Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Talented Friends: Part Three

Welcome to part three of the "My Talented Friends" series! Today I will tell you about Rachel Lynn Sebastian.  You may remember Rachel from my Starry, Starry Night post.

Rachel is my opposite in almost every way.  She is upbeat and optimistic.  My nickname is Worst-Case-Scenario Girl.  Rachel is a focused and driven musician who works seemingly unabated toward her goals.  I gave up on music after a couple bookers were mean to me.  She is spiritual.  I cringe at the word "hallelujah."  She is open.  I am certified in masonry (the wall-building type, not the Grand Lodge type).

Perhaps because she is so opposite, I am very grateful to know her.  I learn something from Rachel every time I see her.  And I love it.  Her joie de vivre is nothing short of inspiring.

Sunday night Dan and I went to see Rachel perform at the Room 5 Lounge.

The intimate atmosphere was a perfect setting for her engaging style.  She performed with transparency and unrestrained emotion to the packed room - even inviting us to sing along - which of course made me very uncomfortable.  Someone is reaching out to me?  Avoid!  Protect! 

Now, Rachel is not all bubbles and sunshine.  She performed her song 'Don't Touch Me' with fierceness and even anger, but she seems to have mastered the art of channeling life's kicks into song and weeding the effects of those kicks out of everyday life.  

As Rachel mentioned in the above video, she wrote that song in Korea.  And speaking of Korea, here is a video of Rachel rocking a cover while there. I have watched it about 10 times already.  This girl  embodies a daring charisma on stage that I can only dream of harnessing. 

You can check out more of her music here.  Rachel also teaches voice and performance.  If you are interested, check our her website here.

So, here's hoping that some of Rachel will rub off on me.  Cheers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Change of Direction

I was supposed to do something today.  Hmmm.  What was it?  Oh, yeah... I was supposed to write reviews of all the wonderful bands I saw at the Sunset Junction Music Festival.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to do that because the city decided to shut it down.  In an effort to avoid developing an ulcer by writing a second potentially controversial post about the festival, I will change direction and write a review of a different kind.

To fill the emptiness left behind by the festival cancellation, I spent my weekend eating.  Lots and lots of eating.  So, I have decided to review the weekend's favorite: Cafe Beaujolais.

I went to to this French restaurant for a bridal shower/bachelorette party for my friend Tara.  This is where I should insert a photo from the party, but I didn't bring my camera.  And you know that means that I won't have any pictures of the food either. Bad blogger.  Bad, bad blogger.

The first noteworthy item about Cafe Beaujolais is its location.  It lies in an unassuming, unremarkable area of Eagle Rock just down the road from a Target.  The second noteworthy item would have to be the attentive and charming waiters (and owners?).  They are all very handsome, slightly-scruffed Frenchmen wearing t-shirts and jeans.  You can't go wrong with some scruff and an accent.   However, one guy's accent was a little dubious - it seemed to switch from Irish to German to French and back again.  When I told Dan about this he said the guy could have been from Switzerland.  Maybe.  Or he just knows that American gals dig foreign accents.  Either way, I'm not complaining.

Now to the food.  The glorious, glorious food.  We started with herbed goat cheese crustini and escargot.  The escargot was swimming (metaphorically) in a finger-licking (not metaphorically) garlic and butter sauce.  The next time I go I could order only the escargot, a bottle of wine, and endless baskets of bread for dipping in that divine sauce.  Well, I might be able to do that if I were not already planning to order the duck... and the lamb... and the trout...

Eating escargot always makes me a little nostalgic. When I was a kid living on the coast of Maine, my parents would take my brother and me periwinkle hunting.  Periwinkles are small, edible snails that live on the rocks underneath seaweed in cold water tide pools.  My mom would boil them in the ocean water then we would pry them out of their shells, dip them in melted butter, and chow down.

At a friend's suggestion, I ordered the halibut for my entree.  To quote my own Facebook status: "Holy Halibut, Batman!"  It came parmesan-crusted on a silky, creamy champagne sauce.  It was topped with a surprising, but delicious candied orange rind garnish.  Accompanying the heavenly halibut were carrots and perfectly tender asparagus spears.  Over-cooked asparagus is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Now, I did neglect to bring my camera, but I stole a few photos from Cafe Beaujoiais' Facebook page.
{ Told ya! }

{ They charm all the ladies. }

The overall experience of Cafe Beaujolais is fine dining on your plate and casual charm everywhere else. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Heart Street Art

Welcome to the third edition of I Y Fridays! I thought about titling this post "I Heart Graffiti."  I didn't because I don't.  Well, I don't Y all graffiti.  The gang tag on a couch that someone left on the curb outside my apartment - I don't that.  However, there are a lot of talented graffiti artists out there that really do produce some great public art.

