Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tobias Daniels

Filmmaker Tobias Daniels at his L.A. haven, a balcony at the Grove

At The Grove 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles (Mid-City West)


While several artists have opted to do their Jigsaw interviews at the Grove, none of them took me to the exact place in the shopping center that Los Angeles-based filmmaker Tobias Daniels did. In fact, I'm willing to bet that none of them even know about the hidden-in-plain-sight balcony that he refers to as his "hideaway."

"This is the best kind of secret because it's in such a commercial area. It sounds weird because it's the Grove, but it's like my little East Village," he shares. "When I was in the East Village I could watch people from my apartment. I would leave the windows open and stare at people, watch the world go by."

Albeit, there hasn't been much time for Tobias to do too much people-watching lately. On top of his day job as a videographer for PopStar! Magazine, he has spent the past six years working on Black Velvet, a feature-length documentary on African-American LGBT performance artist T-Boy. Filming has taken him everywhere from San Diego and Miami to Alabama and Berlin. Tobias finally has some time to breathe in between wrapping up post-production and preparing for the doc's theatrical release, so he is able to meet me at the Grove's famous fountain and lead me to his favorite spot in the entire city.

"The reason I brought you here is because if I'm editing, coming up with concepts or writing, I need that space to clear my head," he says, as we make our way to the Starbucks located on the third floor of Barnes & Noble, place an order and step out onto the balcony. "I either get a large hot chocolate if it's cold or a small latte and a triple chocolate chunk cookie. The great thing about this balcony is it's set back so you can spy on people without anyone knowing. The Grove has this piped-in, magical music, it's kind of like Disneyland here, and people do the weirdest things like dance and sing to each other. There are couples, gays and tourists – it's a people-watching situation that you don't really get anywhere else in L.A. I literally just stare at people until my own head is focused enough so I can sort through whatever I need to sort through idea-wise. I normally come in the evening after I've gone through the day and I've come to that point where my brain cannot process anything else, so I just stand here and watch people."

We watch shoppers walk along the road beneath us for a while, take in the amazing view of the Hollywood Hills and Tobias begins to tell me about his childhood. Although he was born in Jersey, most of his youth was spent in Iowa and Colorado. Because of his mother's love for film, no matter what state his family called home, movies were always a part of the household.

"Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple was the first time I was interested in the director, the actors and understood that the film wasn't just this thing to entertain me, that something bigger went into it. My first VHS was E.T. I was a teenager when The English Patient came out, and I've probably seen that 150 times. It's another sweeping epic, so put that and The Color Purple side by side, and that's one side of the coin," he begins. "On the flip side, I like the weird, dark and deep. Stanley Kubrick because I don't know how many people can do the weird things he did and get away with it the way he did. A lot of people have tried, and it's not art the way that he made it. I like scenes from Eyes Wide Shut, but I don't know if i like it as a whole. I like 2001, but I don't fully understand it. I'm not going to lie! Then, Federico Fellini because he was brilliant. It's like watching a song when you watch his movies, and they're weird also. There's a part in the middle of La Dolce Vita where I lose focus, and once I get through to the other side it changes my entire mood. 81/2, I like because it's about the crazy life of an Italian director so I'm glued to the screen the whole movie."

As a child, Tobias performed in choir and theater. In fifth grade he write, directed and starred in his first play, "Birds Fly North" about a flock of geese that, instead of flying south for the winter, flies to New York to hang out in Central Park. Performing continued to be his first love throughout high school and, just like that flock of geese, Tobias moved to New York to attend the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. 

There Tobias learned about script analysis, working with actors and being an actor. Around this time he was also featured in a Christina Aguilera music video directed by David LaChapelle, and was chosen to pose as a young Muhammad Ali in LaChapelle's contribution to the Taschen GOAT art book. All of these experiences, however, were not bringing Tobias the happiness he had expected.


"I woke up one day and said I'm not good at this – not that I couldn't do it, but I wasn't finding joy in it. My classmates said, 'You're good, though,' and I replied, 'It takes you five seconds to drop into a role. That process takes me two hours. If I'm going to do something that takes that much out of me, I want it to be something I love, that makes me happy," he remembers. "Thankfully at that time I was working on a friend's play, assisting with light and sound. I ended up running light and soundboards for equity stages and realized that I liked it. There was literally a moment when I was queuing the lights, the action of turning up the lights and the actor moved me, and I was filled with joy. I knew this was in line with what I want to do." 

To please his parents, he enrolled at the University of Illinois, majoring in liberal arts. He was able to meld his senior thesis with a TV pilot he wrote and was developing. The script landed at Nickelodeon, and Tobias was soon on his way to Los Angeles where the pilot would be produced.

"That went nowhere," he laughs. "It was a really horrible year after that, I had no plan B. Something told me to stay in Los Angeles, and I suffered through that first year. Then I got the job at PopStar!, and the pieces started coming together."

Even though his childhood was quite gypsy-like, Tobias has adjusted to living in one city quite well. I don't think he would rather be anywhere else than Los Angeles.

"I love that weather is always like it is today, that our only complaint for the past few weeks is that it's been a little humid for our fragile skin," he teases. "I have really awesome friends here. That might be a testament to working with really great people and out of that, developing great friendships. The word on the street right now is if you're artistic, you're either moving to L.A. or Berlin, so I feel like this is the place to be. I love Berlin, but it's not L.A."

Some of the places that make Los Angeles home for Tobias, include Harvard & Stone ("Their drinks are expensive but delicious and strong, and the bartenders are really cute!"), happy hour at El Carmen, a brunch of eggs benedict at Home or Alcove Café and burritos from Cactus Mexican Food No. 2 on Beverly. Since Tobias only lives a few miles away from the Grove in East Hollywood, he can reach his beloved balcony haven in a quick drive. 

It's apparent how much time he spends here, when the Starbucks barista asks him, "Do you work around here?" "No, I'm just obsessed with the Grove," he replies with a grin.

He often catches a double feature at the Grove's Pacific Theatres and raves about the Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Sorbet at the Bennett's Ice Cream Stand located at the Original Farmers Market next door.

As he finishes his latte and triple chocolate chunk cookie, we revisit his years spent in New York to the time when he first encountered T-Boy and the inspiration for Black Velvet was born.

"I was bartending, and he was the Friday-night DJ at the club that I worked at in Chelsea. He always had a good understanding of music – not just Bobby Brown sang this song, now Britney Spears is singing this song and I'm going to play the Bobby Brown version, but where did Bobby Brown get the original beats from, it's probably from a group like the Temptations. He would find a cool way of mixing the Temptations and Britney Spears; it always blew my mind. He introduced me to new music. It was about the time that hipster really began to take off, and he had that whole Solange, Afropunk vibe about him." Tobias recalls. "Eventually we became friends, and he told me what his real passion was: singing. He told me his story, about being in the pre-Don't Ask, Don't Tell Navy. He's a very tall, thin, statuesque man, who wears these crazy outfits. The best way I can describe him is if Grace Jones and Marilyn Manson had a lovechild, that would be him." 

