Thursday, May 30, 2013

Events for May 30-June 5, 2013




Stones Fest @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
All of tonight's proceeds benefit Sweet Relief and the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, with performances and appearances by Phosphorescent, Butch Walker, Michelle Branch, Jason Sudeikis, Juliette Lewis, Matt Sorum & Ace Harper, Greg Dulli, the Cabin Down Below Band and surprise guests.


Negroni Week @ Various Locations (Citywide)

Seems like there's a week for every food and drink item, but the Italian cocktail composed of gin, vermouth and Campari definitely deserves one. Celebrate my favorite apéritif through June 3 at participating restaurants and bars like Son of a Fun, the Spare Room and Hemingway's, which offer up the classic as well as inventive spins. Plus, a portion of the money made is going to several charities.



In Theaters This Week
After Earth is M. Night Shyamalan's first feature since directing the horribly disappointing adaptation of my favorite cartoon, "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and is based on a sci-fi/action story penned by one of the film's stars, Will Smith. Also with Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo and Zoe Kravitz; Writer/actress Brit Marling reteams with director Zal Batmanglij for The East, a spy adventure that also stars Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page and Patricia Clarkson; Now You See Me stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine; Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson in the thought-provoking thriller Shadow Dancer. Also in theaters: American Mary; Caroline and Jackie; FIRST: The Story of London 2012 Olympic Games; I Do; The Kings of Summer



Big Gay Ice Cream Truck @ Heath Ceramics and Lindy & Grundy (Mid-City West)

So excited that the New York City ice cream purveyors return to Los Angeles with their unique flavors, such as Bea Arthur (vanilla with dulce de leche and crushed 'nilla wafers) and Cococone (vanilla with toasted curried coconut), just in time for pre-summer heat. The truck also rolls to Hollywood (Susan Feniger's STREET) and East Hollywood (Faultline Bar) on Sunday, Universal City and Orange County (Myung In Dumplings) on Monday and West Hollywood (Duff's Cakemix) on Tuesday.


Make Music Pasadena @ Various Locations (Pasadena)
From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the city hosts an all-out celebration of music at over 40 stages and venues. See local acts like Youngblood Hawke, Hunter Hunted and the Dustbowl Revival, or experience some out of towers such as Yacht, We Are Scientists or Tanlines. There's no better way to spend an entire day in the sun.



Phil Jackson @ Barnes & Noble (The Grove)
Last week, the Zen Master released his latest book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, which details his storied career as head coach of the Bulls and Lakers, guided the careers of two of the best in all of the game's history (Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant) and inspired countless other basketball players, coaches and fans. Bask in his greatness when you get a copy of Eleven Rings signed tonight.


Burger Week @ The Oinkster (Eagle Rock)

From today through June 9, Andre Guerrero's fast-casual restaurant hosts its third annual celebration of all things burger, with each day featuring a brand new creation/tribute. Today's is a spin on Wendy's Baconator, the Oink-O-Nator, with two square patties, american cheese, kaiser bun, six strips of bacon, ketchup and mayo. Others not to miss: June 5's Burgerlord of the Rings, June 7's Thrilla from Manila and June 9's McRibster.

Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon @ The Aero (Santa Monica)
Whedon's adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy hits theaters June 7 and brings American Cinematheque's Much Ado About Shakespeare: The Bard on the Big Screen series, which also includes Henry V and Richard III on May 31 and Romeo + Juliet and Hamlet June 1, to a head with a screening and discussion with the director. Shot in black and white, Whedon's contemporary spin on the story of Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) was shot in just 12 days.



"Yes, Prime Minister" @ Geffen Playhouse (Westwood)

The U.S. premiere of the West End smash, written and directed by Antony Jay and director Jonathan Lynn, stars Stephen Caffrey, Michael McKean, Brian George and Tara Summers. The hilarious satire depicts the Prime Minister and his advisors spinning from crisis to crisis during one disastrous weekend. Through July 14



Björk @ Palladium (Hollywood)
The Icelandic singer-songwriter really needs no introduction. If you haven't experienced the ethereal artist in person before, there is no excuse to wait any longer since she has three area shows. Tonight, again at the Palladium June 8 and June 11 at the Hollywood Bowl.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Sirsy's Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti at Wurstküche



At Wurstküche

800 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles (Downtown) 213-687-4444

Laughter is contagious whenever spending any amount of time with Sirsy. The Upstate New York-based duo of Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti have been performing and writing songs together for 12 years, so it's no wonder that they share such an amazing rapport, and once you're around them it's easy to fall right into their habit of exchanging witty banter with one another.

"I slip just a tiny bit of drugs into his coffee every day," jokes vocalist, drummer and flautist Melanie of her longstanding musical partnership with guitarist Rich. "We really try to respect and listen to each other. We also bust each other's balls nonstop, so it's good."

I was able to witness quite a few playful exchanges between the two when they met me at Wurstküche on the day of their first L.A. show at the Viper Room last week. With its long wooden tables and benches, exposed brick walls and beamed ceilings, the gastropub – known for its German sausages and extensive list of imported beers – has a sleek yet welcoming vibe, conducive to gathering to catch up with a group of friends or getting to know your table neighbor.

Melanie chooses a British soda, Fentimans Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger, to drink, while I go with an L.A. one, Reed's Spiced Apple Brew (homemade ginger ale with apple and lemon juice, honey, herbs and spices), which tastes just like apple pie. Being a beer aficionado, Rich is in his element and opts for the Floris Apple Ale, a Belgian wittier fermented with apples.

"It's really good," he offers, after taking a sip. "I love to go to different places and try everything when we travel, especially with the craft beer explosion. We hang out more and relax on the road. When you're 'self employed,' chasing your dream—"

"You feel guilty if you're not working the whole time," Melanie finishes. "We give ourselves more time to relax and enjoy a beer when we're on tour than when we're at home. I don't drink a lot of beer, but I am really into Lindemans Framboise, a Belgian Lambic. It tastes like fresh raspberries."

Wurstküche is the perfect location for Sirsy to get to know a unique section of Los Angeles since its located in the midst of the Downtown Arts District, filled with artist lofts, cool boutiques and cafés and an ever-changing array of street art murals. Since this is Melanie's first trip to the City of Angels and Rich has only passed through on his way to San Diego several years ago, I ask what they are interested in doing during this trip that's part of their first tour of the southwest in support of their fifth album, which released in March, Coming Into Frame, via Funzalo Records.

"The cheesy touristy thing is to go look at stars on the Walk of Fame, so we're going to go do that today," Melanie replies. "I've actually always wanted to go to the Viper Room, so I'm really excited that we're playing there."

"As we tour in different cities, we often go to places that are iconic in TV and movies, so we'll take a look at the Hollywood Sign," Rich adds. "In Dallas we went to Daley Plaza where JFK was shot."

"We do things you want to check off your bucket list while you're in that city," Melanie continues. "We saw the magical side of space travel on this trip, when we spent some time in Roswell, N.M. We went to the International UFO Museum, which was fun."

Aside from the usual Hollywood spots, Melanie has also been able to experience a favorite pastime of many Angelenos, shopping on Melrose Avenue. She shows me a skirt she found at American Vintage for a steal and admits that thrift shops are a frequent pit stop whenever they roll into a new city.

"It's really fun to go into those places; you never know what you're going to find," she says. "I got one of my favorite skirts in a thrift store in Asheville, N.C. I was looking through a rack and saw a Yoda skirt. This girl makes recycled clothing from scraps of material, so this was a skirt made from four different scraps and one had Yoda from Star Wars on it. It's literally a one-of-a-kind item. You get a little bit of the personality of the town from these local shops."

Although Melanie is vegan, there are several options for her to choose from on the Wurstküche grilled sausage menu. She orders the Vegetarian Smoked Apple Sage, and Rich gets the Sun Dried Tomato & Mozzarella with smoked chicken and turkey. My favorite item is actually the Belgian Fries, which are twice fried and served with one of their delectable dipping sauces that range from the spicy Chipotle Ketchup, creamy Bleu Cheese, Walnut & Bacon, savory Sundried Tomato Mayo and the Sweet & Sassy BBQ.

