Diane Cluck @ Echo Country Outpost (Echo Park)
I am always up for a show at Echo Country Outpost since I can just roll down the hill there from my house, but even if you live across town, seeing this singer-songwriter perform is worth the drive. The neo-folk artist is kicking of a national tour in support of her first album in nearly eight years, Boneset, which releases Tuesday. Her compositions are as creatively innovative as ever on tracks like "Why Feel Alone," "Heartloose" and "Sara." See why Cluck has been touted by Devendra Banhart and cited as an influence by Sharon Van Etten, Florence Welch and Laura Marling tonight in the intimacy of the Outpost.
FRIDAY, FEB. 28
In Theaters This Week
Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle ("Lady Mary") Dockery and Lupita Nyong'o in action thriller Non-Stop; Repentance stars Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps and Sanaa Lathan; Stalingrad, the first Russian IMAX film and top grossing Russian film of last year, opens in the states. Also in theaters: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Super-Sized, R-rated version); Generation War; The Lunchbox; Shaadi Ke Side Effects; Son of God
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ El Rey Theatre (Miracle Mile)
Find out why Paste named the Detroit duo of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott one of "The 25 Best Live Acts of 2013" when they perform tonight. They released their sophomore effort, The Speed of Things, last fall to additional critical acclaim, and with one listen to infectious tracks like "Run" and "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't on the Dancefloor)," it's easy to see what all the hoopla is about. They're even better and more fun live, too.
Moistboyz @ The Satellite (Silver Lake)
I am a huge Ween fan, and while that band is no more, Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween) is taking time away from his fishing business to blast into town with his Moistboyz partner Dickie Moist (Guy Heller), as well as Stephen Hoss, Nick Olivieri and Michael "Hoss" Wright, in tow. The two released their fifth album, Moistboyz V, last year, and it's as explosive, dirty and offensive as you would hope. Expect the live show to be just as in-your-face crazy.
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
(Brazilian Nites Productions)
Brazilian Carnaval @ Club Nokia (Downtown)
The theme for the 14th annual celebration is World Cup 2014 since the international FIFA competition is taking place in Brazil this summer. If traveling to a Carnaval celebration in its native country isn't in the cards for you in the near future, then this party is a fantastic substitute. With performances from Chalo Eduardo's Electrico Carnaval Band, Brasilidade, the L.A. Samba Dancers and L.A. Samba Drummers, as well as choreography by Fransini Giraldo, DJ Chris Brazil in between sets, you are guaranteed to feel transported south of the equator for the evening. Come in your finest samba outfit or favorite player's fútbol jersey and join the sizzling hot festivities.
Best Picture Showcase @ AMC Theatres (Citywide)
For those of you who still need to see some of the Best Picture nominees before Sunday's Oscar ceremony, head on over to your local AMC (Burbank, Citywalk, Santa Anita) to watch five of them in a row. There's Nebraska at noon, Captain Phillips at 2:15 p.m., Her at 4:45 p.m., American Hustle at 7:55 p.m. and Gravity at 10:30 p.m. If need to catch up on all nine nominees, then you should drive down to Orange for AMC's marathon, 24-hour event for $60. You'll have just enough time for a nap before the telecast begins on Sunday.
Dominique Ansel Pop-Up @ Barneys New York (The Grove)
The world has Chef Ansel to thank for the Cronut craze. The culinary mastermind behind the croissant and donut hybrid brings his famous creation out of New York City for the first time at this exclusive event benefitting Heart of Los Angeles. Los Angeles' queen of pastry, Sherry Yard, is helping Ansel bake stacks of Milk & Honey Cronuts topped with Tahitian vanilla milk ganache, honey jam and lavender sugar, which will sell for $5 each beginning at 10 a.m. Get there a little early to secure your place in line, because they are sure to sell out fast.
SUNDAY, MARCH 2
(Andrew Ryan Shepherd)
Pentatonix @ Orpheum Theatre (Downtown)
If a cappella is your thing, check out my favorite group out there, the L.A. quintet of Pentatonix. As seen from their dynamic song renditions on the way to winning the third season of "The Sing-Off," their ballads are good-chill inducing, while their more upbeat numbers are guaranteed to get you dancing. It's often hard to believe that this gigantic wall of sound is created by just five bodies; their vocal abilities are that powerful. I'm not alone in my love for PTX, either. Their Saturday show is completely sold out, and there are only a few tickets left for tonight's show so act fast or you'll miss their vocals soaring to the heights of the beautiful Orpheum.
Pop-Up Park @ The Figueroa-Riverside Bridge (Elysian Valley/Cypress Park) EnrichLA and RAC Design Build host this pop-up in support of repurposing the historic bridge into a public park space, or landbridge, instead of just demolishing it once its wider, curved replacement is finished being constructed sometime next year. The event begins at the LA River Café (at the 24.7 marker on the river's west bank) at 11:30 a.m. where food prepared using produce from EnrichLA gardens will be served. Then, at 12:30 p.m. everyone will bike the few miles to the bridge. If you just want to join in on the park activities, bring some lawn chairs, a portable barbecue, a kite or frisbee and hang out for a while.
MONDAY, MARCH 3
DA & The Jones @ The Satellite (Silver Lake)
I don't tout the Satellite's free Monday nights as much as I should, and this Monday's lineup is definitely one not to miss. The L.A. based duo of Daniel Ahearn and Mindy Jones celebrate the March 4 release of their debut album, Sirens, with a record release show featuring performances of tracks like the plaintive "Could've Had It All" and more hopeful "Make It Right." While Ahearn has enjoyed a successful solo career and Mindy has been featured on several Moby tracks, this collaboration is truly electrifying. It's as if their voices were meant to be intertwined in song.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5
Wes Anderson @ Aero Theatre (Santa Monica)
American Cinematheque winds up its Wes Anderson: The Life Cinematic series with a screening of his upcoming film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, that releases March 7. After the film – which stars Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and, of course, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman – there is a discussion with the visionary director and screenwriter. If you aren't able to score tickets to tonight's event, some of his other films screen on March 3 (Rushmore, with Matt Zoller Seitz signing copies of The Wes Anderson Collection) and March 4 (a Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou double feature).
2800 E. Observatory Ave., Los Angeles (Griffith Park) 213-473-0800
"When people come visit Los Angeles and ask what I like to do, I say, 'Let me take you to this great spot.' It's free, you can learn so much about the city from the views and all of the displays are so interactive. I just love it," gushes actor David Flannery as we begin our walk through his favorite L.A. place, Griffith Observatory. "This Our Sun Is a Star exhibit is great. Can you imagine, the sun is that big? We are just a little blip in the universe; it's pretty amazing."
He can hardly contain his enthusiasm as we continue through the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky. His wonderment reminds me of the story about how the location came to be: Industrialist and philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith dreamt up the idea of a public observatory while peering at the sky through the Mount Wilson telescope in 1904. Griffith's vision for making astronomy accessible to the general population wasn't realized until after his death when Griffith Observatory opened in 1935, yet it succeeds in awing multitudes of visitors to this day and has become an L.A. landmark, symbolizing the city in films like Dragnet, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Transformers.
David Flannery is himself a rising L.A. star. In the five years since relocating from Boise, Idaho, he has nabbed roles in "The Bold and the Beautiful," Taylor Swift's music video for "Mean" and A Single Shot with Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright and Kelly Reilly. His most recent part is in William H. Macy's feature-length, directorial debut, Rudderless, alongside Billy Crudup, Selena Gomez, Anton Yelchin and Laurence Fishburne.