Tobias was so struck with T-Boy's musical ear, flair and talent that he knew the performer would make for a fascinating subject for a documentary. As the layers of T-Boy's personal history became revealed, the crew traveled from San Diego to Miami, Alabama and eventually Germany to capture the entire story. To fund the the trip to Germany, the crew turned to Kickstarter, and  their goal was generously met. 

From the crowd-source support and finding an Emmy-winning Director of Photography (Greg Harriott) to shoot the film to the unexpected raw emotions expressed by T-Boy and his family in scenes, Tobias feels like luck has undoubtedly been on his side throughout this project. What began as a rise-to-fame story turned into something incredibly bigger in Black Velvet.

"It took so long to do this film because there was a bigger story about acceptance and his family that came to the surface when we were filming in San Diego. We just went there to get footage for his Navy years, and two weeks after that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was overturned. The story turned and became more about his struggle. I realized that the struggle in the end is what is giving him fans, it's what's making him a success [in Germany]," Tobias comments. "My cousin is helping me find a scholar to talk about African-Americans during the jazz era, like Josephine Baker, who went to Paris, Germany and other places in Europe to find success because here they were second-class citizens. It's the story of a lot of LGBT artists now." 

Tobias assures that Black Velvet may have moments that will make you cry and think about the bigger picture on certain issues, but it is anything but a depressing film.

"A lot of people have come up to me and said, 'This story needs to be told because it's a voice of a people.' I honestly wasn't going into it that way, but fully am embracing it now because it's how the story turned," he says. "Originally I wanted to make a movie about an artist who just happens to be gay, but now I'm fully embracing the gay because it has become a voice in it, a struggle unique to him but also a struggle of other LGBT artists. I don't have any answers, but all I have to do is say it out loud through the film. I'm not trying to find a solution, but I do know that I have to say it."

Tobias' own story is one of bravery in admitting that performing wasn't for him, which eventually led to him finding his true calling behind the camera; in taking the chance of life in Los Angeles where he had no job, family or friends to begin with; and in continuing to push himself creatively as a filmmaker.

"I have the same feeling now that I did when I was young, I knew in my heart that I was going to be in the biz. I'm the black sheep artist in my family, and there was always this 'I need to stick with this no matter what' [mentality]," Tobias concludes as he reflects on life as an indie filmmaker. "You make mistakes, and through them you learn other ways of coming to a shot that a director got with a giant budget. I can modify this and kind of get the Kubrick effect. [I've learned] that sometimes you have to do the best with the circumstances you're in. In the end, I will be a better director, a more flexible director, because of it. You can't always have the big sweeping epic, but sometimes you can create the same effect with what you have. It's about realizing that and letting go."

For more information, visit tobiasdaniels.com.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dreaming Bull

Gabe Rowland and Nic Capelle of Dreaming Bull

 

DREAMING BULL

At Altadena Ale House

2329 Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena 626-794-4577


At first glance, it may seem like Nic Capelle and Gabe Rowland, the founding members of Los Angeles-based band Dreaming Bull, are complete opposites. Drummer Gabe, an L.A. native, is a fiery ball energy who barely stops to take a breath in between stories of his various escapades throughout the city over the years. Guitarist/vocalist Nic hails from Perth, Western Australia and is just as animated as Gabe but in a slightly less frenzied way. Although their musical backgrounds are quite different, their shared passion and dedication to the craft show that they're definitely cut from the same cloth.

"What is so exciting about collaborating with Nic is that every time we sit down together, something absolutely fresh and new comes out because we're two completely different people. I'm Mexican-American from California, and he's Australian-American," Gabe shares. "You always know that the unexpected is going to hit you in the most giddy way. That excitement is almost like opening a Christmas gift because you don't know what you're going to get when you start unwrapping a song." 

The pair first encountered one another several years ago in Chicago, where Gabe was living at the time. He had just started an electronic project with his wife, and their first gig was opening for Nic's London-based band.

"We had a really fun show. All these guys with funny accents came on, and it was like that '80s commercial where your hair is blown back. It was insane, and everyone was shaking their asses," Gabe remembers. "By the time they were done, we asked them to stay at our house since they were on tour, and we've been family ever since."

"We kept in touch, e-mailing and throwing ideas across to one another. Then Gabe came to play drums on a tour with that particular band," adds Nic. "From there, a brotherhood formed, and we decided to get our own project going."

it was then that the parameters for the sounds that would eventually become Dreaming Bull's began to take root: gospel, old R&B (the Coasters), soul (vintage Little Richard), New Orleans (the Meters) and what Gabe calls "the bacon," the sound you get when you fist set a needle down on a record. Gabe would send Nic a link to an obscure song he liked, and Nic would send back the beginnings of a tune (a baseline, vocal) inspired by some part of that original song. Then, they would take turns adding more layers until it began turning into an actual composed track.

"Nic would always fully realize the song because he's a genius engineer. He always refined everything in a mathematical, engineer way. I was just putting ghetto wildness on it, and he would tame it," informs Gabe.

"We rein each other in, in that respect. The place that it starts is always a raw, 'we don't give a fuck about what's popular at the moment' kind of thing, but we make sure that it's catchy as hell because it's important to us that it gets stuck in people's minds, that it has all of the elements of those old records that we're all so fond of that make you say, 'They don't make music like that anymore.' We want to take a bit of what we love from those old eras and bring it into the future in a digestible way," continues Nic. "The band that recreates old songs to a T, there's merit in that but there's also a sense of 'they did a good job, but it still isn't as good as what it used to be,' so why weigh yourself down trying to replicate what was done before. Take the bits that are relevant, re-purpose them in the now with a slight twist."

This is something that Dreaming Bull has succeeded in on their recently released self-produced, self-titled debut album. They two musicians take me to their favorite local watering hole, Altadena Ale House, to talk about their rich musical histories, Dreaming Bull's L.A. birth and the album.

Dreaming Bull at Altadena Ale House
 It would be easy to pass right by the bar if you didn't know its address; its unremarkable exterior resembles an office front. Once you step inside, though, you immediately realize why so many in the neighborhood call it their "Cheers."

"This is where Nic and I come to take a break. Is my wife watching the kids? Yes. Is your wife at work? Yes. OK, I'll meet you at the Ale House," Gabe says.

"For me this area feels the closest to home, living right next to the San Gabriel Mountains. We go hiking twice a week since we live close to the trail entrance near JPL, and the climate is closest to Western Australia. I want to be in a hub of music, that's why I left Australia. There are a lot of bad vibes that come with L.A., but it was all blown away when I got here because we're not in Hollywood, we're in our own oasis, close to the mountains," explains Nic of his new homebase. "Pasadena is steeped in musical history. Universal Audio, which makes the soundcard and all the plugins I use, their factory is in Pasadena and a lot of musical equipment companies have been based in Pasadena. It's a testament to the good energy in this area – it's rich in heritage, and I'm glad to be here."

