Friday, March 30, 2018

David Hockney And Alison Saar At The LA Louver

I couldn't make the big opening for the new shows at the LA Louver last Wednesday evening, as I had a prior engagement, but I'm not mad. I just went to check out the art the next day, up close, sans crowd, where I really got to appreciate it. Downstairs at the Venice Boulevard gallery is showing Topsy Turvy from Alison Saar, and it is excellent. "Topsy" refers to the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the wood sculptures and paintings on vintage linens portray the slave girl as a symbol of defiance.

The room is dominated by the five life-sized girls holding tools that were used in southern plantation crops: a machete, tobacco knife, hoe, sickle, and bale hook. They are going after the masters and are camouflaged by cotton branches. Someone had called my friends at Fiore Designs to order an arrangement to gift Saar on the night of the opening, and had asked for something featuring cotton blossoms, and now I understood why.

The Wrath Of Topsy sculpture shows off the little pigtails that remind one of Medusa  ...

... and High Cotton has the young girls ready for war.

From the press release, "For Saar, these works summon the collected rage and frustration for our current times" and were inspired by the poet Audra Lorde, who said that, "Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time ... I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices." That is so heavy, and so true. Kudos to Saar for portraying these truths in such a beautiful and touching way.

Upstairs is the new David Hockney show, in celebration of the classic L.A. artist's 80th birthday. It's a lot lighter fare, both in theme and colors used. Each piece was created on either an Ipad or an Iphone, showing just how far technology has advanced in the art world. As Hockney has said, "Anyone who likes drawings and mark-making will like to explore new media."

All of the work was done between 2009-2012, and the Louver show marks the first time they will be on view in Los Angeles. The portability of the phone and Ipad gave Hockney the means to create anytime, anywhere, and as his proficiency on the technology grew, so did the drawings. It's extra impressive, considering many of his generation have trouble just sorting out how to text. Hockney gets it.

With subjects ranging from oranges to ashtrays to his own self-portraits, Hockney turned his screen drawings into prints, which are what you will see at the Louver. Some of the works were originally shown in Paris at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, where they were actually displayed on phones and pads. The prints make it much easier, I imagine, to view all the subtle strokes and colors of Hockney's vision.

Those saturated colors cheer you up the moment you reach the room at the top of the stairs, and make one want to have them all, as it's pretty hard to choose a favorite from such a bright and sunny collection. If pressed, I'd go with the bowl of oranges or the sunrise from Hockney's bedroom window. I love the quote in Hockney's press release - "I draw flowers every day on my Iphone and send them to my friends, so they get fresh flowers every morning ... and my flowers last." Well, if Hockney is still accepting new friends ... please count me among them. I love eternal flowers. 

It's Good Friday, and checking out this wonderful exhibition could make it a Great Friday. In fact, it kind of goes with the holiday weekend ... the darkness and uncertainty of Good Friday (and our current world), followed by the beauty and hope of Easter Sunday (with the optimism that things can be reborn and light will come again).  Wherever you are, I hope you will feel that hope.

David Hockney Iphone and Ipad Drawings 2009-12

Alison Saar Topsy Turvy 

Both showing at LA Louver now through May 12, 2018 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Evening With Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite At The Grammy Museum

The second collaboration between Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite (after their Grammy winning debut, Get Up!), is out today, and there was a performance and conversation Wednesday evening with the two bluesmen at The Grammy Museum to celebrate their brand new album,  No Mercy In This Land.

It was the eve of the new John Lee Hooker Centennial exhibit opening at The Grammy Museum, which was fitting, as Hooker was the one who introduced Harper to Musselwhite, and a good portion of the interview was spent discussing the legendary Mr. Hooker. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Hooker's daughter, Zakiya ("Z"), who told me that she would be performing herself the following night at the opening. Grammy Museum Executive Director, Scott Goldman, hosted and moderated the event, and introduced Harper and Musselwhite, who came out to a warm reception, and in turn introduced their backing band - Jason Mozersky on guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass, and Jimmy Paxson on drums. Harper explained that "The way we made this album was the same as in a circle like this, just in a different room," and they dug right into the opening and title track, "No Mercy In This Land." It's a swampy, traditional blues number that finds Harper and Musselwhite sharing vocal verses and trading licks on their guitar and harmonica respectively. The intimate audience loved it, and Musselwhite cracked, "Don't forget that we have a million dollar dance floor down here!", indicating the tiny space in front of the stage, but found no takers.

"I Found The One" was more fun, an upbeat one with old school rock and roll riffs (derived straight from the blues) and rim shot drums, on which Musselwhite's harp really shone. He is THE master of harmonica, and after its tight ending, the room erupted in applause. The next one found Harper sitting down with his trademark Weissenborn, which garnered its own applause just for being taken out (Grammy Museum events in the Clive Davis Theater tend to bring out the real music aficionados). "I know better than to not check in with my Captain before lift-off," cracked Harper to explain the tune discussion that happened before they got down with "The Bottle Wins Again". This one is a real toe-tapper, for real. I looked around at my immediate area, and every single foot I could see was tapping away - mine included. "Broken hearts and broken dreams, turns out they weigh the same" is an example of the blues Harper must have had while writing this one, and his lap steel wailed away right into another tight ending. It's great stuff. They're not really breaking any new blues ground, but they are certainly shoring up the blues foundation, making sure it lasts beyond their generations.

"Nothing At All" found Harper at the piano, and it was my favorite tune of the evening. A slow, dramatic number full of the minor notes that are a weakness of mine. It featured a subtle and sensuous harmonica solo from Musselwhite, and this one was the standout for me. Sure, because it's beautiful, but mainly because it sounds different than the typical 1/4/5 chord changes that traditional blues is known for.

When the clapping died down, it was time for the interview portion of the evening. Goldman brought up the fact that the Hooker exhibition was opening the next night, and that Musselwhite heard Harper opening up for Hooker in 1993, and said of that night, "I heard the blues in Ben's guitar playing, and that got my attention. We met good." Harper said of Hooker, "What comes to mind about his music was the deepest ease. And his grace - he gave me an opening gig before my first album had even come out." Musselwhite added, "I learned from John Lee that you get your money up front!" - to much laughter. Musselwhite is a pretty funny cat, cracking up the audience the whole time.

The obvious good friends talked of how their music deepened by being on the road together to promote Get Up!, and how their shared collective musical information made this new album even more possible - and necessary. "Charlie makes me exceed myself. He pushes me to go places I could not go myself," explained Harper, with tangible admiration for his friend and mentor. He added, "Charlie's harmonica steeps the music deep into the ground AND gives it flight. We're not re-inventing the blues, we're re-invigorating the blues. The blues has to shape-shift to stay vital."

Musselwhite returned the admiration, saying, "This relationship works because we're kindred souls, searchers, and lifelong learners seeking the heart of things." - and the music shows this off, absolutely. Harper's mother, Ellen Chase-Verdries, was in the audience, and Harper shared stories about the making of their own collaboration, Childhood Home, and about how he used to trash her records by playing them to death. He finally got his own turntable and records "The little white Radio Shack one, remember, Mom?", and soon was listening to Hendrix ("Probably because we had matching afros, I had no business liking Jimi at 8 years old!) and The Who. He shared an anecdote about his mother coming home from work one day to find that a very young Ben had decorated his white bedroom walls - in Sharpie - with an entire The Who concert drawing covering three walls. She just shook her head and walked out. Kids.

Musselwhite was also an avid record collector of every genre imaginable ("Flamenco is some bluesy stuff!"). He joked that "'My baby left me' is a worldwide phenomenon - or 'She came back and it was worse'." Everyone laughed at that one. Haha. Harper added that he will say to Musselwhite something like "Have you heard the Furry Lewis song 'Turn My Money Green'?" and Musselwhite would answer, "Oh, I KNEW Furry Lewis." As a nod to his own wide appeal, Harper humble-boasted, "I promise you, I'm the only human being that has opened for Pearl Jam AND John Lee Hooker." He's probably right.

