December 31, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Happy last day of 2012 everyone! Like many music nerds I used to make a top ten list of the new albums I had bought, and loved, each year. I’ve majorly backed off on buying albums and also lived under a music rock for quite some time. However, thanks to some good friends who clued me back into music and to services like Spotify (controversial, I know, but great for discovering new music), as well as going to big music events like South by South West and CMJ I feel like I’ve gotten back in the music game (and have bought albums, not just streamed them for free, thank you very much!). So here’s my top five songs, plus one bonus, that came out this year that have stuck with me.
I love Tame Impala’s fuzzed out pop. It’s catchy, it’s trippy and I feel like I can listen to it forever.
My favorite musical discovery this year: great songs, great people and a great future ahead for Torches. And a great video.
I’ll be honest that this video is hard for me to watch, especially as someone who used to work in violence prevention. But! Alt-J (∆) is a fantastic band and this song has been on repeat since I first heard it.
I realize I’m cheating a little bit on the Local Natives – their album Hummingbird, which features “Breakers,” comes out in January of 2013 and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy, but this single came out this year and it’s fabulous.
Grimes is wonderful and weird. It kind of irks me she’s become somewhat of a fashion icon (she’s featured in Vogue every month it seems), but good for her. She must have a good agent. I still like her music though.
Wild Nothing sounds like a wander through all my top 80′s bands. And as a travel junkie I appreciate this video.
Also, based on Flavorpill’s annual stereotyping of people based on their favorite record of the year I am either: a boring English dude (Alt-J), a shaggy haired dude who stands in front of you at shows (Tame Impala), or a girl who updates her Tumblr several times an hour (Grimes).
What were your favorite songs of 2012?
Have a safe and happy new years, everyone!
December 20, 2012 § 4 Comments
There’s been a lot of debate about New York City versus Los Angeles taking place on the Internet right now. Perhaps I’m having a zeitgeist moment, because I never thought I would visit Los Angeles, but now I am completely smitten with the city. I thought I would add my two cents to the discussion. Growing up on the East Coast I was brought up to believe that LA was smoggy, dangerous, traffic chocked, and void of any interesting culture. When people would ask me where I wanted to travel I would tell them, “Anywhere but LA!” and claimed that my life would be complete if I never visited Los Angeles.
Well, I’m happy to say that I was absolutely wrong. This year I found that I had a concentration of friends living in Los Angeles and in late fall found myself in desperate need of sun and a little perspective. Tickets between NYC and LA are fairly cheap, so in a moment of impulsiveness I booked a long weekend in the City of Angels.
I was excited about rock clubs, taco trucks, beaches, good coffee, walks in parks, juice bars and all the other wonders of LA my friends told me about. Then I read this article started to get nervous… what if all my friends flaked on me? Wasn’t that what I hated about living on the West Coast? What if I got lost and no one would return my calls and I spent all weekend alone on a crowded freeway? In a fit of nerves I even considered canceling my trip.
I got over myself and booked a room on AirBnB in Silver Lake with a wonderful hostess named Stacie. I rented a car and consulted maps and driving advice (such as never, ever take the 405 freeway). I asked for suggestions of what to do and received a list long enough to last me several months. I packed all black clothes so people would be sure to know I was a New Yorker. I got the first manicure of my life so as not to look unkempt. And suddenly, right before I left all my friends made plans with me and the temperature in New York dropped to a wintery chill, which reinforced my decision to flee for a long weekend.
LA was everything I dreamed it would be, but even better. There were amazing rock clubs, like The Echo and The Satellite, and taco trucks galore (I even ate a burrito stuff with French fries… wow). I loved walking around the Silver Lake reservoir and and taking in the mountains that surround the city. I liked the proximity to nature and the fact that Griffith Park is a huge mountain in the middle of the city full of hiking trails and stunning views.
