Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The World Wall - A Vision Of The Future Without Fear At SPARC

The World Wall is another wonderful project conceived by artist Judy Baca, and SPARC held an opening last weekend to unveil the Canadian section of the wall.

The World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear is a traveling installation mural that began in 1987 and is still in progress. Currently, the wall is made up of nine 10 X 30 foot portable panels, and when completed it will include 14 works, with 7 from different nations, and 7 led by Baca. Thus far, Finland, Russia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, and now Canada are represented. It addresses the big issues facing the world today, like war, peace, cooperation, environment, interdependence, and spiritual growth ... and it is beautiful.

SPARC opened its doors last weekend to show off the new contribution from Canada, The Inuit Send The World A Canary, by Tania Godoroja Pearse (assisted by Kriss Boggild and Kathy Kaiser). It shows an oil pipeline pouring into the doom of climate change on one side, and nature with people working together on the other, and it is a triumph of color and meaning. When this entire wall is complete and assembled, it is going to be a wonder of the world. Like I want to nominate Baca for the Nobel Peace Prize degree of wonder. This is one of the most important works of art happening today, in my humble opinion - and just straight up fact.

There was fine food and drink for all who attended the opening at SPARC, and though I had to run off to another show, I did get to catch up briefly with the SPARC gang to congratulate them. We also discussed how Joel Silver needs to give back the Edward Biberman Venice mural that was in our former post office to be on public display permanently at SPARC. It's for the entire Community to enjoy, not some private production office that isn't even up and running after years, leaving the old P.O. an empty ghost building of no neighborhood vision. It's just sad. And wrong. Give it back, Silver!

I digress. Please take this exceptional opportunity to view an artistic miracle in progress while it is on exhibition at SPARC until October 13, 2017. This is how you create world peace and progress, by working together as one world, one heart, one love. When you see spectacular works like this, you know that it is indeed possible.

685 Venice Boulevard

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Evening With Jack Johnson At The Hollywood Bowl - Music Under Constellations

With all the craziness in the world these days, the mellow vibes of Jack Johnson's music was exactly what was needed this past Sunday night. Johnson played a sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl, which was transformed into an intimate-feeling beach party for the evening. The weather was perfect, the majority of the crowd was clad in Aloha shirts or breezy dresses (and very white), and the stars twinkled above like they were put there just for this event.

Jamtown set the tone early, playing their party-style tunes under a setting sun for an appreciative crowd of revelers. The collaboration between the individual talents of Cisco Adler, Donavon Frankenreiter, and G. Love is even better as a group, and all the partiers at the Bowl on this night were eating it up. With song titles like "Island Time", "Out To Sea", "Strawberry Moon", and "Jetstream," you gather that this is a band that digs their vacations, and they instantly made us all feel like we were on a good one of our own. After their last number, Adler shouted out, "You look ridiculous, you don't even understand it, this is beautiful!" - and I completely understood his enthusiasm. All was truly beautiful, and we were all in it together. Loving it.

The whole endeavor was sponsored by the "All At Once Foundation" in association with Johnson's Ohana Foundation. This meant that recycling was strongly encouraged (they gave out refillable glasses to drink from), plastic was strongly discouraged, there were bike valets, and best of all, the Bowl was strung with lights made from recycled materials just for this event that gave it all the feeling of a backyard jamboree. Of all the artists out there, it truly seems to me that Johnson is among the very most legit when it comes to walking his talk. Love the guy.

It's been a while since Johnson had played in L.A., so the crowd was all the more hyped to get down to his surfy, acoustic jams. He's such a casual character (remember the SNL skit where they had Jack Johnson shoes that were bare feet looking shoes?), that it almost took everyone by surprise when he ambled on to the stage, saying, "Hey, how's it going?" The ovation that met that simple greeting was massive, making clear the respect that Johnson has earned over the years. The band kicked it off with "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing", with the audience already clearly in the palm of his hand. I was sitting in a box with a new friend named Taylor, and when the band next began to play the song, "Taylor", she was beside herself with happiness. It was her college theme song. I get it. I was happy for her, and just looking at her beaming face reminded one of the absolute power of music to elate. Great.

"Flake" brought me right back to 2001, when my brother brought home an advance copy of Brushfire Fairytales for me to check out. Johnson's debut album made a fan of me from the first listen, and for life. Every song was great, an instant classic, and when he played this one it was as fresh as if I'd just heard it. I heard someone say all of Johnson's songs sound the same, to which I'd reply, "Excellent!" It's a timeless vibe, Brah. Keyboardist Zach Gill was particularly fancy on this one, a real standout. It's fun because you can tell how much of a good time these guys all have playing together, and it's infectious.