Sirsy plays over 200 shows a year, so they spend an inordinate time on the road and have of course developed some habits over the course of their 12 years together.

"This is actually not a very secret guilty pleasure that Rich has: He enjoys really cheesy music from the '60s and '70s, and he's made a five-hour 'driving mix' that he forces everyone to listen to in the van while he sings at the top of his lungs. If you see our band live, you'll notice that Rich doesn't sing, and there's a reason for that, which will be reinforced if you ride in the van and listen to him sing 'if you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain' at the top of his lungs," Melanie laughs.

"I might have tortured everyone on the way here from Tucson with my guilty pleasure," Rich admits and then divulges Melanie's on-the-road guilty pleasure. "She wears an assortment of shoe wear as most women do, and on long rides she likes to take those shoes off and put on these fuzzy socks that are soft so she can relax."

"I usually put my feet up on the dashboard and recline. That's true, I do that," she confesses before sharing their usual habit as a duo. "One of our favorite places in New York City where we go every time we're in town is a little falafel place called Mamoun's. Even though it's 2013, somehow you can get an entire meal there for $3. Every time we play in Greenwich Village we go there."

Rich grew up in Rhode Island, while Melanie was raised an hour outside of Albany, and they had distinctly different musical upbringings. For Melanie, the first time she heard the Beatles' Abbey Road, her life changed. She also loved Thriller by Michael Jackson and older jazz artists like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James.

"My family liked music, but there weren't any musicians in my family. When I was a freshman in high school, the person who sat behind me alphabetically in homeroom the first day was this guy Steve, who actually became my best friend. He said to me very early on in our friendship, 'I play guitar. You should play bass so we could meet girls,'" Rich remembers with a laugh. "So I begged my parents to buy me a bass, and we didn't really accomplish the girl thing."

"Unbeknownst to them they were both nerds, so that was the flaw in their plan," Melanie interjects. "Unlike Rich, I grew up in a very musical household. My father is an amazing piano player, so my first instrument was voice because I used to sing along with him. Then I learned to play the piano. In the fourth grade, they make you choose an instrument, and I really wanted to play the saxophone. My mother said, 'Saxophone is $600, and the flute is $200, so you will be playing the flute.' My mother's very supportive, but they were broke. That's when I started playing flute and had my illustrious career as a band geek. I was in drama club and sang in school plays. I've always been pretty musical and it's always been what I wanted to do. I think RIch wanted to be an astronaut."

"There's no jobs for astronauts though anymore, so I went this way instead," he chuckles. "When you're a kid, your parents tell you that you can be anything you want – President of the United States, an astronaut. Then when you're applying to colleges they say, 'You can still be whatever you want, but maybe you should major in something that you can get a job with. As a musician, you face a life of making no money, so I went to school for Biology, toying with the idea of going to med school. I always had many interests but music was always that one underlying thing. It was always there as something that I liked."

"It's a blessing and a curse when you're a good student because when you're a nerd, people expect you to go into a brainier career. Music, being in a rock band, was not traditionally thought of as a brainy career, but it's where my heart has always been. I thought that if I wanted to do music as a career I had to be a music teacher or something more traditional. I didn't think I could be a performer and songwriter as a career that was always my dream," Melanie concurs. "I was actually pre law, then I had this eye-opening experience. The fourth class I went to, they said the required text was the Great Dialogues of Plato, and I was like, 'what am i doing with my life? I don't want to do this.'"

"I had been in a bunch of different bands, but it wasn't until I started writing songs with Melanie that I felt that music was a realistic possibility," Rich recalls. "We worked really hard at it, to the point where we both petered out of serious jobs. It's been eight or nine years since we had any other job. We've been out there pounding the pavement touring."

"We started playing music together, and the first time that it really hit me was looking into a crowd of people and seeing a bunch of people I didn't know singing along to a song that we made up. That was amazing," Melanie remembers. "We would get an e-mail from a fan saying this song changed my life, and there's nothing like that in the world. That's it for me, the fact that we're able to connect with people and change their lives in some way. It doesn't get any better, even if we're broke for the rest of our lives, it's worth it."

Rich and Melanie began as a two-piece, playing acoustic music but writing indie rock tunes. They wrote and released three albums – Baggage (2000), Away From Here (2002) and Ruby (2004) – and  hired more band members to translate the songs to stage. Unfortunately they were never able to find the right mix, and

"It's really hard to have a cohesive sound when you keep going through band members, but it's also really hard to find two people who are as insane as we are and want to live on the road, play as many shows and basically not have a life outside of the band. That's where the two us, where our hearts have always been so it's not a sacrifice for us to do it. We lucked out and found each other. When we write and play songs ,we generally are on the same page. We tried but never really found that with anybody else," she tells. "After going through many changeovers, we just said, 'Let's go back to a two-piece and play all of the instruments ourselves.'"

So ever since 2006, she has played a full drum kit on stage while singing and shared bass duties on a keyboard with Rich (who plays the keyboard with his feet). The released their first effort as a duo, Revolution, in 2007, working on every single aspect themselves, from building a studio at Rich's house to recording and producing. With their fifth full-length, Coming Into Frame, they pushed themselves even further by expanding their recording horizons by working with a pair of award-winning producers, Paul Kolderie (Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Uncle Tupelo) and Sean Slade (Radiohead, Hole, Dresden Dolls, Pixies).

"Working with Paul and Sean, who have worked with some of our favorite artists, we already knew that we trusted them going in. They came and saw us live, so they got our vibe," Melanie says. "They said they wanted to capture the live energy that we have on stage. They noticed that when we played one song live there was a peak when it sped up and was exciting. They said we shouldn't record it with a click track, that we didn't need to use a metronome."

"In a Lady Gaga/Katy Perry world of music production, everything is very structured and rigid, mathematically laid out and Auto-Tuned, and we didn't want to make a record like that," adds Rich.

"I don't like to use Auto-Tune on my voice. If I can't sing it in tune, then I shouldn't be singing it, and that was their philosophy, too, on the record. We were breaking all types of rules, but we were able to capture more of us live," Melanie says. "They used a lot of our production ideas, taught us so much and really made us grow. It's our best album because of them. I like to think that we got better as songwriters, but a lot of it came fem working with them."

"Also, we wrote way more songs than we ever have. We wrote 25 songs, and 10 made it on the CD. In the end it's the 10 that we're most happy to have on there," Rich says.

As Sirsy has made their way across the country debuting songs from Coming Into Frame, Melanie says that the first two songs on the album, "Cannonball" and "Lionheart," have been going over well because they're full of energy and fun. There are two other tracks from the album that really move audiences as well and hold special meaning to the close-knit musical pair.

"I don't share this very often, but I actually went through a battle with breast cancer while we were writing the album, so 'Brave and Kind' and 'Gold' both came from that place. When you go through something like that, it just comes out of you, so I think that's why they speak to people," she says. "I've had several people come up to me after shows and say 'That song 'Brave and Kind,' I went through this and this, and that song, it's me, how did you write that?' It's neat for me to take something that's a life struggle, learn from it and be able to make a song that speaks to other people. That's pretty special for me."

Coming Into Frame is currently available. For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Release Tuesday 5/28/13

MAY 28, 2013


AceyaloneLeanin' on Slick (Decon)

The L.A. titan of hip-hop, who began his career at South Central's the Good Life Café, releases his 10th solo album, the follow-up to 2009's Aceyalone & the Lonely Ones. The emcee continues to successfully merge classic hip-hop with elements of soul, funk and R&B on Leanin' on Slick with songs like the title track, "One Cup, Two Cup" and "Boss." Leanin' on Slick also features collaborations with BIONIK, Daniel Merriweather, Treasure Davis and Cee Lo Green. Catch Acey when he performs a solo set as well as with Freestyle Fellowship June 14 at the Airliner.

