To Los Angeles with Love

Malibu Sunset

Malibu Sunset

As a way to torture myself a little bit I loaded LA weather on my phone, so the other day when it was twelve degrees in New York City I could console myself with sunnier thoughts, knowing it was in the 70s in Los Angeles. Thankfully, winter can also be a great time to score cheap plane tickets, so when round trip prices from JFK to LAX dipped below $300 snagged one for a long weekend in the city that is my current source of infatuation, just in time for the first annual LA Art Book Fair.

LA early morning from Griffith Park

LA early morning from Griffith Park

I made time to visit my (new) favorite haunts in Silver Lake and Echo Park and to see friends, but also to explore more nooks and crannies of this sprawling metropolis. After a walk at the Baldwin Hills Scene Overlook and coffee to shake off my jetlag on Friday morning I headed downtown for the art book fair, which was being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Building. As is the nature of these events I was immediately overwhelmed with bound creations and intriguing exhibitions, but I especially loved the “zine world” section of the fair and hope that one day I too could be considered a “zine master of the universe.”

In "Zine World" at the LA Art Book Fair

In “Zine World” at the LA Art Book Fair

Zine exhibitor at the LA Art Book Fair

Zine exhibitor at the LA Art Book Fair

I also feel like this trip gave me more chance to talk with artists, writers and creative types (outside of the film biz) who are making their lives and work in LA. I was especially excited to meet Mimi of the architectural zine and blog Loud Paper who recently moved from Brooklyn and was working the table for the LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, whose dayglo posters with quotes from LA architects and planners drew me from across the room. I also noticed some general trends in art books and zines at the fair: neon as an accent color was hot, everyone had a tote bag for sale, and about half of the zines available had some kind of homoerotic content (mostly male).

The poster on the upper right is now mine!

The poster on the upper right is now mine!

Friday evening coincided with (my) discovery of some of the restaurants and bars of the “Arts district” downtown (which may or may not have any actual artists still living there), with delicious continental beers at Wurstkuche (though I passed on the rattlesnake sausage they had on offer) and a suburbly proportioned, locally sourced dinner at Eat Drink Americano. Later that evening at the Satellite I discovered a new favorite band: the Happy Hollows, who enthusiastic delivery was matched only by the crowd’s enthusiastic reception. After New York’s jaded rock audiences, seeing the Happy Hollows and the warm crowd at the Satellite was a welcome change.

I started my Saturday with a lovely walk in Griffith Park and a pass through the Silver Lake farmer’s market for a coconut, kale and dandelion green smoothie. I later took a wander around West Hollywood, including a glance inside the beautiful new library, and had a wonderful chat all facilitated by Team Gloria, who is my constant source for writing and lifestyle inspiration. After a delicious, lingering brunch conversation about writing, zines and life in LA with Liz at Barbrix in Silver Lake I swung back by the book fair. I was so exhausted by the artistic possibilities I saw I had to take a nap before braving the freeways to Orange County.

Torches at the Constellation Room

Torches at the Constellation Room

As if my LA weekend couldn’t get any dreamier, my friends Torches let me know they were playing a last minute (and sold out!) show in Orange County at the Constellation Room. Despite my culture shock of finding a decent rock club in the middle of a suburban office park, to see Torches on their (sort of) home turn in Southern California was a dream come true. It was really fun to hear their new material, meet their new bassist Braedon, and see a whole group of fans gaze at them adoringly. The newer material rocks a little harder than the songs they played in NYC this fall and their set was full of pop hooks and great vocal harmonies and tremendous drumming by Eric. You can get a taste (and download a new track!) on their Soundcloud page.

I’m also proud to say that thanks to my Orange County jaunt I’ve started to perfect the art of talking like an Angelino and saying things like “Take the 605, to the 405, to the 5, to the 101, to the 110,” when discussing getting around.

IMG_3798

Azad and Braeden from Torches at the Constellation Room

Azad's pedal board

Azad’s pedal board

Sunday was a complete change of pace with a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, through Malibu, to hike down a canyon at Circle X Ranch, an outing carefully orchestrated by my friend Phoebe and accompanied by my gracious host Kabir. After shuffling along NYC’s icy streets, to be out in the desert sun, smelling spring flowers and marveling at the sandstone cliffs felt like an entirely different world and completely freeing.

Hiking at Circle X Ranch

Hiking at Circle X Ranch

Hiking at Circle X Ranch

Hiking at Circle X Ranch

To reward ourselves for our hiking efforts we stopped at Neptune’s Net, a fried seafood shack that is a favorite among the biker crowd. Between perfectly grilled fish tacos, crispy fried shrimp and a glimmering view of the pacific I was completely satisfied. The day was completed by watching the sun sink into the water, followed by a glass of wine and an excellent plate of artisanal cheese at super cute downtown wine bar Mignon.

Along the Pacific Coast Highway

Along the Pacific Coast Highway

Neptune's Net, a seafood shack favored by the biker set

Neptune’s Net, a seafood shack favored by the biker set

Suffice it to say, LA is still casting its spell on me and continues to lure me with all of its charms. I hope I can go back soon.

Downtown LA from Baldwin Hill Scenic Overlook

Downtown LA from Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

All Aboard the Spooky Caravan!

Aboard the spooky hayride

Note: My heart goes out to all who have suffered due to Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey was one of the hardest hit and I am wishing everyone there, and everywhere, a speedy recovery.

I love tradition, friends, and adventures close to home. Every fall I look forward to getting an email from my friend Andi inviting me along on the “Spooky Caravan” – a day long adventure through New Jersey or Long Island that properly celebrates the fall season, samples local produce and products, and ends with a haunted house or hay ride.

The pumpkin patch at Stony Hilly Gardens

This year Andi and our friend Stephen went all out. They rented a 15 passenger van, Andi handed out trick or treat bags full of candy, and they plotted a perfectly timed route that took us through rolling farm land into rural New Jersey, which is the kind of pastoral landscape I had no idea existed in that oft-maligned state and less than an hour from New York City.

Foraging for Butternut squash

We were victorious in the corn maze!

The day began with a pick-your-own adventure at Stony Hill Gardens. We took a hayride out into a huge field, oddly situated under high-tension wires, and picked apples, pumpkins, and vegetables. We also conquered that favorite of farm fall traditions: the corn maze.

Corn maze navigation. Photo by Stephen Musgrave

A beautiful horse friend at the Valley Shepherd

After I picked half my weight in apples and we filled up on hot cider and doughnuts we loaded ourselves back into the van and headed to the next stop: The Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley, New Jersey. It was the perfect place for lunch on a sunny mid-October Saturday. The farm features a shop where you can buy beautiful cheeses right from the source, and also bread, sausage and other picnic essentials. As we ate our local bounty we sat at a picnic table and watched sheep, llamas and a beautiful draft horse wander around in the pasture in front of us. Did someone say pastoral?

Artisan cheeses and sausage at the source!

Horse and sheet at the Valley Shepherd

We followed up lunch with a quick stop at the Long Valley Pub and Brewery for a tasting flight of their local brews. While it wasn’t on our original itinerary it was right around the corner from the creamery and seemed too perfect to resist sitting out on their large stone patio to take in the waning afternoon.

Tasting flight at Long Valley Pub and Brewery

As the sun began to sink we pressed on through small towns, forests and more rolling farmland to the Beneduce Vinyards. I had no idea New Jersey even had wineries, much less decent ones. Beneduce is a friendly, welcoming affair. We hadn’t been there five minutes when I was invited to stir some vats of freshly made wine. I’ve never had the chance to get hands on with the wine making process at any other vineyard I’ve been to and I really loved it.

Stirring the new wine at Beneduce Vineyards

For the wine tasting we got to sit in our own private green house and sampled 5 of the vineyard’s wines, all for $5. It felt really special and convivial and I hope to go back and take a tour of the vines themselves.

Me and spooky tour organizer Andi at Stony Hill Gardens. Thanks Stephen Musgrave for the photo!

The day concluded with us sitting around a bonfire at a “haunted” farm, roasting marshmallows, looking at the stars through the woodsmoke, and marveling at all the bounty that was so close to home.