"A quick cheers to anyone who ever saw us play here at The Mint!" (WOOOO!) Johnson then shouted out to his drummer, our local Venice pal, Adam Topol, who has played with Johnson since the very beginning. He's a wonderful solo artist in his own right, and one of the few drummers out there who can distract me from the whole song because he's so good and fun to watch on his own. After introducing Topol, Johnson said, "My name is Jack, thank you, look at all you guys who came, I can't believe we get to do this!" Many artists feign humility, but Johnson is one of the very few with whom it rings true. You can feel his gratitude is absolutely sincere, especially with how much he really does give back. Like a Sublime cover of "Bad Fish/Boss DJ" for instance! The party was now even more on.

To introduce "Inaudible Melodies" (which I'm still humming today), Johnson told a story of how he originally wrote it in school at UCSB, to try and get an extension on a project. His film school professor, Edward Branigan, gave a lecture and Johnson tried to get all his notes into a song. Bruce Lee was so fast in Kung Fu films that the frames couldn't capture it, hence the line, "Frames can't catch you when you're moving like that ..." Rad. I love knowing stories behind songs.

"I don't really drink beer on stage, cause I'll burp when I sing, but this is the first L.A. show without our friend, Ben Bradley, backstage, so this song in particular is for Ben," said Johnson to introduce "Go On." Bradley passed away earlier this year, and was featured on the cups they gave away, which we heartily toasted to his friend's memory with. And the song was beautiful, of course. As was "Upside Down".

The brand new "My Mind Is For Sale" from Johnson's upcoming album, All The Light Above It Too, is a great example of how Johnson subtly (or not so subtly in this case, where he straight up takes Trump to task) works in his socially conscious messages, like a spoonful of sugar making the medicine go down with elegantly crafted, fun-sounding tunes that actually pack a wallop if you're really listening. "I don't care for your paranoid us against them fearful kind of walls ..." Right on. September seems a long way off when you want this album NOW.

"Tomorrow" started out with Johnson singing his old answering machine message his friends would hear when they called his house. He is clearly still crazy about his wife, Kim, and it was at this point that my box mate, Taylor, told me that Johnson is now her new standard for men. Like, if they don't step up and behave like Johnson does publicly to his his wife, then why even bother? I'm with her. Step it up, Men! Johnson is a fantastic example for you. Pay attention. Thanks.

"Bubble Toes" got people dancing after Johnson said, "If you wanna dance, this is one of our few dancing songs, then it's back to boring again." Um, hardly, but we did dance. Then there was a smooth rendition of The Steve Miller Band's "Joker" that everyone sang along heartily with. "Wasting Time" and "I Got You" were great as ever, then it was my favorite, "Constellations". Johnson dedicated it to his Dad, who gave him this line and memory ... "To lay down underneath the stars, listen to Papa's translations of the stories across the sky, we drew our own constellations." So beautiful, you had to feel a bit emotional. I did for sure. (Shocker).

"Breakdown" was for Johnson's little daughter who was there, and I can only imagine was thrilled when he said, "I love you, little girl!" Cool Dad supreme. "Tape Deck" featured Stewart Cole on trumpet, who goes back with Johnson to his 16 year old punk rock band days, and he stuck around for "Banana Pancakes", giving it an extra flair. G. Love came back out for the one-two punch of "Rodeo Clowns" and "At Or With Me", creating a harmonica frenzy of awesomeness. The good time they have playing together is obvious, and their long friendship creates a cohesion that comes from decades of riffing, rocking, and ruling.

"Whole Wide World" was great, and "Good People" posed the very important and timely question, "Where'd all the good people go?" Seriously, where?! A good answer was that they were almost all at this show, having a ball. I was looking down, taking notes, and Taylor tapped me from behind, saying, "Just so you know, everyone is dancing!" I turned around to look and the whole entire Bowl, front to back, surely was up on their feet, dancing away. So festive, so happy, so needed. Thanks be!

"Mud Football" was more fun - a story in song form, like most of Johnson's tunes. It was the last song of the regular set, and the applause was so thunderous then that Johnson didn't even leave the stage. He returned to the mic, saying, "I'm not gonna clown around like I'm not coming back out, there's a curfew." See - he's the real deal.

