Friday, August 31, 2018

Venice 1 BR Dump $2500 MO

I was out and about one recent night when we came upon this absolute steal of a pad in Venice ... !

I mean, it's still a bit steep compared to the good old days in Venice, but WOW! I've got to put an offer in asap before some techie Bird rider beats me to it! These deals don't come along every day! I usually like more windows, but you have to take what you can get around here. Oh, MAN - if all goes well, look forward to a huge blowout of a housewarming, friends and neighbors! Wish me luck!

... Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend! (I'll be over here trying to get my tongue out of my cheek).

Thursday, August 30, 2018

VoyageLA Magazine Interviews The Interviewer

The very kind folks at VoyageLA Magazine posted a nice interview with me this week, and I'm re-posting it here so that you kind readers might have a better idea of what I'm trying to be about here. I was honored to be included in their "Thought Provokers" section, and hope I can manage to provoke some thoughts with each story I write. And, as ever, thank you so much for reading and caring about the stories from our Community, and our world at large. It all starts with caring. Love, CJG

Today we’d like to introduce you to CJ Gronner.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?

I’ve wanted to be a storyteller from my earliest days. Growing up in Minnesota, I always wrote stories and made up adventures for the neighborhood kids to play out, and as I grew up I realized that telling stories is what I wanted to do for my life and career too. I also grew up loving film and the entertainment business, so got involved with film production as soon as I could. I worked for the Minnesota Film Office and P.A.D on several films there before moving to the Big Island of Hawai’i to work in their film office. That led to a move to Los Angeles, the home of filmmaking worldwide. While trying to get multiple feature scripts I wrote on the screen, I also began working in journalism, for multiple publications, with an emphasis on music journalism. Living in and loving Venice, California led to the creation of Blogtown By CJ Gronner, a site that includes all the Venice and music stories I do. As more and more people read Blogtown, more and more writing opportunities arose, and I’m now writing and producing for television and film … while still trying to get those movies made! I love that writing is such an effective way of giving voice to the many people and issues that make up our world, in the hopes that we can have a better understanding of each other … resulting in world peace. Easy!
Please tell us about your art.

I write. I write to inspire, to provoke thought, to encourage, and to let people know that we’re all in this together. I write stories for newspapers, magazines, venues, my own Blogtown, television, ad copy, song lyrics, band bios, and feature length screenplays. The most common feedback I get about my work is that “you made me feel like I was there!” I’ve had people tell me that my stories made them laugh. Made them cry. Made them mad sometimes. Made them think. Made them get involved. Gave them goosebumps. If I’ve moved anyone in any way, I feel I’ve done a decent job.
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?

I’ve never been motivated by the money part of things, and have struggled mightily over the years as a result. Having acknowledged the reality that activism and commerce don’t always jive, I do my best to stay true to myself and my ideals, while doing my best to also be compensated in a fair and decent way. This is the hardest part about having a writing career, in my opinion … getting paid. You HAVE to do it because you love it, and hope that others will see the fiscal value of your work while you’re at it. I’m great at promoting everyone else – not so great at promoting myself. This is a family trait that we’re all working on. Will write for pay!
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?

You can regularly read my stories at, or by Google searching for all of the Freelance work I’ve done, for musicians like Tom Morello, Jane’s Addiction, Shooter Jennings, and such storied venues as The Hollywood Bowl, The Grammy Museum, and KCRW (with accompanying photography by my brother, Paul Gronner). I’m currently co-producing a documentary called 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED about income inequality in America with a zoom lens on Venice, where we feel the issue is at its most glaring example. People can donate to our documentary fund here:
I’m also co-producing a television show for Viceland called “American Junkie”, which will begin airing on September 12, 2018. I’ve also co-created a television show featuring B Real from Cypress Hill that is currently in development. Tune in!
Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Black and white- Paul Gronner
Blue hair – Bubba Carr
CJ and Paul Blogtown – Venice Papparazzi
At Lollapalooza – Stephanie Hobgood

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Love For The Fun Side Of The Wall

Hola! I just got back from a little - sorely needed - getaway to Sayulita, Mexico. Wow, was it lovely. Then this morning, honestly, my first thought was "Well, back to the junkies and the homeless." First, because I'm simultaneously working on a Viceland show about heroin addicts (formerly called American Junkie until overly p.c. groups complained and now it's Dopesick Nation - coming to you on September 12) and a documentary about income inequality/housing in Venice (90291: VENICE UNZIPPED), so those thoughts are work related, but also just the reality of living here. I didn't see a SINGLE homeless person sleeping on the street in Mexico. Not ONE person asked for a handout, they sold you things and worked for their money. EVERYONE was friendly and warm and welcoming ... and we want to build a wall against them, when it seems they actually have it a lot better figured out. I get that L.A. is a massive city, and this was one little fishing village, but still. ZERO homeless. They just seem to take care of each other better. Care more. As one sign said, "Smile - You are in the fun side of the wall" ... so they even manage to have a a good sense of humor about our government's ridiculous prejudices against them.