He tells me a little about his childhood and the path that led him to Hollywood as we travel down the Cosmic Connection, a corridor in the observatory that's lined with a glass case housing celestial-themed jewelry.
"Science was huge for me growing up, but I was mainly into sports. I played football. I didn't do theater because that's not what the cool kids did," he confesses with a laugh. "I was a closet nerd, in all these AP classes, but I would try to hide it from everybody. Then, I would go home and play Magic: The Gathering cards and be really nerdy. It was my deep, dark secret. It sounds so funny now, why was I so embarrassed? All these idiosyncrasies are what make a person a person, after all."
David loved science so much that he was actually going to study biology in college before deciding to move out to Los Angeles to pursue acting.
"My grandma instilled in my head that I needed to go to school and become a doctor, so that's what I felt I had to do to make her happy. When she passed away, a lot of stuff took place in my life, one event after another, and I moved to Los Angeles," he recalls. "It was just the right time."
We come to the Edge of Space Mezzanine, where David is able to let his inner science nerd run rampant, touching all the meteorite samples, and he informs me that we're approaching his favorite part of the observatory, the Gunther Depths of Space.
"I have this whole system of taking people through this area. I usually like to start at the moon and then go down to the planet exhibits," he says. "The first few times I came the observatory, I only stayed upstairs but when I finally came down here I thought it was so cool because you can stand on these scales and see how much you weigh on each planet, read all of the information and look into the scopes at actual 3-D images of places like Mars. We get to be hands-on with the exhibits here, and that's really what I love about it."
We head outside for what David calls "some of the greatest views in the city" and come upon the Rebel Without a Cause monument, a bust of James Dean, who was the lead actor in the 1955 film that Griffith Observatory was featured in. When I ask if David has seen the film, he replies, "I actually own it. It's a cool movie, but I like East of Eden more. I love the camera angles they use, and there's not much dialogue in it – kind of like Drive where it's more of a visual thing. You look into the characters' eyes and feel like there's no need for words."
In fact, one of David's all-time favorite movie characters had very few lines at all.
"Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an actor, and it was because of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which I probably shouldn't have been watching as a kid," he laughs. "But I did, and I fell in love with Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, the Terminator. He got to play this machine character. I also loved all the action."
While he has mainly acted in character-driven pieces, like A Single Shot and Rudderless, David still harbors a love for good action movies.
"I just saw the new RoboCop and I loved it. The action sequences and how they redid it from the original, it reminded me of Terminator 2," he admits. "Gary Oldman was awesome in it. I would absolutely love to do a bang-em-up action movie. Those kind of movies are just fun. I really love to sink my teeth into a character, get a handle of the script and become a character, but when you're in an action movie you get to jump and roll around, your blood's pumping. Not to say you can't do that in a drama because god knows there have been times when my heart's beating fast staring into the eyes of a beautiful woman."
Although Rudderless' storyline is quite somber, David did manage to have a fun time filming this particular picture.
"William H. Macy is one of the coolest guys I've ever worked with for the fact that he really understands actors because he has been acting for so long, and he had such a great time directing. He didn't treat it like a job, he treated it like a passion, and I loved that about him," he tells. "There was so much enthusiasm when he came on set, and he was like a kid in a candy store the whole time that it was such a pleasure to work with him. The simple fact that I got to work with him in that capacity was amazing."
Rudderless made its Sundance debut as the festival's closing night selection in January, and David had a wonderful experience in Park City.
"It was my second time going but my first time having a film there so, in that capacity, it was awesome. Last year, I was on the outside looking in, whereas this year, I was actually in a film, and it was exciting to experience it from the inside," he says. "It's a sleepy little town the rest of the year, but when Sundance goes on, it blows up and everybody has a great time."
In the film, Billy Crudup is a former high-profile advertising executive, Sam, whose life is turned upside down at the tragic death of his son, whom David plays a college mate of. Sam discovers demos and lyrics his son had created and learns to play each song. He captures the ear of a young musician (Anton Yelchin) while playing one of the songs at a local bar, and through the band the duo creates, comes healing. Music plays a big role in Rudderless, and holds a lot of meaning in David's life as well.
"Rudderless is definitely a story that hasn't been told before, and they do it in such a way that you feel compassion for what these people are going through. The music really helps and is absolutely amazing. They got a standing ovation in the theater at Sundance for the last song they played, which was fantastic. It was the first time I had seen the film, and it just blew me away. I took my sister, and she was in tears," he remembers. "I find music to be a huge inspiration to me, especially when I'm going over lines. I put on music, and it helps my mind get away from totally intellectualizing everything, to let creativity just flow. Reading a script is like conducting a symphony, you have your ups and downs."
David taught himself to play the guitar and sings a bit ("Well, I sing a lot, just not in front of people," he laughs."). He even took some guitar lessons at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music near his home in Silver Lake.
"The teachers at the Conservatory are so passionate about their craft, they really want you to learn," he says.
Music also has a part in the Griffith Observatory's history. From 1973-2002, its planetarium hosted the Laserium laser show, where lights would be set to the songs of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Aside from playing his guitar, David loves to write poetry. While he admires the work of writers such as Maya Angelou, he mainly likes to pen his own pieces rather than read others' poems.
"Poetry is feeling in some of its truest form when you write. I like to write and let the person whom I give the poem to feel it and come up with their own idea about it. I've had people ask me, 'What does this mean?' I say, 'What do you think it means? I wrote it for you.'"
When he's not writing poems, you could probably find David collaborating with his screenwriting partner, Josh Winot, or sitting at one of his favorite cafés, Intelligentsia.
"I usually get an Angeleno, which is four shots of espresso [with milk and agave]. It really gets you going, but it's delicious, too," he informs. "Intelligentsia has some of the greatest chai lattes that you can get. I don't know what they do to their mix, but they're pretty amazing."
While he's not a vegan or vegetarian, he highly recommends Sage Vegan Bistro in Echo Park for their KindKreme ice cream. He is a big salad lover, especially Cobb Salad, and when I tell him that the Cobb Salad was created in Los Angeles, at the Hollywood Brown Derby where it was named for co-owner Robert Cobb, he's floored. Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park, however, overall hold the most special place in David's heart.
"The first time I came to Griffith Park, my friend took me on this great hike through the trails. I fell in love with it and started doing that trail all the time. There's a great hike off to left of the Hollywood Sign. You go along the fence, climb over some rocks to that lone tree, and there's a box you can sign your name on," he says, pointing out the exact tree on the hillside. "I used to walk dogs for some cash, and when I started taking them here, I just became addicted. Every single day I would walk the dogs I would take them here, and they fell in love just as much as I did. I miss that a lot, getting exercise as you're hanging out with animals and forming a bond."
Don't get him wrong, though. Even when the entertainment industry gets overwhelming, he really couldn't see himself doing anything else in the world other than acting. As for Los Angeles, he has a love/hate relationship with the city.
"It's funny, I love the town but always feel like I need to get away to San Diego or Santa Barbara. When I come back, I have this great feeling like there's something magical about this city. There's this great energy here, and it can be as positive or negative as you want," he states. "That's what the joy of L.A. is – it is what you make of it. There really is something magical here. I mean, look at this view."
The amazing views from Griffith Observatory really are breathtaking. As we drive down the hillside from the observatory into Griffith Park we see a group of coyotes and deer sitting in a meadow next to the Greek Theatre. It's like a scene out of a nature documentary, and the site takes me back to one of the most important lessons that David says he's learned about life lately.