A wide selection of craft ales is another bonus Los Angeles can add to its scorecard where Nic is concerned.

"They have wicked IPAs here at the Ale House, and it's very unassuming. Gabe always strikes up a conversation with whoever is next to him," Nic comments, before telling me what's in his pint glass. "This is the Indica India Pale Ale from Lost Coast Brewery. It's great. I am actually an IPA fan and have been since I came to the states."

"Nic means 'beer' in Australian," jokes Gabe.

The drummer is always quick to chime in with a hilarious or sarcastic one-liner, but he is always serious when it comes to his music. In fact, he becomes downright reverent when talking about a musical epiphany he experienced five years ago.

"I was at Jazz Fest and all these amazing artists were playing, but I could not pull myself away from the gospel tent. Someone would say, 'You have to come, Santana's playing,' I said, 'I have the spirit, and I'm not going anywhere. I can't leave.' It was a really pivotal moment for me, this is what touches me, along with the rawness and essence of punk rock, the truth that punk rock tells. If there was a band that could say what punk rock says lyrically like Exene Cervenka but sounded like some rare Al Green shit, they would be the greatest band in the world."


"I did have a similar experience seeing Groove Armada. On record they're a duo, but I saw them with a full gospel vocal backup section, drums, guitar and bass. It was one of the most powerful gigs that I saw, with the essence of all that gospel flavor. I was in a hip-hop band where I used to rap when I was younger, and I realize now that a lot of the samples I was using were actually gospel samples," Nic confesses. "There was definitely a bit of that influence back then, perhaps it was subconscious. I used to listen to my grandpa's records a lot, and he had loads of blues and jazz: Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker. My mom's a painter, so the creative gene is in me."

Gabe's older brother turned him on to bands like the Rolling Stones, Prince, Cheap Trick and the Clash.

Nic prods Gabe to tell me one of his favorite stories, which also involves that same brother.

"My brother, cousin and I drove from Claremont to see the Who at the Coliseum. We stopped in Pomona to get a 24-pack of Coors Light, and as we're driving off, this guy stops us and asks if we want to buy this ginormous brick of Thai stick. 'It's worth $350, but  I'll sell it to you for $40.' We said, 'We only have $10 each, and we're going to spend the night in front of the Coliseum to see the Clash and the Who tomorrow. We have to eat and make it back home.' 'You're going to go see the Who? Buddy, when they play 'Baba O'Riley,' you remember me,' the guy said, and he gave me the huge brick," Gabe laughs. "We roll to the Coliseum, I'm 14 and look like a suntanned Eddie Van Halen. My brother was a comedian, and there was a point around 4 a.m. when 100 people were around him laughing as he was making fun of everybody. He said, 'And Eddie Van Halen over here can't hold his shit.' I started laughing so hard that I started throwing up at the same time. All of a sudden everyone was laughing so hard at me."

Eventually Gabe found his way to Rush and Led Zeppelin before one album changed everything.

"When I was 15, this girl I was in love with was going to see X, so I went and bought Under the Big Black Sun. The first song was 'The Hungry Wolf,' and I was completely blown away," he recalls. "I was completely into punk rock after that. I joined a punk band when I was 16, starting touring with them at 18."

While Nic always sang in rock bands while he was in high school, he was also in hip hop and rap, as he mentioned earlier. This led to an interest in music production and a job at a radio station doing promos. He lived in Sydney where he started learning piano and then guitar then moved to Berlin and then London, before landing in Chicago and crossing paths with his future Dreaming Bull cohort.

When Gabe was 23, his band Momma Stud was signed to Virgin and toured with acts an eclectic array of acts, including Al Green and Nirvana. The drummer became a fixture of the L.A. rock scene in the mid-1990s, hanging out with Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and frequenting the infamous jam sessions at Canter's Kibitz Room. Later he started a trip-hop band, Guadalupe, that opened for the likes of Morcheeba and Fiona Apple before morphing into the Peak Show. Gabe co-produced an album on Atlantic with Mario C. (Beastie Boys) and Jack Johnson, and during this time he was also called in to audition for Beck and , more importantly, Fear, a band he loved as a teen.

"Gabe has all the stories," Nic proudly states. "He was entrenched in the L.A. music scene in its height."

"My band was the first to do a residency at the Echo. Guadalupe was one of the first bands to do a residency for months at a time at Viper Room," lists Gabe, who has sat behind the drumkit with Moby and John Cale. "I got to play all of The Record and More Beer with Lee Ving singing at me three feet in front of my bass drum. These are the reasons I moved back to L.A."

While Chicago is an incredible city for the arts and will always be special for bringing the two together, after three winters it was time for Gabe to return home last year. Although he's lived all over the city – Silver Lake, Echo Park, Venice Beach, Highland Park and Koreatown – Gabe fell in love with Altadena while spending time at his best friend's (Addi Somekh, one of the inventors of the balloon bass) home studio in the neighborhood.

"Nic always knew he was going to come [to Los Angeles], too, so I went out and got us a gig. I called him in December and said, 'We have a gig Feb. 18 as Dreaming Bull at Lexington Social Club in Los Angeles,'" Gabe remembers. "He arrived in January, and then we found a bass player [Matt Littell]. Then, I said, 'Hey, wifey [Kristen Rowland], do you want to do backing vocals,' and he asked his wife [Natalie Capelle]. We always had it in mind that it would be an all-guy band, but once all of us got in a room, it was magic."

'Magical' is also a word Nic uses to describe Dreaming Bull's writing process lately.

"Collaborating through email is good and has worked for us up until this point, but there's a magic from being in the same room together and creating something from scratch," he says.

"Since we've been out here it's been magic. Our manager, Gia DeSantis ("Request Video"), brought radio DJ Jed the Fish over to a rehearsal. He walks in and says, 'If I turn around when you guys play, don't be offended because I told Dave Navarro [the same thing] when I first met him because Jane's Addiction's first album is just like Led Zeppelin's first album, and I think Dreaming Bull's first album is just like those two records. They are not a band, they are piece of fatass magic that comes out of the speakers, and I don't want to ruin that image. So If I turn around, don't get upset.' We start our first song, and this is what we get: [Gabe stands up and starts flailing his body around like a maniac]. For 35 minutes, Jed absolutely loses his mind."

"The energy he gave us was as if we were playing Rock in Rio in front of 85,000 screaming people," Gabe describes. "It catapulted us into a magical world that I don't think any of us in the live band have experienced before."

"It really did. We all had goosebumps. On paper it sounds daggy as hell, but in the moment, it was electrifying. That's all we ever want really, is that reaction from crowds because that's what keeps you going."

Dreaming Bull's self-titled album is currently available. They perform July 31 at the Federal Bar in Long Beach and Aug. 22 at the Mint in West Los Angeles. For more information, visit dreamingbull.com.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Dead Man's Cattle Call

L.A. singer-songwriter Charlie Greene has launched a new video series, Dead Man's Cattle Call, in tribute to his deceased musical heroes. Each clip captures a live performance by Greene and friends of a song by one of the legends, including Ray Price, Slim Whitman and, in the most recent episode, Lou Reed. View this latest video for "The Power of Positive Drinking" here!



