Thursday, February 28, 2013

Events for Feb. 28-March 6, 2013


Matt Pond



Matt Pond @ Echoplex (Echo Park)
Having sold over 100,000 albums to date, Matt Pond has shed the PA from his stage moniker, partnered with a new label and focused all of the reinvigorated energy into a new album. I'm quite addicted to "Love To Get Used," the first single off the New York-based artist's latest effort, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, released earlier this month. The entire album is full of honest yet optimistic tunes that are sure to have every body in the Echoplex moving along to the music.


Wayne Federman International Film Festival @ The Cinefamily (Mid-City West)
Although you may not recognize his name, you'll surely remember Wayne Federman's face from his numerous film and TV credits, including Step Brothers, Funny People and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Work by the actor, and former "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" writer, is celebrated in this second annual, three-day event. Each film is curated by stand-up comedians – who will also be on hand to introduce and field Q&A questions – including Sarah Silverman's choice Crimes and Misdemeanors tonight, Aziz Ansari with Back to the Future on Friday and Nick Kroll with Raising Arizona on Saturday, among others.



In Theaters This Week
The must-see film of the week is A Place at the Table, a documentary that focuses on hunger in America. See it, and take action here; Bryan Singer directs Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Bill Nighy in Jack the Giant Slayer, based on the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story; Ed Harris and David Duchovny in Phantom; A twisted family drama, Stoker stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman; Ray Winstone, rapper Plan B, Damian Lewis and Hayley Atwell in The Sweeney. Also in theaters: 21 & Over; Genius on Hold; The Last Exorcism Part II


Free Energy @ Bootleg Bar (Westlake)

It's impossible to watch the quintet's video for "Girls Want Rock" and not burst out laughing. It's also hard not to break out dancing while listening to most of the songs on their recently released sophomore album, Love Sign. Wake Up Lucid and the Chances get the party started tonight at Bootleg.

Youngblood Hawke



Big 'Cap Day @ Santa Anita Park (Arcadia)
Featuring a $750,000 handicap, attendees can expect some exciting races throughout the day. Not  only that, but KROQ is hosting a performance by Youngblood Hawke, DJ sets between races, premium food trucks and a selection of 50 craft/microbrew beers. All the entertainment is free with your $5 General Admission to the track.


Willow @ The Aero (Santa Monica)
Most people know Warwick Davis as Griphook from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or the final season of "An Idiot Abroad," but he will forever be Willow Ufgood to me. The reluctant hero must protect the infant Elora Danan from evil Queen Bavmorda with the help of Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). American Cinematheque celebrates the 25th anniversary of the fantasy adventure with a screening of the film and a discussion with screenwriter Bob Dolman, moderated by Entertainment Weekly's Geoff Boucher.


Katie Noonan @ Room 5 (Mid-City West)

Katie Noonan sings like an angel, an extremely soulful, jazzy angel. The Australian songstress – who has worked with Bruno Mars, Sia and Tim Finn, among others – makes her West Coast debut at Room 5 Lounge. She's touring in support of her latest album, Songbook, and has performed with world-famous orchestras, for several Prime Ministers, members of the British and Danish royal families and the Dalai Lama.

The Last Royals (Eric Ryan Anderson)



The Last Royals @ The Troubadour (West Hollywood)
The Brooklyn duo kick of a West Coast tour with the Hush Sound tonight at the Troubadour in support of their debut album, Twistification (out now via Ooh La La). If you haven't seen their video for "Crystal Vases," it's a definite must-watch. I'm sure that their live shows are just as fun, so make sure to strap on your dancing shoes before heading out to WeHo.



BRAINSTORMThe Echo (Echo Park)
The Portland, Ore. trio of Adam Baz, Patrick Phillips and Tamara Barnes join the lineup for the first night of Harriet's March residency. As you listen to their latest album, last October's Heat Waves, and their recently released new single, "She Moves," it's a little hard to believe that their big, art-pop sound is created by only three people. Can't wait to experience it all in person.



Maserati @ The Satellite (Silver Lake)
Listening to music from the Athens, Ga. foursome is the perfect way to get energized for the week ahead. Experiencing their powerful, thundering sound fill a small venue like the Satellite is even better. They released Maserati VII, their first album since drummer Jerry Fuchs' passing, to much acclaim last fall, and it definitely carries on the hard-driving, relentless rhythms they have come to be known for.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Haroula Rose

Haroula Rose at Cafe Mimosa in Topanga Canyon



At Cafe Mimosa

309 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga Canyon

It's a gloriously sunny and clear morning, ideal for driving along the coast, and as I make the trek from Silver Lake to Topanga Canyon to meet up with singer-songwriter and filmmaker Haroula Rose at one of her favorite spots in Los Angeles, her latest effort, last summer's So Easy EP, serves as the soundtrack for my drive. When I turn off PCH and head into the rustic hills of Topanga, a line from one particular track, "Slow Dancing," sticks out from the rest: "My dreams, they still haunt me, like those sounds of the canyon." The lyric stays with me the rest of my trip, and I can't wait to ask the artist about its inspiration.

Once we find each other inside of Cafe Mimosa, a small, French-themed café and coffee shop, the tables are already full of customers who are reading or busy working on their laptops, so we decide to take a seat at an outdoor table beneath a canopy of tree branches. I don't blame those inside for staking claim to all the tables; it really is the perfect reading and writing nook. Haroula admits to spending lots of time doing just that when she lived just a mile away from Cafe Mimosa.

"It feels like you're in someone's house when you're here," she says, enjoying her usual order: a cup of coffee and bagel.

Even though she's moved inland to Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire, she still comes out to Topanga and Cafe Mimosa from time to time. I take a sip of a delicious strawberry-banana smoothie and ask her about that line from "Slow Dancing."

"I was totally talking about Topanga," she answers with a smile. "The house where I lived, it felt like you were in the wild. There were all these animal noises, it felt like you were in a tree house. Some nights, you would hear coyotes attack an animal. It was terrifying; it sounded like a witches' dance of some kind, and once that animal stops crying out, you know that they've eaten it. It was disturbing. One time there was a mountain lion outside the window trying to attack a family of raccoons. That stuff would freak me out because I'm from Chicago. But now, I don't even hear crickets in Koreatown because of Wilshire Boulevard. I just pretend that the traffic is waves – until I hear sirens blaring."

Although she misses having her own outdoor space and the rustic environment of Topanga Canyon, she's having quite the experience living in an old building in the city.

"It's been an intense week; I thought my place was possessed. The guy who used to live in my apartment, we were talking on the phone, and he brought it up on his own: 'You know your place is haunted, right? There's someone that lives there, but he's not going to hurt you. It's not a malicious spirit, but it's definitely his turf.' It's a little crazy sometimes guests will show up when I'm not there, try to get in and can't even though the key works fine. They have to be let in by the building manager. Stuff like that is a little weird. Maybe there is something to it, I just have to respect it and not be scared of it. Some friends say, 'Well, this is when you should be writing the most songs,'" she laughs. "Last night I had a couple friends come over and we moved all of my furniture around to change the energy of the room, and it felt a lot better. I slept peacefully for the first time in a long time."

Haroula grew up in Chicago and spent a lot of time traveling around the world before settling in Los Angeles five years ago. Her parents immigrated to the states from Greece (Her last name is Spyropoulos.), and she's visited Greece many times. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in English, she lived in Spain on a Fulbright grant, teaching English and drama in Madrid. 