The majority of No Mercy In This Land was recorded live, and Harper explained that after being asked "When are you going to work with Charlie again?" in every language around the world, this record had to happen, and "I want to work with Charlie as much as I can from here forward." Watching them play together - and crack each other up constantly - you can see why. Goldman asked, "Is there more to come?" to which Musselwhite drolly replied, "Well, this one isn't even out yet ...", earning more laughter (but it IS out now!). Harper spoke to how he comes up with songs, mocking himself by saying "I'm just channeling - shut the fuck up - don't act like you know songwriting ... but silence doesn't make a good interview." After a decades-long and successful career, I think it could be time for him to hang up the faux-humility, as you probably DO know songwriting if, as he said, he's opened for both Pearl Jam and Hooker. Just saying.

When Goldman asked Musselwhite why he chose the harmonica, he answered, "It's the only instrument that you can't see what you're doing. It has a voice-like quality, and I feel like I'm singing without words, breathing the music." He talked about hanging out in Chicago ("Coming from Memphis, I already knew how to drink!") and watching Muddy Waters. A waitress (whom he may or may not have had a thing with) told Waters to check him out, and from then on he would be asked to sit in with "Mud" whenever he was in the audience, "And that was my ticket out of the factory!" Goldman followed up by asking, "What makes a deep player?" to which Musselwhite retorted, "That's a question that if you have to ask it, you probably won't get it." Burn. He quickly added, "Deep blues has the most feeling. It comforts you." After being kind of dissed, Goldman turned to the audience to see if anyone had better questions. One lady asked Musselwhite if he was familiar with Turkish blues - and of course, he was. Zakiya Hooker stood up and greeted her Dad's old friend, Charlie, and invited them to the Hoooker exhibition, and the respect given her from both was clear. As I was next to her, I raised my hand and asked that since they both have talked a lot about who inspired them and gave them their shots, was there an up and coming musician that they would like to inspire or give a shot to? Harper replied, "I paid mine forward permanently with Jack Johnson.", revealing uncharacteristic maybe jealousy and for sure selfishness (alluding to the fact that he initially gave Johnson a boost, and has been surpassed by Johnson in both sales and fame). I was rather taken aback, as Harper is usually known for his activism and helpfulness, but maybe that was a younger Harper's unjaded idealism. Regardless, he is where he is in a great place today, affirming that and concluding by saying that "My Grammys are cherished like nothing else."

The duo returned to their instruments for an unaccompanied version of "Trust You To Dig My Grave", where just when you think it's about the trust that these two clearly have for each other, Harper sings about "Don't want to be your first lover, I want to be your last", implying a different kind of relationship being sung about. Whoever it's about, it's good, and the friends and musical partners gave each other a big thumbs up at its conclusion. I give No Mercy In This Land a big thumbs up, and this insightful evening of music and conversation at The Grammy Museum gets BOTH thumbs way up. Any chance you get to attend ANY program at The Grammy Museum should be taken, as you always come away from it feeling more knowledgeable, and grateful that music programs such as theirs continue to exist in this crazy world. Perhaps there maybe IS a little mercy in this land after all.

Thank you to the wonderful Grammy Museum for all that they do, and to Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite for giving us the blues - in a good way.

*Photos courtesy of Alison Buck/ for The Grammy Museum

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

L.A.Vate At Amiga

There was a really fun art opening/party at Amiga on Lincoln last Friday night, but life has been a bit nuts, so I'm only getting to tell you about it now. It was already a packed house by the time my friend and I strolled over to the great shop to see what was going down.

The Amigas (Sadie Gilliam and Nicole Reed) curated an excellent art show made up of other amigas y amigos that were all in the house on this fun night. Priscilla Witte, Pink Riches, Jason Adler, Monique Boileau, Erika Lane, Shannon Moss, Matt Branham, and the Netherworlds project all showed everyone what they got ... and it was good.

