Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Thanks for coming back to read the third and final installment of my weekend journey to Los Angeles, which is now, technically, TWO weekends ago. Go ahead, swing your disapproving jaw back and forth, while I hang my head in shame.

Still there? Good!

Recall that Part One covered my train ride and the beautiful Shrine Auditorium, while Part Two detailed the pair of concerts I attended. Part Three is going to be a little less focused, so don’t be surprised if I bounce from topic to topic (shopping! architecture! turtles!) as I collect all that is left over in an image folder I’ve named “Other Stuff.”

CD Shopping

Most every trip to Los Angeles includes a stop at Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard. In fact, on drives up north, I actually time my departure so that I’ll swing into the underground parking garage right when the chain link gate rattles up at 10:30.

This was actually taken on a prior trip to LA while waiting for the garage to open

With no car available (recall, on this trip, I rode the train), I relied on my gracious hosts for transportation, and—luckily!—my gracious hosts are every bit the music aficionados as I. So, yes, though I didn’t have a car I still managed to make the pilgrimage and load up a basket with shiny new and used compact discs.

It’s about here that you would expect any blogger worth his or her keyboard to provide a colorful gallery of photos from inside Amoeba, noting every aisle of this famed Musical Mecca—or, at the very least, a cheesy snapshot of the overflowing basket I carted around for the better part of my two hour visit. But… no. Priorities being what they are, the camera slung over my shoulder was completely forgotten in my mad psychotic dash through the store. Oh, rest assured, I brought home many treasured titles, including a bizarre collection of garage pop songs from Thailand, a 3 CD celebration of the first Sugar album, and countless bargain priced used CDs.

You’ll also have to take my word for it that I made out like a bandit at a second music store—Rockaway Records in Silverlake where a tantalizing 20% off sale was in full effect on top of their already low prices. If you don’t know Rockaway, you really should. Their prices are more than fair, their staff is knowledgable, and surprises lurk within their inventory. I found some seriously good buys, like the 5 CD box set of remastered Dio-era Black Sabbath, The Rules Of Hell—new—for under $24. Deal!

The Biltmore Hotel

Downtown Los Angeles by night

In my last post I wrote about attending a free concert at Pershing Square in downtown LA. To the right is a photo of the downtown skyline from my seat at the concert. The glowing tower in the background is the Citibank building (recall… Independence Day… alien spaceships… laser beams… BOOM!). In the foreground is The Biltmore Hotel, a really great, elegant, upper crust of a lodging establishment built in 1923. The Biltmore is pretty fancy. Like, presidential fancy, having hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1960 (with John Kennedy’s acceptance speech), the Beatles during their 1964 tour, and several Academy Award ceremonies.

I had a chance to dash across the street before Gram Rabbit’s set to check out the inside of the hotel, and—being a fan of architecture from the 1920’s—pretty much went snapshot crazy—but I’ll only bore you with the half dozen shots below.

Yes, the interior is ostentatious, but in a Golden Age of Hollywood way, as opposed to, say, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, which would be ostentatious in a Vomit of Kitsch sort of way.

The Pink and Gold dining room of the Madonna Inn — Yikes!

Street Shopping

How’s your liver doing? Inside Spitfire Girl!

Not all my shopping was limited to record stores. Contrary to popular opinion, I do have other interests, like toys. A couple of months ago I discovered a really cool online store called Spitfire Girl, and purchased a couple of small items for use in my photos. I didn’t know it at the time, but Spitfire Girl has a pair of retail outlets in the Los Angeles area: one in Echo Park, and the other in Los Feliz, not far from one of my all time favorite art galleries, La Luz de Jesus. Since a couple of highly desired items were out of stock online (pixies! gnomes!), and since I was going to be in the area anyway, a visit to my new favorite online store was certainly in order!

What a COOL, COOL place!! They carry all kinds of unique and interesting items, like the anatomical statue you see to the right. Actually, I’m not sure if he was for sale or just part of the decor, but it gives you a taste of the creative ethos you’ll find inside this awesome store.

Sadly, I learned that the gnomes and pixies I sought were available only online—or encased in super cool three dimensional “box cards,” but I didn’t want to destroy one of these cute little works of greeting card art just to get to the figures I desired, so I’ll patiently wait for individual figures to once again find their way into the online store.

Eating out in downtown LA

And now we get to the salacious part of my travelogue… food porn! It’s a well known fact that I am a shameless purveyor of delectable restaurant smut, slipping my sneaky little camera out of its case for quick shots of finely appointed appetizers and enticing entrées. It’s all so mouthwateringly erotic!

Hot and bothered yet? Are your taste buds in need of quenching? Well, sorry to disappoint, but in truth—though I ate well and often—I took only ONE photo of food during my weekend in LA. And here it is:

Green tea ice cream at Fat Spoon in Little Tokyo

Ice cream that glows! Okay, it’s doesn’t actually glow, but it is pretty vibrant, wouldn’t you agree? On the plate is a scoop of green tea ice cream—perfectly rich and refreshing, following a deliciously spicy curry entrée at Fat Spoon in Little Tokyo. This quaint little restaurant is outstanding, with great casual atmosphere, excellent food, and an awesome wait staff. Highly recommended for any trip downtown!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this (ahem) brief three part series on my recent trip to Los Angeles. I’m hoping to do the same with my next visit towards the end of September, so stay tuned!

