It was a Friday night during my freshman year in college. School had begun only a few weeks earlier, and most of the friends I had made so far lived in my dorm. Sharon and Carolina, two girls from down the hall, invited me to go see a band of Sharon's high school classmates at this club on the Sunset Strip. At first I was a little nervous about getting in since I wasn't 18 yet, but we came up a plan for me to show my USC ID card to the bouncer since it didn't have my birthdate on it, hoping that maybe he would think, 'well, she's old enough to be in college so I guess it's OK.'
Any anxiety over getting in was outweighed by my sheer excitement at finally going to a show on the famed Sunset Strip. I remember the drive to the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights like it was yesterday, being absolutely giddy as the pink neon Coconut Teaszer sign came into view. Thankfully, the bouncer didn't even look at our IDs, as we showed him this flyer Sharon had and paid our $7. It was so surreal, stepping into my first rock club – a moment I had dreamt about for years. Sharon had a lot of friends from high school milling around, so I don't really remember where she was during the show. All I can recall is how dark it was in the club, that it smelled of sweat and beer and, when Incubus started playing, it was so loud that my ears felt like they were going to explode.
At this point, the band had only released demos, and were still cultivating their sound and style (It would be a year before Fungus Amongus would be available.). If all you've ever heard is their post-Make Yourself music, then you would be shocked at what I experienced that night. As soon as they began to play, the floor in front of their performance area exploded with bodies and dreadlocks flew through the air from violently thrashing heads. There was no denying the power of Jose Pasillas on drums and Alex Katunich (aka Dirk Lance) on bass. Guitarist Mike Einziger hunched over his guitar, churning out heavy, lightning-quick riffs. Brandon Boyd flailed himself around the room, moshing with the crowd, yet his voice rang out strong and clear.
Who knew that years later, they would go on to become multi-platinum artists? Over the years, I've seen Incubus perform 40-50 times at venues from the Roxy to Verizon Amphitheater. Even though I haven't gone to one of their shows in quite a while, they will always hold a special place in my heart because they played such a monumental night in my musical memories. The venue sat where Shelter, Privilege and XIV by Michael Mina have all come and gone, but that spot on Sunset Boulevard will always live on as Coconut Teaszer's home in my mind.
Dinner and Show @ Bootsy Bellows (West Hollywood)
David Arquette presents a dinner theater extravaganza at his new club. With a 3-course dinner and show by Lynda Kay, Selene Luna and juggler Michael Rayner, the event promises to be "the night of all nights."
Fireman's Brew Firefighter Bachelor Auction @ House of Blues Sunset Strip (West Hollywood)
You've seen this kind of bachelor auction on TV shows and in movies, and tonight 14 of Los Angeles' finest firefighters strut their stuff on stage in the hopes of attracting the highest bids to benefit the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association - Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen's Fund. Tickets start at just $35, and '80s cover band Flashback Heart Attack are going to perform. Don't miss your chance to buy a fireman.
FRIDAY, AUG. 31
L.A. Fair @ Fairplex (Pomona)
Celebrating 90 years, the fair not only brings you all the fried food and carnival rides you could imagine, the Grandstand Concerts offer a range of acts. From the Wanted and Carly Rae Jepson to Cobra Starship, the B-52s and Chaka Khan, this year appeals to lovers of any genre.
Pico Robertson Block Party @ Komodo Cafe (West Los Angeles)
The last block party of the year hosted at the Komodo brick and mortar location features Lime Truck, Bun Truck, No Tomatoes, Fashion Truck, B Sweet, Trailer Park Truck and more.
The Good Doctor (Magnolia Pictures)
In Theaters This Week
Apocalyptic warfare with Dominic Monaghan and Ashley Bell in The Day; Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller in For a Good Time, Call…; Orlando Bloom and Elvis' granddaughter Riley Keough in The Good Doctor; With a screenplay by Nick Cave (adapted from the Matt Bondurant novel), Lawless stars Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman; From producer Sam Raimi, The Possession. Also in theaters: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate; Sleepwalk with Me.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 1
Talladega Nights @ Bloch Field at L.A. Port (San Pedro)
Ricky Bobby takes over Street Food Cinema for the night, with a screening of the film, a performance by JD Bender and goodies from the After School Special Truck, Munchie Machine, Ta Bom! Rounds Truck, Fun Time Kettle Korn and a ROCKin ICE!
Los Angeles Times' The Taste @ Paramount Pictures Studios (Hollywood)
The second annual food and wine festival is one of SoCal's biggest, with three days full of events, tastings and seminars with the likes of Thomas Keller, Nancy Silverton, Jonathan Gold and Susan Feniger. Topics range from Field to Fork and Flavors of L.A., and the culinary weekend culminates in a Labor Day Picnic on Monday celebrating the sandwich. USC vs. Hawaii Lawry's Tailgate Party @ L.A. Coliseum (Exposition Park)
It's that time of year, and I'm all verklempt! All eyes are on my No. 1-ranked Trojans as they break free of sanctions and strive for the national championship, helmed by QB Matt Barkley. Lawry's is catering tailgates at a bunch of USC and UCLA home games this season. This first game is against Hawaii, so the menu will be luau style.
Two Gallants perform Saturday at FYF Fest. (Burditt/Schiek)
FYF Fest @ L.A. State Historic Park (Downtown)
Festivals always make holiday weekends seem more festive, no? FYF Fest certainly has grown. This year is split into two days of nonstop music and comedy. Saturday's acts not to miss: the Refused, M83, Warpaint, Two Gallants, Redd Kross and the Eric Andre Show. Sunday: the Faint, Beirut, Desaparecidos, Cursive and David Cross.
Shoreline Jam @ The Queen Mary (Long Beach)
Featuring over 12 hours of reggae by groups like the Wailers, Tribal Seeds and L.B.D.A., the festival takes place right on the waterfront, aboard the Queen Mary. Tickets are only $35 and gates open at 11 a.m., so be prepared for an entire day of singing along to your favorite reggae anthems. Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers @ Pantages Theatre (Hollywood)
The other night I watched Give Me the Banjo, an amazing documentary on the history of the instrument, narrated by Steve Martin. Don't miss the opportunity to see Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, who won Entertainer of the Year at the 2011 International Bluegrass Association Awards, at one of Los Angeles' most gorgeous theaters.
MONDAY, SEPT. 3
Something Fierce and Occult Detective Club @ Redwood Bar (Downtown)
Dirtnap released a limited edition split 10-inch to commemorate this tour with a duo of Texas bands. Partying to the sounds of two solid punk bands at my favorite pirate bar sounds like the best way to spend the last night of the holiday weekend.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 5
Blues Night @ Hollywood Bowl (Hollywood)
Blues master B.B. King returns to the Bowl with his fierce guitar licks and charismatic storytelling. Tedeschi Trucks band warms things up with their unique blend of Delta blues, soul and funk-rock.
This Space Invader looks down over Sunset Junction from the side of 3909 West Sunset Boulevard, which was formerly a LaunderLand and Le Barcito/Black Cat. The entire wall used to be covered in graffiti, but now the red-tiled piece by Invader is the sole remnant of the colorful scene. The management team behind the Village Idiot is constructing a new eatery in the space, and it seems like they'll be keeping Space Invader around to protect their parking lot.
