And Still She Dreams of LA…

Lone palm + distant plane

A November weekend and a cheap plane ticket seemed like a good enough reason to visit LA, but add in a Torches show and an offer of a personalized tour of East Side neighborhoods I hadn’t yet explored? Sign me up! Here’s a budget tip for those wishing to travel to LA: Bob Hope Airport in Burbank: cheaper flights, less hassle, and that glamorous feeling of walking across the tarmac to your gate, with a beautiful view of the mountains just beyond.

Mountains beyond mountains (over Utah)

Desert mountains en route over Utah

Nice view Los Angeles!

View from The Hub, downtown LA

After I arrived I jumped right into the LA fun by meeting the wonderful ladies from the Academy for Handmade for lunch at LA son Roy Choi’s fast food rice bowl restaurant in Chinatown Chego! and then talked about their upcoming crowd funding campaign and exciting plans for their awards ceremony next year. They have a great space at The Hub, a really cool co-working and business incubator space in the Arts District in downtown LA (as an aside, my friend Sophia Stuart wrote a lovely piece on The Hub for LA I’m Yours).

Torches at the Echoplex

Torches play the Echoplex, November 8, 2013

Songs about cat castles and ouji boards... HOTT MT - great band!

HOTT MT at the Echoplex

Next we headed to drinks and dinner at Mohawk Bend, a local and seasonal inspired restaurant serving craft beers in Echo Park, followed by one of the best shows I’ve seen by Torches at the Echoplex. It’s been so amazing to watch this band steadily grow their career over the past year and a half. Their sound has grown bolder, but still anchored by catchy, jangle laden melodies and pensive lyrics. During some of the newer songs I felt my hairs standing on end. I hear they’re working on a new album, so I can’t wait for what is next for these enterprising musicians.  HOTT MT opened for them and they were a great discovery – songs about cat castles and ouji boards fronted by a very energetic singer who reminded me a bit of a female David Bowie!

Amazing Brunch at Cliff's Edge

Perfect brunch at Cliff’s Edge

Palms, palms and more palms!

The palms of Silver Lake

Saturday morning I joined my favorite music and fiction writer Liz Barker of the Strawberry Fields Whatever blog for a leisurely brunch in the lush back garden of the Cliff’s Edge, a super cute restaurant in Silver Lake with great “shabby chic” decor – I wish my apartment was decorated like that restaurant. Next I took a wander around the Silver Lake farmers market and picked up some handmade, soy, scented candles to remind me of LA back in cold Brooklyn.

At the “Eagle’s Nest” – Shakeytown Radio HQ

Then I joined my new (but very dear) zine friend Brodie Foster Hubbard for a customized tour of the East Side. We spent the afternoon sipping coffee and chatting about life and career choices before jumping in to recording an episode of his podcast “The Shakeytown Radio Hour.” I’m really happy with the results and invite you to listen in on us talking about pursing and building a DIY life, job and negotiating a creative lifestyle and career in uncertain economic times.

Craziest thing I've ever eaten... DIY doughnut! Thanks @brodiehubbard

Very excited about my DIY Donut at Donut Friend!

Brodie took me on a guided tour of Eastside neighborhoods that I hadn’t gotten a chance to see yet: Eagle Rock, Atwater Village and Highland Park. We stopped into Pop Hop, a great used, new and art book shop, and then headed to Donut Friend, a donut shop among LA donut shops if I’ve ever seen one. It’s owned by Mark Trombino, the drummer from Drive Like Jehu, and features vegan and gluten free options. There’s a variety of pre-made donut delights, all named after bands, and I had to stop myself from picking up a tshirt that says “Rites of Sprinkles” on it… on second though, I might mail order one… but Brodie and I both opted for the “DIY donut” option (of course!) and I ended up concocting one I called the “Northern Soul” – a chocolate cake donut with ricotta cheese and raspberry jam filling, with maple glaze and coconut bacon on top. I also deemed it the “Craziest thing I have ever eaten.” And it was delicious.

Took a beautiful Sunday hike in Malibu!

