Friday, December 17, 2010

Long Live Vinyl

In an age of technology, evolution is expected in all aspects of life, including the music industry. All around the world, intellects strive to design the new, the more compact, the faster, the cleaner, the cheaper. Day to day, the public throws away the old and swipes those credit cards for the cutting-edge. Years of this type of public spending have affected the way an individual listens and collects music. Ultimately, the form of media each person chooses is based upon their life-style. For fast-paced living that includes constant travel, digital media is the most favorable. But for avid vinyl patrons, a little extra effort and a little more relaxation is appreciated. Listening to wax is a means of musical meditation in which the mood is of the utmost importance. There are specific times that are best to drop that needle. At home. With a joint. With some wine. With some whiskey. With someone you love. With close friends. With the door closed. With the windows open. With a candle. With the lights turned low. Each individual has their own way of listening. And for the community of record collectors that love this way of living, vinyl will always survive.

Despite the digital craze, shops like Burger Records in Fullerton, Factory Records in Costa Mesa, Vinyl Solution in Huntington Beach, and Origami in Silverlake still litter the Orange County and surrounding, offering a full selection of new, used and reprinted record albums of all genres. In Costa Mesa, right next to Little Knight, is the newly reclaimed Factory Records, known by most as Sound Trolley before Dave of Noise Noise Noise took over a few months ago. Peek through the old white wooden door windows, and notice a rack filled with free magazines, show fliers, CD demos, and art hiding in a nook on the left. Despite the close quarters, Factory makes use of every corner, only adding the best vinyl to the already exquisite collection. Each album features a white written tag stuck onto the protective plastic cover. On these stickers are in-depth, and usually hilariously sarcastic, scribbles of explanation about the history, significance, and condition of that specific record. All around, back-stock peaks out from the inside of wooden crates that litter the lower portion of the racks and unused areas of the shop. There are a few 8-tracks, cassettes and CD’s, but this room at Factory will be forever dominated by vinyl.

In this age, thousands of songs can be stored and downloaded through iTunes, CD Baby, and the quick and convenient bit-torrent sites. Going digital has also allowed the masses to make their own musical concoctions in living rooms, garages, and local lockouts for a reasonable price. From the studio, local bands then cut and mix their product with user-friendly music editing software like Garage Band and Sound Studio. But while the trend seems to be all about electronics, most musicians are still unable to give up and throw away their beloved vinyl collection boasting Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Iggy, and Sabbath. Recently, this fairly expensive manner of music production has outlasted decades of change, and has continued to survive in the hands of an artistic community that values the sound produced when the needle gently drags over the creases of revolving pressed vinyl. Not only are these individuals collecting the music of the forefathers of modern rock, punk, and hip-hop for the next generations, but they now are reverting back to releasing vinyl themselves. Musicians like Local Natives, The Growlers, and Gestapo Khazi are making their own place in vinyl history by releasing wax of their own, developed from digital tracks.

For the men in charge of Burger Records in Fullerton, a heightened vinyl obsession has inspired them to create an authentic record store and publishing label in Orange County. With a few local bands under their belt, Burger has succeeding in pressing vinyl and making cassette tapes on their label that’s also named Burger Records. To get to the shop, just cruise past the industrial buildings that line State College Blvd., past the remains of an old orange grove, and on the left is Burger. Inside the glow of neon green walls, they offer recovered originals, underground current releases, and a few reprints. The interior design is retro, with a collection of music oddities of strange origins littered everywhere. To give back to their customers, Burger constantly hosts movie and live music nights, motivating the locals to come kick back with fellow music lovers.

With the success of CDs in the early ‘90s, record players hit a major lull in production. From there came the decision among record-holders; hold onto the vast collection, let it fade away, or sell it off to shops for dimes. CD’s took over, with digital soon following, and each new format operated on more efficient equipment, causing record players to fade away. As CD’s and iPods filled the shelves, vinyl finally took a backseat to the cleaner and more convenient digital technology.

In a modest strip mall off of Beach Blvd hides the record store gem, Vinyl Solution. Step through the door and find yourself stuck in a world of punk and rock memorabilia that covers every inch of the establishment, including the ceiling. The expensive stuff rests on wall racks to the left, protected by a glass case that serves as a barricade and location to place the selection of alphabetized 45’s. Buttons, shirts, and posters of bands like The Misfits, The Cramps, and Ramones fill the little bit of space that the records don’t reach. Upon entering, prepare for some shop-talk about the intricate levels of record history, involving such precise knowledge as release dates, specific concert data, and album artwork. Not only is it easy acquire a favorite Beatles album there, but you’ll learn a little about it before you leave.

Record stores are the backbone of the music industry, and the key to its success. When major corporate retail locations like Best Buy now offer vinyl, all boasting shiny gold 180 gram vinyl stickers on shrink-wrapped plastic, it is apparent that the music industry has taken a wrong turn. