Friday, February 27, 2015

Muck Madness Show Opens At Qart Gallery

Jules Muck took over the newish Gallery on Washington Boulevard last night in the old Wells Fargo building (my old bank!).  The place has been transformed into a big gallery, with big walls, perfect for showing off the big canvases of Ms. Muck.

We're used to seeing Muck's pieces on walls all over Venice, and it was nice to see her get a big - and richly deserved - indoors show, with DJs and wine and all the usual art gallery trappings and scenesters.

Muck herself was live painting a big Dali piece (up for auction last night), and it was a joy to watch her dance as she painted, clearly having a blast, and reveling in the congratulations from all the Venice homies that came to pay their respects.

Her familiar green visages lined the walls, and her Malcolm X was a real standout.

The piece I liked the best was one that veered away from the green and the personalities to a beautiful landscape with rainbow cloud reflections. Landscape Graffiti was so serene, and a nice departure from the more popular culture figures that Muck does so well. Simply lovely.

These kind of jams are always fun because you see the faces from around town that have always loved and supported our local artists together. It lets you breathe a sigh of relief that we're all still here, all still in it together, and all still really caring and celebrating the sheer beauty of all ART.

With the beats thumping, people dancing and pieces being sold ... you left with the feeling that our art scene is as vibrant and adored as its ever been, and the added impetus to keep it so.

Then this morning, walking along the Boardwalk, I see this guy, also doing his thing, beautifying Venice. Wonder when his Qart show will be?

Art is everywhere. That's why we love it here.

Qart.Com Gallery
480 West Washington
310-405-6183 for purchasing and inquiries

*Stay tuned for a full story on Jules Muck soon!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Big Shots - The Work Of Guy Webster

After being extra impressed with his work at his In Heroes We Trust book party, I wanted to know more about the story of Guy Webster, Venice's own famous rock photographer. I found out that he worked just a couple blocks away, so a meeting was set up and we got to have a nice, neighborly chat.

Webster was born and raised in Los Angeles, in a privileged upbringing. His father was Paul Francis Webster, Oscar winning songwriter of such gems as "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" and "The Shadow Of Your Smile", and his mother was his editor. Because his dad was so well known, the house was always full of interesting people, like his dad's best friend, Duke Ellington. A house full of music and opportunity led Guy Webster to lead a similar life once out on his own.

While studying at UCLA (with Jim Morrison), Webster decided to join an exchange student program abroad in Copenhagen, mainly to see what else there was besides Beverly Hills. Webster learned his true love for art while in Denmark, where he was exposed to - and met - greats like Chagall that made him think, "What a great world!" That solidified his path, though he knew not yet what it would be.

Returning to California during the Vietnam War meant that Webster had to do a stint in the Army. Family friends pulled some strings and as Webster was a Quaker/Conscientious Objector, he got cushy jobs like decorating Christmas trees. Then someone asked him if he could take pictures. He said/lied he could, ran to the library, read about it, and was mixing chemicals for photo development the next day. He only took 36 photos over the three months of the project, as he would wait for just the right shot, developing both his eye and his patience. He showed the photos to the faculty at The Art Center, and they told him he had to attend their grad school - not the Yale that Webster's father had hoped for. Dad went nuts as he saw the seat on the Exchange fall away, and his hippie son bucking the system.

Undeterred, Webster knew only that he wanted to work with people, like a Penn or an Avedon, and that if he could live and sell his work out of a studio in Big Sur, that would be it. He'd be happy with that. But then he got so much more ...

Playing basketball one day with his friend and music executive, Lou Adler, Webster showed him some of his photos. Adler immediately invited him to come and be the Art Director for his music company, Dunhill Records. Webster quit school, and that was that. He shot iconic albums and Sunset Boulevard billboards for The Mama's And The Papa's, word soon got out that he was the guy, and Webster was off to the races, shooting hundreds of album covers, at a time when this was still a real art.