It's always fun to see the friends that you only mainly see on social media in real life, and I was extra happy to see my friends, Tara and Danny, in the flesh! They were there with their photography project "The Netherworlds", with a very cool underwater vibe that were my favorite works in the show. Dreamy.

There was live painting outside, there was live music (after I left - we still had to eat!), but above all, there were friends.

Having a great time in the neighborhood together ... AND it was also doing some good, as proceeds from the raffles went to It's On Us, a non-profit organization that works to help prevent sexual assault on school campuses. Which needs to happen, and we're happy to help.

I was just about to sneak out of our quest for food, when this piece by Shannon Moss caught my eye ... "The springtime is kind ... and brings you home."

That's kind of what I'd been feeling ... Spring is so beautiful and full of life, and it brings that feeling of home into your heart. Where you're from, but also where you have made your home ... and Venice is a pretty good one, especially with great people like this doing great things.

Thank you, Amigas!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Love For The Weekend

The rain has passed by, the sun is out, and the weekend is upon us. With all that's going nuts in the global world at the moment, the fact remains that we MUST seek out the love that still remains.

There was a nice little reminder of that at the graffiti walls (By @lovecrew), that we would all do well to carry with us in our minds this weekend. There is the massive anti-gun March For Our Lives tomorrow where we all will proclaim #ENOUGH, and if you can't make it to your local march, there are plenty of ways to show your love and support for each other every day. There are SO many problems happening on a global scale, but if we can remember the love at the root of all of us, we can still persevere.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood ... and I send you all this love - unconditionally. Pass it on.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Art Of Gary Palmer - Depth And Magic

It's a rainy day in Venice, perfect for reflecting. And for writing about - and reading about - the meditative art of my friend, Gary Palmer. I first got to know Gary Palmer as a friendly Irishman who was also a regular at The French Market. Then I got to know his art. And then I wanted to know more, so after years of friendship and coffee (and one memorable champagne all day marathon) run-ins, we finally sat down to chat about his whole story and his art.

Palmer was born in Belfast in 1968, "When the troubles began." He attended a school that was a mix of Catholic and Protestant kids, which made him interested in what created peace and reconciliation. Art became a way for him to retreat into his own little world as an escape to a place where people weren't fighting. He was also fascinated by the street paintings he would see, that to him led to underground magical worlds, and saw those artists as local heroes. He kept winning art prizes throughout his school years, but didn't want to attend art school, because he didn't want to be told how to paint. So he studied theoretical physics at Edinburgh instead. And got a Masters in Architecture. No big deal.

A gig with an architect in Australia got Palmer even more into street paintings, and he began doing his own chalk art with a 3D perspective. He attended street art festivals all over the world, and following the sun led Palmer to Los Angeles. He published a book of his chalk art called A Carpet Of Dreams in the 90's, and kept attending festivals. His first studio was in Hollywood on Cahuenga, where he started doing paintings on canvas for a living, as people would walk by and want to buy the paintings off of the walls. It was his mother's dream to live in California, and soon Palmer's family joined him in L.A. He did some street painting in Venice, and "liked the vibe" here. When Bush Jr. took office, it freaked Palmer out so he took off for a six month meditation retreat in Mexico, and when he came back, Elwood Risk offered him his studio space in Venice. Palmer leaped at the chance, and was soon ensconced on Vernon in Venice, working on meditation paintings that incorporated his thoughts on gravity and physics, which "are tied to understanding nature."

Street painting adventures in Italy led to a trip to Africa from Malawi to Zanzibar, where Palmer enjoyed observing how diverse people can come together and all get along. This became a dominant theme and inspiration for Palmer, as he began to explore how different cultures interact with each other. Paintings feature such diverse subjects as Masai warriors and the Lacondon (Ancient Mayans who never cut their hair), as Palmer would travel to observe peaceful indigenous peoples living in harmony with nature. Narrative paintings with accompanying writings and abstract expressionism works make up his Memories of Zanzibar series (with a limited edition monograph "life diary" boxed set put out by Fathom Gallery).