I used to love going to Sunset Junction, back when it was donation-only and really about getting together with friends and neighbors who loved music as much as I did to see local bands, have margaritas at El Cid and rub elbows with the likes of Karen O. As the festival ballooned in price and proportions, showcasing national acts and rickety carnival rides to lure patrons, it lost its luster for me. For the second year in a row, Echo Park Rising has given eastsiders an outlet to celebrate our community, minus the traffic jams.
The day started out with a trip to Two Boots for a slice of cheese pizza. A DJ had taken over the patio to provide background music for those standing around eating their slices or in line to get into the Echo where Highland Park's Seasons were in the midst of their set. After fueling up at Two Boots, we headed to the main stage located in the parking lot of Taix to catch some cumbia from Norwalk's Buyepongo. There was a beer garden set up in the far corner of the lot, which was a great spot to stand in the shade and watch all the action.
I had to brave the sun to get closer to the stage once Lavender Diamond began their set, though. Frontwoman Becky Stark shared facts about Echo Park since it's her home base and a community that she loves, leading into "Oh My Beautiful World" from their sophomore full-length, Incorruptible Heart (releasing Sept. 25 via Paracadute). I had only ever seen them perform in small theaters, but the open space proved no challenge for Stark's strong pipes. Clad in a gauzy salmon gown, she gracefully lifted her arms as her voice soared on other new tracks like "Dragonfly" and "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now." With each song, the crowd around the stage grew, but their short set was over before very long and the audience was left hungry for more. Luckily Lavender Diamond begin a Monday-night residency at the Echo on Sept. 10.
Next up were Dante Vs. Zombies, headed by former Detroit Cobras guitarist Dante White Aliano, and Robert DeLong. By this time, the area in front of the stage was full of people, who were happy that the sun was going down and eager for NO to start playing. NO's latest project, a 7-inch on White Iris, released today and features artwork by Josh Evans that represents their former house on Mohawk Street, just blocks away from the stage at the Taix parking lot.
The evening ended with a set from another local band, Youngblood Hawke. The ballroom inside Taix was warm, even at 11 p.m., and after they kicked off their set with "Rootless," bodies started moving and it became sweltering hot. Youngblood had performed on the outdoor stage earlier in the night, yet the heat and any exhaustion they might have felt didn't diminish their energy. Vocalist Sam Martin bounced all over the place throughout the set, getting right in crowd members' faces for songs like "Dannyboy" and "Forever." Nik Hughes and Alice Katz pounded their drums with ceaseless zest, while Tasso Smith raised his guitar and beat on it as Simon Katz bravely took his guitar and flailed into the audience. The place exploded with writhing bodies during their cover of the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy," and the entire right side of the room jumped up and down to their hit, "We Come Running." Youngblood's set was the perfect nightcap to a wonderful day in the neighborhood.
Trailhead at Commonwealth Ave. and Los Feliz Blvd. (Hollywood)
Paul Givant is not an easy man to categorize. Like Rose's Pawn Shop, the band that he founded in 2005, Paul defies any solitary label that one might try to affix to his personality and artistic style. The group's blend of bluegrass, country, folk and rock cannot be classified into a single genre. The vocalist is a fiery ball of energy when he performs, armed with an acoustic guitar and an arsenal of lyrics touching on heartbreak, regret and that "One Last Glass of Whiskey." But when we meet at a coffee shop close to his favorite L.A. haunt, Griffith Park, I discover that he is also a down-to-earth, avid hiker who is just as comfortable shopping at his local farmers' market as he is on stage.
"I love to go hiking in Griffith Park. There's a certain trail that I usually take that runs up behind the Greek Theatre. That's a very common thing to do for me, it's so close. It's great to have a hiking area that I can be at in like five minutes," he shares. "There are a couple different places where you can catch the trail. You can go up Commonwealth Avenue, past Los Feliz Boulevard, and there's an entrance past the golf course. The other one is by the Greek Theatre, there's a trailhead that starts right across the street. Depending on how far you want to go, it can be a 30-minute or hour to hour-and-a-half hike to go all the way to the top. That's what I like about it: It's an escape that's in the middle of the city."
Often, this time away from the hustle and bustle stimulates his creativity.
"I do a lot of writing sitting at home holed up in a room, but usually if I get a little ways into the song – lyrically, especially – I'll be able to keep going with it while I go jogging," he says. "I go three or four times a week, and it clears my head. I've finished a lot of songs lyrically while I'm out jogging. Hiking, too. Being out there in motion opens your mind, and you're not editing as much. I've had a lot of good lyric ideas that way."
An ideal Saturday afternoon for the frontman would be spent relishing everything the city has to offer.
"There's a farmer's market right by my house so I would walk up there with my girl and her daughter. Then, if I'm lucky and don't have anything to do, I would probably laze around, watch sports and try to write music. I would go for a hike in Griffith Park, then go out to a good dinner. Hopefully something would be going on with my friends – we would listen to some music or to a party at somebody's house. That's the kind of Saturday that we mostly have when I'm in town," he says. "I used to have many spots where I would have that 'One Last Glass of Whiskey' on a pretty regular basis. I think I've mellowed out a little bit as I've gotten older. One of my places used to be the Dresden on Vermont. Also, Good Luck Bar, but lately I haven't been going to those places. Our bass player's girlfriend works over at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, so we've started going there. It's a cool spot. Sometimes I hang out at the Edendale in Silver Lake. They have some cool outdoor seating; it's good during the summer."
In any setting, it is clear that Paul loves his bandmates and the music that they create.
"It really is a brotherhood out there when we're on tour. It feels like family," he says. "When you first get home from tour, you're fine by yourself because you've been looking forward to having personal space, but at the same time you get separation anxiety and start calling them up to say, 'Hey, what are you doing?' It's weird how that works."
Paul Givant of Rose's Pawn Shop
Things didn't start out so easily for Paul once he decided to form the band in 2004. Its first incarnation included completely different members than it does now, except for Paul and electric guitar/banjo player John Kraus. The group got their name when Paul's former girlfriend/bandmate took their instruments and gear and sold them to a local pawn shop out of revenge. The band surged forward, cultivated their unique sound and released a debut album, The Arsonist, in 2006. Shortly after, the band won Billboard and Discmaker's Independent Music World Series, and Paul realized that Rose's Pawn Shop could become a lot bigger than he initially thought.
"I wasn't sure if we would just play around L.A., and that would be it. But we got such a good response as we started playing outside the city," he says. "Some of the early members of Rose's Pawn Shop were really great and said, 'This is something real. We could do something with this, let's get out on the road.' I don't know if I would have had the guts to get out on the road without them pushing me and backing me up saying we could do this. Once we finally got out there, we started getting crowd response and seeing that no matter where we went in the country people were digging what we were doing."
The band began to build a solid fan base across the country, but when their (German) drummer had some visa problems and their fiddle player and bassist also left, Paul and John had to reassemble the group.
"There have been two waves of Rose's Pawn Shop," says Paul. "The first wave was the musicians who played on The Arsonist. Then there was a big turnover between The Arsonist and our latest record, [Dancing on the Gallows], which is the crew that we have now. It's been almost three years with this crew, so it doesn't feel like it's new."