Crystal FightersCave Rave (Atlantic)

I have wanted to visit Basque Country for a while, to partake of the amazing cuisine and music. Until then, I've got the sophomore effort from the UK-based group, who penned Cave Rave's songs in Basque then traveled to Los Angeles to record with Grammy-nominated producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Air, Paramore). It's impossible to dwell on the hopeless with feel-good tracks like "Wave," "You & I" and "LA Calling." Make sure to wear your dancing shoes when you see them at the El Rey June 4.

FaluForas Road (Monsoon)
The New York-based songstress fittingly named her latest album for the oldest red-light district in Mumbai since its songs capture the musical traditions and cultural history of India's centuries-old brothels. Throughout Foras Road, Falu sings in seven different South Asian languages and artfully blends Indian classical and folk elements with modern acoustic instrumentation. Her voice soars on tracks like lead single "Ghumar," "Tarana" and "Hori."

Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle (Ribbon)
After reading the English folk musician's list of accomplishments (four albums, a Best British Female BRIT Award, named NME Best Solo Artist and a two-time Mercury Music Prize nominee), it's a bit hard to believe that she's only 23 years old. Her beautifully heartfelt lyrics and vocals also belie her years, but I guess it's because she was just born for this. All of her vocals and acoustic guitar parts for Once I Was An Eagle were recorded live in one take in one day, and the album encapsulates Laura's journey as she moves forward on the road as a solo performer at time in her life when most of those her age were still in college. Must-listen tracks: "Where Can I Go?" and "Master Hunter."

Also available – Alex Bleeker & The Freaks' How Far Away; Alice in Chains' The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; Anvil's Hope in Hell; Baths' Obsidian; Blue-Eyed Son's Shadows on the Son; Brazos' Saltwater; Cinema Sleep's Truth for the Seeker; Cloud Boat's Book of Hours; CocoRosie's Tales of a Grass Widow; Cas Haley's La Si Dah; The-Dream's IV Play; Eisley's Currents; Hooded Fang's Gravez; Imaginary Cities' Fall of Romance; John Fogerty's Wrote a Song for Everyone; Kermit Ruffins' We Partyin' Traditional Style!; Kid Ink's Almost Home; Kylesa's Ultraviolet; Man Overboard's Heart Attack; Mike Marlin's Grand Reveal; Mount Kimbie's Cold Spring Fault Less Youth; Pastels' Slow Summits; Retox' YPLL; Skinny Puppy's Weapon; The Stranglers' Giants; Tricky's False Idols; Ugly Heroes' self-titled; Various Artists' Arts & Crafts: X; Various Artists' True Blood: Music from the HBO Original Series Volume 4; When Saints Go Machine's Infinity Pool


Film – Scott Stewart (Legion, Priest) directs Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton as a couple whose peaceful life in the suburbs is turned upside down by terrifying and mysterious beings in Dark Skies; Keanu Reeves, Adelaide Clemens and Daniel Sunjata in generation Um…; The Numbers Station stars John Cusack as a former black ops agent who must protect a young woman (Malin Akerman) in a fight for survival.

TV – Beetlejuice: The Complete Series; Covert Affairs: Season Three; Doctor Who: Series Seven – Part Two; Longmire: The Complete First Season; Red Widow: The Complete First Season; Suits: Season Two

Music –
Dio – Finding the Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 1986; Garbage: One Mile High… Live; Judas Priest: Epitaph
Also available – 6 Month Rule; Attack of the Jurassic Shark; Baby Mama's Club; Dorfman in Love; Life Is Sweet (Criterion Collection); Lore; The Loving Story; Nailbiter

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Events for May 23-29, 2013




Hunter Hunted @ The Roxy (West Hollywood)
The duo of Dan Chang and Michael Garner have only been together as Hunter Hunted since January, and they've amassed critical raves, TV show placements and fans ever since. Give "Keep Together" from their self-released EP a listen, and you'll soon realize what all the fuss is about. Don't miss when they play the Roxy tonight with another SoCal group, the Mowgli's, because I'm not sure how much longer they'll be performing in such intimate spaces.

Shout Out Louds, Haerts @ El Rey (Miracle Mile)
The Swedish five some of the Shout Out Louds are wrapping up a North American tour in support of Optica, their fourth full-length that marks 10 years since the release of their debut. The album is a celebration of color and light, so expect to be dazzled tonight and/or tomorrow night at the El Rey. Also on hand is New York's Haerts whose single "Wings" is guaranteed to move you, physically and emotionally.


"My Brother Marvin" @ Pantages Theatre (Hollywood)
I remember watching coverage of Marvin Gaye's murder on TV when I was 7 but didn't grasp the impact of his tragic death on the music world until I was much older. This new production is based on a memoir by his sister Zeola, revealing family secrets and exploring the internal struggles of the superstar. It stars Lynn Whitfield, Clifton Powell, Keith Washington and Tony Grant, and runs through Saturday. 



Sir Sly @ Troubadour (West Hollywood)
It's pretty much impossible not to instantly become enamored with the Los Angeles trio's "Gold" upon listening to the first bars of the song, which lends its name to their new EP that released digitally earlier this week. As you explore more of the tracks on Gold, you'll find even more to love. This is hands-down the show not to miss this week.


In Theaters This Week
Before Midnight reteams Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and is set nine years after Before Sunset, the sequel to 1995's Before Sunrise. The couple is now in their early 40s with twin daughters on vacation in Greece; Based on William Joyce's illustrated children's book, The Leaf Men, Epic features the voices of Beyoncé, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz and many more; Fast & Furious 6 finds Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) eliciting the help of Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew to take down a gang of mercenary drivers in exchange for full pardons; Set two years after the Wolfpack's escapades in Bangkok, The Hangover Part III revolves around the guys (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms) hitting the road to save Doug (Zach Galifianakis). Also starring Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy. Also in theaters: Cleopatra 50th Anniversary; A Green Story; Fill the Void; We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

Vertigo @ The Egyptian (Hollywood)
Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film is not only my favorite by the director but was one of Roger Ebert's as well, so it's fitting that the classic is part of the American Cinematheque's The Great Movies: A Tribute to Roger Ebert. Whether you're experiencing "Scottie" Ferguson's (James Stewart) growing obsession with Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) for the first or 15th time, its stunning visuals never fail to send chills down the spine. The series continues with Citizen Kane on Saturday; Aguirre, The Wrath of God (with Werner Herzog in person) June 6; Apocalypse Now June 8; La Dolce Vita June 9.



Stand By Me @ Exposition Park (South Los Angeles)
Street Food Cinema kicks off their season the Rob Reiner classic (based on Stephen King's The Body) as four friends seek adventure over Labor Day weekend 1959. Starring child actors Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman, who would be propelled to adolescent fame, as well as Kiefer Sutherland, the 1986 film features two scenes that were permanently ingrained in my 9-year-old brain: the leeches and the blueberry pie-eating contest. Ugh! Corey Feldman is actually going to be on hand to provide musical entertainment, while food can be purchased from trucks like Cousin's Maine Lobster, Don Chow and the Grilled Cheese Truck.



JazzReggae Fest @ UCLA (Westwood)
The 27th annual Memorial Day tradition returns to the Bruin campus with stellar lineup of artists. Sunday is Jam Day with Santigold, Common, the Grouch and Eligh, Jhene Aiko, Ryan McDermott and Gluck Jazz Ensemble, while Monday is Reggae Day with Ziggy Marley, Barrington Levy, Mr. Vegas, Marcia Griffiths and Kes the Band. Both days also feature an array of international food booths and clothing, jewelry and other arts and crafts vendors.



Walk for Warriors @ WLA Veterans Affairs Medical Campus (West Los Angeles)
The third annual event helps to raise funds to provide assistance for veterans through transitional housing, job training and placement, counseling, education classes and family reunification services. Do the run or walk or join the crowd to cheer on the participants. Fox 11's Christine Devine hosts the day full of music, food and fun.


