Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Moon Over Venice

"Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy."
                                                                      - Henri Frederic Amiel

The Hunter Full Moon, to be exact.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jane's Addiction End Theater Of The Escapists Tour At Home in L.A.!

The last show of Jane's Addiction's epic Theater Of The Escapists Tour 2012 took place, appropriately, at home in Los Angeles, at the classic Wiltern Theater.

As it was the Saturday before Halloween, there was a steady stream of ladies as sexy whatevers, ghouls, zombies, and even furry cows filing into the old building, milling around in the lobby, getting drinks. Ruling.

Also in the lobby were escapists entertaining the crowd with the "Immersive Theater" that has come to be a trademark of this tour.

There were girls chained to railings, old-timey looking guys getting into play-fights (so realistic that the Wiltern staff told them they had to tone down the violence a bit), and a girl contorting herself inside a cage.

As many people were in costume at the event, there was that fine line blur of what was for the show, and what was real. Perfect tone to set.

thenewno2 opened the night for Jane's, and the experimental indie group fronted by Dhani Harrison were waaaay more rocking than how I remembered them at Lollapalooza. Even Harrison's band mate (in Fistful Of Mercy), Ben Harper, was seen practically David Lee Roth jumping off the sound board, so into his friend's jams was he.

It was great stuff to get in a rock trance to, but I had a lot of catching up to do backstage with friends I rolled with earlier this summer when I was lucky enough to be along for the Theater Of The Escapists East Coast ride.

Getting backstage just in time for the "Boiler Room" jams was a great choice. We squeezed into a little tiny room to get to hear Perry, Dave, Stephen and Chris fully rock out "Standing In The Shower Thinking" to just a handful of friends. I was squished in next to Tom Morello, and we agreed that this was exactly like listening to your friends jam in the basement back in the day. Only this was the monstrous, huge Jane's Addiction we were being sweat-splashed by this time. Life is so fun.

Show time! The Pink Floyd intro music that will now forever be related to this tour for me began, and the sold out Wiltern crowd began to collectively lose their mind as the house went dark. Then BAM! "Underground" began the show and Los Angeles finally got to see Etty Farrell and Stephanie Spanski swinging in their giant white dresses off of their trapezes, as the band whipped the place into a frenzy that would last throughout the set-list. "Mountain Song" is always a highlight, and tonight was no different.

L.A. LOVES their "Mountain Song". It was HUGE and blew right into "Just Because" (my friend Steph's favorite jam), then "Ain't No Right" and "Been Caught Stealing" back to back. All the Jane's songs are so intricate and huge, you can look around at the crowd and see them not even knowing where to look during the songs, because there's so much excellence going on.

From Dave Navarro's scorching guitar solos to Stephen Perkins' wailing on those drums, to Chris Chaney's bass resonance to Perry Farrell's inimitable voice and front man theatrics, never mind the hottest lady dancers ever, Bubba Carr's performance art, and video screen visuals swirling above it all, and you're sweating yourself just to take it all in.

"Irresistible Force" (off the newest JA album, The Great Escape Artist) made it abundantly clear that the new stuff is as BIG as the old tracks, and blends in to the set list so well that they're just all classics. This hometown crowd would probably have been stoked if they'd just played the Empire Carpet jingle, but they didn't have to settle for that, as next up was everyone's jam, "Jane Says". The guys were all up front of the stage and acoustic for this all-time classic, but I can't say the same for myself, as "All Access" at the Wiltern does not mean that, and the security guys wouldn't let me go down into the pit mix with the superfan people. That is dumb.

So back to the side of the stage for me, which no one can ever be mad at. I just like to be in the middle of it all at rock shows I love, you know?

Halloween's vibe was evident, and Perry at one point said, "If Mitt Romney wins the election (God forbid, even typing that is scary), it's gonna be SPOOKY in this country." Uh, yeah. No dwelling on that b.s. on this night though, not when Jane's Addiction is blowing up "Chip Away" and "Up The Beach" and "Whores"!!! The ENTIRE crowd was losing their shit, from the lucky ones in the pit to the very last row of the balcony, on their collective feet, SCREAMING.

"That is some original Los Angeles shit right there!" yelled Perry, who then told a tale about singing that one on Hollywood Boulevard ("when Dave Navarro was underage") and old hookers with their big tits would come by and listen. Ahhh, L.A. in the dirty old days ....

Led to "Three Days." EPIC. This extravaganza featured every player at the very top of their game. Navarro's solo was just ... ridiculous:

... and Perkins' solo threatened to implode the old Wiltern.

Perry was throwing down some Jim Morrison style shaman dancing, crawling around on his stomach, twirling and toasting the crowd - the entire time.

The dancers were gagged and teasing Dave and Perry with their canes as they acted out the world's sexiest three way ... for three days (or 10 minutes or so, but you felt transported away for days). LOVE it.

I seriously think of "Splash A Little Water On It" every time I'm in the shower since I got back from this tour.