"I traveled a ton when I was there because it was so easy, all you have to do is hop on a train or a boat. I went to the Middle East for a month, which was an unforgettable trip. In fact, I keep reading about everything happening in Syria and commiserate with my friend who I traveled there with. A lot of the places we went were some of the most gorgeous ruins we've ever seen because it's not a touristy place, it's very untarnished. Sometimes you would show up and be the only ones at certain sites. You would see a little boy shepherd with his sheep walk across and feel like you're in another place and time. A lot of that stuff is destroyed, which is heartbreaking. Trips like that, you have to go when you can because you never know if you'll be able to see it again."

She has also traveled to Italy, Morocco, Scandinavia, Prague and attended a writing retreat in England. During her travels she began cultivating a love for photography and being able to capture all of the great landscapes and memories on film. All of this globe-trotting enables her to be very specific when focusing on why Los Angeles ended up being her new home base.

"I feel like this is a little microcosm here, with people from all over the world. I could use some more public transportation, but overall it's nice to come here to Topanga Canyon within half an hour and take a hike if you want or go Downtown and feel like you're in a real city," she shares. "I love that L.A. has everything you want, you just have to find it, which is the fun part. You have music and films from everywhere and people are generally more relaxed and open. All of these great musical acts travel through here. I just took a friend to the Disney Concert Hall to see the Kodo drummers. When she walked out, her mouth was dropped to the ground and she said, 'I've never seen anything like that.' It almost feels like they're from another planet. They don't even flinch, blink or smile the whole time, until the end. They do this one thing where they do these tiny, percussive hits that grow into the sound of the rain. You close your eyes, and it really sounds like rain."

Usually Haroula goes to shows at Bootleg Theater or Hotel Café. She says that the best shows she's seen in L.A. have been at the El Rey or Largo. Love for music is something that she definitely inherited from her parents.

"They both love music. My mom has a really pretty voice, and my dad remembers lyrics from his childhood. My mom had a Greek radio, so we would be listening to it 24/7. They came here so young and didn't even really speak English, so I think that music was a way to stay connected to [Greece] when they couldn't necessarily go back all the time," she reflects. "I would hear all kinds of stuff growing up; they had so many amazing records. I have an older brother and sister, and they were both big music fans, too."

The music Haroula heard whenever her family attended services at their Greek Orthodox church also impacted her musical upbringing. During high school that she began to explore her own niche of music, including artists such as Cat Stevens and the Byrds, and piqued her interest in learning how to play the guitar. She also loved performing in plays and musical theater, and spent a lot her time reading.

"I always was a reader. I don't play sports. I wanted to read and put on plays with friends, act or be in a musical," she recalls. "I loved and still love Roald Dahl and his stories. My favorite book was Danny, the Champion of the World. I also loved The BFG about a giant who comes and gives you dreams at night. He sucks away the nightmares and puts them in a bag. I had an active imagination and thought all of that stuff could totally be real. We weren't really censored as kids, we could watch whatever we wanted, and I remembering seeing Romeo and Juliet as a kid and thinking that I didn't know you could feel that from seeing something. All of that made me want to read more, to read the actual play."

Haroula is still an avid reader who favors novels by Ernest Hemingway, poems by Leonard Cohen and e.e. cummings, plays by Tennessee Williams, Sarah Ruhl ("The Clean House" in particular) and Anton Chekhov. She specifically quotes the opening lines of Chekhov's "The Seagull" when I ask her about her favorites: Medvedenko asks, "Why is it you always wear black," and Masha replies, "I'm in mourning for my life." She has a great story about her current literary obsession, a book she pulls from her purse to show me and recommend that I read soon.

"I did a show in Minnesota in December, which was a dream come true. I've loved Mason Jennings for the longest time. I think he has an incredible voice that just keeps getting better, and his songwriting is awesome. I cover one of his songs ["Duluth" on her debut album, These Open Roads], and I got to sing it with him in his home town," she tells. "I also got to check out all these frozen lakes, and there's a bookstore [Birchbark Books] in Minneapolis owned by this author, Louise Erdrich. Mason and his wife, who is also a writer, told me to check her and the bookstore out. I had been reading a lot of Native American mythology and folklore and wanting to learn more about the land where we live, and there was this book in the store that covered everything I wanted to know. I don't think I would have found it anywhere else. I bought Louise Erdrich's book, The Master Butchers SInging Club. It is so good that I don't want to finish reading it, and now I want to read every book that she's ever written. She's created this whole universe, where every detail feels so real and helps you get to know this character that feels like a real person."

Her favorite bookstore is actually the Seminary Co-op in Chicago, but as far as L.A. shops, she likes Book Soup and Skylight. For restaurants, she frequents Girasole and Café Gratitude in Larchmont Village, the Park in Echo Park for the roast chicken with fries and her favorite is Little Dom's in Los Feliz.

"My dad's a chef and my mom's an amazing cook, so I love to cook," she admits. "I get obsessed with one thing and make it all different kinds of ways. I love making a simple roast chicken with vegetables and potatoes, and I'll do it with different sauces – mustard, garlic. I also go to this butcher in Los Feliz [McCall's Meat & Fish Co.] and get some short ribs or brisket and make it in different ways. I like to make my own salad dressings and try all kinds of different salads, too."

Dreaming up new recipes is just another outlet for Haroula's innate creativity. She really has always had an active imagination, and luckily found a way to channel her ideas into stories from a young age.

"When you're a kid, you have English classes in school where they give you whatever parameters and tell you to share about your vacation. Sometimes I would elaborate on things. One time we were caught in a storm on a boat, which was pretty scary, but I remember writing a story about it that was even more elaborate than what had really happened," she remembers. "I had a surgery because my appendix burst and was in the hospital for eight days. A friend of my dad's brought me some Calvin and Hobbes comic books, and those ended up being a seminal work for me. Even now when I don't feel well, it makes me feel better to read them. He also gave me a blank notebook, some pens and crayons, so I started writing a story about my operation, how serious it all was. I remember sitting there, sad and bored, making stuff up."

Movies were also a big part of Haroula's life growing up, and it was through film that she eventually realized she wanted to become involved in some aspect of entertainment.

"I loved that version of Romeo and Juliet from 1968 – how it looked and how real it felt, the music in it. I remember seeing Days of Heaven when I was in high school and thinking that it was like poetry, but visual. I didn't know you could do film or music for real, that they weren't just hobbies, because everyone I knew was more practical. You could love theater and singing but they were for fun; you had to make sure you had a 'grown-up' gig. So in college I was an English major, and  you watch a lot of films in classes and write a lot – that ended up helping in the long run. I fell into a job at a music house after college, a recording studio in Chicago and that was totally unplanned. Someone heard me sing and asked me to sing in a commercial then asked me to work at the studio. I had taken my GRE and was going to go to grad school and teach abroad. I don't think I would have pursued music or film if I hadn't had that moment happen. It changed everything."

She encountered many musicians, composers, engineers and directors during her time at the recording studio and working at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She realized that she loved the entire process of writing, casting and producing plays and films.

"All these filmmakers were like, 'If you like that stuff, why don't you think about film school? Being a filmmaker ties in all of these things you love; you should look into it,'" she recalls. "If I was going to do that, I realized that I should go to L.A. Someone introduced me to a producer who owned a big company in Los Angeles who said he would hire me if I moved, and that's when I came here."