Big Daddy's Summer BBQ @ Ford's Filling Station (Culver City)
Chef Ben Ford celebrates the official start of summer barbecue season by transforming the restaurant's front patio into a smoked meat extravaganza. For just $28 you get a choice of two meats (whole roasted hog, beef brisket, grilled chicken, been braised sausage or pork ribs) and two sides (southern-style greens, marinated heirloom tomatoes, mac n cheese, corn on the cob, potato salad or baked beans), plus a beer for $3. Skip the mess of barbecuing at home and head to FFS.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ben Caron

Ben Caron at home on the stage at Rockwell: Table & Stage



Rockwell: Table & Stage

1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles (Los Feliz)

With the advent of fan-funded projects such as the $5 million Kickstarter resurrection of the Veronica Mars film and the million dollars raised by Amanda Palmer for the recording, promotion, tour support and accompanying art book for her new album, there's no doubt that the concept is completely changing the entertainment industry. Los Angeles singer-songwriter Ben Caron is one artist who not only recognizes but embraces the power shift that is taking place.

"The music industry used to be modeled on this idea of the performer being up above and the audience being down below. There was this hierarchy of 'I'm the performer and separate from you. You are the audience that pays to come and see me, but you don't know me.' Since the Internet has come to be a powerful force, it has made the industry a lot more egalitarian so that the artist has come to meet the audience, and the audience has raised in power," he tells. "I want to find a way to eliminate as much of the disconnect between the audience and myself as possible, especially because my album was fan-funded. It's their music; they paid for it, and it was their enthusiasm that made the project possible. I don't have any room for there to be a disconnect because I am them and they are me. That's the relationship I want to move towards, that we are one thing."

In fact, his fans' contributions – collected via his personal website – funded a series of three EPs that were released over the course of last year, including January's Prologue, April's Wholeheartedly and November's Love Me Too. Ben was able to raise all of the money necessary to record, remaster and press physical copies of his 11-track self-titled full-length album, which combines the three EPs and is set for release on June 4. In anticipation of the album's release, Ben is doing a Sunday-evening residency at Rockwell: Table and Stage through June 2, and in keeping with the spirit of his open relationship with his fans, the show is going to be completely interactive.

"The plan is, when everybody comes in and sits down, there's going to be a song menu that includes all 11 songs from the album and four covers. Throughout the night I'm going to randomly choose a table and chair from the seating map, and that person gets to order a song off the menu. At one point during the evening we're going to do a completely improvised section. It could be that I pull up some friends to do an a cappella number or if I see a friend who's a drummer in the audience I might invite him up to play," he explains. "I'm trying to leave space for the unpredictable in the show so that whatever the universal energy is in the space can enter in and create something as well, and the audience and I can create something together. I don't think it's fair to ask people to come back every single week without giving them something different to experience. That's why I think this format will be really exciting."

The reinvented Rockwell: Table & Stage, which was remodeled to combine Rockwell, VT, Show at Barre and Vermont Kitchen and Bar into one venue/restaurant last year, is very special to Ben, who is also a film and stage actor. He has performed in several productions at the venue, mounted his first L.A. residency on its stage just as it was unveiling its transformation last year and currently works there as his 'day job.'

"One of the most crazy and exciting nights of my life, I was here working and we were doing the 'For the Record: Baz Luhrmann' show. An hour before we were supposed to start, one of the actors called and said he wasn't able to make it, and nobody was available to go on for him. With an hour prep time I ended up going on for him," Ben recalls. "You have to focus so much because you don't know what you're doing at all, so if you're out of it for one moment, it's like being on a tightrope, you'll just fall off. But it proved to me that I can really do anything that I choose if I put my mind to it. It's really only me that's standing between my desire and achieving my desire."

You can tell that Ben feels completely at home at Rockwell, and it's no surprise that when I ask him about his favorite drinks and dishes, there is absolutely no hesitation before he responds.

"My favorite specialty cocktail is Boys Life [Larceny Bourbon with honey syrup, basil and Honey Basil Ale]. As far as food, the Roasted Cotija Corn Mash, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussel Sprouts are really good, and the Braised Beef Short Ribs are pretty amazing. My friends and I did the Burger & Bottle deal the other night (a burger with fries and half a bottle of 2008 Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros), and the Blue Cheese Fondue Burger that comes with it is delicious," he answers. "Everything has a level of decadence, in the sense of richness and complexity of flavor. There's not anything on the menu that is a miss. The whole idea is, we want the entire night to be a cohesive experience. If you're coming in and seeing really amazing performers then you should also be able to experience really amazing food."

Although he lives near Hollywood & Highland, the community that surrounds Rockwell in Los Feliz has become Ben's second home, so I try to find out some of his favorite haunts.

"It's a cool dynamic that Los Feliz's Vermont and Hillhurst blocks have with each other. Each business does their own thing but supports one other. It has a vibe about it that is welcoming, even in the architecture. It has an East Village of New York feel, rather than a stereotypical L.A. feel," he shares. "Mess Hall is really cool, make sure to get the oysters. Spitz is delicious. Home is good. Alcove Cafe is amazing. I could be in Skylight Books for hours and hours. The Vintage Los Feliz 3 Cinemas is perfect. I love the movies that they choose to show. There are some great shops on Hollywood, all of these boutiques have amazing stuff. Co-op 28 is cool, and we know a couple of artists who work there. This whole neighborhood is really fantastic. If I didn't love how central I am at my place I would definitely move here."

"When I first moved here I didn't have a car. I was in school, and the first three years I hated the town. What I realized is that you can't really get to know L.A. until you have a chance to visit each of the communities separately and delve into their personalities because Los Feliz provides a very specific thing, and Silver Lake, Highland Park, Pasadena and Santa Monica are all different," he continues. "My favorite thing about L.A. as a city is that within an hour you can find any experience. If one day I feel like a beach day, it's not impossible for me to get to Santa Monica and have a beach day. If I want to connect with the mountains, I can go to Pasadena and there are great trails to hike. Los Feliz has this cool vibe where you can walk around, see a movie and go to a great restaurant. I love that you can get anything you want in L.A. within a short amount of time."

Although he's adjusted to life as an Angeleno, Ben is originally from Iowa, and growing up in the midwest definitely had an impact on his musical taste. Both of his parents are very supportive of his career, but his dad isn't very musical and his mom is incredibly musical. She purchased Ben's first guitar while she was pregnant with him and filled his childhood with song.

"She brought music into my life since before I could remember. Some of my first memories are of her singing to me, and she had very eclectic taste. There was Journey, Genesis, Madonna, Elton John and James Taylor. Growing up in the midwest, country music had a strong presence, so there was also Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson and Clint Black. My music ended up being a combination of my mom playing oldies, the country influence – which is so much about storytelling and melody – and listening to a lot of Top 40 as a kid," he begins. "Over the last four years, another element has also been added because of a band called Vintage Trouble. They started off with residencies around  L.A., and a lot of the friends I have now were made from going to their shows a couple of times a week. They're a soul band, so that was the icing on the cake of the foundation of the Top 40, oldies and country. A lot of my newer stuff has soul influence in it. The record has songs that I wrote when I was 16 all the way up until now. There are a lot of different musical periods from my life included in the one record, and so I think the newer songs you can feel that Motown soul influence but the older songs you can hear the Top 40, oldies and country too."

Ben cultivated his love of music and performing while attending a small high school in Iowa and begin to form his own identity as an artist.

"The high school that I went to had 300 people in the entire school, so everybody had to do everything because you couldn't maintain an arts program, football program or anything in a school like that without everybody being involved. It created a really cool environment where you didn't have the social hierarchies that exist in other schools," he remembers. "My high school experience was key in developing the type of artist that I am because I am an actor, I am a singer and I also paint and write. I do a lot of different things because as I was growing up, everybody in my life said, 'Do everything you want to do, and then later on you can figure out what you want to focus on.' I grew up with a strong foundation in a lot of disciplines, so every time in my life when I've said 'I'm just an actor' or 'I'm just a musician,' there's something in my spirit that says, 'No, that's not the case.' I only feel fulfilled when I'm expressing myself in a lot of different ways."