Johnson played solo acoustic for the encore, and dedicated "Angel" to his "lovely wife, Kim." We all cheered (and swooned) when he sang "Over 23 years have gone by, and I'm still yours." Again, the real deal. After that delight, he told a story about Willie Nelson getting him stones and taking all his money at poker, adding, "I'm dropping a name, but that's cool." It was.

"Better Together" was the final song of the evening, and was again real swoon-worthy, Taylor and I agreed. "Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart" ... I mean. He's right. Love IS the answer, and when this many people come together and proclaim it to be so, singing together as one ... it's pretty hard to argue with. We are ALL better together ... we're all in this together ... and shows and humanity like this remind us of this in the best possible way. It was a magical night, in a magical place, with magical people all around, feeling the same way. And as the All At Once Foundation's mission statement goes, "An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change." That's pretty basic, but ultra true. The good vibes of the night carried over as everyone exited the Bowl, still on that natural high you get from good times that also do actual real good.

Thanks eternal to Jack Johnson for creating his musical, activist, positive world, and for allowing us to share it with him, through song and action. Right on.

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography

Monday, July 17, 2017

Amilia K Spicer Wows And Flutters In CD Release Show At Beyond Baroque

The long awaited new album Wow and Flutter, from our much-loved local folk/country/awesome singer/songwriter Amilia K Spicer was celebrated in a cd release show and party at Beyond Baroque last Saturday night. Though Spicer is often on the road, Venice has been spoiled lately, as Spicer also played at the closing party for Abbot's Habit last month - which got me very excited about this album and show.

Beyond Baroque is a wonderful venue, but in this case did a little double-booking and both Spicer's show and Suzy Williams' annual Lit Show were scheduled for the same time, the same night. I brought this to their attention and a little juggling was done, and now The Lit Show will be next Saturday, July 22nd, also at Beyond Baroque. Some folks showed up to Spicer's show expecting Suzy's, and were treated to a wonderful show anyway, with another one on deck for the following weekend, so everybody won.

It was a beautiful evening, and the courtyard behind Beyond Baroque was filled with friends, family, and fans of Spicer, all there to get down with some fantastic music and fun. There was food and drink, and a lot of catching up with our local luminary musicians that mix and match with each others' shows all the time. It's a true musical community, and always excellent in whatever the combination is ... and this time it was Spicer's turn.

The show opened with a few great songs from Sam Morrow, clad in a Texas Gentlemen t-shirt. The guy has some pipes, and reminded me a bit of Sturgill Simpson, only with better enunciation. He sang about how "the same old bullshit doesn't make the grass green", and other truths. He sang a pretty one called "You Gave It All Away" that had us all nodding and tapping our toes along, including Spicer watching from the front row. "I have stuff for sale, if you like cd's ... or me," said Moore at the end of his set. We liked both.

KP Hawthorn of the band Calico was up next, and was also excellent. She sang a funny song called "405" about being in love with someone on the west side ... when you live in the Valley. We get it. We also all had a group singalong for Hawthorn's cover of "California Dreaming" ... and it was as dreamy as you would imagine. It was really a lovely moment for a group of people to be singing about the place that we're all in, and know and love so well. It was special - even more so considering it seemed that everyone knew all the words! I'll be catching Calico at my earliest chance.

There was a break for some more fresh air and drinks, and then all reassembled in the theater to see the premiere of Spicer's brand new video for her song "Lightning". It was a gorgeous clip and song, and was all the more impressive to find out at its end that Spicer had shot almost the whole thing herself - underwater! This is truly a multi-talent. I was seated next to a woman who told me that she runs a poetry night, and often invites Spicer to play, as her lyrics are so poetic. That exchange caused me to sit up straight and really listen to all the words throughout the night, and I came away from it all even more a fan than I already have been for years. Amilia K Spicer is the real deal.

That was evident from the first notes she and her All Star band performed this night. I mean, Spicer started out on the banjo! Her musical companions for the night were all headliners in their own right, from Steve Postell to Michael Jerome to all the backup singers - all were of the highest caliber. Everyone knew it too, so the place was packed. SRO. People began to spar over their seats, and others offered to sit on the floor. It was a great turnout for a great performer, that's for sure.