Spooky caravan! By Stephen Musgrave

Stoked on New York: My CMJ Week

Corita performs as a three piece at our 2012 CMJ showcase

The annual College Music Journal, or CMJ, festival is an event I usually try to avoid. During those five days in October I find that my usual favorite music venues are mobbed with people who have no idea how to act at a New York show (what is this youthful enthusiasm they exhibit?).  I have noticed that the high energy and packed schedule of events seem to make me more tired than excited. However, when my band Corita was selected to play an official CMJ showcase and our friends Torches came east for their first New York shows this I decided that this year I would come out of my curmudgeonly shell and participate in the festival. What followed was one of the most fun, sleep deprived weeks of my entire life.  Below is a recap.

Torches play their first NYC show ever at Arlene’s Grocery

While the official CMJ festival began on Tuesday, I kicked off the week a little early on Monday night to see Torches’ first-ever show in New York City. You may remember my bandmates and I met Torches in a parking lot outside of a bike shop at South by South West in March (they used to be called Torches in Trees, but they now just go by Torches). We were struck by their genuine excitement about the music they were making, the beauty of their songs and commitment to making their band a success. I was also doubly glad to see them because to get to New York on Monday they had driven straight to NYC from Minneapolis, about a 20 hour drive, after their show there on Sunday night.

Torches close out their first NYC show at Arlene’s Grocery

Having lived in NYC for eleven years now, sometimes I forget how frenetic it can be. Showing Torches around the Lower East Side was a fantastic chance to see the city through new eyes, and update my knowledge of my hometown as we ran around testing bars, pizza places and late night dining options.

On Tuesday, running on two hours of sleep, I picked up my official CMJ badge. Looking at it I took a moment to reflect on the fact that Corita is actually working slowly, at our own pace, to establish ourselves as a band. I also made a last minute flyer to give out.

Official 2012 CMJ artist badge!

My attempt at “marketing and promotion”

Wednesday was Corita’s showcase show at Fontana’s, a great club on the Lower East Side which also hosted our first show ever over three years ago. It is rare to find bookers and promoters who are supportive of independent music in Manhattan and who take the time to care about your band at all, but Jasper at Fontana’s has been there for us and we felt really privileged to be part of their “faves” showcase. The only wrinkle was that our bassist Aileen wasn’t there. She was stuck dealing with a situation that included tabloids, court room brawls, tears and the Walking Dead. We soldiered on as a three piece and I think pulled off a pretty rockin’ show.

Corita as a three piece at our CMJ showcase at Fontana’s

Corita at Fontana’s during CMJ

Corita footwear/hardware/pedals

To continue the CMJ madness, as soon as we finished our set and thanked our friends for coming my friend Minnie (who took the pictures of Corita here) and I ran 10 blocks north just in time to catch Torches’ second New York show, which was part of an official showcase for Rockstar Motel. Minnie was in town from Paris via Montreal to soak up as much NYC as she could in a short time.

Torches at Santos Party House

I took a night off on Thursday and Friday got to keep the party going with the master of partying himself, Andrew W.K. as Torches were playing a show at Santos Party House.

Torches play Santos Party House during CMJ

Girl trouble: Minnie and Bridgette

Saturday I felt I could start to recover from the frantic week of rock and work, enjoy my friends’ company and take in more rock shows. The day started with an assessment of the state of my apartment, which resembled the fallout after an indie rock bomb explosion. In the midst of this I made apple cinnamon pancakes to fortify us all for the night of rock and roll ahead.

The chaos and energy of CMJ extended all the way into my apartment

Apple pancakes to fuel the rock’n’roll lifestyle

Saturday night brought the discovery of two new-to-me (but maybe old news to everyone else) bands: Weekend and Wild Nothing. Weekend treads heavily in early 1990s shoegaze territory, which is one of my favorite periods of music, and I heard echoes of the Stone Roses, Ride and even a little New Order in their set. Wild Nothing solidly references 1980s New Wave and I felt like I heard snippets of the Smiths, the Cure, and more New Order all evening. Because I have a tendency to listen the same music over and over, being inspired to get off my duff and find out about new bands was refreshing.

Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom for CMJ

Wild Nothing at the Bowery Ballroom during CMJ

While CMJ officially finished on Saturday, Torches still had one more NYC show on Sunday night, so we were able to extend the party a little longer. At Pianos they shared the stage with The Golden Awesome, a band based in New Zealand that makes beautiful, drony, dreamy pop that is reminiscent of Stereolab or Broadcast.

