Monday, July 30, 2012

Friendship Baptist Church - Venice

Last Sunday was my darling Mom's birthday, and as I wasn't able to spend it with her, I went and did her favorite thing for us kids to do ... go to Church.  My friend, Chris, from Glencrest BBQ (who I've been trying to nail down for a story for years now ...) sings in the male choir at Friendship Baptist Church in Venice, and has invited me for ages to come and hear them sing. So I woke up, saw it was gloomy out, and decided to finally make the walk over to Friendship in time for the 11:00 am worship service.

The church is very nondescript from the outside, but once inside, it's a lovely red-carpeted sanctuary, full of true to their name friendly folks, all done up in their Sunday best. The preacher's wife had on a green sequined suit with a silver top hat that made me feel extra under-dressed in my regular, non-sequined skirt and flip flops. I was also the only blonde person in there, so I stood out a bit and was easy to spot as a visitor.

The singing got underway right from the beginning, and those guys are good. Chris is by far the youngest member of the male choir, so they sound a little like The Blind Boys of Alabama - a great thing. I was raised Norwegian Lutheran style, so it was fun to be in a congregation full of people that shout things out and sing their praises with no inhibitions whatsoever. Free!

At one point (in the almost two hour service!) when all the congregation got up to approach the altar, I had no idea what was going on. I was very touched when an elderly woman who had been sitting across the aisle walked over to me and held out her hand without a word. I took it, and we walked together to the front of the church and stood and held hands while a Sister in the church prayed for us all, for quite a while. AMEN! The woman, still holding hands, walked back to our pews, where I thanked her, and she said, "You are welcome". Meaning I was welcome there. Her small gesture of inclusion meant so much to me, I'm still heart-warmed by it. That kind of gesture is what makes the world better, and more peaceful, one person at a time.

Then I was pointed out by the Pastor as a visitor, and had to stand and address the congregation. I wasn't that well prepared for that, so pretty much just introduced myself and thanked everyone for having me, and sat back down. I WISH I'd said this: During the sermon by Reverend Glendon, he mentioned that a mere glass of water could make the difference between life and death for someone. Giving someone a glass of water (or anything) could impact their life in more ways than you know. That dear woman who took my hand gave me that glass of water that morning. She made me feel welcome, included, and one with humanity. I was missing my Mom, and this kind lady gave me love. I thank her now, a little belated, and hope she will know how much that meant to me.

Friendship Baptist Church is a perfect name for those lovely people. Stop in some Sunday, and fill up your own heart. You will be welcome.

Friendship Baptist Church
606 Broadway

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leon Hendrix Reading at Small World Books

It was one of those nights when there's just too much going on, and you have to make some choices. I was cool to juggle some stuff, but what I knew I did not want to miss was Leon Hendrix reading from his new book, Jimi Hendrix - A Brother's Story at Small World Books on the Venice Boardwalk last night. I raced over there before the sun even set, and found myself a chair in the little back area of my very favorite book store. Mr. Hendrix was still at The Sidewalk Cafe next door, having a little happy hour, so it was very relaxed and no rush ... appropriate for the location, for sure.

I chatted with some local folks I know, and then Leon Hendrix walked up, held out his hand and asked my name. In his silky black shirt and lots of jewelry, he was pretty smooth at 64. Maybe even more so by his clear groove, as I gleaned from the aroma that there had been a recent sharing of a j on the Boardwalk prior to his entrance. Smooth.

It was standing room only left as Hendrix proclaimed that this was his very first book reading and signing ever! Here in Venice ... I love that. He got right to it and read a passage from a chapter called "Vagabond Gypsy Boys". It felt like he was more comfortable just talking and sharing anecdotes than exactly reading from the book. This turned out to be a treat, as he said that some of the stories he shared weren't in the book, so bonus. Jimi was always called "Buster" as a boy, we were told, as his real name was Johnny Alan Hendrix, but Johnny was the name of their Mom's new boyfriend, so their Dad made him change his name to Jimmy Marshall Hendrix. He couldn't get used to that, so he made everyone call him "Buster", after the Flash Gordon actor he loved, Buster Crabbe. Buster!

Hendrix spoke about how he and Jimi ate horse meat hamburgers and they were the best in the world, and it's a shame you can't get them anymore. He said that Jimi played music with Tommy Chong ("Who had a band before his pot career ..."), and that his first gig ever was with Ray Charles, because at 16, he was the best guitarist in Seattle for the job. That his first recording job ever was some striptease music for Jayne Mansfield in Louisiana.

