Wednesday, October 31, 2012

L.A. LANDMARKS - Hollywood Forever

Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)



6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles (Hollywood)

It may seem a bit weird to include a cemetery on the list of places to visit in Los Angeles, but Hollywood Forever is a big part of the city's cultural fabric. This is Hollywood, after all, and film legends need a fabulous resting place. Originally established on 100 acres as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery in 1899 by Isaac Lankershim and Isaac Van Nuys, the grounds are now 62 acres that feature lush green lawns, ornate headstones and mausoleums. Fans can pay tribute to Hollywood luminaries like Cecil B. DeMille, Mel Blanc, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Fay Wray, as well as musicians Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone. Even gangster Bugsy Siegel's crypt is located at Hollywood Forever.

Although the site began to fall into disrepair under the ownership of convicted felon Jules Roth beginning in 1939, it was eventually restored and refurbished by Tyler and Brent Cassity. The grounds were revitalized, garnering it placement on the National Register of Historic Sites, and Hollywood Forever has become so much more than just a cemetery. Every summer, thousands of Angelenos gather to eat, drink and watch classic movies as part of the Cinespia film series. Artists such as the Flaming Lips, Sigur Rós, Band of Horses and the xx have performed concerts there. And every Halloween, the cemetery hosts the largest Dia de Los Muertos celebration in California with altars created by members of the community dedicated to their dearly departed loved ones.

Aside from being a part of Hollywood history, the cemetery has also appeared on TV in "90210" and on the big screen in a documentary of its history called The Young and the Dead and Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day. It's also featured in Tim Powers' novel Expiration Date.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dylan Hyde

Dylan Hyde at Dylan's Candy Bar



At Dylan's Candy Bar

6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles (Mid-City West) 323-930-1600

Rising pop artist Dylan Hyde and CEO/Founder of Dylan's Candy Bar Dylan Lauren not only share the same first name, they both have an immense love for candy. Even though the L.A. branch of the candy empire built by the daughter of designer Ralph Lauren has only been open since September, Dylan Hyde's sweet tooth has led him through the Dylan's Candy Bar doors at least five times in the past few weeks, and he doesn't even live in the city. The demands of Dylan's hectic career usually bring him to Los Angeles from his native San Diego multiple times a week, and whenever he has the chance, this candy store is his favorite destination.

"I push them to take me here all the time," he says.

The 'them' Dylan refers to is his manager Richard Allen and producer Taran Peirson, co-owners of the label that Dylan is signed to, Crissy Field Records. As we step into Dylan's Candy Bar, Richard and Taran begin to explore the store on their own as Dylan takes me through each section. It soon becomes evident how much he loves the shop because he knows exactly where everything is. From his absolute favorite sour candies (sour belts, Warheads, the Pucker Powder bottling station) and candy canes to pop rocks and the many flavors of gum, he shows me everything – even the fashion apparel section.

"I would love to get a shirt to wear, just because my name's on it," he grins.

Whether it's a pair of rain boots covered in colorful candy images or a special Dylan's Candy Bar Whirly Pop, there's something to satisfy every craving at the shop. Currently they showcase an election section with red, white and blue gum balls and presidential candidate dispensers, as well as a mustache area that Dylan goes crazy over. And, of course, there is Halloween candy galore: lollipops and gummies made to look like body parts, candy corn and chocolates wrapped in ghostly foil. I ask Dylan what he's going to be for Halloween, and his answer reveals another of his passions.

"At first I was going to be my favorite superhero from DC Comics, Flash, but they don't have any Flash costumes. My next favorite is Batman, so I think I might be him. I'm always a superhero; I have a thing for superheroes. Taran and I read comics all of the time, we keep up with all the series. The local comic book store, they know us when we walk in," he shares. "Flash is my all-time favorite, I'm more of a DC guy than Marvel, although I do kind of obsess over Spider-Man. But I love the Justice League: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern – all of them."

Although Dylan's Candy Bar is his first stop whenever he comes to the Original Farmers Market, I wonder where else his addiction to sugar might lead him.

"We'll usually walk through the Farmers Market. There's a Chinese place that we go to [China Depot] and a really awesome doughnut place [Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts]. I get the old-fashioned glaze doughnuts. Right next door is an ice cream place [Bennett's Ice Cream], and obviously, I have to hit up the ice cream place," laughs Dylan. "I have this conflict all of the time: My favorite flavor is really cookie dough, but my brain says that my favorite is mint. So sometimes I have to mix them together."

Dylan has also been combining fun with his love of music from a young age when his family would go to Sunday family karaoke night at the Flinn Springs Inn near his grandparents' house.

"I used to do a song by Smash Mouth ['All Star'] off the Shrek soundtrack. I was obsessed with Shrek, I could probably still recite some lines from it," admits Dylan. "I would sing that same song every single time at karaoke for two years. I would also do Billy Joel songs, but mostly I would do that Smash Mouth song."

Although Dylan eventually grew out of the Smash Mouth song phase and began to play the piano, drums and guitar, the influence of Billy Joel has been a constant throughout his life.

"Billy Joel is my all-time inspiration. I've been listening to him since I was 4. We used to put on his Essential album with all of his hits; we would play it all day. Whenever we were in the car, that was the only thing I would ever let them play. My granddad really liked Billy Joel and would play some of his songs, like 'Piano Man,' on the piano," he says. "His songwriting is actually similar to how I try and write. When I write a song I don't do both melody and lyrics at the same time. I sit down at the piano and record with my phone, or I start singing melodies, just random things, and try to catch them. Afterwards, I plug my phone into speakers, and when I hear something I like I'll go back to it and figure something out with those chord progressions then sit down and do a melody. Or vice versa, sing a whole bunch of stuff then sit down at the piano. Billy Joel does kind of the same thing, he does one or the other. I watched some of his interviews, and there's a CD where there's about 20 people there listening to him and he sings a song and talks about how he wrote it, how it was produced, the story behind it. I used to listen to that all the time, and it's what started everything for me, with music."

Dylan began performing in musical theater productions at CYT San Diego, and one of his favorite performances there was in "Peter Pan."

"I was one of the twin Lost Boys. We had liberty spikes of hair, it was really crazy and fun. That's where I met my manager, Richard, actually. He was doing makeup and costumes for the show," he remembers. "Two years later I was doing one of my first professional shows, '13,' and Richard and Taran went to see it because they knew the director – who was the same director of 'Peter Pan.' My part had a lot of R&B vocals, and after seeing me perform, they wanted to work with me."

Besides signing Dylan to Crissy Field Records, Allen created a webseries around Dylan called "Amazed," which debuted in May. The mystery/science-fiction series was inspired by retro TV programs like "The Twilight Zone" and "Scooby-Doo," a show that Dylan is very fond of.

"When I'm at home I'll pull up 'Scooby-Doo' episodes On Demand," he says. "I like spooky, eerie stuff, but I do get scared. Ghosts freak me out, but I can't stop watching it. I like being thrilled."

You may recognize Dylan from "Amazed" or the YouTube videos he's posted of himself doing covers of Justin Bieber songs. He's also posted a video of a cover of Pink's "Perfect," which is preceded by Dylan sharing his own personal story of struggling with hearing impairments since he was born. He's undergone multiple ear surgeries, and there are two things he always turns to when he has particularly bad days.

"One is Dakota, my little sister. Having a bad day, she can definitely pull me out of it. Back when I had surgeries I would be out for months, it was a struggle because at school you get annoying to other kids by saying, 'What? Huh?' all the time. I had that frustration, and music was the thing that pulled me out of the hole," he shares. "When you plug your ears and sing, you can hear it in your head. I could always hear myself singing fine. The room where I grew up playing the upright piano at my grandma's, it has a wood floor that vibrates. The sound would vibrate through me, and I could hear it. Doing music was something I could relate with. It listened to me, I could listen to it."

With singles "Love Is," "Running Free" and the recently released "Gone" showcasing Dylan's unique vocal style that fuses the influence of legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra and Joel with a contemporary flair like that of John Legend and Michael Buble, Dylan is oftentimes dubbed a "neo-crooner." "Gone," produced by Peirson and Shawn Campbell (who discovered Cody Simpson), is a perfect example of old-school swagger meets contemporary pop flavor.

"I've looked up to Shawn for a couple of years now because I was a big Cody Simpson fan. I knew who Shawn was, and when he came up to me at an event and said he wanted to work with me I was like, 'What?! Shawn Campbell wants to work with me,'" says Dylan. "My dream is also to be a producer. I want to be a record label executive besides being an artist, so being able to work with other producers is pretty cool for me. Working with Shawn and Taran together on 'Gone,' it was a great collaboration. They're brilliant."

Dylan is currently working on material for his debut album, coming next year, and a music video his next single, "Crash Into You." Angelenos can see him perform this Saturday, Nov. 3, at Pop Explosion.

"I might do a John Legend song, 'Tonight (Best You Ever Had)' [on Saturday]. I want to make sure I do stuff that new fans can relate to by doing a John Legend song that they know, then I'll do my single and maybe a Whitney Houston song," he shares. "It's a total rush on stage. In Nashville, everyone was freaking out; they had signs that said 'Dylan Hyde.' I did 'Love Is,' and everyone sang along with it. That was super cool. Things like that are awesome. You either do music, or you don't. Everyone has that thing that speaks to them. A lot of my friends, it's sports or skating. Music was just my thing, my whole family's thing really. Every single person did theater. My granddad had his own show in Vegas as a tap dancer, my grandma and granddad met each other at a show. It's in my blood, I grew up around it and it just spoke to me."

Dylan is also getting set to embark on a promotional tour to New York City, his first trip to the Big Apple. But one locale in the city will be completely familiar to him, the site where five lucky fans will get the chance to come to a meet and greet with him: Dylan's Candy Bar's flagship store in Manhattan.

"It's going to be an intimate thing, I'm going to bring my guitar and just jam with them. It's going to be fun," he says. "I love doing those kinds of things, meet and greets, because I get to be one on one with the fans."

"Gone" is currently available. For more information, visit

Monday, October 29, 2012

STREET SIGNS - Magic is Real

I was born in the Year of the Snake, and ever since I learned about the ancient symbol of ouroboros (a serpent eating its own tail) in school I've been intrigued by it. It was the image on a birthday invitation a friend designed for my 29th bash, and I've always wanted to get a snake tangled in a figure 8 and biting its tail tattooed on my leg. The artist team known as CYRCLE entwined the creature into the Magic is Real mural adorning two sides of Bedrock LA (1623 Allesandro St.) in Echo Park. A lot of great music has been created within those walls, and CYRCLE's piece – which transformed a plain, brick edifice into a vibrant work of art – reminds us that magic is indeed real.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Songs



For those of you throwing your parties tonight and tomorrow, here are 13 of my favorite tunes to spark your creativity when compiling your playlist.

"Dead Man's Party" - Oingo Boingo
I vividly remember Danny Elfman totally creeping me out in this song's video when I was little. But I also remember the dancing Dia de los Muertos skeletons from the clip, the same dancing skeletons that would become the symbol for the new wave band. The song, about going to a funeral and being buried, was so popular it became the moniker for an Boingo tribute band who usually hold special shows every Halloween.

"Ghostbusters" - Ray Parker Jr.
Remember when this song was all the rage, and everyone had a Ghostbusters shirt in their closet? "Who you gonna call?"

"Halloween" - Misfits
There were a few years in the '90s when Glenn Danzig took over the amphitheater in Irvine for Halloween, so I always associate him with Halloween for that reason. Most people will associate him with Halloween because of the Misfits, though, and this song, of course.

"Hell's Bells" – AC/DC
The solitary bell tolling for a full minute, leading into Angus and Malcolm Young's shredding and pounding rhythms of Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, provides the perfect intro to Brian Johnson's howls about dragging a victim to hell.

"In the Room Where You Sleep" - Dead Man's Bones
Ryan "Baby Goose" Gosling and Zach Shields bonded over an obsession with ghosts, forming Dead Man's Bones in 2008 and releasing a self-titled debut full of eerie tales the following year. Pretty much every song from Dead Man's Bones will work at your party, but I chose this one for its danceability.

"Little Drop of Poison" - Tom Waits
With otherworldly wailing in the background, a creepy-crawly beat and Waits' trademark raspy growl, this song – from his 2006 Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards triple album – is so spine-chilling that the villainous Captain Hook is featured wailing it in Shrek 2. You could actually just play Tom Waits the entire night, and people wouldn't complain.

"Monster" - Kanye West
Featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, the track was released just in time for Halloween in 2010 off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Its video fittingly features plenty of zombies, a werewolf, a contortionist and models posing as dead bodies.

"The Monster Mash" - Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
A classic, must-play for any Halloween fiesta.

"Riboflavin" - 45 Grave
The electric organ in the song makes it a Halloween staple, along with Dinah Cancer's biting delivery of the ghoulish lyrics and blood-curdling scream at the end.

"Psycho Killer" - Talking Heads
Sing it with me, "Psycho Killer, quest que c'est? Fa fa fa fa fa…" Tina Weymouth's killer baseline makes this song.

"This is Halloween" - Marilyn Manson
Originally composed by Danny Elfman for Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, the song also fills the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland during this season. Manson covered the song for the 13th anniversary re-release of the film soundtrack, and who really embodies the morbidness of Halloween more than him?

"Thriller" - Michael Jackson
Well, duh. If you don't play this song at your party, people will revolt.

"Werewolves of London" - Warren Zevon

Unleash your inner Lycan and howl along with Zevon.

More songs for your party:

"Abracadabra" - The Steve Miller Band
"Bark at the Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne
"Black Magic Woman" - Santana
"Boris the Spider" - The Who
"Helter Skelter" - The Beatles
"Love Potion #9" - The Clovers/The Searchers
"Season of the Witch" - Donovan
"She Wolf" - Shakira
"Sympathy for the Devil" - The Rolling Stones
"Werewolf" - The Frantics
"Zombie Dance" - The Cramps

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Events for Oct. 25-31, 2012




"So You Think You Can Dance" @ Nokia Theatre (Downtown)
It's no secret that I'm totally addicted to "SYTYCD," and the 10 finalists of season 9 include some of my favorite dancers to have ever appeared on the show. Watch them all perform popular routines and original pieces created just for the tour.


Kirk Hammett @ Barnes & Noble (The Grove)
The Metallica guitarist has one crazy collection of monster-movie memorabilia and compiled photos and stories about his treasures in the recently released book, Too Much Horror Business: The Kirk Hammett Collection. He'll be signing copies of the book at the Grove.


Taking Back Sunday @ Club Nokia (Downtown)
The Long Island quintet celebrates the 10th anniversary of the platinum-selling 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, by performing the album in its entirety, along with favorites from other releases. Songs like "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)" and "You're So Last Summer" are sure to bring back plenty of memories.




Alpine Village Oktoberfest @ Alpine Village Center (Torrance)

These are the last two days to partake in this year's festivities. From German bier and homemade Bratwurst and Polish sausage to oom-pah-pah bands flown over from Europe, thousands come to celebrate and do the Chicken Dance.