Paul and John were joined by Tim Weed on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Stephen Andrews on upright bass and Christian Hogan on drums and recorded 2010's Dancing on the Gallows with producer Ethan Allen (The 88, Gram Rabbit). When Paul speaks of his musical cohorts and some of their hobbies, it is with genuine pride and affection.
"Tim is a home brewer; he makes pretty good beer. His last name is Weed so he collects bottles, strips them and he's got this stamp where he stamps 'Weed' right on the bottle. It's pretty cool. He makes a good hefeweizen," Paul begins. "In addition to playing with us, Stephen plays in Merle Jagger and a couple other bands, so it seems like he's always on the road. He does carpentry, too. He's got a loft in Downtown that he basically built with his own hands. It's amazing. When he moved in, it was a huge empty room. Within six months he built a small town inside of his loft, all out of wood: four bedrooms, a rehearsal space, two stories, a garage. He's crafty like that. We bought a new tour bus recently, a shuttle bus type vehicle that you'd take to the airport, We took all the seats out, and he basically reconstructed it. We helped him, but he was the brains behind it."
Regardless of their other hobbies, all five members unwaveringly share a common love for music. Paul started by playing drums in his junior high school's band.
"From there, I got deeper into rock, learning to play on a drum set. From my junior high years onward, music has always been one of the biggest parts of my life, right at the forefront," he says.
"I've gone through a lot of musical phases. In high school it was bands like Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the funkier stuff. But as I got older, I went really deep into a Bob Marley phase for a while. Then I came out of that into the more Americana and folk side, and that has led me into the music I play now. I had a friend who was way into music by the Grateful Dead and bluegrass, and I don't listen to much of that, but he turned me onto Bill Monroe and the Dead. I think through that friendship and the music he turned me onto, it led me down a wormhole of American artists, getting into old stuff like Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash. Then I started finding new Americana artists like Gillian Welch and the Avett Brothers, people like that who are doing a modern twist on the old style. What I loved about their music is that it's new music that sounds like it's old – a versatile sound. There have been certain songwriters who have been really huge songwriting influences in my life, such as Elliott Smith. It's been a long journey, but it is for a lot of musicians and songwriters. They find their way from one artist to the next and kind of take what they can from each artist."
Growing up in the Simi Valley, Paul and his friends started venturing out to Hollywood in high school to see punk rock shows, especially performances by his favorite band at the time: Fishbone.
"They have never reached the level of success that they deserve really, but they're still going strong," he says. "They're one of the best live bands of all time, hands down, they're amazing. Subconsciously for me – even though we don't sound anything like Fishbone – the way that they take punk, ska, reggae, rock and metal and put it all into their melting pot, there's a similar idea for me with Rose's Pawn Shop because we take different elements of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and put it into a melting pot."
Their successful melding of different genres can be felt throughout Dancing on the Gallows and even in their choice of cover songs they perform at shows.
"One thing that we started doing not too long ago was we used to cover a version of the Misfits' 'Skulls,' a punk rock song," Paul shares. "We get asked a lot at shows, people will yell out for 'Wagon Wheel,' a popular bluegrass song by Old Crow Medicine Show, but we don't really play that. We heard the request for it one too many times and decided that since we would always play 'Skulls,' which has almost the same chords as 'Wagon Wheel,' that we would mash them up. We would play a verse and a chorus of 'Skulls' then we would do a verse and a chorus of 'Wagon Wheel.' We'd go back to 'Skulls' and back to 'Wagon Wheel,' then we'd do a twist on the last verse of 'Wagon Wheel.' We put the two songs together, changing the lyrics a little bit. That was fun – one of the more unique cover versions that we've done recently."
Aside from surprising fans with new spins on familiar songs, Rose's Pawn Shop hopes to give listeners something to relate to, and most of all, they just want you to have a good time.
"Of course, as a songwriter, it's most meaningful when somebody says that a song of mine has related to something that's happened to them or helped them through something. Now and then I'll have somebody come up to me after a show or send me an e-mail that says something like that. As a songwriter, for me, that's the goal. Being able to write something that strikes a chord with somebody, because that's what I loved about songs and music growing up: hearing a song and being like, 'Yeah, me too. I feel that same thing.' That's a huge plus if I can get that kind of response," Paul says. "Bottom line is that we hope somebody coming out of our show had a great time, danced, forgot their worries for a while and felt that maybe it was a cathartic release from their week. That's really what we love about it."
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St., Ste 307, Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)
Even though I'm half Japanese, I'm not the biggest sushi lover. However, my boyfriend is obsessed, and over the years I've developed an appreciation for quality fish and knife work. We've tried almost every sushi restaurant in Little Tokyo, and the best, by far, is Mako Sushi. Serving the freshest of superior cuts with unparalleled service in an authentic atmosphere, it's no wonder that Chef Mako has been in business for almost 22 years.
Located on the third level of the Weller Court shopping center (also home to Orochon Ramen and Curry House), the restaurant's manager and Mako-san's wife, Mayumi, is often the first person who greets you at the door. Dressed in kimono, as all the waitresses are at Mako, Mayumi leads her staff by example. She is one of the sweetest and most courteous ladies, who is quick to answer questions about the menu and attentive if you have a problem. It's almost like visiting family when we walk into the restaurant, with the customary yells of welcome "Irasshaimase!" and doll-like waitresses grinning as they recognize us.
As soon as you order, a small salad of cucumber, seaweed and sesame
seeds is placed in front of you. My boyfriend always orders the same
thing, the Fiji omakase: chef's special choice of sushi with two cold
dishes and two hot dishes ($68). There are two other omakase options
with less food – Sakura ($58) and Ume ($48) – as well as group omakase
choices for 2-5 people.
One cold dish they usually serve with the omakase consists of yamakake (sticky mountain yam) with okra, chunks of tuna, seaweed, wasabi and a quail egg. Another is a jellyfish salad, which I have never seen anywhere else.
Some of the hot dishes that come with the omakase are Chawan Mushi (steamed egg custard with shrimp, dish, scallop and mushrooms), a grilled miso-marinated Black Cod Saiko-Yaki and my absolute favorite item on the menu: the Scallop BBQ. You're given a sizzling small stone hibachi piled with huge Hokkaido scallops, green beans and enoki and matsutake mushrooms. Just make sure to remove the scallops from the hibachi before they become overdone.
I usually get the Scallop BBQ entree and a bowl of rice because it's the perfect vehicle for Mako's homemade soy sauce, which is so delicious I could almost eat it by the spoonful on its own. I've also tried the Prix Fixe meal that comes with seven pieces of sushi with an order of Shrimp Tempura for $35. The shrimp are huge – so plump and juicy.
But the main attraction, of course, is the sushi. What's special about Mako is their huge cuts of fish – do you see how big that piece of toro is in that photo at the top?! The fatty tuna is so silky and divine. The rice is served slightly warm, just as it should be, and provides a perfect bed for succulent pieces of halibut, yellowtail and uni. I love the salmon sushi, with a tiny bit of yuzu on top. The salmon roe sushi is fun to eat, as each egg bursts with a tiny explosion of sea flavor in your mouth.