Hiking in Solstice Canyon

The next morning Brodie and I headed to the Freeways Collide zine event and picked up some great little zines about Joy Division, witchery and being a gemini from Deirdree, and then took a wander through the Hollywood farmers market. I was happy I got to finally check out this bonanza of fresh produce and street food and after filling up on ice coffee, pupusas and persimmons, I met up with my friend Kabir and headed towards Malibu for an afternoon hike. A Sunday drive to Malibu is practically an LA tradition for me now and I was glad that Kabir and Emily came with me to check out a new (to me) hiking spot: Solstice Canyon (there’s a great site for hikes in and around LA called Modern Hiker that my friend Phoebe pointed me to, very very helpful!). We hiked along the bottom of the canyon to the ruins of a mid-century ranch and then up the hill for sweeping views of the Pacific. It was perfect.

Pacific View from Solstice Canyon

The view of the Pacific from Solstice Canyon

Back in downtown LA I got to try a French dip sandwich at Cole’s, one of the two “original” French dip restaurants, which I loved for its dark wood bar and classic cocktails. Then Kabir and I went to our favorite spot for a Sunday night in LA, Mignon wine bar (just two doors down from Cole’s) for some great hand selected wine and artisanal cheese and the sweetest servers ever. The perfect end to another great LA weekend.

Downtown LA from Griffith Park

Hazy downtown LA from Griffith Park

I headed home on Monday, but first squeezed in a hike in Griffith Park to gaze dreamily at the downtown city scape and bake in the sun and then a coconut kale smoothie at Naturewell to round off the visit. It’s a good thing I got the sun and my vitamins in too. The next day, back in New York, it snowed. How’s that for some cognitive dissonance?

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

Gals Rock Paris!

Table at Gals Rock

Color coordinated rock goods at Gal’s Rock

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.

Cool clothes and rock accessories at Gal’s Rock

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.

A wall of lady-powered albums at Gal’s Rock

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.

Gal’s Rock is just a nice place to hang out

Gals Rock, 17 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009 Paris

Oooh Chickfactor

When the MC on the second night of Chickfactor zine’s For the Love of Pop 20th anniversary show admitted to being, “A zip code fetishists who sent concealed pocket money to mysterious post offices boxes in hopes that weeks, sometimes months, later news from the outside world in the form of zines and records would return to my mysterious post office box,” I shared a knowing look with the group of ladies I had come to the show with. We could relate. We all met each other through the post and once referred to ourselves as the “Zine Girl Army.”

Zine Girl Army reunited. Keight "Pink Tea," Eleanor "Indulgence" (me!), Marissa "Red Hooded Sweatshirt," Yumi "External Text." Photo by Laura "Other Ramona."

Chickfator was, at times, infuriatingly snobby and unabashedly self referential. The editors, Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry, had impeccable taste in independent and underground pop music. The magazine was mostly a showcase of the editors friends and they referred to them by their first name and the name of their project, for example “Gail Chickfator.” In the late 1990′s and early 2000′s I loved to read it for a window into a world of indie musicians, both ladies and dudes, that interacted and partied and frankly, existed, somewhere outside of my small town, teenaged life. My friend Alex used to get so annoyed at Chickfactor’s inflated tone of self-importance he would rant ad nauseam on about it, but of course, couldn’t wait until the next issue came out. Chickfactor, and other zines like it, set the tone and the scene for today’s music blogs and helped paved the way for the explosion of indie pop bands like The Pains for Being Pure at Heart hitting it big time.

The cover of Chickfactor #10

No matter how you felt about it, Chickfactor had a magnetism and a draw larger than the publication itself. Twenty years later they were able to pull off a three-night extravaganza in two cities featuring bands who I thought had long since broke up with no chance of reunion. Lois, Small Factory, and Black Tambourine.  And the Aislers Set! A favorite band from the moment I heard them in 1998 until they stopped playing so frequently, perhaps circa 2004? Since my head has been in the sand about music since about 2008, I relied on Dominick to give me a hot tip about the reunion and bought tickets the minute they went on sale.

Zine Girl Army reunited and on the march!

More Zine Girl Army! This time with Laura!

The Chickfactor shows were like a class reunion of people I actually wanted to see. It was a reunion of those of us poured our hearts out in letters and cassette tapes and sent them to each other. Laster some of those friends became my everyday friends (and still are) and close neighbors. Seeing people I used to see at shows was almost as exciting as the music itself. Perhaps most awesome, Marissa “Red Hooded Sweatshirt” came down from Boston to join Laura “The Other Ramona,” Keight “Pink Tea,” Yumi “External Text” and me (Eleanor “Indulgence”) for pre-Aislers Set tacos. We all used to go to shows together in Boston and attend zine events around the northeast over ten years ago. When we sat down to eat tacos Laura turned to Marissa and said, “I haven’t seen you in 11 years!”