Sayulita is all about color. All of the walls are painted brightly ...

Festive flags hang above the cobblestone streets in the town plaza ...

Their big thing is pom poms, and they're everywhere ...

The native people to the area are the Huichol, and their art is exquisite. All colorful and symbolic and meaningful and great.

I got a necklace from this artisan elderly woman Maria as she sat there in the "Hippie Market" (perfect for me!) creating her wares and smiling warmly at my effusive gushing that she couldn't understand.

I stayed at a little boutique hotel called Hotel Hafa, and it was the most charming place ever. Done up in Morocco meets Mexico vibes and colors, it was again perfect for me.

Hearts are everywhere in this part of Mexico also, and everywhere you looked there were hearts leading you to your room in the hotel ...

...up the stairs to a surf tour place ...

... in every shop and worn on every person. I wasn't really into hearts on stuff before, but now I get it. Everything should start and end with love. and the heart is a symbol of that. And you absolutely feel it here.

My favorite beach was Playa de los Muertos. It's not called that because you might die in the water, but because to get to it you have to hike through a hillside cemetery.

Even the cemeteries are full of color and all the graves are bedecked in bright paint and colors and religious imagery ... and some surfboards for good measure.

You come down the hill and there's a little shack with food and beverages being made for the beachgoers, and then you see this pristine beach with almost no one on it. The water was so warm you couldn't tell the difference between water and sky, and I'd float on my back and feel like I was in one of those "Pause" deprivation chambers ... but better. Way better. There would be a margarita waiting next to my towel when I got out of the water, from a friendly guy whose gig that was. It wasn't crowded, and I only heard Spanish ... like this is where the locals hang. I love that ... and indeed, search for that. For the REAL in places.

I was looking for REAL adventure too. I'd heard and read about the "Hidden Beach" in the Marietas Islands off of Punta Mita for years ... seen it from above and HAD to go.

They've drastically limited the amount of people that can enter this cave beach now - because Humans - and I was extremely lucky to finagle a boat to take me there.

"Playa del Amor" is its nickname, again with the love. You jump out of the boat (with helmet and life vest on so you don't end up like the Thai boys) and swim through a little opening in a cave.

Once through the tunnel, you emerge into the crystal clearest water ever, where you are allowed to frolic and take photos for about 20 minutes before you have to leave, again because of humans.

Looking up from this beach was one of the coolest things ever, and I was literally about to burst with gratitude.

If you google it, you can see just how cool it really is - like this blurry shot I stole from the internet.

It felt - and was - special to be there, as even many native Mexicans have never been. My guides were laughing at me, because I was so stoked, but probably also because they didn't understand a word that I was bombarding them with. No matter. Everyone understands a happy face. I will always remember this solo trek to an island beach off Mexico as one of my most special days ... the day after my birthday! What a way to kick off a new year!

Like the smiles and "Hola Amiga's" that greet you everywhere ... like, let's start out as friends. The warm spirit is infectious everywhere you go, and music drifts through the days and nights like a live soundtrack to their lives, all the time. Even the lizards were friendly ... maybe too friendly, because this buff looking green guy would never leave my room, and gave me fresh heart attacks every day when it jumped out of my towels or clothes. But that's Mexico, and you just shrug it off (after screaming bloody murder).

Even the surf schools find a way to be fun and musical ... Get Up, Stand Up! Perfecto.

Though very little English was spoken here, and my Spanish is very L.A. pequito, we all managed to get our points across and enjoy ourselves in the process. One evening after a delicious meal (where they use fried cheese instead of tortillas for their burritos!), I saw a bar with swings instead of stools, and had to belly up.

I was instantly friends with the whole joint, and we all sat out a sudden squall of ferocious rain without a care in the world, and a tequila horchata in hand. That was a fun one.

