Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tom Morello Kicks Off Atlas Underground Tour At The Varsity Theater!

This year has been heavy metal for everyone, and sometimes you need a night of some good, hard heavy metal ... and EDM, and folk, and classic rock, and ... and ... everything else that you will get out of Tom Morello's Atlas Underground show. WOW. I was so happy to have my CA friends here in MN that they could have played the ABC's (and they would have made that sound cool too!), but the show is really something else ... and I'll say it again ... WOW. The Varsity Theater has some stories to tell after Morello kicked off the first date of his new tour there last night in support of the groundbreaking Atlas Underground, the first solo album released under his own name.

I'm pretty sure the last time Morello and I were both in Minneapolis at the same time was when Rage Against The Machine played here in opposition of the 2008 RNC Convention that was happening in St. Paul. That one was nuts, with police in riot gear at one show, and the electricity getting pulled at another, forcing the band to take to the crowd with bullhorns. Last night also ended up in the best kind of bedlam ... but I'm getting ahead of myself. The evening opened with a set by Bones UK, an all female hard rock band from Camden Town, London ("It's naughty. It's where vampires go to drink whiskey!" - lead vocalist Rosie Bones). I didn't get to make their whole set, because parking in Dinkytown is a joke, but was impressed with what I did catch.

The ladies lit into a Bowie cover, "I'm Afraid Of Americans" as I arrived, and Bones added when introducing the tune, "Well, I'm afraid of ONE American in particular" ... and no one had to guess who. That's when I got why Morello chose this band to open his tour. She told a story about playing a great gig in London, when a guy came up and told them they were great, but they'd never be as good as a dude band, because "Girls can't play guitar". Guitarist Carmen Vandenberg proceeded to directly dispel that ridiculous myth, blazing through their single, "Pretty Waste" for an already packed to the rafters crowd. Drummer Heavy kept it heavy, and the Bones Uk won some new fans (mostly male) in Minneapolis last night. Including me (one of maybe 10 females).

The crew came out to set up for Morello's set, and you could feel the anticipation building in the room. I've seen Morello play countless times - and it's still exciting every time - but for the mostly dudes gathered there at The Varsity, they were getting ready to go OFF for their guitar hero, that in my eavesdropping I learned was the first time for many. That might be because Atlas Underground features collaborations with a super-diverse line-up of artists, with everyone from Bassnectar to Gary Clark, Jr. ... Steve Aoki to Marcus Mumford ... Knife Party to GZA, RZA, and Big Boi! I mean ... !

After quite a while of setting up, the lights went out and heavy videos began playing on the screen in front. Black and white images of immigrants in lines and cages, prisoners in jails, and homeless Army vets combined to let you know exactly where we're at as a country. Then a voiceover with the deep distortion of a kidnapper and a hooded silhouette appeared on the screen, saying, "This is a communiqué from the Atlas Underground ..." that went on to say that on New Year's Eve, we're taking it ALL (I asked Morello about this after and he said that "rebellion is a way of re-setting the clock to 0:00 and starting over ... Let fire be your deliverance!") and then suddenly a hoopla began in the crowd. I was in the photo pit, so the ruckus was behind me, and when I turned around, there was Morello smack dab in the middle of the crowd, breaking into his surprisingly EDM Gary Clark, Jr. collab, "Where It's At Ain't What It Is"! The happy and surprised faces said it all ... this night was going to be something special.

Videos played while Morello made his way back to the real stage, dressed in red bandana, shades, Madiba hat, and an Abraham Lincoln T-shirt. The video concluded with Morello's inspiration of a mother, Mary Morello, saying to camera, "Freedom means fighting for your rights ... And it also means rock and roll!" I love her ... and she's right. A graphic reading "Nazi Lives Don't Matter" was met with shouts of solidarity, and Morello blazed through "Battle Sirens" (the Knife Party collab). Musical chameleon, Carl Restivo, and awesome drummer, Eric Gardner, joined Morello for the visual and musical barrage that never let up the whole night. Laptops took the place of the collaborators (who weren't present), with their recorded vocals and presence in the excellent videos bringing them there into the room with us. All of the videos were designed by Sean Evans, and served to complete the show that Morello himself describes as "One part Marshall stack guitar madness, and one part bassdrop meltdown", with all of the trappings you would expect from a Rock/EDM show (though the videos made it hard to shoot photos, the experience is meant to be immersive and in the moment, not seen through your phone).