My friend Kirsten “Lightening Bug” surprised me by flying into Chicago. We staked out space by the front of the stage for Black Tambourine and the next night, for Aislers Set. She reminded me that she had visited me in NYC in 2002 to see the Aislers Set in Williasmburg when I said something to the effect of, “This neighborhood is just getting really gentrified” to explain it to her. “It’s our 10 year Aislers Set reunion!” she announced.

The reunited bands full of energy and sparkle and sounded as fresh as they did ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. Lois performed with Peter from Heavenly and Molly Neuman and played “Strumpet,” which I quoted on my senior page in the yearbook.

My heart raced as she sang, “I laugh too much, I talk too loud, people stare at me when I’m in a crowd, you say I walk around like I own the whole place, but I do, but anyone else can have it all too, just walk around the town like you own it.”  I turned to my friend Amelia, who also went to my high school, “This was on my senior page!” I whispered. She smiled, “I know.”

Black Tambourine were revelatory. So many bands now are playing washed out, reverbed out, noisy music with bitter sweet vocals (ahem, my band might do this too), but Black Tambourine helped start that sound. Hearing them alive made all those who cite them as a reference seem pale in comparison.

Small Factory also rocked out with upbeat disappointment and plenty of jagged, self effacing lyrics. They played one my favorite song, singing the chorus loud and heartfelt, “I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up on nothing, I still believe in nothing, just not so much in love.” To hear these words ring out over buzzing guitars and a sea of people left me feeling like if I’m still here, still listening to this music and still loving it as much as ever, I must have done something right in my life.

The second night British folk singer Bridget St. John entranced me with her ethereal yet earthy songs, but the real highlight for me was The Aislers Set, who played at the very end of the night. My friends and I staked out space in the front of the stage and refused to move. “We’re doing this 90’s style!” Constance announced, meaning, we’re staking our claim and not moving, just like we used to do as younger music fans. It was worth it. To have no frustratingly tall people between us and Linton and watch every strum of her 12 string guitar was better than I could have even dared to hope for.

Linton and Alicia of the Aislers Set

I love the Aislers Set. Their songs are catchy and poppy, and Linton’s lyrics are like stories that you tell someone about the small thoughts you have everyday that somehow add up to a profound reflection on your life. Her imagery always makes me soar, “The queen of every rooftop,” is one line I love. Their sound is big – big guitars, big pounding drums, big layers and harmonies, but still delicate and jangly.

As I soaked in their songs I realized a significant portoin of my life from about age 18 to 23 was spent listening to the Aislers Set. When they played “Mary’s Song,” with its wistful start and bass line that comes in like a tug on your heart strings tears came to my eyes. In away, I thought, my dreams from the time I listened to these records on repeat have come true, but I still feel the same wistfulness and longing that this song so perfectly captures.

When the Aislers Set took the stage an audience member cried out, “It’s been too long!” Indeed, it has been. My life has been missing the Aislers Set.

The multi-talented Linton. Trumpet and guitar at the same time!

I don’t know if there will ever be a new issue of Chickfactor, but if there is I will surely read it. I am grateful for the community I know and got to re-experience at the shows thanks to zines and 90’s indie rock. I’m grateful that creative people who make music and help make my world so great are in my city and I don’t have to wait for their letters in my mailbox. I’m grateful the rise of social media has made keeping tabs on a wider scene so much easier. But the Chickfactor shows also demonstrated how much was built during those days of zip code fetishism. As Lois sang, “I make a scene, I read about my scene in a magazine.” She then added, “I’m glad that for me at that time it was magazines because Tumblr just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

SXSW Music Discoveries

Torches

Torches in Trees perform at Waterloo Cycles

Can you believe I’m still talking about SXSW? It was nary a month ago and I still find myself with so much to say about those magical few days in Austin. I saw shows in parking lots and fields, bars and backyards and it all flowed together into a party that I didn’t want to end.  There were so many fantastic bands and musicians at the event (in fact, over 6,000 of them by one estimate, counting official and unofficial shows, though I’ve also hear over 2,000… anyway, a lot!), but the best thing about South by for me was  not running around trying to see the latest hype darlings, but stumbling upon bands that took me by surprise. In New York I rarely have the time to seek out new music, so shows that I do catch are carefully planned. It was nice to be in a place where the music came to me by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

Torches!