Hollywood soon called, and they wanted Webster to shoot their luminaries too. Then came friendships with Hopper and Nicholson, and all the trappings that went along with that. Webster realized the impact his work had, and became a bit of a workaholic, sometimes fitting in three different shoots in a day.

With so many legendary photographs to choose from, it took Webster and his team two years to compile the recent collection of his work, Big Shots: The Photographs Of Guy Webster. This book contains all those great Webster images of icons in both the music and film worlds. It is something to behold.

Having completed that massive project, Webster just keeps working. Though he says, "I'm 75. All I want to do is ride motorcycles and be with my friends," it's hard to believe him, The volume of his current work surrounds him everywhere at his Venice studio.

His latest project is a big one, 50 women and 50 men, all of whom Webster considers very interesting, and very talented. "I'm attracted to talent. This is talent. I don't care if it's a tap dancer or Picasso, or young artists that haven't made it yet. I love that." He says great things like, "Capitalism is a Ponzi Scheme," and money seems not to be something that means anything to him (which may be because he has plenty of it). This gives him the freedom to pursue work that means something to him, or he's just not gonna do it.

The series portrays artists in their working environment, and ranges from his studio assistant, Lisa Gizara (a painter) to Michael Gittes (also a painter) to his own daughter, Jessie Webster, who is also a photographer, with a great blog, Sweet Thing. It promises to be a great show once it's completed, replete with men and woman, certainly interesting, and definitely talented.

All of this worldly chatting begged the question of how did Webster come to create his studio in Venice? Back in the day, the Boardwalk was basically a Jewish retirement community, and Webster's dad would bring him down to visit a family friend when he was little. He loved it. He thought it was beautiful. When he returned from studying abroad, he came back artsy and a hippie. Venice was perfect. He and some like-minded friends created a magazine called Wet, of and about Venice, featuring great shots like the one below. Good times, those 70's in Venice must have been!

Webster has created here ever since. He has homes all over the place (and a famous motorcycle museum in Ojai!), but when he's working late, he stays in his Venice studio, which he and his sister, Mona, have owned for decades. We talked about Venice ... the good and the bad. The good is that now there are great restaurants, great coffee shops, most crack houses are gone (to be big cracker boxes so that goes in the bad column too), there are no more gang wars really, and the dog park is no longer a "needle park." The bad part that comes with that stuff is that "Venice is losing its soul ... or it's misplaced." Whenever I have conversations like this, with people like this, I always emerge feeling like that soul can still be easily found.

"The Artists's community means everything to me ... the musicians, the poets, the sculptors, the artists, all of them ... we can't let them get pushed out. Hipsters can grow a beard and wear tight pants and a fedora, but what else can they do?" Yeah.

Guy Webster reflects that interest and talent that so fascinates him, in his work and in his persona. He can spin tales for hours, and you won't even have scratched the surface. And they're all good ones, believe me.

Webster's next show of rock photography is this coming Saturday (February 28) at Forest Lawn Cemetery, called Revolutions 2. Check it out. You might just get a story or two out of him.

*All photos by Webster, except the ones OF Webster, by

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Steve Earle - Mardi Gras At The Grammy Museum

I got a kind and last minute invitation to see Steve Earle play and speak last night at the Grammy Museum's "The Drop" series, and I jumped at the chance. I've long admired Earle's gift for storytelling and picking on that guitar, and this Americana Music Association event was on the release day of his new album, Terraplane. It was also Mardi Gras, and as Earle starred on Treme, I felt he'd be a good guy to spend the occasion with.

I was right. We sat there and listened to Earle spin yarns in that "I don't give a fuck" way of his (which he did also utter several times, and is one of the things I dig about him the most) in the silent Clive Davis theater, full of true Earle scholars, as is often the case at Grammy Museum events. It's for the hard core appreciators of the given evening's music, that is always clear. You always feel like you leave with an education, and Earle is a great professor precisely because he is also a scholar of music. Especially the blues.