"Rabbit's Revenge"was a ROCKER - with a point. This collaboration with Killer Mike, Bassnectar, and Big Boi hits all the way home - such as our home is these days - with kids being murdered by cops and all the other myriad problems we're all dealing with. Messages on the screen said things like "Don't Mourn, Organize!" and "Take one step towards freedom, and it will take two steps towards you!" Up close in the photo pit, you can really see Morello bending his notes, and it's something to behold. The entire place was loving it, and vocally letting the band know it. A pick up in the palm solo led to a little Rage riff that led to the Audioslave tune, "Like A Stone" with recorded Chris Cornell vocals. The crowd sang along to every note, and it had more meaning than other times I've heard it sung along to - because now we all know we don't have Cornell anymore. It's become a much more wistful song to me ... and I think to everyone.

Another Gary Clark, Jr. collaboration was next, and "Can't Stop The Bleeding"  had everyone clapping along in double time, and featured yet another show-stopping guitar solo from Morello - which is really what everyone is there for. Morello then took it acoustic with a Nightwatchman song, "Flesh Shapes The Day" on his "Whatever It Takes" guitar. "Clap your hands, Minneapolis!", shouted Morello - and we did. "Alright, stop clapping!", commanded Morello - and we did. "Fuck, yeah!", exulted Morello at the end, and everyone in there said that too.

"Save The Hammer For The Man" found Carl Restivo filling in on the Ben Harper part, and it was gorgeous with the harmonies, and also with the flamenco-style guitar solo Morello threw in there. Morello here took a moment to greet the room, saying, "Thank you all for coming, I'm happy to be back in the city I've played so many great shows in, then went into deeper Minnesota tracks for his shout-outs than the usual Prince, Dylan, and First Avenue. Instead, Morello tipped his Madiba hat to the Walker Art Center, Kirby Puckett (!), and Babes In Toyland (who Morello's high school friend Maureen Herman played bass for). Awesome.

There was 45 seconds of tuning, which for a Morello show means that time has to be filled with the "loudest 45 seconds in the history of this club!" - and I think it was probably the loudest, because my ears are still ringing a little bit. The next song was dedicated to Chris Cornell and our "Moments of doubt", and Morello asked for absolute silence for "The Garden Of Gethsemane" - and he got it. I didn't even hear anyone breathing. The reverence for Cornell - and for the beauty of the song - kept the previously rowdy crowd perfectly rapt, so much so that Morello didn't even use the mic. Sublime.

He had promised to reward the silence with "Heavy metal bangers the rest of the way", and that's exactly what he gave us next. "How Long" featuring Tim McIlrath from Rise Against and Steve Aoki got people hyped out of their faces, and the video played after featured Morello's sons and their friends asking questions, and making statements, ending with "I wish he'd just shut up and play guitar!" Morello gets that all the time (and I've had several online fights defending him from that garbage), and if people don't get by now that this man has some real real things to say - AND walks that talk every day - then we really can't help them. He is always going to speak truth to power, so you'd better get used to it.

