Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lockdown With The Weight Of Everyting

Here you go ... the theme song for the "Lockdown" that the entire world has been living under while the global Covid-19 pandemic rages on. My brother, Paul Gronner, has a band called The Weight of Everything (Heavy!), and he recorded an entire album Dealing With The Unknown in three weeks while under quarantine in Los Angeles.

He then came to Minneapolis, where I have been helping out my Mom (lost her leg almost a year ago) and my brother, Rich (had a mild stroke a month and a half ago). We worked hard fixing up things at my Mom's house - and then we worked on his music video for his new single, "Lockdown". Here it is:

We shot this all over Minnesota, mainly in Minneapolis, and there are about a zillion landmarks included in the story of the video. It was the anniversary of Prince's death while Paul was here, so we had to do the pilgrimage to Paisley Park again, and it was just as emotional as when we lost him. Most of the landmarks were pretty well deserted, so that added the weird quality of isolation that the song conjures up. My favorite part is the rock-out at the end, with Paul using the little guitar he taught himself to play on in his childhood room (also featured - the room with The Bad Brains poster!).

Nature has been our savior throughout all of this, and that majesty features heavily in the video as well. From eagles soaring to ducks gliding, from flowers blooming to the sun setting and the moon rising ... we share with you some of the beauty that has gotten us through.

Seasons changed during the filming, and you will be taken from the icy isolation of winter into the hope being exhaled by Spring. My favorite part is the rock-out at the end, which is as fun to watch as it was to film. Release! Paul is back in L.A. now, so I'm super wistful as I watch this video ... wishing he was still here, and also wistful for the way the world used to be. I am super proud of my brother, I love this video, and I hope you will too.

*(I also hope you will support him by buying his album at Apple or Spotify, as while he was here helping, his work van got stolen from in front of his house, and he could now really use the support! THANK YOU!)

LOCKDOWN By The Weight of Everything is available everywhere now! 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Help Keep Juice Magazine Alive - Pools, Pipes, And Punk Rock!

Juice Magazine is arguably the very heart and soul of Venice, California. They have been documenting the skate, surf, and music scenes around the world since 1993, and a lot of the town's cool can be easily traced back to Juice. Publisher/Editor/Owner, Terri Craft, and Assistant Editor, Dan Levy, have been bringing everyone the Juice for over 26 years, and now it's time to return the favor.

With the Covid-19 crisis, magazine shipments have been put on hold, which means the Juice lifeblood (money) has also been on hold. With a looming line of credit that must be repaid, there is a very real threat that the magazine would have to shutter without the means to continue publishing. We, as a global and local community of skaters, surfers, musicians, and artists (and those who love them), now need to step up to provide some assistance in order to keep them going. And we will.

A Go Fund Me has been set up for just this purpose, and you may donate HERE to help this excellent-  and vital - publication keep on trucking long into the future. All one has to do is glance at the beloved Venice Skatepark currently all filled in with sand to visualize what a (temporary) loss that is, and what the loss of Juice would be. Juice Magazine is pretty much the Bible to so many in the skate world, not only in Venice, but around the world ... Venice just gets to call them our own.

SO many awesome times have originated with Juice ... from skate contests to ragers at the Juice headquarters, from epic art exhibitions like Beyond The Streets to little art shows in local galleries.

From collaborations with the California Locos and Shepard Fairey (and a new print for Juice is coming very soon by Fairey in another effort to fundraise - how cool!) to showcasing the work of local and coming up artists - and bands and writers and everyone who gets and appreciates the Juice vibe - and who doesn't? Lizzo knows ... Blame it on my Juice!

My brother Paul and I have had the true pleasure of covering things for Juice, and are honored to call them our friends ... our Venice family. The Go Fund Me tells the whole story of the Juice origins up to now, as well as all of their accomplishments and credits, which are a great many. They were fundamental in helping to get the Venice Skatepark built, as well as getting the documentary about it made - Made In Venice is crucial viewing for anyone who cares about skating and/or Venice.

I know how hard it is to ask for help for these friends, because I'm a lot like that myself. More than happy to step in and help anyone, but super hard to put yourself out there to let people know that you are in need. That's when you hope that your friends will do it for you ... so here we are.

PLEASE kick in whatever little bit (or massive, some of you bands and pro skaters and artists that have been featured in Juice!) you can, because we want to help keep alive the only skate publication used by the Smithsonian Institute - it's that legit.

And Juice really needs your help NOW. We have already lost so much from this awful virus, don't let it happen to one of the very best things about Venice/the skate/surf/art/music world. I miss being in Venice so much right now, and the Juice family is one of the things I miss the very most. PLEASE let it still be there when I get back. PLEASE let us now have their back.