In Theaters This Week
The story of surfer Jay Moriarity is told in Chasing Mavericks; Adapted from David Mitchell's novel by Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski, Cloud Atlas boasts an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Jim Sturgess; Halloween movies - Fun Size and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. Also in theaters: Brooklyn Castle; The Flat; The Other Son

Ghostbusters @ Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood)
Part of American Cinematheque's Halloween series, Ghostbusters is a great film for those who want to take part in the Halloween fun but aren't too fond of super scary movies. The classic supernatural comedy screens tonight and Saturday night


Octoberflame @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
Tiger Army's annual concert series roars into Los Angeles with two Orange County-based support acts, Suedehead and the legendary Exene Cervenka. This is the fifth installment of the psychobilly pioneers' event, and it marks their first L.A. appearance since 2009. Octoberflame heads to the Fox Theater (Pomona) with 45 Grave and the Goddamn Gallows on Saturday.




Kate Earl @ Hotel Café (Hollywood)

Hailing from Chugiak, Alaska, the L.A. transplant returns from a successful CMJ run with a slew of shows at Hotel Café (tonight, followed by Nov. 8, 15 and 29 and Dec. 6 and 13) centered around the Nov. 19 release of her new album, Stronger. Written and recorded with the likes of Brett Dennen and Blake Mills, the singer-songwriter has come into her own and really shines on tracks like "One Woman Army."




Arkells @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
The Canadian rockers released their latest effort, Michigan Left, earlier this year, garnering them a Juno award for Group of the Year. The band is sure to have the Fonda swaying to songs like "On Paper," "Where U Goin" and "Bloodlines."



John Skipp @ Book Soup (West Hollywood)
The splatterpunk horror and fantasy author recently released a collection of 38 stories of serial killers at large written by masters of the genre, such as Neil Gaiman, Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Harris, and promising new authors. He presents Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen. and the Criminally Insane at Book Soup just in time for Halloween.


Choir of Young Believers @ Bootleg Theater (Westlake)
The Copenhagen band wraps up dates in support of Daughter tonight in Los Angeles. Choir of Young Believers are sure to captivate and mesmerize with their unique brand of orchestral pop highlighted on their sophomore release, Rhine Gold.


Don't miss out on any of the spooky fun, take a look at our HALLOWEEN EVENTS GUIDE.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The World Record

Brian James, Andy Creighton, Matthias Wagner and Aaron Ballard of the World Record at Ballard's Artwork Framing



At Ballard's Artwork Framing

1568 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Like many L.A. bands, the members of the World Record boast an eclectic pedigree of former groups they've played with – from Apex Manor to the Parson Red Heads and Foreign Born. But few musical acts possess the passion and dedication to stay together for nine-plus years, spending the last six of which on their latest release, a double album called Freeway Special. Vocalist/guitarist Andy Creighton, bassist Aaron Ballard, guitarist Brian James and drummer Matthias Wagner took some time out from preparing for a cross-country tour to sit down with me at Aaron's framing shop in Echo Park.

When you walk into Ballard's Artwork Framing to have something framed, you're in for an experience. Aaron walks you through the process personally, offering his advice on the best type of frame, glass and matting from his wide selection of sustainable materials. Aaron is also a staunch supporter of the fair trade movement, evidenced in the mini Raven + Lily store that is housed in his shop.

"Raven + Lily are old friends of mine. They've been going out and meeting with women's groups in Ethiopia, Kenya and India for years. They're super brave women and they don't have a store, so I thought it would be cool to have their stuff in here," he says. "It's also a way to further the fair trade movement, to encourage people that there is something to buy other than things that you're not sure what those people's working environments are like."

You can tell that Aaron takes pride in his work. Each mat is cut by hand, and you feel like your art piece is even more special because of the time he has put into it. Through the shop, he's created a valuable asset to the neighborhood, as well as a central hub of sorts for the World Record.

"We did the Kickstarter promotional video here [for Freeway Special]," says Andy. "We also did an acoustic show for the opening night of an art show here."

Ballard's Artwork Framing is also a gallery space, displaying original pieces by several artists on its walls. Bolstering the local art scene is just one of the ways Aaron demonstrates his love for his community.

"I love Echo Park. I love the diversity here in Los Angeles period, but Echo Park especially," he admits. "You can never complain about the weather, even though people do. People complain because it's not perfect."

"I like the food," shares Andy. "I live in Highland Park, and there's a great place near where I live called Good Girl Dinette. It serves Vietnamese food that's awesome. My birthday's on Sunday, and I love hot wings. Sometimes I play the Children's Hospital with Songs For Kids, and we all have to get flu shots. I went to get mine and I overheard two of the nurses talking about hot wings, and I had to butt in because I had been thinking about hot wings a lot. They were talking about a place somewhere near Highland Park, so we're going for my birthday, and I am excited. It will no doubt become a place that I return to often."

"Anywhere aside from major cities, it's so hard to find things that you love when it comes to food. I didn't even know that there were so many different cultures in the world, like different kinds of Asian foods, before I moved here, and it's amazing. There are so many Korean, Vietnamese, Armenian, Ethiopian places to eat," adds Aaron. "Of course there's Stories Books & Café, which is always a wonderful place to have coffee."

"You're definitely a neighborhood guy," interjects Andy. "Wherever we go around here – down to Origami or Two Boots – everyone's like, 'Hey, man, what's up' to Aaron."

"I had Two Boots for the first time when we played at the Echoplex [on Oct. 4]. Echo Park is very cool, you run into so many people," offers Brian, who resides in Santa Monica. "I play a lot of beach volleyball. We played for a long time in this hidden volleyball court area down by the airport where the planes are taking off over your head so you have to halt the game in the middle while you're waiting for them to pass. Lately we've been playing right next to the Santa Monica Pier. It's a little intimidating to just jump right on those courts because there are some pro players. I enjoy the beach a lot, but I'm torn a little because I would like to live out here. All of the musicians in Echo Park – it's very appealing, but so is the beach."

 "The music scene, especially here on the East Side, is very compelling," agrees Matthias, who immigrated to the states from Germany. "I'm starting my seventh year in L.A. and liking it quite a bit. I just moved to the border of Echo Park and Downtown. We found a house that was built in 1891. It's beautiful, but because it's so old and it's been through a lot, the walls are not parallel anymore. It looks a little cartoony because of that, but I like the vibe that I get from it. It feels really homey. I used to live in Highland Park, so now I've been exploring this area. I've been enjoying the food and the bars. 1642 Beer and Wine is a favorite of mine that I can walk to. I'm very much looking forward to seeing more of the states on this tour – the heartland."

"We have some real middle-America shows lined up, I'm pretty excited," says Andy. "A lot of these places, we haven't played. We've only done one other semi-national tour, and that was a long time ago."

To warm up for the tour, the band played a few shows in Andy's home state of Arizona. One of the dates was the reward for a donor to the Kickstarter campaign.

"That's actually what prompted the Arizona trip," says Andy. "It was in a small town, Oracle, Ariz. Another donor just emailed about doing a show in Encino. I haven't heard from the third, and the fourth one just pledged the money out of the goodness of his heart, a gesture of kindness. You don't really realize how much it costs to make a record, and you try to estimate. I didn't want to overcharge people, so we lowballed a lot of things and ended up paying quite a bit out of pocket. It's an expensive business, making records, so we're going on the road to see if we can re-liquidate some of our investment."

However, the band does have the help of boutique indie label Squid vs. Whale when it comes to distribution and promotion of Freeway Special, which hit stores Oct. 9. Their first effort, 2006's Guitars Forever, was released on TallBoy Records to much critical acclaim. The album's track "We're #1" appeared on shows like "How I Met Your Mother," "Gossip Girl" and more recently on "New Girl," introducing the world to their feel-good brand of rock and sense of humor of being a group named the World Record singing, "Check the score, see how we're number one." While Freeway Special displays some of the same cheekiness on tracks such as "I Met the Girl (I'm Gonna Leave You For)," many of the songs touch on themes of hope ("Say Sayonara"), stormy relationships ("Queen of Side I") and nature ("Wind & Wuthering"). The evolution of Andy's poetic prowess when writing lyrics has been a developing process.