She enrolled in USC's MFA film program, but only stayed there for two semesters.

"I think if I had I gone sooner I would have stuck around, but since I had already shot stuff on my own – in Spain I did a little movie with my students, and I shot footage on this pilgrimage with my friend and her dad who was this really amazing cinematographer – learning by doing it, I didn't feel like I wanted to be in school for three more years. I rather just be working and creating instead of paying so much money to go to school. So I saved all that money and am trying to do it my own way."

Besides releasing 2009's Someday EP, These Open Roads in 2011 and So Easy in the summer of last year, Haroula has continued to pursue a film career working on a few projects with friends she met in film school. One is a short called "No Love Song" that she wrote all the music for, stars in and co-wrote the screenplay for with Evan Endicott.

"It's about a couple who were together and break up. They were in a band together, too, and they have to write one last song together. Rosanna Arquette is in it, which is cool. She plays our manager and did an amazing job. It was fun seeing a pro act out the words we wrote," Haroula shares.

Haroula just attended the Sundance Film Festival for another project, a film called Fruitvale, about a 2009 shooting in Oakland, Calif. The film, starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray, and Octavia Spencer and produced by Forest Whitaker, was written and directed by Haroula's former classmate Ryan Coogler. Fruitvale was purchased by Harvey Weinstein for distribution and won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the festival.

"That was a totally surreal experience. On my very first day at USC, I met Ryan, and he's someone that you just know that people will write about one day. He's an amazing person and awesome talent. It was a real privilege to work on his first big movie. I [produced and] music supervised, which was a totally different experience with all of the contracts and logistics of what fits where. Luckily he had some very specific ideas of what he wanted because, what do I know about the Oakland hip-hop world of 2008," she laughs. "It's very exciting because it's an important movie in terms of what's going on politically and socially right now, so it's cool to think that a lot of people will get to see it, even in other countries."

The blending of Haroula cultural heritage with her American identity is a notion that she is attempting to explore in her next full-length album. She intends to tie together the feeling and instruments of those old Greek songs her family would listen to during her childhood with elements of folk and bluegrass.

"Greece is an east-meets-west kind of place, so you have regular rock, acoustic and Spanish guitars, but they also have the bouzouki, the oud and all of these instruments that have a bigger, barrel-y sound with a high stringed, almost like what I think of as a bell, an awake kind of sound that's super happy. Then, when you play it over sad, more somber songs, it sounds amazing too. They use clarinets and oboes in a way that's really interesting as well," she says. "I'm trying to figure out a way to work all of that in, a combination of all those things. We'll see how it turns out."

For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Release Tuesday - 2/26/13

FEB. 26, 2013


Atoms for PeaceAMOK (XL)
Music masterminds Thom Yorke (vocals, keyboards, guitars and programming), Flea (bass), Nigel Godrich (production and programming), Joey Waronker (drums) and Mauro Refosco (percussion) unite to unleash a debut album full of dance rhythms that veer from the airy and haunting to, dare I say it, joyful. AMOK is a must for anyone who loves Yorke's solo material, as well as Radiohead's last album, The King of Limbs.

Emmylou Harris & Rodney CrowellOld Yellow Moon (Nonesuch)
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Emmylou Harris is one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Grammy-winning musician and songwriter Rodney Crowell joined her Hot Band as guitarist and harmony singer in 1975. This duets album is their first official collaboration, and it was produced by Brian Ahern (Johnny Cash, George Jones, Roy Orbison). They'll join She & Him for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl on June 23.

Gold FieldsBlack Sun (Astralwerks)
The Australian fivesome admits to taking three stabs at making this debut before arriving at the final version of Black Sun that becomes available today. Blending elements of pop, tribal beats and dance on tracks like first single "Dark Again," the entire album is sure to move you. Their show at the Troubadour on Thursday is already sold out, but if you weren't able to get tickets you can watch them perform on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Wednesday night or "Last Call With Carson Daly" on March 28.

Ivan & AlyoshaAll The Times We Had (Missing Piece/Dualtone)

Seattle's Ivan & Alyosha are one of those groups that you should never miss seeing live when they swing through town (Their next L.A. stop is March 19 at the Echo.) because they don't just put on a good show, they give you an experience. After crisscrossing the country over the past few years and releasing three EPs, the band unveils its debut full-length, of which lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Tim Wilson says: "We didn't get it perfect, but I definitely think we got it right." Lose yourself in the imperfection of "Running for Cover," "The Fold" and the title track, which features Aimee Mann.

KavinskyOutRun (Record Makers/Republic/Casablanca) 
Drive had one of the best film soundtracks of 2011, especially its lead track, the Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo (of Daft Punk) produced "Nightcall" by Kavinsky. His debut album is sure to please those who were craving more from the French electronic producer. One viewing of the video for OutRun's first single, "ProtoVision," with Kavinsky wearing sunglass, letterman jacket and fingerless leather gloves at the helm of a bright red Ferrari Testarossa, gives you a sense of the entire album. To celebrate OutRun's release, Kavinsky makes a rare U.S. appearance at Lot 613 in the Downtown Arts District on March 6.

Shout Out LoudsOptica (Merge)
Optica marks the 10-year anniversary of the Swedish quintet's debut album, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, and they're still one of indie pop's greatest treasures. With songs like "Walking in Your Footsteps" and "Illusions," the band's fourth album will immediately have you dancing around your apartment. In no time at all you'll have the lyrics down pat, so you can sing along to every word when they perform at the El Rey on May 23.

Also available – Alcoa's Bone & Marrow; Bret Michaels' Good Songs & Great Friends; Cappadonna's Eyrth, Wynd & Fyre; Ill Bill's The Grimy Awards; Joan Armatrading's Starlight; Johnny Marr's The Messenger; Justin Hayward's Spirits of the Western Sky; KMFDM's KUNST; Kutt Calhoun's Black Gold; The Mavericks' In Time; Mister Lies' Mowgli; Mount Moriah's Miracle Temple; Plumb's Need You Now; Sally Shapiro's Somewhere Else; Steve Wilson's The Raven That Refused to Sing; The Sharp Things' Green is Good; Various Artists' Reason to Believe - The Songs of Tim Hardin; Woodpigeon's Thumbtacks + Glue; Young Boys' New York Sun


Film – The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, stars Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in a portrait of post World War II America; Jonny Weston plays surfer Jay Moriarity as he attempts to take on the legendary California surf break in Chasing Mavericks, which also stars Gerard Butler.