My days were half lazy and half super active, because I like to do and see everything. I had massages on the beach for $20. I rode a bike around town, but quickly dropped that and hoofed it, because bikes on cobblestones and dirt roads are not that awesome. Walking really lets you see things up close, and lets you be more impromptu about what you go investigate. No matter where I went, it was "Hola, Amiga!" and waves and instant kindness. The Mexican people are wonderful, and I'm so sorry and embarrassed that they've been so vilified by this current U.S. Administration. I was seriously just doing my best to be a goodwill ambassador, and let them all know that WE'RE not all bad. For Heaven's sakes.

As I start a new year, and am back in Venice, and back deep into the drug addiction and homeless problems here, I can only think about how grateful I am that I was able to travel and explore and communicate (even if just by gestures and charades) and let beautiful Mexico know that they are loved, and then to be back here doing something to try to help make these United States be a little less awful. We could really learn a lot from Mexico, from the looks of it. I know they have their own share of problems, but the every day people you meet are lovely. Not sleeping on sidewalks. Not begging. Not complaining. Working hard. Playing hard. Just living their lives with love and color and music and art and family and friends. They really know the value of those things, much more than money, which is where I think we've gone wrong.

Gracias, Sayulita! And Mexico ... I have your back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Viva Venice! Viva Mexico!

The Venice Art Walls are at it again ... reflecting what's going on around us and making the social commentary that goes along with it. This weekend's graffiti news brought a piece that celebrates Venice, celebrates Mexico, and condemns Trump. Perfecto.

I'm on a Mexico trip at the moment (and will be literally this weekend) and it's really been on my mind a lot since the KRS-One show I went to a couple of weeks ago. That prophet said that we were standing on Mexico ... as this art piece (by I'm not sure because I can't make out that tag?) also states. Then we went outside and the hot dog cart ladies took off running from the cops because they were scared of ICE. Then there was this anti-Trump Wall banner hanging on Venice Boulevard. Then there was another checkpoint on Lincoln over the weekend that gets everyone scared about ICE more than DUI's. Then I went to see Rodrigo y Gabriela and absolutely swooned over the beautiful music being made by these Mexican treasures.

You can go anywhere in Los Angeles - or California as a whole, really - and see all the contributions made daily to our lives and economy by our Mexican friends. Did you ever see A Day Without A Mexican? Well, you should. L.A. would literally grind to a halt without them. They should be appreciated and thanked, not persecuted. It's ridiculous, and sad. So, I'm going to go celebrate a new year with all the color and flavor of a Mexican fiesta, and let them all know that we've got their backs - and that we're not all bad. Thank you to the Venice Art Walls artists, for always keeping it on the real real.

Viva Mexico! Viva Venice!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Rodrigo Y Gabriela Live With The L.A. Phil At The Hollywood Bowl!

It was another perfectly balmy and wonderful night at the Hollywood Bowl, and this one was even more special because I was seeing the marvelous Rodrigo y Gabriela for the first time live. And WOW. I'm a fan for life.

The program opened with the ever-charming Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic performing a series of Latin-themed numbers to set the stage for the dynamic duo from Mexico who would join the show later. After The Star Spangled Banner (which we again made it in time for, I'm happy and amazed to report), the orchestra immediately launched into the lively "Nereidas de Dimas" from Salon Mexico by Perez. This number set the tone for the all-out fiesta that everyone in the Bowl had been invited to - and was feeling it.

"Good evening, Buenas Noches!" shouted Dudamel, welcoming everyone to this absolutely beautiful night of music. "We are having fun up here! ... and now we will travel from Mexico to Cuba for a piece called El Caiman, or "Xylophone" - you will see why." The rare xylophone showcase piece by Paul Desenne was full of energy and African rhythms, and yes, a xylophone spotlight. And it was great. The whole place was in a great mood, and I think it was because Dudamel's happy energy is so infectious, you can't help but enjoy yourself. We were loving it, and then we took another musical flight, this time to Argentina for Piazzolla's Oblivion. "This tango is about contemplation of the past, and it is very romantic," explained Dudamel in his charming accent. He was right - what a romantic, beautiful tango of a piece that one was ... swoon! I like it that Dudamel thought so too, saying, "Ahh, it's wonderful, so beautiful!" Totally.