"I was in what I think was a great band called the Flatworms in high school, and it was pretty far from poetic. It was a punk rock meets ZZ Top kind of band with really scatological lyrics, sort of stupid songs, but that time of your life you think back on how fun it was, and it had that purity about it where you weren't thinking too much about stuff, just doing what you want," he says. "My parents published a small newspaper in Phoenix called the Arizona Capitol Times, so they were very much language people. I grew up appreciating words, there was a lot of wordplay in the house. I didn't really think about it too much until I started writing 'real' songs, and then I realized that it bothered me if things weren't right in lyrics, so I take a long time to tweak them to where I can stand them. It was maybe college when I started to feel that way about it. I remember I came home proudly from college and said I wrote this song, I think I still have the words, and they're just terrible. The song is terrible, but I was so proud of it at the time. I read it, and I just cringe. I guess that's how you develop though."

"That happens to me, I look back at old songs in journals and am like ohh," laughs Aaron. "Some of these songs, I played them in coffee shops where people came and listened, and I'm like, 'wow, that was the good song that I had?'"

"I used to sit around with the guitar and play around until something happened that I liked, and then I'd go with that" says Andy. "Lately it's normally when I'm lying in bed in the morning or doing dishes, I'll be singing something that has words and a little melody. I usually don't think about it for a while, then I'll realize I might have something good. I'll get the guitar and see if I can do something to not forget it because sometimes they go away pretty quick."

"Once I was driving and was hit with an idea. I went to pull onto the side of the road and found a Best Buy. I asked if they had a keyboard, so they took me to the computer area, and I said, 'No, a piano keyboard!" Aaron says, as everyone laughs. "I sat down and figured out the melody that was forming in my head. It really helped."

Piano was the first instrument Aaron learned before teaching himself to play the guitar and drums.

"I was born in Los Angeles and then I lived all over the United States, ending up in Texas where my grandparents are from for 10 years. I played drums in a band for many years and did my own music," he shares.

Andy took up the guitar in his early teens, around the time Matthias started on the drums.

"I actually studied jazz drums here in Southern California, but I'm a little bit of a rock 'n' roll player at heart," he says.

Brian's childhood in Minnesota and Wisconsin was filled with music.

"Both of my parents taught music, so we all had instruments. My father really encouraged me to learn the piano so I started out on that, but then I realized there was a guitar in the basement that wasn't being used so I picked that up around 11 years old. Nirvana was on the radio soon after that, along with other great guitar bands, and I was inspired."

Both Aaron and Brian get to visit their old home states on the Freeway Special tour, and there's a special tradition that Brian and Matthias are going to be introduced to.

Aaron says, "We always end up going to get one of those fake Blizzards—"

"We always go to Fosters Freeze," interrupts Andy.

"We always get a large [Twister] and then share it because it's a better price and because we're really sentimental," Aaron says with a laugh.

Overall, the World Record hopes that audiences have some fun at their shows.

"I think rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun," says Andy. "Not everyone feels that way. There are a lot of serious bands, and a lot of people get a lot out of that, big emotional feelings and they're transported, but I like the fun of it. We have some serious songs and we do real stuff, it's not just all whimsical or anything. But for me, I'm trying to get to the point where it's always fun and we translate that, give it to the audience and then we have songs that I hope they remember."

As a final thought, I wonder if any of the band members were to set an actual world record, who would it be, and what would the record be for?

"Maybe Aaron would set some sort of record, but I don't know what it would be," offers Andy.

Aaron says, "It would be for the most annoying sound ever. I can beat the one on Dumb and Dumber!"

Freeway Special is currently available. For more information, visit

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

STREET SIGNS - Doodle's Black Eye

Even though artist Bryan Snyder is based in Carlsbad, Calif., a lot of Angelenos recognize his trademark character, Doodle, from various pieces around town. Sometimes Doodle's mischievous and playful, other times he's pensive under an umbrella or ashamed at being made a dunce. In this new mural just off Melrose Avenue on Spaulding Avenue in Mid-City West, poor Doodle's got a black eye. But don't feel too sorry for him. I have a feeling that he might have inflicted even more damage on his boxing opponent.

Monday, October 22, 2012

L.A. LANDMARKS - Amoeba Music



6400 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Hollywood)

One of the most recognizable landmarks on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood is Amoeba Music. While the neon red logo and music notes set its exterior ablaze to catch the eye of passing motorists, most are attracted to the shop by the promise of the many treasures to be found within its walls. Established in 2001 as the third location of the chain founded by former employees of Berkeley's Rasputin Music, the Hollywood branch has grown into the world's largest independent music store. The building takes up an entire city block, and millions of CDs, vinyls, DVDs, VHS tapes, posters and other collectibles occupy its two stories.

I've spent countless hours scouring the new and used bins for titles to add to my collection, and I always look forward to seeing bands perform in-stores at Amoeba. From the Black Keys and Black Flag to P.J. Harvey and Elvis Costello, so many amazing artists have done free shows in the shop. Besides the live sets and signings, Amoeba hosts charity auctions and special events like next week's Halloween extravaganza.

Although the vast inventory of goods and incomparable concert calendar already make Amoeba stand out from other music retailers, it's the sense of community that the store fosters that truly makes it unique. The staff is made up of musicians, artists, DJs and writers, and music is their life. If you can't remember the name of the band who sings the song that's been stuck in your head for days, someone behind the counter will undoubtedly be able to come up with the name and help you find that CD. Not sure what to buy? Head to the Music We Like (staff picks) or Home Grown (local, unsigned artists) sections for a multitude of suggestions.

No one is ever looming over you, pressuring you to buy something and leave. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The atmosphere at Amoeba is so laid-back and positive, you feel like you can browse as long as you want. With holiday shopping season fast approaching, I know that I would rather spend an hour at Amoeba rather than a disgustingly crowded mall.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Costumes 2012

Bane costume - available at Party City
Now that you've figured out what Halloween events you're going to attend this year, it's time to get working on a costume. Here are some costume ideas, followed by a list of shops where you can buy a costume in a bag, rent one or get materials for a DIY outfit.

Women: Honey Boo Boo, Katniss (The Hunger Games), Lana Del Rey, Michone ("The Walking Dead"), Ravenna (Snow White and the Huntsman), Snooki with baby, the Tanning Mom, Vomiting Lady Gaga

Men: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Bane, Big Bird, Clint Eastwood and an empty chair, NFL Replacement Referee, an Observer ("Fringe"), Psy, Ryan Lochte, Snoop Lion, 2 Chainz, Vomiting Justin Bieber

Couples/Groups: Christian Grey & Anastasia Steele, Kim & Kanye, The Fab 5, Walt & Jesse in their yellow jumpsuits ("Breaking Bad")


aahs!! - 3223 Wilshire Blvd. (Santa Monica); 8878 Sunset Blvd. (West Hollywood); 1090 Westwood Blvd. (Westwood)

Adele's of Hollywood - 5034 Hollywood Blvd. (Hollywood)

Cinema Secrets - 4400 Riverside Drive (Burbank)

Goodwill - various locations

Halloween Club - 7107 Telegraph Road (Montebello)

Halloween Town - 2921 W. Magnolia Blvd. (Burbank)

Hollywood Toys & Costumes - 6600 Hollywood Blvd. (Hollywood)

National Council Jewish Women's Thrift Store - various locations

Out of the Closet - various locations

Spirit - various locations

Western Costume Company - 11041 Vanowen St. (North Hollywood)

Whimsic Alley - 5464 Wilshire Blvd. (Miracle Mile)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Events for Oct. 18-24, 2012


Stars (Norman Wong)



Stars, California Wives @ The Mayan (Downtown) Norman Wong
Stars made their highest debut on the charts with their sixth album, The North. Witness what all the fuss is about when the Canadian quintet invades Downtown with support from the new-wave anthems of California Wives.