Torches open their final show in NYC at Pianos

Bridgette from Torches on the snare drum at Pianos

Torches’ final NYC shows was one of their best, though I loved being able to catch them four times during the week.  Their songs contain shimmering pop riffs, memorable hooks and beautiful vocal harmonies that are driven by thoughtful lyrics. Despite hailing from sunny Los Angeles, Torches songs tend towards the dark, but there’s always a kernel of redemption in them. It’s been exciting to watch their progress as a band since we met them in March and I know they have much more in store as a band.

Azad and Eric from Torches at Pianos

Bridgette from Torches at Pianos

After their show and some celebratory pizza I waved goodbye to Torches as they prepared to drive through the night to their final show on tour in Chicago. As we promised to see each other soon I realized that one of the reasons I love being involved in indie rock, for lack of a better term, is the friendships I’ve forged over the years. It still amazes me that I can meet people who live so far from me, with very different life experiences, and bond so quickly and complicity. The music gives us a venue to share our sources of creativity and inspiration and connect around some of the things that we hold most dear to our lives.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the official video for Torches’ song “I Want Something”:

Thank you, all, for great week. Also, on a practical note, Torches are running an Indie Go Go campaign to raise money to record their new album. Check it out and give if you want to be part of seeing an inspiring, emerging band “make it.”

Springtime Farm Wedding

While I am still in France, when I come home I will go directly upstate to Liberty View Farm to celebrate a wedding. It is the same farm we visited earlier this spring for another lovely celebration. This spring was the definitive kick off of wedding season for us. For the record, we are not getting married, but our friends sure are! Our refrigerator door currently has six wedding announcements for this year alone!

The best part of it is, though, that we are looking forward to all of them and each celebration will be unique and reflective of our friends who are getting married. That was especially true in late May when we piled into a rental car with a bunch of friends and headed upstate to the aforementioned Liberty View Farm for the marriage of R. and S.

Liberty View Farm is not far from Poughkeepsie and New Paltz, but sits nestled in a valley surrounded by apple orchards, making it feel serene and otherworldly. It is a working farm that grows apples, eggs and edible landscapes and also hosts weddings and events in a down home, relaxed environment that feels personal, elegant and comfortable.

I admit I’m a little short on ideas when it comes to new outfits for farm weddings, but I think this gingham and lace dress that I bought from Brooklyn Industries for a farm wedding last year does pretty well, don’t you? And besides, it matches the beehives!

Dress: Brooklyn Industries, Bag: Nolita by Les Composantes, Tights: American Apparel, Shoes: Robert Clergerie

Sunset among the apple orchards

MiLK & Fruit Juice in NYC!

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

It started with a tweet, “When I am I going to see Corita play?” It seemed like a simple enough question, except that the author of the tweet was Michel, of the indie band MiLK & Fruit Juice and he lives in France. Unfortunately Corita did not have (and still does not have) any plans to play a show in France. Or anywhere else outside of New York. So I wrote back, “I don’t know, when are you coming to New York? I’ll set up a show.” Then I got a better idea, “Why don’t you play a solo show with us?”  When Michel told me he was coming to NYC in September I wasted no time in booking a venue. However, I knew the other members of MiLK & Fruit Juice could not come to NYC and that being on stage alone in a new city is intimidating, and so I volunteered to be the backing band.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

First of all, let me explain why I love MiLK & Fruit Juice: Michel writes catchy, dreamy songs that are full of heart. Some of them sound a bit twee, with with accents of toy instruments and excellent backing vocals from Marjorie and Sabine, but there’s also a twist of sadness, irony and realism. I am delighted to have met someone all the way across the Atlantic that shares so many of the same musical interests and passions as me. While that may seem like a small thing in this Internet age, when you meet in person, it still seems pretty magical.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