"Elephant Room" is a thrill. (Scott Suchman/Arena Stage)
THURSDAY, AUG. 23
Danica McKellar @ Barnes & Noble (Glendale)
Remember Winnie "The Wonder Years"? Well, actress Danica McKellar went on to graduate summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and has authored several bestselling books that encourage girls to pursue studies in science and math. Her fourth non-fiction book, Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, hit stores earlier this month, and she'll be discussing and signing copies tonight at 7 p.m.
"Elephant Room" @ Kirk Douglas Theatre (Culver City)
A show like you've never experienced, the production melds magic and comedy with oddball charm and the unique performances styles of Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah. Be prepared to laugh and be blown away by some incredible magical illusions.
FRIDAY, AUG. 24
In Theaters This Week
Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper in Hit & Run; Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) directs Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin in Little White Lies; Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns action leading man in Premium Rush. Also in theaters: The Apparition; Red Hook Summer; Robot & Frank
Pixar Shorts Collection: Vol. 1@ LACMA (Mid-City West)
If you're a lover of Pixar films and haven't seen the collection of 13 shorts from the animation powerhouse that spans 1986-2006, then this special showing at LACMA's outdoor Dorothy Collins Brown Amphitheater is for you. It's free and also includes a screening of short animated films from the Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival (coming to the museum in October).
Pebaluna @ Hotel Café (Hollywood)
Vocalist Lauren Coleman certainly has a set of pipes, as evidenced on songs like "No I Can't" from the band's upcoming album, Carny Life (available Sept. 18). Coleman – along with RX Bandits' Matt Embree on guitar, Jessica Lankford on drums and Jonathan Grillo on bass – creates moving reveries that promise to captivate in person.
Shawn Lee @ The Satellite (Silver Lake)
The London-based groovemaster/experimentalist embarks on the "Somebody Like You" tour in support of his latest release, Synthesizers in Space. Lee's sometime collaborator, Los Angeles' AM, will also be on hand for a thoroughly sonically stimulating night.
SATURDAY, AUG. 25
Totally '80s Double Feature @ Exposition Park (South Los Angeles)
Two of my favorite movies from the decade, Weird Science and The Breakfast Club, are being shown on Street Food Cinema's giant blow-up screen. !Pushbuttons!, an '80s cover band are set to perform, and food can be purchased from the likes of Crepe N Around, Da Burger Boss and Ludo Truck.
L.A. Fried Chicken Fest @ The Coop (Beverly Hills)
Haru Kishi and "Top Chef"'s Marcel Vigneron's pop-up hosts the day celebrating one of my beloved foods, fried chicken. The dish and sides will be prepared by seven other top Los Angeles chefs – Josef Centeno, David LeFevre, Mary Sue Milliken, Matt Molina, Bryant Ng, Jazz Singsanong and Ricardo Zarate. Admission also includes craft beers and cocktail punch.
Air Traffic Controller
MONDAY, AUG. 27
Air Traffic Controller @ Hotel Café (Hollywood)
Singer-songwriter Dave Munro was actually an air traffic controller when he was in the Navy, and now he's the frontman of the Boston sextet who released a sophomore effort, NORDO, earlier this summer. With their clever lyrics and country-pop melodies, the band is sure to put on an entertaining live show.
"The Black Version" @ Groundlings Theatre (Hollywood)
The audience yells out the title of a popular film and the cast of all-black comedy actors, including Jordan Black, Daniele Gaither and Phil LaMarr, has to improves the black version of it.
El Chavo is one of the most colorful establishments in Silver Lake. Brightly hued streamers, sombreros, piñatas and Christmas lights adorn the Mexican restaurant, yet the decor pales in comparison to the vibrant patrons who frequent the dining room for tacos and green corn tamales or perch on barstools for a shot of tequila. El Chavo attracts everyone from blue-collar workers downing an after-work beer to platinum blonde Dolly Parton (whose portrait hangs in the bar) and a red-hot band of local musicians known as Youngblood Hawke.
"We meet here with our manager and a bunch of our other musician friends on Thursdays," shares group co-founder, multi-instrumentalist Simon Katz. "They're all super creative, involved in all facets of the music industry around here. It's really interesting to have everyone gather together each week."
"We've probably come here every Thursday for the last year," continues vocalist Sam Martin. "We come to discuss the week: what's going on, what we need to do. That's the main reason we come together, and to have some margaritas."
We take a seat in the small cantina area of the restaurant known as El Chavito with the rest of their bandmates – drummer Nik Hughes, vocalist/percussionist Alice Katz and guitarist Tasso Smith – during Happy Hour. Tasso gets a Michelada, while the other guys settle for some cervezas. Alice and I decide on margaritas: a Chavo Margarita for me and a Tropical Margarita for her.
"It's a mango margarita," she says. "I've never had it before with this chili salt around the rim."
"They have a Natural Margarita [with organic agave nectar], which I think is a little less sweet," says Sam. "On Cinco de Mayo they have $3-$4 margaritas, which is so dangerous. It's the one day when you can just embarrass yourself, when everybody's like, 'At least I'm not as bad as that guy over there!'"
El Chavo's name translates to 'the kid' in Spanish, which perfectly encapsulates the jovial atmosphere of the restaurant, as well as the relaxed vibe that surrounds this group of five longtime friends who just released a self-titled EP, their debut on Universal Republic. Youngblood Hawke's youthful spirit shines in the EP's anthemic lead single, "We Come Running," which has been charting on radio nationwide and features the West Los Angeles Children's Choir.
"We were always trying to figure out a way to incorporate a children's choir into one of our songs. Every time you hear one sing, it evokes a feeling of happiness. It's unavoidable," shares Simon. "We were at the studio watching them sing, and we just had smiles plastered on our faces like a bunch of idiots. We felt that it was really appropriate for this song because of its message, which is essentially, to follow your dreams and even when things are bad, know that they will get better."
"Kids are filled with a sense of wonder and curiosity. It was cool to have them on the track because that's kind of the point of the song too: Don't ever lose that part of you," adds Sam.
The band is rehearsing for upcoming shows in support of the EP, kicking off at this Saturday's Echo Park Rising, a festival celebrating the dynamic scene in the community that Simon and Alice call home.
"I love the area around where I live in Echo Park. I've been in Los Angeles for almost 10 years, and I've lived in Echo Park for about two years. Just being in this area inspires me and makes me feel like I've found my nook," says Alice. "I love taking walks in the neighborhood, sitting at Fix Coffee and going to restaurants like Sage. I'm a vegetarian, and there are so many great restaurants to choose from here."
While Alice stays healthy by eating good food, the guys counterbalance days of working in the studio with pick-up games of basketball.
"We play at Bellevue Park. It's close to our rehearsal space, so we'll practice then go play some hoops and get our asses kicked by ninth graders. They're just a bunch of little kids, and they literally run circles around us," Sam laughs.
Tasso also likes to unwind with a surf session.
"I usually go surf Zuma Beach, anywhere in that area north of Malibu," he says. "Sometimes I go to El Porto, which is south of the airport."
"Is it at the port?" asks Simon.
El Chavo's Toltec warrior mural
Tasso replies, "No, the beach is just called El Porto."
"You better look it up, because it could be like a 'Do not swim here!' area," laughs Simon.
"It is right next to a surf break commonly known as Shitpipe," smiles Tasso, evoking a collective "eww" from everyone at the table.
This kind of joking banter is a frequent occurrence between the two childhood friends, who knew that music would be their common path from a young age growing up in San Antonio, Texas.