So, he DID come back out and play guitar, for a shredding, ridiculous version of Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" that Morello has now very much made his own. It's always a true highlight, and always gives me the chills. The teeth solo gets 'em every time, and last night was no different. The fans were SO into it ... but then it got REALLY nuts. "Are we in this together, People?!", asked Morello and the People shouted in the affirmative. "Well, then why am I up on the stage without you? Please join me on the stage!" OK. This was about as close as I've ever come to being trampled (aside from one very heavy Primus set at Lollapalooza), as the super-fans all pressed toward the stage, jumping barriers, pushing over people, doing whatever they could to get up there. Morello kept asking for more people, and the security dudes were stressing. While they were scrambling up there, Morello issued the warning that people not mess with his stuff or put a phone in his face, as he's been known to throw them. And it's been deserved. There were finally enough people up there for Morello's liking for him to say, "OK, let's finish the night with an old gospel song!" - which was Rage's "Killing In The Name"! It was solid pandemonium in there, as everyone shouted in unison "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" with middle fingers all the way raised. It was chaos. It was cathartic. It was necessary. It was these times, defined in a song.

"Minneapolis, put the house lights up!" They did, and the room was illuminated with the happy faces of the people recognizing that they have the power - so we sang one more. John Lennon's "Power to the People" had everyone jumping up and down together, in raucous solidarity.

The ad for the show calls The Atlas Underground Live Experience "The last big event before we all go to jail." I asked Morello what he meant by this, and he explained that the impending police state, with facial recognition and all that, and the looming situation of Trump refusing to leave office should lead to "Hong Kong style riots in Times Square" ... where we would all go to jail. Because we're standing up for what's right, and up TO what's wrong. If you can be made to feel that way from attending a rock show, I'm sure glad that Morello refuses to ever just shut up and play guitar. We need him now, more than ever. And we need each other ... because we truly really absolutely do have the power - and it's time to use it.

Please do not miss your shot to experience The Atlas Underground Live show, because I want you to feel this way too. We need you. Thanks to Tom Morello, for always asking us to think, and for giving us the inspiration to do something with those thoughts. Like fighting the powers that be.

Fists raised!

The Atlas Underground Live Experience is on tour across America now. GO!

*I miss Paul Gronner Photography!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Venice Muralist Never Hits Minneapolis - A Day Of Prince Art

Well, I'm back in Minneapolis for a bit, but always take a little Venice with me. I was happy to hear that muralist Jonas Never (artist of the big black and white Touch Of Evil piece on Windward in Venice, among many others) was here in town working on a big Prince piece downtown in the North Loop, on the side of a Floyd's Barbershop.

I went down to check it out, and it's a great addition (though the face reminds me more of Fred Armisen as Prince) to the many Prince tributes around the legend's hometown. It made me want to pay a visit to Paisley Park, as I hadn't been out there since I went after Prince's death in 2016. All the hoopla has settled down out there, but as I drove down Highway 5 past Paisley Park, I had to pull over fast. I saw that down a bike path along the highway there was still a big fence full of purple tributes to Prince Rogers Nelson. There was nowhere to safely park, so I went to an office park, climbed a fence, walked back along the highway, through a drainage ditch, over another little fence, and behold - a beautiful memorial remains for all to come from around the globe and pay their respects.

There were so many lovely sentiments written, and so many creative ways of showing one's love for the Artist that can never be replaced, and who will clearly never, ever be forgotten. People had whole books inside of plastic sleeves, flowers, pancake mix, starfish and coffee, and even a purple Prince jacket. One could spend the whole afternoon just reading what Prince has meant to so many.

A little sign said that the memorial was kept up by area neighbors, and to please not take anything, and to be sure to visit the tunnel too. Tunnel?! On my way ...

I was surprised to see a guy down there in the tunnel under the highway, wearing a purple beret and painting away at an easel. His name is Dan Lacey, and he is known as the "Painter of Pancakes". I remembered seeing him back in 2016, when he was set up among the droves of mourners and tributes, doing a piece of Prince on a bike.

Lacey continues to paint Prince and help maintain the Memorial, and he was great about giving me all the information and trivia on Prince that one would ever hope for. He even had a flyer printed up called "Prince's Places", and you can go visit the various homes and landmarks made famous by our beloved native son, including all of the local murals.

There was a piece of Prince done on the ceiling of the tunnel, that Lacey told me was done by an artist that used to cut herself, but now uses knives to create. He pointed out the detail on her piece, and you could see that the whole work was made up of Prince symbols created with a knife. Cool.

