Friday, August 30, 2013

Venice Family Clinic Surf and Skate Silent Auction Fun

Last night was the Surf and Skate Silent Auction at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. It seemed like the whole surf and skate community of the state turned out, as packed as it was in there for the party. Hot. Awesome.

A sister/brother event to the Venice Art Walk, the Surf and Skate Auction also benefits the Venice Family Clinic, so everyone was on board - pun intended.

Some of the very best art around can be found on skate decks, as we all know, but the artists involved in this auction took it a step further in many cases, building up and off the decks, or making cool things out of the decks. I wanted pretty much every piece in the show ... some more than others.

It was a lot to take in, especially when there were so many great people to see and catch up with. Many of the artists were present and mingling, sharing stories of surf and skate and art.

In other words, a perfect Southern California evening, considering wine and IPAs were also flowing freely.

The sunset outside threatened to overshadow the art inside, but it faded soon enough.

There were designs by Tesla engineering students. There were surfboards painted by father/son artists Ed and Andy Moses.

There was a non-surf-able board made out of concrete by Laddie John Dill.

Husband/wife artists Neil Carver and Jennifer Wolf had their board creations hung side by side, beautifully.

Venice artist Sephira Salazar had her cool chalk and photo board hung right up there with the Hosois and Hawks.

Tanja Skala made a first aid kit out of a board, which made me laugh and think about all the cuts and scrapes I helped tend to when we had a half pipe in my backyard growing up. Clever.

Some boards lit up, and some were so deconstructed you could barely tell that they had been boards to begin with. Love it.

There was political commentary, humor, sexiness, and even plants flowing off the board by Big Red Sun.

Pro skaters, surfers, and legends from both worlds talked shop and clinked bottles, anticipating their next sessions together. Happily.

The centerpiece (and poster) for the event was the classic Endless Summer design by John Van Hamersveld, who I hung out and chatted with, so that he could know that his pink and orange poster adorned the bedroom wall of my Minnesota youth, and kept me going through the dark winters, knowing I'd someday be living out here. He gets told that a lot.

As people hustled to place their bids before the auction closed, there was already talk about next year's auction. Having seen how great it is for this work and these communities to come together (for GOOD!) to show off their creativity, everyone wanted to be a part of it next time. A true success, especially for the families that will be helped by the care given at the Venice Family Clinic.

The excellent time had at the fantastic auction was only improved upon by a respite at Paco's Tacos, followed by the badassness of Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls at the Cinema Bar.

As it begins to wind down, we can be happy that here, we really do get to inhabit an Endless Summer ...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Minnesota Summer Vacation

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days, and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world." - Ada Louise Huxtable

I just got back from an idyllic birthday week in my home state of Minnesota, where it indeed felt like all was right with the world those days. It was so beautiful, so loving, so FUN ... that I just have to share some highlights with you now, as I sit in my sunny room back in Venice feeling grateful beyond words. Or pictures. This is my thank you note to everyone back home...

First, and best, I got picked up by my beautiful and HEALTHY Mom! There is such a change in her from when I saw her last in the hospital, that every bit of awesomeness that happened after seeing her was just extra credit. But REALLY good extra credit ...

We did the greatest hits right away ... drove around the lakes ... checked out Minnehaha Falls, flowing like crazy, then cooled out at SeaSalt with a Surly. Yum.

I paid my respects to Hiawatha and Minnehaha ...

I walked around one of the very most sacred places to me, Woodlake Nature Center, smack in the middle of the city .... stunned silent, it was so breathtaking and beautiful as I practically floated, hand in hand with my sweet Mom. I want my own bench there, to sit and watch the seasons unfold when I'm there.

 I taught my fairy goddaughter Jane how to whistle! My very best student to date.

Captain Krsnik cruised us around aboard their Croixation Sensation boat, and we docked on a sandbar in the middle of the river to behold one of the most stunning, golden sunsets of all time.