"Music was part of our whole childhood growing up. We met when we were 13 years old, and what do you do when you're 13 but play electric guitar or some instrument and skateboard around the neighborhood? That's all we did for 10 years: play music," recalls Simon.
"His family had a basement that they basically gave us. It was a storage room," says Tasso. "I think that room was it for me. We would hang out there all day, we would go in with nothing and come out with three great songs. It made us feel like we could definitely do this."
"We played in four different bands together, evolving with all of our friends. It became a part of our life. In college, it was still a part of our life. We just knew what made us happy. I tried other things. I went to college for filmmaking initially, but music was still the biggest thing in my life," continues Simon. "People always say, 'Follow your dreams,' but it's hard with music because you don't know what's going to happen, even if you really push it."
Nik also began his love affair with music in his youth.
"My dad played in bands – he's a guitarist/piano player. When my parents had me, they moved into a house, and my dad had to sell a lot of his equipment. For some reason, he decided not to sell the drums, so I had a drum kit when I was really little," he shares. "My grandmother was a professional singer in New York. She sang with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Nat King Cole in the '30s. She was great; I have some records of her singing. My mom sings as well. There's a lot of music in my family. I'm the only child, or else we would have a band of brothers or something like that."
Instead, Nic is content to be in a group with great friends whom he sees as siblings who have weathered a lot together. It seems fitting that the restaurant they hang out at the most has one exterior wall that boasts a huge mural of a strong Toltec warrior. While Youngblood Hawke and their music are definitely about fun, there is a passionate determination that simmers at the band's core. Their name, taken from the title of a Herman Wouk novel, relates to events surrounding their formation.
"The story is about a guy who moves from the mountains of Kentucky to New York, and I feel like we could relate to that because we got in the car and moved from Boulder to L.A. – Simon and I moved out here together in 2006. We were going to school in Boulder, and we wanted to make the move to try and do music out here," explains Sam. "In the novel, when the character moves to New York, he is immersed in a totally different world. It's almost an entirely different world that we've been exposed to, just like the character in the book."
"The whole story is very reflective of things that we've all been through. Us in particular [indicates Sam and himself] having success with our last band [Iglu & Hartly] – doing all this crazy stuff, coming from nowhere, not knowing anybody in L.A., craziness in the U.K. – and coming right back down again the next year," says Simon. "I think people will take away the metaphor that it was just the beginning of where we're going with this new project."
After the members of Iglu & Hartly parted ways, the duo poured its emotions into new material, with Simon's wife, Alice, contributing to songwriting sessions. The addition of Nik and Tasso rounded out the lineup, and Youngblood Hawke took flight last year playing the Sunset Strip Music Festival, a residency at the Satellite and South by Southwest. And the band shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.
"When we were writing those [first] songs, we were at the lowest we've ever felt. We were trying to inspire ourselves," says Simon. "It was like writing a letter to ourselves, to pick ourselves up even though we were starting over completely at ground zero after years of work with the last band. It was about the possibility. You just have to really believe in it; you just have to really want it. I was like, 'I don't care what happens, this has to work. There's no other option. It's do or die.'"
Youngblood Hawke performs May 22 at the Avalon. For more information, visit youngbloodhawke.com.
Monte Thrasher is a designer and illustrator who created the alphabet symbols for the language used by the Romulan characters on Star Trek. He also painted this mural, Six Heads, on the side of a concrete building on Kingswell Avenue at Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz. Each head displays Thrasher's unique style of blending science with artful fantasy: studies of human skulls, Twiggy the World's Ugliest Dog, a Klein bottle and self portrait.
Although the English trio had been together for 10 years and enjoyed critical success and the dedication of elitists and underground music aficionados, the release of Absolution garnered the band a top 10 hit ("Time Is Running Out") and a first taste at mainstream success in the United States. This show – the second of two nights at the Wiltern – happened just as they were blowing up in America, as evidenced by the plethora of "bros" in attendance. Luckily, the friend standing next to me had no problem shushing the unruly frat boys whenever they started chattering during a song: The image of her tiny frame throwing up a fist in disgust at their loud banter as we were trying to enjoy the show is forever imprinted in my memories.
I had no idea why those guys wanted to carry on conversations during this show anyway - maybe because they were just there to brag that they were and didn't really give a crap about the music. But as Muse took the stage to the first rumblings of "Hysteria," lights started flashing and the speakers suspended from the ceiling were literally shaking (something I have never witnessed at the Wiltern since). The gigantic wall of sound that emanated from these three musicians and their instruments was incredible.
As they continued into the frenetic "The Small Print" and dizzying "Bliss," I continued to become mesmerized. It wasn't just that Muse were so loud, everything was really beautiful. Matthew Bellamy's guitar riffs and tremendous vocal range blended perfectly with the pulse-pounding beats from bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. From "Sing for Absolution" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes" to "Muscle Museum" and "New Born," I forgot about the world outside of the Wiltern doors and just became immersed in the music. Whenever Bellamy started pounding on keyboards and even a massive church organ during "Space Dementia," "Ruled By Secrecy" or "Sunburn," the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood on end.
I haven't seen Muse perform live since that night. Partly because they play insanely huge venues or festivals now, which I'm sure are great experiences since their sound can clearly fill massive arenas. Mostly, though, I don't think they could ever offer a show as thoroughly enjoyable, cathartic and transfixing as the one at the Wiltern.
In this heat, what could sound better than a dip in a natural swimming hole at the base of a 50-foot waterfall? I lived in Pasadena for five years and had heard about the waterfall in Eaton Canyon but never tried to find it until a couple of weeks ago. We had a free afternoon and our dog loves swimming, so we decided to check it out.
The Eaton Canyon website is really helpful in planning for the hike. There are two options for getting to the waterfall, depending on how strenuous a trip you want to make. You can park in the Nature Center's lot at 1750 N. Altadena Drive, walk up a slight incline then over the stream bed for a 1.5-mile total trek. Keep in mind, that it is 1.5 miles one way, so your total roundtrip ends up being about three miles.
For a shorter hike, you drive a mile past the Nature Center on Altadena, turn right on Crescent Drive then right on Pinecrest Drive. Just a short way up Pinecrest you'll see the Pinecrest gate, a chain link fence that remains open until sunset. When you're looking for parking, make sure to pay attention to the restricted parking signs posted on Pinecrest (usually you can find a spot on Bowring Drive). After passing through the Pinecrest gate, you're on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road which takes you down to a cement bridge. Keep to the right as you walk the length of the bridge so you end up making a loop to get onto the dry stream bed that is located directly under the bridge.
Whether you take the long or short hike, this is where the journey up the stream bed to the waterfall begins. It is .4 miles to the waterfall (so a .8 mile round-trip for those of you who started at Pinecrest gate). There are lots of rocks to climb over and you have to cross small rivulets of water, so make sure to wear sneakers and bring flip flops or water shoes for the waterfall area. It's not too long of a hike, but it gets a little tiring since it's not a flat path and you have to be mindful of where you put your feet. It's fun to cross the stream, jumping from stone to stone, and there's no chance of you getting lost because the trail ends up in just one place: the waterfall.