The talk began with the Grammy Foundation's Scott Goldman asking Earle why a blues album now, to which Earle simply replied, "I had the blues." He's blunt like that, a plain talker. I appreciate that. He's also extra-prolific, with novels, plays, acting roles, and you name it also going on. It's evident and much written about that Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark were Earle's mentors, and he "debriefed them fucking constantly". "Their influences were Lightning Hopkins and Robert Frost, and I don't want to hang with people who don't get that." Me neither.

In discussing the new album, Earle said, "There is only the Chicago Shuffle and the Texas Shuffle. There is no L.A. shuffle, no offense." The album, as he described it, is one part Howlin' Wolf and Chess Records, one part Canned Heat, and one part ZZ Topp (whose Billy Gibbons was repeatedly brought up by Earle as a badass blues man). If that sounds good on paper, trust that it sounds even better on the stereo, and definitely sounds great in person. He added that, even with all those icons of the genre, "All the blues goes back to one Robert Johnson song."

As it was Mardi Gras, Earle gave a little insight to the day, having learned much during his time spent in New Orleans while acting on Treme. Mardi Gras is really about the Mardi Gras Indians (who were originally street gangs protecting their turf) out to settle scores before the next day that begins Lent. He also mentioned that there will most likely be a New Orleans style album from him one day. About the release date, Earle shrugged, "Records come out on Tuesdays, but I think it's auspicious."

Earle also spoke of his upcoming memoir that will be "Less Keith, more Patti." It's about his mentors, Townes and Guy, about the street people that helped him, and about his Grandfather, who began 12 Step meetings in Texas ... "So, it's a book about recovery." I expect there will be many readers. When asked why a memoir now, Earle said, "I have a son with autism and his school is expensive. The publisher said memoirs pay more."

The Grammy nights are great because they just kind of let the performer go, and let it flow where they want the conversation to go. Earle told us he's recording an album with Shawn Colvin in November. He told us about his Camp Copperhead in the Catskills, where he holds an intensive four day songwriting (his job, after all) workshop. He told us that he's playing Letterman for the last time on Monday night. He told us that his tour starts April 15th, and he'll be playing the Stagecoach Festival out here. He told us he's a better performer now because of his acting. He told of how he saw Bruce Springsteen (who he thinks is THE best performer in rock) play an arena like it was a coffee house, and he went home and wrote Guitar Town the very next day.

Of Guitar Town, he said that a lot of songwriters (even Garth Brooks) tell him that they came to Nashville because of that record. "And I apologize." He said Nashville isn't really a town for singer/songwriters (which Earle often called his "job"), they just churn out from the machine. He came to Nashville himself in 1974, "and we all came because of Kris (Kristofferson, of course), but he was already gone being a movie star by then."

"I write chick songs so my audience doesn't get hairier and uglier, but they're not about the girl, they're still about me." That got a laugh, but I also got it. All songs are about the writer's experience and feelings. Earle explained, "I've got to keep myself interested if I'm gonna keep an audience interested. I'm not Andy Kaufman, an audience makes a difference. What I have in common with my audience matters more than how I'm different. And it keeps me in a job." Well, this audience loved that.

Speaking of Van Zandt and Clark, Earle gratefully said, "I was the beneficiary of a real life, old fashioned apprenticeship, which doesn't happen much anymore." True. "Songwriting as an art form is the job that Dylan invented ... it happened because Lennon wanted to be Dylan, and Dylan wanted to be Lennon."This is a man who knows his music history.

I've always enjoyed Earle's rebel streak, and his line of the night for me was when he said, "I loved corporate money. I love to take their money and write a song about Revolution." Yes. YES!

Then it was time for some of those songs we'd been talking about. Earle began strumming his guitar and releasing a huge sigh, almost of relief that the talking part was done and he could get down to his job now. He opened with "Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now" off the new album. And it ruled, as you knew it would.