"Never complain. Life is going to give you things, but it's not going to give you anything that you can't handle so you just have to go with it. Why sit there and complain about it? There are so many gifts that this city has to offer you if you just take it," he says. "Don't complain, because there are so many people out there who don't have what you have or aren't able to experience these things. Let it go, and just let it flow."
Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol) It's been six years since Beck Hansen released an album (the Danger Mouse-helmed Modern Guilt), but that doesn't mean he wasn't channeling his musical creativity in other ways. He performed a live re-imagining of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" with over 160 musicians; produced albums for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; put out a songbook in 2012 and three singles last year. He has finally fulfilled fans' hopes with the release of his 12th full-length today. Enlisting the same group of musicians – Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Jason Falkner – who played on one of my favorites of all his albums, Sea Change, Beck infuses the classic sound of his native Los Angeles, which permeated that 2002 release, with a sunnier outlook on Morning Phase's tracks like "Blue Moon" and "Waking Light."
Milagres – Violent Light (Kill Rock Stars) The Brooklyn foursome follow up their critically acclaimed debut from 2011, Glowing Mouth, by showing a bit more of their darker, harder side on the aptly titled Violent Light. Culling from a wide range of influences that include Al Green, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, the album deftly moves from dream pop to funky classic rock. The ethereal vocals and synths of opener "Perennial Bulb" immediately captivate before "Jeweled Cave" and "The Letterbomb" get you moving and "Sunburn" moves your soul. You're sure to have a good time if you join them at the Satellite on March 20.
Priscilla Ahn – This Is Where We Are (SQE) I was fortunate enough to see some of Priscilla Ahn's first shows in Los Angeles after the singer-songwriter relocated from her native Pennsylvania. In the subsequent years, she has toured with Joshua Radin, Willie Nelson and Ray LaMontagne, released two albums (A Good Day, When You Grow Up) and had songs featured on shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and in films like Bride Wars. She unveils her third full-length today, which opens with the grittier, more hard-hitting than she's ever been before "Diana." Ahn reverts to the more dreamy compositions she has come to be known for on songs like "Remember How I Broke Your Heart," "Home" and "In a Closet in the Middle of the Night," but also gets your heart pumping a bit faster with the album's title track, "Wedding March" and "You and Me."
Also available: Barzin's To Live Alone in That Long Summer; Bleeding Rainbow's Interrupt; Brandt Brauer Frick's DJ-Kicks; Carsick Cars' 3; Charlie Greene's self-titled; Creative Adult's Psychic Mess; Damaged Bug's Hubba Bubba; David T. Little's Haunt of Last Nightfall; Dierks Bentley's Riser; Doomsquad's Kalaboogie; Drekka's Ekki Gera Fikniefnum; The Fray's Helios; The Grouch & Eligh's The Tortoise and the Crow; Habits' Unselves in Arrival; InDirections' Clockworks; Kid Cudi's Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon; Lethal Dosage's Consume; Lo-Fang's Blue Film; Mainland's Shiner EP; Major Lazer's Apocalypse Soon; Mike Gordon's Overstep; Neil Davidge's Slo Light; Neneh Cherry's Blank Project; The Notwist's Close to the Glass; Patten's Estoile Naiant; Pillar Point's self-titled; Qui's Life, Water, Living…; Runaway Dorothy's The Wait; Scattered Bodies' Talking Songs; ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron; Silversun Pickups' The Singles Collection; Son of God soundtrack; St. Vincent's self-titled; Sultan Bathery's self-titled; Twin Forks' self-titled; We Were Promised Jetpacks' E Rey - Live in Philadelphia; Wild Beasts' Present Tense; Yellow Ostrich's Cosmos
The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku (Doubleday) I am always enthralled by the theoretical physicist, especially when the Science channel airs episodes of his "Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible" series, which was based on his New York Times bestselling book Physics of the Impossible. Dr. Kaku also penned the bestselling Physics of the Future in 2011, and his latest book expands upon the possible roles of science and technology in the future, specifically in regards to unravelling the secrets of the human brain. From telepathy and telekinesis to mapping the brain and uploading memories, he explains how ideas once thought to only exist in sci-fi movies are now (and will be) realities.
Also available –The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus; Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore; The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman M.D.; The Chance (Thunder Point) by Robyn Carr; The Chase (Fox and O'Hare) by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg; I Can See Clearly Now by Wayne W. Dyer; North to Alaska by Debbie Macomber; The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen; The Undead Pool (Hollows) by Kim Harrison
Film – Nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director (Alfonso Cuarón) and Actress (Sandra Bullock), Gravity centers around a woman lost in space; Blue Is the Warmest Color, a love story based on Julie Maroh's graphic novel, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulous; Another multiple Academy Award-nominee, Nebraska, is up six Oscars that include Best Picture, Director (Alexander Payne) and Actor for Bruce Dern, who plays a cantankerous father who thinks he's won a sweepstakes and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into a road trip to claim the prize; Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston reunite in Thor: The Dark World
Music – Celtic Woman's Emerald: Musical Gems - Live in Concert; Heart's Fanatic Life from Caesar's Colosseum; Muscle Shoals;Rock Candy Funk Party Takes New York: Live at the Iridium
TV –Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season; Ghost Adventures: Season 5; Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Season One; Law & Order: The 14th Year; Legit: Season 1; The Middle: Season Four; Monsters: The Complete Series; Scarecrow; Spiral: Season 3
Also available –Bullet; Crash Reel; Curse of the Dragon; Dark Tourist; Dead Like Me: Life After Death; Ice Soldiers; Narco Cultura; Pulling Strings; Sleepers Wake; Twice Born; The Wedding Pact; You Will Be My Son
Matt Zoller Seitz @ Skylight Books (Los Feliz) The editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com and television critic for New York Magazine and Vulture released a book on the career (thus far) of Wes Anderson in October. The Wes Anderson Collection contains previously unpublished photos and artwork that complement a conversation between the critic and Anderson, capturing the playful yet sometimes dark spirit of the filmmaker and his work. The author reads from and signs copies of the book at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
FRIDAY, FEB. 21
L.A. Dance Project @ The Theatre at Ace Hotel (Downtown) The talented artist collective founded by choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied begins its partnership with the new and gorgeous Ace Hotel in this three-night (Thursday-Saturday) residency. The performances include the U.S. premiere of Millepied's Reflections with music by David Lang, Justin Peck's Murder Ballads with music by the National's Bryce Dessner and visuals from Barbara Kruger and Sterling Ruby, as well as a sneak peek of a new piece by Hiroaki Umeda. Be ready for an exhilarating evening of dance.
In Theaters This Week McG directs Kevin Costner, Amber Heard and Hailee Steinfeld in 3 Days to Kill; Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood in Barefoot; In Secret, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton and Jessica Lange; Pompeii stars Kit Harington ("Game of Thrones"' Jon Snow) as a slave turned gladiator; Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson and Ron Livingston in The Pretty One; Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. Also in theaters: Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys; Almost Human; Highway; Holy Ghost People; Omar
Marissa Nadler @ The Church on York (Highland Park) There's something to be said about the awesome acoustics of old churches. A neighborhood resident converted this 1913 church into a venue, and it provides the ideal atmosphere for Marissa Nadler's bare-bones, acoustic guitar compositions and soaring, ethereal vocals. If you have yet to listen to her sixth album, the recently released July, then this is the perfect opportunity to sample some of the songs. Tracks like "1923," "Dead City Emily" and "Was It a Dream" are meant to be heard in a venue as special and intimate as this.