We went on a Saturday afternoon, which was actually a big mistake because the waterfall area was packed. Small children swam in the pool at the base of the waterfall, splashing and screaming as water cascaded over their heads. People lounged in the shade of the rock walls surrounding the fall, enjoying picnic lunches and the sounds of teens playing djembe drums. It was the perfect spot to cool off and rest before hiking back to the car. I'm sure that we'll return to the waterfall again soon – just not on a weekend.
City of Style @ Barnes & Noble (The Grove)
Style writer for the L.A. Times, Melissa Magsaysay, discusses and signs her book, City of Style: Exploring Los Angeles Fashion, from Bohemian to Rock, and then introduces this week's Movie in the Park, The Devil Wears Prada.
Starry Kitchen Nights @ Tiara Cafe (Downtown)
When husband and wife team Thi and Nguyen Tran closed their California Plaza location last month, they said it wasn't the end of their adventures. They prove it by taking over Tiara starting tonight for Asian family-style dinners, featuring dishes like Singaporean Chili Crab Malaysian Chicken Curry and Ribeye Satay Noodles.
Midnight Magic @ Dance Right, La Cita (Downtown)
The disco collective contains ex-members of LCD Soundsystem and has just released a new single, "I Found Love" – a collaboration with Tommie Sunshine. Strap on your dancing shoes and get ready to party with the New Yorkers. The group also takes over School Night at Bardot on Monday.
Why Stop Now (Jacob Hutchings)
FRIDAY, AUG. 17
In Theaters This Week
David Cronenberg directs Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis; Sparkle, the remake of the 1976 film inspired by the Supremes stars Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston; Jesse Eisenberg, Tracy Morgan and Melissa Leo in Why Stop Now. Also in theaters: The Awakening; Chicken with Plums; The Expendables 2: Back for War; The Odd Life of Timothy Green; ParaNorman
SATURDAY, AUG. 18
Cinespia Summer Camp @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Hollywood)
Sleepover at the cemetery! Summer Camp goes from dusk 'til dawn (7 p.m.-6 a.m.) and features camp activities, DJs, a Meatballs mashup, Friday the 13th highlights, nature and surfing documentaries, Wet Hot American Summer, Sleepaway Camp and Little Darlings. The event kicks off the Cinefamily's Everything Is Festival.
Sunset Strip Music Festival (West Hollywood)
Kickoff parties and performances have been happening at clubs and restaurants throughout the week, culminating with today's street festival. Traffic will be closed off from San Vicente to Doheny for the fourth annual event, which features over 70 artists on seven stages. This year welcomes artists such as Marilyn Manson, Bad Religion, Dead Sara, De La Soul and Das Racist.
The Royal Concept
SUNDAY, AUG. 19
Drunken Prayer @ Grand Ole Echo (Echo Park)
The Echo's country music Sunday summer barbecue welcomes the Oregon-based band, headed by Morgan Christopher Geer. Whether you call them Americana, folk-rock or any other genre label, one thing that rings true is Geer's onstage charisma. Prima Donna @ Redwood (Downtown)
The eclectic five-some channels groups such as the Ramones, Sex Pistols, as well as T. Rex and David Bowie. In the midst of a West Coast tour with the Phenomenauts, Prima Donna returns to their L.A. roots with a show at my favorite pirate bar.
The Royal Concept @ Troubadour (West Hollywood)
I've recently become addicted to the Swedish band's "Gimme Twice," with its infectious beats and chorus that immediately gets stuck in the brain. The quartet is sure to turn the Troubadour into a sweaty mass of writhing bodies. Also on hand are L.A.'s own Eastern Conference Champions, who are working on a much-anticipated new album. The Royal Concept also performs at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Monday.
TUESDAY, AUG. 21
GASLAND and "The Sky Is Pink" @ Aero Theatre (Santa Monica)
Maybe you caught Mark Ruffalo's appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher," when he presented his thoughts on fracking. The controversial practice has been a hot topic in my house ever since my son had to do a debate on it two years ago. Josh Fox's documentaries provide all the information you need to get educated on the subject, and the screenings are followed by a panel discussion with environmental experts.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 22
Tashaki Miyaki @ The Echo (Echo Park)
The Los Angeles duo celebrates the Aug. 28 release of new single "Best Friend/Tonight" with a party and performance at the Echo. I've said it before, and I still think they are the perfect soundtrack to these last lazy days of summer.
The OSD Crew has several pieces in my neighborhood, and this is one of my favorites. Located on Aaron Street at Glendale Boulevard behind V.M. Auto Repair in Echo Park, the Outsiders Rock! mural never fails to make me smile whenever I pass it.
There are few things I would brave this crazy heat for, and obviously, a Jack White concert is one of them. There I was Friday in the sticky night air having my purse searched by security, standing in line for a cocktail in the sweltering Shrine lobby and almost getting squished by a large man/woman with extremely long hair in the seat in front of me. But, it was all worth it.
My only disappointment was that I didn't get to see any of the songs that his all-female touring band, the Peacocks, perform (such as "Love Interruption" and "Take Me With You When You Go"), however, his all-male support musicians, the Buzzards, were phenomenal. Comprised of Ikey Owens (the Mars Volta) on keyboards, Daru Jones on drums, Cory Younts on mandolin/harmonica/vocals, Dominic Davis on bass and Fats Kaplin on fiddle/pedal steel, they launched the evening off with an explosion of energy in "Sixteen Saltines" and "Black Math." The two songs set the tone for the night, which was the perfect balance of White's solo debut, Blunderbuss, a cover ("Goodnight, Irene") and gems from his catalog of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather tunes.
The audience actually did a good job of singing along when White asked on "Goodnight, Irene" and "We're Going to be Friends" – and even when he didn't ask on his contribution from the 2011 The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams compilation, "You Know That I Know." I missed Meg White's presence during "Hotel Yorba" and "The Hardest Button to Button," but White's exuberance as he interacted with the technically precise Jones and delighted in the musical prowess of all the Buzzards breathed new life into "I'm Slowly Turning Into You," "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and "The Same Boy You've Always Known." I admittedly enjoyed their versions of "Top Yourself," "Steady As She Goes" and "I Cut Like a Buffalo" more than when I saw them performed by White with the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. The real standouts of the set were White's frenetic hammering on "Missing Pieces," his wailing (with his voice and guitar) on "Hypocritical Kiss," back-to-back Owens on keys and White on ivories for "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep" and the thundering "Freedom at 21."
White really is one of the best musicians of his generation to see in concert. Even though the venue's sound didn't start off too stellar, it didn't matter. Perfection is not what you come to a Jack White show for. In fact it's the imperfections, the improvised intricacies of instrumentation that make each of his performances unique. Those are the moments that stay with you, that are worthy of every single sweat-drenched minute.
Like the musical scale they are named for, Pentatonix (PTX) is made up of five distinct personalities coming together in perfect harmony. After winning the third season of "The Sing-Off" last November, the a cappella group was propelled into the international spotlight. But it was something that Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstie Maldonado and Kevin Olusola were completely prepared for. The quintet took time out from rehearsing for their upcoming national tour for a meal at one of their neighborhood restaurants, SLOWFish.
"This is probably my favorite restaurant," admits Avi. "I like the California Roll with tempura flakes on top and the Pink Albacore Roll. They have black rice here which has the nutritional value of brown rice, and it's really great."