That one was next, and as Bubba flung mud everywhere, we all watched from the side of the stage, arms raised, reflecting the ones up and facing us from the audience.

The people were absolutely loving every second of it, as were we.

A dreamy instrumental opening led to the massive scope of "Ocean Size". Wow. WOW! I love this one every time it's ever played on any speaker, but to hear it live is just a perfect example of how ROCK is supposed to feel.

And how BIG this band has always been and will always be. I can't think of any band today whose songs are ALL this well-crafted and tightly played, never mind one who feels so fresh even 20+ years into their existence. SO much respect.

We all had a bunch more songs we hoped for, but the last one (of the relatively short set list) was ... HERE WE GO!!! - "Stop!" I wrote "Crowd = ECSTATIC" in my book here. And they were. This was Jane's Addiction tearing up Los Angeles! The crowd all sang along, and this extra fast paced one was over in no time, and then so was the show.

The band and the dancers took their bows, Dave Navarro put on a Slash costume, and performers and fans beamed mutually at each other as the crowd kept screaming for more.

But that was it, and as the band waved and left the stage, you could hear the people's thunder all the way back downstairs. Jane's Addiction definitely left them wanting more, just like all the very best things in life do.

THANK YOU to Jane's Addiction for all the great rock they threw down in 2012 ... I can't wait to see and hear what's next! Classic, guaranteed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eclispse Quartet/Jenny Holzer Mash Up at L and M Arts

L and M Arts continued hosting their finissage events with an evening of string quartet music by the Eclipse Quartet in the West Gallery, alongside Jenny Holzer's LED screens scrolling her messages in time to the music, to wrap up the exhibition of her The Future Please show.

The Eclipse Quartet performed Different Trains, written by Steve Reich for the Kronos Quartet in 1988. It's a powerful piece of music, as it documents Reich's train travels across the United States as a kid at the same time the trains were transporting human beings toward the camps in Europe during the Holocaust. Not light or easy listening by any means, and its 27 minute length is just about exactly right.

Recorded words accompanied the music, as the LED screen messages blazed across our eyes, so brightly that you sometimes had to close your lids and just listen. It's a lot to take in.

The first movement was "America Before The War", very upbeat, hopeful, maybe even a little proud and boastful, with phrases like "the crack train from New York" (with special * in the program that "crack" USED to mean "Best" back in the day - ha) and "one of the fastest trains" being repeated.

The second movement was "Europe During The War" and had a much scarier, doom feeling, with a more frenetic pace and a lot more ominous screeching. The words on the front set up of screens all had to do with Baghdad and redacted data and more modern war-related problems. Thus, the repetition of the music and the recorded words and the information on the screens surrounded you with the truth that ALL war is senseless and we're just repeating ourselves in different times in different parts of the world. All the time. At least that's what I took from it.

(I was there with my friend Jessy, who is a professional violinist. She thought that the piece was powerful in that "The out of tune, weird pace was annoying, but it was inspiring at the same time. And I appreciate that it was short." Ha!)

This time the words being repeated were "They were loaded with people" and "They tattooed a number on our arm" and "Flames going up to the sky - it was smoking", with air raid signals going off. Uggghh. You felt helpless and thwarted watching and listening, like "Will we EVER learn?!"

Then the third movement, "After The War" came along and it was hopeful again, and somewhat relieved. The music became more melodic than chaotic, more upbeat and happy, with the excitement you get upon arrival somewhere and the train whistles that go along with that. Though the music was more light-hearted and lovely, it was also wistful, with phrases like "but today, they're all gone" and "There was one girl, who had a beautiful voice" and "And when she stopped singing they said, 'More, more' and they applauded."

And so did we when the music then ended abruptly.

We applauded and stood to leave, and right as I was about to walk out the door, I saw a phrase go by on the sign that said, "Your consolation is that this might be the truth."

I'm not so sure I feel consoled, but I always prefer the truth.

Thanks and CHEERS to L and M for continuing to provide us with insightful, educational, and inspirational moments. What a treasure we have right in the middle of our neighborhood.

L & M Arts
660 South Venice Blvd.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shark Toof and SPARC's 35th - A Venice Saturday Night

It has been all about the art lately in Venice, and this last Saturday night was a big one for it. C.A.V.E. Gallery on Abbot Kinney had the opening of renowned street artist Shark Toof's Ping Pong Show AND it was the big celebration for SPARC's 35th Anniversary. A full night of greatness.

My dear friend, Shana Nys Dambrot, wrote the introduction for Shark Toof's new and completely gorgeous coffee table book, and we discussed Shark Toof's fine art works on canvas with the man himself.

Shark (I'm gonna call him that, as I have a hard time with the f) opined on the state of sexual taboos in the world that gave his show its name.

"Ping Pong" does not refer to the hooker trick of yore, but rather the sex industry mores of Asia vs. here in the U.S.

Bright fluorescent stripes on the walls caromed about and around the paintings, giving the whole gallery an installation feeling, picking up the colors exploding off the art. The gallery was packed with collectors and hipsters, locals and even a couple tiger face-painted babies that could have climbed out of one of the paintings.