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Black Marquee

Skye Vaughan-Jayne, Mike Christie and Kevin Bombay of the Black Marquee at the Cat & Fiddle

 

THE BLACK MARQUEE

At the Cat & Fiddle

6530 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Hollywood) 323-468-3800


Some musical groups are comprised of siblings or lifelong friends, while some are put together by a management bigwig because they've got the right look. The Black Marquee is not one of those bands.

Each member of the Los Angeles-based trio has been playing in bands since his early teens, and the driving force for them all has and will always be a fierce passion for and commitment to music.

"Some bands come from somebody writing a song on Pro Tools but never learning how to actually play it," describes the Black Marquee's vocalist/bassist Mike Christie. "They just chopped and edited it all together."

"It's embarrassing to see how many people are trying to play rock music and how terrible they are at doing it," continues vocalist/guitarist Skye Vaughan-Jayne. "It takes away from what we're trying to do, the effort that we put into, and it's also turning off the people that would want to enjoy that experience. When I was a kid, the bands I would go see seemed like magic to me. I wondered, 'how are you so good, so tight.' And now, it's shit."

"That's what separates us from other bands. We're a rock band, the real deal. We still believe in the concept of playing, putting in the work and trying to be good. I've taken gigs and said, 'I'm not into this, but it beats digging a ditch,' but sometimes you're on stage and you say, 'Man, I really wish I was digging that ditch right now," laughs guitarist Kevin Bombay. "I don't want that with these guys. I've been waiting to be in a band like this for a long time. Everyone has the same set of goals and realities. It's not like we're going to take over the world or change people's lives, but we put out a rock record in 2014."

The album Kevin is referring to is the Black Marquee's debut full-length, Sessions From the Hive: Volume 1, that released three months ago. We meet at one of the city's most popular watering holes, the Cat & Fiddle, for a round of drinks and to talk about the new album and those magical concerts Skye is referring to.

Kevin chose the pub/restaurant because its location in the heart of Hollywood is central for the band members, who live in Silver Lake, Mid-City and the Valley.

"I used to work across the street, and we would come here for Happy Hour every day – or, sometimes at noon," Kevin confesses, making everyone laugh. "Working there was very 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' a lot of bad habits were accrued there."

The building that the Cat & Fiddle resides in was originally used to store film costumes, as a studio commissary and even as a set location for Casablanca. British musician Kim Gardner eventually moved his successful Laurel Canyon pub into the space in the '80s, and his family continues to run the establishment to this day. Sports fans flock to the place on game days, trivia junkies fill the pub on Quiz Night and Hollywood movers and shakers discuss deals over a pint and a plate of Beer Battered Fish & Chips on a daily basis.

We sit down at a table on the Cat & Fiddle's picturesque patio, and the Black Marquee, who are all Southern California natives, divulge some info on the places they would frequent growing up.

"I would go to the over-21 clubs and just hang out in the parking lot with friends. We would go to Club Lingerie and Scream, waiting for the parties to happen after hours. Then, we would use fake IDs until I eventually became old enough to get in," tells Kevin. "When I used my real ID for the first time, the guy at the door said, 'I fucking knew it,' because I had been going there for three years!"

"My fake ID was the best. I was supposed to be 33, the 5-foot 1-inch singer of this band with a shaved head and a mustache," admits Mike. "I used that ID from age 13 to 20."

"I used a check cashing ID, the worst fake ID of all time," Skye remembers. "I came up here to L.A. [from his hometown in Orange County] on a regular basis to go to shows, but down there we used to get so many great punk shows at Old World."

One of the few things Skye appreciates about growing up in the O.C. is the rich punk scene there.

"When I was young I loved the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders. Then, when I was in a band, Beer City Rockers, we got the opportunity to play with the U.S. Bombs and other people doing slightly different punk rock, so that led me to different styles of music," he says. "Eventually when I was in Bullets and Octane we had a bunch of opportunities, like opening up for the Buzzcocks. Being able to tour extensively definitely opened my eyes up as a songwriter and the experiences of where we are at now."

"Watching David Bowie perform 'TVC 15' with Klaus Nomi on 'Saturday Night Live' made an impression on me as a kid. Seeing the Rolling Stones do 'Shattered' on 'Saturday Night Live,' there was just something about this. Then KISS came along and I traded in my tennis racket, which I would play air guitar on, for a real guitar," recalls Kevin. "I started playing when I was 14, and I was lucky enough to play with a lot of older people who told me right off the bat what to do: 'Don't be an asshole. This is the path you should be on, don't be like us. Do as I say, not as I do.' Not to say that I didn't fuck up or stumble because I did for a lot of years."

"I started with music super young, too," Mike chimes in. "I had an older brother who got me into it. The first tape he ever gave me was Das Klown, Circle Jerks and Agression – and I was hooked. He was seven years older, playing with older guys. I started playing when I was 12, so by the time I was 13 I was playing with people in their mid-20s and started touring when I was 14. That's when I had the sweet 33-year-old ID."

Growing up a little inland of Los Angeles, Mike eventually decided to relocate to Arizona, where he lived for 11 years. Although he didn't really live there that much since he was constantly on the road touring.

"As long as you're on the road, it doesn't matter where you live. We would tour all the time," he says. "The more you tour, the smaller your world gets. We basically ran into the same bunch of people and started band hopping, filling in on certain shit."

Eventually the band Mike was in, ADHD, played with Chelsea Smiles, Skye's group at the time, and the basis for the foundation of the Black Marquee was formed. Kevin came into the fold about a year-and-a-half ago through a mutual friend of his and Skye's.

"I came in, did two rehearsals and within two or three weeks we did a show at the Viper Room. My audition was basically trial by fire at the Viper Room," Kevin chuckles. "We started recording the album in July of last year and finished in December with our friend Tony [Rambo] who produced, engineered and recorded it at the studio where I work. When projects came into the studio, the album got pushed back. It was a waiting game."

"Some things are worth waiting for, though," Skye adds. "I'm very happy with the product that we got out of it."

"Once we finished, got out of the studio and took a break from it for about a month, then, I was really stoked on it," admits Mike.

"I walked away from it until the master came. I popped it on in my car and was like, 'Wow, this record is really good. I would listen to this,'" exclaims Skye in agreement.

The Black Marquee had released an EP, This Is A Test, in 2012, but so much had changed between that release and the album, that the band's writing process definitely underwent an evolution as well.

"As the lineup has changed so has our writing process. Some of the songs on the album were actually taken from a different session where Rich [Berardi] was drumming with Skye, me and another lead guitarist who quit the day before we went into the studio. Those songs were already fleshed out, but we did a lot of the guitar details on the fly in the studio. Cut to three or four months later, and we have Kevin who added his two cents to it," Mike remembers. "Usually somebody comes up with some kind of skeleton of 'here's a riff, bridge and chorus, I have no idea what it's going to sound like but let's jam it and see what happens.' Lately it's been cool because with us three have all found our role. Kevin has a super unique guitar sound that just adds to everything. That really light, airy guitar vibe mixed with Skye's more static, raw sound – it just works."