Back in Venice, living on Flower and working on Sunset and Vernon, was a grand old time for Palmer, with music and art and parties and creative juices flowing ... until last year when he got the boot out of the artist studio building on Vernon due to massively increased rent (the sad and all too common story around Venice these days). Fortunately for Palmer, a friend was leaving Venice and offered her studio space right on the Boardwalk to him for an actually affordable (fair) price, and now he gets to work with an ocean view. Things have a way of working out sometimes.

More recently Palmer has been doing these great meditation pieces, that he says are "Saying something ABOUT nature, instead of being a picture of it. The meditation pieces reflect the breath." I dig that. "You get bored if you do the same thing all the time, you have to EXPLORE. You make a diary of your life, and even the installation is part of it." This makes sense then that after a relationship with a Japanese woman, Palmer is now doing abstract landscapes with sumi ink that you can view at the Tarryn Teresa Gallery. They remind me of the art where you blow the ink around with straws, so again you are reminded about the breath - and to take a moment to appreciate it and breathe.  During all of this creativity, Palmer is also at work on a book, On The Nature Of Nature - bringing him back to his physics roots. He's an impressive cat.

On Venice and its draw for artists, Palmer says, "There is a good tradition of art and painting, and the 'Space and Light Movement' here in Venice, with Ed Moses and Larry Bell ... people see different things here." A big sigh was exhaled while reminiscing about old Hal's and the Venice West stories. "That's part of the heart and soul of it all ... it's still here, but it's changed a lot. I'm nostalgic about it all. The next generation is all about tech, and the spirit of talking to each other at a bar is much less. But there's still a hell of a lot of positive, so I don't like to gripe." He still frequents the "pale shadow" of Hal's, because there is still the art and our people and jazz, and James Beach, the LA Louver, and The French Market remain his mainstays - and mine.

"There is a depth and a magic about the place. There are still nuggets of that here every day. An artist sent me a letter offering me her space just as I was about to move it to Inglewood! People see it differently. One person's idea of what it's about here is totally different than another's." And that's what keeps it interesting, I suppose. One very cool thing that Palmer is working on is to get an annual street art festival up and running in Venice. "Venice is crying out for a street art festival. It would be a nice way to bring the past into the present." To start out with a chalk art festival, and add the whole gamut, like tattoo artists, muralists, graffiti artists, all of them is the goal. "It's a bit more Venice to have ALL of the street art together." I'm all over it. Palmer has had a section of the Abbot Kinney Festival each year dedicated to a community mandala chalk art piece, and it's always one of the highlights of the day. They've been denied that space (?!?!) for the next one, as the want it for more commercial space. Blah.

Palmer mentioned that Hinano's approached him about maybe making it happen down on the Washington Square, and I can't think of anything more awesome, with all the chalk art and murals and everything extending all the way down to the end of the Venice Pier, with everyone working together on a big mandala in the circle part of it above the ocean waves below. And the Geobender can make sand ones alongside it!

I say that because the very day I interviewed Palmer, I walked down the beach afterword, and saw the sand mandala by Geobender there in the sand - more meditative art, and  another beautiful example of the depth and magic of the place! Kismet. Let's help get that festival going, but also continue to search for those special qualities of this place as an every day reality.

Like Gary Palmer does.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy Spring, Lovers And Late Night Bloomers!

Spring has sprung! My Mom is here visiting, and it's her favorite time of year, when everything comes back to life. After long Minnesota winters, the warmer temperatures, the flowers blooming, and the general feeling of re-birth is extra tangible, but here in Venice you can feel it too. The jasmine and mock orange are busting out everywhere, we're actually getting to use our dusty umbrellas, and people have that Spring spring in their steps.

I took a sunset stroll yesterday, and decided to go down an alley I don't think I have traversed before. I was rewarded - as you often are here - by a big mural on the back of a house, of masked lovers dipping back in an embrace. It's called "For The Late Night Bloomers" by Ms. Casey O, and I adore it. Spring fever! I love it. There are so many unexpected surprises that you can discover walking around Venice, and that's why we love it. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Happy Spring to all! May you feel the renewal in your own heart, and go out and do some good with it.