Then we flew back to Mexico (where I will also be flying for my birthday adventure this coming weekend, so this was a wonderful way to kick off the week!) for their "Second national anthem", the great Huapango by Moncayo. There were choppers flying overhead during this one, providing their own interesting percussion, but the crescendo of the music soon made you forget all about them, especially when the gorgeous harp was playing. Dudamel again must have felt the same as we did, as he was beaming all throughout his energetic conducting of the Mexican classic. Our L.A. Phil is SUCH a treasure, and when playing under the stars at the Bowl, it just can't be beat.

Unless you next bring out Rodrigo y Gabriela! The guitar virtuosos took the stage casually, both in dress and demeanor, but the huge cheers before they played a note hinted at the bigger deal that it was. Rodrigo had blue hair for the occasion, and you could tell that they were both fired up to play. The crowd was equally fired up to listen, clapping along from the start of their first piece, "Hanuman". This exciting duo is truly a musical force, and had the entire Bowl mesmerized and immersed in the tunes the whole time. This isn't always easy when it's brand new songs that no one has heard, but no matter. They could play anything and we'd be into it. After the first one, the joint erupted in applause, and Rodrigo said, "This is our fifth time playing the Hollywood Bowl ... it's like magic that we come here without rehearsing and these musicians read papers - and they PLAY. It's fucking amazing!" It really was.

They were playing all new tunes from the new album they're working on now ("The songs are so new I don't remember there names" - G.), and from the sounds of it, it will be a must-own. Gabriela is not only a complete bad ass guitar picker, she is also perhaps the cutest person alive, I'm pretty sure. Her sweet voice when saying, "Buenas Noches, what a treat, it's like Santa Claus at Christmas!" made everyone fall even more in love with her and her playing. As a man about halfway back yelled, "I love you, Gabriela!" echoing everyone else's thoughts.

"Mexico where we live is a beautiful place to get inspired (yay!)", said Gabriela, as she explained that on this new album they worked 9-4, "like in an office". The L.A. Phil had to race to keep up with their breakneck speed-playing, and arms got weary trying to clap along fast enough. My notes simply say "WOW!" in a lot of places. Dudamel's face looked like he was thinking that too. Gabriela said after that one, "I want to say I have a feeling of being very grateful ... we are so lucky to be living this life in this moment ... and now we play 11:11, the title track of their also-named album. She was right, too. We were ALL so lucky to be living this life in this moment ... and I think everyone knew it. It felt special. To where when that one ended, Dudamel said, "Isn't it amazing, this?!" Agreed, 100%.

"Let's have some fun!" said Dudamel before they lit into "Tamacun" ... which we continued to do until the last note. When that last note happened, Gabriela's "Hippie message of the night" was for everyone to please recycle more! Thank you so much, bye bye! There was a standing ovation - of course - and Rodrigo, Gabriela and Dudamel all took a bow together before the L.A. Phil left the stage. There was a brief intermission before Rodrigo y Gabriela came back out together, just the two of them, and sat down on the lip of the stage to fully enchant the entire Bowl with just two people and two guitars. They play off of each other so well, with Gabriela's rhythmic percussive playing and Rodrigo's intricate finger picking ... the two parts make up a majestic whole. It was just SO beautiful ... and the entire audience was on their feet clapping along for the remainder of the show - even a little baby in the box next to us was all about clapping along, in a show that was truly one for the ages - and all ages.

For the final set, they first teased Extreme's "More Than Words" to laughter, before we were really treated to "Cumbe", "Echoes" (a Pink Floyd cover), and their own classic, "Diablo Rojo". People couldn't get enough of it, but it had to end, and did with another thunderous ovation for the remarkable talent of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Again ... WOW. Everyone was still bouncing from it as we all danced out of the aisles and out into the Los Angeles night ... truly feeling grateful for having lived this life in this moment, as Gabriela had said. This was a show we won't soon forget, and I'm so happy to have finally seen this delightful duo play live.

What a wonderful start to Mexican birthday week! Gracias!!!

*Press photos courtesy of The Hollywood Bowl

Friday, August 17, 2018

Shed The Old Leaves

A whole bunch of Venice palm trees were getting a trim while I was on my morning walk, and it was kind of great to watch. The guys are on lifts all the way up, and it looked like fun work. It was mesmerizing to watch the big, dry fronds fall gracefully down to the street for a moment ... and then it got me thinking.

