Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Ruined Venice

I was sailing along the other day when I saw this bumper sticker:

I think it's too soon to throw in the towel and say "ruin" in the past tense, but it certainly serves as a good reminder that we need to preserve all the authentic cool that made people want to come to Venice in the first place. So get out there and be weirdos if you want. Express yourselves. Protest and stick up for people. Don't jack up rents like greedy dickheads. YOU know who you are. Don't sell your funky old cottage to the highest bidder. Stand your ground. Hallowed ground. Buy local and play music. Support artists of all kinds. Reject chains. Reject entitlement. Help your neighbors and use your yards. Grow stuff. Bike everywhere. Skateboard. Go for a swim in our Ocean. Clean your beach. Check out community events. Share. Preserve. Respect. Golden Rule.

Or in just one word, Care.

Above all, have FUN here ... before it all really is ruined and we're just another story about the good old days before you were all corporate droids.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Easy Star All Stars - Thrillah!

What a great week for reggae in Los Angeles! First Matisyahu the other night, and then the Easy Star All Stars last night! The Easy Stars are a reggae collective that rotates out singers and musicians on projects and on tour. They simply blow your mind on recordings, so I was beside myself to finally get to see them play live. The Easy Stars created one of my favorite albums ever - Radiodread (a reggae version of the entire OK Computer album that is GENIUS) - and they just came out with their new tribute album, Thrillah, after the Michael Jackson epic. A reggae beat makes just about anything sound great, but to hear these classics re-done with the Easy Star treatment is a study in creativity and positive vibrations.

And positive vibrations were all you felt at the El Rey Theater last night. I'm flabbergasted at how in the groove the often jaded L.A. fans were - all grins and high fives and passing the dutchie to the left hand side - to strangers. All night. It was so fun, that I don't even really have that much to report, as we were squeezed in on the floor, balancing drinks, hands in the air, that my notes are completely illegible. Which is fine, since all you really need to know is you MUST get there if the Easy Stars are ever playing anywhere near you. For real.

The openers were a band called Passafire, who I wasn't really into, mostly because it sounded so exactly like 311 that I almost thought it was a tribute band. "There is no oppression coming through", was one observation I made. You know what I mean? Not really a bad thing, and they were good, just not original enough to keep our attention away from just people-watching/chatting.

Speaking of the people, once again at a reggae show, it was surprisingly white in there.

 I sometimes think that when KCRW promotes things - and I adore KCRW - it brings out more yuppie types than the roots Rastas that you'd think would be swarming the show. Just an observation, but we did find it kind of odd.

Who cares, One Love! That was the absolute feeling every second that the ESASs played. Happily, as this was the first time I was seeing them live, they played songs from their entire awesomely impressive catalog. So we got gems from Dub Side Of The Moon ("Money" "Us and Them") ... Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band ("With A Little Help From My Friends" "I forget ...") ... Radiodread!!! ("Karma Police" "Electioneering") ... the new jams from Thrillah, of course ("Beat It" "Wanna Be Starting Something" "Human Nature" "Billie Jean" "Thriller") and even a little acoustic "Redemption Song" thrown in for good measure. EVERYONE sang along on that one, of course.

It was such a great time, the whole time, and I found myself trancing out in happiness often, as the whole place swayed together, awash in the stage lights. It was impossible not to dance, and finding one's own personal bliss came pretty easily.

Even thinking back on it now, listening to the Easy Stars drown out the neighbor's salsa blasting, the stoke is right here. I'm so happy I got to see these super talented, uplifting ladies and gentlemen after all the musical joy they've given me over the years ... Go and you'll know exactly what I mean.

One more time ... One Love!!!

Endeavour Over Venice

The Space Shuttle Endeavour made its final voyage today, and it was pretty great to see. My brother Rich back in Minnesota reminded me to go out and look for it, and as I made my way to the beach, I saw that it was the talk of the town.

The Venice pier and the beach were packed with sky gazers of all ages, and it made it extra exciting that a bunch of kids were out on field trips to see the fly-over, and their hyped up yells made the whole experience that much more awesome, in the true sense of the word.

The kids played ball, the old folks set up camp chairs ... I set up my towel and sunscreened it up to await the arrival of Endeavour.

Everyone stared skyward and it felt like maybe nothing would happen, when all of a sudden, one of the teachers yelled "KIDS! Here it comes!" They all ran screaming towards the shore, everyone else stood up and shielded their eyes from the bright sunny perfectly blue sky ... looking ... and then there it was, accompanied by two little (looking) jets.

A cheer went up from the pier, and we all stood and watched the massive spaceship fly over Venice.

It was unexpectedly moving, I guess because it made you think about space exploration and adventure and the possibility of dreams, and of times when the sky really was the limit.

Also moving because it was again something like the eclipse a few months ago, where people from all walks of life came together to observe something bigger than ourselves for a moment.

We watched it go overhead, and as soon as the chills subsided, the kids packed up to go back to school, folks streamed back off the pier to get back to work, people got on their phones to tell their friends about it, and I closed my eyes to think about this massive Universe.