"It is Spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't know quite what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
                                                                                        - Mark Twain

Friday, March 16, 2018

The March Venice Art Crawl - Celebrating Art And Women

The March edition of the Venice Art Crawl was held last night, and people were out in force, despite the blustery chill (for Venice). My Mom had just arrived to town, so got to experience her first V.A.C., and as this time around it was all concentrated in one area - Windward - it made it that much easier for us to get around. We got to chatting though, and thus, got a late crawl start and had to hustle just as much as usual. But it was worth it, as usual.

The Westside Wisemen were playing live music on the sidewalk in front of Hama Sushi, welcoming us to the proceedings from blocks away, and adding to the festive vibe in the streets. I think my favorite piece of the night was also on the sidewalk in front of Hama, this great beachy work by Sergio Padilla. Want it. 

I looked for Tonan's art stop, but didn't see it, so we zipped up to Surfside, as I'd been told that was the headquarters to get maps. The streets were full of art revelers, and a good time was being had by all. The art in the house was really great, as we were greeted right inside the door by the work of Ryan Patrick McGuire of Ink and Lumber. Real coolly framed photos and designs, the best one featuring Kurt Cobain. Dug it.

My homie Ray Rae was showcasing his gorgeous Venice photography there also, and holding down the information fort. Everyone should have a piece by Ray Rae.

Upstairs at Surfside there was a trip-out interactive hologram experience put on by Cody Nowak, an "AEC Disruptor". Mom got to put on the headset and check out little characters popping up around the room, like monkeys and unicorns and ballerinas floating around in space. This stuff is going to change the entire world of entertainment before we know it, and the art world is already feeling it.

I charged through Larry's to see the work of Molly Wiggins, David Downs, and Aisha Singleton, as well as the always great video installations of Olly Bell. People were digging it.

There was a special edition of Artists & Fleas going down in the parking lot of Great White, complete with a big VAC projection for good measure. DJ music added to the fun, and folks were grooving.

I had to race over to the Erwin Hotel in the middle of it all to see some of the wonderful women artists of Venice being honored for their work. As we're on Venice Standard Time, it didn't start on time, so I ran out to see more art while the got it ready. I'm glad I did, because Noah Gottlieb was showing his work on the sidewalk in front of the Bank Of Venice, and it was great. Like Realist meets Fantasy stuff ... from a local cat. Check him out.

Back at the Erwin, a bunch of us squeezed into a tiny room, where Mike Bonin, George Francisco, and Sunny Bak gave plaques and certificates to the eight women artists of Venice being celebrated appropriately in International Women's Month. Judy Baca, Joelle Dumas, Emily Winters, and Meryl Lebowitz were there to accept their awards and be applauded, while Jules Muck, Jean Edelstein, Christina Angelina, and Lucy Walker were no-shows.

It was great and touching to toast these trailblazers, as women who have helped to shape the Venice art scene ... some for decades, some bursting out more recently. Treasures all.

The ceremony took a while, so I wound up missing a bunch of art, but that's how it goes. I hit up Gotta Have It, whose crowd was spilling out on to the sidewalks as a live band tore it up inside the packed and awesome vintage store.

In a mad dash to see as much as I could, I race-walked down the street to Solé Bicycles, where they had already packed up, but I hopped into the truck of Flewnt to check out his cool Venice-centric work. I had missed the music and the gumbo, but it was still cool.

I took off back toward Windward to see what else I could see that was still happening, and that's when I heard a gun shot and saw people running. Again in front of Surfside. WHAT is going on?! ENOUGH with the guns, People. So sick of it, and what a damper on what had been a wonderful night of celebrating Venice art. Geez. The interesting thing was that it didn't seem like people were all that phased. One dude got shot in the arm, and then people kept on partying under the shadow of the "O'Venice" sign, lit up green for St. Patrick's Day.