TV – Africa: Eye to Eye with the Unknown; The Client List: The Complete First Season; Law & Order: The Twelfth Year

Music – Eagles: Farewell Live from Melbourne

Also Available – Border Run; Chicken with Plums; A Company of Heroes; Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare; Girls Against Boys; Holy Motors; How to Survive a Plague; The Loneliest Planet

Monday, February 25, 2013

STREET SIGNS - Ewsoe y Kofie Mural

I came across this Ewsoe y Kofie Mural in the alley next to the Vista Theater on Sunset Drive (at Hollywood Boulevard) in Los Feliz one day after seeing a movie. A member of the West Coast Artists Crew, Augustine Kofie – who is known for the use of intersecting lines and geometrical shapes in his pieces – primarily painted the backgrounds of the mural. While PDB's Ewsoe did the house character, cracks and type. You can see more of Kofie's work in the #ArtShareLA exhibit at Art Share L.A. from March 1 through April 7, 2013 in Downtown.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Events for Feb. 21-27, 2013


Daron Hollowell of El Sportivo



El Sportivo & the Blooz @ El Cid (Silver Lake)
New York-based Daron Hollowell (aka El Sportivo) celebrates the Feb. 26 release of the collective's debut album (via White Iris) with a special release show featuring his White Iris partner, L.A. producer and musician Lewis Pesacov (guitarist of Fool's Gold, Foreign Born; Best Coast producer). Nights + Weekends' country-tinged, blues rock tracks – such as "Waking World" and "Oh Lowe," dripping with sultry lap steel, and the plaintive "The Night's So Cold" – leave me breathless. Seeing the songs performed live is going to be quite a treat.


$5 Ramen @ Daikokuya (Little Tokyo)
It's the 11th anniversary of the ramen shop's Little Tokyo location, so they're celebrating by offering bowls of their regular size tonkotsu ramen topped with luxurious Kurobuta pork belly chashu for only $5 (regular prize is $8.95). Normally there is a line out the door and a wait time of an hour for a seat in the restaurant, so be prepared to hang around the front of the shop for a while a bit longer for this $5 deal that lasts through Friday.



Gibson Guitartown Charity Auction @ Bonhams (Hollywood)

The massive Gibson guitar sculptures that adorn the Sunset Strip end this year's tour tonight as they are auctioned off to benefit the Los Angeles Fund of Public Education's "Arts Matter" campaign, supporting art and music eduction in public schools. The 18 guitars feature designs by the likes of Shepard Fairey and RISK, celebrating Sunset Strip legends from the Doors to Buffalo Springfield and have been autographed by artists such as Stephen Stills, Zakk Wylde and members of Bad Religion and Dead Sara.

Keri Russell in Dark Skies (Dimension Films)


In Theaters This Week
Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell ("Felicity," "The Americans") are a couple trying to save their family from aliens in the sci-fi/horror pic Dark Skies; Inescapable stars Alexander Siddig, Marisa Tomei and Pacey, I mean, Joshua Jackson; Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a father whose wrongly accused son is serving a prison sentence for drug distribution, so he obviously has to go undercover to infiltrate the drug cartel in Snitch. Also in theaters: Bless Me, Ultima

Oscar-Nominated Shorts of 2012 @ The Egyptian (Hollywood)
American Cinematheque's Oscar Season series continues with a day of screenings of Oscar-Nominated shorts. Beginning with the live-action at 7:30 p.m. ("Asad," "Buzkashi Boys," "Curfew," "Death of a Shadow" and "Henry"), directors from each short are going to be on hand to introduce their works. The evening continues with the animated shorts at 10 p.m.: "Adam and Dog," "Fresh Guacamole," "Head Over Heels," "Maggie Simpson in the Longest Daycare" and "Paperman," as well as three additional shorts.


Control @ Avalon (Hollywood)
It's not common for club nights in Hollywood to last as long as the Friday dance destination known as Control at Avalon Hollywood has, featuring sets by artists like Skrillex, Rusko and Wolfgang Gartner over the years. The evening celebrates its four-year anniversary tonight with a first-time performance by Jack Beats, joined by Carnage and resident Whiiite.



Best Picture Showcase @ AMC Theaters  (citywide)

If you've been too busy to catch all of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture in the theaters, this is your chance to see all nine of them in AMC's annual, one-day marathon event. For $60, you can watch Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty all in a row, from 10 a.m. today through 7:55 a.m. Sunday, just in time to get some sleep before the broadcast of the award show tomorrow night.




Skye @ Hotel Café (Hollywood)
The Morcheeba frontwoman released her third solo effort, Back to Now, last fall, produced by the Grammy-winning Stephen Fitzmaurice (Paloma Faith, Metronomy). The album is a gorgeous blend of Skye Edwards' ethereal voice, synth – of course – and strings. The undisputed Queen of Trip-hop stops by Hotel Café for a two-night stand that starts tonight. Don't miss the experience of seeing her perform in such an intimate venue.



The Lovely Bad Things @ The Echo (Echo Park)
The L.A./O.C. foursome wrap up their February Tuesday-night residency at the Echo on the very day their new album, The Late Great Whatever, releases via Volcom. The band successfully blends a plethora of influences, from the Pixies and Sonic Youth to the B-52s and Redd Kross, into their own brand of punk rock that will have you dancing, thrashing your head around and even laughing. Catch them live before they spread their wings across the country on the way to SXSW.



Willy Moon @ Bootleg Theater (Westlake)
You may recognize the Kiwi-English musician's frenetic "Yeah Yeah" from Apple's commercial where the new iPod touch and nano models jump and flail across the screen. However, there is so much more to the artist. Although he is a mere 23 years old, he culls musical arrangements and sounds from eras past for a fresh, unique sound. He swings through the Bootleg in anticipation of the April 2 release of Here's Willy Moon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shauna Case

Shauna Case at Nail Garden in Burbank



At Nail Garden

331 N. Pass Ave., Burbank 818-566-4319

Shauna Case is anything but your typical teenager. When it comes to sheer talent, there's really nothing the actress/singer-songwriter/dancer can't do.

"I was always dancing and being very animated at my house. I took ballet and tap when I was little, and I've always been singing. I remember playing singing games with my friends, pretending we were on 'American Idol.' My friends would be the judges, and I would stand on the tire swing in my front yard and sing," she recalls. "I also remember trying to write songs every Saturday when I was 4. I mean, I was 4 – what did I know about writing a song? But at least I was trying."

Shauna was born in San Diego, Calif., but spent most of her childhood in Erie, Pa. The same drive that guided the 4-year-old to whet her songwriting skills, through countless hours of dance classes and to audition for a role in a summer theater camp production eventually led to the entire Case family relocating to Los Angeles so Shauna could pursue her dreams as a performer. The move proved to be a fortunate one, as she is currently a member of a talented young ensemble on Nick Cannon's sketch comedy show, "Incredible Crew," which airs on Cartoon Network.

The cast is comprised entirely of teenagers, and they have made Shauna's transition from Pennsylvania a lot easier.

"It was hard moving to L.A.; it took me a long while to get over the fact that I miss my friends a lot. Luckily I visit a couple times a year for Christmas and summer vacation, and we always Skype each other, text on the phone and Facebook," she admits. "I'm home schooled, and it definitely is hard to meet new people not being in public school, but being on 'Incredible Crew' has made it easier because the cast, we're so close, and they're all so funny. They're my type of people. I always like being around people who make me laugh, and they definitely do that."

In fact, even when they aren't working, the "Incredible Crew" hangs out together doing what Shauna likes to do most when she has free time.

"I like to go to the movies with my parents or my friends. The weekends that we weren't working, the cast of 'Incredible Crew' all went to the movies or out laser tagging together," she shares. "I also like just relaxing at my house because I'm a homebody. I like playing with my Pomeranian puppies. They think they're Dobermans. I used to have a Doberman, who was over 100 pounds, and he was more timid than the little fluffy Pomeranians."

Shopping is another of her favorite pastimes.