Someone asked what books Jimi liked or was influenced by, and Leon said he'd never seen Jimi read a book ... "He just seemed to know that stuff already".  The whole time he was talking, you could really see in him a little kid that deeply looked up to and missed his big brother. He seemed happy and haunted at the same time, if that makes sense.

Someone else asked if it was true that Jimi started out playing on a broom. This was true, but more as an air guitar play thing that he'd sing along to. He first PLAYED on a ukulele from someone's garage sale that had only one string. He found he could make different sounds by loosening or tightening the tuner on that one string, and that was how he learned to bend each string to do so, so much.

He was a leftie, and his Dad thought left handedness was from the Devil ..."Which was funny, considering he had 6 fingers!" That was laugh out loud. He went on to say that Dad would tie string around his extra appendage until it would shrivel up and fall off after tightening it for about 6 months ... but then they would grow back!! Freak out. Jimi and Leon would wait until their Dad fell asleep drunk and bring in the neighbor kids to terrify them with the extra fingers on their Dad. While funny, I almost wish I didn't know this stuff existed. Shivvvvvvvver.  ANYway ... when Dad would come in, Jimi would flip the guitar over to play right handed so he wouldn't get yelled at for being the Devil. So he could play left, right, upside down, backwards ... "He was a genius," Leon said, with a shrug of pure fact.

He read one more small paragraph, squinting without his glasses ("This guy didn't write the book good.") and then shut it and said, "Anyway, that's enough. Read the book." He's pretty funny, Leon. I get the feeling he'd be fun to hang out with. He was itching to get to the just hang out part of the event, you could tell. Then someone asked why it took him so long to write this book. Leon replied that he realized that in all the other books on Jimi Hendrix out there, all the best quotes were his, so he decided to write his own book. "And it will be the last book on Jimi." Said firmly.

With that, the line formed to get books signed and take pictures and ask more questions. Through it all, and in looking him in the eye while talking, you can see how much pride and pain live in this man who so clearly loved - and loves - his brother.

I can't wait to read all these stories, especially now that I saw the heart of where they came from.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

B1 Breadshop Opens in Venice - Delish!

B1 Breadshop has just opened in Venice (and downtown LA), and they have the very best croissants around. Period. I'm picky about that stuff, and these are GOOOOOOOOD.

The address is officially 2805 Abbot Kinney, but that's kind of tricky, as you really enter on the other side, in the little strip mall where Johnnie's Pizza and Wacky Wok are located. I went in today, and it is still pretty sparse in there, but you get your croissants, baguettes, and split to go eat them. I remain completely loyal to The French Market for my coffee, but as much as I adore them, they have never had pastries of any quality to mention. Strange, for them being French, I know. The B1 people are from France too, I was told by the very sweet lady working, so maybe they can sort out some kind of arrangement together?

In the meantime, I will now have two stops to make for a glorious morning repast of perfection.

B1 Breadshop
2805 Abbot Kinney

*Thanks to Bret at Yo Venice for turning me on to this deliciousness!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Only For You

My darling friend Amelia moved from Venice to Austin, Texas last year, and now she's starring in music videos! Here she is (the little red haired girl) in the new one from The Heartless Bastards, "Only For You".

I'm so proud of her I can't stand it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Lit Show - Starring Suzy Williams!

Oh, Suzy Williams. How are you so so cool? Well, for starters. she and her husband, Gerry Fialka, put on The Lit Show every year at Beyond Baroque, where you hear the words of famous authors put to jazzy compositions by Suzy and Brad Kay. Where you wind up being not only thoroughly entertained, but smarter.

In the 7th or 8th Annual (no one was really sure which) Lit Show, Suzy and Brad were joined by Oliver Steinberg on stand up bass, Carol Chaikin on everything (well, flute, clarinet and two different saxes), Barry Zweig on guitar, and Don Allen on drums. And the entire crowd of loyal Venice fans on laughter, clapping and the opening chorus of "The Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit Show!!!!" Everyone was down from the opening notes, that Suzy delivered in full Marilyn Monroe (who was also featured on the evening's program cover, reading Ulysses) regalia, right down to the beauty mark. That's the thing about Suzy, she really DELIVERS every single word, making her especially great at adapting such glorious words from authors that you may not have even known ever wrote song lyrics.