Torches in Trees!

Torches in Trees are my big South by discovery. A three-piece psychedelic band from Los Angeles made up of three dedicated kids who drove from LA to Austin straight (that’s about 24 hours, maybe more). Their music shimmers, shines and pulled me in, making me dream of California nights, even though I watched them perform in a dusty Texas parking lot.  

River City Tanlines Fronted by the talented Alicja Trout, River City Tanlines is dirty, garagy American rock’n’roll from Memphis that goes straight for the jugular. Alicja and bassist Terrence each had three amps, if that gives you any idea.

Dead Ships @GayBiGayGay

Dead Ships performing at Gay Bi Gay Gay

Dead Ships are a two-piece garage rock band from LA that tore up the stage at the Gay Bi Gay Gay festival on the last day of South by with a lot of swagger and a little jangle. It takes more than you think to rock a field of queers in the middle of the afternoon after days of partying, but the Dead Ships pulled it off.

Break It Up are a Philly trio of two ladies and a nice guy with great post-punk guitar melodies and jagged crunch, as well as catch bass lines and punchy, blended vocals.

James Arthur’s Manhunt was one of a slew of boozy, crazy garage rock bands we saw on Saturday night at Trailer Space records. Guitars were flung, 7″ records were tossed like frisbees, amps and drums were broken, pedals were stomped on, everyone had a great time, and somehow, no one called the cops.

Bands Only, Queen!

Sign at Gay Bi Gay Gay

Christeene is not a band, per se, but Austin’s premiere drag performer, complete with bearish backup dancers in panda masks. Everyone I talked to, both Austinite and visitor, asked me, “Have you seen Christeene?” and thankfully, on my last day in Austin at Gay Bi Gay Gay I did.  Aggressive beats, limit pushing choreography and lewd lyrics that get lodged in your brain. Seeing Christeen perform really made my weekend. I am dreaming of a Christeene meets Cheryl performance someday. That would make all of my party/performance art dreams come true.

There’s more photos of bands, and Austin during SXSW in general, in a set on Flickr.

South by Southwest Takeaways

These bikes were having fun watching us

Corita performing at Waterloo Cycles during SXSW

Today I have a guest post up on my friend Alejandra O’Leary’s blog about what my big lessons from SXSW. Coming from the perspective of a nonprofit arts administrator and a DIY musician, I wasn’t sure if the SXSW conference would really resonate with me, but it did, and I think I took away some valuable ideas that I hope will be helpful to musicians and all types of creatives. Please check out the entry here and let me know what you think! Also, if you’d like to listen to the insights and ideas shared in the panel I spoke on, Beethoven + Social Media = Crowd Funding Patronage, you can listen to that here!  If you’ve been to South by I’d love to know your big takeaways and if not, I’d love to know what you are working on to take your creative project to the next level!

Corita at Cherrywood Coffee House

Corita performing at Cherrywood Coffee House for the Austin Girls Rock Camp party during SXSW

Corita at SXSW!

Corita rock guitar moves at SXSW

I am still in a bit of a time warp and there’s so much to stay about my first time at South by Southwest (or SXSW). The days passed like blurs and I tried to absorb as much as I could of the frenetic atmosphere around me. I’ve garnered enough material for several blog posts, but first and foremost I wanted to share these photos taken by A.’s friend JC of Corita’s shows. It was our first time playing out of New York State (in fact our first time playing outside of Manhattan or Brooklyn), our first time playing out of doors, and my first time playing with sunglasses (it’s bright when you play outside in the afternoon). South by was magical because people who did not know us, who actually cared about seeing music, saw and liked our band and told us so. Does that ever happen in New York? Rarely. Thank you again to Austin Girls Rock Camp and Waterloo Cycles for hosting us. It was refreshing to play like minded-venues with like-mined bands and we loved being outside with the wind in our hair!

Corita rocks the bike shop

With three singers and two mics you make do

This is my new favorite picture of myself, or at least my rock persona

Corita pulled out the stops and busted out the rock (moves)

There’s a set on Flickr and more blog entries about all my reflections and musical discoveries coming soon.

Corita's Waterloo Cycles Setlist (with typo)