"I love the Americana in Glendale. It has all these shops and a movie theater. The place where I first took acting classes was at Westfield in Century City, which has great shops," she says. "My dad would kid around and  say, 'No more shopping malls when you're taking acting. I already pay for the acting classes, no shopping!'"

Today, Shauna and her mom are doing what a lot of mothers and daughters do together on a typical afternoon off from work, heading to their favorite neighborhood beauty spa, Nail Garden. From the moment you step into the salon, there's a flurry of activity with women selecting polish colors and discussing treatments with technicians. Once you step into the spa area, there is an air of calm tranquility created by the lush, green foliage that surrounds each station of pedicure chairs and the soothing sound of running water.

"We live nearby, so my mom and I just walk here all the time. Usually I get a manicure. I love to get long, acrylic nails, and I like to play with different polish colors. I usually get all different colors, like pink and sparkly silver, and go crazy," smiles Shauna. "I love Togo's, which is right across from here. I love their sandwiches so much. I always come here and to Togo's; they're my two spots. My mom gets tired of the sandwiches, but I never do."

As Shauna and her mom settle in for their spa manicure and pedicure treatments, I ask Shauna about her essential beauty products.

She immediately replies, "My mascara. I have naturally long lashes, so I like to lengthen them even more. Even if I'm too lazy to put on the rest of my makeup, I'll put on mascara for a cute, natural look that's easy on the go. And my straightener. I love my hair straightener! I have naturally wavy hair."

Don't mistake Shauna for a solely girly girl, though. She is quite an athlete as well.

"I've always had good coordination in sports. When I was growing up, my mom said, 'Let's just try everything and see what you like.' Everything I tried, I loved – except basketball," she tells. "I loved ice skating, I did competitive diving and swimming, soccer, tennis."

Being an avid sportswoman, Shauna is a perfect fit for the event she will be flaunting her fresh manicure at a few days after our interview. She and her "Incredible Crew" cast mates are invited to walk the red carpet, present an award and do a stunt at the 2013 Hall of Game Awards, hosted by their "Incredible" producer Cannon and Shaquille O'Neal. With awards presented to the best in sports, such as Robert Griffin III, LeBron James and the Fierce Five U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics team, by celebrities like Jessica Alba and the Wanted, it's quite the gala.

"I'm wearing a Sue Wong dress. It's blue, I love the color blue," Shauna gushes. "I'm getting a French manicure to keep it easy."

The petite, blonde and blue-eyed teen admits to favoring a certain sports-themed film franchise when choosing something to watch for movie nights.

"I like to watch Bring It On cheerleading movies because I was a cheerleader from age 7 to 12. I've always loved tumbling," she confesses. "I started gymnastics when I was 3, then I got into cheerleading. I went to classes every week at my elementary school that's where I learned all my tricks, like how to do a backflip on the hard ground."

Shauna also took ballet, tap and hip-hop dance classes in Pennsylvania. When she first moved to Los Angeles, she took a hip-hop master class with Robert Hoffman at the famed Millennium Dance Complex.

"I still go to classes at Millennium all the time. It's so much fun. In Pennsylvania I went to a smaller dance studio, so coming out here and doing the first class, I was so pumped because there are so many amazing dancers and the choreography was so much fun."

Music is also something that has always been a big part of her life.

"My dad started teaching me guitar when I was about 8. He's been playing since he was 6. He's really good and was even asked to audition for REO Speedwagon. I also took lessons in Pennsylvania," she says. "I know a couple of chords ,and it's good because all the Taylor Swift songs that I like to sing have, like, three chords. She's one of my favorite artists. I love her music; her songs always tell a story."

Growing up, Shauna mainly listened to Christian music, but as she got older her friends exposed her to radio music: pop and rap. She began to love those genres even more when she started hip-hop dance classes. She likes artists like Ke$ha, Maroon 5 and Carrie Underwood. Currently country pop is what she loves most and is predominately what she sings on her own material, which includes a forthcoming EP and her first music video for one of its tracks, "Some Kind of Fairy Tale."

"The video is awesome. It shows me as a small-town girl coming to the big city and feeling out of my element because all I've known is a Pennsylvania small town, but I still had that undying passion to chase my dreams and be an artist, actress and dancer," she explains. "We filmed at a bunch of spots in L.A. – a train station, an awesome field in Calabasas, the Walk of Fame in Hollywood."

Shauna co-wrote several of the songs on the EP, including "Some Kind of Fairy Tale," "That's Our Story" and "Better Together," with Mach 1 Music, helmed by acclaimed producer Eddie Galan (Backstreet Boys, Allstar Weekend, Jordan Knight).

"I've been keeping a journal since I was 10. I usually get ideas for a song at night, that's when I think of ideas and write it down in my journal. I like to strum my guitar and sing up in my room. I like to write songs starting with the beat and the melody and harmony first," she reveals. "My EP has five songs on it, and they're all on my website. I worked with Mach 1 Music and Eddie Galan, and it was super fun. We're all great friends, as well as a strong music team. I couldn't be happier working with a Billboard Award winning producer in Eddie. He's amazing."

Galan was nominated for a Grammy and won the Billboard Award for his work on the High School Musical soundtrack. A theater production of "High School Musical" was actually a very pivotal point in Shauna's own career. She garnered her first role as Sharpay while at summer theater camp.

"It was my first musical theater production that I had ever done and the first time I performed on stage. I was so excited and amazed to be in my first big production," she remembers, and the over-the-top role of Sharpay is one that she was prepared to play. "I was always animated and comedic growing up. My dad's pretty silly and goofy. At home, he's the comedian. We always joked around, doing different accents and characters at home. In public with my friends at the mall, I was always the one to act up and get a laugh out of them. I'm definitely the crazy, funny, fearless girl in my group of friends."

Sharpay is one of Shauna's favorite roles, and she was able to portray another "HSM" female in an Erie Playhouse Showstoppers production.

"Another one of my favorite roles was Martha Cox in a 'High School Musical 2' production with a bunch of kids that were older than me. I was excited to get that role and be with the big kids," she says with a grin. "I started hip-hop dancing on stage during that production. I got my worm down on stage for that show."

It was during rehearsals for yet another role when Shauna was hit with the realization that performing was definitely it for her.

"We were doing 'Godspell Jr.' at a summer camp, and I had a big solo. During rehearsal, it became so quiet when I sang. I actually made one of the counselors cry when I was singing. I was like, 'Wow, OK, I guess I can do singing and acting.' That's when I started to love it, getting the crowd's reaction. It was then that I knew. When I got to California and took my first acting class, I knew that I loved doing it, being different characters."

Getting the chance to stretch her acting, singing and dancing muscles all in one project through the many sketches of "Incredible Crew" is something that Shauna is extremely grateful for.

"An awesome aspect of the show is that I get to do everything that I love to do," she says. "My favorite part of being in an ensemble is how we are all so funny in our individual way, we all have a different take on comedy, so it makes 'Incredible Crew' really fun. You never know what to expect in each sketch, just because they might say a line much differently than I thought they would say it. We all challenge each other as actors."

Shauna has two favorites when it comes to the sketches she appears in this season.