The boating friends threw a delicious shrimp boil out on the sand, as the moon and the stars put on a show.

There was a bonfire. There were S'mores. Of course.

I celebrated my birthday at HOME for the first time since I moved away back in the '90s. I did as I always do, and had some annual reflection while floating in a natural body of water, this time, the St. Croix River that separates Minnesota and Wisconsin. I watched the sky, and reflected my gratitude back up into the clouds.

The girls made me pancakes and bacon right on the boat, and we made up stories and stayed in the water all day long.

I had a BLAST at my class reunion the night of my birthday, and brought along a whole posse of crashers. My camera ran out of battery at this shindig, which is probably for the best. They had a photo booth though, so we're all good. They had cake for me. I love my Richfield friends. For life.

I picked rhubarb for pies back in Venice and chatted with the generous old Norwegian man who let me take it from his yard. Thanks, Mr. Rosvold!

Mom and I saw twin baby cows be born right in front of us at the Minnesota State Fair! It was 105 with humidity that day, so I think all the cold jokes about Minnesota can be put to rest. Until winter. Seriously, the place is so extreme, I think it's what makes the people so interesting. The neighboring boat on the St. Croix was named Worth The Winter. Exactly. The all you can drink milk helped at the Fair. So did Ole's Cannoli. Delish.

I saw happy faces like these (as Elsie and Inga learn to garden!) ... also enough to carry you through the winter.

I laughed and dined and drank with old and dear friends, who remind me every time just how important your roots are to who you become. I never seem to be able to squeeze it all in (Sorry to my folks I didn't see, and sorry for me I missed First Avenue and still no Twins game when I'm in town!) but I do my very best. It's so great to have an excellent place like Venice to return to and live, but home will always be home.

I'll let Slug from Atmosphere take it from here, in a snippet from his Minneapolis homage, "Shhh"

Such a pleasure to come home
Cuz I...I have a very special love for this city
I wanted to make a song about where I'm from
You know? Big up my home town, my territory, my state
But, I couldn't figure out much to brag about
Prince lives here, we got 10,000 lakes
But wait, the women are beautiful, to me they are
And we're not infested with pretentious movie stars
And it hit me, Minnesota is dope
If only simply for not what we have but what we don't
It's all fair, it ain't out there, it's in there
It's in the mirror, behind the breast under the hair
Follow the dream doesn't mean leave the love
Roam if you must, but come home when you've seen enough
I love New York and Cali, but I ain't movin'
Too overpopulated saturated with humans
And I'm not big on rappers, actors, or models
If I had to dip, I'd probably skip to Chicago
None of this is to diss no one, nowhere
Like damn, I'm from Minnesota, land of the cold air
Too many mosquitoes and our fair share of egos
But like my man Sabe says, that's where my mommy stays ...


Monday, August 19, 2013

Queens Of The Stone Age Give Gibson Ampitheater A Scorching Last Hurrah

Queens Of The Stone Age blew apart the Gibson Amphitheater on Saturday night in L.A., which was fine as it's about to close and be turned into a Harry Potter ride. Yep. It's sad to see the place go, as it has been one of the few places in town where pretty much every seat was good. If it has to go, this was the show to have in your memory as your last here, for sure. Every single mind was blown, and every single face was rocked off. Happily.

We missed the openers as it's L.A. and there's freeways closed and you fight your way through all the tourists roaming around the chain stores to get to the venue. Also, we're slow. There was just enough time to get one last $18 dollar drink (It's the very cheesy Universal Citywalk, after all) before the lights went out and the people started yelling their lungs out. We'd made friends with everyone around us, so the atmosphere was extra festive.

The fans started losing their shit as soon as they saw the QOTSA guys and the windows on the video screen started breaking. Mayhem erupted as soon as they TORE into "My God Is The Sun" and it never once let up for a split second the rest of the show. I'm not kidding. I don't know how they/we do it. The rock is relentless.