A couple more people came through while I was down there in the tunnel chatting with Lacey, and you could see that they too were visibly moved. It was their first visit to Paisley Park, and I forget now where they were from, but their point of being in Minnesota was to pay their respects at Paisley Park. Prince's life was so big and reached out so far, that it's sad all over again when you realize what a massive void his loss has left, and how easily it could have been prevented. It's truly a damn shame.

I told Lacey I would let him know when the Never mural was done and where it is, so here you go! And thank you for helping to keep the wonderful memories of this once in a lifetime star alive for Minnesotans, and for his legions of fans from around the world. He was truly something else.

Prince Rogers Nelson June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016 - Forever.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Venice Gets A Rainbow Crosswalk!

It was crazy to be back in Venice after being gone all summer, and to see how much things have changed. So many businesses gone, so many new ones in. I found myself fondly remembering the days when we stood up and fought against chains, and ran Pinkberry out of town in just a few months, and I liked Pinkberry - just not in Venice. With so much of the cool being priced out of Venice, it was nice to see one NEW cool thing ... a rainbow crosswalk on Abbot Kinney!

I remember sitting in Tim Bonefeld and Erinn Berkson's (owner of one of the few remaining locally owned businesss on Abbot Kinney, the wonderful Burro!) living room after dinner a while back, and Tim talking about how he had the idea for a rainbow crosswalk to replace the dingy one outside of The Roosterfish ... and he made it happen! Dedicated on June 28th, 2019 (when I was gone, sadly) it now glistens there in the sun, AND makes crossing safer on AKB.

The Roosterfish used to be my Abbot Kinney Festival go-to spot to use the ladies room, as there was never a line for it in there. It was almost all gay men. Those days appear to be gone, as the place was packed with the Millenial crowd, and who knows if anyone was gay anymore in there. That's fine, it's just different, and I feel a little bad for all the people who would gather there in THEIR spot. Still, it's pretty cool to have the first rainbow crosswalk in Los Angeles celebrating our LBGTQ friends right here in Venice.

There are plaques in the street for the people who sponsored each color, and they are all to be commended (especially after the debacle this year between Venice Pride and the Venice Chamber of Commerce, who refused to let them use the Venice Sign for Pride - yeah.) for making Venice still have a little cool, and making the now douchebag-filled Abbot Kinney (Seriously. Locals I spoke to that haven't left didn't even know about the crosswalk because they won't go to AKB anymore!)  rainbow bright!

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

New Digs For Nick Fouquet Hats!

It was crazy how much had changed in Venice while I had been gone this summer. Being back in my familiar streets wasn't as familiar this time ... and I fear it's only getting worse. Losing Canal Club was bad, as it had its last days while I was gone, and so did Surfside. Now I'm hearing that we're losing the absolute institution that is Windward Farms! And then this just in, Tamara's Tamales is going away now too! Geez! You really have to wonder if any of our places that originally made Venice cool will be left soon, and it's really sad. I was happy, however, to see that my friend Nick Fouquet and his hats had NOT left Venice, but has moved into a new space formerly occupied by my beloved Marla's on the mellow end of Abbot Kinney, right across from the French Market (where French Fouquet and I both often frequent). And it is great.

You would never know that this bright, airy space had housed a restaurant, as it is now a posh showroom for what Venetians and celebrities all agree are THE world's coolest hats. I've written about Fouquet and his hats ever since he was an apprentice to Greg Westbrook, making hats in the basement parking garage on Abbot Kinney. Fouquet went out on his own, moving his shop up the street to a little bungalow on Abbot Kinney (that formerly housed Fioré Designs), where things really started to take off. Yes, a Fouquet hat is going to set you back, but I'm all for someone who started local and made good locally, so good for him!

The hatter then moved his shop to another little bungalow on Lincoln Boulevard, where they continued to thrive. Things have gotten so big that they needed more space, and that's when they found the Marla's space.