SATURDAY, FEB. 22
Firecracker 2014 in Chinatown Did you know that fireworks date back to 7th century China? This annual community celebration kicks off with a bike ride from Chinatown through Elysian and Griffith parks and the Silverlake Reservoir. What a great way to burn some calories before imbibing some of those aforementioned margaritas later today. Sunday's festivities begin with a 5/10K run/walk around Dodger Stadium through Elysian Park. Both events raise money for Need2Read's literacy funding for local elementary schools and are followed by the Nite n' Day Festival, featuring musical and dance performances, food and fireworks, of course.
SUNDAY, FEB. 23
'80s Prom Party @ The Fonda (Hollywood) For those of us who are too young to have experienced the glorious fashion styles of high school prom during the 1980s, or for those of you who wish to relive the total radness, this Drink:Eat:Play event is IT. Raid your local thrift store for a shimmering taffeta gown or blue ruffled dress shirt, stock up on hair spray, frosted pink lipstick and black eyeliner, and you'll be all set to dance the night away to songs by Bon Jovi, Prince and Madonna, as interpreted by two '80s cover bands. All of the proceeds from tonight festivities go to local animal rescues.
Dapper Day @ Disneyland/Disney California Adventure (Anaheim) Perhaps you would like to journey even further back in time while enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth. Put on your vintage best and join thousands of other well-dressed guests for this twice-a-year event. Aside from all of the park rides, there is the Mark Twain Mixer aboard the Frontierland riverboat, the Dapper Derby on the Fantasyland carousel and FOLLY, the official after party at Downtown Disney's Upstairs at the Jazz Kitchen for those over 21. I love dressing up almost as much as I love Disneyland, and attending at least one Dapper Day is a must for any Disneyphile.
Cochon 555 @ Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows (Santa Monica) For a foodie, there is nothing like the sound and smells of pork sizzling away in a frying pan. This is the sixth year of the cross-country culinary competition that features five all-star chefs, five heritage, family-farm raised pigs and five wineries. The chefs of this year's lineup are Ray Garcia (Fig), Christian Page (Short Order), Jason Neve (B&B Ristorante), Ray England (Craft) and Brian Howard (Comme Ça), and each of them must create a maximum of six dishes using all the different parts of their pig. The winner goes on to compete in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this June for bragging rights as the "King or Queen of Porc."
TUESDAY, FEB. 25
Charlie Greene (Miranda Penn Turin)
Charlie Greene @ Piano Bar (Hollywood)
The L.A. singer-songwriter kicks off a three-week, Tuesday-night residency tonight in support of his sophomore effort, a self-titled album, which releases today. Growing up in a family of musicians, Green artfully blends a plethora of influences that range from Harry Nilsson and Merle Haggard to Ornette Coleman and Frédéric Chopin's Nocturnes in his Americana and piano rock songs. He'll have you two-stepping to "Man on Fire," swaying with your sweetie to "Devil You Know" and crying into your whisky during "One More Time."
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 26
Buzz Osbourne @ The Satellite (Silver Lake) The frizzy haired songwriter, guitar player and vocalist for the Melvins, Roger "Buzz" Osbourne (aka King Buzzo), performs the first solo, acoustic show of his 30-plus-year career tonight as part of the Scion Rock Show with Tweak Bird. This Machine Kills Artists, a limited-edition 10-inch with four original songs and acoustic versions of the Melvins' "Let God Be Your Gardener" and "Revolve," is only going to be available at the show, so make sure to grab a copy.
250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles (Downtown) 213-626-6222
"One time I had a friend come to our house, and, at one point, she started laughing. When I asked her why, she said, 'It's so funny that there is always somebody singing in your house. I've never experienced anything like that.' We never really put together the fact that we were always singing. It was something that was just natural and organic for us," remembers Matthew Cook. "That's when I actually realized that one of us was always singing around the house."
Matthew is the musical architect and lyricist of the Ceremonies, a band that includes his two younger siblings, fraternal twins Mark and Michael. From a young age, their lives have been filled with art of all kinds – music, film, literature, painting – so it didn't come as a huge surprise when the trio selected the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) as the location for us to discuss growing up in the San Fernando Valley, their debut self-titled EP that released in October and art, of course.
The native Angelenos would often come to MOCA for high school field trips and continued to visit the museum as their love for visual arts intensified and Matthew and Michael enrolled at USC's School of Fine Arts. Although Mark chose to major in business administration, he is equally enamored with the arts.
Mark, Matthew and Michael in MOCA's reading room
"He's always simultaneously done art with us," says Matthew.
"I went to the fine arts school of Michael and Matthew," Mark jokes, as we walk into the first room with pieces from MOCA's current Room to Live exhibit.
Matthew spies Cosima von Bonin's Untitled (Bikini Loop #1), a gigantic navy blue and white bikini hanging in a doorway, and immediately exclaims, "Oh no, they stole my bathing suit!"
After our chuckling dies down, I ask if they are still able to visit MOCA as often as they would like even though they're on sabbatical from school to tour and pursue their musical aspirations.
"We try to come often," Michael admits. "The last exhibit I came to was Art in the Streets, the graffiti exhibit, and I actually went and saw it four times."
"I check their website all the time to see what's on display. We're most interested in conceptual art, and that's the primary difference between the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MOCA. There's much more conceptuality here," describes Matthew. "Part of the reason why we instantly thought of going here was it's inspirational to look at other people's work, and some of the best ideas are spurred from admiring others' ideas. It might spark something that's related or unrelated, that's different enough to be a separate entity in itself. In that sense, MOCA's a harbor of inspirational creativity."
We explore more of the Room to Live exhibit, including Samara Golden's video and sound installation The Fire Place, a white, yellow and orange light installation by Mark Handforth entitled Desert Sun and Rodney McMillian's huge Representation of a Landscape as a Wall piece, while Michael names some of his influences as an abstract painter. He mentions Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Jasper Johns, then adds Banksy's stenciling work as a more recent inspiration.
"What's interesting about contemporary art now is that people work in all mediums, and we're particularly interested in not being so pigeonholed by the notion of being a band. We also like to make paintings as a collective, as well as films or other media," Matthew remarks when I ask about particular field of interest. "In art school, I tried to do the same. When I was taking art film classes I would make the scores for the pieces, so they became more than film pieces. They had music and poetry, multiple mediums."
The ability to mix various media together is something that sprouts from the Cooks dabbling in several different forms of art since childhood. They all started with piano lessons and experimented with a drum set that was in their house, then Matthew begin playing the violin in fourth grade and played in the orchestra until his senior year of high school. He played stand-up bass in a jazz band, guitar in several other bands and sang in an a cappella group. Mark picked up alto sax, and Michael learned tenor sax before both switched to choir, a cappella groups and musical theater.
"It was musical chairs with instruments," Mark offers. "Michael and I were also into sports. Matt would come to a lot of our games, and the car rides over were always filled with music. Even though we were going to a sports game, we were singing in the car. We were always singing together. Our old choir teacher would do one-on-one lessons at our house, and when he would be teaching one of us during a lesson, another one would be singing from his bedroom. The teacher would always laugh during the lesson because we'd be singing the same song."
When I ask which artist they would mostly sing along to with in car, all three of them instantly respond with "Michael Jackson."