In Theaters This Week
Tyler Perry stars as Alex Cross up against an evil villain portrayed by Matthew Fox; Just in time for Halloween, Paranormal Activity 4. Also in theaters: Nobody Walks; Tai Chi Zero; Wake in Fright



Egyptian Theatre 90th Anniversary Masquerade Ball @ Egytpian Theatre (Hollywood)
I absolutely love 1920s fashion, and this night celebrating the theater's 90th anniversary is all about the fabulous decade. Don an 1920s-appropriate costume or dress like your favorite Hollywood icon of the time, drink vintage-inspired cocktails, eat, dance, gamble and view film shorts from the era.

Los Angeles Oktoberfest @ Vanguard (Hollywood)
Get on your Lederhosen and pick up your stein for a weekend of German beer, food and entertainment. Raising funds for local charities, the event also features wine tasting, a silent auction and DJ sets. Through Sunday.

Taste of Soul

Taste of Soul @ Crenshaw Boulevard (between Stocker St. and Rodeo Road in Mid-City)
One of the largest street fairs in Los Angeles, this seventh annual celebration of food and music brings barbecue, creole, Caribbean and soul treats and performers such as El DeBarge, Eric Benet and Johnny Gill. I'm salivating at the thought of a plate from M & M Soul Food's booth.



John Taylor @ SIR Studios (Hollywood)
The Duran Duran bassist signs his recently released memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran, as part of Bass Player Live! There will also be a Q&A, and Taylor discusses and signs copies of the book at Book Soup's special event at Cinespace Oct. 24 as well.


M. Ward @ Orpheum Theatre (Downtown)

Whether he's singing at a piano or in the midst of a dazzling guitar solo, M. Ward is one of the most striking live performers today. If you like hearing him on the radio or are continually listening to his albums, like this year's A Wasteland Companion, then you will absolutely love seeing him live.

Mika @ The Fonda (Hollywood)

The British songsmith follows up his multi-million selling smash, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, with his third album, entitled The Origin of Love, which released on Tuesday. Featuring collaborations with Pharrell Williams, Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Adele) and Kias Ahlund (Robyn), as well as unsigned musicians he found online, Mika pushed himself to new limits on the album, and his live shows are always just as innovative. Also performing Monday, Oct. 22.


Kaki King (Shervin Lainez)


Kaki King @ The El Rey (Miracle Mile) 
The Brooklyn-based musician, artist and visionary brings mesmerizing tunes from her recently released album, Glow, to the El Rey. Although she is widely known for her masterful guitar work and vocals, King samples an array of sounds on Glow, from bagpipes to string arrangements. However, the focus always firmly remains on her voice and guitar.



Big Gay Ice Cream Pop-Up Truck

For five days only, the New York soft-serve mavens bring their sweet treats to L.A. streets. From their Salty Pimp cone, Marker's Mark Bourbon Butterscotch sundae and Ginger-Curry shake, there's something to please everyone. Check their Twitter feed for the most up-to-date info on times and locations.


Crime & The City Solution @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
With the release of their An Introduction To… A Crime & The City Solution/A History of Crime – Berlin 1987-1991 compilation in September, the latest incarnation of the rock band geared up for their first shows in over 20 years. Look forward to old favorites, as well as new tracks from their upcoming American Twilight album.



Vintage Trouble @ The Wiltern (Koreatown)

After performing 80 shows in 100 days throughout Europe, the L.A. quartet returns to the states as part of the Soul Sessions Tour with Joss Stone. Vintage Trouble can truly transport you to another time during their shows, whether it's somewhere in the past, future or another musical dimension altogether, I'll leave it up to you to determine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

L.A. HAVENS - Heywood

Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shoppe



3337 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Silver Lake)

With the appearance of our first fall-like day last week came my rainy-day craving for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Actually, even when it's not raining there's nothing as comforting as a crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, triangle of buttery goodness. And no one is as dedicated to craft of the grilled cheese sandwich than Heywood.

Named for John Heywood, an English poet and playwright who extolled the virtues "Of Books and Cheese" in No. 92 of his Epigrams Upon Proverbs, this Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shoppe takes the art of selecting the perfect cheeses for their sandwiches as seriously as a scholar takes his books. Be it the sharp and nutty Swiss Appenzeller, the creamy and mild Italian Fontina or the tangy Point Reyes Blue from Northern California, Heywood prides itself on curating a wide array of flavors to stimulate the palate.

Since opening this summer, Heywood has quickly built a solid reputation in the neighborhood by providing simple yet delicious spins on the American classic. You can create your own sandwich by choosing sourdough, country white or cinnamon raisin ($1 extra) bread and a cheese such as English Cheddar, Cotswold or even a vegan substitute, which also uses vegan butter. You can also add bacon, a fruit/veggie (tomato, avocado or peppers) and an artisan spread like onion confit, pesto or brown mustard.

Instead of building your own, you can order from their list of special sandwiches on the menu as well. If you're a traditionalist, then the Classic or the Heywood might be your best options. Vegans should try Bill Clinton's Epiphany, while spice-lovers should sample the Muy Caliente or Game Changer. The Italian-themed Caprese and Italian Bleu Jeans and the Bon Appetite Brie with triple-creme French brie are très magnifique. My favorite is the Tres Truffle Shuffle with three cheeses (swiss, cheddar and blue) and a dash of truffle salt on country white bread.

Whichever sandwich you choose, each is cooked to order on one of Heywood's sandwich presses and served on a quaint wooden plate with their house-spiced tomato soup and spring mix salad. I love to take my sandwich and dip it into the soup. The sandwiches range in price from $7-$12, and you can also get half a sandwich for $6.50. Heywood is open late (until 3 a.m.) on Fridays and Saturdays, so it's the perfect pit stop on the way home from a night out.

For more information, call (323) 667-1522 or visit

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

STREET SIGNS: Inept's Visitor

This Visitor from Gliese 581c aims to bring "knowledge and hope" to Earthlings. Located 20.3 light years away from Earth, Gliese 581c is a planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581. The being and its spacecraft were artfully rendered in the parking lot of 1803 Colorado Boulevard (cross street: Argus Drive) in Eagle Rock by Inept.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chris Rene

Chris Rene rehearses for a TV appearance on the Universal Studios Backlot



At the Universal Studios Backlot (Universal City)

Swag, mojo, "The X Factor" – whatever you call it, singer-songwriter, rapper, musician and producer Chris Rene has the innate charisma that is essential to superstar performers in spades. Whether you're listening to his recently released debut EP, I'm Right Here, watching him do an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" or witnessing him move around on stage, his endearing personality and immense talent are utterly captivating.

Chris captured the country's attention when he auditioned for the first season of the American "The X Factor" (The YouTube video of his audition has garnered over 21 million views.) He opened up by sharing his personal struggle with substance abuse and a moving performance of his original composition "Young Homie," and the judges were struck with emotion. Each week he moved further along in the competition, and it became clear that the viewers at home were just as enthralled with the Santa Cruz native, as their votes eventually led him to the finals. Although he didn't win the grand prize, Chris was immediately signed to Epic Records by his mentor on the show, judge L.A. Reid.

Even offstage, Chris is magnetic. As I make my way across the set of the Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" show on the Universal Studios Backlot, I find him talking animatedly, surrounded by staff and crew. In between rehearsals for his interview and performance on the program, we take a seat on a terrace overlooking the hills of Burbank to talk. Chris' brother Gabe has lived in Los Angeles for a while, and besides the time he spent filming "The X Factor" here, he also recorded I'm Right Here in the city, so he definitely has some favorite places around town.

"I like Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade. It's nice to go there and hang out or even walk on the beach," he says. "There are some really nice beaches out here. I just saw the movie Savages, and the beaches they filmed it on [Pacific Palisades, Laguna Beach, Dana Point] are insane. I want to go to them all. Malibu's nice, too."