"One is 'Slo-Mo Girl,' where I'm a normal girl walking down the hallway and the wind's blowing in my hair. It's that scene where there's a popular girl and everybody's looking at her. It was so much fun because I think every girl wants to walk down the hall with the wind blowing in her hair. Then I get hit with these outrageous things, like goo, a fish and a chef spills flour on me. I'm drenched in all this gross stuff and it's all in slow motion, so it's really funny," she laughs. "Another favorite is the 'Hidden Cameras,' the hidden camera pranks, because even when I was back in Pennsylvania with my friends we would always do funny things in the mall, and people would look at us. In one of them, I pretend to be a small-town girl who just came to L.A. with my guitar, an amp and cowboy boots. I'm in the middle of this amusement park with a mic that was turned up really loud. I say, 'Hey y'all. I just came to California, and I'm trying to be a country singer and get signed to a label. I'm going to sing you this song so gather 'round now.' I start singing this pretty song, and everyone's like aww this girl is cute. Then, all of a sudden, I break into a horrific rock star scream into the microphone. It's super loud, echoing through the amusement park. All of the parents stare at me with shocked faces, holding their babies' ears. It was one of my favorites."

Shauna is preparing to take a test in March to graduate high school early. Besides prepping for the test with her dad, they like to play Wii Bowling together. She confesses to having an intense competitive streak when it comes to all games. During their downtime on set, the "Incredible Crew" cast would make use of a ping-pong table backstage, and she garnered quite the reputation for being a competitive player. But striving to be the best is never a bad thing.

"I remember playing on my GameBoy when I was 5 and losing a game. I just screamed. You don't want to be around me when I'm playing," she says with a laugh. "When we played ping-pong on the set of 'Incredible Crew' I would get so competitive. It comes in handy, though. Not only in games, but in my career – to always want to be better and not settle for less than what I'm aiming for.

"Incredible Crew" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network. For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Release Tuesday - 2/19/13

FEB. 19, 2013



Atlas GeniusWhen It Was Now (Warner Bros.)
It's pretty hard to turn on KROQ and not hear the Australian quartet's first single "Trojans," and just one listen to their entire debut will have you hooked on even more of their danceable tracks. Personal favorites include "Through the Glass" and "Don't Make a Scene." Their March 20 show at the Wiltern with Imagine Dragons is already sold out, but if you weren't able to score tickets you can see them perform on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" tonight.

Bobby LongWishbone (ATO)

With his thoroughly Americana and folk rock sound, it's a bit hard to believe that the singer-songwriter is a native Brit. However, the entirety of Wishbone, his sophomore album, was composed in New York City and recorded in Los Angeles. Once you fall in love with his raspy vocals on songs like "She Won't Leave" and "In Your Way," the city he was born in really won't matter that much.

Jamie LidellJamie Lidell (Warp)
The master of blending elements of soul, funk and electronic music into his thoroughly unique and heart-pounding dance tracks is back with a self-titled album, his first in three years. The English musician and soul singer currently calls Nashville home, and it was his chosen locale to record the effort. Join him for a dance party at the Echoplex on March 28.

Sallie Ford & The Sound OutsideUntamed Beast (Partisan)

Listening to the Portland, Ore. foursome is like being transported to a different era, a time that I would definitely want to inhabit. Soulful, gritty and honest rock 'n' roll fronted by a powerful female voice that brings to mind images of jazz and blues legends of yore, you'll become completely addicted to their sophomore album. Angelenos have to wait until April 8 to experience Untamed Beast live at the Troubadour.

STRFKRMiracle Mile (Polyvinyl)
Another outstanding Portland group releases their latest effort today. The 15 tracks of Miracle Mile, such as "Malmo," "Last Words" and "Golden Light," are guaranteed to get you moving. On March 2, they'll swing through the Fonda.

Also available – Anders & Kendall's Wild Chorus; Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth; Buckcherry's Confessions; Buddha Monk's Dark Knight; Eat Skull's III; Iceage's You're Nothing; Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric's Czarface; Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet's In a World of Mallets; J-Love's Pardon My Intrusion; Matmos' The Marriage of True Minds; My Gold Mask's Leave Me Midnight; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Push the Sky Away; Parenthetical Girls' Privilege; Red Jacket Mine's Someone Else's Cake; Sin Fang's Flowers; Spectac & Shakim's For the People; Tim Chaisson's The Other Side; Trinidad James' Don't Be S.A.F.E.; Useless Eaters' Hypertension; Various Artists - Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys


Film – Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo, depicting the covert operation to rescue six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis; This new version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright, stars Keira Knightley and Jude Law; Chelsea Handler plays mom to Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice in Fun Size.

TV – Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is a prequel to the epic Sci-Fi channel series; Just in time to catch up before the March 31 Season 3 premiere comes Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season.

Music – I'M NOW: The Story of Mudhoney; Scissor Sisters: Live in Victoria Park - London 2011

Also available – Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike; Factory; For Ellen; North Sea Texas; The Package; Sinister; Small Apartments; Special Forces; Undefeated

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Events for Feb. 14-20, 2013




Lucha VaVOOM @ The Mayan (Downtown)

What says romance more than Lucha VaVOOM's unique combination of Mexican masked wrestling, burlesque and comedic commentary? Their Besos Prohibidos Valentine's Spectacular invades the Mayan for an action-packed evening of sexo y violencia.


When Harry Met Sally @ Electric Dusk Drive-In (Downtown)
If you're in the mood for something a little more traditional, then head on over to the drive-in for Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron's classic rom-com starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. If you aren't able to snag any day-of tickets, you can still grab a seat in their Outdoor Astroturf area right in front of the screen. Just bring a lot of blankets to snuggle with your Valentine.



In Theaters This Week
Beautiful Creatures, the first book in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Caster Chronicles series, boasts an cast of Alice Englert, Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis; Roman Coppola directs Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray in A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III; Bruce Willis returns as John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard; Gael García Bernal in No; The latest Nicholas Sparks' novel to come to the big screen, Safe Haven, stars Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough. Also in theaters: Escape from Planet Earth; Like Someone in Love; Shanghai Calling; The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Constantine Maroulis & Deborah Cox (Chris Bennion Photo)



"Jekyll & Hyde" @ Pantages Theatre (Hollywood)
Former "American Idol" contestant and Tony Award nominee (for "Rock of Ages"), Constantine Maroulis, assumes the lead role opposite R&B singer Deborah Cox (remember "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" from the '90s?). Let their performances of classics such as "This is the Moment" and "Someone Like You" pull you into the dark and dangerous love story. Performances at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. today, and running through March 3. Chris Bennion Photo


Chuck Jones Centennial Celebration @ The Cinefamily (Mid-City West)
The beloved animation legend is honored with a weekend of events at the Cinefamily. Today is Chuck Amuck! featuring 35mm prints of his greatest Looney Tunes shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, a panel discussion led by historian Jerry Beck and distinguished animators and a rare showing os his 1973 TV special A Cricket in Times Square. Sunday is a screening of Jones' collaboration with children's author Norton Juster, the 1970 adaptation of The Phantom Tollbooth.



"FilmWeek" Oscar Preview @ The Egyptian (Hollywood)
KPCC 89.3 FM's "FilmWeek" on AirTalk previews this year's Academy Awards with a live show. Host Larry Mantle discusses all the nominees with the L.A. Times Community Papers' Andy Klein, USA Today's Claudia Puig,'s Charles Solomon and KPCC's own Lael Lowewenstein among others.