They have the gorgeous showroom, but they also have office space, production space, and even a chill space outside, complete with a living plant wall.

The wonderful hats coming out of here, with their trademark matchstick tucked into the brims, are now topping the heads of some of the world's biggest stars. Everyone from Gary Clark, Jr. to Gigi Hadid, Madonna to Bob Dylan ... they're all wearing Nick Fouquet hats. It all blew up when Pharell wore a Nick Fouquet chapeau to the Grammys a few years back, and now to stand in front of the wall of alphabetically sorted hat forms with client names on them is to stand before a who's who of ALL the stars, from rock to sports. I'm SO proud of what Fouquet has built, and it has been a delight to witness it all from the beginning.

I stopped in to congratulate Fouquet on the new headquarters, but he was off in Portugal or Prague or somewhere, bringing his hats to the entire globe. I did get to visit with Fouquet's right hand woman - and my friend - Ali Jenkins, and wish her well as she's about to be married this coming weekend in New York! CONGRATULATIONS to these excellent Venice friends on all the good! Cheers and much love! One of my very favorite Venice quotes ever was when I first moved here, and there was a man selling hats on the Boardwalk shouting, "Venus is in retrograde, everyone needs a hat!" The logic made some kind of sense to me then, and now, as VENICE itself is in retrograde, everyone REALLY needs a hat. And I hope for mine to be a Nick Fouquet. Lit.

Nick Fouquet Hats
2300 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 11-5

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happy Tenth Birthday, Venice Skatepark!

The Venice Skatepark opened on October 3, 2009 (Here's that story), and today celebrates its ten year anniversary! This true diamond in the rough of Venice has become a second home for a new generation of skaters, all looking to carry on the legend of Dogtown and Venice skaters.

There have been too many memories to count, from skate contests to film shoots to Life Rolls On events to just regular weekdays after school giving the kids of Venice and the surrounding areas a place to go to hang out and get good at a sport that is truly one of the things that defines Venice.

There is a great movie about the long road to getting a Skatepark built in Venice, called Made In Venice, and it's a must-see for anyone who cares about either skating or Venice, but preferably both. It lets you know how important Jesse Martinez has been to the Skatepark, and its maintenance, and how Los Angeles really needs to compensate the man properly, and let him do his job. This park is a wonderful GIFT to our community, and we all need to make sure it stays beautiful for many years to come. A skater friend of mine in Minneapolis told me it's the best Skatepark he's ever been to, "Because it's SO beautiful!" - and it really is. There's the ocean right there, and the most famous Boardwalk in the world right over there. It's a treasure.

Happy First Decade, Venice Skatepark! We love you.

*First photo I took today.
 *Second photo is Ray Rae I believe!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The 2019 Abbot Kinney Street Festival - A True Venice Homecoming

AHHHHHHHH. BACK IN VENICE! And just in time for the annual Abbot Kinney Festival, that I don't believe I've ever missed in 25 years, and wasn't about to start now. I got in from Minnesota the night before, and woke to a beautiful, sunny Indian Summer Venice day! I believe I didn't stop smiling from ear to ear the entire day, like my face actually hurt a little bit the next day. But WELL worth it.

There was a Vikings game on also, so I had to catch a little of that, and then I couldn't stand it anymore and had to get out in the streets to see my people again - though I did encounter another Viking in the crowd (as seen above), and we checked the score together (and that made me not think about it again that day). I had my first stop at Beyond Baroque to see the exhibit A History of Venice put on by the Venice Heritage Museum just in the nick of time, as it was its last day, and they were about to do the closing ceremony prayer.

Arranged by decade, the exhibit was awesome, and I wish I'd had more time to really give it the attention it deserved, because it was a LOT of work, and a LOT of Venice history. Just glancing around the walls, you felt the years and years of creativity and change surround you ... and made you happy that you had even some small part in it.

