Sunday, August 30, 2009


This weekend was San Diego Street Scene, to which I have never been before, even though it's only sixty miles away from my house (I'm equidistant between LA and SD) and has been going on for twenty five years. This time I made it, and this is a somewhat quirky review of it.

We'd booked into a motel, which I'll call the Blue Orchid so as not to give away its true identity. This little gem was two tram stops down from the Street Scene. We got there just an hour before the 4pm start of the Friday program and checked in rather hurriedly. It's a rock-bottom motel, though the price, $72 including tax, seemed a bit steep. We were thoroughly charmed by the sign saying that we were not allowed to have prostitutes, drugs or firearms in our rooms. STB wondered why the Marriott never sees fit to put up signs like that, and you know what? I don't know either. It seems a very sensible set of rules. The proprietor handled transactions through one of those bullet-proof glass windows where you have to slide your ID and credit card under a dip in the counter so there is no chance you can fire through the cash slot or grab someone's hand as they work. The place was clean inside and some things in the room worked quite well. Although I'd brought everything – a heap of electronics ranging from laptop to flat-iron for my hair, it turned out I didn't have a comb. And we were in a part of San Diego that just wasn't going to provide one. Oh wells. We paid for our MTS (tram) tickets in quarters and set off to the Street Scene.

It was kind of deserted. As I got used to it, I realized we were here way early. There was not much going on except the music, so no one would be arriving until the bands got 'good'. The 'scene' itself was three stages on three dead-end streets in the poor enclave of East San Diego, arranged so that the short stub of a street was the auditorium, and there were two larger stages at opposite ends of the parking lot of Petco Park. This meant the entire thing was on concrete or asphalt, in the middle of August in San Diego where the temperature is mid-nineties and the humidity is far higher than LA, making it a sweat bath with nowhere to sit or lie down at all. And I mean at all. A festival normally has like, a tree or something, or a patch of grass. This had just San Diego curbs to sit on. There were unlimited pass-outs when you wore the wristband, of course, but you passed out to East San Diego, i.e. several thousand acres of more curbs, concrete, parking lots and asphalt. There was a tram station but my sleeping on benches in bus stations days are thankfully over. Anyway, I said no whining in this post, so I'll stop, after mentioning how much my feet were still blistered after spending Wednesday lining up, seeing The Dead Weather and walking on concrete in LA.

First band we saw were the Wavves, whom I liked tremendously. Guitar, voice and drums, punk sound. They had Animal on drums. I know that's a cliché, but the description really fitted the guy, and on guitar (a powder-blue Strat (copy?)) was a young guy with seventeen thousand metric tonnes of reverb on his microphone. At one point between songs he said, "Is that too much reverb? No, we're good." And off they went again. Except he actually sounded to have said "Is that is that too is that much that reverb too much that reverb too much reverb much reverb reverb?" They were great. Wonderful attitude and some good songs, just happy to be playing for people who are happy listening to them.

Next, Holy Fuck. I'd assumed they were a punk band too, from the name, but I guess it is a trance sort of name instead, judging by their sound. At one point somebody appeared to blowing down a tube into a pixiephone and we decided to classify them as 8 bit or at least Lo-Fi. They were nice, danceable and listenable but not too memorable.

I did want to watch Mastodon, but STB vetoed them on sight, after catching a glimpse of a Hairy on the stage's overhead screen and hearing the heavy (man) music pounding out on the street. On that brief and possibly unfair exposure, they seemed like the sort of band that would have gone down very well in Birmingham (UK) in 1976 along with Sabbath, Purple etc. I'm told they are part of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, and having heard the original heavy metal and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, I imagine I'm not too incorrect here.

We saw and heard a bit of Cake in the distance and it seemed mostly to be Mr. Cake saying something bad tempered about the band, the equipment or the lights. Then suddenly out of nowhere they played Black Sabbath's War Pigs so we sang along and head-banged. It's always good to have a daily fix of Sabbaff.

Then another Canadian band, Chromeo. They played rather wilted modern R&B with a lot of synth, voice changing synthesizers and common or garden beats. The only thing I can remember of them is their "station ID" song about their name being Chromeo which is stuck in my head and won't dislodge. Great light show. They had sort of tall poles of light behind them that did tricks and I could have watched them all night. It was like a trained circus pony act except made of photons. Great stuff. Can I have one for my birthday?

We made the mistake of going to see the very, very popular Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band on one of the big stages. It sounded like watered-down Irish music, bland and virtually affectless. The audience loved it and lapped it all up. What does that tell you? I don't really know but I guess it explains why whenever I ask someone to recommend me really good music I'm usually disappointed. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Same deal with Modest Mouse. I thought they sucked the life out of everything they touched. But thousands of people went to see them and cheered every song to the heights. They reminded me of those modern light bulbs, you know the ones that say "37 watt bulb! Saves 10% power over the old 40 watt bulb!" Yes, they do, but they're 10% duller. This was a definite 37 watt day for these guys. I know this is a cruel thing to say, but I classified them as "Music that is trying to win a Grammy". That's not very indie, is it?

We should have then gone on to watch the Black Eyed Peas but we decided that it would not be necessary.

Best festival food: Curry, from the Bombay Curry stall. Usually festival curry is a combination of lethally undercooked garbanzo beans, some strange acid (lactic?) picked up during an unconventional cooking process, salmonella and brown rice that resembles sharp gravel purchased for parrot's gizzards. In this case, it was a nice, warming, perfectly-cooked vegetable curry. We browsed stalls selling scarves, t shirts, bangles, nose rings, Nokia phones, and some sort of sharp-taloned curved finger stalls with skulls and monsters on them. I would like to be the sort of person who wears things like those but I'm not, and short of a Singularity I'm unlikely to become one. There was not a great deal of merchandise, it has to be said.

Back to the motel, shedding all prostitutes, firearms and drugs on the way so as not to break the posted rules. In the morning, since I had forgotten a comb I sent the ever-lucky STB out to buy one. He came back with a brush and a beard trimmer set that included a comb. (I don't have a beard.) The tail-light on my car had been smashed.

We drove back to East Village or whatever it's called, instead of taking the tram, and parked in an industrial road close to the tram station. There was a 'no defecation/no urination' sign against the fence, but from the smell of it, most people in the district ignored it. We walked past probably the most run-down area I've been in inside the last thirty years (I used to live in un-rejuvenated East London, and I'm counting that) before arriving at the tram station. At one point, next to a traffic light box, a weed had thrust up through a bad repair in lumpy asphalt and produced a strong and evil looking shrub almost four feet high. It was the only green thing surviving, a nasty, stinking weed like something Sam might have found growing in a crack in Mordor's filth. Having walked through LA's garment district three days before, the contrast was incredible. The LA area was poor, but everyone was doing something, working, thronging, buying, bustling, shuttling kids, maybe working for piece rates but at least working. This was a dead area. (It was Saturday, which didn't help, but I think there's still a significant difference.) At the tram station, the world suddenly went from post-industrial (closed muffler shops, abandoned pipe-fitter shops) to post-modern, with the square concrete clock tower and its little red decorations, the hotels, Petco Park, a lot of new apartment buildings, and the well-trodden areas of the city.