On a rainy night in September at Spike Hill in Williamsburg the Pale Lights, MiLK & Fruit Juice and Corita shared the stage. Michel and I had one practice together under our belt and I was playing drums and singing back up on five of his songs. The day of the show I listened to the songs from his well-crafted album I’m Cold Handed Because I Have No Heart to Pump The Blood Through My Fingers  on repeat.  That night Michel  debuted a beautiful, vintage Silvertone guitar he had found at Rivington guitars.  I got to break out of my usual role as a guitar player and play drums, with drum sticks that Lisa Goldstein of the Pale Lights loaned to me for Michel’s set.  Apparently I kept the fact that I play drums secret from my friends, but I actually took drum lessons for several years in middle school! I never really graduated beyond a 4/4 rock beat though. In any event, it was really fun (and a little nerve wracking) to be on stage playing drums supporting a friend whose music I love and who lives so far away. Anne, who co-runs the label MonsterK7 in Montreal and Paris, took these beautiful photos and video, and Sabine was kind enough to share with me. Enjoy and if you like Michel’s music perhaps you will set up a show for him in your town! Or at least buy his record.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

The Dance Party That Will Ruin Your Life

During the day on Saturday I received this Facebook message, “Halloween snow! A white CHERYLWEEN. The dandruff of the gods is beckoning us to have a shampoo ritual! See you tonight at the Bell House!”

Leopard coat bought when I was 20 at Magpie in Portland, Oregon

In my last post I promised to show you what my nice, black outfit with tasteful gold highlights turned into. That’s right, with the application of some goody “Wake Up With Curls” curlers I turned into PRELLRAISER. What? Prell shampoo + horror movies = Prellraiser. That is, if you are CHERYL, the notorious, Brooklyn-based dance party put on by museum educators who love cats, jazzersize, sequins, video art, fake blood and authentic fun.

CHERYL: ARCTIC FURY from CHERYL on Vimeo.

Absolutely fabulous and ready for @cheryldance

I love CHERYL because it lacks any sheen of New York attitude, is friendly for both queers and hetero people and condones general arty weirdness.  Going for over three years strong CHERYL started in a tiny bar (which has since been renamed and redone) in South Brooklyn because aforementioned arts workers were frustrated they had to keep going to Williamsburg to go to the fun dance parties. They made a dance, they made a video, they found really good DJ’s and CHERYL was born.

HOW TO CHERYL from CHERYL on Vimeo.

It’s since grown into a globe trotting phenonemom, the Cherylites have been named some of the “most stylish New Yorkers” and they’ve had artist residencies and gallery shows and made some of my favorite videos. With themes like “Arctic Fury,” “7/11,” “Nausea,” “Administrative Soul,” “Sasquach on Broadway,” “The Great Depression Take Two: Electric Boogaloo,” “The White Cube,” and “Goth Spaceship” this is not your average dance party.

CHERYL: NAUSEA from CHERYL on Vimeo.

CHERYL: 7-ELEVEN from CHERYL on Vimeo.

With all their acclaim, CHERYL remains an amazingly fun party run by nice people who are glad that you are there. It’s still held regularly  in South Brooklyn, the videos are as full of socially commentary, catchy beats, and fake blood as ever, and it’s my favorite (and probably only) place I dare to wear ridiculous clothes and cut loose on the dance floor. Here’s a few CHERYL looks over the years. I hope to see you on the floor the next time!

Photo by Nolan Conway

At the White Cube, photo by Nolan Conway

Me and Andy, my friend from high school, at the White Cube

At the 7/11 party, this photo was featured in a slide show on the Village Voice's website. Yes, I made my own Slurpee hat out of pompoms and a stolen Slurpee cup.

Slurpee hat. Masking tape on my shirt. Must be CHERYL.

Customized shoes for CHERYL 7/11

EuroCheryl-28

EUROCheryl

The theme was EUROCheryl. Okay. I'm holding a copy of L'Etranger.

Sasquach on Broadway. I made this dress and reused it for the "Nausea" party, the photo of which I sadly cannot find.

Cats Conversing

Not sure which party this was for - I think "Thanks for ruining my prom, thanks for ruining my life," but I can tell you that Ida the cat stayed home that night.

Arctic Fury, the first CHERYL I ever went to I was too lazy to create a costume. Fortunately there is always a craft table, so I just put some silver sparkly stuff around my waist.

Texas is the Reason

I love Houston!

