Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Last Internationale In Hollywood - People Have The Power!

Whoa. I'd seen The Last Internationale play acoustic as part of showcases for Tom Morello and Ryan Harvey's record label, Firebrand Records, but I'd never seen them play their own show all plugged in electric. That all changed last night at the Viper Room in Hollywood ... Holy. Moly. 


I got there just in time to hear the intonation of a recording of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" speech, as the lights went down and the cheers rose up. This was a room of the TLI faithful gathered to not only rock, but to get fired up with the revolutionary spirit that permeates each of their songs. It felt exciting ... because it was.


The curtain drew back and there were Delila Paz, Edgey Pires, and Fernando Sanchez - clearly ready to throw down. They opened with an a cappella version of "Berta, Berta", a haunting, spare number channeling the voices of the falsely imprisoned. Paz punched the air as she wailed "Oh, I go free!" - and with that, the night's tone was set. The Last Internationale means business, and the crowd knew it, screaming their approval, and their love.

"The Killing Fields" came next, and showcased each member of the band as a powerhouse superhero in their own right. Pires - who I've only ever heard play acoustic before - is an absolute metallic shredder when he goes electric! He wailed out a feedback heavy solo, and flipped his guitar over to reveal a "FUCK TRUMP!" sign taped to its back. This was met with roaring approval. Of course.


Paz belts out her vocals with no reservations, slaps her bass with total confidence, dancing around all the while. She is truly the rock woman the world needs right now. Super hot, super talented, but above all, super down to fight for justice and fight for the People. I was on board the first time I heard her cover Aretha in the tiny Genghis Cohen music room, but now that I've seen her front the full band show ... all I can say is LOOK. OUT. She is a badass, and you could see the audience falling in love with her instantly, if they weren't already.


Sanchez is a friend of mine, so I already knew what he was capable of, but this band really gives him a great outlet to show off his monster chops. Extra effective and emotive drumming, holding it all together, but at the same time making it something special, and giving each song its own percussive personality. This is some power drumming ... at one point I even felt the bass drum's force in my feet through the floor, like the song was being drilled into us. Which it was. Another badass.


"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit Of Indian Blood" followed, and the room shouted along in all the appropriate parts, as Paz exhibited shades of Janis Joplin, but also something entirely her own. "Fire" is off TLI's debut album, We Will Reign, and Paz explained that it came from dreams of past people coming to talk to her. "Those who fought for us are still with us. Whether you can see or feel them, they're there." I love this song, and its decidedly Native American vibe, that Paz punctuates with a sort of deep throated war cry. All I wrote in my notes about this one was "STRENGTH". Enough said.


The title track "We Will Reign" was next, and as Paz sang, "Don't know where, but I'm going there with you!", the table of prospective managers I was sitting with gave each other the international raised eyebrows with a frown look of being impressed, and one of them said, "She can sing some shit!" to the other. That is a solid fact.


"We want to play a brand new one off of our next album," said Paz by way of introducing the extra fresh song, "Modern Man" - which is, as she said, "Pretty scary." As Pires in his military jacket and Paz in her coveralls and black arm band marched around the stage ruling it, this is the one that Sanchez blasted the drums so hard that I felt it in my bones. The climactic shouts of "Kill! Kill!" at the end were powerful, and, she was right, pretty scary. The modern man was followed by "Wanted Man", very obviously a crowd favorite. It began (and ended) with a superfast crowd clapalong that kept going throughout, and the band was dancing around enjoying themselves as much as the crowd.


Paz took the stage alone for the next one that she sat at a little keyboard machine, saying, "This is the first time we've played this, please bear with us ... It's about when you realize you have a master, and you don't want him no more." "Master" was beautiful, and all the arms were up filming as this song made its debut. When she ended with, "Go ahead and break free, even if it breaks me," the room erupted in cheers (and the managers again exchanged that look).


Pires and Sanchez returned - to SCORCH the place. They launched into "Hard Times" (about which I heard a guy say, "This is the hit." Correctly.), and not only were the times hard, so was the sheer ROCK of it. This is HEAVY stuff, and no one felt bad about not being at The Who show across town, because we had Pires throwing his best Townshend arm windmills around as he ripped through his solo, and this time revealed a "Fuck Hillary Too!" sign. Yes, TLI would have been total perfection on the playlist for the Bernie Sanders rally I attended the other day, because they too are all about the revolution that is HAPPENING. And you want music like this as the soundtrack, believe me.


