Friday, August 17, 2018

Shed The Old Leaves

A whole bunch of Venice palm trees were getting a trim while I was on my morning walk, and it was kind of great to watch. The guys are on lifts all the way up, and it looked like fun work. It was mesmerizing to watch the big, dry fronds fall gracefully down to the street for a moment ... and then it got me thinking.

It's back to school time here in L.A.  (even though summer is still in full swing, these poor kids today ...), and kids get new clothes and new supplies, and move on up in grades and intelligence - leaving the old behind. I don't think you ever really grow out of that feeling at the end of the summer ... to me, it's almost more new year than New Year's Eve. Like, o.k. ... let's get down to business for real here. Let's go forward into something new. Let's learn. Let's shed the old leaves and emerge better for it, as we grow UP.

Deep thoughts. Happy Friday. Happy Weekend - let's get to shedding!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Help Every Youth Succeed

I like to regularly check out what's happening down at the Venice Art Walls, because very often what you see there is a reflection of current events, done in a fresh way. The news via art.

A lot of the time it's a big "Venice" or someone's personal tag style stuff, but often there is very conscious thought, as I saw this morning. HELP EVERY YOUTH SUCCEED. That really is the answer to our collective future. ALL our kids are precious. I saw Spike Lee's excellent MUST SEE Blackkklansman last night (HOLY. MOLY.), and the students have a chant ... "All Power to ALL the People!" which I feel is the mantra for all time - but especially these times.

When you have an idiot multi-millionaire like Betsy Devos as the Secretary of Education doing nothing for our youth, and a self-made man like LeBron James giving everything to our youth, you know that things simply MUST change ... from the top down to the bottom up. And soon, or this nice experiment in Democracy called The United States Of America will ultimately fail. Hate. Greed. Love. Generosity. It all starts when you're a kid. It's all taught. And it takes a village.

Teach your children well. Help every youth succeed.

Monday, August 13, 2018

KCRW's Summer Nights Backyard Party With Jim James!

I finally got to see the new KCRW Headquarters in Santa Monica on Saturday night when they held their Summer Nights Backyard Party in the courtyard of their super impressive new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue. The bonus to seeing the new space was that it was for a Jim James (My Morning Jacket) solo gig, and I'll go see that dude anywhere.

It was a perfectly gorgeous evening for an outdoor concert, and the line for the first come, first to get in line stretched around the block for this really fun - and free - event. The crowd was very KCRW Westside Liberal, with friends and families out for a lovely neighborhood jam under the stars. DJ Liza Richardson warmed up the proceedings, spinning popular tracks while people got their buzz on with delish lavender lemonade or spicy tequila drinks - or beer. Food trucks were there, per usual, and a whole lot of schmoozing going on. So much so that when Mr. James took the stage, it was kind of subtle, like he was just all of a sudden there singing "Rainbow Power". "America needs Rainbow Power" is sung truth, and James had the crowd in his hands from then on (aside from the very chatty scenester girls that always seem to be standing near me).

"All In Your Head", "I'm Amazed", and "Just A Fool" were thrown down back to back to back, as James wove his spells among a backdrop of projected art done by Future Lighting that served up a trippy atmosphere that went perfectly with his 70's rock vibe. Backlit with hair blowing in the summer breeze, slinging a red, glittery guitar, James could have been there from a Zeppelin-era time machine. And we were all loving it.

"Throwback" was therefore an apt track to be played, and "Changing World" was straight from now. James sang about living in the now, which was crazy, because I had just run into Rocky Dawuni (another KCRW favorite, the reggae singer from Ghana) earlier and we had talked about exactly that. Living in the moment, as it's all we really have. And these moments were good ones to be living in. Glancing around, everyone seemed happy, and all cares seemed to have been forgotten, at least for the moment.

It's kind of amazing when just one guy with a guitar and no backing band can hold such a big crowd's attention (by now the place was jam packed), but James sure did. "Here In Spirit". "No Secrets". "Too Good To Be True." All awesome. James didn't talk too much, but when he did, he urged everyone to go out and see Blackkklansman - "The most important film in our lifetime". Whoa. That's a pretty hefty claim ... but now I'm going tonight. James sings about things I agree with, so I'll take this as a solid film referral (and get back to you).

