Friday, December 2, 2016

The Christmas Penguin Has Arrived!

The Christmas Penguin (!) has arrived in Venice just in time for the Venice sign lighting tonight!

Sadly, I'm leaving town right now and will have to miss one of my favorite events of the year, as Venice becomes Bedford Falls there in the Windward Circle ... I just love it. I hope you all have so much fun, and please know that I'm fully there in spirit!

Happy Holidays, Venice! It's on.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

How Did I Get Through The Day?

There's a gorgeous, dreamy new video out from Har Mar Superstar for his song, "How Do I Get Through The Day?" and it was directed by my good friend, Phil Harder. It stars Minneapolis along with Har Mar, in all its fall glory ...

Harder is a veteran award winning music video director, always known for his stunning visuals. I hope you saw his sublime and just as gorgeous, Low: Movie - How To Quit Smoking, and if you haven't, I can wait while you do ...

Cool. Harder told me that Har Mar called him on a Friday saying he wanted to do a video floating down the Mississippi River while the fall colors were still in all their glory. They shot the following Sunday, after quick building a wonderful Huck Finn type raft/boat that Harder's wife Isabelle fitted with mirrors for Har Mar to stand on, giving it all a beautiful, reflective, mysterious wonder. Harder shared a making of video with me that showed how the magic was created, showing just how very close Mr. Superstar was to falling into the Mighty Miss. Many of the shots had Harder propping him up from below for safety purposes, as Harder told him, "Act like you're on a stage, but we're not." Interestingly, the iffy balancing act was because they had to go fast to create the slow motion effect. Some shots were also flipped in post. Simple (but not) as that. I love every frame (especially going by the Grain Belt sign and the bridge with a train going by).

I also love the tune itself. Aside from its cool oldie crooner style, with so much bad news going on every day, it really does beg the question some days of how in the holy hell did I get through today?! But you somehow did. Songs like this help. Beauty as seen in this video helps. Awesome people coming together to create something fantastic really helps.

Shout out to Har Mar and Harders (and crew) for this very special piece of work. And for helping me get through today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

KCRW's Best Of 2016!

KCRW held a little soiree last night to celebrate its Top 10 list for 2016. The Los Angeles music tastemakers (and almost everyone I know's favorite radio station and all day companion) got a jump on the end of the year list making, unveiling their top picks before we're even to December ... and I bet most others will follow their choices pretty closely, as all are excellent.

The party was held at legendary producer Bob Clearmountain's Apogee Studios in Santa Monica, where KCRW often holds intimate live music showcases as well. The place is fairly small, so the place was packed with loyal listeners wanting to compare our lists. Whiskey drinks were served, and KCRW logo cookies were also on offer. As it was basically standing room only, things got under way quickly and moved along at a good pace. Morning Becomes Eclectic DJ, Jason Bentley, got the proceedings underway (in some very stylish pants), welcoming everyone and explaining the process. Each station DJ comes up with their own TOP 10 list, then the results are complied into the master list. With so many losses in the music world this year, the evening felt especially poignant. I choked up more than once.

A rep allegedly from the accounting firm of Deloitte comically brought up the sealed and numbered envelopes, and then Bentley brought up DJ Marion Hodges to unveil the number ten spot. #10 was A Seat At The Table from Solange. Hodges cracked everyone up saying, "Solange has her hands in a lot of fires ... wait, that's not a saying." but her point was made. Solange had a lot going on this year, music supervising shows like HBO's Insecure as well as releasing this really great piece of work. Hodges chose the track "Don't Touch My Hair" to play for us, and it was immediately clear both how good the album is and how incredible the sound system at Apogee Studios is. Wow.

DJ Dan Wilcox came up next (with his beer) to reveal #9 - Autolux's PUSSY'S DEAD. Wilcox said that it might be #9, but it was #1 as far as most awkward title to say on the radio - but that it's gotten easier since the election - sigh. This one is a ROCK album, that Wilcox said is the first one to really live up to the live show put on by Autolux. He chose the track, "Hamster Suite" to play, which really showcased the work of who Wilcox says is the best drummer in rock today, Carla Azar. I immediately added it to my list of year end must haves. Rock.