We had pizza for breakfast at BASIC pizza, which was far better than basic, chatted to the homburg-wearing pizza guy about Street Scene (Dead Weather fan, unable to go tonight) and then left to leach off the Marriott's internet connection until the day's festivities started. We had a list of wifi hotspots in the area and I felt a little like a nomad with a nomad's arcane knowledge – not knowing the oases where I can graze my goats, or the mountain caves where god manifests but a very clear idea of the power points where I can recharge my computer and the overlay of wifi where I can rejoin the net.

We saw the Crocodiles – can't remember much about them but they went into the "would see again" category. Then Blue Scholars, who were a lot of fun. An old-school hip hop group, they had some classic beats and hook-filled dance tunes. The DJ was fast and clever with a great sense of humor. At one point one of the GIANT bugs that live in the industrial area beyond the end of the dead-end streets flew over and buzzed him and he was running around shouting about the biggest bug he ever saw. That wasn't part of the act, I'm just saying. I wonder what the hell they were? They looked like beetles rather than palmetto bugs, and seemed to seek out sound waves to fly around in. Maybe pressure waves in the air confuse them or something.

Then we went to see Public Enemy, who need no introduction, I'm sure. Although by this stage they are a greatest-hits group, touring their albums on their twenty year anniversaries, they were tight, loud, fast and still politically motivated. The beats started with that deep bass thrum that I used to be able to hear, but now can't, played so loud that they made the cartilage in my nose and throat vibrate. Weird when you can no longer hear it. It continued to be loud enough to be felt for an hour and a half. The bad news is that they were only booked for 45 minutes, but nothing, and I mean nothing, shuts up Flava Flav when he's in full effect. Chuck D and Flava Flav traded off, as usual. The S1W's did their silent, menacing dances (with katanas, this time. I guess Uzis were banned at some point in the last twenty years) and we all danced, a lot. Flava crowd surfed, climbed the scaffolding, threw goodies out to the crowd and generally kept up a steady 120% of capacity energy level. He insisted Chuck D's wife come onstage so we could cheer their wedding anniversary. At one point he told us he did the things he did because he liked pussy, and then caught himself and apologized to all the mothers with children out there.

And Public Enemy were the only band we saw who bothered to deliver an anti-war message. PE alone who gave the speech about supporting troops meaning not sending them meaningless places to die over pointless causes. Brave, in a military town like San Diego and very much appreciated by me.

That threw everyone's schedules out. I really wanted to see the Silversun Pickups, but instead went right to the large stage to watch the end of Of Montreal so I could get a good place for The Dead Weather. Since I hadn't planned to go, I hadn't looked them up and I have no idea why Of Montreal do the shtick they do, but the overall effect is of people dressed as cardinals and furry animals singing glam rock songs much like the ones from Velvet Goldmine. They had a big crowd, all there for them, very happy with the band. I'd definitely put them in the "would see again" category.

As they left, we moved forward for The Dead Weather, and I staked out a place near the barrier. In front of me was a young girl, no more than five feet tall and in front of her, a friend of hers the same height. That's always good. I'm five four. I wear heels but almost everyone is taller than me. Getting to the barrier is the only way to see a show. With two women that size in front of me, I had the duty of ensuring no one pushed me, which would crush them – I'd have a soft landing, but they would have the metal barrier in their ribs. I braced myself against the barrier with one hand, next to a woman who I'm guessing didn't appreciate it by the way she tried to crush my hand. The rather messy roadies for Of Montreal used a leaf-blower to clear away confetti and glitter – some of which stuck to us – while the disciplined, hat-wearing Jack White roadies set up their gear with simple efficiency. Since we had nothing to do but watch, someone in the crowd took to answering one guy's mike testing by hollering his words back to him as if it were a call-and-response song. Eventually he gave us the finger. Hee. You make your own fun, don't you? We have a larf, don't we?

The crowd was boisterous, determined to push from the sides to the middle. I kept my hand on the barrier. Despite the crushing. (I'll never play guitar again.)

The Dead Weather had to change their set slightly for Street Scene – no encores, so Treat Me Like Your Mother was moved up to just before Will There Be Enough Water. They played two new ones – Jawbreaker and one I didn't recognize. I love Jawbreaker, which has such a great riff. They were in a far more open mood tonight, possibly because they were winning over people who had come to see other bands, rather than performing directly for people who have already bought into the mystique – no fighting, no drinking, no theater, just straight ahead bluesy rock and roll. We even got smiles and thank yous a couple of times. The band has really come together in just a few months and yet plays as though they grew up together, tight, focused and full of energy. It was a blistering show and must have won over a lot of new fans.

As soon as they finished, I twigged we wouldn't get an encore and started to leave. About half way out I remembered the little girl in front of me. She had been swaying with heat and dehydration and I'd just left her, without pulling the man who was with her, behind my companion, forward to take care of her. I hope she's okay. I felt terrible about that.

To celebrate yet another wonderful Dead Weather show, we didn't bother going to watch MIA. We went back to the car, where the secret of the aroma of Excrement Alley was revealed – it's where all the homeless people sleep. So the way to our car was lined by hundreds of lumps of clothes, bags and plastic bottles, each of which had a sleeping human at its kernel. Each one sleeping on concrete in an arid wasteland.

These inner city deserts, that's what I'll take away from this week. Dehydration, heat prostration, hard concrete, prison camp lines and long forced waits in borderline dangerous environments. That, and the 96c water-seller guy waiving the extra fee because I didn't have it, the wonderful people in line with me and the great shows.


San Diego Street Scene

I just got back from the San Diego Street Scene fair or festival or whatever it is. I have to say, now I know how horses feel when they're ridden on the street and not shod for asphalt.

Not my feet, BTW. I have much nicer, but still not adequate, footwear.

Music festivals are better on the traditional mud - or failing that, the equally traditional sheep shit. Or even grass. Concrete not so much. The pavement pounding I did on Wednesday in LA hadn't really healed by Friday when I did my first day on concrete at the Street Scene, and although the LA blisters were gone by Saturday, another day on concrete just damaged the underside of my foot. My feet feel like someone had fun with the bastinado (with me on the receiving end). More to come on Sunday about the bands there, with less whining, if at all possible.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of The Dead Weather's set at the Street Scene. (You were expecting anything else?) This time I took the Big Camera. It does a rather better job than the company BlackBerry.

Who is that on Alison's t shirt? And can I buy one? First person to let me know in comments wins a CD copy of Horehound. Although you almost certainly have one already.

Dean has a lovely haircut, doesn't he? My friend who wants to take care of Dean's image thinks he needs highlights as well, but I'm happy with the nice new haircut.

LJ's hair blows in the breeze.

The Dead Weather have a pause to pick hair out of their mouths.

Just putting this one in for the girls.

Smiles. How unusual.

Goodbye line up.

As you can see, the festival version of The Dead Weather is a little more smiley than the club version of The Dead Weather.

Here's the full photoset on Flickr.

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Hassle Night

In which I review the whole of LA, along with two Dead Weather shows on August 26th, 2009
The Vault website said that there would be a show August 246th (sic)at Third Man Records West and I would have to apply before midnight on August 26th. I did so – actually I applied on August 25th, as midnight on August 26th would have been twelve hours too late to see the show, which was on August 26th at about 1pm. If I applied, I would not have to line up and would be guaranteed entry, it said. I turned up at 10 am ("arrive from 10", the website suggested, in its faintly alien way) only to find a line around the block. Line up with them, the TMRW guy said, and we'll get you in the show early. Guaranteed entry, it had said, not get in the show early, so that was a trade off. Two hours in the blazing heat but a front row spot. Early entry is always good.