They began with "Fill Me Up" from Wow And Flutter, showing us from the start how good it was. It was, as expected, wonderful. It's all just so expert, with the smooth drumming from Jerome, the blistering solos from Postell, the mandolin player ruling, and the lush harmonies from all made you know that you were in some esteemed company. Spicer's sublime "Train Wreck" is so pretty you instantly knew why she has become such a darling of NPR radio in recent days. She's just something else.

Christopher Allis joined everyone on stage for a gorgeous rendering of the big radio song, "This Town" and when Spicer sang the line about "My home is in this town ..." it made me choke up because I don't currently have a home in this town, and it's all pretty daunting with what's out there now. My home might NOT be in this town unless something cool happens pretty soon here ... And then I snapped back to the present and LOVED this song. Spicer's dad grew up in Harlan, Kentucky, so she had to do a song about it. She told us, "Whiskey runs through me like Mississippi mud, you can't water down my blood." To that, I raised my own glass.

One had to. Witnessing these musicians building it all to a crescendo together was powerful, and emotional. Like, thank GOODNESS we have music! What would we all do without it?! Especially incredible music like these guys brought. "What I'm Saying" was also just straight up great, and cemented the fact that everyone needs this new album, Wow and Flutter. It's just WOW. Extra well worth the long wait it took to get it just perfect - which it is. I'm not yet familiar enough with the songs to know all their titles, but when she sang, "In a little while, there will be beauty ..." I had to object, because there was plenty of beauty right then! It also consoled me a bit, that in a little while - things will be better. Thanks!

"My parents sent me flowers today." (Awww) "I freaking KNOW!" Spicer acknowledged all who had made this night possible, and noted her parents above all. After a little sorely needed pinot grigio for our girl, she got down to "Wild Horses", which was pure stunning, with its lap steel solo. "I'm a good man every other day ... I'm afraid I built this house on mud" I was all about the lyrics on this night, and I was not at all disappointed. So so so good. Then it was time for "The one that started it all", and they played "Windchill". It was so pretty, I got all teary again. I wasn't alone, as after another beautiful mandolin solo, the whole place burst into applause and shouts of "Bravo!"

Spicer invited a "gaggle of girls" up for "Shotgun", and all those female harmonies were just the best. The best with more tears. I love this song. I love this lady. I love this music. I loved this night. Steve McCormick (who helped Spicer beautifully realize the new album as co-producer and co-musician) came back for a Dixieland inspired NOLA jam that was real fun, and then Spicer announced she had one more before it was time for her to party. She told about driving from L.A. to Texas once, and she was heading down the highway with a crazy storm on one side, and bright sunshine on the other. "Shine" was again so pretty I got emotional as it built to its climax. It's all just so well thought out and special ... I realize I'm gushing a bit, but it's how I feel, and I'm pretty sure there was a lot of gushing being done after - by everyone there.

Sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Amilia K Spicer and all involved on what is a wonderful project that is now being launched out into the world for everyone to hear and enjoy like we did.

Enjoy Wow and Flutter now everywhere. Trust me, you will.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Surfside Venice Opens Surfside!

Surfside Venice had their grand opening jamboree last night, and it was a complete blast. Taking over the space left vacant by Danny's Deli, Surfside was an instant hit with locals and visitors alike. You could tell because it was jam packed inside with a ton of people I knew, and by the end of the night a line had formed outside of people I didn't.

The evening began with a little ribbon cutting ceremony thing, complete with big, fake scissors and crepe paper red ribbon. As it was taking place in Venice, it did not take place on time. The new owners are the same folks that run the travel hostel upstairs, so this venue has been kept in the family. There was a big photo op of all of those involved, the ribbon was cut, and the fun moved inside.

Venice Paparazzi was on the scene, and there was even a Surfside step and repeat for the occasion. Neighborhood favorites from the Danny's Deli days are back on the staff, like Dakota Rayfield, who painted the custom board proclaiming the Surfside love for Venice.

That love is apparent everywhere you look. The new rooms are bright and airy, with a turquoise and white beachy color scheme. The dining room is anchored by a big mural of a wave - perfect for the close proximity to the Venice Breakwater.

One pleasant surprise was how actually good the food was. Beach food is not famous for being that good, so the expectations were not that high. Well, exceeded! The menu has something for everyone, and while it might be a little steep price-wise, it's not that bad for a place that's right at the beach. I had fish and chips - delish. My friend had the seafood pasta - yuuuuum. My brother had a Mexican bowl with fish, and he rolled his eyes at its savoriness. Our neighboring table had just about everything it looked like, and all seemed extra satisfied.