Like Kurt Vonnegut, Rudyard Kipling, and Ben Hecht (very upbeat number from the dude who wrote Scarface, etal!). Even Ray Bradbury, who lived exactly right across the street here in Venice for a spell, and whose song, "Bedtime Exercise" found Suzy portraying a sexy robot. A "Venusian Venetian."  To introduce Nabokov's ditty from Lolita, Suzy said, "Let's blow it all to Hell!" Which happened, particularly due to Carol Chaikin's sax blowing that was so feeling it that it reminded me of Lisa Simpson going off.

"The Great Secret", inspired by words from Hafiz, Suzy's "Spiritual Master", turned out to be that There really is no such thing as sin ... so we're off the hook, boys and girls! Suzy is the best. She reminds me a little of Bette Midler in her delivery, and her not giving a damn what anyone thinks, straight up doing her own thing, and in the vaudeville style way she interacts with the crowd. Suzy is a true mold breaker, though, and fully deserving of her title, The Venice Songbird.

After a brief intermission, Suzy returned to the stage as a sultry brunette, salting the set with funny little asides like, "Edna liked to be called 'Vincent'" about Edna St. Vincent Millay. For Vonnegut, Suzy donned a turban and hoop earrings and shook a maraca for the summery delight of "Bokomon's Calypso" from Cat's Cradle. All the Venice faces were smiling along, deeply in love with the divine Ms. W.  Nice, Nice, Very Nice!

The "G Rated Bessie Smith of Venice", introduced Brad Kay of Suzy when she sang "Little Shirley Beans". This one was inspired by Salinger's Catcher In The Rye - which she suggested everyone re-read when they're older. I'm going to.

The very bohemianly awesome evening ended with the crowd singing along "LOOOOOOOOOVE!" with Suzy to "A Song of Love" by Lewis Carroll (from Sylvie and Bruno). I loved every bit of it, and urge anyone who's never seen Suzy to get there and get charmed by our dear local treasure songbird. Especially because she shouts great things like, "Don't forget! Marilyn Monroe is always on the merry go round reading Ulysses!" to end her show.

The Liiiiiiiiiiiiit Show was about the most sweet/street, smart/tart time I've had in a while, and truly so original. Just like Suzy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Venice Beach Biennial, Epic Venice Weekend

If you ever wanted to visit Venice (and we call it Venice, not Venice Beach), California in all its glory, this past weekend was the time to do it. From actual carnival upside down rides, to the art that brought thousands down to the beach, to the sunshine that broke through to illuminate it all, it was truly one for the ages over here.

The Hammer Museum came down to put on the "Venice Beach Biennial" (which the materials all keep calling a "tongue in cheek" play on the Venice Biennale in Italy - Thanks, we get it.), where a bunch of "Museum" artists joined the Venice artists that are down on the Boardwalk every day, to showcase both styles of art. But art is ALL art, no?

There was a real old style Carnival in Windward Circle put on, interestingly, I thought, by the LAPD. Interesting, considering there are always talks about budget cuts and not enough officers to get the jobs done, but they can throw up a bunch of rides and man-power to watch all the additional people said carny rides bring out? Is it perhaps a little bit to help the image, or what? Interesting, that's all I'm saying.

I'm not that into rides that are thrown up in a few days, so that whole deal was pretty much a bike through all weekend, but I'm glad the little kids had fun.  The great thing for me was seeing the focus on ART again at the beach. On the beach artists, to be specific, as though the Hammer project brought their artists down, they were not nearly as visible as the people crafting and selling their work every day of the week down there. Aside from the big show pieces nearest Windward Circle, it was near impossible to differentiate who came from where ... it was just ALL art. And beautiful. If you couldn't get down there, let me now take you on a little stroll with me, yesterday. Imagine the sun warming your back as you walked, the sea salt breeze making it all perfectly comfortable, music everywhere, and the childhood smells of a day at the beach ... except with the sage, incense, and weed smoke moments of now.

The day was so gorgeous out, it was a piece of art unto itself. One thing about the Hammer works was that they weren't labeled or identified in any way other than a dot on a map they gave out, so people weren't really sure what they were looking at. So I guess just look at it and enjoy.

The pamphlet did say Weed Couch by Liz Craft, so I can tell you that the above is that. Lots of people stopped to chill on it and make it their profile pic today, I'm sure. It was not comfy, but was funny.

This seemed to be made out of dirt, and I think was Barbara Kruger's. It seems like her, anyway.

Currency by Erika Vogt.

Big Easter Island Moai sculptures by Alex Israel had everyone taking attention away from the skaters in the skatepark for a minute. So cool.

Big pink balloons marked booths where artists were being featured by the VBBiennial, but most of them appeared to be the people that can usually be found down there, like these colorful pieces by SKY (Stacey Kai Young).