Line up properly, we were admonished by a crew of TMRW employees, the city is thisclose to shutting us down. Yeah, because there are never any entertainment events that draw crowds around here. That would be so un-LA. So I waited for two hours in the line, in the full August LA sun. About 93 degrees, I'd say, with no wind, and no movement at all to keep the circulation going. Sweat was running down my back, my hair was plastered to my face, which in turn was plastered – under orders from my dermatologist – with SPF 50 sunscreen. Eventually I got to shuffle around the corner into the shade, but it was so late by then that the sun just shuffled round the corner with me.
The show was in the garment district, so the walk up to the line had been particularly interesting. The district reminded me of Singapore, except the third world aspect was our third world aspect, not someone else's. It was bustling and productive. Many people, all doing something. Activity and life. There were lots of rugs for sale, fake jewelry, bridal dresses, mantillas and the streets lined with the usual detritus of poor LA. There was a thick layer of heavy smoke hanging in the air, looking like a thicker than usual smog, the residue of a fire in the local mountains nearby, the San Gabriels. The show was at the old Regent cinema, currently painted yellow, the traditional Third Man Records' color, and with its little marquee letting us know what was going on.
TMRW had organized a barbershop quartet to entertain us, in White Stripes colors. They sang a song to each group of us and let us know to plug their name, Fantastic Shenanigans. All right. Another band came by later – a Mexican group hauling their instruments, upright bass, guitars and all, with a version of Guantanamera. Didn't catch their name. Nice of the record company to put them on for us. I managed to score a bottle of water from a water seller, who accepted 96c because that's all I had and he couldn't be bothered to make change for a five dollar bill. LA people are so nice. It's actually hard to get ripped off here – well, having said that, many of the line sellers were not official TMR representatives and were selling an eclectic range of shite stolen goods, so I guess some people get ripped off. Sheets of silver dollars, knock-off wristwatches, a man selling badge lanyards labeled (on his right hand) "Jesus loves you" and (on his left hand) "Hollywood", for instance. We debated if they would cancel each other out if we wore both.
I talked to a young woman who was an out of work actress (this is, after all, LA), lived in Hollywood and had studied Drama in Liverpool, England, but had not been able to finish her course due to a robbery. What a shame. We talked about England, America, acting and life. Pleasant conversation. After a while, the band's videographer came down the line soliciting stories. She looked at him and he stopped in front of her.
"It's for the band," he said.
"What shall I say?" she said.
"Tell us why it's worth waiting in line to see this band for hours in the hot sun. Tell us why it's generous of this band to put on a free show for its fans. Tell us a bit about their music and why you love it so much. What really excites you about this band?"
He switched on his camera and she improvised two and a half minutes based on his cues in perfect, flowing fan-girl. She certainly learned a lot in Liverpool. I'd hire her.
He gave her a release and she signed it.
"Have you read it?" I asked.
"It's standard," he said quite quickly. "Waives your rights to money, that sort of thing."
"I don't mind signing that," she said, still not reading it.
He took a photo of her signing it, which was clever. No writing down the shot number or difficult record keeping there. Just add in the photo and the releases are done. Off he went down the line. If the others were as good as she was he'll have a couple of dozen videos to show Jack White about great he is. He may well get a raise. We will all benefit. Unless Jack reads this. Let's hope not.
To give him credit, even after seeing me watch all this in astonishment, the videographer did offer me the chance to say a few words and didn't cue me positive at all. I said no, though.
The TMR staff came out and escorted us Vault members to the front of the line, as promised, and I said farewell to my new friend. We were taken to The Regent and led to the front. The early entry meant I was in the first 50 out of five hundred or so at the show. I stood at the left, by Dean's set up, in the third row back. The Regent is a hollowed concrete shell of a cinema. All the seats and soft parts are gone, making a theater shaped box with a proscenium. It was considerably cooler inside, although generally speaking one would not call the low eighties cool. Anything less than one hundred was a chance to cool down on that day. The stage was quite high, about shoulder height. The show started promptly after we had filled it up. No more waiting or rock star tantrums or anything – the lights went down and a fully professional-acting Dead Weather entered stage left.
Alison came out smoking a cigarette and prowled on the edge of the monitors, sometimes standing tall and menacing, sometimes walking slowly, one foot in front of the other like a tightrope walker. It was loud, not irritatingly so, but loud enough to be felt. The sun had dried my hair into porcupine quills and they rattled in the blast as the speaker cones moved. The raw concrete made the sound harsh.The band opened with their cover version of Forever My Queen, which is growing on me. The way Alison tackles it makes a Class B song into a chance to add carefully calibrated poison drops to each line like a Master Borgia, the types of venom selected and matched like a composer writing harmony. The lethal preparation drips with finality, a promise of forever togetherness in desert desiccation and seas of unquenchable thirst. They played Hang You From the Heavens, the new one, Jawbreaker, which sounded like a late period Marc Bolan song – a sort of Jack White's Zip Gun - backed by a resolutely British garage sound, a British Invasion riff driven hard by Jack Lawrence's bass. We all sang along to So Far From Your Weapon, a little chance to be vicious and depressed in our otherwise unbrokenly happy and middle class lives. We got Cut Like a Buffalo – fuck knows what that's about, but I assume violence, decay and ruination if previous form is anything to go on – with Jack White singing and playing drums seamlessly. Even at the third row, I spent quite a bit of time watching the screens of other people's cell phones, and I guess the poor buggers behind me spent time watching mine. Sorry. They played five or six songs, and then left, in a fairly good mood for The Dead Weather, inasmuch as it's possible to tell with this group. They did a bizarre interview shortly afterward that proved they can keep their temper in the face of inanity - so I assume their mood was really good beforehand.

I tumbled out through the foyer and took a snap of tonight's Mayan poster, with the reflections of us all piling out of the cinema showing up in the photo as a wave of lost souls heading towards the light appearing in the space around a bride with a grinning skull in place of a face, a memento mori, as they say. Remember you shall die.

I walked next door to Third Man Records, and lined up at a door like the last airlock open on the last environmental dome on a dying Earth. You were only allowed in as a body tumbled out, and even then I did not realize I had walked into the bizarro TMR. Jack White had set up two –one in its traditional yellow, selling normal vinyl and one in blue, the opposite of yellow, selling many singles which had text printed backwards on them and (I heard later) the sound printed backwards too. The singles did not have a hole in the label, so they can't be played without breaking their hymen, like women. (Although I suspect most collectors will be able to get around this little problem without too much trouble, as with women.) I did spot a copy of backwards Horehound on the wall – dnuoheroH – and asked for it but apparently it was display only, the stock having not been printed in time. As well as being printed backwards, Alison's face had been replaced by the craggy and stubbly face of Dean Fertita, rendering the thing astonishingly different for such small changes. I didn't really follow the backwards singles – still a little dazed and confused – and so just bought a blue printed copy of Buffalo – a 12 inch single, with only one side/track, for $20. I astonished myself. I'm from Yorkshire. We don't pay $20 for a track that's on iTunes for 99c. But as a friend said later, best to keep feeding Jack money, and Jack will keep feeding us stuff in return. This is the social contract of the oughties.
Feeding us stuff like this. I missed this, but in the bizarro TMR, there was a pink piano, and at one point Jack White came out dressed as Little Jack, wig and glasses and all and LJ came out dressed as Jack White, with wig and bright red pants and t shirt. 'Jack White' sang Dead Leaves and the Dirty ground, the White Stripes song on which LJ does not play, and 'LJ' played lead bass, complete with lead runs and feedback. There are YouTube videos of that here and here. Alison can be seen cracking up behind them. As I walked out I picked up a bunch of "You Can Tell Me To Fuck Off If You Like" postcards. They'll come in handy if I ever live somewhere the post office cannot speak English.