Upon graduation, Ben was set to attend Iowa State University on a full-ride scholarship to study Pre-Law, but at the last minute decided to follow his heart to California and pursue his dreams as a performer. His path led him to California State University, Los Angeles where he spent five years honing his skills.

"According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county I grew up in is the whitest county in America statistically. To move out here to go to Cal State Los Angeles, where you have people from all walks of life, my mind just exploded and expanded," Ben recalls. "The people that I met, the experiences that I had and the points of view I was able to understand – I don't know if I would have necessarily been able to get that experience at any other school in Los Angeles. Everybody on campus was working so hard to be there, it didn't feel like anybody was entitled or felt like they had to go to college because their parents said so. Everybody was there because they wanted to make a better life for themselves, and that was so inspiring to me."

He started out as a double major but eventually had to choose acting over music in order to finish classes and graduate in a reasonable amount of time. He spent the first year after graduation hitting the pavement as an actor then realized that his life didn't feel complete without music.

"I'm trying to figure out how to keep the balance between these two forces because it takes a lot of time and energy to maintain a career in either one of them, and it can be exhausting to juggle them at the same time. In prepping the album a lot of my energy has gone to the music side of my career, but I have a feeling that at some point in the future acting will rise again and there will be an ebb and flow between the two."

Aside from preparing for the release of the album, Ben has also created a YouTube series with another L.A. singer-songwriter, Anthony Starble, who also contributed background vocals to Ben's self-titled release. Each installment of "Ben, Anthony and the Loft" consists of the two artists performing a cover song or mashup of tunes they love.

"The one that we've gotten the most response to is the very first one, a cover of two Fun. songs mashed together, but I had the most fun doing the mashup of Emeli Sandé's 'Next to Me' with 'Colors of the Wind' from Pocahontas because I'm a big Disney nerd and I know every word to every single Disney song. For me to be able to sing one of those songs in a non-cheesy environment, to make it work as a real song, was really fun," he says before revealing that his favorite Disney films are Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid actually gets a mention in Ben Caron's closing track, "Molly May," and perhaps a "Part of Your World" cover will make its way into the YouTube series or onto a future EP or album. As for what else lies ahead for Ben Caron musically, all he can express is excitement.

"I usually fall in love with the song that I'm writing at that moment, so when I started recording the album I consciously made the effort to stop writing because I knew that if I kept writing I would have wanted the new songs to be on the album and not the older ones. I really needed to take the songs that already existed, put them on a recording and get them out there into the world before I could move on. I've just started writing again, and I'm really excited," he confesses. "I'm excited to take my music in directions that it hasn't gone before and explore different genres and sounds that I haven't before."

Ben Caron's self-titled debut album will be available June 4. Ben Caron performs at Rockwell: Table & Stage on May 26 and June 2. For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Release Tuesday 5/21/13

MAY 21, 2013


Christopher Paul StellingFalse Cities (Mecca Lecca/Dollartone)
The Brooklyn-based troubadour presents the follow-up to Songs of Praise and Scorn, his debut from last year. If you're looking for a fresh spin on Americana gothic folk, then Stelling is your man. From False Cities' opening track, "Brick x Brick," to the contemplative "Who I Am" and "Writhing in Shambles," there is sure to be at least one song that touches a chord with you.

Clairy Browne & The Bangin' RackettesBaby Caught the Bus (Vanguard)
If your only exposure to the Australian group has been seeing them perform "Love Letter" in Heineken's The Switch ad, let me assure you that there is even more to fall in love with on their debut album. Throughout Baby Caught the Bus, Browne's smoky and powerful voice shines, whether she's coaxing you to get up and move with "Frankie" or pulling at your heartstrings on "You Don't Owe Me Nothing." No other band around right now can blend soul, blues, doo-wop, jazz and R&B quite as well as them.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories (Columbia)
Although most members of the Daft Club have already gotten their fix of the album since it began streaming on iTunes last week, there's still a bit of excitement to be had from actually holding a physical copy of the French duo's first studio album in eight years. If you haven't already fallen victim to the Daft-ified funk of "Get Lucky" (featuring Pharrell Williams on vocals), then you must give it and "Lose Yourself to Dance" (also featuring Williams) a spin ASAP since they're my favorite tracks on the effort. Other collaborators include Julian Casablancas, Paul Williams, Panda Bear and Todd Edwards.

The NationalTrouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Matt Berninger has such a distinctive voice, that songs from the New York band are immediately identifiable. The quintet's sixth album continues to pull listeners into their world of heartbreak and melancholia with Trouble Will Find Me, beginning with first single "Demons" on into "Heavenfaced," "Slipped" and "Humiliation." They bring the new tracks to the Greek Theatre on Aug. 10.

JapantherEat Like Lisa, Act Like Bart (Recess)

Since meeting at the Pratt Institute circa 2001, Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly have made a habit of being unconventional. If the title of their latest album doesn't doesn't make you smile, then you probably shouldn't give them a try. Their punk-infused melodies are guaranteed to have you dancing around the room, shedding all inhibitions. Their live shows are just as invigorating, so make sure to check them out June 30 at the Growing Up Is Dumb festival in Highland Park.

Thirty Seconds to MarsLove Lust Faith + Dreams (Virgin)
I haven't been this excited about an album from 30STM since their 2002 self-titled debut and its follow-up (2005's A Beautiful Lie). While many either love or loathe the band merely for the identity of their lead singer/songwriter, Jared Leto, he is just one-third of the act that includes one of the most explosive drummers of our generation, Shannon Leto. Just watch Shannon pound the skins with the taiko drummers in the short film for their lead single from Love Lust Faith + Dreams, "Up In The Air." The video also features Dita Von Teese, gymnasts McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber, artist Maxwell Snow, models Ashley Smith and Anastasia Krivosheeva, the USC fencing team, lions and zebras – oh my. They're holding a very special Church of Mars at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles tonight (click here for details).

Also available – Alpine's A Is For Alpine; Amos Slade's Hungry Earth; Baptist Generals' Jackleg Devotional to the Heart; Bazooka's self-titled; Club 8's Above the City; Darius Rucker's True Believers; Dead Gaze's self-titled; Emma Louise's vs. Head vs. Heart; The Front Bottoms' Talon of the Hawk; French Montana's Excuse My French; Have Mercy's The Earth Pushed Back; Linda Draper's Edgewise; LVMRKS' Pale Fairytale; Majical Cloudz's Impersonator; Man Or Astro-man?'s Defcon 5…4…3…2…1; NK's Nothing to Be Gained Here; Palisades' Outcasts; Radiation City's Animals in the Median; Radical Dads' Rapid Reality; Saturday Looks Good to Me's One Kiss Ends It All; Scout Niblett's It's Up to Emma; Ten Kens' Namesake; Visage's Hearts and Knives; Young Benjamins' Less Argue


Film – The film version of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's YA novel, Beautiful Creatures, stars Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich as Lena and Ethan in a small southern town inhabited by Lena's family of "casters." Also starring Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson; The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger; Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez in Parker; Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects stars Lude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones; Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in Stand Up Guys; Chris Colfer ("Glee"), Rebel Wilson, Sarah Hyland, Allison Janney and Christina Hendricks in Struck By Lightning.