I spoke to Arthure "Art" Moore who was the featured artist on the materials for the VB Biennial, with his Funky Pussy painting as the logo for the whole deal. He was stoked on it all, and said that the Boardwalk artists were selling more than ever, and really being recognized for their work. VENICE was being recognized as a destination for art again, and that was important to everyone involved. I saw plenty of people holding their own version of Funky Pussy, so Moore, with his homemade eye patch, was taking full advantage of his new celebrity.

In fact, we couldn't chat too long as we were constantly interrupted by people who wanted their photo with him. Moore was happy to oblige and offered up his signature middle finger (with a smile) to all passersby and tourist photographers. Very Venice, very awesome.

Thank goodness Rara Superstar was back from showing his art all over Ibiza in time to partake in the Biennial, as his colorful pieces are a crucial part of the Boardwalk landscape. He too was kept busy all day taking photos with people and selling them a new memory for their home collections, while reminding them that ""Love always wins".

The day could not have been more pristine, so it was a complete pleasure to amble along and spend more time than you normally would really looking at everything. The bright sunny mood was infectious, and people were open and friendly and into it. One of those days like what could be bad?

All the art looked great against such a beautiful beachy background, that it made you want to get a piece from everyone you passed by. I made a lot of notes on who to return to when I need a perfectly Venice gift for someone. I think a lot of that was going on, really. What better souvenir to bring someone back than a piece of art from someone most likely painting it right there off the sand?

There were street performers and Hammer performers (none of whom did I see all day), and I was stoked to get my own little rap from Dr. Geek ... Hey, Blondie, I like the way you wear your laundry ... Rad.

This piece was metal. Literally. Dug it.

I've always been partial to art with words. I'm sure there's some name for this affinity, but I just know I like it. Clearly.

Ibraham was performing in full voice and drums down by the Venice Bistro, and it gave the day a wonderfully authentic soundtrack of badassness.

Art showed up in all mediums, from paintings to jewelry to crazy little heads of figures from Bob Marley to Wilma Flinstone, if that was your thing.

Humor was everywhere - also very Venice - as even the Funky Pussy official materials were pretty funny. Some guys were hawking "Official Bum signs - For just 1 dollar you can own your own bum sign!" yelled some very official looking gentlemen who had made funny cardboard signs for your purchasing pleasure. They wouldn't let me take a photo. Of course. Then I saw that someone had made this piece, available for $2,500 - including delivery! I think it sold, as it wasn't there today ... It DID say "Today only"...

Bikes and funky pussy together! That's pretty Venice, of course ...

I had a lot of places to be on this Sunday, all of them the best. I saw the great Paul Chesne for a few songs at Primitivo ...

I had some mimosas at Danny's Deli in the heart of it all. I saw more friends and made some new ones as I headed back through the Carnival to get myself to the Hollywood Bowl in time for my favorite, Reggae Night (Ziggy! Toots!) ...

I was just beaming all day at how fun and cool life can be, especially here in Venice. I think the best thing I overheard all day was from a middle aged couple - clearly tourists -  walking down the Boardwalk. The man said, "I think we're going the wrong way." The woman smiled and said, "I think we're in the right place to be going the wrong way."

Exactly. She got it. I get it. In that moment, we got each other. And that's what days like these are all about.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AK Supper Club Open - And Delicious

Well, Alona Cooke has done it again, friends. Quickly becoming known as the "Princess of Pop Ups", in a blink of an eye, gone from her Capri site is the outstanding Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, and in is AK Supper Club, which just opened for service last Saturday.

I joined Ms. Cooke at her table last night to hear about the latest and eat some food that is pretty much all I'm talking about today. As I told Alona, her recent project collaborations have single-handedly made my palate mature. I'm serious. I have never liked mushrooms in my life, and there was a mushroom/polenta dish at Wolf/Sheep's that I still think about. Same for their rainbow trout in a jar, that sounds disgusting and was probably my favorite thing there. The same thing happened last night, when I put myself in Alona's wise ordering hands, and all of a sudden, I like previously thought disgusting beets. Beets! Whoa. I may just officially be a grown up.

Taking over the stove at AK Supper Club (operating through July, as it stands now, so get there!) is Kevin Kathman, an alumni of Thomas Keller's French Laundry, and also a Minnesota native, I found out after the fact. (No wonder it's so good!) I chatted with him in the kitchen for a minute while he shook delicious smelling pans, and told him about my growing up that he'd contributed to. He said, sagely, "The reason you might not have liked something before is that is wasn't given to you properly." True that, and could be applied to pretty much everything in life, if you think about it.