Shark is best known as a street artist, and his work has shown up on exterior walls all over the world, often featuring sharks.

With this new, crucial book, and gallery shows like this, Shark has taken his outdoor pieces inside, and successfully bridged that gap previously crossed by folks like Shephard Fairey and Banksy. "Post Art Bills" reads the box that houses his book. Yes.

The show is bright and profound and you can check it out on Abbot Kinney now through November 11th.

I raced from C.A.V.E. over to the SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) affair at its headquarters in the old jail on Venice Boulevard. The entire building was lit up, with murals hanging from every inch of it.

The back parking lot had been transformed into a Big Fish style outdoor party, with lights strung up everywhere and music blasting from the stage, courtesy of Venice's own Tom Schnabel spinning his KCRW brand of world beats, and later jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison and her band getting everybody up and dancing.

SPARC was founded by Judy Baca, Christina Schlesinger and Donna Deitch in 1976 with their first project, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is the longest mural in the world, taking the viewer through important moments in our history all along the L.A. River bank. They offered tours of the massive mural (all done by volunteers and at-risk youth), led by Baca. I couldn't attend the mural tour, but encourage everyone to get down there and see this true wonder of the world as soon as you get the chance. It is truly massive, and makes abundantly clear the importance of art as a tool for social expression and teaching history.

Awards were given, speeches were made, and there was an air of jubilation over the entire affair. It was a delight to see so many neighbors all out and having a good time under the stars, dancing, drinking (theme drinks like "The Mural"), and eating delicious fare from the booths set up by Hal's, Casa Linda, and Ben's BBQ.

You could participate in live mural painting on one of the back walls, and it gave you a sense of the camaraderie and effort that goes into creating the more massive pieces that adorn our fair city.

Every surface was adorned with a mural illuminating important cultural characters and events. Even in the bathroom. In a time when street artists (folks like Shark Toof) get busted and jailed for beautifying spaces, and murals are under attack by small-minded building owners and corporate advertising, this was an especially satisfying evening in homage to the importance of art's role in social justice.

Once all the donation pitches and speechifying was complete, it was time to simply party. Barbara Morrison and her excellent backing band tore it up, and people kept dancing even as the event was being cleaned up around them. A great cause, a great night of wonderful art, and another exclamation point on the SPECIAL! place that we call home.

As SPARC's saying goes, "BE the Spark - to bring the past into the present to inspire the future."

Shark Toof
The Ping Pong Show
C.A.V.E. Gallery
1108 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Through November 11th

685 Venice Boulevard
Hopefully Always

Friday, October 19, 2012

October's Venice Art Crawl

The Venice Art Crawl for October was last night, and my friend Francie and I hit all the spots. Which wasn't hard to do, as there weren't very many locations this month for some reason, but they were all a good time, that's for sure.

We began, as one should, with some whiskey at The Townhouse. Down the hatch, fortified, we went to see some acid trip looking pieces by D. Castro upstairs at Danny's Deli. We kind of did the Clark Griswold nod on that, and headed down the misty Boardwalk to my favorite bookstore in this city, or perhaps any, Small World Books.

There were two cool artists showing at Small World, and both were highlights of the whole deal this month. David Jensen (DavidJensenArt.com) had three large Obama pieces all made out of scraps of Hawai'ian fabric. We have to get one to the President, I think he'd love them. Maybe as a congratulatory gift for his second term! From my fingers typing to God's ears ...

Also showing at Small World Books was Kathleen Gaudet with her Zombie pieces. Great and hilarious, and you can even get Zombie snow globes as extra original gifts for the low zombie price of $15! Get there before they're all eaten alive.

There was a guy, Lenny Felix, set up outside of Cairo Cowboy on Windward, selling (I hope) his Day of The Dead inspired pieces, along with some Rasta and Jack Daniels ones, so clearly we became friends quickly. He has no web site or online way to get his work, which is rootsy, and I like it better for it. I'm old school like that. You have to email him - Felixtat2@yahoo.com  Again, great gifts.

My friend Kiki just opened her new and GORGEOUS jewelry store at 100 Market Street (really on Pacific, by Mao's) and the party was ON in celebration. We'll be doing a story on her soon, as it's a good one. Her jewels are just one of kind, so pretty it kind of hurts to look at, and I want nearly every thing in there. It doesn't hurt that the entire floor is gold glitter, so it all feels like you just landed in a good fantasy. I love her. I love her work. And these are the GREATEST gifts you could possibly give someone. Anyone. (For the record, I'm deeply in love with the fuschia agate ring that covers like three fingers. Love.)

Canal Club had some celebs with animals photos by Charles Bush that we breezed through, and then hit James Beach to see cool works by Shark Toof and Ryan Graeff. Both were excellent.

By then it was time to book-end our night back at The Townhouse. We discussed what we saw over a night capper, and then biked off into the night (in our dresses and heels, of course) before we'd REALLY have to crawl - home.

Good times.