And that's a good thing. We can't let the terrorists win - and that's exactly what gun-toting hotheads are. Sorry to any artists I didn't get to see, but ceremonies and shootings sometimes prohibit getting around to everything. I hope everyone has an excellent weekend, stays safe, and continues to create and appreciate art. It's what makes Venice go around. THANKS once again to the great organizers of the V.A.C. for another fantastic time - guns and all. Love you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rock The Auction For Walgrove Elementary!

I was recently in a conversation where a fancy mother was talking about how they lived in an area that would have her children go to a local Venice school, but the school's programs weren't enough for her/them, so they have them in a private school in Santa Monica. They could walk to the Venice school, but instead endure a morning and evening traffic commute, and put all their resources into a school that doesn't need it. Public schools NEED it. Venice schools NEED it. If all the parents with means ignore that, what is going to happen to the public schools - the very foundation of our nation and world's future? It's extra sad ... and then you get an Education Secretary in Betsy DeVos that is actually dumber than a box of rocks, and you realize it's up to all of us. And I'm not even a parent. We HAVE TO CARE.

Well, SOME Venice parents ARE doing something about it. The great community of parents and friends of Walgrove Elementary fund pretty much everything extra themselves, through their fundraising efforts. Their big one, the Walgrove "We Rock The Auction" annual silent auction fundraiser is on NOW through this Friday, with a zillion things that you can bid on to help out our local kids. They can have the same cool programs that the fancy schools have, right here in our own neighborhood, the kids of our own neighbors. That's how communities - and then countries - thrive again.

The items range all over the place, from gift cards to awesome local merchants like Burro, to classes of all sorts of kinds, to restaurant deals, theater passes, cool art, clothes, cupcakes, and just about anything you can think of. You can get more for your money AND assist Walgrove in making sure our Venice kids have the very best opportunities for fun and learning that we can give them. Education is obviously super needed in this country, and it's well beyond time to improve on it all. Because it's getting embarrassing.

But not at Walgrove! These kids - all through efforts like this auction ON JUST UNTIL THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 16!! - get to do cool stuff like "Studio Lab", an innovative program that does things like having kids do Basquiat forgery paintings. I want in on that myself! They fund the teachers' aides. The physical education program. The P.S. Arts program. The musical theater program - this year putting on Annie! The Walgrove Wildlands and edible garden - where they are creating a monarch butterfly rest stop! Campus beautification and teacher appreciation are also funded by the Friends of Walgrove, and really, it's endless. NONE of those things would be in place without the help of parents, friends, and members of the local community. How awful would that be? The schools always need something, and our government is not funding our public schools even close to enough, so it's up to them. And us. We who care about the future of this country, and our future leaders.

Please think about it ... and then go HERE and bid on something - anything - from this instant while you're still thinking about it, through this Friday. I thank you, Walgrove thanks you, and when you see how great these kids grow up to be, you'll thank yourself.

Rock the Auction for Walgrove!

*Photos courtesy of Walgrove

Monday, March 12, 2018

Conversations With Bootsy Collins At The Miracle!

William "Bootsy" Collins is the best. What a happy, kind, positive spirit this funk legend is, and we got to hear all about him and his life in his conversation with UCLA professor, Dr. Scot Brown, held at the fantastic Miracle Theater in Inglewood last Friday night.

Collins was there to discuss his new album, World Wide Funk, as well as to promote his Bootsy Collins Foundation, whose mission statement is "To inspire, educate, and enrich the lives of individuals from all backgrounds", and he did all of that in a single evening at the Miracle.

There was a meet and greet held before the actual sit-down with Dr. Brown, and when I was introduced to Mr. Bootsy Collins (!), I got unexpectedly emotional out of the blue, and almost cried. You see, I first ever heard of Collins and the Parliament Funkadelic because of Prince, who would always shout out to Bootsy and the P-Funk as major inspirations of his, and you can for sure hear it in his and the "Minneapolis Sound". Prince even inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with proper respect and admiration. Collins seemed to understand the moment I simply said, "Prince", and we shared an embrace over the immense loss of Prince - but also over the joy of the moment in being there to celebrate the music, because we still can. It was special.