Before I got too deep into my head, I heard a guy yell, "Here she comes again!" and sure enough, here came Endeavour for another buzz over. My friend Brandon wrote that Endeavour was "doing doughnuts over Venice" - Ha!

Thanks for the thrill, Endeavour ... and here's to the dreamer in all of us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

High Holidays Wth Matisyahu

The streets of Los Angeles felt pretty empty on Rosh Hashanah, but that wasn't the case inside The Hollywood Palladium for the Matisyahu show last night. It was packed with people feeling the positive vibrations, kicking off a HAPPY Jewish new year.

My dear Stephanie Hobgood recently groomed Matisyahu (Matthew Paul Miller) for the premiere of his film, The Possession, and it turns out that the guy that who had been buried under all his Hasidic beard and hair, is extra handsome.

They invited Steph +1 to the LA show, and though I'm pretty much a Studio One reggae purist, I wanted to check it all out. What a good decision! We got there in time to see openers Dirty Heads, who were stirring the crowd up, putting them all in a good mood.

 It wasn't hard to be in a good mood either, as it was a gorgeous night out in L.A., and the staff - to a person - of the Palladium were all charming and helpful and lovely. I can almost never say that about a show venue around town, and last night even the usually dickhead security people were dolls. The whole staff should get raises, and I told them all so.

We cruised around, making new friends, and were on the side of the stage when Matisyahu came out to join Dirty Heads on their single now blowing up KROQ, "Dance All Night". Even the crew were surprised by this joining for the duet, to say nothing of the enraptured crowd. It WAS dope.

I was really only familiar with the big singles from Matisyahu, so it was great to learn more about him and his music, which ranged from Enya style chants with the reggae beats, to some full on hard rock shreds that his band tore up. The bass was so heavy I felt it in my heart, and my hair was blowing from it way out in the middle of the crowd. Who knew?

Speaking of the crowd, it was very diverse, though surprisingly lacking in obvious Rasta men. Skinhead looking white guys sang along. Dolled up Hollywood blondes teetering along on their heels. Young hippie girls with string bracelets waving their arms and singing along to every word down front. Corporate looking guys. Obviously observant Jewish brethren. Chubby Mexican gangster types ... you name it. I was very happy to see that, as I can see where the Matisyahu story would draw more of a niche crowd, but that's not the case at all. EVERYONE loves good music.

I have to now go and really study the Matisyahu catalog, as the lyrics heard last night contained some deep ass knowledge, all while confidently rap flowing. His dance moves are very controlled and smooth, which seems to be the character of the man himself.

You have to be very controlled to observe all the Hasidic dietary rules and conduct regulations, and yet it also seemed like the guy would be a lot of fun to know and hang out with.

This was clearly evident when his friend, Kosha Dillz, came out (in his Star Of David baseball cap) to rap battle with Matisyahu, causing the crowd to go crazy.

 The guys exchanged freeestyle rhymes and had a blast doing so, you could tell. I was duly impressed. Kosha Dillz killz.

The weed smoke in the building was making it a very high holiday indeed, and probably helped to further instill the positivity being sung about. I liked very much how the mood would go from fully sunshiny reggae to heavy metal from one song to the next. His band, The Dub Trio, is TIGHT, and held it down all night.

I mean, it's hard not to like the guy who sings in his single "Sunshine" (off the new album Spark Seeker):

Reach for the sky
Keep your eye on the prize
Forever in my mind
Be my golden sunshine
It's raining in your mind
So push them clouds aside
Forever by my side
You're my golden sunshine

That is directly up my alley, as I'm sure you all know.  It's also hard not to like a guy who for his last song, the hit that he's most known for, "One Day", not only crowd surfed standing, but ended the night inviting anyone and everyone to join him up on stage (a page from the Iggy Pop and Tom Morello notebooks) for the finale. 

The smiles on all the faces would let you know how much everyone loved the show, but the best was in the bathroom line after the show when I heard a much older and grey haired lady sharing excited anecdotes about the show with a dyed red haired and tattooed young girl ... "I KNOW. He's so positive!" "How does he do that above the crowd stuff without falling?" "Well, everyone loves him so they'd never let him fall." "Well, I just loved him. What a wonderful show!"

I couldn't agree more.

*Photos by Me and Stephanie Hobgood

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Doors ... All Day, All Night

Wanna hear something awesome? Literally? Go to the newly refurbished Jim Morrison mural by Rip Cronk on 18th and Speedway and you'll hear what I mean.

Somebody in charge of the building, with a great sense of fun, and fully down with the spirit of Venice, has a speaker playing tunes by The Doors under the mural - all the time. Just quiet enough that you have to be right up next to it, not bugging neighbors or anything, just subtly cool.

I've been by early in the morning, midday, really late at night, just now ("Soul Kitchen") ... and it's always playing, and makes you feel happy to be here every time. How great.