Dan and I drove around the city yesterday to take some photos of our favorite street art.    Or rather, Dan drove me around and waited in our illegally parked car while I jumped out to snap some shots.  We didn't start until 4pm, so the traffic and the setting sun were not in our favor.

Two disclaimers: 1) The photos below represent only a small fraction of the beautiful and thought-provoking street art throughout LA.  2) Although I love street art, I am hardly an authority, so I don't have artist information for all of the photos.  Sorry.

This is the Skee.TV headquarters building which is about a half block from my apartment.

{ by Aaron Axelrod }
 I saw the work below for the first time today.  It made me think of my Inspiration vs. Imitation post.  Here again is the Campbell's soup can.  I like the treatment, though.  It's fun!

{ by Mr. Brainwash }

Apparently the work below resulted from Perez Hilton posting a photo on his gossip blog of a piece by Common Cent$, but attributing it to Bansky. Of course, this is just a rumor, but any rumor that implies Perez Hilton doesn't know what he's talking about is a rumor I am inclined to believe.

{ by Common Cent$... not Bansky. }
 I actually have a Bansky piece in my bathroom.  Well, not an original.  Obviously.  I bought it at Melrose Trading Post from a guy who takes photographs of street art, prints the photos on canvas, then applies the canvas to pieces of wood.  I think Bansky made a great addition to my growing "Potty Art" collection.  Get it?

I'm not sure who did the piece below, but it is around the corner from the Common Cent$ wall.

This is my favorite (at the moment):

{ by CYRCLE }

Although that is my favorite individual piece - largely because of the message - my favorite collection of work is by the creator of the this:

{ by JR }
There are several gripping works like these around the city right now.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough daylight yesterday to capture all of them.  According to LA Weekly they are part of a series titled "The Wrinkles of the City."  I am in love.

This is from the ever-changing wall of the American Hotel in the LA Arts District.  I think he wants a tummy rub.

Speaking of ever-changing, one of my favorite pieces in the LA Arts district is now gone.  This...
{ taken in May }
 is now this...
{ taken yesterday }
 I was sad when I saw that Mr. Mona was gone, but I suppose the revolving door of street art is what makes it so special.  I will stop there.  I could pontificate about how nothing lasts forever, beauty is fleeting, and so on, but I will stop there.  You're welcome.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pianos and Pretty Ladies

After writing my first ever potentially controversial post yesterday, Dan and I went to Pasadena for a day of $2 movies.  I saw Super 8 (awesome) and Mr. Popper's Penguins (I know, I know.  $2 bucks, though!)  I found myself a little uncomfortable as I was watching Jim Carry get pooped on by a penguin - and not just because I was watching Jim Carry get pooped on by a penguin.  I was fidgeting in my seat because I was worried about upsetting someone with my views on the whole Sunset Junction Music Festival debacle.  You see, I'm a people-pleaser. That's a whole other post. 

As I fidgeted my way back to Hollywood I found myself wishing that I had the soothing sound of Jaime Black to accompany me home.  I discovered Jaime Black last week when I walked with a friend to The Piano Bar on a whim.  They have free music every night of the week and we were in the mood for some free and some music.

We were greeted with the sound of Jaime's soft voice and ethereal melodies.  I would describe her music as "yoga folk."  This is not usually my cup of tea, but her calming presence on stage coupled with unexpected instrumentation made for an engaging night of music.

Jaime's ReverbNation page describes her genre as "gothic folk."  I love that. Although I feel the recordings online do not do justice to her live performance, they do retain the calming effect. 

As you can see from the photo above, The Piano Bar is a cool little spot.  Would you like to see more photos of the space?  Why don't we start in the bathroom.

{ Very cool music sheet wall with a little added love. }
 Ok, I may have only taken 3 photos, 2 of which were in the bathroom.  Sorry about that.  I promise to be a better blogger in the future.  While you wait, check out Jaime's gothic/yoga/folk here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Parks and Wreck

The winds of the internet blow a cruel, cruel tale.  "LA Denies Permit for Sunset Junction Music Festival."  Unsurprisingly, it's all about money.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the festival owes the city money for last year's festival and over a hundred thousand dollars in advance fees for this year's festival - the one that is supposed to take place THIS weekend.