#8 was introduced by DJ Liza Richardson, and it was Bon Iver's 22, A Million. Richardson joked that this envelope should really have been opened by Wilcox, as he's obsessed AND hails from the same town as Bon Iver, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. "It's so different from everything else right now. It's hip hop meets folk, with really interesting samples, like Paulo Nutini," explained Richardson. She chose "33 God" to play, and it was deep, starting out with a beautiful treated piano that took you right into that Bon Iver world ... and made you want to go stay at the Ace Hotel.

DJ Eric J. Lawrence took the stage in a bright red holiday shirt to let us in on what was in the #7 spot ... but as he is the "Alternative to the Alternative" former music librarian for the station, he had his own choice first, and it was Future Of The Left's The Peace And Truth Of Future Of The Left. He did not have a track to play of that one, so we'll have to research that, but the real spot here went to Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool. This one was, of course, on my list as well, and had to agree with Lawrence when he said that they are the "Pink Floyd of our time." He played the opening track, "Burn The Witch". "It's a bit of a downer, Folks," said Lawrence by way of introduction ... but a pretty awesome downer, for sure.

#6 honors went to the newest KCRW DJ, Karene Daniel, and to Andy Shauf's The Party. This one I had never heard of, so it was good to get turned on to something new that I've clearly slept on. Shauf basically narrates a late night party throughout the album, and Daniel played the track, "To You". It's kind of a love confession that Daniel said was "Soft, tender, rare, and beautifully honest." I concur.

The resident DJ for the night was Raul Campos, and he left his post to disclose the #5 choice. He asked as he ripped open the envelope, "Is it gonna be a Latin Alternative album?" Bentley drily replied, "I doubt it", which got a laugh, though it was sadly true. Instead it was Wilco's Schmilco. Campos called it "An album from the heart", and named Jeff Tweedy as one of the best songwriters of our time. "If I Ever Was A Child" was the chosen song, and the first time I choked up. I don't know why really, it just touched me. It might have been the incredible sound in there. It felt extra intimate and sweet and simply moving. Another one that was on my own list of 2016 faves.

DJs Garth Trinidad and Jeremy Sole shared duties for #4 (and it was cool to see what they look like, though Trinidad had a Movember thing going on, so I'll need to see him again. I think Sole's abundant facial hair is an always thing), and the honors went to A Tribe Called Quest's We Got It From Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service. This was my #1. I laughed when Trinidad said it was HIS #1 before he even heard it. He called it a "Legacy record", and it truly is. Sole added, "They didn't have to think outside the box, 'cause there is no box. The best thing about their new album is that it's an old album." Exactly. I didn't realize that they went into the studio to begin recording the album on the night of the Paris shootings last year. Heavy. You feel it. They spun bits of "We The People" and "Solid Wall Of Sound" and I think everyone agreed with Trinidad when he said, "I'd gladly give up the talking to listen to the whole record" after Bentley cut it off to chat. Plus it sounded EXTRA great inside those Apogee walls. Incredible, really.

One of my favorite KCRW DJ's came on to present #3, Anne Litt. Her voice is very soothing to me, and she again nearly reduced me to tears (OK, she did) when she revealed that #3 was David Bowie's Black Star. Losing Bowie earlier this year was a big deal to everyone, but it clearly meant a lot to Litt, who had even brought along her vinyl copy of Black Star. She said that she learned of Bowie's passing when Wilcox was playing a whole bunch of Bowie songs in a row last January, making her go "WTF?!", and then learning the news. "This album is focused in a way that maybe only a dying man can be," Litt mused, adding that she thought he was back in a way that she hadn't heard before. "I Can't Give Everything Away" played, and as Bowie's voice floated over us posthumously, well, I was choking back tears again. It was the last song on a final record, and fairly obviously set up as a farewell. This album is not on the list because Bowie died. It's there because it's great. (Oh, for the record, Litt's personal #1 choice was the Hamilton soundtrack!)

#2 was given to DJ Travis Holcombe to reveal, and it went to Kaytranada for 99.9%. This was another one I've slept on, so was surprised to hear that this one was the #1 choice for Bentley. We were told it was great as an album, or as all singles. I think I've heard like one on KCRW, so this will warrant further listening from me. They played the track "Bullets" (with guest spot from Little Dragons), which Bentley commented was a really cool groove for a really heavy subject (gun violence). Holcombe admitted to that being lost on him, and Bentley asked if he'd listened to the lyrics. "I haven't. I'm more of a beats guy, lyrics are low on my list." OK. Then I imagine his own #1 choice of La Femme's Mystere must contain some pretty phat beats.