My friend K.C. Mancebo had organize the event, and when she took the stage to introduce Collins, Brown, and DJ Lance Rock (of Yo Gabba Gabba! fame, who spun the Pure Funk throughout), it was to a rowdy and excited crowd of superfans who were FEELING it. Brown came out and spoke to how influential funk is on all music ("When people reach for samples, they go back to funk."), and then, "Without further ado, Bootzilla, Zillatron, Casper, The Player of the Year, Bootsy Collins!" Collins came out on stage to chants of "Bootsy!", clad in his black and gold rhinestone spiked get-up, with trademark top hat and star-shaped sunglasses. He cupped his ear to take in the chants, smiling big all the while. He loves it, we love him.

Brown spoke to how funk has progressed, and Collins answered that back in the day, "You couldn't say 'Funk' on the radio ... now you'll get arrested if you DON'T say Funk!" He went on to say, "Funk says come as you are, we accept you, we encourage you, we embrace you. Anyone who wants to have some funking fun, bring your rump to the funk!" It's all just so fun, it's irresistible. Patti Collins, Bootsy's wife, was there too, in all her regal beauty, and also to promote her "Peppermint Patti's Grooveminte Girls" organization. Having fun AND doing good for the community is the best.

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

Starting out playing with James Brown is a pretty darn good musical education, and Collins told us that "James Brown taught us the ABC's, he taught us the ONE. All number after that are just numbers... "Love has gotta be there. LOVE is the ONE." After Brown, Collins took up with George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, and then took off on his own with Bootsy's Rubber Band, with great stories for every era. Like how on a song called "Munchies For Your Love", "These were my personal experiences ... I always had my own stash."

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

In between awesome statements like "You can't funk with the Funk!" and "You never know how the funk is gonna creep up on you", Collins spoke about how important it is to him that every kid has an instrument, and he's seeing to that through his "Say It Loud" program. This cat just kept getting cooler and cooler the more he spoke.

For Collins, it all started with the church ("Getting down for God!"), where he loved the music he would hear. "Music DROVE me," he explained, "I loved to draw, and paint, but what could I do at school with no guitar?" So he learned the clarinet, and kept at it until he was first chair clarinet. That's why it's so important to him that kids have access to instruments, and he is seeing to it. "If they're interested or good at music, HELP them. Mugs wanna learn. Help kids feel like they're SOMEBODY." When the Q and A portion of the evening began, one man asked where he could get some cool star sunglasses like his. Collins replied that he had them custom made when he first started out so that when kids looked at him, they would see their own reflection in his eyes - as a star. I love that so much, and was my favorite anecdote of the night.

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

Another woman snaked me on my questions about Prince, but she asked if they'd ever worked together, and Collins confirmed that they never did. "He would come to shows ... he wasn't a threat, he didn't look like a regular brother (laughter). He took the funk to a whole new generation." That was completely true, because I only knew about the P-Funk due to Prince, and then my late friend, Darren Sakai, who used to play it all the time when he was my roommate in Hawai'i. I sorely wished he could have been there with me to meet one of his favorites. Yep, choked up again!

Catfish Collins was Bootsy's brother, who he said, "Was the whole reason I'm standing up here now. He had my back. Didn't nothing mean nothing but getting to the gig for the people. We'd leave the car in traffic." In response to one man's question about where funk began, Collins replied, "They started calling it 'Funk' with James Brown. They never help the Funk. We need y'all, applaud yourselves (we did). It was never about the money, it was always about giving up the Funk." And you can feel that truth in everything Collins says and does - tangibly.

The questions had to stop sometime, but when they did, the chants began again. "Come back, Bootsy, Come back!" So he stayed and signed everybody's everything, graciously taking photos and taking the time to chat with anyone who approached. It truly was an evening of "Unplanned World Wide Funk Attacks", and we were all better for experiencing it. Massive thank yous to Mr. Bootsy Collins, his wife Patti, Dr. Scot Brown, DJ Lance Rock, K.C. Mancebo, Owen Smith and The Miracle Theater staff, and everyone who was there to feel the funk and the love. Spread it Worldwide!