The festival has been around for 30 years and is produced by the Sunset Junction Alliance, a non-profit that uses all the proceeds from the annual festival on programs for at-risk youth (including gang intervention) in the neighborhood where the festival takes place.

I was astonished to read that up until a couple of years ago, the festival fees were around $25,000.  Why the sudden change?  Could it be the increasing number of attendees and the sale of alcohol... or could it be Andrea Alarcon?  She was appointed to LA's Board of Public Works in September of 2009 and is the administrator for the Special Events Permitting Office.  Apparently, in the past the city waived some of the festival's fees, but since the advent of Miz Alarcon, it's all or nothing.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Alarcon cited the cost of extra police officers and a 2009 ordinance forbidding waiver of fees.  Although the festival organizers offered to pay $50,000, Alarcon was quoted as saying that if they do not come up with all of this year's fees in advance, the city will not be willing to reconsider "the item."  The "item" being a major fundraising source for the at-risk youth of her city, not to mention an important and historical artistic event.

Issues such as these are complicated and I don't want to create a bad guy, but it does make me wonder: Would this would this be happening if Leslie Knope were in charge instead? 

I leave it to you to decide.  If you want to help by donating some moolah to the cause, click here.

(Information gathered from, The Wall Street Journal,, and

My Talented Friends: Part Two

I haven't written in a few days because I have been out of town for a friend's wedding in Sonoma County.  It was an enchanted affair with music, food, music, friends, music, and more music.  Think: Rachel Getting Married sans the suicidal Anne Hathaway.

This second edition of the "My Talented Friends" series will focus on the bride, the very talented Shirley Hunt.  Shirley is a cellist that plays with such orchestras as Philharmonia Baroque, American Bach Soloists, Berkeley Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony, and her "band" Agave Baroque - just to name a few.

I met Shirley around 5 years ago at a Halloween party that she attended as Frida Kahlo.  (I was unimpressively dressed as a hippie. Yeah, she won that one.)  At the time I happened to be looking for a cellist to join my band.  A friend had suggested that cello would fit perfectly into my dark, melodic style of songwriting.  As luck would have it, Miz Kahlo was willing to bestow her immense talents on my little project.

Shirley was nothing short of a miracle.  Her natural ear for filling pockets with beautiful and haunting sound was a priceless addition to my songs.  Nothing can last forever, however, and I lost her to San Francisco.  Although saddened by her departure, I could not deny that Northern California and Shirley's then boyfriend Aaron Westman, violist extraordinaire, were treating her well.  I was not surprised when the word came that she and Aaron were tying the knot.

{ We are standing on steps. If you switched Aaron and Shirley's positions, you'd have it a little closer to reality. }
The wedding reflected Shirley and Aaron perfectly in that it was filled with music.  Several pieces were played during the ceremony and then after cocktail hour we were treated to a concert performed by - to use wine country vernacular - varietals of their musician friends.

{ A baroque piece... I think. }

{ Covering The Magnetic Fields' The Book of Love. Brilliant. }
Understandably, neither Shirley nor Aaron performed.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Agave Baroque will soon bring them back to LA for a show or two.  Until then, reminiscing and Youtubing will have to suffice.  Click here to see Shirley playing a solo piece.  Click here to see Shirley and Aaron playing together in Agave Baroque.

{ All you need is love... and music. }

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Satellites In Space(land)

Club Spaceland.  Every music fan in LA has heard of it.  Most have loved it.  Club Spaceland was a music venue in Silver Lake that offered stellar (ahem) bands nightly.  It was one of the few clubs in LA that you could walk into any night of the week and be guaranteed to see some great music.  The bookers at Spaceland appeared more concerned with the quality of the music than the number of fans the band could get through the door.  Of course, as a result there were always plenty of fans streaming steadily through the aforementioned door.

My favorite Spaceland element (ahem again) was the free Monday Night Residency series, during which the club would feature a band who would perform (with several other bands) every Monday night for a month.

In February of this year, I heard a rumor that Club Spaceland was no more. The venue owner and concert promoter had parted ways amicably. (I heard about it a little too late to see Foo Fighters play the farewell show. Damn!)  After hearing this sad news I thought to myself, "Whatever am I to do with the endless Monday nights ahead of me now??"

I was told that the venue was staying open under a different name, The Satellite and that everything should be the same except, you know, better.  Still, I was certain that it could never be the same.  So certain that I avoided the place altogether until last Monday night.  (Full disclosure: this avoidance was aided by my being out town for a couple of months.)  After many Monday nights filled with fretting, I was relieved to discover that, from my vantage point at least, everything is indeed the same! 