Scott usually orders "the Chicken Teriyaki and black rice. It's so good!"
Another thing the group agrees on besides the deliciousness of black rice is shopping.
"Especially at the Grove," says Scott. "I like Zara. I'm wearing a Zara jacket right now."
"I like the Barnes & Noble there a lot," says Kevin. "I go to the Starbucks and just chill."
"I love Timeless on Melrose, that's my favorite store," shares Kirstie. "I love shopping! When I first got here, my card started declining and they cut me off. Literally the first week I got here, I was really embarrassed."
Kirstie, Scott and Mitch grew up doing community theater together in Arlington, Texas. They formed a vocal trio in high school, garnering attention with their cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone."
"I always loved singing, and I would listen to all of my mom's music. She doesn't really sing, but she inspired the love of music," shares Kirstie. "I did musical theater all of my life, and it was what I always wanted to do when I grew up. It was all I could see myself doing."
The trio parted ways when Kirstie went to Oklahoma for college and Scott began studying music theory at the University of Southern California, where he became a member of the SoCal VoCals.
"The SoCal VoCals is how I got involved in a cappella in the first place," he says.
His involvement in the university a cappella group inspired his decision to ask Kirstie and Mitch to come out to Los Angeles so they could audition for "The Sing-Off" together. But they needed more members, and as luck would have it, one of the best basses was available.
"I'm originally from Visalia, in between Fresno and Bakersfield," says Avi. "In the Central Valley, it has a lot of agriculture and horses, so I grew up riding horses. I would also go to the park with my friends and play music all night. I started getting serious about music in high school. My voice changed in between eighth grade and freshman year, and I joined my high school choir. I figured out I could sing bass, and the rest is history."
Scott eventually found their beatboxer when he came across a YouTube video of Kevin cello-boxing.
"At 6 I started playing the cello, but being a musician was never my goal because my dad's from Nigeria and my mom's from Grenada and they came to this country to make sure that I was very successful monetarily, and that meant going into medicine. I did music for the fun of it, but then I found out my junior year [at Yale University] that I loved it," says Kevin. "It was only when I started doing music the way I wanted to, playing cello and trying to beatbox at the same time, that I realized maybe I could do something different with it. I did this competition that Yo-Yo Ma had posted online. I got second place, and he called me and said, 'You should think about going into music.' Then a friend and I played for KRS-One. I was cello and beat boxing, and my friend was rapping. KRS-One came up to me and said, 'If you do this in the hip-hop world, I think you could make a living.'"
So PTX was complete. The two new members' chemistry jelled perfectly with the three Texans, and the group dazzled audiences with their creative renditions of songs such as the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" and Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" on the way to taking first place on "The Sing-Off." PTX continued to thrill fans by posting videos of new covers, like Fun.'s "We Are Young" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," on their YouTube channel, which has over 18 million video views.
The group debuted their first EP, PTX, Vol.1, in June, featuring covers and two original songs. PTX, Vol. 1 sold 20,000 copies in its initial week of release and landed at No. 14 on the Billboard 200.
"I woke up to some tweets about it," Scott says about hearing of their debut on the Billboard charts,
"I think I did too!" adds Kirstie.
"I was in Tokyo," admits Kevin. "I was at the Montreaux Jazz Festival performing for Quincy Jones and had just flown down to Tokyo to give a performance. I got the news from our manager and was like, 'what?!'"
Kevin is quite the jet setter, but all in all, the five vocalists have settled into life in Los Angeles quite well.
"It fits me really well," says Mitch. "I just like the style of everything. I'm really into the arts scene. I go to galleries and a lot of concerts. I really like the El Rey. Most of the shows I've seen have been there."
"I like the intimacy of the Mint, the history behind it," says Scott.
"I'm more of a small-town guy, so coming here was a little bit of a change. But of all the big cities I think that this is the best city for me," says Avi. "It's not as crazy and packed as New York. And it has a lot of good food, so I'm OK with that [smiles]."
"I love Los Angeles because it reminds me of Beijing," says Kevin. "I was in Beijing for 18 months during college studying Chinese on fellowship, and L.A. reminds me so much of Beijing. The streets are wide, it's very vast. The only thing I wish L.A. had that Beijing has is a really good public transportation system. Besides that, I love living here."
A plate of SLOWFish goodies
As one of the sushi chefs brings us a large plate of bacon wrapped asparagus, tuna and the restaurant's Famous Fat Avo (avocado) filled with seared albacore, Kevin says, "The one thing we have to look out for is overeating on this tour because I went on a national tour with the David Crowder Band and every night after we would perform everyone would be eating Sonic or Burger King. It's the one thing I'm nervous about. We're all going to try and work out together."
Working together is something this group does well and with ease, specifically when choosing covers and arranging them.
"We rehearse every day, so one of us will like a song and bring it to the rest of us and say, 'I can see Mitch doing this, and Avi doing this with the bass.' We'll all be inspired and just arrange it," says Scott.
"We all contribute ideas on our arrangements," continues Mitch. "We try everything we can to see what will work. It's a collaborative effort."
As for writing the two original songs on PTX, Vol. 1, it ended up being a slightly different process.
"The four covers, we knocked them out in two weeks. The originals ended up being a little harder than we thought," Scott admits. "We tried some different things. We tried writing as a group, and we came up with some ideas but nothing concrete. We tried writing in duos, which worked well. Then I ended up writing a song by myself ("The Baddest Girl"), because writing a song is so personal for me. It's hard for me to collaborate sometimes. Avi and Kevin co-wrote the other original song ["Show You How to Love"]. As a group we're new artists, we're still trying to find ourselves. But we're getting there."
As for future goals after their first national headlining tour comes to a close, PTX is shooting for the stars.
Kevin: "Playing Nokia Theatre would be dope."
Scott: "The Staples Center!"
Kevin: "The thing I've learned is that you just have to put yourself out there and hopefully things will happen. A family has been created now, and it's been an incredible journey."
PTX, Vol. 1 is currently available. Pentatonix performs Jan. 24, 2013 at the Fonda. For more information, visit ptxofficial.com.
I sometimes fantasize that Buddy Guy is related to me. I imagine that one of these Thanksgivings he's going to show up at our door with a grin and one of his custom Fenders asking, "When do we eat?" He would tell us stories about growing up in Louisiana, his years in Chicago and playing with Muddy Waters. Sigh … I just have to be satisfied with going to see him perform every chance I get.
This particular night began with a set from former teen prodigy Jonny Lang. While he's definitely got some impressive guitar chops, what really blew me away was his voice. Lang got down low with the raspiest of them, and his falsetto raised the hairs on the back of my neck. By the time he closed with the title track from his breakout multiplatinum album Lie to Me (1997) – with an acoustic intro – the crowd was on its feet.
Then the first strains of "Goin' Down" filled the venue, and the master took the stage. Guy has been called the bridge between the blues – Chicago pioneers Waters and Howlin' Wolf – and rock 'n' roll – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. It always frustrates me when I mention his name and people don't know who he is. Besides being a living legend, he is the consummate showman, a true entertainer.