"Kevin uses cleaner guitar tones with a lot of delay, which is something that I would never fuck with. Stylistically everything is so unique, and that is what sets us apart," reflects Skye. "It grasps from our punk rock roots, our sleaze and glitter shit. It's definitely doing its own thing, and it's out of our control on how it's going to turn out."

"It's at that place where it just happens," Mike continues. "Early on it was like, 'What do we want this to sound like? What are we going for?' Now it's like, 'Whatever we write, that's what it is."

"I went through my iTunes collection listening to the early demos, and what they sound like now is completely different. Now we do have an identity with our sound, so when someone comes up with a riff and we all jump in, we know when we're on to something," Kevin says. "We're all still learning how to communicate with each other musically and being friends. Things are a little bit different now because we're a little bit older and it's not us hanging out with each other 24/7, drinking going to strip clubs—"

"Speak for yourself!" Skye interrupts before adding, "We're grownups now."

Being grownups means having day jobs, a new baby for Mike and going back to school for Skye.

"This is the music I want to be playing at this age," states Kevin. "I couldn't be back in a simple punk rock band anymore like when I was 18."

"That had it's time and place," Skye agrees. "It was good when it was there, but it's time to do this now. Now we all actually enjoy it, too. Even if I'm in a terrible mood and don't want to go to rehearsal, once I'm there for five minutes it changes my whole day and I don't want to leave. We're there for three hours, and then I say, 'I could stay for another three hours.' Even if your voice is shot, you still want to keep playing."

"Our biggest enemy is time; we just don't have enough of it to dedicate it to what we want to do," tells Kevin.

"Yeah, this whole grownup thing is really cutting into my music time!" laughs Mike.

Since their debut is called Sessions from the Hive: Volume 1, the obvious question is when a second volume will be released.

"It's all up here," says Skye, pointing to his head. "Volume 2 is all up here."

"Back in January, Mike was expecting his first kid so we knew were going to have some time off. Up until then, we were just fleshing out ideas in the studio. It was a really creative time because the record was done, we would walk in and just start playing something and everyone would jump in. All of a sudden we had fragments of songs. It was turning into something, but then the drummer we were playing with got a call to play with Black Flag and just dropped it on us. But it really opened my eyes because I came in late on a lot of the stuff from before, and by the time I found my footing we were done with the record. With this new stuff, we each know what we're good and I see it's going to be a lot better. There's a certain vibe we have when we all get together, and hopefully we will find a fourth one day, but we won't let it stop us."

When I ask if there are places that the band likes to check out new music at in the city, the three have a hard time coming up with anything, but it stirs up a discussion on the state of music today that I believe is a fitting way to end our conversation.

"A lot of the places that we used to hang out at don't exist anymore," Kevin says. "A lot of us don't go out anymore. I can't be bothered."

"To be honest, there's not a lot out there that I want to see," admits Mike. "There isn't one new band in the past five years that I've stumbled across live and said, 'Wow, those guys are badass."

"I've worked at live music venues for the past eight years, and you don't stumble across much," Skye agrees. "I worked at Viper Room for five years and maybe came across four really good bands They're huge now, like Dead Sara, I watched them play for three people and they're a great band."

"The live music culture is dead now. The people who support it, meaning younger people, don't get it," says Kevin. "It's like not understanding vinyl or getting a CD and getting involved with an artist, reading all that you can to get to know the artist, where was the album recorded, who wrote the song. It's so flippant now."

Mike replies with: "It's one thing to read about it or listen to it on your brand-new mp3 player, but there's no integrity like there used to be—"

"To experience it," interjects Kevin. "How many times have you been on stage and you look out into the crowd and everyone's like this [mimes typing on a phone]. Who can you possibly be talking to when all of your friends are here! Or they're watching the show as they're videoing or taking pictures. It's just a bit harder to get people interested in it because there are so many different things going on, like the EDM culture where someone [presses a button]. I didn't grow up with that. Even when we went to dance clubs when I was younger it wasn't as important as seeing a live band."

"When we were growing up, there was a standard," Mike says. "You had to audition to play a club. Now, it just seems like if you a guitar and a Line 6 Modeler you can play anywhere you want—"

"Or have an acoustic guitar and a mustache," interrupts Skye. "With seven people in your band, six tambourines, three chickens and a mule."

"Hipsters really killed music," Kevin says. "I remember going to Spaceland when it was still called Spaceland, and my friends were playing so I got there early. There was a kid up there on stage wearing a diaper and a sweater playing a keyboard. We're watching it and watching it, and I just said, 'Shenanigans! This is bullshit.' The guy said, 'Oh, those guys from Hollywood don't understand.' I said, 'I live down the street [in Silver Lake]. Fuck you!' That was around 2004 when all that weird stuff started creeping in, and I saw the tide beginning to turn. I knew that music was going to take on a whole different sound and look, and playing the guitar was going to be evil."

"All of our reviews in the UK and Central Europe, they get it. They understand what we're trying to do. It's not a foreign concept," he continues. "I was listening to the radio the other day, and it was another band with a banjo, an accordion and people slappin' in the background. That's not rock 'n' roll. Not everything's a fucking Coen brothers movie."

"Everything today is so gimmicky," Mike agrees. "With us, there's no gimmick. We don't have matching outfits or funny hats, we're a rock band. That's it."

Sessions From the Hive: Volume 1 is currently available. The Black Marquee perform June 22 at the Cahuenga Block Party at Velvet Margarita Cantina. For more information, visit blackmarqueelosangeles.com.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

7Horse

Phil Leavitt and Joie Calio of 7Horse at Sonny's Hideaway

 

7HORSE

At Sonny's Hideaway

5137 York Blvd., Los Angeles (Highland Park) 323-255-2000


"The first thing that attracted me to this place was that it's called Sonny's Hideaway, and that there's no sign on the door. Instantly it was appealing," describes Phil Leavitt of his favorite place in the city, a supper club in Highland Park. "It has that old-school kind of vibe to it, with the leather booths and wood. It's a throwback in a lot of ways to when I was a little kid in Las Vegas. It had a certain attitude, and I like to live like that if I can. In this place, you can you can come in, just be cool, sit at the bar and cop an attitude."

That's exactly what vocalist/drummer Phil, his 7Horse bandmate, guitarist Joie Calio, and I do at one corner of Sonny's Hideaway's bar when we meet up to talk about the 20-plus years this duo has spent creating songs together, their first musical loves and their new album, Songs for a Voodoo Wedding.

As Phil mentions, he spent his childhood in Sin City, with family members, and eventually him too, landing jobs at casinos. The 7Horse moniker comes from his grandpa always betting on the 7 horse at the track. Gambling isn't all that filled his life, though. Both he and Joie have been surrounded by music since they can remember.