One more time, you may donate HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH for helping to bring so many more awesome times to us all! You're awesome too.


*Photo of Terri Craft by Dan Levy.
*Photo of Dan Levy by Pep Williams.
*Photo of sandy Skatepark by Twistedsifter.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

Fire At The French Market Café - Merde!

A lot of places I love have closed in Venice while I've been away, and a little part of me is crushed every time. It's all sad, but nothing has hit me as hard as hearing that my beloved French Market Café has had a fire early yesterday morning, and is now closed indefinitely. I could (did) just cry.

When I'm in Venice, I go to the French every day. It is my coffee spot, my place to visit with my friends that both work and frequent there, and the place you can most regularly find me other than the beach. This is a hard one to swallow.

Back in the days when I didn't call my Mom every day (you live and learn that these things are necessary), she would even call the French to make sure I had been there and all was ok with me. If I had a work meeting, I would always suggest the French first. I was so thrilled when they announced last year that they would be opening for evenings and serving dishes from the old Lily's menu - another now gone favorite. It was tough to get people to that end of Abbot Kinney at night, but they were doing it. Now what?!

It was always a delight to celebrate Bastille Day at the French, with Can Can girls dancing and champagne flowing in the sunshine on the patio. Who can forget the day that France won the World Cup in 2018, and all the French ex-pats in Los Angeles descended on the packed French Market, driving cars around with flags waving out the windows. A total blast, and one of the most happy and fun memories ever had at our beloved Frenchie

I haven't been able to reach Agnes (Martinez, the owner and a dear friend) yet to know what happened exactly, but it just kills me that I'm not there ... and that it's now very up in the air if I will ever again get my favorite Mocha in town there again. This global pandemic has forced us all to handle a LOT of loss for sure, but some things really do hurt more than others, and this is one of them for me. MERDE!

Je t'aime, French Market, Agnes, Jenny, and all of my friends who work there, who go there, and who love it as much as I do. Hoping so much for the best outcome, that we may all gather there in the sun again one day soon.

A fundraiser has been set up by Agnes' friend, Yon Idiart, to help the French get through this extra hard time. You may donate HERE! Merci! 

Vive La French Market!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Bernie Blackout Airs TONIGHT On Vice - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I love working on projects with Pat McGee Pictures, because I know it's going to be a job that I can feel proud of being a part of, and that it matters to the world at large - the very best kind of work to have. We've worked together on Dopesick Nation, a series for Viceland about the opioid epidemic. It was one of the darkest, hardest subjects I've ever delved into, but it was important to help the nation understand what a gigantic and sad epidemic opioids have become. Then we did The Deported, about the immigration crisis, where I had to convince ICE to let us go around with them on a ride-along - heavy, awful stuff ... but again very important to understanding that issue that affects everyone in this country. Our third project working together airs tonight on Vice (as part of their new Vice Versa series), and might be the most important one yet. Bernie Blackout will take you along on the 2020 Presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders - and show you how complicit the Mainstream Media is in cheating this American treasure out of a nomination - AGAIN. This one is SUPER important to understanding just how corrupt and outrageous our elections really are ... with the hope that we can do something about it. Knowledge is power.

The call to work on this gig came at the beginning of March, just as the United States was beginning to shut down over the Covid-19 virus. We very quickly had to pivot from the plan to interview our subjects in person in New York, D.C., and California to the shift of doing all interviews via Zoom. That quickly had to pivot to Skype, as there were so many people and businesses using Zoom overnight, that our connections were garbage if the idea was to use the video interviews in a feature documentary for broadcast. There was a lot of frustration and late nights as producers met from all over the country on the phone and online to try to get this done by our deadline for the air date.

Emails flew all day and night every day, trying to land interviews with the independent journalists and leaders that were telling the REAL story about the Sanders campaign, and were as outraged as we were at the absolute 180 by the Mainstream Media that happened when they began to realize Sanders could run away with this whole thing - WOULD run away with the whole thing - and their corporate bosses just couldn't let that happen. News pieces began to treat the campaign as a joke, with obvious talking points shifting to that outlook overnight. I began to have a hard time booking people for interviews, like my old pal Boots Riley, (who Tweeted about this exact subject so much, and came out in support of Sanders, endorsing a Presidential candidate for the first time in his life!) and Dr. Cornel West, as they didn't want to have something they said be perceived in a way that could affect the outcome of the election ... everything was very walking on eggshells.