"This is as close as there is to a chick song on the record," said Earle by way of introducing "You're The Best Lover That I Ever Had." It was great, and steamy and these chicks appreciated it. "Gamblin' Blues" was more for the dudes (and Lightning Hopkins), and they dug it too.

"King Of The Blues" had heads bobbing and toes tapping, and after hearing those stories, really having a grasp on where it came from, rounding out the song's experience beautifully. He told his oft-told tale of Van Zandt riding a horse in a snowstorm (which he fully intends to replicate) as an intro to his great ballad, "Fort Worth Blues", so visual and literary both. Earle ended with the crowd favorite and classic, "Copperhead Road." At song's end, the audience (that matters!) leapt to their collective feet and applauded until Goldman broke it up to say Earle would be signing his cd in the lobby.

As I watched the long line of people waiting to meet Earle and share their Earle stories, I remembered that Earle had said during the show that people always asked him if Van Zandt was Pancho or Lefty. Earle laughingly answers, "He was both." Observing Earle the performer and Earle the person with his fans, I suspect that like the King of The Blues Earle sings about ... Earle too is both.

What a great evening of music ... that didn't end there! We high-tailed it back to Venice to catch Lacey Kay Cowden and Matt Ellis at The Townhouse, and listening to their songs ... you might think that Earle is now a mentor himself. Beautiful, literary, cinematically visual songs that might break your heart, might teach you something about yourself, but for sure will cure any blues you thought you had.

Fait les bon temps rouler!

*Steve Earle & The Dukes great new Terraplane album is available now. Everywhere.

*Lacey Kay Cowden's Townhouse residency continues next Tuesday!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

stop - GO!

I was walking around this morning, thinking about stuff, as one does. As I crossed the street, I looked down at the sidewalk to see that above the big STOP sign, someone had come along and written a little "Go".

I love it. The bit of rebellion, the simple message as we start a new week to just Go. GO!

I needed to hear that this morning as I just found out that one of my family's dearest friends, Pearl Kusunoki, had passed away. She was my next door neighbor back home since birth. She and her husband, Kiyoshi (Jim, but I always call him by his beautiful Japanese name) were always there for my family, in the best and worst of times. She was the originator of my cherry chip cookies. She was the one who told me when I moved far away for the first time, looking deeply into my eyes, that "Everything will always be alright, as long as you stay Carol." I knew what she meant. She was a special one, one who it was written in her obituary, "had a love for beauty in all things."

I was very sad as I walked along in the fog, the weather fitting my mood. But then I saw the little, tiny "Go" right above the Stop sign, and thought of little, tiny Pearl ... who would most certainly be telling me to go ... but to stay myself.

What a gift to have known her, and to be able to celebrate her memory by finding, seeing, and loving the beauty in all things.


Love to all the dear Kusunoki family, now and always.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Art You - Create:Fixate Comes To Venice

For its 13th Anniversary, Create:Fixate finally made it to Venice. The old Samy's Camera building on Venice Boulevard was transformed into a happening art club for the one night only affair, and it was packed with aficionados from all over Los Angeles, and from right up the street (me). It was so excellent to have such an event so close that we literally just crossed the street to get there, especially after all the extra-gnarly traffic I'd endured this week. Yes! Exciting.

We walked over to see a long line (!) at the transformed entrance to the cavernous building. It was a wooden archway that was very cool and beckoned us in to see all the sights within.

The first thing that caught my eye was a garland of dolls hanging in the window, that was both fun and slightly creepy. This display signaled to me that this show was a perfect fit for Venice, and I think everyone packed in there would agree.

A lot of our very local artists were represented, which was great to see. Right when I entered, Gary Palmer told me that he had some "calming" paintings along one wall, and he was right. His serene works created a peaceful oasis in the midst of the absolute cacophony of a party going on all around.

Cerreah (Dutchess) Laykin was there bringing on Spring with her gorgeous flower pieces ...

... And catching up with old friends, which was happening all over. My favorite thing I overheard all night was a woman saying, "Look, everyone loves each other!" It was true.