"My dad put himself through dental school playing accordion as a leader of a band. Both of our dads were similar: hip, 1960s booming change and revolution kind of people. Dad had all the popular records of the time. I specifically remember the first album I ever picked up in my life was Surfin' U.S.A. by the Beach Boys. The pop culture movement was happening in my house with the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, the Monkees," tells Joie, whose youth was spent in the Bay Area. "From the Monkees' cartoon show, the Beatles' TV show, my parents and my babysitters – blonde, beach types listening to Paul Revere & the Raiders, Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones and the radio – I loved it all."

Phil remembers being obsessed with a leather-bound, fold-out LP soundtrack of the original cast recording of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "The Monkees" too – until his older cousin set him straight at around age 6.

"She said, 'Look, you might like this, but not these guys. These guys,' and she turned me onto the Beatles. The music, the whole idea of a band and the relationship between the people in it, took hold in my mind then because you always got a sense of that with the Beatles from movies like A Hard Day's Night or Help!. It was incredible, these four friends doing all of this together, the romance, the traveling, I got caught up in that," he recalls. "It was the Beatles and nothing but for about 10 years, until I heard the Police. The Police really got under my skin. A lot of it was the drums and Stewart Copeland because he's a phenomenal, revolutionary kind of drummer. I had never heard anything that sounded like that."

"When I was little kid, I would stay up late and watch 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' and saw Buddy Rich, the jazz drummer, on it. Seeing him play, then he went over to sit down and mix it up with Carson. The idea that a drummer can be a guy who is a real personality, I connected to that," he adds.

As strains of jazz music waft from the speakers overhead at Sunny's Hideaway, I ask Phil about some of the things he usually orders when he comes here.

"They make very good Old Fashioneds here. That's what I usually get because I'm a bourbon guy. At Happy Hour it's $6, you really can't beat that," he says. "They have a special menu for Tiki Tuesday, mostly rum drinks, and I had one of those before you got here. It was very good, too."

Joie is sipping a glass of red wine, and when I inquire if he's a connoisseur, he responds, "You could say that. I'm pretty bitchy about wine." He is a fan of Sonny's Hideaway's Ricotta Dumplings, while Phil recommends the Market Greens, Grilled Octopus, Smoked Deviled Eggs and the Bacon Burger that comes with bacon mixed into the ground beef.

"They always put a bit of a spin on things to make them more unique," he says. "I felt good the first time I came into this place, and for me, that's everything. It's not about the scene or what kind of write-ups a place gets, it's about how I feel when I walk through the door, and this place felt good."

Trusting their initial gut feelings about places and people is something that both musicians have done throughout their careers.

"Both of us have been playing music all of our lives. When you play with other musicians, some of them are good and some of them aren't. It's pretty rare when you meet someone who is great and you really click with. When you find somebody where it's like,' Wow, this is a serious connection,' it's a day you don't forget," says Joie. "When I first met Phil, I was in another band, and we were looking for a drummer. I worked at Geffen Records as the head of the mail room—"

"He always likes to work that in," laughs Phil.

"Yes, I was the head of the mail room," exclaims Joie. "I asked a girl in publishing if she knew any drummers, and she said,'I know the best drummer in Los Angeles. I'll get you his number.'"

"Let me tell you why she thought I was the best drummer in Los Angeles," interrupts Phil. "She used to come over to my house late at night, and we would have sex."

"That may have helped, but that's not why," Joie replies. "We invited him down to rehearsal, and it was just [claps hands] holy shit, crazy."

The two spent seven years together with Michael Gurley in dada before the band parted ways in 1999.

"When the first phase of our music career came to an end in the late '90s, that coincided with the end of the old-school record business. I ended up going Las Vegas and doing Blue Man Group for three years because the band got dropped. We had no idea that we could go on without a record label. Ani DeFranco was the only one who was doing her own thing," explains Phil, who also started doing voice over work to pay the bills.

Joie moved to Seattle, Wash., where he still resides today, and continued to release music as well as a memoir, You Can't Hear It But You Know It's There. Eventually, the pair came together again to form 7Horse and began writing material for their debut album, Let the 7Horse Run, over the phone and computer.

 "I feel like we ran into this thing, [7Horse] was there waiting for us, and we didn't even realize it. For a long time, we thought we were doing something else. We thought that our musical career was about a different sound, a different band," recalls Phil. "It takes a real change of mindset to even imagine that you can do something different after you've been doing a thing for a long time and have invested so much time into it."

"When you had success like we had, if you don't get success again right away it's like, 'failure,'" remarks Joie. "When we started [7Horse], it was completely a left turn. Once we made a commitment to the left turn, we kept focusing on the differences. Let's do something that's different, otherwise we're just going to end up in the same place we were before, which was at a dead end."

Let the 7Horse Run released in 2011 and was indeed a departure from the sound associated with their previous band. The change was a good one, though, as the album's single, "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker," caught the ear of director Martin Scorsese, who used it in a trailer for and several scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The duo hit the road in support of their debut and began working on songs for a new album. One song, "A Friend in Weed," was written as their van was coming into the town of Weed, Calif.

"When we're apart we're always working on stuff, bits and pieces of things," Phil says of their writing process. "We purposely try not to finish songs, leave them in a state of being half done and then send it to the other guy to see what kind of reaction it gets. We finish them right before we record. It keeps it very immediate and fresh. A lot of times, the first time through is the best for capturing that energy."

"We really keep it raw and simple," says Joie. "Once we get rolling, it's like a wave and you stop thinking about it, that's what slows you down. You just go with your feelings; we're pretty good at that."

"We have a focus on what we're trying to accomplish. The tendency when you're young is to be as creative as possible, to try all kinds of different things. There's a constant desire to break away from what you did before and do something totally different. While that can be personally satisfying from an ego point of view, in a lot of ways there's something better about saying, 'We're only going to use four colors in this painting. It's going to be blue, red, green and orange, and that's it.' If you're doing it with limitations, it's much easier to be creative within the framework," comments Phil. "The Beatles ruined it for everybody. That's a band that completely evolved from their early records, but there is only one Beatles. Not everybody can do that."

"They couldn't even last doing it," adds Joie. "It screwed them up, and everything ground to a halt."

"Then you have the Rolling Stones, who are still around because they have a thing that they do. And that's it, keep doing that thing, trying to make it better. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail, but it is a thing, a well-defined idea," Phil continues. "As we've gotten older, we've gotten away from this desire to want to satisfy every creative whim. It's more: 'Let's make whiskey, but let's make the best whiskey.'"

Speaking of whiskey, everyone continues to sip on their drinks, as I ask Joie what prompted his move from Los Angeles to Seattle.