Music – Aaron Neville: My True Story; The Moody Blues: Live at Montreux 1991; The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane

TV – The Aquabats! Super Super Show! Season One!; Perception: The Complete First Season; Saving Hope: The Complete First Season; Teen Wolf: Season Two; True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season

Comedy –
Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional

Also available – The ABC's of Death; Atomic Age; Gregory Crewdson – Brief Encounters; In My End Is My Beginning; Last Kind Words; Love Sick Love; Open Road; Picture Day; That Was Then This Is Now; This Girl Is Badass; The Visitor (Cibrail); Yossi

Monday, May 20, 2013

STREET SIGNS - Make Art, Not War

In February Shepard Fairey painted this Make Art, Not War mural in front of one of his local art supply shops, Baller Art Ware, at 3714 Tracy Street in Silver Lake. Earlier that month, Fairey had lectured at Santa Fe University of Art and Design's Artists for Positive Social Change series and painted another version – with additional paintbrushes and design work on the sides – of the pro-art/anti-war piece at the school.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Events for May 16-22, 2013


Devendra Banhart (Ana Kras)


Devendra Banhart @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
Although Los Angeles has lost the singer-songwriter to New York City, he bookends the world tour in support of his eighth studio album, March's Mala, with SoCal dates, including tonight at the Fonda and Aug. 24 at FYF Fest. I would opt for the show this evening, though, because there's nothing like experiencing Banhart's distinctive falsetto warble on older tracks, his sultry croon on newer songs such as "Mi Negrita" and overall charismatic onstage presence in a setting as intimate as the small theater. He's been known to invite the entire audience up on stage with him to sing along, so it should prove to be an awesome night.



In Theaters This Week
I have high hopes for Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to J.J Abrams' 2009 reboot to the franchise, because the director, and the "Fringe" and "Alias" writing team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman as well as Damon Lindelof ("Lost"), have yet to disappoint me. Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles as Kirk, Spock and Uhura, while Benedict Cumberbatch (the BBC's Sherlock Holmes) is Commander Harrison, later to be revealed as dun dun dun… Khan; Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear and Lily Collins in The English Teacher. Also in theaters: Augustine; An Oversimplification of Her Beauty; Black Rock; Erased; Frances Ha; Pieta; State 194; Stories We Tell

The Outsiders/Rumble Fish @ The Egyptian (Hollywood)
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of both films, American Cinematheque presents a Francis Ford Coppola/S.E. Hinton/Matt Dillon double feature. The evening begins with a screening of the author's watershed work, The Outsiders, which she penned while in high school. Coppola directs an all-star cast that includes C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise and Dillon, who portrays the roughest Greaser, Dallas "Dally" Winston. Stay Golden, Ponyboy! Then, Coppola adapts another Hinton novel and reunites with Dillon (and Lane) in the black-and-white Rumble Fish, which also stars Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage and Tom Waits.


Andy Grammer @ The Fonda (Hollywood)
It's virtually impossible to keep still and not sing along whenever Grammer's monster hit "Keep Your Head Up" from his 2011 self-titled debut comes on the radio. I'm not the only one who feels this way, since the album has gone platinum. The Los Angeles native actually started out busking on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and he's certainly come a long way since then. However, he can still lure a crowd into the palm of his hand during his performances. Just spend the night with him at the Fonda and see for yourself.

Thirty Seconds to Mars


KROQ Weenie Roast @ Verizon Amphitheater (Irvine)
Speaking of Jared Leto, it's hard to ignore the posters and billboards all over town for Thirty Seconds to Mars' new album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, which released earlier this week. The trio headline KROQ's 21st annual event with the Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, Of Monsters and Men, Jimmy Eat World, Silversun Pickups, Imagine Dragons, AWOLNATION and Atlas Genius. Fitz & The Tantrums, the Neighbourhood, C2C, Capital Cities, New Politics and Twenty One Pilots are set to appear on the side stage.

The Ocean Blue @ The Satellite (Silver Lake)
If you don't feel like heading down to the OC, then head over to the Satellite for either one of the Pennsylvania foursome's two-night stand. They just released their first album in over 10 years in March, and Ultramarine's 12 tracks mark a return to form, as well as a beginning, for the band. Old and new fans alike should anticipate dancing along to songs from their entire catalog.


American Psycho @ Hollywood Forever (Hollywood)

The Cinespia season at the cemetery is once again in full swing for the season, and this weekend's feature is Mary Haron's adaptation of the chilling Bret Easton Ellis novel. The film from 2000 stars Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon and Christian Bale in an unforgettable turn as the sociopathic Patrick Bateman. As always, bring a picnic dinner, bottle of wine and some blankets to hide your face during the bloody parts of the modern horror classic. DJ Jun spins before and after the screening.

Laura Marling


Laura Marling @ Hollywood Forever Masonic Lodge (Hollywood)
The England transplant blesses her adopted hometown with a show at Hollywood Forever in anticipation of the May 28 release of fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle. The award-winning troubadour takes a listeners on a trip through the American West as she reflects on her own newfound independence and adulthood with the album, and it should be stunning to see the songs performed live in such a breathtaking setting.


LA Times Bite Night @ The Atrium at LA Times (Downtown)
Since the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic transferred to the Times, he's inaugurating a new tasting night that will coincide with the publication of the paper's first dining guide, Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants, which hits stands next week. Gold handpicked more than 20 restaurants, including Alma, Bestia, ink. Mozz, Squirl, The Hart & the Hunter, Kogie and Night + Market, for Angelenos to sample. Although the even is sold-out you have until 5 p.m. today (Thursday, May 16) to enter two win two tickets here. Good luck!


"The Scottsboro Boys" @ Ahmanson Theatre (Downtown)

From the highly successful songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who brought the world such musicals as "Cabaret" and "Chicago," comes their final collaboration, "The Scottsboro Boys." With a book by David Thompson, Susan Stroman ("The Producers") directs this emotionally charged production that documents one of the most infamous events in American history. Nine African-American men are accused of a crime that they didn't commit and, even more, didn't even happen. As their tale is interwoven with innovative staging, beautiful music and extraordinary choreography, it's bound to touch a chord in every audience member's soul. Through June 30.



Youngblood Hawke @ Avalon (Hollywood)
The Angelenos take a one-night break in the midst of their worldwide tour in support of the their debut album album Wake Up's release last month for a hometown stop in Hollywood. If tracks like "Stars (Hold On)," my personal favorite "Forever" or their break-out hit "We Come Running" have yet to grab you, give their live show a chance. The explosion of sound and all-out energy will quickly make you a convert.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Richard Lange

Richard Lange at the Musso & Frank Grill



At The Musso & Frank Grill

6667 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles (Hollywood) 323-467-7788

Los Angeles plays a significant part in the works of L.A. author Richard Lange. Whether the City of Angels acts as the backdrop for his collection of hard-boiled short stories in 2007's Dead Boys, his 2009 debut novel This Wicked World or his latest book, Angel Baby, released this week, it looms large, and there's no denying that Lange knows his city. Through his tales, he exposes a seedy underbelly that most Angelenos might not even be aware of.

"I definitely have had a street-level experience in L.A. because I didn't have a car until I was older. I took public transportation everywhere, and I still would rather walk or be out and about than be in a car. I'm always exploring places," he admits. "Part of Angel Baby takes place in Compton so I drove around there for two days. There's a cemetery mentioned in the book, and I found that exact cemetery. I found the house that the people in the book live in – it's this street-level research that I think adds to the realness."

It's this gritty, true-to-life portrait of the city that makes his work so captivating and unique. He's even coined a term for his type of writing style.

"My L.A. is just one of many versions. It's as made up as anything else, it's what to exaggerate or focus on that paints that picture. It's as unreal as Middle Earth or Narnia," he laughs. "People call me a crime writer, but I say I'm a grime writer. It's this view of L.A. that other people might not have at all. They just might see it as the West Side or the very hip Silver Lake area. That's just my vision of L.A., what I see when I go out."

If you've stood in MacArthur Park surrounded by an evangelist reciting scripture through a megaphone, eaten in a pupuseria with plastic floral tablecloths covering its tables or spent a day at a weathered miniature golf/arcade fun zone in the suburbs, you will recognize Lange's Los Angeles. One place that has played a big part in his L.A. life is the "oldest restaurant in Hollywood," the Musso & Frank Grill.

"It's a little expensive, so it's a special occasion place. I remember when we used to come here when I was poorer, we would drink beer instead of martinis because it was cheaper, and we never got to eat here. Because of that, it's always had this sheen: 'If I make it, I'm going to eat at Musso's every night,'" he chuckles. "Now that I can afford to eat here on special occasions, it's like a sign of success."