THEN Sanders suspended his campaign - in the middle of all of this! Unbelievable. The media had won, and had truly pressured out the best chance we've had at peace in this nation in a very long time. I'm still seething mad about it, as I've been a Sanders supporter forever, and very much believe in the veracity, inspiration, and possibilities that would benefit us all under a Sanders Presidency. But nope. The 1% wasn't having it. We started hearing more about general strikes brewing (Great! Do it!), and about a real case of sexual harassment brought against Joe Biden - the presumptive Democratic nominee only be default - certainly not by any kind of winning campaign strategies. Though Sanders had been cheated out of the nomination AGAIN by the DNC and the Mainstream Media (and must have felt so despondent and mistreated!), he continued to lead on the subject of healthcare (more vital than ever now!), and shifted his campaign donations to be used for Covid-19 relief. A real mensch.

Bernie Blackout was meant to air on April 23rd, the night before the New York primary. Sanders dropping out, and then the postponement of the New York primary to June 23rd pushed the air date to TONIGHT, May 13th, at 8:00 pm on Vice. This gave us a little more time to get the interviews we wanted, and the opportunity to address the suspension of the campaign in real time. America is supposed to be a Democracy, and this documentary will hopefully enrage you and inspire you enough to care about that basic tenet of our country being crushed - and to get up, stand up to do something about it. We cannot let the Mainstream Media dictate who our leaders are, who we should believe, what to do during a global pandemic, or anything really. They are there to bring us the unbiased news, end of story. Only it never is, and tonight we hope you will join us both in our collective outrage at the Media, and in our collective, heartfelt THANKS to Bernie Sanders for always being a man of We the People. Who HAVE THE POWER. Never forget that.

Thank you to Pat McGee Picture for another eye-opening, soul moving work experience, and to all the real journalists I got to meet out there doing the right thing, and fighting the power every day. We need you now more than ever. And THANK YOU BERNIE! You deserve so much more than this country has given back to you, and I humbly offer you my sincere gratitude that there are still people like you, fighting for us.

Bernie Blackout airs tonight at 8:00 pm on Vice. Please tune in, and let us know what you think!

*All photos by Gregory Taylor

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Dealing With The Unknown - Quarantine Music For The Masses!

Man, Hi. It's been a while. Quarantine doesn't offer the most opportunities to write fascinating stories all the time, as there just isn't that much to do. Most of us have been locked down, doing our own projects and things that aren't all that interesting to read about ... or are they? I think the biggest thing we're all dealing with is fear of the unknown ... and what is going to happen next? Well, my awesome brother, Paul, just put all of those thoughts and feelings into a brand new album he cranked out while shut inside in Los Angeles. His band, The Weight of Everything has released its second album of the month (that was recorded and !), and Dealing With The Unknown is now available everywhere.

I know I'm biased, but this piece of work is among Paul's best. I think the song "Quaranteens" should be THE anthem for the Class of 2020 ... give it a listen HERE:

Apple music:


Really good, right? There is a lot of reflection in there, as Paul says he was thinking about a lot while in lockdown. Themes like being this all being a rare opportunity for creativity, mortality, future generations, spending constant time with your partner, and sticking it to The Man are in there, and there's even a track about a Norwegian doppelgänger on there!

The songs range from pretty hard rock to simply pretty, as in my other favorite track, "Lockdown". I'm telling you music supervisors out there - this is some cinematic stuff, and would be perfect for all of the quarantine shows and movies that you know are coming. Paul has been here in Minneapolis with us for the last few weeks, helping out and working SO hard on things around my Mom's house, he's a real life hero, for real. Then he just found out his work van was stolen from his house while he's been here by some selfish jerks that maybe didn't realize that van provides his livelihood - which has already been suffering due to the lack of work because of this awful virus. All of that being said to say this - my brother could really use your support, and it would be really extra vitally cool of you to go buy a song or the whole album. You'll really like it, plus you'll be helping out a really good guy.

THANK YOU! And turn it up loud for Cinco de Mayo! Olé!!!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Coloring Books For A Cause!

It never occurred to me to pick up an Adult Coloring Book before, but a global pandemic quarantine will have you doing a lot of things you've never done before. When my Mom was in a nursing home, her neighbor lady colored in a coloring book all day, every day, and I thought it was really sad. But then all of this happened, pretty much everything is sad, and I heard that Har Mar Superstar (Sean Tillman) and his fiancée, Laura Hauser, had created Coloring Books For A Cause, and suddenly I'm a crazed colorer.