Besides hanging out with Gabe, going shopping in Glendale or Beverly Hills, Chris definitely likes to spend time outdoors.

"I like to go down to Venice to jump and swing on those bars that are on the beach. There's one set that you have to do using one hand at a time: You swing to one side, pull yourself over, then you alternate to the left, to the right [miming the monkey-bar climb]. It's a great workout," he says. "Runyon Canyon's also fun in Hollywood."

In support of I'm Right Here, Chris has been making appearances on shows like "Home & Family" all over the country. He also travelled to New Orleans, a city that is significant to his Creole background and family history, to film a video for "Trouble," a song penned by Mike Busbee and "American Idol" alum Alex Lambert.

"It was my first time there, so it was cool. It was just so humid, all day/all night. I wasn't used to that, but I loved walking around the whole city, from the French Quarter to Washington Avenue. My grandpa was raised there; it was good to get to go see some of my heritage. The food was all fried, though," he laughs. "Next time I'm going to have some gumbo. Or, I love jambalaya. I should have got some! Rice, sausage – it's the best."

No matter what city Chris finds himself in lately, his heart is always in his hometown.

"Santa Cruz is known for the skateboards, surfing, snowboards. We have Mavericks, the surf spot. My friend, Craig Comstock, is one of the filmmakers of Chasing Mavericks," he shares. "I love the Crow's Nest, which is right on the beach so it has fresh seafood. Ristorante Italiano – when you go to Santa Cruz, you've got to check it out. Also, the Shadowbrook. It's expensive, but it's good, really fancy and elegant steak and mashed potatoes."

Whether we're talking about Santa Cruz, his two young sons or what movies he's seen lately, one thing is constant: Chris Rene is capable of bursting into song at any moment. It's no surprise, since music is in his blood. He comes from a long line of musicians: His grandfather Leon René composed hits like "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" and "Rockin' Robin"; His father was a songwriter and jazz pianist in the 1950s and '60s; His three siblings are all musically inclined – Gabe is a producer, and Gina's vocals have been featured on the soundtracks of films such as Mean Girls and Step Up. His passion and enthusiasm for music is infectious.

"I was always writing songs. Some people are good in school, and they love it. That's exactly what it is for me with music. That is my school. Music is my meditation," Chris admits. "There's a lyric that I wrote, [sings] 'Lord, take away my struggle. Take away my hate. Lead us not into temptation but to help us live our fate. I didn't use my education just to make it here today. This is a demonstration, making music through meditation.' It's like a prayer. It's poetry, for real."

Growing up, the Rene household was full of music.

"We had anything from Tina Turner and Al Green to Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley. My mom used to have dance parties and would play songs from artists like the Weather Girls. One of their songs was so funny, it goes [sings] 'It's raining men, Hallelujah, it's raining men.' I liked the melody, but the lyrics were so funny," he laughs. "That's the type of stuff we grew up with, all this crazy dance music and soul music, it was inspiring."

Besides creating music in his spare time, Chris also took hip-hop and jazz dance classes.

"I was 8 years old and travelled to some places to perform. It was fun. There was this one dance routine called 'Respect,' set to the Aretha Franklin song. All the girls were in robes and had mops, and I was sitting on a chair with a coffee mug and newspaper. They were sweeping, doing their thing, like 'Respect', and I was the disrespectful guy. It was really tough. We did it at Disneyland and at a competition in Sacramento where we won a medal," he remembers.

Chris taught himself how to play the guitar and piano, and eventually formed a punk band called Diversion with his brother Mike in their early teens. It was around this time that he also began experimenting with alcohol and drugs. He soon spiraled out of control, escalating into harsher substances and spending time in jail and rehab before it all culminated in a near-fatal car accident that shook him into entering Santa Cruz' Janus Rehabilitation Center. Soon after completing the program, he decided to truly turn his life around by pursuing his lifelong passion and auditioning for "The X Factor."

Chris has been sober for a year-and-a-half and remains dedicated to not only helping himself through music but helping others.

"There are a lot of people out there who are the same as me, in the sense that they have this disease and are trying to work through it. A lot of people need help, and I just want to help. My CD is inspirational, but at the same time it has dance-y, feel-good hits," he says. "Anyone who's suffering can listen to my song called 'Gonna Be Ok.' Anyone who has really ever thought about committing suicide can realize that they're not alone. I think a lot of people have, I've thought about it. Being a person who has been through it and who can say life's better now because I'm making good decisions, fighting my demons and loving myself. That's what it's about."

From tracks like "Gonna Be Ok," "Chains" and "Back from the Dead," Chris lays his personal experiences out there for the world to learn from. His with an all-star team of producers on I'm Right Here that includes Claude Kelly (Akon, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars), Chuck Harmony (Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige), Supa Dupa (Eminem, John Legend, Christian Rich (NERD, Lupe Fiasco) and Soulshock (Usher, Bruno Mars) has paid off with the effort landing on the charts throughout the world. Through the ups and downs of creating the EP and in everyday life, Chris finds strength from one source.

"Faith. It's just faith, plain and simple, knowing that things are going to get better and believing it," he says.

Chris looks forward to the coming months of promotion for I'm Right Here and, beyond that, to possibly acting in some films and creating his own fashion line. He is an avid lover of the gangster genre, but I when I suggest taking on some action/comedy roles in films like those of Will Smith, he is thrilled at the idea.

"I love that, even a Hitch-type movie. I could do a Hitch," he says with a grin. "As for the clothing line, it would go from skate shoes to nice jeans to sweaters, hats and shirts."

For now, though, Chris Rene is content to focus on the music.

"It's all about making music that's going to inspire people to do better, to do their best, to not give up. For my sons, that's [the message], too. To make friends, be an inspiration, be a role model. Everyone can be a role model, if they choose it."

I'm Right Here is currently available. For more information, visit

Friday, October 12, 2012

REMEMBER WHEN: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs



June 10, 2004 @ SOMA (San Diego)

SOMA is such a strange venue. Originally located at an old warehouse in downtown San Diego, just south of Market Street (hence, its moniker), the venue eventually settled into its current home in a former movie theater in 2002. Shows take place in the old screening areas. Projection rooms are now band dressing areas. The snack bar also acts as a merch counter. Since the audience stands where theater seats once stood, your legs can get a bit tired from being in a slanted position all night, but at least you can see pretty well even if you're in the very back. The only bad thing is that there are no windows, so it gets real stuffy during packed shows.

Even after moving to Los Angeles from Orange County, I would still make the trek down to SOMA for particularly good lineups, and even though this was a radio show (91X's X-Fest), nothing could keep me away from a chance to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the very first time in such an intimate setting. Besides, I knew a band that had won an opening slot on the bill and had just seen the Killers and stellastarr* perform great sets at Coachella, so it would be a trip well worth it.

And, I should mention that I absolutely love Karen Lee Orzolek. "Y Control" is one of my all-time favorite songs. The YYYs performed most of the other songs from their 2003 debut full-length, Fever to Tell, that night as well. Guitarist Nick Zinner looked so cool during the intro to "Pin," and Brian Chase had the crowd jumping up and down in time to his drumbeats in "Tick." The entire audience sang along to their massive hit "Maps." With the lack of ventilation in the SOMA main-stage area and the inability of my friends and I to stop dancing from the moment the YYYs began, I was totally drenched in sweat before their third song ended. But we all kept moving.