Awesome. Told you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jenny Holzer's Words Light Up Venice - L and M's New Show

I'm very much a sucker for art with words in it, so I was excited to attend last night's opening of the new Jenny Holzer show, THE FUTURE PLEASE, at L & M Arts, Venice.

Holzer's LED light signs illuminated the West Gallery, and we stood in front of them so long reading the sometimes positive messages ("Protect Your Earth") and sometimes negative (don't want to put energy into negative so go look yourself) that we had red bars floating in front of our eyes even after walking away.

They're pretty mesmerizing, and always thought-provoking. I might suggest dark glasses for viewing as long as I did. It gets pretty deep.

The East Gallery was made up of Holzer's latest body of work, The Redaction Paintings.

Large pieces on linen portray redacted US Government documents make you wonder about the suppression of words, while the color surrounding the text brightens up the vibe, helping to feel good that at least we're all still talking about the rights and wrongs, so maybe there's still hope for us after all.

Granite benches scattered about inside and out had Holzer's poems etched into the granite surfaces, and these too were deep, and sometimes positive, sometimes negative.

While looking at the benches, my friend Vavine had a memory of visiting benches like these in Peggy Guggenheim's museum garden in our sister city, Venice, Italy. Vav carried film photos around the world with her of these benches, she loved them so, and when she figured out that this Holzer lady wasn't ripping off the Venice benches, but had CREATED them, it was one of those "The Universe led you to this moment" kind of chills for her.

So we had to go find Ms. Holzer and share this experience that had so moved Vav. She said, "Give me the headline of the story", and when Vav did, she shared her enthusiasm for both the story and the Venice Guggenheim garden. A beautiful example of manifestation and cool oneness with the entire world. Hooray for art!

You get the feeling Holzer got really burned at love in the past and looks at the very idea with tainted eyes now.

But you also sense a glimmer of that passion burning deep down within her still, pushing forward the notion that burned or not, it's what you keep trying for, it's what you're alive for. But that could just be me.

Words are also projected on the walls outside in the garden, thus the show could inspire and stimulate you even if you're just walking on by.

A bunch of art world people were there, as well as our Venice movers and shakers, all having a great time in the perfectly balmy evening.

I love the L & M openings. They're always stimulating, enlightening, and simply a good time with cool people coming together for the sake of ART. There's not a lot better than that.

You have until October 27th to get there yourself. Bring your shades.

Jenny Holzer The Future Please
L&M Arts
660 Venice Blvd.
Tuesday - Saturday

*To see more on Jenny Holzer, check out this site:  https://artsy.net/artist/jenny-holzer

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Venice Has Got Talent!

Venice's own William Close (our friend Billy) is in the FINALS - TONIGHT -  for America's Got Talent with his gigantic Earth Harp act, and you really should tune in and check it out -

Billy is a really interesting guy, and his Museum Of Music and Instruments (MOMAI) in Venice is super interesting, and has been host to a great many musical throw-downs. Billy thinks up an instrument and then just makes it happen. I remember the Earth Harp being strung up down at the beach for Venice's Centennial celebration, and it really was awesome, outside overlooking the ocean and sending the harp song up into the breeze. Special.

 Our dear friend Scotty P. is going to be there with Billy tonight, banging drums, and I really think they're going to win! But they need everyone to vote, so if you could do that too, that would be so nice. I could normally care less about reality t.v. - or most t.v. period, but these guys will win a million dollars and get their own show for a year in Las Vegas ... and we really want to visit Scotty P. and hang out by his Vegas pool, so please VOTE TONIGHT.

NBC. Check your local listings and tune in to witness our Venice homies take the prize!

UPDATE:  William and the Earth Harp took third. They lost to a comedian and a dog act. Extra lame.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Adieu et Merci, Lilly's!

After 13 years of fun and Frenchness, Lilly's on Abbot Kinney closed for good last Friday. It was one of my favorites, and we Venice friends shared many a special occasion within those walls (and out on the lovely patio). Tres triste.

We went over on their last night to wish Chef Francis Bey adieu, and get one last order of moules frites, my favorite mermaid dish.

It was sad as people would come up to the packed and chaotic bar to place their orders, only to be told they no longer had that kind of rum in stock. Or on the night of the Blue Moon, to watch the bartender unscrew the tap for Blue Moon beer - fin.

Though it was sad, there was a lot of laughter and hugs among friends who were regulars at the delightful Lilly's over the years. We celebrated birthdays, babies, marriages, lives, and simple good meals with friends there many, many times over the years, and all of that bubbled to the surface on August 31st, as we clinked our glasses one final time.

Salut, Francis! Salut Lilly's!! And MERCI for the abundance of happy memories you provided so many of us over the last 13 years. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

*I'm not sure exactly why Bey chose to close Lilly's doors now, but I have a feeling it has to do with the new and ridiculous rents. Now I hear that Jin Patisserie is closing too due to QUADRUPLED rent. Don't these greedy landlords realize that these are the very places that made Abbot Kinney special in the first place?! No one cares about another fancy clothes outpost, and the skyrocketing rents can't be sustained. They'll see. In the meantime, support the local places you love! While you still can.