Since 1919, Musso & Frank has satisfied the hunger of Hollywood's elite. Charlie Chaplin loved their Lamb Kidneys. Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper frequently breakfasted on their flannel cakes and coffee. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Groucho Marx and Jimmy Stewart, as well as literary greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, T.S. Elliot, Aldous Huxley and Charles Bukowski, have all sat in one of their red leather booths.

When we meet for our interview, we take a seat at Musso & Frank's mahogany bar. Lange orders a martini and schools me in the concept of a sidecar.

"They're famous for their martinis, and the benefit is this little sidecar. It's almost like you're getting two for one," he tells, before revealing his usual food order. "I get the Ribeye Steak with the Romaine Salad and Blue Cheese dressing. You can't beat the steaks and chops here because there's something about an old grill. After years and years, it takes on a flavor that just makes the meat taste different."

Lange was born Oakland, and his family moved all over California – from Stockton in  the San Joaquin Valley to Lamont in Kern County – before settling in Morro Bay during his high school years. Throughout this time, Lange devoured comic books and science-fiction novels like most children and even tried his hand at writing some of his own stories. Then one year, everything changed.

"It was 1976. Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run had just come out, Taxi Driver came out and I read On the Road. I can trace everything I do back to one of those three things in some way," he shares. "That was the epiphany. I stopped reading science-fiction and comic books. I realized that you could tell stories about the real world that were as compelling as the stories I had been reading about outer space. That was the huge artistic turning point."

His interest in film and writing led to a move to Los Angeles at age 17 to attend USC's film school in pursuit of a screenwriting career. Beside reading the assigned college course books, he began exploring other authors and genres.

"Bukowski isn't taught in college, but stuff like that becomes your underground literature that you hold over your snobby professors. You've always got your beat writers – I love Jack Kerouac – John Fante and Bukowski as the second level stuff," he says. "You can't be an L.A. writer without talking about Bukowski. When I first read him, it was a revelation that you could write about this level of society (bars and drunks) with this poetic sensibility. Later I realized that he's not that great of a writer, I actually prefer his poetry to any of his prose. Still, he's a huge influence for opening my eyes to what I could write about. He's a master of great one-liners and this sadness that he overlaid over L.A. Once you read him you're always going to see L.A. through his eyes." 

This mixture of immersing himself in literature for his school work and the lower-brow novels eventually formed the basis for Lange's own writing.

"I've got a mix of high and low, and that's what is key to what I'm trying to do with my writing. In TV they talk about an elevated crime book or elevated horror story, and what that means is using these genre elements but adding an extra level of finesse to it. What's 'The Walking Dead'? It's an elevated zombie story. It tries to be a little more, and that's what I'm trying to do with my fiction," he says. "I'm trying to write these gritty page turners, that you can elevate through language, point of view and character development.

While at USC, Lange took fiction writing classes from writer T.C. Boyle and realized that writing was his main passion. During those four years, he not only came to know himself but learned a lot about Los Angeles.

"While going to school, I worked at 32nd Street Market across from the campus 32 hours a week for four years, starting as a box boy and moving up to night manager. That was another great education for me, coming from a sheltered small town. I was tossed right into the middle of this city. I learned as much working there as I did at 'SC about how the city works and how things go. It was during the rise of the Crips and the Bloods, so I got to see that from a street level view because some of our guys that worked there were involved in that. We had Mexican gang members and Central American refugees working there. It was an interesting mix of people. I soaked up all their stories, looking to steal as much as I could to be able to write about things that I haven't experienced."

After college, Lange lived in Europe teaching Berlitz in Barcelona, but eventually returned to Los Angeles and found a job as a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications. Within a year he became the Managing Editor at RIP heavy metal magazine before moving on to the Radio & Records trade paper.

"By that time I started to get serious about writing fiction. I had a whole schedule worked out where I would go home after my job and work two hours a night on writing short stories. I sent them out to magazines, got them back rejected, reworked them and sent them out again. It was eight years of this without getting published, and everybody I knew who was a writer quit being a writer and moved on to something else. But by then, it had became part of my routine, and I'm a creature of habit. It kept me out of the bars," he recalls with a laugh. "I was 32 or 33 when I got my first story published in a little literary magazine in Louisiana. I still say that was the greatest day in my writing career because, finally, someone that didn't know me had pulled the story out of the slush pile and put it in this magazine."

For the next 10 years he continued writing short stories and sending them to publications, and then an agent called him and asked if he had enough stories for a collection.

"He said, 'I can't just sell a book of short stories, you have to have a novel or at least the beginning of a novel, so I can get you a two-book deal because publishers won't want short stories.' I took another year and a half and wrote the first third of a novel. He went out and shopped it, and it turned out that a lot of publishers wanted the short stories but nobody wanted this third of a novel," Lange remembers. "In the beginning Dead Boys was just going to be a paperback of short stories, then it started a bidding war."

Lange chose to go with a two-book deal offered by Little, Brown and Company, who asked him if he had any other ideas for the novel.

"I just came up with the idea for This Wicked World on the fly, pitching it on the phone. Within a short time, all of a sudden I had a two-book deal and hadn't even written the outline of the novel. The novel took two years to write, and it was an interesting experience because I wanted to write a novel, but didn't think I could. I knew I was good at writing short stories, but a novel is a completely different thing. I had to sit down and teach myself over the course of two years how to write a novel. My short stories don't have plots. They're just a series of incidents that end up being an emotional journey for the reader. I knew I needed a structure for this first novel, and I knew the crime structure: Someone dies in the beginning then you find out over the course of time what happened to them. That's an easy, classic structure that I could just lay on top of this world that I want to write about. That's basically why that book took the form that it did, because I needed a skeleton."

Although Lange is primarily a fan of classic literature (right now he's reading Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year) by Russian novelists and English writers like Thomas Hardy, he's always had a sensibility for the crime world.

"In crime fiction, Elmore Leonard is always my number one influence because, in my mind, he is always writing literature. Graham Greene, as much as the literary world wants to claim him, he was also a great crime writer. He wrote about the demimonde, this shady world. Along with Charles Willeford, these were the crime writers I liked. These guys wrote offbeat books set in a crime world. Those were the crime novels that I read when I was learning about crime," he offers. "The world that I'm writing in, you can be really blunt because you're dealing with characters that people don't expect to be politically correct. You can get away with a lot more direct commentary on racism, social issues, interpersonal relationships. That's what crime fiction has always been good for and another thing that attracted me to it. If people read between the lines they see that I'm making a comment on immigration or racism. That's all in there for the people who want to dig, but on a surface level, I still want to entertain."

With Angel Baby, Lange has definitely delivered an entertaining yet intellectual tale that calls "thrilling and cinematic."

"When it came time to write the book, I still wasn't super comfortable with plot, so I needed something simple. The simplest thing I could think of was a chase. Once again I just laid this on top of this world I wanted to write about and create characters that would fit into it," he says "The first character I created was Malone. I had read an article in the L.A. Times about a guy who was actually just like Malone, a white American who would smuggle immigrants across the border in his car back when they wouldn't stop a white guy driving across the border 90 percent of the time. Luz and her quest to get her daughter came out of things that I had read. I read the newspaper every day, the L.A. Times, cover to cover. There's so much good stuff in there that if you stretch it out and start creating characters, you'll never be at a shortage for material. Then I needed someone to chase Luz, so I came up with him [El Apache/Jerónimo], and I try to make all of my characters – even the bad guys – not black and white. You're going to feel something for the bad guys and understand why they do what they do."

Bartender Manny at Musso & Frank
Our bartender Manny, who has tended bar at Musso & Frank for 24 years, interrupts Lange's discourse on multidimensional characters.

"Let me know if you recognize this guy here," Manny says as he shows us a photo on a digital camera. "It's Gore Vidal."

Lange replies, "I remember reading when he died that he came in here all the time. I've been coming to Musso's for 20 years, and these guys like Manny have seen it all."