After thanking the openers (who I missed) and the Viper Room, Paz announced the last song by saying, "If you haven't moved yet, move something!" But that had not been a problem the entire show. People were all the way into it, but no more so than for the final song, "1968".  This was, appropriately, a show stopper. Each band member gave it their complete all, pounding the message into our collective minds and faces. "The more I love, the more I feel I can make it revolution (and the vice versa)!" was so inspiring, and yeah, we all pretty much felt like doing both by this point.


Pires handed off "The Peoples' Microphone" into the crowd, saying, "Whatever you want to say, say it!" How cool. Audience members passed the mic along, saying hurried, nervous things like, "I love you so much! Thank you!" and "The revolution is happening!" and again, "Fuck Hillary!" Paz threw herself into the crowd to join them, shouting, "People have the power!" and everyone echoed it back to her. It was a powerful, communal moment ... but once again, it's not a moment - it's a movement.


As Paz returned to the stage, Pires took her place in the crowd, playing a searing solo in the middle of all the beaming fan faces being melted off as they watched. Machines filled the stage with smoke for the fire of a finale, but it might actually have been real smoke, because it was incendiary. TLI may have actually set the Viper Room aflame with spontaneous combustion, it wasn't quite clear. Paz shouted, "Si se puede!" and the curtain closed.


People were amped, and a crowd quickly formed around the band when they emerged, to offer their congratulations and adoration. TLI won't be playing here for a while, as they're off to tour all over the place. Trust me and get there when you get the chance. You too will be revolutionized, as The Last Internationale plays to remind you that WE the PEOPLE really do have the power, and when we come together like this, it's a beautiful thing.

Thank you to TLI for being a band with a sorely needed voice, singing what needs to be said. And We WILL reign.

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography.






Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bernie Sanders In Santa Monica - Power To The People!

We here on the West side finally got our chance to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak at a rally last night held at Santa Monica High School (Home of the Vikings!). Now, I've been to my share of political rallies, and none have been like this one. Not even Obama's. We decided to get there early to make sure we'd get in, and there was already a long line stretching from the 10 Freeway all the way past the Samo football field, around the corner and on up Pico - I heard it reached to Lincoln Boulevard! The line itself was a microcosm of America itself ... every ethnicity, every age, every single possible permutation of Bernie Sanders' face and name on clothes, buttons, hats, signs ... this crowd was absolutely "Feeling the Bern!"


It was fun. It was like being on line to a rock concert, except no one was messed up from partying, and everyone was there, sure, to have a good time, but really, we were all there to save the World. It'd coming to that. We instantly made friends with our neighbors in line, and not one person thought we aren't going to see a President Sanders. Not one. Because, at this point, as one t-shirt read "Bernie Sanders, You're our only hope!" in a Star Wars font. That's no hyperbole. Hillary Clinton cannot beat Trump. Trump will ruin the World. It's actually a pretty simple choice. And every single person in attendance is making it ... and will be on the right side of history.

We waited in line until 4pm, when the doors opened. Then there was a Disneyland-style queue once inside, but even that was fun. Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry's was there scooping up ice cream for the People. Kettle Chips was handing out "Democratic" chips - as everyone got some (so really more Socialist chips, which I prefer anyway), and friends shouted out from their spot in line. I was so happy to see a bunch of friends there without having talked about it, but the MOST happy to see my friends' daughter and her young teenager friends, as enthusiastic as I've ever seen them. Even more than for Bieber (though maybe not as much as the Hunger Games guy...). Encouraging for the future - there will still be some good people!


Good People. That's all there was at this event, as everyone to a person was kind, polite, helpful, considerate, and overall just lovely. It was packed and uncomfortable, with people on their feet for hours, some with babies, some with crutches, some hunched over from age, but everyone was smiling. Everyone was excited. I actually got a lump in my throat much more than once from all the quality examples of humanity I was seeing. I was so, so impressed with the behavior of every person I saw. Like THIS is how it's SUPPOSED to be. This is how I want our Country to BE. As Sanders himself later said, "This is the face of Democracy." How it was meant to be.