We drank a big, delicious rioja and ate those beautiful, fairy tale looking beets. And a fresh, summery tasting leek dish. And some ridiculous lime-y shrimp.  And some cod brandade, that is basically smushed up to porridge consistency fish you smear on bread. Again, it sounds filthy, but in actuality is so good I was laughing.

Alona decided we needed some red meat with our red wine and we split the perfectly cooked steaked with fingerlings and shallots. I felt stronger.

This savory parade had to be followed by a sweet finish, of course, and we went for the peak of summer peaches and the passion fruit panna cotta that we agreed was more than vaguely sexual in how very, very good (and complex) the contrasting flavors of the passion fruit, blueberry, grapefruit and basil were. More laughter.

And that's what makes for a delightful evening out. Talking, laughing, enjoying delectable tastes, trying new things, sharing wisdom, learning from each other ... I want to be a part of this Club.

Make a point of joining yourself ... and soon, as you never know how long you'll get to with these pop up deals.

AK Supper Club
1616 Abbot Kinney
310.392.8777 for reservations

*Open daily at 5:30, Tasting menu on Mondays.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The gospel truth about our Country in four and a half minutes.

Happy 4th of July, my People!

Happy 107th Birthday, Venice, even more my People!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Knitted Graffiti

I've never seen knitted graffiti before, but walking down Abbot Kinney today took care of that.

I'm not crazy about the sentiment (You are beautiful but you don't mean a thing to me - snarky), but I am down with the cozy creativity. And the little Panda.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ben Harper Blazes The Hollywood Bowl

Last night could not have been a lovelier evening in Southern California, and it was made ultra better by seeing one of my all time favorite musicians (Ben Harper) at one of my all time favorite places (The Hollywood Bowl).

As is usually the case with the Bowl, we got there late and missed opening act, Vieux Farka Toure, the guitar sensation from Mali. This was a shame as I heard many saying the guy stole the show, but I have no idea. We got there towards the end of second opening act, Fitz & The Tantrums. The hot lady singer yelled out, "I"m from LA, and people are SEXY up in this bitch!" She was not wrong. Everyone in the very diverse audience was looking all summery and good, and up and dancing to the disco inferno that these Tantrums brought. They did a cover of The Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams" that they played their hearts out to, and the crowd responded with singing along and getting INTO it.

A little break to drink some champagne, under the lilac sky and almost full moon rise, found people mingling and getting excited for Ben to come out. Which he then did, with no fanfare at all, just a casual stroll out in jeans and a Lift (an organization to combat poverty) t-shirt, to sit down with his signature Weissenborn guitar. He simply said, "Thank you very much. This is dedicated to the incomparable Veronique Peck", and launched into a sublime instrumental piece that I think is new ("All My Heart Can Take" merged into "Mutt"?), accompanied by Jessy Green on violin. It was ballsy to open with such a quiet and elegant piece, especially after all the riling up of the crowd that Fitz and The Tantrums began. And it worked. It was silent as everyone just listened to the beautiful notes on such a beautiful evening ... right up until the last chord rang out and the place blew up with cheers. It set the tone for pure music appreciation, as opposed to being just a party.

"Another Lonely Day", a crowd favorite from way back (and the yells came from WAAAAAY back) was just Ben and his acoustic guitar, which is all you really need. "I'd like to invite the band on," said Ben after that one, and his current backing band, The Relentless 7 (Jordan Richardson on drums, Jason Mozersky on guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass, and Justin Pate on keyboards, as well as Jessy Green on violin and Tim Loo on cello) joined him for a lush version of "Morning Yearning". After that one, Ben acknowledged his hometown of Claremont, California, and joked that half the Bowl was filled with folks hailing from there - which the yells throughout the place confirmed.  His "hometown heroes", The Real Time Jazz Band, inspired his next number, "Suzie Blue", which was a great example of how very wide Harper's range always is. It featured a slick Weissenborn solo and a falsetto finish that had dudes yelling, "GO BEN!!!". He WENT.

A real treat of the night was when Ben invited out Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks) for a stirring cover of Pink Floyd's "Mother". CHILLS. Solid Lefties both, Ben and Natalie combined to make this duet with Ben on the slide (with a METAL solo) and Natalie's voice soaring, a real commentary on the times. "Mother, should I trust the Government?" was answered with a loud "NOOOOOO!" from the People. It was EPIC, and I hope so much someone recorded that thing. "Hey Mom, I'm playing the Hollywood Bowl", shouted Ben at song's end, and commented on how great it was that he's now seen his own Mother and his kids play on that very stage, separate from him. Three generations, how very very cool and special.