I put the vinyl in the car, knowing full well what happens to vinyl in cars at 160 degrees, and wondered if anyone much younger than me at this bash knew what was going to happen to their collectors' items. I put it down flat with a weight over it. If anyone put one upright or draped over an object, I dread to think what they had when they got home. We used to make them into ashtrays. There's little else you can do with them. They don't bend back. For some reason I didn't change boots and ended up having to hobble in my stood-around-in-for-almost-four-hours ones the two miles to the Starbucks where I was meeting STB. I got a nice hot coffee and a banana for my pains. The clever reader will immediately note this has put me two miles from the car, to which I will now have to hobble back.

I'd straightened my hair that morning and as the suntan lotion dried in it, it set hard into a head of porcupine quills. It occurred to me, as my hair rattled, that porcupine quill-ization is probably a sort of body-weaponization that even The Dead Weather's Baby Ruthless has never invented. I should show her how to do them.
We walked back through the garment district, with its thousands of suit stores selling business suits for surely less than the cost of the cloth and selling 'rebel' clothes – mostly eagles and skulls and other Mexican/Aztec devices. I lived for a long time near Whitechapel, in London, so I know from garment districts and this is a huge one, though nowhere did I see a billboard as clever as the one on the Mile End Road which said (over an establishment called Sheldon):
She'll don a Sheldon style!
I used to queue for a bus near that sign and I read it in increasing astonishment every day for years. Yay, London wins.
Fast forward twenty years to LA, again: We walked to a café called the Blu LA, a little slice of up-and-coming yuppiness in a very leveled-off area. Had a lovely Panini with grilled salmon and salad vinaigrette, along with a pot of café-press. They were playing either Oasis or Pulp or Blur (I'm congenitally unable to tell them apart due to a chromosomal abnormality involving, I believe, a translocation on 13, which a lot of people must have, as a lot of people have said the same to me.) I used the yuppie bathroom – hadn't had a pee since 8am and it was now 4pm. There was a low flow toilet but the faucet was full-flow without automatic cut-off, which I'm surprised people can still get planning permission for. Even more excitingly, the faucet was a willowy designer thing about a foot tall, which meant that a carelessly angled hand could cause a stream of water to splash over your crotch, which of course it did. The walls were filled with art, as cafés do by tradition, and this art was interesting in that it wasn't very good, which happens to be STB's and my favorite sort of art, so we had a great time. We are connoisseurs of the less-than-adequate, though we are more used to paying $15 at the thrift store than $750 at the café and left without buying any.

On the way back, we discovered the real Third Man Records, the yellow one. Inside was almost empty, the day's stock having mostly sold out. I bought three poster-sized Treat Me Like Your Mother pictures – the ones I've called lobby cards before now. I love those. They were basically giveaways at $5 each.
By the time we got to the car, my feet had broken out in blisters and I knew I was already dehydrated and not really doing the best for myself. I changed boots, changed t shirt, combed the quills back into hair (losing a handful in the process) and then we zipped round to the Mayan, which was only a couple of miles away from TMRW. The smoke had died down by then and LA was heading for the Golden Hour, the beautiful gold sunshine as the sun starts to set which made the films shot here so much more attractive than those shot in Elstree or other British and even American studios – the foundation of the success of Hollywood.
We stopped in a parking lot where you memorize the number of your parking space, go to a set of slots in a tin wall and feed $5 into the slot with the same number as your parking space. Somehow this magically gives you the right to park in it, even though it's pretty clear the $5 doesn't go into a box, and even if it did, how would anyone know if it were you that had posted the $5? STB gamely tried to sleep in the car but I dragged him off to astonishingly long line of five people thronging the Mayan and we lined up in the lovely golden glow. He worked on his laptop while I chatted to a man in purple clothes who knew every single thing about music I did and a lot more too. He even knew every Jimmy Page story ever promulgated so we spent quite some time setting them all up and then delivering each other's punchlines like two comedians with the same material meeting in a bar. We chatted for hours – literally. When we were in the show he told me his first record (though he feels it doesn't quite have the right impact in retrospect) was KISS' Alive – meaning he's a little younger than I am. A drummer, he said. Nice guy, one of those happy meeting-in-line accidents.

For quite some time there were more security guards than fans. Tens of 'em, their motorcycles and their cars and their take-out food cartons. They all wore very uncomfortable-looking handcuffs. Not wore them on their wrists, you understand, on their belts, for using on us. It looked like a handy loop to cuff them to a fence if needed, I thought. The person next to us, after queuing for three hours, was suddenly sent to the will-call line and we despaired of her keeping her place in line – but lo, she was issued a ticket and we let her back into the head of the line again. She said, "They gave me two – what should I do with the other one?" Turned out she'd won the ticket in a competition. "Give it to the dudes looking for tickets," one of us said, and she did, ducking under the rope to hand out her ticket and ducking back in again. "I made his day," she said. Yep, that'll come back to her threefold, as they say. It was a sold out show and that was a lucky kid. It took a while for the hum of expectation to come up to normal So Cal volumes but when it did, even STB woke up. (He'd been sleeping on the sidewalk, quite oblivious to things.) By this time my face was muddy with a combination of powder, suntan lotion and sweat and my hands were filthy from scooting around on the concrete trying to keep comfortable. I felt like a festival-goer except in some bizarro world of my own, where festivals are in the desert and not in the mud.

The Mayan is bizarre in itself. Decorated inside and out as a Mayan temple, it looks like something La Raza or the Reconquistas put together to celebrate the Indian/Mexican heritage of So Cal. Actually, it's just a cinema. The decoration just looked more exotic than all those Egyptian Theaters that sprung up in the Twenties, I suppose.Still, inside you can't help wondering where all the blood runs from the sacrifices. Or where the sacred cenote is for drowning the maidens. STB said he'd heard several people remark it must make for an interesting trip. For my part, apart from nasty dehydration, I was nowhere near a trippy frame of mind. Third in line by the time I went in, with the folks who got early entry through The Vault ahead of us, I was 23rd, which meant second row, almost dead center. I couldn't believe it that the person in front of me was the Egyptian Queen I saw at the last Dead Weather show in June at the Roxy. I asked her about the time Alison touched her head.
"She touched me twice!" she said.
"Was she losing her balance on the monitor or did she just want to, like, touch you?"
"The first time I thought she was losing her balance. The second time….[pause]"
"She just wanted to touch you."
Her mother (I think, please don't hit me if you're reading this and you're her sister) said, "I told her Alison had anointed her into rock and roll." (The Egyptian Queen is a guitarist, I think.) "She has to go and use that talent now."
I told her it looked so cool live, with her beautiful clothes and great makeup, to see Alison tower over here and place her hand on the top of her head - and it had looked just as good on the videos. She smiled, regally.

STB had gone off to buy me a skull bride poster, and couldn't make it back to the front through the crowd. Oh wells. Now I was on my own.