The Harlem Globetrotters @ Staples Center (Downtown)
I vividly recall going to see the Globetrotters when I was a child and being totally in awe over their high-flying antics and ball-spinning maneuvers. Their games are exciting as ever, especially since they have female players in the lineup now too. This is the place to take your kids, nephews and nieces for a lifelong lasting memory.

Pete Wentz



Pete Wentz @ Barnes & Noble (The Grove)
As Fall Out Boy fans anxiously await the group's first album in five years, Save Rock and Roll (coming on April 16), their anticipation can be satiated by reading a new novel the band's founder/bassist. Wentz celebrates the Feb. 19 release of Gray, which details the dark side of rock 'n' roll, with a discussion and signing.



Andros Georgiou @ Book Soup (West Hollywood)
Georgiou and his second cousin Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (aka George Michael) were inseparable for most of their lives, but the singer's arrest in 1998 created a rift in their relationship. Georgiou seeks to make amends with his beloved cousin with a truthful telling of his life alongside the music star in ROCK: The Luckiest Man in Pop. He discusses and signs the biography that was released last November at Book Soup.



In the Valley Below @ The Echo (Echo Park)
I'm completely on board with In the Valley Below's dreamy mix of male and female vocals from Echo Park's Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail. Whether they're making you dance to "Peaches" or cry to "Take Me Back," the pair's melodic duets won't fail to strike a chord in your soul.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cash'd Out

Cash'd Out's Kevin Manuel, George Bernardo, Douglas Benson and Ryan Thomas at Folsom State Prison


Artists all over the world cover the songs of Johnny Cash. Bands of every genre know at least one of the country legend's tunes, and audiences recognize "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue" and "Walk the Line" from their very first notes. With the popularity of his catalog and his being one of music's most iconic singing voices, reproducing Cash's sound as a tribute band is quite a daunting task. However, San Diego's Cash'd Out have dedicated the past eight years to paying homage to the Man in Black by playing his songs at venues across the nation.

No matter the town, the four members of Cash'd Out – vocalist Douglas Benson, guitarist Kevin Manuel, bassist Ryan Thomas and drummer George Bernardo – consistently win crowds over with their energetic performances of a repertoire of over 150 songs that span Cash's entire career. Cash'd Out has even been named Best Tribute Band four times by the San Diego Music Awards. 

In addition to the band's skilled musicianship in recreating Cash's catalog, a huge factor in their success is the stunning precision with which Benson impersonates the artist's voice. What's so incredible is that Benson didn't even begin to hone his vocal abilities or even play guitar until a short time before forming Cash'd Out in 2005. The band's tale starts as Benson embarks on a camping trip to Baja California with some friends.

"The first Johnny Cash album that I ever listened to was a cassette tape of Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. A friend had brought it down to San Felipe where we were camping for the weekend. He left it in the tape player, and it played for 24 hours a day, all weekend long," Benson recalls. "It was during this trip when we were singing around the fire that someone first said that my voice sounded like Johnny Cash's. The song might have been 'Orange Blossom Special.' It's crazy, back then I didn't even know how to play a guitar. Everything really does happen for a reason."

After that camping trip and his friend's comment about the similarity of his voice and Cash's, Benson began teaching himself some chords on the guitar, became inspired with an idea to form a tribute band and placed an ad for band members in a local newspaper.

"When I first met Kevin and interviewed him to join the band, I only knew how to play and sing like four songs. I don't know what I was thinking," admits Benson with a laugh. "I played a song for him, and he said, 'That was pretty good, but you know you're playing it in the wrong key.' I said, 'Show me how to play it in the right key, and we'll go from there.' Even after all these years, I look at Kevin and wonder, 'What were you thinking when you decided to start this band with me?!"

Eventually Manuel, who was born in San Francisco but moved to San Diego at an early age, and Benson enlisted East Coast transplants Thomas and Bernardo to join the group.

"They give me a lot of grief, but I love them. They like teasing me a lot," chuckles Benson. "George has played with so many different bands and styles of music I can't even begin to name them all. Ryan plays bass with us but is a super good guitar player as well. He has another band called the Buzzbombs, and they do a lot of covers, a couple of originals that are 1950s style, Elvis kind of stuff. He's also an accomplished author. He writes mystery/horror novels."

When they're not traveling up and down the coast playing shows, Benson has a favorite bar that he likes to hang out at.

"The bar that I go to a lot is called Cherry Bomb. It's a dive bar with a great jukebox," he says. "I've been going there for almost 15 years."

As a native of San Diego County, Benson grew up surfing and listening to his favorite band at the time, the Smiths.

"Someday I would like to do a couple of their songs," Benson shares. "I want to try to figure out how Johnny Cash would have done them. I've been fiddling with some."

While Cash'd Out do perform some of the unique covers that Cash released in the American series, like Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," they mostly stick to his original material. Since 2005 they've performed for over a million people, and the thrill Benson experiences each time from sharing a passion for Johnny Cash's music with the audience never gets old.

"Every time we do 'Ring of Fire,' we get a huge crowd singing along with us. When the audience sings, the emotion that they give me, makes me tear up a lot of times," he confesses. "I love all of his songs though. It just depends what mood I'm in, [determining] which one's my favorite at that time. One I always tell people is my favorite is 'Wreck of the Old 97.' I just love the story that it tells and the way that he sang it, the emotion. I just like the way that he, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings tell a story every time they sing a song. Another thing I love about Willie Nelson is that it seems like he's always on tour."

Relentless touring is definitely a standard that Cash'd Out has set for itself. In this month alone, they played at two shows every weekend. Some of the most memorable performances they've given have been in front of Cash's family and friends. Cash's longtime drummer W.S. Holland sat in with the band for a Johnny Cash birthday celebration hosted by Bill Miller, Cash's friend and owner of, at the Fender Museum in Corona, Calif.

"One show that really stands out the most is when Bill Miller brought one of Johnny's daughters, Cindy Cash, to a show in Hollywood a few years back," Benson remembers. "We performed the song 'Cindy, I Love You.' When I walked into the green room backstage, she turned around and said, 'My dad wrote that song for me when I was 18 years old, and I've never heard anybody cover it. You made me cry.' She took a necklace with a crystal locket on it from around her neck, put it on my neck and said, 'I want you to have this. There's a lock of my dad's hair inside of it.' She had cut some hair off his head when he was on the hospital bed during his last few days."

Moments like those fuel Benson's fire to entertain audiences with electrifying performances of  Johnny Cash's music even more. Plans for the future include a Cash'd Out album and tours to the East Coast, Europe, Australia and Japan, a country where they've already caught the attention of a few new fans.

"My cousin that owns a surf company brought some of his Japanese reps to a show. When they went back to Japan they were telling people that they had seen Johnny Cash. Their friends were like, 'Dude, Johnny Cash has been dead for a while,'" Benson laughs, "but it was a pretty nice compliment."

Cash'd Out perform Feb. 15 at Spikes in Rosemead and Feb. 22 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Release Tuesday - 2/12/13

FEB. 12, 2013


Day JoyGo to Sleep, Mess (Small Plates)
Having started out as a duo, Peter Michael Perceval and Michael Serrin currently perform as a five –sometimes six – piece. What hasn't changed is the grandeur of the lush folk landscapes painted by their contemplative melodies and lyrics. It's no wonder that Paste named them one of the 10 Florida Bands You Should Listen to NOW.