Simultaneously, I was mesmerized as Karen O strutted around the stage with her continual attempts at swallowing the microphone head and wrapping its long black cord around her arms and legs. It was like someone had set a firecracker off on stage, yet her flame never sputtered out. As she pranced and tumbled in her seemingly homemade, craft-project costume, she was quirky yet completely relatable in her simultaneously vulnerable and warrior-woman moments during songs. This is why I so admire her. She isn't afraid of shedding all pretenses and performing with utter abandon. She is definitely one of my favorite frontwomen in all of rock 'n' roll today. And if she ever performs Stop the Virgens in Los Angeles, it will be the first (and probably only) time I would ever go to an opera.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Events for Oct. 11-17, 2012





AWOLNATION @ Club Nokia (Downtown)
Trust me, there ain't no dance party like an AWOL dance party. Aaron Bruno is always an electrifying host, whether he's surfing on a boogie board over the crowd's shoulders, throwing his body around the stage or reaching the heights of his falsetto on "Sail." Imagine Dragons provide the musical appetizers.


Drain a Vein Blood Drive @ Hell Break L.A. (Hollywood)
Ralph Garman, entertainment reporter for KROQ's Kevin & Bean show, gives out prizes like tickets to see Deftones, Mumford & Sons and Taking Back Sunday at this Halloween-themed blood drive at Hollywood's newest haunted maze attraction.



Oktoberfest @ Fairplex (Pomona)
Be transported to Bavaria when the Fairplex's Oktoberfest kicks off tonight. Oom Pa Pa music, games, prizes, authentic German dishes and gallons of beer await you. KLOS' Heidi & Frank are on hand Saturday night from 8 p.m.-10 p.m., and the festival runs every weekend through Oct. 28.


In Theaters This Week
Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo; Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths; Ethan Hawke in Sinister. Also in theaters: Atlas Shrugged Part II; Here Comes the Boom; The House I Live In; Middle of Nowhere; Special Forces; War of the Buttons; Wuthering Heights

Strange Talk


Strange Talk @ The Echo (Echo Park)

The convergence of a former classical violinist and a club DJ/producer, Melbourne's Strange Talk layers dreamy vocals, synth beats and organic instrumentation for a sound all their own. Songs like "Cast Away," from their upcoming debut album, are futuristic, incredibly infectious and danceable.



That Dam Mud Run @ Santa Fe Dam (Irwindale)
What says fall like some filthy, slimy crawling through Mud? The inaugural That Dam Mud Run is brought to you by the same forces behind the Irvine Lake Mud Run, and they've got plenty of grimy obstacles for you to trudge through. If you just want to watch the mayhem, there's a beer garden and plenty of food vendors.


Field Report @ Wilshire Ebell Theatre (Mid Wilshire)
Prepare to be transfixed by the mesmerizing melodies of Chris Porterfield's Field Report. Garnering rave reviews for his recently released self-titled debut, Porterfield paints complex sonic landscapes that emphasize the beauty of his lyrics. The gorgeous Wilshire Ebell is the perfect setting for his aural masterpieces.



Robert Landau @ Book Soup (West Hollywood)

Author/photographer Landau chronicles the hand-painted, larger-than-life signs that decorated the boulevard circa 1967 in Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip. From ads for the Beatles and the Doors to Cher and James Taylor, they are immortalized in these pages. Join Landau as he discusses and signs his book that released this week.


Haunted Hullabaloo @ The Bob Baker Theatre (Westlake)
This fundraiser for Bob Baker's historic marionette theater features a monster-making workshop creepy cartoons, vintage Halloween safety films, musical shorts, a screening of Mad Monster Party and a special performance by the legendary puppet troupe. Comedian Emo Philips hosts the evening of eccentricity.

Terraplane Sun (Jake Niles Getter)



Terraplane Sun @ Dakota Lounge (Santa Monica)

The Venice Beach quintet celebrates today's release of their new Friends EP with a celebration show at Dakota Lounge. Ben Rothbard's syrupy vocals float over the band's swampy, southern delta sound on tracks like "Get Me Golden" and "Ya Never Know." Expect to be dancing at the sound of their first note.



Alex Cross/Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story @ Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood)
Director Rob Cohen screens and discusses his upcoming film, Alex Cross (in theaters Oct. 19), and his 1993 release, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Tyler Perry stars as the DC detective, the hero of several best-selling James Patterson novels, alongside Matthew Fox and Giancarlo Esposito. Jason Scott Lee plays the martial arts superstar in Cohen's informative biopic.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sad Robot

Sad Robot's Katherine Pawlak, Nick Perez and Jake Hogenson on the patio at Mohawk Bend


At Mohawk Bend

2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Echo Park)

As the new fall TV season begins, there is always a barrage of commercials touting the premieres of different shows, and they usually fail to make any impression on me at all. This year, however, the premiere promo for "Bones" caught my attention with the bad blonde wig hanging out on Emily Deschanel's head and, more positively, with the use of the song "Hold On" by Los Angeles trio Sad Robot. Its striking melody and soaring vocals haunted my memory, and I found myself absentmindedly humming the chorus throughout the day.

"Hold On" is part of the band's debut full-length album, 1.0, set for release on Oct. 30. In anticipation, Sad Robot is in the midst of a monthlong, Monday-night residency at Silverlake Lounge. Vocalist Katherine Pawlak, guitarist Nick Perez and drummer Jake Hogenson invite me to meet them before one of the residency dates at one of their favorite places, Mohawk Bend. The transformed Vaudeville theater is also one of my favorites in the neighborhood. Whether you're sitting in the main dining room/enclosed atrium, the pub area or the fire-lit front patio, Mohawk Bend is a great setting to grab a cocktail like the luscious Vanilla Bean Daiquiri, a plate of Sweet Potato Fries and just relax with some friends.

"I usually go with the flatbreads or the Fish & Chips. The Fish & Chips [IPA-battered cod, fries, horseradish slaw, malt vinegar and caper aioli] here are very good," informs Jake, as I hop on a stool and join the group at a table in bar area.

"We normally get burgers, too," adds Katherine.

Just like owner Tony Yanow's other establishments (Tony's Darts Away, Golden Road Pub), Mohawk Bend only serves California-sourced food and drink using low-waste/sustainable materials. I love that they only offer stainless-steel kegged wines and that there are many vegetarian and vegan menu options, but the main attraction of this bar/restaurant are the 72 beers on tap. As I select a pint of the Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Jake chimes in with facts about several of the selections on the list, and it becomes apparent that he's quite the craft beer lover. I can't help but to ask about his preferred breweries.

"Golden Road around here, Stone down in San Diego or Firestone up in Paso Robles. Anything from San Diego County like Port Brewing or [Orange County's] the Bruery. I haven't met a lot of these craft beers that I haven't liked. For the most part, I will take them any day over drinking High Life or Steel Reserve. Most of those other beers don't taste like anything, just like water with a little bit of piss in it. Big exotic animal urine and water, that's what they make Bud Light out of," he jokes.

Aside from Mohawk Bend, the members of Sad Robot can usually be found at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood.

"I love it," admits Nick. "It's such a great spot."

"We were there on Friday," offers Katherine.

"We had a lunch meeting, then we went there after," says Jake.

"For a drink meeting," winks Katherine. "That whole area is insane. It's like bar row, with some really cool bars."

"Most of the time we rehearse at Katherine's house. There's a place right across the street that one of her friends bar tends at, the Hollywood Way, and usually we go there, too," says Nick.

Katherine, a Connecticut transplant, has a great sense of style and admits to loving the hunt for a good bargain.

"I love Wasteland. It's pretty much my absolute favorite of all places," she says. "Some of the best places in L.A. are thrift stores. I like Melrose, picking through people's crap, finding stuff I like from whatever they threw out. I love it when you find something that is really expensive but you get it for $5. I'm also a Forever 21 junkie because I'm about quantity not quality when it comes to clothes. I want a lot of it so I can piece outfits together, then throw it out when it starts to thread apart."

Nick and Jake have their own obsession when it comes to fashion: tattoo art.

"Jake and I have the same tattoo artist, so all of ours have been done by the same guy," says Nick. "His name is Luis Vargas, and he's a genius. Like any genius, he's really weird and out there. He's great."

"Getting a tattoo from him is an experience," adds Jake. "His studio is in Northridge, by the CSUN campus."