"He's a huge influence for us. There's a photo of all of us wearing his classic hat with our fingers taped up like his," Michael recalls with a laugh. "I also remember both of our parents being into the Beach Boys and the Beatles. We would sing along to their albums a lot on the way to baseball games."
With the Beach Boys and Beatles as some of their first examples, in addition to a cappella and musical theater training, it's no wonder that the Ceremonies' songs boast some amazing harmonies. As the boys began developing their own musical taste, they started listening to groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, the Cure, Joy Division and the Bee Gees. They also started branching out into other art forms.
In high school, I was into web design and graphic design. For me, it was always design, drawing, poetry and music. Ever since I was 12, writing poetry and lyrics was my cup of tea or my coffee, rather, because it's an addiction," Matthew confesses. "I grew up going to this place called Unknown Theater. I played some shows there in bands. There is also this thing called the Two Dollar Shows that one of my peers, Spencer Ludwig, started in high school, and it became a big communal thing. HAIM played there, and Spencer's now a member of Capital Cities. That was the music scene that I was a part of, I guess, if you could call it a scene."
Matthew played in several bands with other people but eventually formed the Ceremonies with Mark and Michael two years ago.
"I had a bunch of songs done that I didn't really have any plans with, and I showed them to Michael and Mark. What I was writing was so harmony driven and we were always singing together, but it sort of never occurred to us that we should be doing something together until we started doing acoustic gigs for fun, just covering songs, and people would come up to us and say, 'You guys should really start a band,'" Michael remembers. "I was always in the headspace of my being in my own bands, and [Mark and Michael] were sort of extras. I would be playing with my band, and the drummer wouldn't show up so Mark would fill in."
"I was the understudy," interjects Mark.
"Exactly, and eventually when that [other band[ fell through, it was pretty obvious we should form one together," finishes Matthew, as we come across Marnie Weber's Giggle of Clowns installation, a room filled with clown statues assembled around a prone body covered in flowers.
"Now, this is cool," Matthew comments. "I'm not afraid of clowns, but I'm sure a lot of people would be scared."
In fact, Mark and I do get a little freaked out when speakers hidden behind the figures let out a demented laugh. We compose ourselves and head into an installation from one of the Cooks' favorite artists, Ryan Trecartin. A room is filled with pieces of furniture to sit on, don a pair of headphones to listen to the soundtrack and view movies by Trecartin.
"We are big fans of Ryan Trecartin, so we're excited to see this," Matthew gushes. "He's almost like a psychedelic video artist. It's cool because he does mixed media, he built all of these prop pieces, and his video pieces are super disorienting. It's like being in your subconscious."
"His videos seem like they look like what Animal Collective's sound is," offers Mark. "It's exactly how you would imagine Animal Collective to sound like visually."
Film is a medium that the brothers, Matthew especially, have really started to explore since beginning art school. David Lynch and Richard Linklater are two filmmakers that he admires. His passion is evident as he describes Linklater's most recent film, Boyhood, in which the writer/director explores the course of one boy's life over a 12-year period. Matthew feels that Boyhood definitely relates to the childhood theme that is evident in many of the Ceremonies' songs. The idea of returning to the innocence of childhood is definitely a concept behind the band and was in their minds as they turned to the works of several artists that they admire when trying to come up with a name for their group.
"The Giver was one of them. Lois Lowry talks about the ceremonies that they have, and the Ceremonies of Three in particular were important to us. Obviously because of the number, but conceptually it was most aligned, coincidentally, with our purpose: capturing that childhood innocence and restoring it in people that have lost it," says Matthew. "In the book, the Ceremony of Three is when kids begin to start telling their dreams and start to calculate what has happened in their dreams.
The Ceremonies with Representation of a Landscape as a Wall
"We also wanted to pay homage to the Joy Division song 'Ceremony,'" adds Michael.
"And, all of our initials are 'M.C.,' which stands for Master of Ceremonies, so it fit well," says Mark.
"I was reading a lot of poetry and books by Ram Dass and Timothy Leary, 1960s psychedelic culture, that referenced the acts of ceremonies because they're so important in Native American culture and this communal bonding that people in Western society lack a lot of the time because we're all in our own pathways. That's essentially what we would like to cater to with our concerts, that feeling of ceremony," Matthew ponders. "You don't have to go to a wedding or technical ceremony to share that communal bond with people. It's more of a togetherness and sense of shared artistic integrity."
Inspiring creativity through a return to childhood innocence is an idea sprinkled throughout The Ceremonies EP, and is felt most strongly in its first single, "Land of Gathering," which is also featured in a Fab.com ad. The brothers were able to exercise several of their artistic abilities in the creation of the track's video, which garnered them attention as an MTV Artist to Watch.
"We did a lot of the editing ourselves," says Michael. "We drew and painted some of the animation, so we were really involved creatively."
Matthew adds, "We were so stoked to work with animator Phil Nibbelink because he worked on films for Disney like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?—"
"The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron," Mark chimes in. "Everything that served as a beacon for our nostalgia."
While attending USC, the Cooks lived in Downtown and often passed by an L.A. landmark that also brought them back to their early adolescence, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where they took part in various performing arts competitions and even had their graduation ceremonies growing up. Aside from MOCA, they would also visit REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater) for various art exhibits.
Although they've moved back to the Valley, they have several favorite spots to hang out at throughout the city.
"You know where we've been shopping lately is AllSaints because we were one of their featured artists," says Matthew. "We really appreciate them because they support indie artists and a lot of new bands."
"We really like Blue Dog. We love burgers, and they make really mean burgers. It's like a tavern and has pictures of people's dogs everywhere. We're dog lovers, so it's nice," Mark says, before informing me that they just got two Siberian Husky puppies. "We want to become vegetarians at some point, but it's hard on the road because nothing's open after a show."
"I don't get why there aren't more healthy places open late at night," adds Matthew. "Seriously, business would boom."
Aside from the lack of healthy food options on the road and their new puppies, the Ceremonies are going miss one important part of life in Los Angeles as they embark on a North American tour with Glasvegas, the weather.
"This is a bizarre place, seasonally," says Matthew. "The fact that it's an escape from normalcy; everywhere else there's seasons, and we just have warm or not as warm."
"It's almost like a drug, everybody's happy and sunny every day," Michael laughs.
We finish up our tour of the museum, and the brothers continue to laugh with one another when I ask if there are any interesting facts they would like to share about each member of the trio. Matthew and Mark easily admit to being huge anime fans, especially of films by Hayao Miyazaki. Matthew can also perform an unusual trick of bending his pinky in a perfect right angle, but when it comes to Michael they have a tough time coming up with something.
"I guess he's just not that interesting," Matthew jokes.
"I tried making my own clothes once. I made a leather vest," Michael offers. "And there was a period of a month where we all got into archery."
"Our dad set up an entire range in our backyard," Mark remembers with a smile. "He bought a big styrofoam block and put a target on it."
"What we're trying to say is that we tried to be Legolas from Lord of the Rings," Matthew laughs.
There is an undeniable chemistry between the three Ceremonies that just can't be attributed to their being brothers. It's born from the fact that they all genuinely love being around each other because they share so many of the same interests.
"Being related helps in small bits, like maybe our vibrato speeds – small technical things – but the fact that we get along well isn't because we're brothers, it's because we have a passion for the same things," Mark says.
"It's just a human connection. It's probably easier to get along because we grew up so similarly, have very similar senses of humor and taste in art, especially music," sums up Matthew. "It goes to prove that you're made of what you surround yourself with."