I spent a lot of time loitering around Silver Lake and Echo Park and had two very capable tour guides in my friends Iris and Azad (joined at various times by Lil, Katie, Kabir and Erynne). Sunset Junction, in Silver Lake, has apparently been voted the hippest corner in the United States and I can see why. It boasts Intelligentsia coffee, one of the most coffee snobbiest cafes I’ve ever encountered (but delicious!), and a host of boutiques and cafes. Along Sunset in Silver Lake I soothed a combination of a hangover and jetlag with a coconut kale smoothie from Naturewell and found a beautiful dress that is going to be perfect for my New Years party at Ragg Mop vintage. I also nursed a pint of local microbrew at Good and even dared to try LA pizza at Garage Pizza (it was tolerable… but I was also starving).
I did, eventually, venture out of Silver Lake, including a drive down the length of Sunset Boulevard bound for Venice Beach. Driving down Sunset felt like driving through every 80s TV show I’d ever seen. I shrieked as we drove down the strip, then was like “Whoa!” when we entered the leafy and posh Beverly Hills and then blurted out “No way!” when we passed Bel Air. I felt how people must feel when they visit New York City for the first time. To see places you’ve always heard about in popular culture and find they actually exist is a strange and exhilarating feeling.
When we reached Venice Beach I took one look at the expanse of sand and declared Los Angeles to be next on my list of cities to move to. How could people not love it here? There’s so much beach!
I also poked around Pasadena and South Pasadena and got to fulfill a long standing dream of eating at In-N-Out Burger. You might say it doesn’t take much to please me and it’s true. Add a personalized tour of the massive Amoeba Records and some good hangouts at Cha Cha Lounge and the Red Lion (yes, back in Silver Lake) and brunch at Square One snickering at Scientologists across the street at their world headquarters, more brunch in the garden at the Alcove, and a farm to table dinner at A Frame in Culver City and… well, I’m pretty much sold on LA. I barely scratched the surface of all the cultural institutions there, but had a lovely visit to LACMA with my friend Erynne and managed to appease the natural history nerd child in me by taking in the La Brea tar pits (which are right next to LACMA in the middle of the city!).
So all of this to say that I haven’t loved a city this much since Paris. The weekend I spent in LA enabled a few big ideas about next steps in life that I have long been mulling over to fall into place. Stay tuned because I have big plans for 2013 and may well make Los Angeles mine.
I’ll leave you with this song by Unrest and more photos on Flickr.
December 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It seems redundant to say that its been a busy fall. You may have noticed this blog being updated inconsistently, if at all, and wondered, “Hey, Killerfemme? What’s up? Where did you go?”
What’s up is actually a lot of good news as far as writing is concerned. I’ve been busy writing grants and essays for filmmakers, musicians and visual artists as a freelancer. I’ve also been working on a book project. Yes, you heard me, book project. In the spring of 2013 I will be a published author! Stay tuned, I can’t wait to tell you more, but for now, here’s what I’ve up to in the writing department:
I’ve started writing monthly for Idealist.org’s career blog and offer advice and ideas for emerging nonprofit professionals. Recent topics have included strategies for cementing the connections you make with people you meet at conferences and events and thoughts about how generosity can further your career. Starting in January I’ll be writing a regular column focusing on taking your nonprofit career to the next level.
I wrote a whole slew of portraits of fifteen innovative arts organizations in New York City for ArtsFwd.org and was impressed with the ideas and programs that these organizations have implemented that are going to shift the cultural landscape of the city.
Once a month I will profile a DIY business for the DIY Business Association, starting with HK Honey, a collective of urban beekeepers, designers, and artists in Hong Kong dedicated to promoting the value of bees and locally produced honey.
I also realized I miss writing about music, so I’ve started writing for a brand new magazine called Boxx, whose tagline is “Where women are heard,” and will focus on lady-powered music. My first review is of the incredible Other Lives, who hail from Oklahoma (I also got to take the pictures for the review, which was a lot of fun).
Thanks for reading and more writing to come and, hopefully, now that the mass of edits is done on my forthcoming book, I’ll be branching out and writing for more blogs and publications. I’ll keep you in the loop!