It was also appropriate, as the theme this year was "I Art You" and the whole point was LOVE.
That was in the air, literally, with pink and red floating balloons and signs proclaiming Love ...

People expressed love while lounging on the opium den style cushions and couches placed around.

"I love it!" was heard everywhere, as people found their favorite pieces in the show.

Love looked likely to happen for the various hipsters and scenesters and artists and musicians and friends and neighbors all mingling and sizing one another up .... perhaps for that true connection that did seem more than possible with so many to choose from.

There was the love of a Mother holding probably the littlest art fan there.

Love flew off the walls at the display of art done by kids at the Venice Boys and Girls Club. The whole event, in fact, was in the name of love, with proceeds going to the Create:Fixate charitable funds, especially art for at-risk kids. The future is bright, see?!

Venice got a lot of love from the event, with many artists giving it props, like the great skateboard piece by Lauren Frick.

I think about the only thing people didn't love was the superlong lines at the "Elixir" station ... why is it that no one can seem to get a handle on the bar lines at big events. More bars, placed all around, not just in one area, makes for a better event for everyone. Common sense party throwing. But whatever, there was plenty to look at while you killed a whole bunch of time in line.

Live music was pounding the entire evening, providing the soundtrack for dancing, and for one lady to roll around in paint on a canvas to. As one does.

It's been unseasonably warm, no, HOT, so it was nice that there was also an outdoor area, with more art and merchant booths. The stars were high and bright, and the smell of mock orange blossoms was thick in the air, making the whole evening feel sultry and heady. A night to breathe it all in deeply.

Jules Muck was out there, live painting and hosting that end of the party.

There was a dark room with cool light art that enticed you to stand there and trip a minute.

There were little rooms transformed into their own installations, making it feel like a more intimate viewing experience.

There was an "Infinity Box", that was cool to look inside, but that I still don't really get the optical illusion of. There was a line behind me so I didn't get to really sort it out, but it was cool.

The whole shebang was interactive, encouraging everyone to mingle, converse, meet, and yes, love. One of my favorite pieces was the one that said "Life Is" and had a chalkboard on the bottom for people to add their two cents throughout the night. It made me happy that someone simply wrote "Joy". That is indeed the goal.

Aside from the rainbow neon burning bushes, my other favorite was the truth from Chase, that honestly, People ... WE ARE ALL ONE. Events like this, and balmy, blossomy nights where everyone is smiling and tapping their toes, hugging and high-fiving absolutely force you to acknowledge this very simple fact, take it to heart, and go out into the world, bolstered by all this love, and the art of living that love.

I know that sounds like a big old hippie talking, but hey - it happened in Venice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Babes In Toyland - Reunited In The California Desert

I feel like I just emerged from an awesome time machine. It took me back to the 90's, right in the middle of a frenzied punk show that was all I cared about in that given moment. We left Venice in some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered (like it almost made us cry) to head to the desert for the long-awaited and hoped for Babes In Toyland reunion at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown. Like, I mean we left at 3 pm, and we were late for the 9 pm show. Yeah. L.A. traffic has been grizzly lately, something has to be done to help the people. It's wrecking our buzz.

The buzz that we didn't yet have when we walked down the dirt road toward Pappy's ... already hearing the punk rock of my Minneapolis youth pounding out of the building, as we ran to get there and avoid being hit by all of the zillions of stars in the sky. Wow.

The sold out venue was packed with fans, many of whom I overheard say they'd just flown in from Minneapolis, or Europe, or Australia (or just up the road) just to see this seminal and inspirational to many band. We completely missed the opening band, Deap Vally, but I heard people say they ruled, and the lead singer's Mom told me they did too. Awesome.

Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero, and Maureen Herman were already tearing it up when we got there, and the fans were ecstatic, in an arms raised froth, yelling for their favorite jams. As it was so packed (and we were late), I didn't really get to take awesome notes, or hardly any photos where you can see anything on the stage (Pappy's could maybe raise the stage a couple feet to avoid this dilemma). No matter, it was awesome, Babes In Toyland are as awesome as ever (maybe even better, playing soberly and TIGHT), and that's all you really need to know. As well as what they played, so here's the set list I snagged.

And here's a crappy snippet from the thick of it, of the absolute rock being thrown down by these fiery dames. It was so heavy, even superfan Peaches was seen throwing arms up and head back in true respect. Even with a bunch of tech difficulties, this band was BACK. YESSS!

It was all over too soon (especially after that drive), but that freed everyone up to catch up and congratulate, and celebrate the fact that the Babes are back!

I met up with my bass playing friend, Maureen Herman, and just gushed all over her at how great it was. As we walked together to the back area, a fan (one of the ones who had flown in from Minneapolis) told her that she had loved them since she was 11, and she was now 33, and this was, like, the happiest day of her life. You could tell she meant it. How great is that? Your band breaks up, life's drama ensues over a bunch of years, you overcome that drama, get the band back together, and the response is so huge the rafters were still shaking, and then you're told that you gave someone the happiest day of her life. I'd say it went pretty well.

At one point in the show, Bjelland said, "This is our first show in a really long time, so we're kind of nervous." That didn't show at all. Then she said she hoped we wouldn't mind if she didn't play with her E string. Nope, and that didn't show at all either. Fans were too blissed out to really notice anything other than that their Babes In Toyland were playing live in 2015 right in front of their faces. It was actually pretty emotional for fans and the band alike, prompting Barbero to say, "I'm seriously going to start crying in one second... No, that's bbq smoke in my eye." To which Bjelland said, "Bullshit." And she was right. The shit was REAL.

Bjelland is sort of fascinating because she speaks in this tiny, sweet, little voice, then unleashes this absolute blood-curdling ROAR when she snarls out "CEASE TO EXIST!!" (during "Swamp Pussy") ... a good analogy for women all-around, I guess.

Fans hung around after the show and the band hung out for them, signing merch, taking photos, hearing stories about how far fans came and how much it meant to them. It was just great.

And then we stared at the stars until the sun came up over the pastel desert, got back into more hours of traffic, and clambered out of the time machine (car) to wonder if it was all just a really good flashback, or did it really just happen?

Turns out it happened. And will continue to happen, with shows all over the place, starting with The Roxy in Hollywood tomorrow night (for which tickets sold out in two minutes a few months back and why I shlepped to the desert to see them first), which you know is just going to kill it. Really do try and see these impressive ladies - pretty much every woman in rock and roll today owes them a massive debt - you will be rocked back to the future.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy 70th Birthday, Bob Marley! The Photographs Of Dennis Morris

There was really no better way to celebrate the 70th birthday of Bob Marley than to attend the opening of the "Revolutionary Dreams" exhibit of Dennis Morris's famous and definitive photographs of the reggae legend.

The Known Gallery on Fairfax was packed with fans and collectors of Marley, and the vibrations were definitely that of One Love.

That was helped greatly by the Marley and friends tunes being spun by my old friend, Native Wayne Jobson, natty in his gold headphones.

The photographs are all classic, and all so beautifully capture the spirit of Bob Marley, both the man and the musician.
They were all works by Morris, except for the great big one by Shephard Fairey, done in his trademark style.

It was hard to choose a favorite, as each photograph was greater than the next, but I think my heart might belong to Soul Rebel 3 ... it's just such pure happiness.

Each image was meant to portray one of Marley's iconic songs, and the labels were as true and heavy as the photographs. Words matter.

It was great to see so many people come out on a jam-packed Grammy weekend Friday night to celebrate the life and work of someone who's music and messages only intensify in meaning as each year passes.

"Revolutionary Dreams" will be on display at the Known Gallery through February 22, 2015.

Known Gallery
441 North Fairfax Ave.
LA, CA 90036