The Ceremonies EP is currently available. The Ceremonies perform March 4 at the Echo. For more information, visit theceremonies.com.
NO – El Prado (Arts & Crafts) I must admit a bit of a bias when it comes to this Echo Park sextet. Not only are they neighbors (This album takes its name from one of our neighborhood's watering holes and its cover image from a grocery store that I often frequent.), but my interview with frontman Bradley Hanan Carter was the first posted on this site. Those prejudices aside, El Prado is a brilliant debut, anchored by an anthemic lead single, "Leave the Door Wide Open," and fulfilling the promise anticipated by the likes of Filter, who named it as one of their 25 Anticipated Albums of 2014. Other standout tracks include "Stay With Me," "There's a Glow" and a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," featuring the Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn. Catch them at the Troubadour on March 8 before they head out on the Arts & Crafts' North American label tour with the Darcys and Reuben and the Dark.
Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits (Signature Sounds) While the Brooklyn foursome take their name from a neighborhood of seedy bars in trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson's Minneapolis hometown, Lake Street Dive's pop-soul melodies would feel right in any venue. In fact, Rachael Price's show-stopping vocals could take down any house. You will be hooked on their sophomore full-length, from its opening title track and R&B-flavored "You Go Down Smooth" to the soulful "Use Me Up" and bluesy "What About Me." Unfortunately for those of you who didn't grab tickets early, their March 15 show at the Troubadour is sold out, but you can watch them on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on Feb. 21.
Phantogram – Voices (Republic) There are many reasons why Republic pegged the New York duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter as their "band to break" in 2014. Most importantly, it is virtually impossible for your body to stay still when any of the 11 tracks from Voices, their major-label debut, begin to play. Whether it's with pulsating first single "Fall In Love," captivating "Black Out Days" or the more melancholy "Bill Murray," Phantogram capture your attention then take your breath away with their beautifully crafted melodies. You don't just have to take my word for it: Tickets for their Feb. 22 show at the Palladium are totally gone. There are, however, tickets still available for their show at Ventura Theater, happening the following evening.
Paul Chesne Band – Downright Up & Left
The Paul Chesne Band is one of those acts that you have to experience live to fully appreciate, which isn't hard since the L.A.-based fivesome perform at least once a week. That being said, Downright Up & Left boasts some of frontman Paul Chesne's finest songwriting, and, of their four full-length albums, offers the listener as great of an experience as their shows do. While their energetic live sets leave a trail of sweaty bodies in their wake, one can truly appreciate the musical craftsmanship of vocalist/guitarist Chesne, keyboardist Jon Niemann, drummer Rich Berardi, bassist Jason Chesney and guitarist Josh Norton as tracks like the fiery "Allegation Woman," funk-laced "Meet Your Maker" and heart-wrenching "Tryin' to Survive" inspire a wealth of emotions throughout the album. PCB perform Feb. 21 at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown, March 7 at Basement Tavern and March 12 at the Edison.
Also available – Angel Olsen's Burn Your Fire For No Witness; Ashley Riley's All the Pretty Things; Bayside's CULT; Bear Hands' Distraction; BossaCucaNova's Our Kind of Bossa; Candice Glover's Music Speaks; The Feeling's Boy Cried Wolf; The Go Find's Brand New Love; Guided By Voices' Motivational Jumpsuit; I Killed the Prom Queen's Beloved; Issues' self-titled; The Jezabels' The Brink; Juvenile's The Fundamentals; Kevin Seconds' Off Stockton; Lionize's Jetpack Soundtrack; Lost in the Trees' Past Life; New Bums' Voices in a Rented Room; Planningtorock's All Love's Legal; Pyramid Vritra's Tea & Lemonade; Shocking Pinks' Guilt Mirrors; Solids' Blame Confusion; Souls of Mischief's There Is Only Now; Suzanne Vega's Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles; We Are the in Crowd's Weird Kids; William Fitzsimmons' Lions
One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul (St. Martin's) I am such a sucker for slide guitar, and Duane Allman absolutely slays me. Go behind the scenes of the Allman Brothers Band – their formation, recording of albums like At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach, conflicts, drug and alcohol struggles and tragic deaths – in this riveting new biography by Guitar World senior writer Alan Paul. For 25 years, Paul has written about the band and interviewed every living members for One Way Out (Also, Butch Trucks penned the foreword, and Jaimoe did the afterword.), as well as their managers, roadies and contemporaries such as Eric Clapton and Bob Weir. Also included are several never-before-scene images of the band from their road managers, in addition to photographers like Danny Clinch, Jim Marshall, Neal Preston and Stephen Paley. This in-depth look at the legendary group is a must-have for any fan.
Also available –The Adventures of Henry Thoreau by Michael Sims; Alpha & Omega (Locke & Key) by Joe Hill; American Cocktail: A "Colored Girl" in the World by Anita Reynolds; Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb; The Daniel Plan Cookbook by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman; Like a Mighty Army (Safehold) by David Weber; The Virgin Diet Cookbook by JJ Virgin; Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash Recruits by Kevin Roose
TV – Catch up on Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season before new episodes premiere on April 6; Noah's Ark: The Miniseries Event; Nurse Jackie: Season 5; Pompeii: Doomed City
Music – The Allman Brothers Band's Live at Great Woods; Grouplove's I'm With You
Also available –Afternoon Delight; Battle of the Damned; The Best of Bogart Collection; Boys Behind Bars; Cal; The Invoking; On the Job; The Pervert's Guide to Ideology; Random Acts of Violence; Sick Birds Die Easy; Zaytoun
Blackmail/Psycho @ Aero Theatre (Santa Monica) I just watched Hitchcock, the 2012 film about the making of Psycho starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson, so this Alfred Hitchcock double feature couldn't come at more ideal time. First in the evening's schedule is an 85th anniversary screening of the director's 1929 crime thriller Blackmail, starring Anny Ondra and John Longden, presented with live musical accompaniment by Cliff Retallick. Up next are Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in Psycho. The films serve as the closing night of American Cinematheque's The Hitchcock 9, Plus 8 series.
Lucha VaVoom @ The Mayan (Downtown) Tonight's Valentine's-themed event promises all of the sexo y violencia that you've come to expect from the Mexican masked wrestling/striptease/comedy collision, but with an extra special added bonus. The awesome rock/electro musician and performance artist known as Peaches has signed on as the first-ever musical act to join a Lucha VaVoom lineup. She kicks the night off with a fabulous opening number, and she really is the perfect match to the in-your-face mayhem that is Lucha VaVoom.
Failure @ El Rey Theatre (Miracle Mile) I know this show is sold out, but it's so critical for any fan of this influential L.A. band to try and get in anyway they can. It's been 17 years since the members of Failure parted ways, and tonight's performance reunites all four of them. Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards, Kellii Scott and Troy Van Leeuwen are sure to set the stage on fire with songs like "Stuck on You," "Saturday Saviour" and "Undone" for a truly unforgettable night.
FRIDAY, FEB. 14 – Happy Valentine's Day!