It's back to school time here in L.A.  (even though summer is still in full swing, these poor kids today ...), and kids get new clothes and new supplies, and move on up in grades and intelligence - leaving the old behind. I don't think you ever really grow out of that feeling at the end of the summer ... to me, it's almost more new year than New Year's Eve. Like, o.k. ... let's get down to business for real here. Let's go forward into something new. Let's learn. Let's shed the old leaves and emerge better for it, as we grow UP.

Deep thoughts. Happy Friday. Happy Weekend - let's get to shedding!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Help Every Youth Succeed

I like to regularly check out what's happening down at the Venice Art Walls, because very often what you see there is a reflection of current events, done in a fresh way. The news via art.

A lot of the time it's a big "Venice" or someone's personal tag style stuff, but often there is very conscious thought, as I saw this morning. HELP EVERY YOUTH SUCCEED. That really is the answer to our collective future. ALL our kids are precious. I saw Spike Lee's excellent MUST SEE Blackkklansman last night (HOLY. MOLY.), and the students have a chant ... "All Power to ALL the People!" which I feel is the mantra for all time - but especially these times.

When you have an idiot multi-millionaire like Betsy Devos as the Secretary of Education doing nothing for our youth, and a self-made man like LeBron James giving everything to our youth, you know that things simply MUST change ... from the top down to the bottom up. And soon, or this nice experiment in Democracy called The United States Of America will ultimately fail. Hate. Greed. Love. Generosity. It all starts when you're a kid. It's all taught. And it takes a village.

Teach your children well. Help every youth succeed.

Monday, August 13, 2018

KCRW's Summer Nights Backyard Party With Jim James!

I finally got to see the new KCRW Headquarters in Santa Monica on Saturday night when they held their Summer Nights Backyard Party in the courtyard of their super impressive new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue. The bonus to seeing the new space was that it was for a Jim James (My Morning Jacket) solo gig, and I'll go see that dude anywhere.

It was a perfectly gorgeous evening for an outdoor concert, and the line for the first come, first to get in line stretched around the block for this really fun - and free - event. The crowd was very KCRW Westside Liberal, with friends and families out for a lovely neighborhood jam under the stars. DJ Liza Richardson warmed up the proceedings, spinning popular tracks while people got their buzz on with delish lavender lemonade or spicy tequila drinks - or beer. Food trucks were there, per usual, and a whole lot of schmoozing going on. So much so that when Mr. James took the stage, it was kind of subtle, like he was just all of a sudden there singing "Rainbow Power". "America needs Rainbow Power" is sung truth, and James had the crowd in his hands from then on (aside from the very chatty scenester girls that always seem to be standing near me).

"All In Your Head", "I'm Amazed", and "Just A Fool" were thrown down back to back to back, as James wove his spells among a backdrop of projected art done by Future Lighting that served up a trippy atmosphere that went perfectly with his 70's rock vibe. Backlit with hair blowing in the summer breeze, slinging a red, glittery guitar, James could have been there from a Zeppelin-era time machine. And we were all loving it.

"Throwback" was therefore an apt track to be played, and "Changing World" was straight from now. James sang about living in the now, which was crazy, because I had just run into Rocky Dawuni (another KCRW favorite, the reggae singer from Ghana) earlier and we had talked about exactly that. Living in the moment, as it's all we really have. And these moments were good ones to be living in. Glancing around, everyone seemed happy, and all cares seemed to have been forgotten, at least for the moment.

It's kind of amazing when just one guy with a guitar and no backing band can hold such a big crowd's attention (by now the place was jam packed), but James sure did. "Here In Spirit". "No Secrets". "Too Good To Be True." All awesome. James didn't talk too much, but when he did, he urged everyone to go out and see Blackkklansman - "The most important film in our lifetime". Whoa. That's a pretty hefty claim ... but now I'm going tonight. James sings about things I agree with, so I'll take this as a solid film referral (and get back to you).

"I'm excited to be here to break in this wonderful new space, what a cool place to gather, I'm honored to be here with you tonight," James addressed the surroundings, and I think we all felt the same way. James brought it home with "A New Life", "Rome", "Over And Over", and finished the set with Brian Wilson's "Love And Mercy" with its great line, and great show-ender, "Love and mercy, that's what you need tonight, Love and mercy to you and your friends tonight." How lovely - and we'll take it.

There was no encore, and after the applause died down, DJ Chris Douridas took over the turntables to spin until the party ended ... though no one wanted it to. What a delightful first visit to the new KCRW Campus! If you haven't yet checked it out, there's another Summer Nights Backyard Party next Saturday - this time with Henry Rollins! Yessss!