We finally got let in to the football field (after going through Security scanners and having to throw out our fruit? Like we'd throw it at Bernie? Never.) and it was a free for all to get as close to the stage as possible. People staked out their spots, and then sat listening to the great playlist (Pearl Jam/Muse/Bob Marley/Tracy Chapman/"Burn Baby Burn/Disco Inferno" - every song with "Revolution" in its title)and chatting with new friends. "Power To The People" blared out over the speakers, and that sentiment was perhaps never more truly felt. You could FEEL the power of everyone coming together in an effort to do what's right. All those cameras, all those cheers, all those shouts of approval for great things, and boisterous boos for the nightmares that have been going on in our country ... we absolutely have the POWER to change it all. You just had to look around to know that.


Sharpshooters were stationed on surrounding buildings, which was a bit creepy, but was balanced out by nearby residents hanging out of their windows and sitting on their apartment rooftops to see the action from up above. It must have looked awesome, because being down in the mix you couldn't really see the hugeness of the crowd - but you could sure feel it.


A pretty bad singer (It's LA! You could get anyone!) sang a pretty bad song, and then Lili Haydn played an also pretty bad (Sad, because I really like her, but this was cringe-worthy) version of The Star Spangled Banner on her violin. It was mostly screechy feedback, but the crowd singing along helped some. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks show (really the only place giving you the real news these days - looking at you and disappointed in you both NPR and Mother Jones - ugh) came out to rile up the crowd and speak truth to power. About how Sanders is the ONLY candidate left that makes any sense at all (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist. And the truth.)


Great signs were held up throughout the crowd ... and I especially liked "TELEVISE THIS!" and "Bernie Or Bust!" held up right in front of the phalanx of camera crews from various news outlets (who finally caught on). Like, DO YOUR JOB, MEDIA! The Media actually received the most boos of the night, followed closely by Trump and Clinton - all well deserved. "Bern 1 For Bernie" was also well received by this California crowd (which later cheered loudly for Sanders' pro-marijuana stance).


Rosario Dawson came out to speak on how our candidate is the real deal, and how this election is truly about the "Soul of our Country", which is the solid truth. Who do we want to be? I want to be GOOD. As the enthusiasm and excitement swelled, Dawson, having looked out at all the vastly diverse (in every way) faces all having come together for this cause, and truthfully said, "This is a MOVEMENT, not a moment." Amen. Awomen!


Dawson blushingly introduced the wonderful Dick Van Dyke (remind me to tell you a DVD joke sometime), who at 90 years old, is as spry and upbeat as you remember. He said, "Hi, I'm what's left of Dick Van Dyke" and the crowd roared with affection. He spoke about feeling his democracy disintegrating, and how he had to do something about it. He said he was sold on Sanders right away, because he had "taken off the Emperor's clothes". Van Dyke was very active in the civil rights struggle. and deservedly proud of that battle. It's up to us to now continue to fight for what's right - and we will.


Van Dyke then introduced the crowd to Senator Sanders, saying, "I can feel the spirit here!", and the place went nuts. Everyone surged forward to get as close as possible, and the cheers were deafening. It was awesome. Every line Sanders spoke was met with either cheers of approval or roars of disgust, punctuated by "Bernie! Bernie Bernie!" chants whenever something was particularly right on.


Sanders often begins a new thought with, "Brothers and Sisters ..." and I love that. Because we all are. We're all in this together. "This campaign is about bringing us together, not tearing us apart" - and it really is. The future of our Country is about justice, and making things right. That we will be remembered not for how many weapons we had or whatever, but how we treated the weakest members of our society.


Well, it that's up to the people in this place (and it is), they will be well taken care of. Any time someone wanted to leave, the crowd parted respectfully. Anytime there was a statement made about how a certain group was being treated, say immigrants or Muslims or prisoners or the elderly or the mentally ill ... the loudest cheers came from the ones not a part of that group. A big beefy white guy in front of me was cheering loudest when Sanders was talking about uniting deported families. A young Asian girl yelled hardest when he was talking about taking care of the elderly. An elderly man in front of us had both fists raised when we were hearing about marijuana reform (which got massive cheers - "I want to smoke out with you, Bernie!"). People seemed to not be in it for themselves and their special interests, but for everyone's. And that is what I was by far the most impressed by. The concern for our fellow humans. It was incredibly touching, and I think every citizen of this country, and the World, would benefit from attending a Bernie rally and seeing what we really can be. It was nothing short of the REAL American Dream. With everyone on the same page ... Ahhhh.