Manny proudly confirms this, saying that one waiter, Louie, has been there since 1957. Then he shows off his photo album with pictures of him posing with celebrities like Keith Richards, Johnny Depp and Drew Barrymore. Having lived in Los Angeles for the past 30 years, Lange has some pretty impressive stories of his own, such as his experiences during the 1992 L.A. Riots.

"I lived in Silver Lake, half a mile from Vermont. We have a picture up on the wall at home of Vermont burning. I worked at Flynt in Beverly Hills then, and they shut down. The verdict came, they beat up Reginald Denny on a Wednesday night, so we all went to work on Thursday. The rioting was confined to South Central. About noon they came over the loudspeaker and said, 'Everybody go home. The riots are coming to Beverly Hills.' So we got in the car, stopped for beer, chips and supplies for the siege and drove back. It was really scary," he recalls. "We got home fine, and for the next two days the city was on curfew. We could look right down on Vermont as the riot came from South Central. You could see the Ralphs on 3rd and Vermont on fire. I had a friend whose dad owned a gas station on the corner of Beverly and Western, right in the heart of Koreatown. He had a pass so we could drive around after curfew on the completely empty streets of L.A. Across the street from the station was a mini mall, and you could see guys on top with their guns. Nobody I knew got hurt and my house didn't get wrecked, so it was easy for me to enjoy it as a spectator and as a writer."

Although Lange isn't one to take notes of his experiences, he's able to retain many of them in his memory.

"I can't remember what I ate for dinner last week, but I can remember what I saw 20 years ago at the corner of Alvarado and 7th. It will just come back to me completely, the physical sensation of it," he says. "It's a gift as a writer to have that."

However, relaying those sense memories into apt descriptions in his novels takes a lot of work.

"This Wicked World starts in MacArthur Park and Hollywood, and I've lived in both those places. Then it moves out to Twentynine Palms, Wonder Valley where I've spent a lot of time. The big thing is coming up with ways to describe it that are fresh. When you know a place, it's almost harder because you can get lazy. You have to force yourself to see it in different ways so you can come up with interesting descriptions," he begins. "In Angel Baby, it's a chase between Tijuana and Compton. I spent a lot of time in Tijuana growing up. I know how it looks, smells, feels, but when it comes to naming neighborhoods and the layout of the city, that's when I use the Internet for research. Part of the story takes place in a prison called La Mesa, which is a real penitentiary that is right in the middle of Tijuana. There was a big riot there in 2008, which I talk about in the book, because the prison was horribly overcrowded. It ended very badly, the police stormed in and killed a bunch of the prisoners. The people who had relatives in there were climbing on the roofs of the houses around the prison trying to look in and yell to see if they made it. For a writer, you just figure out a way to translate that info fiction."

Whether he's recounting situations he's only read about in newspapers or experienced himself, like witnessing a gang shooting while eating at a pizzeria, Pizza Buona, in Echo Park, Lange is a great storyteller, which his why his novels are so fun to read. As he enjoys his Musso & Frank martini, he tells me more stories about life in Los Angeles and some of his favorite haunts.

"I practically live at ArcLight. Next to the iPhone, reserving your seat in a movie theater is the greatest development in the world. I go there so much that I know what seat I like in every theater. Near there is a bar called the Well, which used to be a bar called the People Tree with a mural on the wall of a big tree with smiling heads hanging off it. I guess it was supposed to be cheerful but it was kind of creepy. They still have a super cheap Happy Hour. For $7 you can get a shot of well bourbon and a can of PBR. I like Little Dom's as a place to get a drink, and they have decent food. I love a Tommy Burger and El Coyote," he admits. "The things I appreciate about L.A. are all the old things. I grew up in suburbs and lived in new houses. What I loved about L.A. when I came was that there were old buildings. I've always lived in old buildings where the windows don't quite close. I've always loved Downtown: The Pantry, Philippe's and old places in Chinatown."

As he continues his list with favorite drinking holes near his neighborhood of Echo Park, he begins to reminisce about all the establishments that those bars used to be.

"I go to El Prado, and I went there when it was a bar that had a jukebox that would blast Bando music so loud that you couldn't hear yourself think. I once went in and there were two drunk guys having a slow motion fight in the doorway, fighting so slowly that you could just push them out of the way and go into the bar. Now it's dark and cool, they only play vinyl and serve Belgian beers. A new place opened, the Black Cat, in a famous old gay bar where L.A.'s Stonewall took place. They went in and gutted it, and it looks old but it's not. That makes me sad when they do that," he says. "There's no appreciation. That's why I go to the old places. I would be very sad if they tried to change this place [Musso & Frank] into something else. You can just smell the bar [bending his head down to take a sniff]. This is years and years of elbow grease and spilled vodka. It's got a patina to it that you don't find in new places."

"When I first came to Silver Lake, it was all cholos and gays because gays are the pioneers who go into the bad neighborhoods 20 years earlier and settle them. All the bars that everyone goes to now were all gay bars," he continues. "Before it was hip, Little Joy was a Mexican lesbian bar, then it got taken over by the hipsters. The first group that came in were cool. They just left it the way it was, like somebody's garage, but then a few years later they totally redid it, and it looks like every other bar around. Good Luck Bar was Circle Inn, a tranny bar. 4100 Bar was a huge two-story gay palace. Little Temple used to be a cowboy bar called the Bunkhouse. There was a place on Hyperion, a little tiny bar called Cuffs, a notorious leather gay bar. Right after it turned hip, we were there drinking and these three guys came in all oiled up, no shirts on and leather harnesses and looked around in confusion at all these beardos with their Belgian beers. My drinking buddy and I were straight guys, but we would go there because they were the only bars in the neighborhood, but one by one they turned straight. I'm lucky to have seen the layers, the history of the neighborhood unfolding before my eyes as a writer."

Although Lange has lived in New York and Barcelona and spent a year and a half in Bordeaux, France as a Writer in Residence last year, he wouldn't live anywhere else besides Los Angeles.

"I really couldn't. I like to live somewhere where I know everything, every little niche and corner. I know nothing about West L.A., the Valley, East L.A. and South Central I know only up to 50th Street, but what I know, I know very well," he confesses. "Compared to a lot of places, L.A. is a new model of a city. It doesn't have the roots of New York, Chicago, Paris or Madrid. That makes it very interesting. What I've always liked since I first moved here is you get so many people coming here to work in the movie business, immigrants who want to open a restaurant – it's a land of possibilities. Things can happen here that can't happen anywhere else in the U.S., so it draws a certain type of person. There's this hopefulness that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. Also the expanse of it: The way L.A. is set up you could have five identities here, and no one would ever know. You could have your Venice identity, West Hollywood identity, Silver Lake identity. You could be five different people, and I love that. I grew up in small towns where everybody knows everybody's business. Here nobody knows, and nobody cares. Not that I'm going around faking I'm other people, but the idea of being able to infiltrate all these little worlds without your history dragging along behind you is intriguing."

Lange was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 which allowed him to take time to write some short stories before working on Angel Baby. As soon as he finished the novel, he went back to complete enough short stories for another book. He is in the early stages of a third novel, but only shares that it begins in Reno and revolves around a con man. He also has a Hollywood agent, so a film or television job might be on the horizon for him in the future as well. Basically, Lange is open to anything that might come his way, but no matter what, writing will always be a constant in his life.

"I know guys who say, 'I have the beginnings of a novel in me, how do I get an agent?' Just sit down and write three novels and throw them away. It's not just about your first book or this one story you wrote. You have to keep doing it over and over again. A lot of writers want to have written something, but they don't want to write it because that's the really boring hard part where you sit in a room all alone and feel like an idiot. You have to write a lot of crap to get to the good stuff," he says. "There's no retiring when you're a writer, you just keep going. I'll always be doing it, as long as I have stories to tell."

Angel Baby is currently available. Richard Lange reads and signs copies of Angel Baby at Skylight Books (Los Feliz) May 17, Book Soup (West Hollywood) May 30 and Stories (Echo Park) June 7. For more information, visit