"It was a combination of things. I had been here for a long time; I moved down when I was pretty young. Phil and I both moved to Malibu for a while, and that was fantastic. Then I bought my first house in Woodland Hills, the hottest place in the valley, and it really did a number on me," he shares. "I just got beat down, needed a break and I had two little kids. Somebody shot an egg from a wrist rocket and blew out our kitchen window, and I said, 'Maybe this isn't the best place to raise a kid.' I just wanted a change."

Phil, on the other hand, says he wouldn't want to live anywhere else but Los Angeles.

"I love this place because it has everything, including smog, traffic and the difficulties in dealing with it. When people say, 'I don't like Los Angeles,' I say, 'See ya, we could use a few less of you around to ease up the traffic,'" he laughs. "That's why I like this side of town, because it feels a little less congested, more open and relaxed. Highland Park and York Boulevard are getting trendy and I've only been on this side of town for about five years (I've lived all over, from Malibu and the Valley, to Silver Lake and Hollywood), but I like this place the best."

While Los Angeles is always in his heart, Phil has also fallen in love with New Orleans. His travels to the city for a friend's actual voodoo wedding inspired the name of 7Horse's sophomore effort, Songs for a Voodoo Wedding.

"See those two people over there, the blonde woman and the guy talking gesticulating," Phil asks as he points to a couple standing on another side of the bar. "My wife is over there with them, and the four of us went to New Orleans together. They were the ones getting married down there, this is the couple."

"We're not going to be here every time they do an interview," laughs the man, as he overhears Phil talking about them.

"I love jazz and blues, in particular early rock 'n' roll, and New Orleans is the birthplace of all that. I've been to every music city – Austin, Nashville, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago – and there's no place like New Orleans," states Phil. "Frenchmen Street, we don't have anything like it in Los Angeles. It's bar after bar after bar, with a crowd and band in every one, and all the bands are good. There's a reggae bar next to a Dixieland old-school traditional jazz band in a bar then a funky brass band. Within 20 minutes, I heard amazing music in four different places just walking down the street. That place really got to me, so I wanted to name check it in our song ['Flying High (With No ID)"] because it's all true. That song has a lot of what really happened. The trip down there I, in fact, showed up at the airport without a driver's license."

Joie interjects, "Wait a second! And…"

"I don't like flying that much, so I thought I would soften the experience with a cannabis lollipop. I get to security, open my wallet and don't have my driver's license. But I think it helped me because under normal circumstances, panic might have set in," Phil divulges. "The real thrust of that song, though, is that time in New Orleans, experiencing the culture there."

As the pair of band brothers prepares for next week's release of Songs for a Voodoo Wedding, they talk about why their musical partnership has been able to withstand so much and persevere over more than two decades.

"When you're 20 years old, you're just blindly go out there thinking the world is going to open up for you," observes Phil. "For some it does. Paul McCartney wrote 'Yesterday' when he was around 22, but how many of those guys are around? I certainly wasn't one. We had to stick it out for a bit longer to get onto something where we feel like, 'this is our thing that we like to do, and we're going to keep doing it no matter what.' We both believe that, so it makes it easy for us to go forward."

"This is really a rebirth, that's the greatest thing about it," continues Joie. "We really a tapped into a whole new line. It's like the spike went into the ground, and a whole new well popped up. It's so refreshing and beautiful. I feel pretty good about it.

"The key ingredient here, what do you need most in life from another person is optimism. Everybody wants to say no, so when you run into somebody who says yes, that's a key ingredient. That's what Joie's about. He's a true believer, and that's what keeps us rolling. You have to have that because it's so difficult. We had to battle with the record company machinery back in the day, and now those days are over. We're on your own, which is great in certain ways, but there's so much to do because the machine doesn't exist to support you; you have to do everything yourself," concludes Phil. "Baseball's another thing that I love, and Tommy Lasorda used to say something like, 'If you have 25 guys pulling on the same side of the rope anything is possible, but if you have half the team pulling the other way saying, 'I don't believe in this thing,' then you're going nowhere.' It's the same thing in a band. If you have two guys going one way and another guy going the other way, even if it's the most talented band in the world, it's going to be impossible. But if you don't stop, you can't fail."

Songs for a Voodoo Wedding will be available June 10. For more information, visit http://7horsemusic.com/.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Priscilla Ahn

My Los Angeles with

PRISCILLA AHN


If you watched Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway duke it out in the film Bride Wars, you probably shed some tears during the touching scene right before they walk down the aisle. "Dream, "the song that provided the soundtrack to this climactic scene was pivotal in tugging at the heartstrings, perhaps even more than the wistful glances between the movie's leads.

Priscilla Ahn is the L.A. singer-songwriter who penned "Dream," and while that tune is beautiful and powerfully emotional, it's really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the artist's talent. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Ahn began crafting songs and playing the guitar at age 14; she performed in front of an audience for the first time before even turning 18. Music eventually led Ahn to Los Angeles, and I was lucky enough to have witnessed some of her first shows in the city almost a decade ago. Her stellar voice had me from first listen.

Since then, she has released two full-lengths via Blue Note (2008's Joey Waronker-produced A Good Day, When You Grow Up from 2011) and two Japanese albums, as well as touring the world with the likes of Willie Nelson, Ray LaMontagne, Joshua Radin and Devotchka. For her latest effort, last February's This Is Where We Are, Ahn took a solitary trip to the desert for songwriting inspiration.

The journey proved transformative, as the resulting tracks mark a slight departure from her sparse, acoustic-based songs into the realm of electropop. There's not doubt that the pulsating beats of This Is Where We Are's opener "Diana," "Home" and "You And Me" make you want to dance. Additionally, the electronic elements on the album's quietly gorgeous ballads ("Remember How I Broke Your Heart," "I Can't Fall Asleep," "OOOOOOO") never overshadow her dreamy vocals.

Ahn is winding down a North American trek in support of the album with two L.A.-area shows next week. After a month on the road, it's going to be good to be back home and visit some of the places she's been craving. She took some time away from tour madness to share the special places that make up her Los Angeles with Jigsaw.

Favorite venue to play, and your fondest show memory there: The Hotel Cafe (Hollywood)
There are so many great venues in the city that I love, but I've played at Hotel the most. I have so many old recordings of when I was just starting out there. That place holds a lot of good memories for me ... lots of support and love.

Venue to see another singer-songwriter or band play: The Hotel Cafe (Hollywood)
It's usually a great listening room, and it's not far from where I live, which always helps. I'm an old, house lady now – the closer, the better.

Last great local act you caught: Alex Lilly
She's amazing. I love all her other projects too, including Obi Best and Touché. Her new solo stuff is rad!

Café to grab a coffee/tea, and usual order there: Broome Street General Store (Silver Lake)
I usually get an iced latte. [They have] great coffee, a sweet outdoor patio and beautiful clothes and wares inside. Who doesn't like to shop and sip coffee at the same time?

Place for people-watching: Hollywood & Highland (Hollywood)
Not that I ever go there, but I drive through there almost every day. I love seeing all the tourists and the guys dressed up as creepy Spider-Man, etc.