DJ Anthony Valadez got to reveal the #1 album for 2016 ... after a room full of people rolled their tongues as a drumroll ... it was Anderson.Paak's Malibu! This was appropriate as I first heard of Paak on an MBE studio session, and he's since been pretty much everywhere, on every album, of everyone. Paak could not be in attendance so Valadez and Bentley shlepped out to Highland Park to record a video of Paak's receiving the news. A happily hyped Paak shouted, "Tight! I've always wanted to do an acceptance speech via satellite! Thank you! Yes, Lord!"

And there you have it! The Top Ten Albums of 2016 according to KCRW! Campos spun on as the party continued there at Apogee Studios. 2016 has been a brutal year in so many ways, that it was actually lovely and touching to focus on the good things like music that enrich our lives every day, and realize that it hasn't been all bad. In fact, a lot of it has been absolutely wonderful. Thank you to KCRW and Apogee Studios for having us, and for exposing us all to the best music in the world every single day. We're already looking forward to next year. Really, really forward.

Cheers to all the winners, and thank you to them too! Your art matters. Really, really matters.

*Photo courtesy of Brian Feinzimer for KCRW.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Show Me Your Mumu Opens In Venice!

I'm so excited to report that Show Me Your Mumu has opened their flagship store here in Venice, right around the corner from Abbot Kinney Boulevard on California Avenue (next door to Salt & Straw). This is especially great because Show Me Your Mumu is the company of my friend and former downstairs neighbor, Cammy Miller (and her partner, Cologne Trude), and because a big chunk of my wardrobe is made up of Mumus (most from the incredible sample sales that they throw fairly often).

Mumus are great because they have gorgeous prints, are super comfortable, ultra-stylish, and you can pack your frocks and pull them out of your luggage looking great and ready to go. Rare. The styles are pretty ageless too, as I've given them as gifts to everyone from tweens to my Mom, and they all look great. You can be skinny, big, short, tall ... you'll always look good in a Mumu. They're all extra versatile too, for instance, say it's a bit tight in front, you can turn it around and have the back be the front ... just be creative!

All the Mumus are made, as the say, "In the Gorge USA", in a warehouse in downtown L.A., but the spirit of the clothing is purely Venice, where the owners continue to live. From two college girls slinging dresses out of their apartment in New York, to having a tiny shed in Robin's Sculpture Garden, to them now having their first real brick and mortar location, it's all been a dream come true. And now, just walking across the street to check out the new 'Mu is pretty dreamy too.

Congratulations, Welcome, Love, and Happy Mumu Monday to Show Me Your Mumu!

Show Me Your Mumu
529 California Avenue

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Innocence On Abbot Kinney - Happy Thanksgiving!

Artist Hagop Belian recently sparked up Abbot Kinney with a new mural on the side of Gjelina.

Innocence is the new work Made Of Hagop that has already become a backdrop for the Instagrammers visiting Venice. Syrian-born Hagop told me the name of this piece when I ran into him at an In Heroes We Trust party a couple weeks ago, and I think it's perfect. And also something to remember as we celebrate this Thanksgiving. It feels like our country lost its innocence a long time ago, and recent events have shown both our government and our fellow citizens to often be anything but innocent. Perhaps it's time to get back to our basics, and remember that this holiday is about GRATITUDE and FREEDOM and being the very best we can be. We need to remember what we were founded for and what we're supposed to be about.

Let us celebrate the innocence of children during the holidays and make the world a better place for them to grow up in. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new." 
             - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Silvia Estrada - Managing Venice Trim

When my dear friend and longtime hair stylist, Stephanie Hobgood, left to move to Oregon, I was bummed for many reasons, but one was certainly who was going to cut my hair now? A good friend and beloved Venetian, Silvia Estrada, manages Trim around the corner on Abbot Kinney. She always looks good and always has happy clients sitting there in her window station, so I thought I'd see if she could help me out. She not only really could, but it also gave us the chance to catch up and get to know each other even better.