Bu-huuuut, Oh! Those Su-hum-mer Niiiii-iiiiiights! See you there.

*Photos courtesy Everett Fitzpatrick for KCRW.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

KRS-One Live At LA Live - Boogie Down!

Oh, man. Last night we got to see KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) play the Novo Theater at L.A. Live in Downtown L.A. ... and it was awesome. Old school Hip Hop heads packed the place, but the crowd was really all ages. Youngsters are appreciating the rap pioneers, and it's good to see. Heavily male, my friend, Christina, in her blond ponytail and I were clearly the sore thumbs in the room, but we didn't care, and yelled our approval from right down front. It was even cooler that this hero even made the tickets only $5 USD! Anyone could go. Music for the People!

There were several openers, none of whom made much of their time aside from having people all over the stage filming them. The exception was Mike Xavier, who finally got the crowd into it, most all of whom refused to "Make some noise" until it was time for KRS-One. For good reason. The skill level was so starkly superior when the South Bronx legend took the stage, it was almost embarrassing, but hey - you gotta start somewhere. Backed up by B-Boys and B-Girls (!), KRS-One tore the place up, and the happy crowd's enthusiastic reactions confirmed that REAL Hip Hop and Rap is alive and very well, thank you. I mean, just look! BDP!

We had a blast, with strangers passing j's and shouting along to all the classic lyrics. KRS-One did a fun Hip Hop test, where he rapped O.G. lyrics from all the pioneers of the genre, and would stop and let the audience finish the phrase ... and nearly everyone passed. The music is extra great, of course, but you could also just sit and listen to KRS-One give his super-smart speeches, truly exemplifying the term "Spitting Knowledge". This cat (aka "The Teacha" - for good reason) is so wise, and ultra hip to all the hypocrisy in the world. He spoke to how Racism is in illusion, because Race is an illusion. That we are all one (like I also keep saying). That phones are government tracking devices, and he reminded everyone that when they type "LOL", to be sure to REALLY laugh out loud. To remember the humanity in us all. That "Hip" is your mind, and its knowledge, and "Hop" is the movement. Honestly, we could have just soaked up the wisdom all night, but we both had to work early, and get back to Venice before the big Lyft crowd made its exodus.

When we walked outside, we were bummed to see a dude being held on the ground by like four guards, as we'd just talked inside about how great it was that everyone was together in such harmony at a Rap show. It felt gross, and people were hurt, because stretchers were being called for. We got the hell out of there. Just as our Lyft driver pulled up next to the EMT's that had arrived, we spotted the street dog carts, and remembered that we still hadn't eaten. We bribed the driver to wait with the offer of his own dog, and placed our orders (*FYI - the hotdog carts now take credit cards!). All of a sudden, multiple LAPD cars and officers descended on the scene, and the hot dog cart ladies took off running, in a panicked cart race that might have been amusing, had it not been so serious to them. Yeah, they could get a ticket for being there and vending, but it was really more about these times and ICE. We were left not knowing what to do, as our driver already had his dog, we were waiting for ours, and hadn't yet paid the ladies. So we ran after them, and that's how we got the lowdown. Ugh.

It was a kind of surreal end to the night, and also illustrated things that KRS-One had just talked about. That this land we were enjoying a fresh hip hop show on was really Mexico, and we just took it from them. "There can't be a New Mexico, without Mexico. This IS Mexico!" And we watched terrified ladies take off running because they were scared they were going to be kicked out of their ancestors' former home. And be walled off away from here. As I said in yesterday's Blogtown post, echoing the poster at Venice & Abbot Kinney ... "Together we are stronger than any wall."

KRS-One knows this, and urged us all to get on board with that vibe, if we weren't already. The events that unfolded while the man was still performing only put exclamation points on the whole thing. Listen to this dude any chance you get. Stand together. Look out for each other, at all costs. And Boogie DOWN while you're at it. Like Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your Revolution." Good thing we can do both.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Together We Are Stronger Than Any Wall

I was walking down Abbot Kinney this morning, and stopped to admire this poster while I waited for the light to turn at Venice and Abbot Kinney. "Together we are stronger than any wall."