Sanders spoke to how he has had 8 million (!) individual donors to his campaign, the most in history. That alone defines this campaign - this LEADER - as different, as honorable, and as WHAT WE NEED. Someone who has the backs of the People who believe in him. And Sanders clearly does, in his every word and action for the last 40 years of consistent public service, fighting for justice. Fighting for PEOPLE. He's the Man.


Sanders spoke quite a while, as the golden sun set on the crowd. Though you may have heard his talking points before, it never felt canned, it never felt pandering, it only felt REAL. The dude is smart and all the way up on every single issue, and makes you feel better about them all. As my friend Tom Morello is fond of saying, "Real change has always started from the bottom up" ... and it's happening. "Our diversity is our strength" - looking around this rally, truer words were never spoken. Together we are STRONG. Sanders closed by saying, "Love trumps hatred". THE bottom line.  People went crazy in agreement, yelling, whistling, jumping ... all knowing in our bones how right this all is. All while Bowie's "Starman" played.


Sanders went through the crowd, shaking hands and grinning at how great it was. We didn't even get close because it was a madhouse, but no matter. A spontaneous dance party had started up in the middle of the football field, with strangers joining in and dancing with abandon. I got another lump in my throat, because, really. This is how we want to be, as a Country, and as a People. THIS is what our Founding Fathers intended for this grand American experiment (this is actually probably even better than what those guys came up wtih)  ... and we can still get it right.


POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!



Please vote for Bernie Sanders in California on June 7th.

Please vote for Bernie Sanders for President in November.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Venice Art Walk 2016 - On The Last Day Of The Roosterfish

The final installment of Venice Art Week 2016 was the Venice Art Walk, a benefit for the Venice Family Clinic. It was another absolutely gorgeous day here in Venice, and the only problem was how to get in all the fun that was on offer for the day. 


The Venice Art Walk is the fancier, spendier option, which is fine because it helps our neighbors get access to health care and that's huge, but the headquarters of the whole affair is at the Google campus, and we all have mixed feelings about that. Of course.


We got a way late start on this beautiful Sunday, because the full moon night before had been a little nuts. Many of the open studio tour stops were repeats of the ArtBlock and the Art Crawl (both free), so I didn't stress too hard about hitting all of them (which wouldn't even be physically possible anyway), and went into cruising mode.


The streets outside of Google were full of art enthusiasts getting signed up for the Walk, and enjoying the live painting and people watching going on out there. I always dig live painting, really seeing someone's process and watching a piece of art come alive before your eyes. It's such a private process, that I really appreciate the bravery and coolness of these artists letting you watch.

Inside Google's halls was where the silent auction took place (and we all still miss it being at Westminster School - a public institution), and while there are many wonderful pieces of art to bid on to benefit the Clinic, the focus isn't really on Venice artists, though several are represented.

This show is more for any artists, and probably the ones that can fetch the highest bids.


I'm always drawn to the surfy or skate kind of pieces, and Venice itself is a dominant subject in many of the works. There was a very cool Venice sign on metal that changed colors as you watched, kind of like the pylon things at LAX. Very cool.


I really liked the piece by Timothy Williams that was done inside of an old metal port hole window. Original, colorful, all the way up my alley.


It was fun to see pieces by friends or artists we know from around town, and it was great to see that they were all fetching pretty pennies for the health care of other friends and neighbors. I really liked the piece by Brandon Boyd, who creates all sorts of wonderful art when he isn't out on the road with his band Incubus.


As it goes at all of these events, really the best part is running into the people you know and love, in the name of art. I saw fun friends all day long, and only wished the day could be longer so we could all enjoy both each other and the art without fear of missing out on anything. My friend, KC Mancebo, is one of the organizers of the whole thing, and it was great to see her, and also how her hard work was being appreciated by everyone in attendance.


Bands played outside in the Google courtyard while people sat on the grass in the sunshine. A beer garden was set up and generally people were just loving it all. I wanted to just sit there and bask in it all, but time was a-wasting. AND I thought the whole thing went until 6 pm, but the studio tours ended at 4. Oops.


We sped by all the Vernon and Sunset stops, because we'd just seen them all the week before, but poked our heads in to the Temple Of Mediclaytion again to say hi and see our friend Lacey already mastering the pottery craft after just a couple of lessons. Skills!


I was happy to see Attaway again out on the streets, and I also love it when artists just set up their own studio stop right there on the sidewalk. Just because you're not known or hyped or whatever enough to be asked to hang inside the Google walls, doesn't mean you're not an artist or that people wouldn't like to see YOUR work as well. I like the spirit behind that, and was pleased to see many people stopping to talk and look at the work of people that did this. Art is everywhere!


After stopping to talk to some more friends and more artists, we found out that the studio tours ended at 4, and it was now like 4:15. I know that some places like to close up so they can go out and explore themselves, but we decided to go for it at a couple of places. And I'm so glad we did. I'd never been to the home of my friends, Greg Falk and Tanja Skala before, and WOW. They built their urban retreat all by themselves, a true creativity compound, and it's extra impressive. As is their work. Skala had a performance piece (that we missed, sadly) called Until We Are All Free, None Of Us Are Free, and though we missed it, I could feel the weight of it just by being in the room. It was a concrete room with Middle Eastern-sounding music playing, and there had been a woman wrapped entirely in black yarn standing there for three hours. Onlookers would unravel some yarn, all the way until she was fully exposed (Free!), when she did a dance performance. I'm so bummed I missed it, because I could see talking to Skala how truly moving it had been.


Falk shared his very cool giant studio space with us, and told us how he'd finally found companion "Lost Dog" signs - both Lost and Found for the same dog - and how it had happened at Abbot's Habit - where we pretty much all know each other from. There is so much interesting stuff to look at there in the studio that you could spend a whole day, especially if they're there explaining things to you.


Downstairs they had created a "Confessional" where you could confess your sins and have them shredded up. There was also a bottle of holy water filtered through a copy of Darwin's Origin Of The Species, where you wound up with pure water. The whole place was a true highlight, and I'm so glad we took the chance of peeking in off of the alley.


We zipped over to C.A.V.E. Gallery to see their group show for their 8th Anniversary, where we got to see more work from Bisco Smith, among a bunch of others, plus Venice Duck beer on tap. Always a good time. And you know what was so great on this day ... People kept driving by that I knew, and they'd yell, "I love you!" instead of "Hi!" It was in the air.


Across the street we saw the photographic work of Marian Crostic there in a sort of hidden house on Abbot Kinney. I liked her work a lot, probably because most of it featured Venice and the beach. Really nice stuff.


Now we were getting messages to head on over to The Roosterfish, because it was the very last day of it being open. Ever. It's just so sad. We went over but the line was almost around the block and we hadn't yet eaten. That would not end well, so we took a breather to BBQ with friends (and see the travesty of a Prince tribute on the Billboard Awards - ugh) and rest our feet for a spell.


Once fed, there was no choice but to face it, and it was back over to The Roosterfish for one more stiff drink with our friends in this beloved Venice landmark. It was SAD and dumb and wrong ... and FUN one more time.  It was late, so folks were fairly sloppy by this point, but the love was felt strongly felt.
The place was packed, and it didn't really feel that much like a gay bar anymore, because everyone in town was there to celebrate the good memories had within those walls, whatever your sexual preference might be. There was a rumor that the porn-y men's bathroom ceiling was going to be donated to LACMA or MOMA or something, and it really should be. This place was HISTORIC. And now it's gone.

The almost full moon shone down on everyone out there on the patio (that stayed open late for this last night), and while everyone was certainly enjoying ourselves, there was definitely the pall of sadness over it all, that yet another Venice institution will disappear - for what is rumored to be another "Start up" company to take over the space. If that's true, good luck to them, because no one is happy about this, and I can't imagine wanting to be the ones that got rid of The 'Fish.


People were upset. People were drunk. People were sad, but also kind of happy that we had ever had this place in Venice in the first place - at least that's the best way to deal with it, or you'll just be mad all day. It was nice that the last day was also on the day of the Art Walk, so people that were just visiting Venice could see all the commotion and know that this was somewhere special. And that we're all trying so hard to KEEP it special, and things like the Art Walk help with that. The doors closed on The Roosterfish for good last night, but not before more good memories were made within its walls. Farewell, Fish. We loved you.


If I had to choose a winner of Art Week, I'd go with ArtBlock, simply because it's so very much by and for the People of Venice, and open to all for free. The truth, however, is that we're ALL Winners because we just had a whole week in our town that was all about Art! With all the crushing losses in our town and in the world, that's really something.


Thank you - as ever - to all the wonderful people that come together to make these things happen for our community. With all of your efforts and spirit, I have no doubt that Venice will always remain special.