The first band on was the horrendous Tyvek. I'm told if you can't say anything nice don't say anything, but I've got to say something. They sounded like someone had got all the second tier British punk bands of 1977, starting from say Eater on down, put them in a really loud metal box (not PIL's Metal Box, a sucky metal box) and pushed them down an endless flight of amplified stairs. They'd introduce a song and it would go RAH RAH RAH RAH and then another which went BANG BANG BANG BANG and then another one that went SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH, all pegging the meters at the top end, everything turned up to 11. It was so loud (with so little point) that the earplugs I had weren't adequate and like many people I tried putting my fingers in my ears and then when that didn't work, covering my head with my arms and hoping it stopped before I died of it. Couldn't leave, of course, or I'd never get my place back at the front. Cute 14 year old girl (it looked like) on huge bass, good with it, a Ph.D in Magnetohydrodynamics-lookalike on feedback, effects and shouting, and a man in pastel pajamas on drums, standing up to play them and hitting them so hard they started to disintegrate under the assault. Eventually they went away and I threw out a few layers of earplugs.

Efficient hat-wearing roadies brought out The Dead Weather's instruments as Tyvek dealt with their own equipment. As usual, the band came on to the sound of Captain Beefheart's Sure Nuff 'n Yes I Do. They filed on looking mean and angry, Jack White carrying a bottle of champagne and occasionally drinking from it. This is a good trick – me being used to real rock stars, my standard for upending the bottle and drinking from it is of course the classic picture of Jimmy Page emptying a bottle of Jack Daniels down his gullet.

The new slant on the old angle is the champagne, which is in a different class of rock and roll from JD, and also, when you think about it, much harder to drink from an upended bottle due to the fizz factor. This suggests long familiarity with the technique. (Although, when he came to the front to sing I couldn't tell if he was 'emoting' like a silent film star or about to throw up – if the latter, then I guess familiarity with the technique was insufficient to overcome the inherent issues with rock'n'roll champagne drinking.) As he walked on he appeared very, very drunk, though I suspect "appeared" is all it was. The band silently got their instruments and led off into - whatever the first song was. By this time I was beyond taking notes and the crowd was rowdy and eager for their direct injection dose of dirty music.

What can I say about the actual performance? There's no point in writing about it. If words did it, people would always write and rarely play, because it's surely easier to write. The communion at a show is something that happens between you and the band and to a lesser extent the people around you. It doesn't last and can't be preserved or brought back. Thoughts of hurting feet disappeared, my gratefulness at The Egyptian Queen and companion being only about five feet tall became eternal. I had an unobstructed view, about ten feet from the stage and it was as though the band were playing for me alone. The crowd went wild – wilder than any LA audience I've ever seen. I haven't heard screams like that since my own teenybopper days. The band played their album tracks and two new ones – the poppy and very lovely Jawbreaker, and New One Number Two – this one –

Alison prowled the monitors like a creature formed from pure amplification, a waveform manifested as a woman. She held the mike cord tight against her crotch and it seemed right, as though she were the anti-Robert Plant, small, female, all raven hair, waning moonlight and complete lack of interest in remembering such a transient and meaningless thing as laughter. Little Jack thrashed, Dean threw his rock star shapes like Anglo Saxon attitudes and Jack White led from the back. (My June doubts about his ability to lead the band through the time changes were wiped out – he's good, and they've really gelled.) Alison and Jack White doubled down on the badass vibe, fighting over things – at one point she went behind the kit to mess with Jack White and ended up in a shoving match – and trading off visual leadership duties. One suspects Alison's effortless ability to hold the metaphorical spotlight (there were no real spotlights) might be grating on Jack a little and I can only hope the play-fighting stays that way. Both of them look like they could do real damage if genuinely angry, as if two tigers on Vaseline were to unsheathe their claws and really snarl. At one point, Alison was drinking water and fuming over something when she turned and pitched the water bottle so hard at the backdrop I heard it hit, over the band's sound – the whole thing rippled. And that was a deep stage. And it hit on the beat too. Having picked fifty holes in the lower hem of her long t shirt, Alison has turned to a ladylike version of the crotch grab as something to do with her fingers when she's bored (and she gets bored easily). I thought I might be seeing things so I checked this with STB when we finally reunited, and he confirmed it. He also said, "And I saw the microphone disappear a few times, too." She was shoving the microphone in her pocket. At least I can clear *that* misconception up. Occasionally she stopped and picked hair out of her mouth. Occupational hazard.

One major treat: Bone House begins with the sound of a cheesy, cheap rhythm-machine beat – pom-boppi-tik-tik, pom-boppy-tik-tik – and then the keyboard riff comes in like a hurricane. Tonight, it didn't. Not being a licensed repair musician, I couldn't tell you if Dean was unable to set it up, or whether he just changed it for reasons of his own. Either way, he played around with this for half a minute and then Jack White suddenly surged up from behind his kit, grabbed his own guitar and soloed over the rhythm machine. Entirely unexpected and as far as I can tell completely improvised, it was a treat to hear one of the world's greatest rock guitarists come out and play some rock guitar. It was an atonal, screaming mess and was quite wonderful.

This YouTuber has captured the last part of it, as Jack finishes and the band are ready to go into Bone House at last.

Here's my video of it. Warning: Turn the sound right down. Cellphones at ten feet from the stage are not the best at compensating. And I didn't capture the first part, because I didn't know it was going to happen.

Coming to the front to play showed off Jack White's nice form-fitting superhero-style t shirt and really well-fitting jeans. The whole band was a visual treat tonight, in fact. It's interesting how a black uniform can still show individual styles, and all of them looked good enough to eat. Not that I can prove it with a cellphone photo.

The crowd got rowdier and rowdier and after a while I was getting pushed into the people in front of me, who were against the barrier. Getting shoved against a metal rail can't be fun. I braced both hands on the rail, arms around the person in front of me, and even the men in the row behind me started to grab on the rail to try to keep the moshers from knocking us over. The crowd managed to keep this up to the slowest song ever written, Will There Be Enough Water. Astonishing. People were shouting at Jack White during the slow-building solo, apparently expecting rawk. As if Jack would look up and say, "Fuck it, you're right, dudes. Let's play Seven Nation Army instead! One two three four!" He didn't. He continued to play the heartfelt bluesy guitar solo, in the zone and not hearing anyone else. Little Jack took up the drums for the occasion, hair blowing in the breeze from Jack White's drumseat fan like a supermodel's in a music video. (Jack White's curly hair does not blow in the breeze.) STB said Jack White probably docked Little Jack's pay for that bit of showing off. Hee. Little Jack didn't just fill in, but made the drum part his own this time. Very nice.

You might think this amount of cheery drunk screaming and pushing would annoy Jack – it annoyed Alison, who stood on a monitor and stared at them one time as if memorizing their faces for the next batch on her witchy shitlist to be voodooed into an unpleasant doom, but in contrast Jack stood up at one point and gestured to some people in the balcony and said, "Hey, I can see you there RCA Records! LA's not dead - I've proved it!" At which the LA crowd predictably cheered itself loudly. "Yay! Jack White says I'm not dead! Perhaps I'm not! O Happy Day!" I have no idea what throwdown RCA's staff had given Jack but I guess he'd showed them. (I remember Them Crooked Vultures saying something to the effect on stage, "I chose you Chicago [or wherever TF it was] because I'd never choose LA!" and then making wanking motions. It appears we have a rep. Oh well, I'm from Orange County anyway. We surf and have civilized drugs in OC and only call LA home when Jack White's saying how wonderful we are.)