He professed what a shame it is that the Blues isn't played on the radio anymore, but promised to school the audience in the genre tonight. The crowd just ate it up: Guy had to stop at the first chorus of "Hoochie Coochie Man" because the crowd was too riled up and started chiming in too fast. He said that he had just performed the song in Tokyo, with one difference: "They didn't fuck it up like you just did!" Guy's next lessons were about satisfying a woman ("She's Nineteen Years Old") – complete with a display of his motorboating skills; cheating hearts ("Someone Else Is Steppin' In (Slippin' Out, Slippin' In)"); and getting to keep his shoes on at the airport security checkpoints because of his age ("74 Years Young," with his age updated to 76).
More of the evening's highlights were when Guy paid homage to Albert King, strolling through the audience with his guitar and when he invited two up-and-coming guitar prodigies to the stage. The first was 13-year-old Quinn Sullivan, whose technical skills were amazing. The other, a slightly younger Angeleno by the name of Ray, had the personality and charm to match his stellar guitar playing. Eventually, Guy called Lang back to the stage for a final jam session (of Cream's "Strange Brew") with the two youngsters. He summed up the entire evening by proclaiming that these children prove to him: "The Blues are not dead yet!"
Lucha VaVoom @ The Mayan (Downtown) If you've never been to the Mexican masked wrestling, burlesque and comedy mayhem that is Lucha VaVoom, its 10th anniversary spectacular would be a great time to pop that cherry. This particular show is sure to feature even more of the troupe's trademark sex, violence and hilarity.
Michael and Bryan Voltaggio
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival Perhaps our city's biggest food festival, L.A. Food & WIne takes over the cream of the crop in restaurants in Beverly Hills, Downtown, Hollywood and Santa Monica – from ink. and the Spice Table to Street and Akasha. Celebrity chefs from across the country invade for the weekend with special menus, cooking demos and tastings. Dim sum with Ming Tsai - yes. Fiesta Italiana with Giada - yes! Demo with the Voltaggio brothers - YES!! It's almost too much for my food-loving brain to handle – almost.
"The Exorcist" @ Geffen Playhouse (Westwood) This is the final weekend to catch the world premiere production based on the chilling 1971 novel. Adapted by John Pielmeier ("Agnes of God"), directed by Tony winner John Doyle and starring Richard Chamberlain, Brooke Shields and Harry Groener, "The Exorcist" is a throughly unique theatrical experience.
FRIDAY, AUG. 10
In Theaters This Week
Jeremy Renner takes the reins in The Bourne Legacy, the fourth installment of the series based on Robert Ludlum's novels; If The Campaign is anything like the antics when Will Ferrell is on Zach Galifianakis "Between Two Ferns," I'm in; Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep try to rekindle romance in Hope Springs; Julie Delpy's sequel to 2 Days in Paris, 2 Days in New York, stars Chris Rock. Also in theaters: Goats; Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D
Childish Gambino @ The Palladium (Hollywood) You may know Donald Glover for his comedy skills with Derrick Comedy or "Community," but his raps are no joke. His first studio album, Camp, was one of the breakout debuts from 2011. His smooth flow and onstage energy are sure to grab you.
Jack White @ The Shrine (South Los Angeles) His first solo effort , Blunderbuss, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in April, and he's been wowing audiences with the all-female and all-male bands backing him up on songs from the album along with beloved White Stripes' tunes. If Jack's guitar solos don't have an impact on you in person, then you must be dead inside. Also performing Aug. 11 at the Shrine.
SATURDAY, AUG. 11
Gringo Bandito Taco Challenge @ Chronic Tacos (Huntington Beach) The Offspring's Dexter Holland's hot sauce, Gringo Bandito, presents its second annual eating challenge. Competitive eating legend Takeru Kobayashi is my pick to win among the field of nine. The winner receives $5,000. It's like "Man v. Food" in person– yay, err … gross.
SUNDAY, AUG. 12
Sigur Rós @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Hollywood) Hopefully you already have your tickets to this one, because it's the only SoCal date of their Valtari wold tour and it's totally sold out. The Icelandic quartet don't just do concerts, they give you experiences that you'll remember forever.
MONDAY, AUG. 13
Rear Window @ Aero Theatre (Santa Monica) This week's Monday Night Mystery at the Aero is Alfred Hitchcock's classic starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Join the quintessential voyeur as he uncovers a murder mystery in his neighborhood.
TUESDAY, AUG. 14
Alabama Shakes (Autumn de Wilde)
Alabama Shakes, Michael Kiwanuka @ The Fonda (Hollywood) Who isn't addicted to Alabama Shakes' "Hold On" off their Boys & Girls debut? If you aren't in on the craze, go Spotify or YouTube them now. Supporting them is up-and-coming British singer-songwriter Kiwanuka.
Chef Joshua Siegel wanted to create a true neighborhood restaurant when he opened the Park in 2008. Because of its strong word of mouth, excellent special offers and, of course, amazing food, the Park was just named one of the 15 Neighborhood Gems In and Around L.A. by Zagat.
When we initially moved to the area, the Park was one of the first restaurants we visited, and it remains one of our favorites; we eat there at least once a month. After a long day, being welcomed by manager David, seeing the familiar black-and-white checkerboard floor, the collection of well-worn cookbooks available for perusal in the foyer and original paintings on the walls are all such welcome sights. I have been to the Park for brunches, lunches and dinners and tried all of the staples that remain on the menu throughout the year. The majority of the menu changes with the seasons, but some of the stand-out seasonal dishes tend to return every year (like the amazing New England clam chowder with bits of smoky bacon and the refreshing watermelon salad with feta).
Chef Josh prepares a special appetizer and entree every weekend. Specials that we most recently tried were a delicious and unique Smoked Brisket Salad with organic plums, aged gouda, watercress, picked onions and barbecue sauce vinaigrette and a Grilled Wild Salmon with salmon tartare in a sesame miso cup, a crispy green onion pancake, soy sesame dipping sauce and sautéed pea shoots. Every Sunday the special is Beer Battered Fish & Chips, which is outstanding. The fish is battered just right – not too heavily. The hand-cut fries are always the first to disappear from my plate because everyone at the table can't stop eating them, and the homemade cole slaw and tartar sauce are perfect compliments to the meal.
The Park Burger
Earlier this summer, the Park hosted Monday sushi nights with $5 rolls, but the main draws are always Speakeasy Tuesdays (3-course prix fixe meals for $15), Wednesday Burger Nights ($5 for a 7-ounce sirloin burger or homemade veggie burger and a side. Yes, $5!) and Friday Supper Clubs ($25 for any appetizer, entree and dessert on the regular menu).
One of the can't-miss Tuesday meals is the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with biscuit, gravy, collard greens and mashed potatoes. There is always a vegetarian option offered as well (usually mac and cheese on fried chicken night). Without fail, my son always orders the Park Burger. The homemade pickles on it are addicting. The veggie burger is good too. I usually always order it with a side of potato salad if I'm at the Park for lunch. Other favorites include the Roast Jidori Half Chicken with delectably crispy skin coated with demi-glace and served with French fries and arugula, the heavenly Caesar Salad (with anchovies, of course!) and the Szechuan Fried Calamari with spicy sesame-soy glaze.
Whether the dishes are Asian-infused, Mediterranean or down-home American, Chef Josh concocts an array of flavors that dance harmoniously on one's palate. I've never had a bad experience at the Park, and it continues to be a true L.A. Haven for me.