How true is that? And it applies not only to Trump's ridiculous wall, but to those imaginary walls that we tend to put up between us. Like in Venice now, between the Haves and the Have Nots (though that goes for the entire country/world as well). Like between "Dotard" Republicans and "Libtard" Lefties (both slags that I can't stand). Like between neighbors that don't bother to know each other, and build walls to keep themselves in and everyone else out. It's so basic to realize that by working together for a better situation for everyone absolutely makes us ALL stronger. That is elementary stuff. Golden Rule essential knowledge.

Let's learn this lesson finally, shall we? Thanks to whomever put up this excellent reminder that all the beautiful people in our community living in harmony makes the whole that much more solid. Awesome. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bon Iver + TU Dance Come Through The Hollywood Bowl

In another enchanting evening at the Hollywood Bowl, Sunday night was the West Coast premiere of the collaboration between Bon Iver and the TU Dance company performing "Come Through" for an appreciative Los Angeles audience.

We got there early for once, and were rewarded by both a leisurely picnic and a super interesting performance by "Spiritual America" - another collaboration, by William Brittelle, and performed by Wye Oak with Metropolis Ensemble.

                                                                                                                     Composer William Brittelle

"Spiritual America" is a good title for this project, because it sounds kind of all over the place, but still beautiful ... as spirituality in America definitely also is. We used the term "Experimental" a lot while listening, as it hit you in the same sort of place that Björk's more out there stuff does, then brought it back to a more ethereal, dreamy space, that was made even more so by the colors of dusk and the emerging stars and moon.

                                                                                                                                                Wye Oak

"Nostalgia is a poison," opined singer Jenn Wasner at one point, causing us to do a double-take look at each other and back to her, as I've never thought about nostalgia as such, but when you think about it ... hmm. Their last number was called "Shriek", I believe, and Wasner said it was "about understanding the power of believing in your own myth." But not nostalgia. And that rather nicely sums up their set, and their sound. Wasner closed their set by saying, "We're Wye Oak ... and we did a thing." And we dug it.

We also dug the absolutely gorgeous night that we were sitting within - which was also Scene Central - as scores of KCRW listeners came out in a mass L.A. agreement that this was the place to be. They weren't wrong. Once Bon Iver took to the sparse set of the Bowl stage, with the dancers from TU Dance bringing his music to life, it looked and sounded as if everyone was more than happy to be right exactly there. Here's a sneak preview so you know what I'm talking about:

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) has come a long way sonically since his breakout hit, For Emma, Forever Ago. This bearded cat from Wisconsin seems awfully far from his cabin in the Wisconsin woods, incorporating Autotune on a majority of the songs - a sound that, honestly, makes me want to puncture my own eardrums to stop hearing. Why, Bon Iver? It's really not necessary, when all the talent gathered is so natural and beautiful, why warp it all up to sound like T-Pain? But I digress ...

                                                                                                                            Bon Iver/Justin Vernon

The St. Paul, Minnesota (so I loved them before they took a step) based TU Dance performed mesmerizing modern dance choreography in front of Vernon and his ensemble of musicians in the dark on a scaffold behind them. Video screens behind them all flashed words like "Laughing" "Crying", "Power" and "America" with trippy colors and shapes swirling into a mind-bending whole that hit all the senses. There was also definitely a socio-political slant to the whole deal, in another example of art being the hammer that shapes reality.

                                                                                                                                                TU Dance

All of the music was new to this project, so no one knew anything to sing or dance along to, but no matter ... we were all happy to just sit there and take it all in over copious amounts of wine. Perfect. As all the songs were new, I have no idea of the set list, but suffice it to say that every track packed an emotional punch, especially when so beautifully enacted by this strong troupe of modern dancers. WOW.

At one point the music even veered into hip hop territory, and caused us to do another double-take ... like "This isn't Bon Iver" - but it was. It was Bon Iver stretching and reaching, feeling and creating, to bring us an extravaganza for the senses in a performance that anyone who was there will not soon forget. The whole place stood up and applauded at the end, breaking the spell, but still leaving us all feeling dreamy, as the dazed masses wandered back out into the streets of L.A.

"Welcome to Hollywood, what's your dream?', asked the street hustler asks at the beginning and end of Pretty Woman. Well, last night for nearly 18,000 people in Hollywood, the answer was Come Through. 

*There are plans for this show to be taken on the road. You will not want to miss.

*William Brittelle photo by Stephen Taylor
*Wye Oak photo by Alex Marks
*Bon Iver photo by Andrew Blackstein
*TU Dance photos by Michael Slabodian
*Bowl performance photos by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging