Thursday, February 24, 2011

Venice, Sunny Side Up!

Venice is located at the very edge of one of the world's largest urban areas, Los Angeles, but today, it was as country style as it gets. I awoke to the best surprise - my dear, sweet friend Christina showed up with a bowl of eggs freshly laid by the chickens her family keeps in their backyard. In Venice.

They were gorgeous, perfect ovals, that revealed a dusky green inside their shells. Fried up, their yolks were almost orange, and they tasted ... well, like the best eggs I've ever had. Sure, that's because they were straight from the source, vs. all jacked up on factory hormones, etc... but I think it was just as much from the generosity and goodwill of a true friend.

Christina is taking the UC Master Gardening course, where she will learn all about organic farming, and expand on the backyard garden and mini-farm she already has going. In the middle of a huge city. We can all take a lesson from HER, and try and incorporate some true freshness in our daily lives, wherever we live.

THANK YOU, Christina dear!!! Best. Eggs. Ever.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vanessa Paradis at The Orpheum

If you were looking for the French people of L.A. last Friday night, I'm pretty sure they were ALL at The Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles. French pop star (and wife of Johnny Depp), Vanessa Paradis, was playing her first show ever in L.A., and the Frenchies were very excited.

It was a downpour night, but no spirits were dampened as the beautiful old Orpheum filled to capacity, and it seemed like everyone knew each other. It was an interesting crowd, full of hipsters, sure, but also skewing older than I would have expected. There were floor length furs in the house, and berets galore. People waved to one another from the opera style balconies as French tunes played. It was fun to just look around at the gilted opulence.

{Shout out to supercool Bill Silva for our great seats - THANK YOU!}

My friend Sammy Smooth came and found me and the first thing she said was, "Everyone's French!" It really did feel like we jetted over to some big Parisian venue for the night. I even saw lovely Agnes from The French Market, Hooray!

The lights went out abruptly and cheers arose. The giant red curtain parted and out stepped a handsome gentleman with a little ukulele. Hugh Coltman has a dreamy voice, which we soon agreed sounded like a hybrid of Chet Baker, early coffee shop era Jason Mraz, with a touch of Jeff Buckley (a clear influence). Not too shabby, and he earned a fair share of "OW!'s" from the ladies. And a lot of new fans in general. He was a lovely opener for a night that can only be called LOVE-ly.

After a quick intermission/time for one more cocktail, the hall went dark again, the French went nuts again, the curtain rose, and out walked Ms. Paradis to thunderous applause. Dressed casually in jeans, blazer, and a sort of Ice Capades-y top, she floated to the microphone and said, "Good evening, Bon Soir!" Wild applause. "Thank you for having us in your wonderful city, that is a home in my heart for the best reason in the world." Loving cheers. "We welcome you to our little French world," she said in her sweet, delightful voice, and that's exactly where we happily went for the next couple of hours, into her little French world.

Most of the songs were very Euro sounding ... jazzy, poppy, Moulin Rouge-y confections that somehow never seemed a bit cloying. Most of them were sung in French, and my rusty high school French left me hanging a lot, but I could pick out a lot of Je T'aime's and Les Yeux throughout the evening. LOVE was definitely in the air. A few songs in, Paradis went around and held a little lantern up to each of her backing musicians (there was also a full violin quartet in back). Charming.

I remember hearing Johnny Depp interviewed once, where he said he saw this woman (Vanessa) sitting at a bar, and how he fell in love with just her back. Then she turned around. He was done for at that moment, he said, and this entire audience was in his same boat. Like perhaps Mr. Depp is the lucky one in the relationship. Steph and I kept turning to each other and saying, "Adorable!" She really is, and seems as sweet as she is beautiful.

She introduced one song as being "About love and fire" ... sung in a lower voice, sinuously dancing while sitting on her stool, it was super sexy. The whole night it was either crazy yelling and cheering or total silence, as the expatriate crowd lapped it all up.

"At least once in your life, preferably at night, in the rain, listen to Chet Baker in a Studebaker," advised Paradis as they began the song, "Chet Baker" (strange, as we were already thinking about him due to Mr. Coltman). There was an "Ooooo, Ooooo, Oooo" chorus that she asked everyone to sing along with, "It ees so good for your stress!" Indeed, there was zero stress felt the entire night.