Texas has its own mythology. Its own place in the American imagination. Depending on who you ask Texas is the reason for the United State’s current political mess, or the greatest place in the US, or somewhere in between. It is a universe unto itself, a huge and diverse place, full of long drives and very pretty countryside. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there in mid-September and take in some of the cities and sites. And of course, the Tex-Mex food.

The Orange Show

The Orange Show, Houston, TX

When I first got to Houston I felt overwhelmed by the highways, humidity and strangely quiet downtown. I hid in a Starbucks and tapped away on my computer. Thankfully, the next day some native Houstonians helped me get hip to the more alternative and arty side of Houston. One of the huge highlights is the Orange Show, a folk art environment created by a postal worker named Jeff McKissack that was began in 1956 and completed in 1979. I loved the Orange Show’s immersive space and the passionate group of people behind the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art that are working to preserve it and other “folk” or “self-taught” art environments and traditions in Houston.

Ladies Only

Ladies only in this part of the Orange Show

Purity

Purity of the orange is celebrated at the Orange Show

I also soaked up some more “traditional” art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston where I soaked up a room sized mural of mountains and flowers that looked like a traditional Chinese ink painting, but was made out of gunpowder by Cai Guo Qiang. I also discovered the self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon and spent several minutes in front of it contemplating her sheer determination to paint and make a life for herself as a woman artist.  In their gift shop I picked up two Frenchie books – My Little Paris (en anglais because I am a cheater) and Ines de la Fressange’s guide to Parisian style.  I visited the Menil Collection, including their hotly contested Bzyantine fresco chapel which is being returned to Cyprus next year, and some smaller art spaces like the awesome Spacetaker artists resource center and gallery.

I love this self-portrait of Suzanne Valadon

I love the sheer determination shown in this self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon at the MFA Houston

A little bit of Paris (France) in Texas!

In the MFA Houston gift shop I found a treasure trove of books about Paris!

Artist commissioned cross walk

The sidewalks outside of the MFA Houston are painted in collaboration with a local artist

I also fortunately got away from the corporate style restaurants downtown and found one of my favorite things about Texas: spacious coffee shops with nice breakfast menus and outdoor seating. These places are so inviting, like you just want to hang out all day eating and sipping fair trade coffee. I enjoyed both Brasil and Empire Cafe (which are quite close to one another and the Menil Collection) as well as the super El Real, which has great Tex-Mex and is in an old movie theater!

El Real Neon

Neon at El Real!

Old Western at El Real

Westerns at El Real

After Houston I took a quick, few hour stop in San Antonio, and then rolled on to Austin. After some frenetic days of work on the road I took a little bit of time to unwind with my friend Jennifer. We took a drive about an hour outside of Austin to Krause Springs. Located in the rolling hill country it almost feels like a folk art environment as well, with rock pools, wind chimes and a spring fed lagoon. While Krause Springs felt like an oasis, Texas is going through one of its worst droughts on record and we drove through the remnants of a fire on the way there, charred trees with ashy leaves making the landscape look otherworldly.

Enjoying the spring fed pool

Krause Springs, in Spicewood, Texas

I couldn’t skip eating Tex-Mex in Austin either, of course, and Austin is home to even more fantastic cafes with outdoor seating and of course, coffee shops that serve the delicious (and huge!) breakfast tacos.

IMG_4866

Tex-Mex, Austin style!

But of course, after all that Tex-Mex I took a little break and Jennifer, her friend Jennifer and I had a lovely girlie dinner at a perfectly French brasserie called Justine’s with lovely food and delicious cocktails (also check out the “amazing” section of their website).

Justine's Brasserie

Cheers!

Toast to Texas friends at Justine's

The Saturday Night Crowd at Justine's

The Saturday night scene at Justine's

Austin photo shoot

Photo shoot outside of Arthouse TX

I also managed a visit to the Austin Film Society, Arthouse Texas and Domy Books, where we saw a wonderful opening, I connected with an old zinester friend, and purchased a book called I ♥ Macarons. Indeed, it seems like I found a lot of France and a lot of art and a few friends in Texas, even though I didn’t visit Paris (Texas).

Detail of the Art Show at Domy Books

Detail of an exhibition at Domy Books, Austin