You again saw air drumming all over the room, as Jon Theodore is exactly that fun to watch, and for some, to imitate. For "No One Knows" the place started clapping along spontaneously, to which Josh Homme said, "Hello, Los Angeles! It's goddamn good to see you! Clap along ... you won't look like a fool, you'll look like someone who gives a shit." Exactly.

It would be very hard indeed to NOT give a shit about music this good. At various points in the show I could compare Queens to Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Plain Queen. With no hyperbole at all. This is a legend band like that, but for NOW. Super tight - "Tight" being the word I overheard most often from the rockers around me. They're just flawless musically. We were talking on the way over and I said that the latest album ... Like Clockwork is like Appetite For Destruction in that every track feels instantly classic and there isn't a single one that you want to skip over. Classic like no one's business.

Mr. Homme makes it his business to run the show exactly like clockwork ... Hard as hell, then lighter for a power ballad to give you a half second to breath, then right back to the head thrashing desert metal sound that they've created, and made all their own. (I'm gushy, but I don't care, I love them.)

... Paul's sister is an alien, Oh well ...  has always been a favorite lyric of mine, as I am Paul's sister. The Alien bit remains to be seen ... "Monsters In The Parasol" was a big hit with everyone, but then so was every song. The lush and lovely "Kalopsia" was dedicated to "an old friend", and was extra gorgeous, sounding even better than as recorded. Big waves played on the screen as they lit into "Like Clockwork" the song, with Troy van Leeuwen's very Pink Floyd monster guitar solo. Played in a suit and tie - the whole hot time. Yikes. They are LEGIT.

"This is a song about who I wish I was", said Homme to introduce "If I Had A Tail", a total crowd pleaser with its "Da Doo Ron Ron" chorus that no one was shy to sing along with. There was exactly zero seconds between that and blasting right into the old favorite, "Little Sister". Right on the heels of that these monsters of rock blazed through "Smooth Sailing" and I was again reminded of how Josh Homme reminds me sometimes of Elvis. The way he shakes his hips when he plays guitar, and the way he pretty much just says, "Thank you very much" between songs. The King - of the Desert?

"Is everyone having a good time?" The roar implied yes. "Here's a love song, played really fucking good!" Well, Homme was certainly right, as they played "Make It Wit Chu" awesomely and every single person sang along. And meant it. The guy behind me was on the fence about getting another beer, to which I told him OF COURSE he should. This is a rock show! And not just a rock show, but a Queens Of The Stone Age rock show. Have a beer! "The end is really fucking nigh", after all, if we're to believe their video screen. Enjoy yourselves!

"Unbelievable!" "I'm so happy right now!" "He could only be a rock and roller." "EVERY song is good!" These were just a few of the things I overheard around me at this point, and was proven more than true as QOTSA then ripped up "I Sat By The Ocean", "Better Living Through Chemistry", and "Sick Sick Sick". At this point, Homme stopped to introduce the band, saying, "We're N'Sync!" Hardly. After Homme, the loudest cheers came for my homie, Jon Theodore, on drums. He deserved them too, as he beat the living shit out of his kit and impressed everyone minds in there for life. Ask them.

They closed out the regular set with "Go With The Flow" - as everyone had been doing all night long. The fans wanted an encore and let them know it. If you could still hear at this point, there's no way you could after being subjected to the crowd roar. I'm guilty of splitting a few ear drums of my own with my power whistle. I can usually tell a great show by if I'm hoarse afterwards. I was.

 The excellent encore began with "The Vampyre Of Time and Memory", another Floyd-ian super jam. "Does anyone ever get this right?" goes the chorus and poses a really great question that I do not know the answer to, like a good song should. "I Appear Missing" was more great rock that no one in there wanted to end, but then Homme said, "This is IT! Whip out your dicks! Let down your hair! Take out your vaginas!" ... and I think more than a few probably did so, to get down with the last song, "A Song For The Dead".

