2014 Year in Review: Travels, New Opportunities, Building Blocks

Of course it happens every year. I look back over the course of the past twelve months and think, “What, I’m back here already?” 2014 was quite the year for me with new opportunities, unexpected detours and of course a few road blocks on the path of my life. In some areas (especially for me right now professionally) possibilities seem to be opening or evolving, but of course nothing in life is smooth sailing, and while I’ve found some of what I hoped for and sought after I also felt like many things fell short or flat. In summary, it’s been another year of my life and I wanted to share the some of the highlights of the past twelve months with you.

January

Vision board 2014: what am I trying to manifest, Internet?

I kicked off 2014 by making a vision board that summarized what I envisioned for myself in the year ahead: technology, travel (to France), and cultivating a no-nonsense sense of style and self possession. Looking over it now, it’s amazing to see how much of this did materialize.

Saturday code looks good to me

I spent the first two months of the year mired in code and learned the basics of the Ruby on Rails programming language. While now my programming skills are pretty rusty, my taste of code was enough to kick off a career change and orient myself towards technical applications of my interest in creative entrepreneurship.

February

This commuting creature is really sad today is not a snow day

Winter 2014 was terrible in NYC. It was a never ending parade of ice, snow and below freezing temperatures. Note the two scarves in the photo above.

LA Zine Fest fashion: space tights! + docs, shorts & Gal's Rock tshirt!

I escaped the crushing NYC winter for a trip to LA that was focused around the LA Zine Fest. I got to hang out with my friend Meredith, who I met through zines and music over a decade ago in Portland, Oregon.

Zine fest redux!

March

Like the BO$$ of SXSW

My escape from the NYC winter continued with ten days in Austin for SxSW where I managed to speak on three panels at the Film, Interactive, and Music festivals and generally bummed around Austin seeing friends from all over, eating breakfast tacos, drinking free alcohol and riding a borrowed cruiser bike around like a boss.

Looking happy pre-music data happy hour talk #datarocks #sxsw

I had barely touched down from Austin and recovered from my ten day Tex-Mex hangover when I started my job on the Community team at Shapeways, a 3D printing service and marketplace. Thus began my introduction to the wonderful world of 3D printing and design, as well as some of the nicest and hardest working colleagues in the business.

Object of the day: mini-me in 3D! #3dselfie #shapeways

April

California real/surreal

With winter still lingering into spring I snuck away, yet again, to Southern California to present at the Craftcation conference and to talk about the themes of goal setting and budgeting from my book Grow. I also got to meet some of my crafty, entrepreneurial inspirations, like Michelle Ward and Kari Chapin, and spend more time with my friends KC and Sharon, the masterminds behind the Academy of Handmade.

Craftcation Author SoCal DIY

At Craftcation with the amazing Michelle Ward

May/June

Double Gemini Birthday Girls!

For the 13th year in a row I celebrated my birthday with my Gemini twin Lauren and our amazing group of friends in Brooklyn. I also spent time at the NYC Popfest and the Northside Festival, leading me to coin the term “friend rock” or “young lifers” – a group of friends in about their 30s who all go to see each others’ bands. We’re not as cool as the young hotshots from Bushwick, but we’re not disconnected from them either.

Leaders in the friend rock scene: Brian, Aileen and Stephen

Young lifers: Brian (of Shelter Dogs/The Planes), Aileen (of Space Merchants), Jon (of The Black Black), Stephen (The Planes/Big Quiet)

I also go off my duff to compete in the Punk Rope Games and my team, Team Henri for a certain depressed French cat, did not come in last!

Let the Punk Rope Games begin! Let's go Team Cats Meow #cattitude

July
Jump!

I went to France for nearly two weeks! It was awesome! You can see my full photos of what I saw, where I walked and what I ate and bought on Flickr.

Paris nightwatch

I spent several days walking around Paris seeing friends and my favorite places and then jaunted off to Brittany with my family for a week in the picturesque harbor town of Paimpol.

Fishng boats, Port de Paimpol

View through the sea grass

And then back to Paris with my parents to witness the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees.

Yellow Jersey!

Family Portrait II

August

Nothing motivates me to do yoga and Pilates more than my new tiger tights!

After my French excess of cheese and wine I decided it was time to start a regular yoga practice, which I’m proud to say I’ve kept up at least twice a week since August! These awesome tiger yoga pants help.

Beach Day!

I also spent a weekend in beautiful Cape May New Jersey for the marriage of my niece Heather and her amazing (now wife) Renee!

September

Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop in early September

Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop in early September

My band Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop on the Lower East Side in September and then jumped into recording for the 4 Track Challenge organized by Stephen from The Planes and Hearts Bleed Radio. You can hear the EP we created on Soundcloud.

We are double ready for the #4trackchallenge

The end of September was unseasonably warm, so I got one final bike ride to Rockaway Beach in, as well as got to indulge in a small feast at Rockaway Taco and hold on to the summer for one final gasp.

Summer redux: forever in our hearts

October

Aileen "Rock Locks" Brophy and The Space Merchants mainline the sun #zerofest

The Space Merchants play at Shea Stadium as part of Zero Fest

October kicked off with Zerofest, an awesome weekend-long fest celebrating the DIY music scene of Brooklyn that took place in friendly apartments, DIY spaces and low-key clubs all around Bushwick hosted by the ever energetic Jon Mann and Derek Hawkins, the forces behind the great Square Zeros music blog.

Dutch Evening #1

In mid-October I jetted off to Europe again for week-long trip to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, where I spent most of my time working at Dutch Design Week, eating at Onder de Leidingstraat (below), and celebrating the opening of the new Shapeways factory!