"I'm excited to be here to break in this wonderful new space, what a cool place to gather, I'm honored to be here with you tonight," James addressed the surroundings, and I think we all felt the same way. James brought it home with "A New Life", "Rome", "Over And Over", and finished the set with Brian Wilson's "Love And Mercy" with its great line, and great show-ender, "Love and mercy, that's what you need tonight, Love and mercy to you and your friends tonight." How lovely - and we'll take it.

There was no encore, and after the applause died down, DJ Chris Douridas took over the turntables to spin until the party ended ... though no one wanted it to. What a delightful first visit to the new KCRW Campus! If you haven't yet checked it out, there's another Summer Nights Backyard Party next Saturday - this time with Henry Rollins! Yessss!

Bu-huuuut, Oh! Those Su-hum-mer Niiiii-iiiiiights! See you there.

*Photos courtesy Everett Fitzpatrick for KCRW.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

KRS-One Live At LA Live - Boogie Down!

Oh, man. Last night we got to see KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) play the Novo Theater at L.A. Live in Downtown L.A. ... and it was awesome. Old school Hip Hop heads packed the place, but the crowd was really all ages. Youngsters are appreciating the rap pioneers, and it's good to see. Heavily male, my friend, Christina, in her blond ponytail and I were clearly the sore thumbs in the room, but we didn't care, and yelled our approval from right down front. It was even cooler that this hero even made the tickets only $5 USD! Anyone could go. Music for the People!

There were several openers, none of whom made much of their time aside from having people all over the stage filming them. The exception was Mike Xavier, who finally got the crowd into it, most all of whom refused to "Make some noise" until it was time for KRS-One. For good reason. The skill level was so starkly superior when the South Bronx legend took the stage, it was almost embarrassing, but hey - you gotta start somewhere. Backed up by B-Boys and B-Girls (!), KRS-One tore the place up, and the happy crowd's enthusiastic reactions confirmed that REAL Hip Hop and Rap is alive and very well, thank you. I mean, just look! BDP!

We had a blast, with strangers passing j's and shouting along to all the classic lyrics. KRS-One did a fun Hip Hop test, where he rapped O.G. lyrics from all the pioneers of the genre, and would stop and let the audience finish the phrase ... and nearly everyone passed. The music is extra great, of course, but you could also just sit and listen to KRS-One give his super-smart speeches, truly exemplifying the term "Spitting Knowledge". This cat (aka "The Teacha" - for good reason) is so wise, and ultra hip to all the hypocrisy in the world. He spoke to how Racism is in illusion, because Race is an illusion. That we are all one (like I also keep saying). That phones are government tracking devices, and he reminded everyone that when they type "LOL", to be sure to REALLY laugh out loud. To remember the humanity in us all. That "Hip" is your mind, and its knowledge, and "Hop" is the movement. Honestly, we could have just soaked up the wisdom all night, but we both had to work early, and get back to Venice before the big Lyft crowd made its exodus.

When we walked outside, we were bummed to see a dude being held on the ground by like four guards, as we'd just talked inside about how great it was that everyone was together in such harmony at a Rap show. It felt gross, and people were hurt, because stretchers were being called for. We got the hell out of there. Just as our Lyft driver pulled up next to the EMT's that had arrived, we spotted the street dog carts, and remembered that we still hadn't eaten. We bribed the driver to wait with the offer of his own dog, and placed our orders (*FYI - the hotdog carts now take credit cards!). All of a sudden, multiple LAPD cars and officers descended on the scene, and the hot dog cart ladies took off running, in a panicked cart race that might have been amusing, had it not been so serious to them. Yeah, they could get a ticket for being there and vending, but it was really more about these times and ICE. We were left not knowing what to do, as our driver already had his dog, we were waiting for ours, and hadn't yet paid the ladies. So we ran after them, and that's how we got the lowdown. Ugh.