It was a great joy and relief to see so many friendly faces, and receive so many warm embraces from my Venice friends who know what I've been dealing with all summer with my Mom back home in Minnesota. It made me heart actually swell up to know how many people actually really do care. THANK YOU! We all went outside to the garden to hear a prayer from Mike Bravo and his Tongva Tia Angie Behrens. It was beautiful, and set a lovely tone of appreciation for the day ahead.

I dove into the sea of people on Abbot Kinney, and it might have been more packed then I've ever seen the Festival - with mostly people I didn't know. That's a kind of sad shift, as it used to be you could pick out the people you didn't know ... but it was still a blast to run into old friends every five feet or so. This year it was less about booths and music and stuff for me, as I really just wanted to see as many of my friends at once as I could. There was no real "Locals" stage this year for us to have as our headquarters, as my friend Matt Ellis who usually books it, moved to the desert. I guess the Winston House did it this year, and I'm going to have to help them with booking locals, as I'd never heard of any of them. Except the Samba School that closed it out. I always love to see them parade through the Festival, but this time they got their own headlining spot, which was fun.

It was such a blast reuniting with everyone, I didn't even want to stop to eat or drink, but one must survive. We zipped into Gjelina for a couple minutes and bites, and then I had to go check out Attaway, who was showing his art in the space out back behind The Stronghold.

The art was as good as ever, and I was happy to see one of the subjects of our film 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED (which we were also shooting for in the middle of all of this!) doing so well, and being his usual philosophic and awesome self.

You have to take breaks at the AK Fest, so we did a little time at my friend Darla's house, before the fear of missing out made me drag everyone back out there. I got my friend Stephanie back in Venice from the Valley, and it was just like old times, Man. Loving every minute of it!

The new Roosterfish was going off, but now it's full of Millenials taking selfies. Gone seem to be the days of ducking into the Roosterfish to use the bathroom during the Festival, because there was never a line for the Ladies Room. Sigh. Looked like people were having fun though, and I dug the rainbow awning, AND the new rainbow crosswalk out front!

I want to say too, that it meant SO much that so many people asked how my Mom was doing. People who don't even know here in real life really care, and it warmed my heart all day. I didn't pay much attention to the booths and stuff, as I mentioned this year was all about those people for me. It was great, however, to see so many booths still being put up by locals. Principessa, Ananda, Trim, The Stronghold, Amiga Wild, The Venice Art Walk, and of course, Dogtown and Hecho En Venice, were all out there representing, and that made it easier to find those friends too! I want a do-over of the whole day, really, just so I can see even more people and stuff.

A highlight of my Festival this year was this little hippie dude walking through the crowds selling what looked to be flower crowns. Weaving through the gridlock of bodies, he was just smiling and spreading the love ... exactly what I want to see here in Venice. Thanks, Brother!

Another little break led us almost to sunset, and some of the most beautiful lighting ever. Everywhere you looked revelers were snapping photos of how gorgeous it all was, and no one could blame them.

The Festival was winding down, but everyone had had so much fun, no one wanted it to end. People stood around in the street as tents and booths began to come down and the cops did their sweep.

The Venice Metal Works space was going off with actual heavy metal drawing a big crowd. I didn't catch the name of the band, because I too was partying, but they were good!

A little old lady was playing her tambourine along with the metal, and that was another highlight of the day for me right there.

The Brooksfest thing was happening again this year (WHY don't they do it another day?! There's too much to get to as it is!!), and we passed it by on the way to the sunset at the beach that I have been craving all summer.

It was packed in their parking lot, but that's not what we needed at the end of a packed day. We needed a sunset at the drum circle and a burger at Hinano. And that's exactly what we got.

What a fantastic day. It carried on much, much later as I had to sit by a fire and just talk forever with friends who I've missed so much all summer. I need to say a massive THANK YOU to all of Venice for welcoming back with such generous, loving, and open arms. This has always been the home I CHOSE, and every time I'm here it's clear to me once again why. I would go on much longer about this, but now I HAVE to go to the BEACH. The sun is out and I haven't been in the water since May ... but hope to see you ALL soon!

I love you, Venice.