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Let’s see… where did we leave off in Part One of my weekend travelogue to Los Angeles? Oh yes! We were just about to take a seat in the orchestra to see Jack White on his first of two nights at the Shrine Auditorium.

The Luke Winslow King Trio opening for Jack White

Opening the show was a folksy three-piece from Nashville known collectively as the Luke Winslow King Trio. They played a very entertaining brand of roots music with standup bass, guitar and washboard. Yep, no drums, but the woman on washboard sure did rattle up a storm of good percussion! They were quite engaging and a lot of fun.

Next up was Jack White with the mystery of the night being, which of his two touring bands would be called upon to play that night. He’s been touring with a pair of backing bands—one all guys (Los Buzzardos), one all girls (The Peacocks)— and you don’t know what you’re going to get until the lights go down and the band walks on stage.

Prior to the show’s start someone from the tour took the mic to welcome us to the show and to discourage people in the audience from using their cellphones to take pictures, promising that professionally shot photos from the show would be posted to Jack’s web site the next day for all the free downloads our computers could bear.

Back in the day…

Here’s where I wax poetic about the good old days before iPhones, cellphones, and the digital revolution that has put the socialization of every waking moment at your fingertips. Way back when taking pictures at a concert—unless you had a media pass—was really hard!  Equipment was big and bulky and the bouncers who frisked you on your way into a venue were specifically looking for cameras and recording devices (and drugs & alcohol—weapons back then were an afterthought). You had to be more than a little clever to get contraband into a concert, and just as daring to use your smuggled equipment without being eyed by security for a quick exit, confiscation or (depending on how paranoid the band might be) arrest. While in college I went to all kinds of elaborate lengths to sneak sophisticated audio equipment into live concerts: cassette recorders as large as a small backpack, external microphones, extra batteries and tapes, all cleverly hidden on my body or spread amongst friends also in attendance. Once inside, it was an exercise in paranoid terror to set up equipment and record the show without a single person around me aware that I was doing something that was technically highly illegal. I recorded some pretty incredible live shows and traded tapes with other venturesome audiophiles around the globe.

Today you whip out your iPhone, thrust it into the air, and no one seems to care. Well, no one except the people standing behind you who now have to deal with an illuminated 3″ version of the action on stage, now bouncing like an animated bubble beween them and a clear view of the “live” event. Likewise, the musicians on stage look out at a sea of outstretched arms, each waving a cellphone, the eyes of the audience strangely trained on the cell screen, rather than the eyes of the performer singing 10 feet away. It’s really weird!! And, annoying as can be.

The announcement from the stage that the show would be professionally photographed came as a welcome relief, and it did cut down on the concert cellphone phenomenon, making for a much more enjoyable show.

Smartly dressed pro photographer, stage left, snapping the show for Jack White’s website

True to their word, photos of the show were up the next day on Jack White’s web site.

Hey! Wait a second! Where did that photo come from?!?!?

Yeah, okay, so I took a few pictures…. But I don’t own an iPhone. I used a real camera, dammit! I just don’t know how to use it very well from the back of the venue under low light conditions. I also tate my shots through the viewfinder, so I’m not holding the camera over my head in the line of sight of others in the crowd. So there.

And here are a few more.

And… I juuuust may have run video on one of the songs during the encores, even though my little Canon SD1000 is not the best equipment in the world for recording concert video. I did clean it up a bit on my Mac. Old habits die hard!!

As you can see from the photos and video, on this night we were treated to “the guy band” who played with a pretty hard edge. Good show overall, in spite of a dense and overmodulated sound mix through the first 4 or 5 songs. The concert was also a meaty mix of songs from Jack’s recent solo album, Blunderbuss, along with a wide array of tracks from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather. Also tossed in were a couple of fitting covers of songs by Hank Williams and Lead Belly. Here’s the full setlist:

Sixteen Saltines
Black Math
Missing Pieces
Hypocritical Kiss
Hotel Yorba
Top Yourself
The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
We’re Going to Be Friends
You Know That I Know
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
The Hardest Button to Button
::: Encore :::
Freedom At 21
I Cut Like A Buffalo
Steady, As She Goes
Goodnight, Irene

The whole show clocked in at around an hour and a half. Not long, but considering that Jack had played a free 4 song set earlier in the day at Mariachi Plaza in downtown LA, I suppose he was entitled to a shorter performance.

Outside the Shrine after the concert

John Doe with Gram Rabbit at Pershing Square

By no means was Friday night the last of my LA concert experiences. Staying with friends in Eagle Rock I discovered that John Doe, one of the founding members of X, would be playing a free show Saturday night in downtown LA, and—if we so chose—could get reserved VIP seating. Uh… yeah! Opening for John Doe would be Gram Rabbit, one of the quirkiest bands in the land, hailing from the high desert country of Joshua Tree.