Estrada was born in Guatemala, and is, as she says, "A proud immigrant". (And really ... we're ALL immigrants unless you're Native American. So there.) Her family came to California when she was three, and she's been here ever since. Estrada has done pretty much every job you can think of (Fashion, Dental assistant, Ball girl, Retail, Valet, Coffee barista, sold insurance ...) but the thing she always wanted to do was hair. She was always discouraged from it by her father, who didn't think she'd ever be able to make a living in that profession (because he always got cheap haircuts).

"My whole life I knew I belonged in Venice," says Estrada. "This is where the weirdos were, my people." Her Dad would bring here down to Venice on the weekends, and that began her love affair with this town, and made her sure that this was where she wanted to live - plus she loved Three's Company.

Estrada attended the Abbot Kinney Festival one year and had friends at the Trim salon on Abbot Kinney. They had a DJ going, and all the people were fun, and then owner Nik Falco told her that she needed to do hair. Her boss at the Insurance company had even been telling her that she needed to do something creative, so she quit, moved home to save money, and attended hair school in the nights while assisting at Trim during the days. One day after someone had quit, Falco told her it was time to get on the floor, and now she's been beautifying the people of Venice there on Abbot Kinney for 15 years. She is now also the manager, and says, "I love Trim. I owe Nik my life forever for helping me to make this happen."

Community is special to Estrada, as she has raised her son Kai here since he was born in 2009. She loves her local clients, watching them grow and have kids and share in the stories of our lives here in Venice. People move away and come back, and one of Estrada's favorite things is when she sees a familiar face show up from "Old Venice". "No amount of money can ever take away the reason why I fell in love with the old Venice. If you saw Venice through my eyes growing up, you'd know what I mean." I know exactly what she means. Fancy houses and greedy businesses can't take away the vibes that make Venice special. Estrada wanted to be sure to shout out Jesse Martinez for all of his hard work in creating and maintaining the Venice Skatepark, which her son Kai loves loves loves.

I get what Estrada meant when she said she loves running into friends from back in the day ... I feel that way every time I see her.

You too can get your hair done beautifully by Silvia Estrada at Trim by calling to make an appointment at #310-396-3330.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Annual Venice Oceanarium Moby Dick-A-Thon - Plus

It sure was a beautiful weekend in Venice, highlighted by the annual reading of Moby Dick on the sand at the Breakwater. It's an all day/all evening affair put on by the Venice Oceanarium each year on the sand.

There are maritime props set up like a whale bone and a harpoon next to the chair and microphone for the readers. Listeners post up in the sand, and there's something just so lovely and mellow about lying on the sand and being read to as the sun sets.

It all got even lovelier as the sun sank below the horizon, when the kind folks from Enterprise Fish Company showed up with their donated delicious clam chowder and warm bread from Bay Cities. As the evening had turned chilly in the sea air, this was a most welcome warm up.

Several young students were sprawled across the sand, probably to get extra credit for a class, but it was nice to see all of them so eager to participate in a quintessentially Venice tradition. All read with gusto, and most likely also created themselves a wonderful memory. I know I did. Thanks always to the Oceanarium's Tim Rudnick for being such an advocate of the sea, and for putting this on each year.

I had a birthday party to get to, but along the way there was something I wanted to check out in the Canals. I'd seen on Facebook that there was to be an interactive tap dance light show at a house on the canals, and everyone was invited. Of course, I was there.

A gracious host called Hilary invited us in to his gorgeous home (bedecked with a big Jules Muck cat portrait on the side), offered us libations, and introduced us to the friends gathered for the performance by Laura Kriefman of the Guerilla Dance  Project. They brought out a bunch of containers of dry ice to create a smoky stage outside, then Kriefman tap danced in an LED light dress that changed colors as she danced. The music was controlled by the tap shoes and the lights were controlled by the music. It was interesting and cool and the kind of out there experimentation that I love to see continuing to thrive in Venice. Thank you to Hilary for his true kindness and generosity in opening his home to a bunch of stranger Venetians. That's how we all build bridges. I loved it.

Sunday finally brought sorely-needed rain to Venice, and a farewell to Danny's Deli closing party that I totally blew it by missing. I had in my head that it was a night-time affair, but it ended at 4. Shoot. I'm so sad to have missed the chance to celebrate all the good memories created in those walls over the years. We're all very sad to go, and can only hope and pray that whatever replaces this Venice institution will do right by it and honor its history. Please.

Thanks to everyone for another classic Venice weekend! We can all use all the fun we can get these days ... keep up the good work!