FoalsHoly Fire (Warner Bros.)

If the first two singles, "Inhaler" and "My Number," from the Brits' latest effort fail to make you dance (or at least tap your feet), then there's clearly something wrong with your ears. The group is embarking on a world tour in support of this, their third studio album, which brings them to Southern California for both Fridays of Coachella.

MillionyoungVariable (Rix/Old Flame)
Singer and primary songwriter of South Florida's Millionyoung, Mike Diaz shrugs off specific genre titles, like chillwave, whenever people try to categorize the band's music. However, it can't be denied that the songs on Variable, including first single "Lovin'," are chock full of breezy melodies and electronic beeps and beats. No matter the label one tries to affix to the tracks, Millionyoung keep surprising you with sounds reminiscent of Motown, 1960s rock and R&B.

The Stone FoxesSmall Fires (Ingrooves) 
One of San Francisco's gems, the foursome graduates from the straightforward blues rock of their last album (2010's Bears & Bulls) to an even grittier, complex sound. Perhaps it was the alternate locale of Los Angeles where they recorded the 12 songs of Small Fires in 12 days or their choice of producer Doug Boehm (Dr. Dog, the Vines). Whatever the case, it will be awesome to see the tracks of Small Fires brought to life on stage: They stop at the Slidebar in Fullerton on March 4.

Veronica FallsWaiting for Something to Happen (Slumberland)
Exploding onto the scene with their self-titled debut a couple of years ago, the highly anticipated sophomore effort from the Londoners lays bare "the collective anxieties, tensions and confusion of moving from adolescence into fully fledged adulthood." The quartet swings through the Troubadour on March 29.

Also available – Blackfeet Braves' self-titled; The Bryan Ferry Orchestra's The Jazz Age; Bullet for My Valentine's Temper Temper; C2C's Tetra; Chamillionaire's Elevate; Fear of Men's Early Fragments; Hollerado's White Paint; Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison's Cheater's Game; The Little Ones' The Dawn Sang Along; LL Cool J's Authentic Hip Hop; The March Divide's Music for Film; Matt Costa's self-titled; Otis Taylor's My World Is Gone; Pat Metheny's The Orchestrion; Pissed Jeans' Honeys; Ras Kass' Barmageddon; Spoken's Illusion; The Virginmarys' King of Conflict; The Wonder Years' Sleeping on Trash; Ulrich Schnauss' A Long Way to Fall; Unifier's Colorado


Film – Daniel Craig returns as James Bond to take on a former MI6 operative, played by Javier Bardem, in Skyfall; The Man with the Iron Fists is RZA's directorial debut. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Eli Roth; Stephen Chbosky's coming-of-age novel brought to the screen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller; John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy star in The Sessions.

TV – Attenborough's Life Stories; Family Matters: The Complete Third Season; Gossip Girl: The Complete Sixth and Final Season; The Hardy Boys: Season 3; Matlock: The Eighth Season; Nurse Jackie: Season Four; Storage Wars 4; Weeds: Season Eight

Music – L.A. Guns - Live in Concert

Also available – Bully; Dangerous Liaisons; Girl Model; Fairfield Road; Jay and Silent Bob Get Irish - The Swearing O' The Green; Jedi Junkies; The Kid with a Bike; Kill for Me; A Liar's Autobiography; Mimesis; Rise of the Zombies; Robot & Frank; Silent Hill: Revelations 3D; Smiley; The Thieves

Monday, February 11, 2013

STREET SIGNS - Echo Park/The World

When exterior renovations began on the building at 1325 Echo Park Avenue, which used to house a Chinese bakery, in Echo Park for the opening of Jason Michaud's latest venture, Red Hill Restaurant, members of the community were relieved to see that Theresa Powers' Echo Park/The World mural at the rear of the establishment would be preserved. The piece was painted in 1995 with the help of several painters: Carolina Flores, Patty Perez, Jackie Palacios, Catalina Perez, Rodger Trinidad, Ruben C. Sierra, Michael Jacob Rochlin, Karen Reitzel and Steve Trangsrud.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SHOW REVIEW: M. Ward 2/7/13

M. Ward performing at the Orpheum



Feb. 7 @ The Orpheum Theatre (Downtown)

It was a cool October evening in 2004 when, on this very stage, I first became enamored with Matt "M." Ward. As part of the first Monsters of Folk Tour, M. Ward's unique vocals, insightful lyrics and deft fingerpicking style on the guitar instantly grabbed me, and after almost nine years, that hold still hasn't weakened.

Since this Orpheum show had been rescheduled from October of last year due to illness, the crowd was more than a little antsy during opening act Soul Junk's set. Second support act, Karen Elson succeeded in winning the audience over with her mix of country and cabaret and a jovial demeanor, however, she even admitted to being excited for Ward to take the stage.

As soon as Ward began to play, bodies started swaying to the title track from his fifth album, 2006's Post-War. Ward crooned, "Some lucky night, some lucky night," portending a magical remainder of the evening. He then transitioned into three more Post-War tracks – "Poison Cup," "Rollercoaster" and, to a healthy round of audience applause, crowd favorite "Chinese Translation" – before introducing Los Angeles to the first of his new songs, "Watch the Show," from his latest release, A Wasteland Companion. While several other songs from the album dotted the setlist ("Me and My Shadow," "I Get Ideas," "Primitive Girl"), Ward also treated fans to tracks from the rest of his catalog, including covers such as "Rave On" – which caused a dance party to erupt in the aisles – and Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home."

In the background, vertical video screens were fashioned to look like windows, projecting scenes of a huge tree silhouetted during sunset, birds taking flight in the first light of dawn and stars twinkling in a night sky. During "Helicopter" the windows showed a view of city buildings with their windows wide open. It was as if you were peering into neighbors' apartments while Ward sang, "I am somewhere in the city / I am climbing up a fire escape." 

A She & Him moment at the Orpheum
It was a treat to see Ward interact with another guitar virtuoso in Chris Scruggs (grandson of banjo legend Earl Scruggs), who elevated songs like "To Save Me" with his fretwork and "Clean Slate" on the pedal steel. Bright Eyes' Nate Walcott shone on piano and trumpet, while drummer Scott McPherson kept the rhythm on track. Bassist Mike Coykendall always enhances an M. Ward show, and when the other band members left him and Ward alone on stage for "Lullaby + Exile," it was one of the set's highlights.

Another stellar moment was Ward's performance of "Sad, Sad Song," from 2003's Transfiguration of Vincent, where his subdued yet incredible touching vocals hushed and enthralled the crowd. He brought the evening to a pinnacle, alone with his acoustic guitar for the instrumental "Duet for Guitars #3," a breathless display of his amazing fingerpicking prowess.

Then, his She & Him partner Zooey Deschanel joined him on stage for "You Really Gotta Hold On Me" off their 2008 debut, Volume One. She stuck around for another Daniel Johnston cover, "Sweetheart," "Magic Trick" and an encore that brought everyone in the venue to their feet of "Never Had Nobody Like You" and the classic tune "California Sun."

Deschanel's appearance whet She & Him fans' appetites for the upcoming release of their third album, Volume 3, in May and a headlining date at the Hollywood Bowl on June 23. But the real standout moments of the night, for me, were when Ward, guitar in hand, came to the edge of the stage and cast a spell with his guitar work over the entire crowd.