Jessika von Rabbit on stage and playing bass at Pershing Square

We were in the first row at the start of the show, which was close enough to compensate for my embarrassing inability to take decent nighttime photographs. Later, we moved back a little ways where the audio mix was a little better (and photography became a bit more challenging). The shot above is of vocalist Jessika von Rabbit. She had super glittery rock star eyelashes!

Here’s a shot of the whole band, which for this performance included only musicians. Gram Rabbit concert veterans tell wild stories of dancing rabbits and other on-stage cavorting during their club appearances.

Gram Rabbit at Pershing Square

Lots of video available from them online, so make sure you check ’em out!

John Doe center stage at Pershing Square 8-11-12

The evening’s headliner was John Doe, from X, who I interviewed back in college before an X gig at the main gym at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He was pretty cool then, and remains pretty cool now, mixing in a variety of rearranged X tracks (More Fun In The New World, etc) with solo material and covers. Very energetic set from him and his band, which he claimed had never all played together before. Didn’t believe him though, they seemed to be on the same page throughout.

After the show he was hanging out at the mercy tent, taking photos and signing autographs. I was tempted to ask him if he remembered the bad interview I’d conducted all those years ago, but refrained from the humiliation. Somewhere in my vast library of deteriorating cassette tapes I have the full interview and the show I produced that split clips from the interview with X material. One day, I promise I’ll dig it out of storage and post it to my blog.

And that concludes the live concert portion of my weekend sojourn to Los Angeles. Still more travel stories yet to come, so keep your eyes right here for installment number three!

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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner headed north

This past weekend found me on the train headed for Los Angeles to see Jack White in concert at the Shrine Auditorium. Usually, my mode of road trip transportation is my 1987 Honda Prelude Si, which is fun to drive and has plenty of room for hauling home bags of records, CDs and the occasional painting or two. The drawback to my Honda is the fact that the AC has not functioned during this century, and with temperatures in LA County projected to top 100 degrees… the train seemed like an excellent alternative!

I took the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner leaving from the Old Town Trolley station in San Diego, which spends a considerable amount of time hugging up the coastline between Del Mar and Dana Point. It’s a really beautiful and relaxing ride; perfect for reading and listening to music and you cruise by packed beaches and breaking waves.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back to the beginning. To Old Town and my wait on the platform for the train to arrive at the station.

Travel tip!
Always keep your camera handy, either in a pocket or around your neck. Your camera should always be a shutter click away. Otherwise, you may miss something like… this:

Accentuate your ensemble with a color that will POP!

Yes, this dapper gent in his little electric cart was waiting on the platform at the trolley station. Sadly did not board my train to LA.

Now, I ask you: going forward, will you remember to keep your camera close at hand?

Snce I have a ton of pictures (and video!) to share, I’m going to breakup my weekend into segments. And, we’re off!!

The Train Trip

This first segment of photos was taken from the relaxed comfort of my seat on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. The first shot was taken as we were approaching one of the stations along the coast, though I can’t recall which one. In any case, there were plenty of people out enjoying a Friday morning at the beach. And who could blame them!

Next is the view of The Big A, which is apparently now called Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Not a bad name, I guess, but I prefer The Big A. I took this picture while we were stopped at the Anaheim train depot, so if you ever want to take the train from San Diego to see an Angels baseball game, this is where you hop off.

The first photo on the bottom row is the skyline of downtown Los Angeles as you approach Union Station. The building in the very center is the tower spectacularly zapped into oblivion in the film Independence Day. I’ll have another shot of that building later.

Jack White at the Shrine Auditorium

The main purpose of my trip was to see Jack White in concert. Apparently, he’s played several different LA venues during the past year, and on this time around he chose to play at the historic Shrine Auditorium, a building with a rich history dating back (in one incarnation or another) to 1906. The current facility was completed in 1926, and it’s a spectacular place filled with what I’ll call Arabian Night’s Opulence.

Outside the majestic Shrine Auditorium before the Jack White concert on Friday night

There is no shortage of chandeliers, stained glass, interesting architectural detail and—no doubt— secret passageways, spread throughout the Shrine. Living in an old house myself, I’m always interested to poke around inside structures built around the same time period, though my house is Spanish Colonial while the Shrine takes its cues from Yul Brynner in The King And I.

Here are a few photos from inside the venue…

Third Man Records 2012 Menu

Parked just outside the fence in the parking lot was the cute little van you see below—the Rolling Record Store from Jack White’s independent record label, Third Man Records. I would have liked to visit the tiny little store to see what vinyl wonders it held inside, but as the van was outside the iron gates, and I was inside the gates, this would be difficult. More so because the Gestapo-like security outside the venue that was very insistent about ushering people directly into the venue. NOW! Luckily, I was able to take this quick picture through the gate, and even more lucky that a kind woman shopping the store handed me the foldout catalog you see to the right, which is filled with all kinds of reasonably priced vinyl releases available on the label.

That’s going to be it for Part One of my LA travelogue. Tune in for the second part for photos (and videos) of the concert itself, plus continuing excursions throughout Los Angeles.

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