An Evening with Bill Cosby @ The Pasadena Civic (Pasadena) Ask anyone about their ideal traits in a mate, and sense of humor is probably high up on their list. Cry laughing with your beloved, basking in the greatness of this comedy legend. Long before he rocked the sweater vests on "The Cosby Show," Bill Cosby had people dying over his stand-up routines and best-selling comedy albums, of which I have several. Take a stroll or grab a bite at Old Town or Paseo Colorado before the show, and make a night of it.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind@ The Cinefamily (Mid-City West) Cap your Valentine's Day off with a midnight screening of one of my favorite movies of all time. Have you ever had a relationship that cause you so much anguish that you wish you could just erase it entirely from your mind? Michel Gondry's beautiful film, which combines science-fiction, romance and psychologically thriller, explores this notion. With an Academy Award-winning screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and fabulous performances from Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is just… beyond words. Celebrate the film's 10th anniversary with someone you love (and hopefully don't want to ever forget). In Theaters This Week Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant in About Last Night; Sorry, but Endless Love will always be the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli adaptation of the Scott Spencer novel with Brooke Shields and awesome theme song by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie to me, not this new one with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde; "The Killing"'s Joel Kinnaman stars in the remake of 1987's RoboCop, along with Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson and Abbie Cornish; Winter's Tale stars Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Jessica Brown-Findlay (Sybil from "Downton Abbey"). Also in theaters: Adult World; Beijing Love Story; Girl on a Bicycle; The Returned
Morning Parade @ El Rey Theater (Miracle Mile) If your ideal Valentine's date includes great music, rocking out with your beloved, then I suggest spending some of your night with this British five piece. They just released a new EP, Alienation, with four great tracks that will have you nodding your head along to the beat ("Reality Dreams," "Culture Vulture"), thrashing around the dance floor ("Shake the Cage") and holding your lover close ("Alienation").
SATURDAY, FEB. 15
Create:Fixate's I Art You @ Lot 613 (Downtown) Spend the night surrounded by stunning art from over 40 emerging artists, designers, DJs and musicians at Create: Fixate's Valentine's-themed event. There is an "I Art You" letter writing station where you can write a some heartfelt words to ones you love. Just remember to bring their addresses because Create:Fixate is providing the stamps. If you're in the market to meet someone special, Matching Up is sponsoring a Singles Mixer from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with several fun activities planned. There are plenty of works for you and your new friend to admire, including pieces from Cary Sullivan, Patrick Haemmerlein, Shana Koenig and Liz Huston, while KCRW's Mario Cotto sets aural atmosphere.
SUNDAY, FEB. 16
The Harlem Globetrotters @ Staples Center (Downtown) Wrap up the weekend of love with a heart-pumping Harlem Globetrotters experience. Marvel at their gravity-defying dunks, crazy ball-handling skills and hilarious antics and interactions with the crowd. There is a show at 12:30 p.m. and another at 5:45 p.m., so you have two chances to participate in the fun with these gifted athletes and performers from all across the nation. Just be on your toes the entire time, because you never know when a ball could be thrown your way.
TUESDAY, FEB. 18
Dress Up: Valley of the Dolls@ The Cinefamily (Mid-City West) Doesn't dressing up in costumes make everything that much more awesome? Cinespia invites you to don your 1960s Mod best – pastel suits, lamé gowns, heavy black eyeliner and bouffants – for this screening of Mark Robson's 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's dramatic novel. Although Patty Duke, Sharon Tate and Barbara Parkins are the focus of the film's storyline, the real stars are the glorious gown designed by Travilla, who not only dressed icons like Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall but was responsible for the wardrobe for "Dallas" and "Knots Landing." Feast your eyes on the finery as you're all dolled up, in shimmering clothes, of course.
3400 Overland Ave., Los Angeles (Palms) 323-405-7055
The original Scoops near Los Angeles City College is one of my favorite places to grab some ice cream, so I was more than a little excited to try out Scoops Westside with one of the sweetest couples in punk rock, the Dollyrots, who are also frequent patrons of the first Scoops.
L "We live near Downtown, so it only takes about five to ten minutes to get to Scoops," Luis Cabezas, guitarist for the Dollyrots, tells me.
"We go to El Gran Burrito right there, and then we go to Scoops," adds vocalist/bassist Kelly Ogden. "El Gran Burrito's beans are really good, and their salsas are the best. They're open 24 hours, so it's usually a post-show stop."
The L.A. duo invite me on their first trip to the Westside location as they prepare for the release of their fifth album, Barefoot and Pregnant (available Feb. 25), and a record release show at the Satellite on Feb. 20, as they continue adjusting to life as new parents to a baby boy named River, who was born in November and has affectionately been dubbed the Dollytot. Food blogger Matthew Kang opened Scoops Westside just over three years ago, and the shop offers all of the unique flavor concoctions that ice cream wizard Tai Kim is known for – such as Kelly's favorite (the non-dairy Brown Bread), mine (Salty Caramel), the unusual kobocha squash and blueberry jasmine and the exotic raspberry yuzu – selected each day by Kang, as well as made-to-order, fresh cups of tea and coffee from Intelligentsia and Heart Coffee Roasters. Luis usually orders any flavor with coffee in it, and he opts for an Affogato (with a scoop of Banana Brownie added) today, while Kelly and I try some of the soy-based Maple Coffee gelato.
After ordering, we glance at one thing both Scoops share in common, a flavor suggestion board, where customers write down imaginative combinations, and I ask what a customized Dollyrots flavor might include.
Kelly immediately blurts out, "Non-dairy Coconut rum!"
"Along with something that reminds you of your childhood, like Strawberry Shortcake, but with a dash of whiskey," Luis chimes in with a laugh. "It would definitely have some essence of booze in it."
"I feel like some sort of carrot cake would be good, too," Kelly offers. "Irish Cream with strawberries would be delicious."
"How about Irish Strawberry Shortcake," asks Luis.
The mention of Irish Cream reminds me of a track from Barefoot and Pregnant, "Bury Me in Ireland," so I inquire if either of the Dollyrots are Irish.
"Two of my great-grandmothers are Irish," Kelly says. "Growing up, my mom's dad listened to a lot of Irish music, and I loved the rhythm and lightness of it. I especially liked that they were usually songs about death, drinking too much, sailing away forever or going to war. They're not necessarily happy songs, but they always sound happy."
That phrase can also be applied to many of the Dollyrots own songs, from "Bury Me in Ireland" all the way back to tracks from their 2004 Eat My Heart Out debut.
"We've had some of our best shows in Ireland, too," adds Luis.
"Our parents had asked us what our favorite place in the whole world to play was, and we said Dublin. Then, they actually went the last time we played in Dublin," Kelly says. "My dad had never been out of the country before that."
"Your dad had never been to a rowdy rock show, either, so we made him come out on the stage," recalls Luis. "He ambled out, and Kelly yelled, 'Here's my dad!" A thousand kids were screaming for him."
As they remember the awesome experience with their parents, I wonder if there are aspects of their childhoods growing up in Florida that they can't wait to share with River.
"Our friends just showed their 3-year-old 'The Muppet Show' for the first time," Kelly begins. "The first scene that came on was 'Mahna Mahna,' and they loved it. So, that will be cool."
"As far as music, he's already heard a lot because he heard stuff in the womb," Luis continues. "We didn't stop playing shows until she was a good four or five months in."
"And we never stopped going to shows," interjects Kelly.
"He's already seen Kim Shattuck play three times – with the Muffs, solo and with the Pixies. Plus, he heard us making our record," Luis says. "So he's been through the whole thing – a lot of drums and guitars – and I think it translated because certain things calm him down now. We turn on Flogging Molly, and he stops crying."
"Every morning when we wake up and change him we put on classical musical," adds Kelly. "He just lays on his changing table and swings his arms around, 'conducting.'"
"We're going to go to SXSW, so we're going to take him," Luis tells. "He's not going to be at shows, we're going to be careful with his hearing—"
"Our first baby present was a set of gun muffs," Kelly says.