The Dead Weather played a full set of encores after having made us wait for it, which I don't think LA is used to – it seemed to be necessary to encourage the audience to encourage the band to come out again. Jack knocked over everything he could reach on the way to his drum kit apparently close to spitting with anger. More image manipulation? But the encores were superb – they seem to retain boundless bolts of energy for these and brought up the excitement another couple of notches. And then they bowed and were gone.

STB gave me my poster, uncrushed. My feet no longer hurt. What a great day.

Edit: Here's another blogger's take. We Like A Show

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It Did Get Loud

The Dead Weather at the Mayan, August 26th, was the main course of my gig-hopping day. It was wonderful indeed but since it's two-thirty in the morning, here's a few crappy cellphone pictures; I'll leave the gushing until the morrow.

Leaving the Third Man West pop-up store show at the Regent in the morning, in the lobby I photographed a framed copy of tonight's limited edition poster. Since it's in glass, visible behind the smiling bride is a reflection of all of us going toward the light. It's a bit like the Disneyland Haunted House holograms* except it's scary.

The Mayan Theater is a work of art in itself. One wonders what the builders were on, and whether, or weather, it's still available. After having a good look at the interior I decided it might have been Toluene, so on second thoughts, maybe we don't want to do that.

Thanks to the band, their staff and road crew - it was a good day.

Two YouTube videos of the night:

*Yes, I know. A Pepper's Ghost is not a hologram.

(Edited because Photobucket decided to charge me $400/yr to access my own photos and I said no. 07/2017)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

LA is burning, but I - live by the ocean

Brief review of The Dead Weather at Third Man, August 26th 2009.

We drove into Los Angeles today to see The Dead Weather tonight at the Mayan. While we were here, we thought we'd take in a band at mid-day as well, and as luck would have it, The Dead Weather were playing at lunchtime at Third Man Records West, the LA pop-up store that opened today. So we thought it would be a refreshing contrast to see The Dead Weather before we went off the two miles or so to the Mayan to see The Dead Weather.

LA was unusually smoggy - you could see a layer of brown just a few hundred feet above the ground. After a while it occurred to me it was actually smoke and the San Gabriel mountains were on fire. This seemed to be business as usual for the LA people, none of whom seemed to have noticed the smoke until I asked where the fire was.

I got in line at about 10 am and stood in the August Southern California sun for two hours until I was called forward (as a Vault member) to go inside to the front of the line. By that time, I felt I had adequately betrayed my dermatologist's instructions to avoid sun exposure, and in fact was feeling quite woozy with it. I did manage to get a bottle of water from a water seller, who only charged me 96c, because that's all I had. That's LA for you - you have to be pretty slow to get ripped off. Everyone is naturally nice.

The Dead Weather, of course, were awesome, with an abbreviated set that included the new number, Jawbreaker - a sort of late-period Marc Bolan tune with a thunderous British Invasion riff driven by Little Jack on bass - I Cut Like a Buffalo, Forever My Queen and the one about the gecko. (I can never remember what it's called but I sing the chorus to my geckos. It goes, "You gotta get up, gecko, I said no. You got to get up, gecko." They don't listen. This was my first chance to sing it back to Alison Mosshart, who didn't listen either. ) A couple of other tracks too - five or six in all.

Excellent show, typically cool (in attitude, in body quite feverishly hot) LA crowd, of course. Loved Alison, who sang powerfully and was totally in-charge. Dean Fertita has come a long way since I saw them in June when I said he had charisma but did not know where the on-switch was - well, he's found it. Little Jack laid down his usual strong foundation, and Jack White was Jack White - and significantly better at keeping the band together than he was in June. He's looking magnificent, too. Long curly raven hair and built like... a buffalo, I guess.

Sounded absolutely great and was a wonderful appetizer for the main band tonight, which will be The Dead Weather.

Other review/pics.
Excellent pics from Stereogum, including Bizarro White Stripes and a lovely shot of the back of my head (picture 31).

More to come and possibly pictures later when I'm not posting from a Starbucks. (Which has just started playing Dave and Ansell Collins' Double Barrel -the first record I ever bought. Excuse me while I go dance!) [Edited to add these]

Saturday, August 22, 2009

60 Feet Tall, getting taller

What can I add to this video? You know my love for Baby Ruthless, and here's the video that might make it all clear. Watch this frontwoman and tell me she's not the best one working in rock right now. The cameraman (or woman), one Badrocket, must still be dreaming about capturing this. Or having nightmares, depending on his or her constitution.

It's The Dead Weather playing 60 Feet Tall live at The Depot in Salt Lake City.

If you really don't have time to watch the whole thing, do check out 2:00 to 2:36 and be amazed at La Mosshart.

I guess her dentition's changed since she filmed the video for The Kills' Black Balloon. Or August 18th wasn't a full moon or whatever it is. (Never was clear on the difference between vampires and werewolves.)

Excellent camera for the SLC video. In that variable light, it stays in focus between 20 feet and about 0.25 inches. I want one. I wonder what it is?

Thank you Badrocket.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stormy Blues, Robert Plant

I have all the Led Zeppelin, that's a lie, I don't have Coda...and more than a hundred bootlegs, but I have never heard this track before tonight.

Gorgeous, isn't it? It's easy to forget what a glorious voice Robert Plant had. Noisy and filled with the blues. I forgot his birthday a couple of days ago too. Happy Birthday Robert.

Argenteum Astrum, the premiere bootleg listing, says this is from a boot called "Differently Mixed Coda", and was possibly being considered for inclusion on Led Zeppelin II. It didn't make it, but I'm glad I found it at last. Good old YouTube.

Edit: Commenter Zepette says, "This actually isn't a Led Zeppelin tune, but a Robert Plant and Alexis Korner song recorded prior to Zeppelin. The song is called "operator" and can be found on Alexis Korner's album : "bootleg him". Planty was but a teenager when this was recorded."

Thank you. It's also on Robert Plant's album "sixty six to timbuktu".

Healthcare news, some of it not so new.

A gruesome little article lets us know that Medical Students have always had the same sense of humor. It's a series of photos of human dissections, some which were issued as postcards.

It's from Discover's The Creepy World of Human Dissection.

I liked this one from their photoset - they're all dressed up for a garden party, with their friend being dissected al fresco. (I always wondered about ol' Al.)

Discover's caption says the guy sitting on a bucket is "the janitor". In a sense yes, but I suspect he was a member of that awesome tribe, The Dieners, which is much cooler. This word is from the German, meaning servant, and is the shorted form of Leichendiener, which means Corpse Servant. I know a lot of pathologists and they all have tales about their hospital's Diener. One imagines that they are all clones of the same person, like Igors are in Terry Pratchett novels.

While we are on healthcare, here's another horror story about Socialized Medicine and its awful cost-cutting Nazi ways. Le Treatment from the NY Times. It appears an American got sick in France. After a few hours and a battery of tests he was released with antibiotics, a diagnosis of pneumonia and a bill for $220 (because he is not a citizen). These dreadful tales are mounting up. Found from More Words Deeper Hole (again) and the comments there have several more examples of this unAmerican way of doing things.

