultural Collide at Taix for a mixer featuring a number of Dutch bands, in this case it De Staats. What a surprise there were, delightfully quirky and I think there was a socio-political message too. They had this odd charm, the lead singer in proper business dress, while the rest of the band were in musician gear. I think he would’ve dropped the look if he had known how hot Taix was going to be. The lead had presence and knew how to keep it moving and to keep it interesting. There sound was with filled  tinkling keyboards and at had a military cadence at times that bring to mind bands like Wall of Voodoo, Pulp or Oingo Bingo but with a less stylized or quirky vocal approach. I felt, had I been from the Netherlands, I would have picked up on a lot of satire and humor in their presentation. Nonetheless, they were a wonderful way to start the evening off in the right way.

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WIM was the next band on my itinerary or should I say, I stumbled upon them in the Champagne Room of Taix. Hum, happy endings… I was immediately struck by the front man’s presences: vocally gifted, very emotive and dramatic in his presentation. He was captivating, moving and gesturing in a very interesting manner while delivering impressive and stylish vocal performance. I thought at first they were some nutty Eastern European band that was branded as being folk glam. Is this a departure from Freak Folk? He approached the mic like a Silent Movie Star would approach a love interest: brooding, steamy and filled with dark lust. By the second song I was sold and the ladies there had been on board long before I showed up. They temperture raised a few degrees while the band slyly slipped their had up out skirts, musically speaking, while we fell into a trace of ungarded pleasure. WIM is a remarkable band and a must see!

I arrived in time to catch Portugal’s The Gift. The lead singer, has an exotic look and a lively stage presence. She dances and takes dramatic poses, while she delivers a poppy Alternative Rock. Not quite No Doubt, not quite Lena Lovich nor quite Loop Guru, The Gift delivers a tuneful dance Rock that is closer to mainstream or Euro pop than what I’d consider alternative, but lively in any case. Their sound is lush with keyboards, riffy guitars and power drumming. During the last song they the keyboardist used a theremin to great and dramatic affect bumping the overall energy and excitement to the show as a whole.

Next on my wish list was The Morning After Girl. These guys were great, providing dense dark hypnotic melodic alternative Rock to a ever growing crowd. The buzz I had received was on target and they delivered. Somewhere in the realm of Spiritualize, Pink Mountain tops or the Verve this band was a knock out pulling off an awesome interpretation of Neo-Phychedelic Rock. I could have listened to a longer set and nested there for the rest of the night had I not had more trouble to get into. The Morning After Girl knew their instruments had good stage presence and the lighting only made the experience richer and put this band on my hit list to visit again.

The local buzz on Avi Buffalo had drawn my attention to what all the hub-bub was about. So, I trekked back Taix’s Champagne room for my last show for the night. I’d say what Avi Buffalo is somewhat like Darker My Love but referencing more of Bob Dylan and less of Tom Petty with a big dip in to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the tiniest dash of White Strips. The sound is folkish but in an electric way and in a singer song writer way too. The lyrics are thought driven and introspective. The audience were composed of Hipsters and young locals. It reminds me of how I’d often go to see Tell Tale Hearts in San Diego part of the Garage Sixties sound that was a subculture to the Punk subculture.  I found them to be more rewarding than Darker My Love: more song craft and musicality. I look forward to digging deeper with this band as time goes on. Cultural Collide has curated so far some memorable and amazing talent. I can’t wait to get my Rocks of fop the rest of the weekend here i Silver Lake.


30
Jul
11

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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