Maybe they were talking about those gone before us, or about the about to die Gibson, but it didn't matter because this show was about being wonderfully, gloriously, rocking out ALIVE. Yes. And I'm writing about it, because I can't talk. That show was one for the books. Do absolutely whatever you must to get out to see QOTSA on this tour. It will be one of your all-time classics.

* Photos by Johnny/Tony Mayer

The Venice Art Crawl Turns 3!

The Venice Art Crawl turned three with a fun party to celebrate last Friday. Time flies, man. I remember the very first one well - three years ago already?! - as one of the most blast nights ever.  As was Friday, with Venizens showing up to party in the street, like the good old days.

Speedway and Dudley was the street party, with one half of the jamboree happening at The Cadillac Hotel and the other half across the street in the old Henry's Market (newly gone) at 9 Dudley. It was great to have art in the space again, as we spent many MANY a good time in the old Sponto Gallery located right next door. Sponto himself would have LOVED to see so many good Venice people out having a good time on a beautiful summer evening on Dudley.

Music blasted so loud you couldn't really talk that great, so you just smiled, hugged and looked at the art and the people who make and appreciate it.

Artists donated pieces to be hung/sold. Several local restaurants donated food and drink. Many volunteers donated their time and hard work. Organizers (Edizen! Nicole! Sunny! Danny S!) broke their backs securing all of the above, and it was well worth it, to judge by the grand old time people were having.

It's all about Venice, and all about the art that is created and shown off here. The next Art Crawl will be September 19, and there's a lot of good stuff in store. Mark your calendars to get out to it and see what all the fun is about as the Venice Art Crawl kicks off it's fourth year.

Happy Birthday, VAC!!! .... AND MANY MORE!!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nick van Woert - The Last Show at L and M Arts

I just got back from checking out the last show at L & M Arts in Venice. As if to reflect my mood about it, the fog rolled in just as I walked in the doors to see Labyrinth, the sculptures of Nick van Woert. It was bittersweet, as I've spent a lot of time in this gallery, learning, appreciating and reflecting ... most often on foggy days like this.

In the West Gallery, van Woert has a series of wall sculptures modeled after mappae mundi - the medieval maps of Europe. Bronze casts of basic tools, like hammers and arrowheads give it all a feeling of the history of man, and the ways in which we got to today.

In the big main piece, Not Yet Titled (2013), van Woert made up his own personal history. According to the press release, "This large sculptural lexicon is the sum of the artist's influences and ideologies. It includes casts of relevant books, childhood toys, peace pipes, and other meaningful objects that, together, helped to amass his character." Cool.

The work builds "a link between seemingly antiquated notions of construction, industrialism, and sustainability amidst shifting societal values and consumer demands.

The West Gallery is all serious and tangible feeling, heavy with permanence.

In contrast, the East Gallery houses the title piece, Labyrinth (2013), a maze of plexiglass boxes that contain, well, junk. Plastic, man-made junk. AstroTurf, pinatas, aquarium rocks, a hot dog, dirt, cat litter, fabric, what have you. This gets a little into the territory of "What is art? Anyone could do that!" To which John Waters famously said, "Then you should." Right on.

Where the West Gallery feels all museum-like and hallowed, the East Gallery feels ephemeral and cheap.

Interestingly, the press release - and thus, van Woert, acknowledges exactly that, saying his sculptures "are ammunition for a material revolution that rebels against the dividing qualifiers of 'fake' and 'authentic'. Selected for individual traits, rather than an ability to replicate the favored materials of antiquity, van Woert engages the inherent aesthetics, palettes, and textures of each material he chooses ... His work challenges us to become increasingly aware of the artificial concoctions that populate our contemporary habitat." In other words, art is everywhere.

I loved these moments of solitude, just me and the creativity and ideas of the artists shown at L & M Arts, thinking and understanding. The Gallery closes its doors for good on August 23rd. They will be fondly thought of and most assuredly missed. Thank you for the beautiful time you spent with us here in Venice. And thank goodness art IS everywhere here.