It Means Strength

When I need to post something, whether it's a credit card number or just a remark saying "First!" in a comments section, I often have to type in the letters or numbers of a Captcha. This is the wiggly word used to verify that a human, not a robot, is requesting to post something to a website. Some of them are drawings made to look like letters, some of them are words that couldn't be read when a company was digitizing a book using OCR (sending the word to a human to be read is quicker than getting an employee to thumb through the book and correct them). Whatever, I can't always read them, and luckily the bank/auction site/blogger with inflated sense of importance always gives you several tries to read them.

The idea is that an automated system can't read them., and so a botnet trying to use your credit card to buy uranium on the world market would not be able to do so. (Assuming uranium ore dealers use Captchas, of course.) Only a human being with cognitive skills can figure out what letters and numbers are in it. That makes them a type of Turing Test, and in fact the originators tend to claim that CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart".

Anyway, that was a long introduction to say: Hey, I thought this was pretty funny.

From Weaselking via More Words Deeper Hole.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jimi Hendrix Bio Pic Planned

OMG, maybe blog correspondent Casey is right.

Jimi Hendrix Bio-Pic On The Way -

With the Woodstock 40th anni in the spotlight this year, Legendary Pictures is mounting a feature film about Jimi Hendrix, whose perf of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was a seminal moment of the original 1969 fest.
Legendary topper Thomas Tull would produce the pic with Bill Gerber.
Thomas Tull is a producer of Davis Guggenheim's you-know-what.
The project is Tull’s second homage to guitar gods, after he conceived and produced “It Might Get Loud,” the recently released Sony Classics doc that features Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s the Edge and Jack White of the White Stripes.
Casey said of Guggenheim he was a "yuppie rock tourist with no depth of understanding of his subjects. It seemed like a movie made by a bored millionaire who's first real "connection" to Zep happened at O2."

Any idiot who wants to make a biopic of Jimi Hendrix fits that description pretty closely, so maybe the problem was Tull, not Guggenheim.

Wait, no, stop press. It was Guggenheim after all. In this interview about It Might Get Loud, he says, "And culture's always changing. Before Zeppelin there were just pretty boy pop bands. [Page] made it much more live and aggressive.

Methinks Guggenheim has misunderstood the distribution of bands in the sixties. (Led Zeppelin formed in 1968.) Perhaps familiarity with The Monkees has wiped out all knowledge of say, The Stooges (1967) or The Velvet Underground (1965). Or Jimi Hendrix, he of the putative biopic. Bob Dylan for christ's sake. Cream. The Jeff Beck Group. Or the several hundred groups hailing from places as far apart as Ladbroke Grove, New York, Detroit and California who were not pretty boy pop bands.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Revolution has been televised

Each year Beloit College publishes a list that gives you insight into the mindset of the new students entering college this fall. It's a list of things that have always been true for people of this age. Examples:

Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
There have always been flat screen televisions.
Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.

Every year, of course, the students get a little more alien to me as their experience covers a shorter and shorter fraction of my own. That's not just an old person's whine, it's the point of publishing the list in the first place.

Here's the list for people entering this year.

Most of them I don't care about - I wasn't born in the States and don't give a damn about the Jolly Green Giant dropping out of the pop culture, or that for these students, salsa has always outsold ketchup. I never had ketchup before I came here, apart from the original Indonesian version, kecap...which I now can't get because I live in a backwater, i.e. southern California.

I cared that for them, Magic Johnson has always been HIV-positive, because his press conference to declare himself so hit me like a brick. And "Women have always outnumbered men in college" seems weird to me.

But what struck me was number 36.

We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.

Three reasons for that.

First, isn't that weird? Yes, I know that's the point.

Second, how do we know the camera crew is telling the truth? The helicopters feed their video back to editing suites where some guy makes decisions on when and where to cut and decontextualize.

Third, it was a canon of the generation just before mine, the real Baby Boomers, or Hippies as we called them, that real social action did not take place on camera. This is the Gil Scott Heron song that embodies this tenet.

The student year 2026 will see a significant change in this respect. YouTube was unleashed in 2005. Students born that year will always have been able to watch footage shot by ordinary people on their cellphones and uploaded for free. It will be absolutely normal to them to see things on video that have never been approved by a paid editor, spun, politicized or paid for by advertising. Then the revolution will be televised indeed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In which I talk about bands and movies

I had my hair cut today and the stylist and I talked, as one does, about the last movies we saw. She told me about The Hurt Locker (sounds interesting). I told her about It Might Get Loud and she took off like a rocket. She loves Jack White! She loves Jimmy Page! So she'll go see it tonight, hopefully.

It did well over the weekend. Indiewire reports:
Davis Guggenheim’s “It Might Get Loud” topped all specialty openers this weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon. The doc - which features rare on-the-road discussions with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White - grossed $101,078 from its 7 initial screens. That made for a promising $14,439 average, the third highest for a specialty doc so far this year (after “Valentino: The Last Emperor” and “Food, Inc,” which notably opened on just 1 and 3 screens, respectively). Sony Pictures Classics will expand the film in the coming weeks as it attempts to become the distributor’s top 2009 doc, a title currently held by “Every Little Step,” which averaged $8,563 from 8 theaters in its opening weekend, but held on to gross $1,684,591.

That's promising.

Jimmy Page went to see U2 at Wembley last week (Ross Halfin, 15th August) and apparently hung around for The Edge's birthday party. Nice to hear about him getting outside his house for once and particularly without his shadow, the aforementioned Ross, hanging around scowling at all comers. Maybe this independence marks some sort of determination to engage the world again? The Sun seems to think so, but then The Sun never struck me as a paper that had the slightest idea.

Jack White's brother is in a band, Tin Knocker, with Jack's old bandmate in the Upholsterers, Brian Muldoon. I did not know that. Young but promising blog Walking Candy Store told me.

I can see and hear the resemblance.

Cracked Magazine has a piece on Indie bands. How to recognize Indie, how to see enough Indie bands to be a hipster and how to pick up Indie chicks. I'm currently memorizing the flow charts because I'm going to San Diego's Street Scene on August 28th and I've never heard of anybody on the bill apart from Public Enemy (who blew away U2 when I saw them both about 4,000 years ago on the Zooropa tour) and The Dead Weather, who blew me away about five minutes ago on their tour supporting Horehound (which came out about five minutes ago). The idea of The Dead Weather billing above Public Enemy seems weird to me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Getty Center

We went to visit the Getty Center on Saturday. It's been open 12 years, so it was about time we stirred ourselves to drive the 70 or so miles to go see it.

I've been past it many times. I work way south of it, but my company has three business units to the north of it, and I have had to drive there via the I-405, as I may have mentioned a dozen or so times on this blog.

This is the 405 heading north past the Getty. It's a typical California freeway heading up through the hills towards the baking northlands. You can see part of the stone facade of the Getty in the frame.

And here's the 405 heading south. The tall buildings are Santa Monica, Westwood etc. (LA for all intents and purposes). It's actually very sunny but the camera scrunched itself down to get an overall picture.

This is the tall bit of LA that's near the 405 again. The actual city center is much smaller and more willowy and is off in the smog haze to the east (left).

The actual art at the Getty was a little disappointing but then we both lived in London for many years so we're spoiled. Compared with the average density of culture in LA, the Getty is a little neutron star of activity. We learned how to do bronze casting (which I already knew, but it was a nice refresher), and how to apply color to a polychrome figure (which was new to me). They used a pounce pouch to transfer designs through a pricked stencil, which would never have occurred to me. (I thought they were used to prepare surfaces with chalk.) We also saw a lot of Impressionist paintings and French drawing room furniture. I preferred LACMA, which we visited a couple of years ago.