Originally from Las Vegas, Nick has grown to love his neighborhood of East Hollywood/Los Feliz for several reasons.

"I like it because there are a lot of places to play around here. When I'm not playing with this band, I get hired to play with other people, and there are so many opportunities to do that. There are plenty of places for us to play every night, which is great," he says. "We play at Silverlake Lounge a lot. We like it because it's very laid back and really easy to play there. We also like El Cid, we play there a bunch. We used to play the Roxy a lot, but we haven't played there in a while, and the Troubadour."

"I was thinking about it on my way over here, growing up playing in Los Angeles with other bands. Since I was 15 or 16, I've been playing Sunset Strip, but I grew up playing the west side of Sunset and now we're playing more on the east side of Sunset," interjects Jake. "I grew up playing the Roxy, the Whisky, the Key Club – I played all of those places in high school, just after high school and college. It's crazy because now a lot of the focus has shifted over to this area, the eastern side of Sunset. It's just funny that somehow now, here I am eight to 10 years later playing the opposite side of the same street."

"When we started playing out, we were dominantly west side only: Troubadour, Viper Room, the Roxy," agrees Katherine. "We love playing those places, they're really cool and historic. But why I think we choose to play on the east side is one, there's an amazing music scene out here that's a little bit more indie and people are more open to new bands, and also, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to see us. We want to play often, as much as we can, but we don't want to make our fans have to spend $100 a night after parking, drinks and getting in at the door."

"I think right now, this is the time to play places like this because the album hasn't been released yet," says Jake. "We're playing places like Silverlake Lounge, El Cid and a few other spots, taking all that we're learning from those experiences, and a few weeks from now, when we have an album that's available for people to listen to, we'll have all this experience in playing the songs in front of people at smaller clubs that don't cost an arm and a leg and you don't feel like you have to demand people come out to. It's real low pressure."

"We get a lot of new fans that way," adds Katherine.

"The more shows like that we play, the tighter we become and the better we are as a group, so that when we do get those bigger shows, we're already ahead of the game," says Jake.

Since their Silverlake Lounge residency goes through the end of October, I hint at the possibility of a Halloween-themed show.

"I think we're going to do a Halloween show on the 29th," says Nick.

"That will also kind of serve as the album release: 'Hey, by the way, 1.0 is coming out tomorrow so come down and dress up like a moron and watch us play, and we'll dress up like morons, too," laughs Jake.

As for memorable shows, Jake was born in Michigan but moved to Los Angeles when he was 6 or 7, so I ask him about some of the highlights of his L.A. concert-going experiences.

"I'm not going to go there because that can go for like two hours," he laughs. "I've seen a lot of bigger bands play the smaller venues. Some of my favorites were definitely seeing the Deftones at the Troubadour and at the Roxy before they went out on some big tours. That was pretty cool. And then the first time I ever played on stage in front of people was at the Whisky when I was 14 or 15. I played that show in my boxers."

"I would piss myself. I was doing musical theater at that age to not even 100 people," says Katherine, whose first singing performance wasn't too successful. "I was really bad for my first experience in 6th grade. I tried to sing a song called 'Johnny One Note' for a talent show, and it was horrible. I remember being overweight, looking at the front row, and the crush I had was sitting there making faces at me. I get to this one big note, and not only am I completely out of tune but my voice cracks, I'm laughing the whole time, I'm about to pee my pants and I don't even finish the song. I didn't sing for about three years after that, and then I started musical theater, which helped. I actually didn't start this until late, doing music. Before then, I was doing acting. I came out to L.A. for a completely different reason, until I found my pack here."

Once Katherine found her singing voice, she ventured out as a solo artist but soon came to realize that she preferred being part of a "pack" instead.

"It's like night and day. I love working in a band, there's a lot more give and take. When it's you by yourself, everything you created, you think it's gold even if it probably sucks," she says. "Here, all of our influences really meld together. I feel a lot of the stuff I listen to, Jake probably wouldn't listen to in a million years. But somehow, his influences with Nick's and mine, they all blend together well."

Katherine's first musical influences were classical since she started playing the piano at age 11. Nick, on the other hand, found his first musical love in punk rock.

"I actually wanted to be a drummer at first, but my dad thought the drums were going to be too loud. My grandfather played guitar, so he got me a guitar and I joined a band a week later as the lead guitar player. I would play six or seven hours a day. I was really into punk rock, and we would play garages, skate parks and parties. I think the first time I ever played on a stage wasn't until I moved to L.A.," he remembers. "I still prefer to not play on stages, when everybody's eye level. You can look right into people's eyes and tell what they're thinking. You can really get inside people's heads, and you're hearing exactly what they're hearing. Sometimes when you play in bigger places, you can't always tell if what you're doing on stage is translating to people out there."

Since forming in 2009, Sad Robot has indeed played a plethora of stages, from the Staples Center to Silverlake Lounge. The band has also had its fair share of ups and downs. When their original drummer, who had founded the group with Katherine, parted ways with the band, Nick had the perfect replacement in mind.

"I was playing in an indie rock band with Jake. The first time I played with Jake, I fell in love with him and he became one of my best friends right away. The drummer for Sad Robot at the time was getting ready to make his exit, so I suggested we try and get Jake. It worked out that Jake came in and joined, and it ended up being the greatest thing," he says. "Jake really was the missing piece for our band. We have this unspoken communication when we're playing, and it was always there right from the beginning."

Their natural chemistry is evident as they perform on stage and is also an essential ingredient to their songwriting process as a band.

"I call them ditties," says Katherine, of her initial song ideas. "I'll text them, 'Hey, I have a new ditty."

"She'll usually write these five second clips of [sings] 'duh duh da da da,' and then we turn it into a song," says Nick. "That little 'duh duh da da da' actually made that into a song, 'Obeah Man,' that went on the album. We thought she was singing 'opiate man' for a few months. We thought it was about drugs, but it turns out that it's not about drugs."

"There's an artist called Exuma who wrote a song, 'Exuma, the Obeah Man' and I loved it. Years ago, I would sing it, but I had no idea what he was talking about. When I looked it up, it was fascinating, about a witch doctor," explains Katherine. "So we wrote a song about it. It's more or less about cheating, an affair, but it kind of sums up everything: death, the Obeah Man is going to get you – aka karma, the devil whatever you want to call it – you're going to get yours."

When I ask Katherine if she has a particular place where she likes to write lyrics, she replies, "I can write anywhere, mostly at my house. But that's because I'm afraid of sunlight [laughs]. I just don't go outside ever, that's why I'm pasty white. I used to think about going to go to the park or the beach, but I'm actually more inspired in my little four walls. Everybody else is inspired by the trees or the waves, I'm inspired by my own somber solitude."

"I can't write a happy song to save my life," she continues. "I try to think about what the world is going through, a 'people who don't have a voice' kind of a feel. Many times I feel like I don't have a voice. As much as 1.0 was my outlet, I thought it would be great to address everybody, make it more of a global thing. With 'God Damn the Man,' we're in a bad economy right now, and everybody's poor at this point, losing their jobs. Musically, it's more about getting the heart pounding."

Nick adds, "Usually when we write the songs, Kat will play me 10 seconds of something that's got no music to it, and we turn it into a song. Then we bring it to Jake, and it becomes a real song. 'God Damn the Man' was one of those."

While they have developed a harmonic system of each member contributing to the songwriting process, it has been a long road for Sad Robot to get to this point as a band. The title of their upcoming album is a nod to the new start of a journey that the group is embarking on together in solidarity.

"Our first album was called The Beginning (of the End), and in hindsight, it kind of worked out perfect since the band was going through so many transitions," says Katherine. "In January of this year, we decided to become a three piece. It was a turning point that was The Beginning (of the End), and this is literally 1.0. It is day one, ground zero, start over."

1.0 is currently available. For more information, visit