The night built up beautifully, from Paradis on acoustic guitar, backed by the lush violins and cello, for a lusty, feminine cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (which I usually cannot bear to hear by anyone but Cohen or Jeff Buckley, but hers was truly gorgeous, and I'll admit it), to a 50's bopping cover of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", to her first French hits, "Joe Le Taxi" (featuring the full house singing along heartily) and "Be My Baby", to a full on French rocker that found her banging on the drummer's cymbals and the Superfans leaping to their collective feet, clapping and chanting for more.

They got a LOT more. Paradis returned for her first encore in a sparkling, twirly dress, and improvised a little back and forth with her keyboard player on a xylophone sounding thing, which turned into Serge Gainsbourg's "La Vague". "WE LOVE YOU, VANESSA!!" was shouted more than once, in thick French accents. Though this was only her second show in North America (New York was a couple nights before), it will not take long for her to catch on here, evidenced by a tool-ish guy in front of me that exclaimed, "What a cool fucking show!" in a decidedly East Coast accent. But he was not wrong!

Paradis danced around on air, then introduced the musicians in the cutest voice ever. The next song was a complete crowd sing-along (we just hummed) that got the entire place up and dancing in their seats. A graceful group bow for another gigantic standing ovation.

And another encore! Paradis took the stage alone with her acoustic guitar, and introduced a Felix Leclerc song "that I learned at 5 and am still singing." It was very folky, and had her fellow French enraptured and singing along again. One more song (en francaise) with her entire backing band, another roaring standing ovation, many thank you/merci's, a balletic bow, and our night in Paris was over.

Outside, the rain had stopped, the full moon had risen over the downtown skyscrapers, and there was a French party on the sidewalk in front of The Orpheum. Everyone was beaming, and a not small crowed gathered behind the theater to try and catch a glimpse of their chanteuse leaving the stage door. We didn't stick around for that, but walked to our car feeling literally lighter, and more in love ... with life.

Merci beaucoup, Ms. Paradis ... and WELCOME to your own international, and well-deserved, renown!

*Photos and Video by the divine Ms. Stephanie Hobgood.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Venice Valentine

I'm of the school that EVERY day should be a Valentine's Day type deal, so am not overly absorbed in a day like Valentine's Day ... but then I'm all for celebrating LOVE, even when it's a little forced.

It started last night for me, really, when Kris Kristofferson presented the award for Best Album Of The Year (to Arcade Fire - great for them!) at the Grammy's with Barbra Streisand ... AND she sang "Evergreen", from my fave movie, A Star Is Born. So, of course, I awoke feeling all dreamy.

Then, Monday morning grey, walk on the beach, it was like strolling along the set of a movie the whole way back to Venice. A photo shoot of a hot guy and a girl running along the sand with their surfboards and faux beach hair. Then a teenage couple kissing with their hands in each others' back pockets (the kids still do that, how Dazed and Confused!). Every few 50 yards or so, there would be yet another heart drawn in the sand, with intials, or fully spelled out "I LOVE YOU CHARLIE", or just blank hearts - the good, old fashioned ones with a fuzzy arrow piercing it, left blank by an optimistic heart.

Then a Sea Horse couple, mating for life right before my eyes! I couldn't believe it myself - because I'm just kidding, but the point is, LIVE LOVE.

And Happy Valentine's Day! Every day.


*Jenny Everhart took this picture of someone's sandy greeting to EVERYONE!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lohan Lowbrow

Man, I'd rather not even acknowledge the Lindsay Lohan circus in town, but it's a bit unavoidable in Venice at the moment ... and was the TOP news story last night. SAD! She allegedly stole a spendy necklace from Kamofie and Company on Abbot Kinney, and was this morning charged for felony grand theft. Never mind that there is real live revolution happening in Egypt. That our country is still at it in a dumb war. That our Earth's health is at a crucial tipping point in time. That our nation's schools are in the same boat as the planet. That people are struggling to make ends not even meet, but survive.

No, the top news story needs to be about a sick young girl that has a ton of problems, and the vultures just keep picking at her. At US - as our brains, and our humanity is what is dying if this is what we think "important" news is.

I was working at Firefly yesterday, when TMZ called up to see if we'd give them any information, as Kamofie had refused to comment further on the matter. The lady sounded genuinely confused and surprised when I said, "We really couldn't care less about this story." In fact, it's kind of embarrassing that this is what people are associating Venice with at the moment.

Last week, the news trucks and paparazzi were fiending around outside the jewelry shop where the shoplifting supposedly went down, and a news lady hit our pal Christophe from The French Market out on his delivery scooter. He was fine, but the last thing our dear friends from The French needed was news of another motorcycle accident. All because people just NEEDED to know what the latest on Lohan was?! Disgusting.