"Diamonds On The Inside" was as perfectly great as ever, and then another wonderful surprise happened when Ben asked Rickie Lee Jones to join him onstage. Ben produced her upcoming album (The Devil You Know), and said that by doing so, "I'VE been produced". He once again took a backseat and just played acoustic guitar while Rickie Lee SANG his glorious song, "Masterpiece". It was so gorgeous I got a little misty as I looked around at all the people loving this song about real love. It just broke it down as the reason we're all here, and as all that really matters. WOW.

That slow reverie was soon replaced by the dedication to "The Bones Brigade" (many of whom were in the house, as Ben is as much a skater as a musician these days ... Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, Bob Burnquist ...The Cove Group ... Stoner Park ... all got shout outs from Ben, and they shouted back), and invited out "Innocent Criminal #1", Leon Mobley to jam with him on percussion. Ben TORE UP the intro to "Ground On Down" in such a metal fashion that people leapt to their feet to fucking ROCK it with him. The place busted wide open (that is except for way down front - it seems that the best seats often go to the worst people - where they sat and sipped boringly) and the rock/skate connection was abundantly clear. This was music to shred by. Leon mugged it up and got huge cheers when he split, and Ben laughed, saying, "He'll be back."

Back on Weissenborn, Ben sat down to deliver "Number With No Name", which wound up being a soundtrack for many people heading to the bathroom. I guess they liked the older stuff, which was a refrain I heard from more than a few, and which is always the case with almost anyone you go see. Tough.

"Better Way" was dedicated to those who participated in the previous day's big Chinatown protest against Wal-Mart, where Ben and Tom Morello played in solidarity with the People. Which I love. The lyrics of "Better Way" are some of the smartest and best around, asking questions like, "What good is a cynic with no better plan?" and asking for us all to join together to find and execute a better way. Songs like this are the ones that make a difference in the world, and I love to see artists using their voices like this, with the idea that we can do better - again, sung while wearing his LIFT shirt. This is why I am, and will always be, a fan of this exceptional man. There was a call and response of "Better way, better way" and people even stopped Twittering and stuff to actually participate! Powerful indeed.

Strangely, then it was already "THANK YOU, Hollywood Bowl!" time and the requisite screaming for an encore. It seemed really short, and I was not alone in thinking this. A little Asian visitor man in the box next to me said, "This is very good concert. Very variety." in a great summation of the set thus far.

Ben came back, carrying a skateboard, to play an acoustic "Amen, Omen", with such strong, empassioned vocals that people spontaneously broke out in grateful shouts. SOUL. That prettiness was switched up again when the band and Leon Mobley came back to torch up the now Rasta-colored Bowl with "Burn One Down". At this point, the Bowl became a different kind of bowl, as revelers lit up and passed one over to me, my friend, all over the joint. On cue. I made some new friends myself during that one, and it was fun to see Ben and Leon arm in arm, having a blast, as we all were.

The highlight of the evening was also the last song, "Where Could I Go?" where Ben took everyone to CHURCH on this Sunday. Indeed, random people were yelling, "CHURCH!" all over the place as Ben gave every ounce of himself on this Gospel, witness of a song. He stepped to the front of the stage and made a quieting gesture, and then unleashed the absolute TRUTH of his words, without the aid of any mic, reaching up to the back of the bowl, and beyond to the stars. SO powerful, that when the music came back in, people LOST. THEIR. SHIT.

Leaping to their collective feet, screaming and whistling, this guy certainly knows how to work a crowd. There was then a pause, as Ben looked up and around, in what seemed like both humility and a little self-congratulatory, as the pause was so long that I heard a person on one side say, "This is a really emotional moment!" (thanks for clearing that up) and someone on the other side say, "Cheesy." For myself, I landed on the emotional side - no surprise there.

But when he ended (again and selfishly, too soon - especially with such a deep and varied catalog of fan favorites for Harper to choose from, you always want to hear another one) with "But to the Lord!" with a flourish from the band, it was a total madhouse, shouting celebration of a perfect Los Angeles night in there. Wonderful weather, great friends, champagne under the stars, every kind of song you'd ever want, and a clear awareness of the important things in life, delivered up by a true great. As Ben yelled "Thank you, Los Angeles!" and left the stage, many could be heard yelling back, "Thank you, Ben!"