The disco Saturn is still spinning…

The PBR is still flowing…

And above all, the beloved free Monday Night Residency series is still intact. This month Stone Darling is featured.  They are a mostly-girl band with an easy-going, melodic sound.  If you want to hear perfectly pitched female voices meeting in tight harmony, Stone Darling is the way to go.  Right now I’m loving the dark, southern vibe of the track Angeline.

If you have a chance, check out their Facebook page here.  Give them a "Like" and check out the story behind the formation of the band under the Info tab.  Trust me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inspiration Vs. Imitation

While at the Huntington Library recently I came across these two paintings in the American gallery.

{ Still Life by Luigi Lucioni }
{ Small Crushed Campbell's Soup Can (Beef Noodle) by Andy Warhol }
They got me to thinking about inspiration and its ugly step-cousin imitation.  Now, let me say right away that I am not an expert on Andy Warhol and do not claim to know where he found his inspiration – aside from popular culture, of course.  However, as I looked at Lucioni’s still life I couldn’t help but wonder if Warhol if he had seen Lucioni's work and had been inspired by the modern take on a classic still life painting; specifically, the Campbell’s soup can. Although Warhol was born two years after Lucioni painted this piece, they both lived in New York City at the same time and died one year apart.  It is very likely that Warhol could have seen this piece.
Let’s say he did.  Although I am not necessarily a fan of Warhol, I think that if he did see this piece and was inspired by it, he did a great job of keeping imitation, the ugly and unwanted step-cousin of inspiration, out in the cold.  The same subject - a Campbell’s soup can - is treated very differently in each piece, but both pieces are successful in portraying a mundane part of everyday life.  Well done, boys.
So, all this thinking got me to keep on thinking about my songwriting.  There is consistently before me the challenge of letting the music of others inspire me without imitating them.
One of my biggest fears during the songwriting process is that I will end up writing a song that someone else has already written.  It’s unlikely that it would be word-for-word, but discovering that you accidentally copied a hook or melody line is the absolute worst feeling a songwriter can experience.  Having been raised "under a rock" as I affectionately say and not exposed to mainstream music until my early 20s, this challenge is especially intimidating.  However, I continue to face the challenge with a couple fingers on my keyboard and a couple fingers crossed.
This, on the other hand, I would NOT mind imitating.
If you need me, I'll be on the treadmill.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brenna, Brenna, Bo-Benna

Last night I went with a couple friends...
{ Say hello to Debbie and Stephanie. }

... to see Brenna Whitaker and her Little Big Band perform at the W Hotel.  She has been performing in "The Living Room" at the W every Sunday for the past 9 months.  Cozy though it may sound, The Living Room is actually a huge space connected to the lobby of the hotel.  Every Sunday night Brenna packs the place - mostly with Hollywood hotties.  The W is within walking distance (in heels) from my apartment, so it's an easy Sunday night with a huge payoff.

What can I say about B-Dub?  She is the perfect marriage of insane talent and vibrant charisma.  This girl has a huge and versatile voice that is spell-bounding live.  A quirky blonde cutie, I find it hard to take my eyes off her while she is performing.   During her second set she usually has some guests perform.  Past guests: Michael Buble and Stevie Wonder.  Holy cow, right?!  I haven’t been there for any big names, but the guests are always high caliber talent and she shares the stage graciously (even during uncomfortable moments when a military widow jumps up on stage and does a stripper-esque dance for her late husband).  Still, I find myself wishing their songs to be over so Brenna will get back on stage.

Last night her guests happened to be a trio of burlesque dancers. A delightful surprise.  I think they were called the Brookettes or Brooklyn's Burlesque?  I did a little research this morning and was unable to come up with anything.

Despite the fact that the first time I met her was a long time ago in the bathroom of a tiny club where she was performing in downtown LA, I am now star struck.  I have wanted to get a picture with her - as any groupie would - but even though she has walked right by me several times, I haven’t been able to work up the nerve to ask.  Stay tuned.
While you wait on pins and needles for me to work up some courage, you can check out Brenna's music here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tournamet of Babies

Ever feel like you’re lagging behind?  You don’t really mind, but you’re hoping no one else will notice?  This is why I usually choose a spot at the back of the room in aerobics classes.
During my summer road trip I got the distinct feeling that I was lagging behind.  Behind what?  The baby train.  I don’t want to say I am “falling” behind because that would imply that I am trying to keep up.  No, I most certainly am not ready to board that train.  However, a cause for introspection is there in the parade of the gorgeous little faces of Jimmy and Jennie's Cali...