Restaurant, and favorite dish there: Jitlada (East Hollywood)  

This restaurant slays me – my all time fave, in the country! I always get the crab claw curry with morning glories.

Clothes shop: Mohawk General Store (Silver Lake)

My last few great finds are from here. It's expensive, but it's really high quality. Whenever I make a purchase, I just tell myself I will wear it for the rest of my life.

Record shop: Counterpoint Records & Books (Franklin Village)
I've gotten many vinyls here, especially from their $1 bin. I've made some really amazing discoveries in that pile!

Bookstore: The Last Bookstore (Downtown)

I love getting lost in a bookstore, and that's easy to do here.

Place to take out-of-town visitors: Griffith Park Observatory (Griffith Park) or Venice Beach
We'll either do the beautiful and easy hike to the observatory, or rent bikes at Venice.

For Inspiration/Rejuvenation: Zuma Beach (Malibu)
It's a little bit of a drive, so it feels like you're removed from the city, and it's just gorgeous there.

This Is Where We Are is currently available. Priscilla Ahn performs May 30 at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever and May 31 at the Constellation Room. For more information, visit priscillaahn.com.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Events for May 15-21, 2014

Get with THE PROGRAM


THURSDAY, MAY 15


ART


Artopia @ Grand Central Market (Downtown)

Sometimes I just love walking through the Arts District to look at all the street art and just absorb all of the creativity that is in the air in the neighborhood. LA Weekly celebrates the area's vibrant art scene with this event that brings together live art installations, music, film and fashion under one roof. Since the venue is Grand Central Market, there is plenty of food and drink to be purchased from vendors who are staying open after regular hours (Horse Thief, Sticky Rice, Valerie at GCM, G&B Coffee, to name a few) as you're walking through the exhibits.

COMEDY


TMZ Comedy Tour @ The Ice House (Pasadena)
Often times what makes the bits of celebrity gossip revealed on "TMZ" so riveting are the people that deliver them. That's because some of those personalities have been entertaining crowds from comedy stages for years. Tonight's stand-up event gives four of the TV show's regulars – Brian McDaniel, Rick Mitchell, Katie Hayes and Myke Anthony – the spotlight to share their witty commentary on pop culture and beyond.


FRIDAY, MAY 16


FILM


In Theaters This Week
The always great Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston lead a cast that also includes Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe and Juliette Binoche in Godzilla; Million Dollar Arm stars Jon Hamm as a sports agent who recruits cricket players to play in the MLB. Also in theaters: Stage Fright

MUSIC


Maximo Park @ Troubadour (West Hollywood)
The British fivesome is touring the nation in support of their latest album, Too Much Information, that released last month and stop in Los Angeles tonight. Kick off your weekend swaying to the beat of new songs "Leave This Island" and "Midnight on the Hill" and singing along with older tracks like "Apply Some Pressure," "Going Missing" and "Our Velocity." You are sure to work up a sweat, let go of some of the week's stress and have some fun.

SPORTS


Amgen Tour of California (Santa Clarita to Mountain High)

One of the best parts of the Tour de France broadcast in the summer is watching the fans that stand on the sidelines, yelling at the top of the their lungs while wearing awesomely ridiculous outfits to ensure they get on TV. If you have ever longed to be one of those passionate crowd-goers, then don't miss your chance to cheer on world-class riders, like Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish, as they breeze through Southern California. Today they ride from Newhall to Palmdale then up to Big Bear and Mountain High ski resort. Saturday's course runs from Town Center Mall in Santa Clarita and over to Mount Wilson before passing the Rose Bowl, Colorado Street Bridge and Old Town Pasadena. The tour's final stage takes place on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, and it will be thrilling to see who ends up wearing the yellow jersey.



SATURDAY, MAY 17


ART


Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Art Show @ Gallery 1988 West (Mid-City West)
"Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectra or ghost? If the answer is 'yes,' then don't wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals…" This year marks many ups and downs for the supernatural comedy: losing one of its writers and stars (Harold Ramis), celebrating its 30th anniversary and the confirmation of a third Ghostbusters film coming to theaters next year. If you're a fan, then you should definitely head over to this touring exhibit's L.A. stop at Gallery 1988 West through June 1. Every piece in the show is awesome, from DKNG's Ecto-1 (above), Joshua Budich's They're Here to Save the World, Tom Whalen's Confectionary Kaiju and Richard Kelly's Keymaster.

FASHION


Super Saturday @ Barker Hangar (Santa Monica)
If you love searching for bargains at estate or yard sales every weekend, then this "Rolls Royce of garage sales" (as dubbed by the New York Times) is for you. Hosted by celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and model/actress Molly Sims, Super Saturday not only offers you luxury brands for 30- to 50-percent off, all proceeds go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. You can get clothes and accessories for the whole family for a bargain and help a good cause while you're at it.

FILM


Office Space @ Santa Monica High School's Memorial Greek Amphitheatre (Santa Monica)
Eat|See|Hear's outdoor movie-food-music series is in full swing for the summer, and tonight's feature is one of my favorite comedies. If you're loving Mike Judge's new series, "Silicon Valley," on HBO, then you should see Office Space, his first feature-length film. It stars Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole and Stephen Root in a story about workers who can't stand their job or their greedy boss. The End of Summer perform a set before the movie, so grab some grub from food trucks like Son of a Bun, India Jones and Coolhaus and settle in for an awesome night under the stars.

FOOD


California Strawberry Festival @ Strawberry Meadows of College Park (Oxnard)

As you're driving up the 101 with your windows down on a hot summer day, It's hard to ignore the pleasant, hunger-inducing aromas as you pass the many strawberry farms located in Ventura County. I'm salivating just thinking about it. You can easily satisfy your every strawberry craving today and tomorrow at this year's California Strawberry Festival. Aside from treats like chocolate-dipped strawberries, strawberry pizza, strawberry funnel cake and strawberry margaritas, there are performances from the Young Dubliners and Mariachi Divas, a strawberry pie eating challenge, relay race, hat competition and shortcake build-off contest.


SUNDAY, MAY 18


SHOPPING


Artists & Fleas @ Arts District (Downtown)
What could be more relaxing on a Sunday afternoon than perusing the wares of artists, designers and vintage sellers all in one place? This curated marketplace that is open all year long in Brooklyn and Manhattan finally makes its way west. With local vendors like Gull and Marie, Soiyl, Mt. Washington Pottery and Groceries Apparel, you can pick up clothes, jewelry and home goods. There are food vendors and a DJ on site for you to enjoy as you take a break from shopping.  Also Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


WEDNESDAY, MAY 21


MUSIC


Isabel Beyoso @ Molly Malone's (Beverly Grove)
This is the perfect show to get you over the mid-week hump. The L.A. singer-songwriter, model and actress released her debut full-length, It's Time, last summer and is performing a special acoustic set tonight. From the heart-wrenching "Pursue Me" to the sassy "Better Than Nothing" and delightful "Mm-Mm Spell," Beyoso crafts songs that touch upon your every mood. When she performs them live, they are absolutely entrancing.