Brainstorming ways that they could help local Minneapolis musicians out of gigs, Tillman and Hauser (a teacher and illustrator) thought about how First Avenue was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, all local musicians have played or hope to play on that storied stage, we're all home going nuts ... how about The Big Coloring Book of First Avenue and the bands who love it, to support them while they're out of work?! A plan was hatched, page were drawn, and the first Coloring Book For A Cause was off to the printers! All in like two weeks. The Twin Cities Music Community Trust is stoked!

So many great Minneapolis bands are in there ... I had a blast coloring Babes In Toyland, especially Lori Barbero's dreads.

Prince is in there, of course, as First Avenue is widely known as the house that Prince built for Purple Rain ... but the truth is he didn't play there all that often, and a zillion other bands have really made it what it is, but the association is there for life. And we're all forever proud of it.

The Replacements ... Hüsker Du .,.. Soul Asylum ... the classic First Ave bands are very well represented.

Newer (to the rest of the world) acts like Lizzo and Nur-D are there too ...

... as well as pages of the club itself for you to go freestyle and fill in however you like. It's weird, but it IS kind of addicting. Like, I get my mom's old roommate now. There's something soothing about it, and there is a satisfaction when you complete a page, as well as a kind of numbing to what's going on around you. I'm a coloring book convert!

And that's a good thing, because they're already on their THIRD Coloring Book For A Cause! There is now The Big Coloring Book of Grumpy's and Palmer's - to benefit the service industry workers currently out of their jobs at those classic Minneapolis bars. There is also now the brand new Dance Party Coloring Book - to benefit Violence Free Minnesota, because there is sadly a lot of domestic violence going on during this pandemic. Color for a cause!

It's catching on too. City Pages put a coloring page on their inside cover, with a totally appropriate phrase for the times:

... And the Star Tribune is releasing weekly coloring pages now, to be in with the cool kids. It's heartwarming to see how quickly these books are being churned out and snatched up, as they really are helping people while they're at it. This virus has done a lot of harm, but we're seeing an awful lot of good come out of it too. People are thinking of creative ways to help each other left and right, and I'm hoping that that will be the lasting legacy of this absolutely insane time in all of our lives around the world. I gotta go finish coloring in Atmosphere to look like Smurfs (Slug asked for it), but order yours and post your pictures, and help out some excellent organizations while you're at it. Thanks!

Order your super cool coloring books HERE.

*PS - I think this is a great idea for clubs and bands and bars all around the world to do! All the local people would get into it. Give it a shot!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday Hope

I usually say "Great Friday" every year on Good Friday, but I don't feel like that this year. I wrote a story about finding comfort and solace in Wood Lake a week or so ago, and now I think I need a Wood Lake walk more than ever. My older brother, Rich, had a mild stroke on Monday night, and we can't be with him due to the global pandemic, so he has to deal with it all by himself in the hospital surrounded by scared workers and patients. I really am trying so hard to be gnarly and strong and have my chin all the way up, because I know how much more many, many people are suffering, but MAN ... there are moments where I don't even feel like trying anymore. So I look for hope. Like the little tiny blue flowers (Snowdrops!) poking out of the soil after a long winter! I haven't been in Spring in Minnesota for like 25 years, so these are true thrills for me, as well as HOPE that warm, sunny days are fast approaching.

I'm taking an online Yale class about happiness, and it's probably the best time ever to be taking it, because it actually has forced me to focus on what there is to be grateful about, and how I can extend more kindness to people around me.

None of this awful virus stuff was happening, obviously, when the class lectures were filmed, and I'm sure the Professor had no idea how hard her students would soon be struggling to find - and share - that happiness. Yet even amid all this madness ... you can still find it. Trust me. Like, there is a litter of baby kittens in a tree in my neighbor's backyard! Snowdrops and roses and whiskers on kittens ... !

There is an awful lot for me to deal with, much of which I don't speak about publicly, but believe me, it's a lot. But no more than so many people dealing with so much right now, and I keep telling myself that. I keep telling myself that this too shall pass. That there are so many silver linings. That I am SO fortunate, in the whole grand scheme of things. That the grass has turned green, seemingly overnight, and that this shows us all that there is an end to the darkness - another symbol of HOPE.

My family home is across the street from a church called HOPE Presbyterian, so there is a constant reminder of that hope right there. My family's church (Nokomis Heights Lutheran) left a surprise on our doorstep yesterday, which was a luminaria with an electric tealight, asking us to put it out each evening to symbolize HOPE for everyone. We will. And I will keep the hope alive in my own heart, as hard as I can. Please call me on it if you hear of me losing it. And keep on spreading the love, not germs (Window sign made by my precious Mom)!

Happy Easter Weekend to you all. The very weekend meant to symbolize HOPE. Love you.