It was a kind of surreal end to the night, and also illustrated things that KRS-One had just talked about. That this land we were enjoying a fresh hip hop show on was really Mexico, and we just took it from them. "There can't be a New Mexico, without Mexico. This IS Mexico!" And we watched terrified ladies take off running because they were scared they were going to be kicked out of their ancestors' former home. And be walled off away from here. As I said in yesterday's Blogtown post, echoing the poster at Venice & Abbot Kinney ... "Together we are stronger than any wall."

KRS-One knows this, and urged us all to get on board with that vibe, if we weren't already. The events that unfolded while the man was still performing only put exclamation points on the whole thing. Listen to this dude any chance you get. Stand together. Look out for each other, at all costs. And Boogie DOWN while you're at it. Like Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your Revolution." Good thing we can do both.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Together We Are Stronger Than Any Wall

I was walking down Abbot Kinney this morning, and stopped to admire this poster while I waited for the light to turn at Venice and Abbot Kinney. "Together we are stronger than any wall."

How true is that? And it applies not only to Trump's ridiculous wall, but to those imaginary walls that we tend to put up between us. Like in Venice now, between the Haves and the Have Nots (though that goes for the entire country/world as well). Like between "Dotard" Republicans and "Libtard" Lefties (both slags that I can't stand). Like between neighbors that don't bother to know each other, and build walls to keep themselves in and everyone else out. It's so basic to realize that by working together for a better situation for everyone absolutely makes us ALL stronger. That is elementary stuff. Golden Rule essential knowledge.

Let's learn this lesson finally, shall we? Thanks to whomever put up this excellent reminder that all the beautiful people in our community living in harmony makes the whole that much more solid. Awesome. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bon Iver + TU Dance Come Through The Hollywood Bowl

In another enchanting evening at the Hollywood Bowl, Sunday night was the West Coast premiere of the collaboration between Bon Iver and the TU Dance company performing "Come Through" for an appreciative Los Angeles audience.

We got there early for once, and were rewarded by both a leisurely picnic and a super interesting performance by "Spiritual America" - another collaboration, by William Brittelle, and performed by Wye Oak with Metropolis Ensemble.

                                                                                                                     Composer William Brittelle

"Spiritual America" is a good title for this project, because it sounds kind of all over the place, but still beautiful ... as spirituality in America definitely also is. We used the term "Experimental" a lot while listening, as it hit you in the same sort of place that Björk's more out there stuff does, then brought it back to a more ethereal, dreamy space, that was made even more so by the colors of dusk and the emerging stars and moon.

                                                                                                                                                Wye Oak

"Nostalgia is a poison," opined singer Jenn Wasner at one point, causing us to do a double-take look at each other and back to her, as I've never thought about nostalgia as such, but when you think about it ... hmm. Their last number was called "Shriek", I believe, and Wasner said it was "about understanding the power of believing in your own myth." But not nostalgia. And that rather nicely sums up their set, and their sound. Wasner closed their set by saying, "We're Wye Oak ... and we did a thing." And we dug it.

We also dug the absolutely gorgeous night that we were sitting within - which was also Scene Central - as scores of KCRW listeners came out in a mass L.A. agreement that this was the place to be. They weren't wrong. Once Bon Iver took to the sparse set of the Bowl stage, with the dancers from TU Dance bringing his music to life, it looked and sounded as if everyone was more than happy to be right exactly there. Here's a sneak preview so you know what I'm talking about:

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) has come a long way sonically since his breakout hit, For Emma, Forever Ago. This bearded cat from Wisconsin seems awfully far from his cabin in the Wisconsin woods, incorporating Autotune on a majority of the songs - a sound that, honestly, makes me want to puncture my own eardrums to stop hearing. Why, Bon Iver? It's really not necessary, when all the talent gathered is so natural and beautiful, why warp it all up to sound like T-Pain? But I digress ...