Vinod and Christine's Chethan...

Danielle and Matt's rambunctious crew of Emma-Ruth, Daniel, Elijah, and Caleb...

And of course, my adorably perfect and perfectly adorable nephew AJ...

Who, as evidenced below, absolutely loves his uncle Danny.

Me on the other hand?  Well, see for yourself...

So, maybe you can see why I'm dillydallying, dragging my feet, straggling, and otherwise lagging.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Talented Friends: Part One

During my time in LA I have met a lot of talented people and have been lucky enough to become friends with a few of them. 
I met Patrick (also known as “Oh, That Patrick” or “Skinny P”) about 5 years ago when he arrived as a drummer in shining armor at my hour of need. I have to be honest; I don’t really remember much about the first months of our friendship because they were filled mostly with stressful rehearsals and anxiety-ridden shows.  Despite all, we became and remain friends.

{ Patrick playing last night at his Birthday Bash }

So, how talented is Skinny P?  Very.  And why does he deserve the prestigious honor of being the very first friend featured in the My Talented Friends series?  Because today is his birthday. OK, and maybe because he turned out to be a super musician who can write, sing, and play any instrument he touches. 
I was not privy to the extent of Patrick’s musical prowess until a former girlfriend of his came to one of our shows at The Pig’N Whistle in Hollywood.  She bitched me out (literally) for relegating such an amazing pianist and guitarist to the drums.  I slowly backed away and tried to explain that I didn’t know!  Soon after that episode I moved Patrick to the guitar and found Christopher, an exceptional drummer, to replace him.  (You can expect to see Christopher in an upcoming My Talented Friends post.)
Although Patrick still plays with me occasionally, he has his own project called Skinny P and the _______.  
{Skinny P and the Huh? }

It was once Skinny P and the Destroyers, but I have been informed that the name will change with every show.  At yesterday's show they were Skinny P and the Birthday Bash.  I’m sure that won’t get confusing at all.

Abby, Patrick's wife, is in the band too.  Like Patrick, she is talented... just prettier.

Patrick’s music very much reflects his personality: cerebral, candid, playful, clever, and just a little rambunctious.  A former SAT tutor and current LSAT tutor, he writes songs titled "Serpentine Machinations", "Shitty Philanthropist", and "Reductionism", yet manages to keep them light and unpretentious.  You can check out some of his work here and here.  Everything you will hear is written and performed by Patrick himself.  And I mean everything - all instruments included.
Happy birthday, Patrick.  You rock.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Heart Powell's Books

Welcome to the second installment of I Y Fridays!
While in Portland, OR this summer I stumbled upon a new life-long friend: Powell’s Books.  It’s a multi-level book-lover’s dream that takes up a whole city block. 

The feature that sets Powell’s apart from most other bookstores is that they carry new and used books – and shelve them together.  For instance, if you are looking for The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, you would find both the new and used copies in the same section on the same shelf – used copies on top.  So fantastic!  In my experience used bookstores are unforgivably disorganized.  In Powell’s I found the logical layout and user-friendliness of a new bookstore with the options and affordability of a used bookstore.  (Disclaimer: I am not getting paid by Powell's for the post.)
Added to the pros column would have to be their apparent inattention to the inside of the used books.  Here is what I found inside the copies of Water for Elephants and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues that I ended up buying…

{ An espresso maker manual and a Victoria's Secret tag.  Size? Small. }

{ A big, old, rusty paperclip.  That thing has been there for decades. }
I have to say, despite my germaphobia, I find these little pieces of the readers who enjoyed the book before me quite charming.
I had so much fun wandering through the aisles appreciating not just the titles, but the interior.  It is housed in an old car dealership.

When I got home I was thrilled to find that not only are they hip, they ship!  (Don't worry, I am rolling my eyes at myself for that one.) The shipping cost is $3.99 no matter how many books you buy.  If you look for the best deals or want to mix new and used books on Amazon, you may end up having to pay shipping to several different booksellers.  Powell’s definitely beats Amazon on that account. Plus, they are independent.  And that makes me feel like I'm a good person for, you know, supporting the little guy against the big, bad corporate... wait, am I hating on Amazon right now?  I'll have to think on this and get back to you.
In the meantime, check out Powell's here.