The Getty is a beautiful building with some clever water features and we spent several happy hours there. The food at the sit down restaurant was lovely and although the flier was filled with subtle warnings about how expensive it was going to be, it came to $50 for two including tip, which is considerably less than we'd spend on food for a day at Disneyland. Though at Disneyland, we could have thrown in a Churro each for that price.

We also bought out the entire stock of the gift shop, or so it seemed. It's the only reasonably priced museum gift shop I've ever been in. The man who served me had extensive tattoos and plugs in his earlobes and he was helped by a much older guy who was remarkably polite in the Southern California tradition. This second guy gave me a reusable free bag advertising the Getty Villa, which he carefully put in a paper bag with my purchases. You couldn't possibly be seen using your new bag to carry things in. It's just not done. I know this because I have bought many bags in So Cal and every time they've put the bag in a bag so I can get it home safely with its baggitude intact.

In the sculpture garden they have about seven sculptures. Was taken with this one, which is a nightshirt. If this is what Robert Plant was singing about in Custard Pie when he said, "Put on your night shirt Mama, and your morning gown - well, you know by night I'm gonna shake 'em on down," you can see that shaking it on down could be quite a task as it's hung on cables.

We listened to The Kills' No Wow on the journey.

Not the song, the CD. The CD lasted just about the two hours total traveling time as it took about an hour and a half to get the plastic seal off the jewel case. We decided the biggest difference between The Kills and The Dead Weather is Jamie Hince tends to agree with Alison Mosshart (i.e. sing the same words) but Jack White disagrees with her (sings a second person's lyrical part with its own viewpoint). The Kills are really easy on the ears (and eyes) and get straight into a groove. The Dead Weather have that narrative thing going, conflict.

Conflict is the first principle of a successful screenplay. Never have two people in the same scene who want the same thing. The active listening and the active comparing of the relative merits of the singers' points of view requires more from the listener, which makes you feel a part of the creation of the work rather than a consumer. Though sometimes you just do want to get into a groove, particularly when driving a freeway.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It Might Get Loud Again

Tonight was the opening night of It Might Get Loud, and I went to see it at the only Orange County (CA) theater showing it this week, a tiny screen in the University of Irvine grounds. Fortuitously, school is out, so it wasn't sold out.

It didn't get loud. The sound barely broke 80 dB. Luckily most of the audience was reverentially silent. Someone breathing too loud might have ruined the film. We had to eat popcorn quietly, which is always a bummer. But, we can't always get what we want ((c) Mick Jagger) and so we'll take what we get.

I still love the film, but I have to point out the following:

This man is not "Blind Gary Davis". He has a title. He's the Reverend Gary Davis.

This, presented as Jimmy's first guitar-love in the movie, is not a "strat" for goodness' sake. It's a Grazioso.

The video of this (nice video!) and these stills were not taken at Headley Grange during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV in 1970. They were taken at Stargroves, Mick Jagger's home, in 1972.

(Copyright Kramer Archives Inc. - original appears at his website here)

Setting up Jimmy Page as bored with being a studio musician, fed up with playing "muzak" on sessions and zing! flash-cutting straight to Jimmy playing this astounding monster riff with the Yardbirds would have worked much better if this was Jimmy Page playing an astounding monster riff. It's actually Jimmy Page miming Jeff Beck's astounding monster riff for TV. Jeff had recently left the Yardies and Jimmy was left to promote the track.

Always loved this song. How could you dislike a song that begins "Sick at heart and lonely, deep in dark despair"?

It Might Get Loud has the color version of this clip, which is not available on YouTube. I have it somewhere on a VHS but not alas on my computer.

Once again I loved the difference between the brash American Jack White, the soft-spoken Irish gentleman Edge and erudite English gentleman Page. I liked the way the two blues players had so much in common and felt for poor Edge, rather left out of it, particularly slide playing, because it's just not his thing. I noticed for the first time that Jimmy can do everything Jack can do - feel the music deep down, play the blues and use every analog recording trick known to mankind, and can also do pretty much everything the Edge can do, in terms of production, bigged-up stadium sounds, and effects. I also get the feeling that Jimmy Page can play scales whereas the other two would boggle at the concept. I wonder if he gives lessons?

This time round it was clear how much Davis Guggenheim had cut the film to contrast the players. Each one would explain what he was rebelling against and then the film cuts to one of the others doing exactly that thing. It's strongest when the Edge eulogizes the beauty of technology and how he strives to find his 'voice' using it, which is friskily cross-cut with Jack White grumpily dumping on the entire concept of technological innovation. In the famous "build your own electric diddley-bow" scene (below), my partner said, "You don't need a guitar. All you need is a plank of wood, some baling wire, a coke bottle -- and a coil-wound magnet, electrical lead, amplifier, speaker and electricity." Yep.

As White writes a song on camera, plays and records it, we added, "And a microphone and a reel to reel tape recorder".

The best bit is still this- Jimmy just bursting with love for rock and roll music, laughing and playing air guitar, here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Porn, violence against women and racing hearts

The porn industry's newspaper of record, the LA Times, has a piece on yep, how the internet is killing the porn industry. The easy availability of pirated material and the increasing amounts of free, amateur porn is cutting into one of LA county's biggest industries.

That must suck - so to speak - as music, film and writing are major LA industries and have all been hit heavily by the new paradigm, and now porn, a huge employer around here, is going the same way.
Business managers for ... two of the industry's biggest stars, said their clients were using their celebrity to make money in other ways, like dancing in exotic clubs and licensing their name to sex toys and lingerie."The economy has forced us to look in other directions such as tangible goods," said Evan Seinfeld
Where have I heard that word "tangible" from a musician desperate to get some paying product out to customers in this day of free, pirated music? Oh, yeah. Jack White.

LA Times article Tough Times in the Porn Industry here.

At the gym yesterday (listening to English Freakbeat volume 3) I chose a non-Fox TV to run endlessly towards, and ended up watching some dreadful police procedural where the cynical cops in their incident rooms had 24 hours to find a bad guy before a missing woman was raped and carved up by some freak. (I'm not a lip-reader - the subtitles were on.) The profiler explained why the bad guy hated women so much. His mother must have been violent and controlling. Not his father? asks one of the cops. No, to hate women that much, he must have had an evil mother, said the profiler.

I thought blaming women for violence against women had gone out in like, the seventies, but I guess I was too optimistic. Here it was dropped casually into a TV show like everybody knows it's true. If women would just shape up and be nice to men, there wouldn't be any violence against women. Hear that, sisters? Get with the program.

Gunman was bitter over women article here.

An American SF writer tells of his deadly brush with socialized medicine and its attendant Death Panels, rationing and weeks-long waiting lists. His heart started racing while he was in Canada, so he went to a cardiac hospital with an ER. The evil, socialist result? He had the full battery of expensive tests done immediately, was given an all-clear, received lifestyle and stress counseling, and was handed a bill for $480 (because he was not a Canadian citizen), which he paid. Sounds awful and I hope we don't end up with this scary Nazi scheme in our God-given country.

Tobias Buckell's unanticipated personal encounter with the Canadian health system here.


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