"Punk rock will be a constant in his life, whether we want it to be or not," concludes Luis. "We're not really too concerned with, 'Hey, kid, listen to Ramones,' we're just going to try to give him a wide variety of things."
"Like big band, jazz, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector productions, the Beatles," lists Kelly.
The Dollyrots meld all of those influences into a cover that closes out Barefoot and Pregnant, a mash-up of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and the Phil Spector-produced "Da Doo Ron Ron" by the Crystals.
"The most influential movie in my life is Dirty Dancing," confesses Kelly. "The soundtrack is so great. I heard the Ronettes and said, 'I love this music! What is this?' My parents had some records and there were really good oldies stations in Florida where we grew up, so I listened to oldies music a lot. The melodies in girl group music and that era of time really stuck with me. I feel like those are the melodies that I come up with when we're writing a lot of the time."
"Nineties pop punk was all melodic. It was rough around the edges but basically updated Beach Boys," says Luis. "Once you get into that stuff you wonder where it's derived from ,and that naturally leads you back to key elements of rock 'n' roll that still influence our choices of where a song is going to go, where the chord progression is going to go. If Ramones did it, it also meant Chuck Berry did it. If both of them did it, then it means it's probably good."
"Growing up, I wasn't into metal, guitar gods. I thought that whole thing was hokey, which I think was a result of being raised in the Nirvana generation," admits Luis. "I learned how to play guitar by learning every Nirvana song, and then that led me to punk rock."
"Nirvana really led us to a lot of different music," Kelly reflects.
The musical pair met in the eighth grade and landed at the same college in Florida where Kelly earned a biology degree and Luis a neurobiology degree. They formed a band in 2000 and eventually made their way to Los Angeles in 2002. After releasing Eat My Heart Out, they were signed to Joan Jett's Blackheart Records who released their next two albums, 2007's Because I'm Awesome and 2010's A Little Messed Up.
"We had those two records on Blackheart, but before that, we self-released our first record before it got picked up by Lookout Records. We had all the art, photos and even all the ads all done. That gave us confidence, so we did Kickstarter [for their 2012 self-titled effort]," says Luis about venturing into the realm of crowd-sourcing. "With the Kickstarter campaign, the lesson we learned was: Don't promise way too much. We're OK with promising a lot, writing notes to everybody, making unique and personal things like Kelly baking cookies—"
Kelly interjects with, "I have like 50 dozen to make!"
"We scaled back a little on this one [the PledgeMusic campaign for Barefoot and Pregnant] to try to make it so we're not completely overwhelmed," Luis confesses. "Just last night we got our thousandth pledge. That was our dream, far off number, so every song is going to have a video. That also means hundreds of packages. We have to do our mailings for our pledge, so our living room is basically going to turn into a warehouse."
When I suggest getting a intern to help them with putting the packages together, Luis shakes his head no.
We had the option of someone else doing the mailing, but we have to touch everything, sign stuff. We know these people, we've met these people. It's Dawn from Boston or so and so from the UK. You think that there's no way you can keep track of so many people in your head, but if you interact with somebody four or five times, you know them. I like that part; it makes it feel like you're doing this for a reason," he says. "Music can be so impersonal. It's not a photographic medium, so there's not a visual. I was reading this article about how you never see audio go viral, and there's a reason for that. Viral stuff requires a visual component to it, and that makes music a little harder to become close to in our modern world. I feel like we compensate for that by giving people something extra."
It's this personal touch and accessibility to their fans that makes the Dollyrots so beloved, with 196 percent of their PledgeMusic goal for Barefoot and Pregnant having been reached. Since they went over their goal, they are donating five percent of all pledges to MusiCares.
Kelly rocks River in her arms and Luis sips on his Affogato (which "is like the best Starbucks ever!"), and we talk about some of Kelly's cravings during pregnancy.
"I did dairy while I was pregnant and ate a lot of Greek yogurt because the protein is so high. I made a lot of smoothies with protein powder," the new mother, who is normally a vegan, states. "I ate steak for the first time since I was 12. I hadn't ever wanted it before, but I kept seeing Sizzler commercials and said, 'I really want to eat that.' I ate the first bite and thought, 'oh, this is exactly what I wanted,' but as I ate more and more it turned into, 'I am so done with this.' I guess I needed it."
"He probably needed it. It was weird, she would see a Wienerschnitzel and say, 'That looks good,' and I would ask if she was feeling well," Luis remembers.
Since they've actually spent most of their time as Angelenos out on the road, touring the world with bands like Bowling for Soup, Buzzcocks and the Go-Go's and as part of Vans Warped Tour, the couple haven't had much of a chance to explore the environs of their Downtown digs until this past year.
"Usually we go to Grand Central Market because there's good people watching and it's like a spectacle. You can get any kind of food you want, and it's all a little suspect. 'Is this going to make me sick? I don't know, but it looks really good," laughs Luis. "There's that whole area around Fourth and Main that has a bunch of little cafes, so we'll go down there. We're on the edge of Koreatown so our neighborhood has a few spots that we're just now discovering, an awesome pho place down the street and good Korean barbecue. In the past we were always on the road, we would spend a maximum of four months at home. When we were at home we were recording or going to shows, but this past year was different because she was pregnant and we hadn't been touring. It gave us a chance to see what was within walking distance and easy to do nearby."
While Kelly loves the diversity of Los Angeles people and food, Luis feels like the pacing of life here is just right.
"It's not frantic like New York, but you still feel motivated because you see things happening around you. It makes you want to get up," he says. "All the people we've met that we've worked with – John Fields our producer, Dana Gordon our publicist – we've known them for over 10 years. It's cool, knowing you can count on somebody to help you do what you do. Everybody involved with this album was able to bring what we do to life and do their part to make it a little better."
"We've been getting our T-shirts from Angry Girl in the Valley for at least 10 years. Fuzzy, our mercy girl, has been a part of the band longer than any drummer we've had. We have a little family here now," Kelly adds. "John Anderson at Hunnypot does digital distribution with us, and he's pretty much the reason that we're still here. We were almost ready to turn back and go home, and he told us to go on this audition. We got the HP ad, and that kind of started things for us. We got a publishing deal, and it's really cool that we're still working with him."
"This kid has so many aunts and uncles," smiles Luis.
One of those uncles includes the producer that Luis mentioned, John Fields (Jimmy Eat World, Andrew WK, Miley Cyrus), who has worked on four of the Dollyrots' five albums. With him at the helm of Barefoot and Pregnant and American Hi-Fi's Stacy Jones on drums, Kelly and Luis returned to their punk rock roots for an album, while encapsulating this incredibly special time of their lives. While 'barefoot and pregnant' has commonly had negative connotations, Kelly wanted to put a new spin the phrase through the album and its title track.
"So many girls I've known along the way have stopped because they've had kids, they've just wanted a more stable kind of life. I feel like by us doing that song and this record, we found a way to bring attention to the saying in a positive way," she says. "Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen – I'm not going to be in the kitchen (Well, I still might be because I like cooking!) – not right now, because we're going to be doing all of this. It was a kind of '50s stereotype, saying that's all women are good for is making babies. Well, I want to make music and I'm not going to stop doing that. Luckily Luis and I are able to do it together, and I think that makes all the difference. We have extended family and friends to help us along the way, and it's going to be an adventure."
Barefoot and Pregnant will be available Feb. 25. The Dollyrots perform Feb. 20 at the Satellite. For more information, visit thedollyrots.com.