November 15, 2012 § 4 Comments
The last time I was in Wyoming I arrived in the middle of the night, having driven straight from Portland, Oregon on a compressed, cross country trip. To get there we drove through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana in August darkness, watching meteors streak down through the clear western air. I’ve joke that I am the penultimate East Coaster – that I walk and talk too fast and am too attached to the ocean to live anywhere else. However, chunks of my childhood summers were spent on the range and in the mountains of Northeastern Wyoming, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins in near Sheridan. I’d like to think that somehow, in some small way, that experience stays with me.
As a child and early teenager going to Wyoming was a dream come true. It is awash in wide open spaces to explore on horseback and was of pre-dawn mornings helping (however ineffectively) my uncle and aunt with the cattle they raise. Wyoming was freight trains, rattle snakes, sage brush, wild landscapes, and hours with my cousins playing Legos and reading Calving and Hobbes comics.
My grandmother lives in Wyoming now and so last weekend I caught (just barely) an early flight to Denver and then a propeller plane to Sheridan to visit her and the rest of my family. While the endless barbed wire fences, train tracks, range and sparse population are the polar opposite of where I live now, I felt a rush of familiarity and welcome when I arrived Wyoming. I love that place. I am a total outsider, but I feel a sense of awe and respect for the country there and the people who call it their home.
Maybe because we’ve just had a huge national election and the idea of what is “America” and who is “American” has been debated and thrown about ad nauseum I couldn’t help but think, “This is what people are talking about when they talk about America.” Here are hard working people who make a living from the land and another job to make ends meet. They drive sturdy American made trucks and cultivate a sense of Western independence. Native American history and contemporary culture is woven into the fabric of this place. This is where stories about the American West were made. And, yet. Wyoming cannot be reduced to a caricature. It is not a rustic idyll or a rural backwater. It’s a place as complex as “America” itself.
Wyoming is where I can have long conversations about the dangers of fracking with my Uncle, who is one of the toughest cowboys I’ve ever met. I remember he told me about what a bad idea it was 10 years ago, before anyone on the East Coast had really begun to talk about it. I wish New York State would take a cue from the experience of people in the west and see the havoc it wreaked on the environment there and how little benefit local people actually derived from it. It’s where I have out and proud gay family members, even though gay rights still has a long way to go there (and everywhere!). It’s where I can go out to lunch with my cousin I haven’t seen in 10 years and we can chat like we just saw each other yesterday. It’s a place I’m proud to know a little bit and proud to hold as part of my past and, hopefully, part of my future.
Below is a little look into my Wyoming past: wearing shorts, riding bareback on my Aunt’s Welsh pony, with awkwardly cut curly hair and in 12-year-old heaven
November 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
If you asked me to imagine my dream boutique what would it be? Well, it would have feminist and lady-powered music, zines and independent books, fun accessories, a tight selection of perfect clothes that are both functional and fashionable that could go from the street, to work, to a rock show, as well as serving as a community gathering and event space for music, readings and art. Well, low and behold, my dream boutique exists and it exists in Paris no less.
Gals Rock is a space dedicated to ladies/women’s/girls/grrrls’ rock music and culture. A petite boutique in the 9eme in Pigalle, just steps away from the tourist crush of Monmatre, its an oasis of feminist creative energy. The front room features clothes, accessories and zines for lady rockers and their allies. I found a perfectly fitted, ladies button down shirt that was created by the Gals Rock crew who were frustrated that they couldn’t find a shift tailored to ladies’ proportions. In addition, I couldn’t resist picking up a silkscreened t-shirt with a hand drawn design featuring the names of all my favorite grrrl bands from the 1990s, including Sleater-Kinney, Excuse 17, and Huggy Bear. I wear that shirt with pride! Gals Rock also features a wide selection of the indie fashion label Kulte.
The back room is dedicated to music, most of it independent, in which girls, grrrls, ladies, and women play a key role. While Gals Rock clearly is focused on rock music and culture, their selection includes electronic and hip-hop music as well and is forward looking and broadly defined. The ladies who run the shop host regular events and concerts, all which sound like the perfect, feminist, music focused soirees. As if I ever needed more reasons to move to Paris.
Gals Rock, 17 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009 Paris
October 31, 2012 § 2 Comments
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 29, 2012 § Leave a Comment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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.
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.”