Onder de Leidingstraat

You can see the complete photos from my Eindhoven work adventure on Flickr and read about my recommendations for where to eat, shop and party earlier on this here blog.

Back in the US I managed to organize a one-day conference on building a small business with 3D printing and you can see the complete proceedings on Shapeways’ YouTube channel.
November

Just Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Alice Bag and Courtney Love hanging out

Liz Flyntz as Richard Hell, Amanda B. as Debbie Harry, me as Alice Bag and Marisha C. as Courtney Love at Pet Rescue

And then, Halloween! I collaborated with Brian LaRue at Pet Rescue to put on a Halloween Party that included rockers reading from rockstars memoirs in character and Operation Ivy, Smashing Pumpkins, and Guided by Voices cover bands. It was a magical evening and I hope it will be come an annual event.

My replacement dress for my friend Rachel's wedding in Durham, NC

My replacement dress for my friend Rachel’s wedding in Durham, NC

I spent a whirlwind few days bouncing from Detroit to Durham, North Carolina where I managed to forget the dress I brought for a friend’s wedding and had to find a quick (and equally beautiful) replacement. I think I succeeded!

Playing guitar in Rules at Bar Matchless

Playing guitar in Rules at Bar Matchless

Rules squeaked in another show and then I had the luck of seeing all the members of the “Young Lifer/Friend Rock” scene play in a jumble of new bands in the first ever lottery band showcase – so much fun and especially poignant as I just found out that Trash Bar, where the show was held and where I spent many a drunken evening circa 2006, will succumb to Williamsburg’s insanely high rents.

Lottery Band Show: Brooklyn Indie Rock Class of 2014

Lottery Band Show: Brooklyn Indie Rock Class of 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

December, all told, was a pretty quiet month and concluded with a trip home to Maine and a party with friends here in Brooklyn. I don’t have any huge conclusions about 2014 except that I think it was a year of building what’s to come next – it wasn’t a year of breakthroughs, but a slow turn towards figuring out what it means to live my life how I want it to be, in my 30s, here in Brooklyn.

A coveted pair of LL Bean duck boots

A coveted pair of LL Bean duck boots my Mom found for me for Christmas

Maine winter sky

Here’s to you and more adventures, opportunities and changes to learn and grow in 2015!

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Out of This World

Spacetights1

I know, it’s been a minute since there’s been any fashion posts on this blog! What happened? Well, in NYC it’s winter and so usually I’m wearing 18 layers just to leave the house, so there’s really nothing to see here in terms of fashion and style. However, I took a weekend trip to LA where it was like a little window into summer. LA is so inspiring in terms of fashion because people really use it as a medium to express themselves and I couldn’t help but get into the spirit and do an impromptu, Sunday morning fashion shoot in front of a parking garage in Downtown LA (or “DTLA”).

Spacetights2

Spacetights4

I visited the shop Matrushka in Silver Lake and in addition to a fairly practical dress found these amazing leggings. I’ve been coveting space tights for quite some time, but wasn’t quite up to it because I could not quite figure out how to make them workplace appropriate. However, when they were handmade in LA by the shop owner? I couldn’t resist. And don’t worry, I’ll find a way to wear them to work.

Spacetights3

What am I wearing? Gals Rock Paris T-shirt, American Apparel shorts (purchased specially for my trip because I forgot what shorts are and didn’t pack any), Matrushka Space Tights, vintage Casio watch (my Valentine’s present to myself) and Doc Martens!

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?

Oh baby drive away to Malibu

Tattoo by Emily North

“Not Afraid Anymore” tattoo by Emily North

There are certain places that become a legend before you even get a chance to visit. As a child of the 80s “Malibu” had a strong currency in my mind though I didn’t understand what or where it was. The word conjured “Malibu Barbie,” with her flaxen hair and metallic swimsuit and pink hued beach mansion. In reality, I’m struck by Malibu’s rugged coast, its quiet beaches, and state parks full of cliffs and chaparral and hiking trails.

T-shirt: J Crew; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

T-shirt: J Crew; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

On my recent trip to LA I took a Saturday to drive out with two of my best friends to have brunch in Santa Monica and continue up the coast to El Matador State Park, a windswept beach full of rock formations, sea anemone, surf and beautiful sand for napping, sunning and restoring.

Bathing Suit: Esther Williams; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

Bathing Suit: Esther Williams; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

I also got to show off my new (and first!) tattoo by Emily North – a phrase taken from “Insight,” one of my favorite Joy Division songs that has stuck with me for over a decade. I find that Southern California is the perfect place to wash away fear and embrace possibility with an expansive view over the endless Pacific.

El Matador State Park

El Matador State Park, Malibu, California

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

Los Angeles You’re (Not Quite) Mine

Griffith Park observatory and downtown LA

Griffith Park observatory and downtown LA

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.

LA afternoon. Just chillin'.

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.

Hollywood California

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.

Griffith Park with Wallace the Lawless

Walking “Wallace the Lawless” in Griffith Park

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).

The Hippest Corner in the US

Rag Mop Vintage

Ragg Mop Vintage in Silver Lake

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.

Skate Park, Venice Becah

The famous skate park in Venice Beach

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!

Venice Liberty

Shirts at Venice Liberty… I bought the purple one!

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!).

Me and Kabir, Venice Beach

My friend Kabir and I in Venice Beach

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.

Venice Beach Sunset Postcard

I’ll leave you with this song by Unrest and more photos on Flickr.

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.”