The drinks must also be mentioned, because they're delicious too. I had a "Pink Bikini", and it was even better when delivered by Christina Marquez (of Davy Jones' Liquor Locker fame). Friends everywhere we looked ... that's what you want in a new joint to hang out at. Solid.

We kind of lucked out because as we were eating, the staff began clearing tables and setting up an actual stage right in front of us. The debut band for Surfside was none other than Peace Frog, the ultimate Doors cover band. The singer, Tony Fernandez, channels Jim Morrison (and my pal Shooter Jennings a bit too) so well that if you close your eyes, you've time traveled back to seeing Jim live - which nearly nobody has these days, so it's even cooler.

The room was dancing the entire time, with total enthusiasm. Loud group singalongs went down with every song, because pretty much everyone in Venice knows every word to every Doors tune. Or should. Another live music spot in Venice was sorely needed, and Surfside is delivering. If sports is more your game, you're covered there too, with large t.v.'s set up all around for whatever event you're into. It's gonna be a hang, trust me.

The dancing was not limited to inside. In fact, the best moves were going down outside on the sidewalk behind the stage, courtesy of Tonen and Company. It was rad, and so fun on a summer night in Venice.

The line to get inside was long by the time we left, and I was happy for the Surfside folks for having such a great time on their opening night. I hope they will continue to honor the Locals vibe, not only by letting us cut the line (crucial!), but by making it clear that our Community is a priority. Venice needs that so badly right now.

It was a super fun night, with a super fun crew, at a super great new spot for Venice. See you there!

Surfside Venice
28 Windward Avenue (Windward & Speedway)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Venice Is Not For Sale - Only It Is.

I was walking down the street this morning when I came upon this little tag on the sidewalk ... "Venice is not for sale". I have to figure it must be old ... because at this point in time, Venice is for sure for sale.

Not the SPIRIT of Venice, of course, but Venice property has been so pimped out and sold, it's nearly unrecognizable if you haven't been here in a while. It's so disheartening. For the first time since I moved here over 20 years ago, I'm thinking I'm not as sure that this is the place for me anymore. I mean, I LOVE VENICE, as everyone knows ... but what I love so much seems to be in ever increasing danger of disappearing completely.

The new people moving in don't get it at all. You can tell just by the things that they complain about that they have no idea what Venice was ever truly like. The fact that Adidas and Smashbox - massive chains that were never tolerated in this town - both just opened for business on Abbot Kinney. Thi should really tell you all you need to know. That Venice, like America itself, has been bought and sold to the highest bidders. It's disgusting, and sad, and I'm getting weary of the battle. I can't stand walking around listening to these entitled, self-centered jerks acting like they own the world, and thinking they can take over our little beach-side Community. It's heartbreaking.

The future is wide open, and it is what we make it. I have no idea what's next, but I'm no longer as sure that whatever happens will be in Venice. I'd hate to be one to throw in the towel on a place in the world that is downright sacred to me, but the greed sickens me on the daily.

It's true that those magical qualities that originally defined Venice cannot be bought and sold ... but you have to still be able to feel them to want to be here, and that's getting harder and harder every day.

We shall see.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Surf Vans Belong In Venice

I love seeing beat up old surf vans with stickers collected from their travels all over them.

These kinds of vehicles have always been parked around town in Venice, and they're a kind of time capsule to mellower times. With shoddy bungalows going for $2 million (!!!), it's getting to be more likely to see Teslas and other luxury cars parked on our streets than the good old Woodys of yore. Money is killing Venice. Don't let it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Live And Learn

The phrase "Live and Learn" has been coming up a lot lately, so it was fitting that I saw it painted on Venice Boulevard by the C.A.V.E. Gallery, where its artist, Kid Acne, had his show Mark My Words open last Saturday.

I was unable to attend the opening, but I like that they brought the show outside on to the sidewalk for all to see, day or night. I've learned a lot in recent days ... like how crucial it is to pay attention to signs and flags. Like what friendships are true and supportive, and which are not. Like how you can try to be the very best person you know how to be, and sometimes it's still not enough. Like what is truly important in life, and what is and what isn't worth getting upset about. Like how karma has a way of sorting things out. And like how even though these are very trying times in the world - and in my own life - it's still so extra awesome to be alive!

Live and Learn ... all day, every day.

Mark My Words is on view at C.A.V.E. Gallery now through August 5th.

C.A.V.E. Gallery
55 Venice Boulevard