                                                                                                                            Bon Iver/Justin Vernon

The St. Paul, Minnesota (so I loved them before they took a step) based TU Dance performed mesmerizing modern dance choreography in front of Vernon and his ensemble of musicians in the dark on a scaffold behind them. Video screens behind them all flashed words like "Laughing" "Crying", "Power" and "America" with trippy colors and shapes swirling into a mind-bending whole that hit all the senses. There was also definitely a socio-political slant to the whole deal, in another example of art being the hammer that shapes reality.

                                                                                                                                                TU Dance

All of the music was new to this project, so no one knew anything to sing or dance along to, but no matter ... we were all happy to just sit there and take it all in over copious amounts of wine. Perfect. As all the songs were new, I have no idea of the set list, but suffice it to say that every track packed an emotional punch, especially when so beautifully enacted by this strong troupe of modern dancers. WOW.

At one point the music even veered into hip hop territory, and caused us to do another double-take ... like "This isn't Bon Iver" - but it was. It was Bon Iver stretching and reaching, feeling and creating, to bring us an extravaganza for the senses in a performance that anyone who was there will not soon forget. The whole place stood up and applauded at the end, breaking the spell, but still leaving us all feeling dreamy, as the dazed masses wandered back out into the streets of L.A.

"Welcome to Hollywood, what's your dream?', asked the street hustler asks at the beginning and end of Pretty Woman. Well, last night for nearly 18,000 people in Hollywood, the answer was Come Through. 

*There are plans for this show to be taken on the road. You will not want to miss.

*William Brittelle photo by Stephen Taylor
*Wye Oak photo by Alex Marks
*Bon Iver photo by Andrew Blackstein
*TU Dance photos by Michael Slabodian
*Bowl performance photos by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Friday, August 3, 2018

Have A Real Venice Weekend!

I've been running around all over the place and not had as much time to either really enjoy or write about Venice as much the past few weeks. So, it was with extra anticipation and enthusiasm that I finally got to enjoy a fully Venice weekend last week. And I'm about to do it all over again ...

Both weekend days were beach days, though Saturday was a lot cloudier than Sunday. No matter, as you still get that Vitamin D through the haze, and it was plenty warm enough. With a TON going on. There was a Venice Festival (don't know who put that on, but there were booths and food and live music - by the likes of Venice's own Venice's Mark Lennon and John Vester - and a bunch of fun and good vibes). There was a skate contest at the skatepark (I got there when it seemed to be for the 50+ age group still getting it!).

Walking to the beach, I noticed a perfectly Venice patio, all colorful and inviting, with just enough kitsch to make it feel like groovy old Venice.

I ran into people I knew all both days, which is always the best part about a great day in Venice. I had the breakfast burrito from Hinano's for breakfast on the beach. I swam in the Pacific, whose water has finally warmed up enough to make it a delight, with almost zero easing in time. Especially Sunday, when the sun was all the way out and it REALLY felt like Summer.

While on my human rotisserie beach blanket, I used my new koozie from the funeral of my dearest friends' dad's (Larry Hendrickson) funeral (funeral merch!), and thought about its wording ... "The PriZe is worth the PriCe." That is almost always true, and it could apply to so many situations, but I was thinking of Venice ... and how hard it is to still live here, with the ridiculous rents, the annoying Bird/Lime users, the BUBs, the traffic, the scenester restaurants, people who walk down Abbot Kinney like it's the airport, all slow and haphazardly, the corporate chain stores, the line at Salt & Straw, the "New Venice" people that warrant constant eye rolls, sad gentrification, etc ...

... but then you see your pals, and watch the skaters, and swim in the Pacific, and find out there's a new store for old school rollerskates in town (Moxi Rollerskates on Main Street), and you get that the Venice Vibe is still very much alive and well. As are the people that love it and want to keep it cool. I know, because I saw a ton of them last weekend. And I hope to see even more on this one ... starting very soon.

So, get out there and enjoy all the Venice you can - and get funky. Wear a costume. Paint a mural on your house. Go for a rollerskate. Jump in that awesome water. High five an O.G. Be happy ... because Real Venice is still here for your enjoyment. Dig that.