We, the People, sorely need to get our priorities straight in this Country. The celebrity culture that begs this behavior is what makes us look like retarded jackasses to the rest of the world. Let's get a grip, shall we? Massively important stuff is going on every single day, that desperately needs our focus and attention, and we just click the remote until it settles on this kind of drivel, and shut out the issues that, if given our proper concern, could make this world, and the humankind populating it, into really something as glorious as it deserves to be.

Think about it. And send the message that we want to realize our potential. We can be so much better than this.

*Side note: I also cannot stand or fathom the awful, insensitive Groupon commercials. Who's dumb ideas were they? Blech.

K, rant over. For now.

**Photo courtesy of Suzanne Thompson (of an ass-kiss mural that did not need to happen).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leo Kottke In Malibu

Do you know who Leo Kottke is? I'm always amazed at how many people don't. He is perhaps the best 12 string guitar player in the world, and an absolute icon to my brother and I. We LOVE him. We were delighted to hear that he was going to play at the Smothers Theater at Pepperdine last weekend, and hightailed it on up there to sit and listen and gaze in wonder as he made his one guitar sound like an entire room full of them.

Mr. Kottke is a rambling man, a raconteur, a story teller so random and esoteric that you want only to be his best friend after the 90 minutes or so of time spent hearing him weave his spells. He's very unassuming, walking on stage in his jeans and loafers, not saying a word, just picking up one of his two guitars (6 & 12 string) and launching into his gorgeous, inimitable style of finger picking.

He jammed through a few sublime instrumentals before singing "Julie's House" in his resonant baritone ... but not before telling a story about how a Julie from his youth tackled him and "the night crawler six feet below me felt that kiss." He smiles as he plays with his eyes closed, and his guitar seems to be simply an extension of his body. As he tells his stories, he fiddles about on his guitar without even thinking, and ends up sounding better than anyone else simply doing that. After living just about everywhere it seems, he's a Minnesota guy now, and often shows up with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion - another all-time favorite of mine. It makes total sense that they'd be friends - they both like to come off a bit curmudgeonly ("This neighbor invited me to their backyard party ... usually that's my cue to move to a new town."), but the way they find tenderness and beauty in tiny moments exposes their true and warm hearts.

Though his tales tangent all over the place (endearing him to me, who has been accused of same), he always winds it back to the original place, and punctuates them with his stellar playing. Examples: "Dick Tracy's villians had the best housing ... Periscopes, lots of periscopes. Real romance." "Although I didn't live in a propane tank ..." "I was talking to the Bog People, they're FLAT. They're fresh. Weird." "I wanted to play something more portable, and I was willing to both die and give up my gender to do it." People were beaming and laughing through the entire show, none more so than the Gronners.

When introducing his lovely song, "Gewerbegebiet", he said, "The Germans have done for the consonant what the Hawai'ians did for the vowel." Every little bon mot out of his mouth is quote-worthy, and yeah, I'm gushing. Love him. He forgot his slide backstage and called for someone to look in his black bag for his "slide, my capo, defibrillators." He was randomly spouting fragments of sentences at one point, amusing himself, to where he said, "I really don't need you here to do this," prompting the entire house to roar, as they knew this to be true. He played "Snorkel" from his classic One Guitar, No Vocals album, and the man in front of me (and we lucked out into being RIGHT down front) was literally clutching his cheeks, he loved the music so much. His wife looked at him, patted his back and knew it. So touching, I felt the burn of tears spring forth.

Though inspired by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt to John Philip Sousa, no one else sounds like Leo Kottke. He more recently collaborated with Phish's Mike Gordon, which got him on to more peoples' radar, but you should definitely check out any and everything he's ever done, especially my favorite album of his, Peculiaroso. Here's Leo playing my favorite song from that album, "Wonderland By Night":

He wrote one of his biggest songs, "Rings" for a wedding, "And this is all that's left of that marriage." He blew minds with it, ending, as he always does on every song, with the perfect flourish. Everyone leapt to their feet, shouting, clapping, whistling for more. He came back out for one more crazy good instrumental, then simply stood, gave a deep bow, and held his guitar aloft, almost to cede the praise to it.

We want to do a documentary on him, as honestly, there isn't a whole lot more out there that's as entertaining to watch as Mr. Leo Kottke. Turn yourself on to him, so you absolutely will have a life more enriched.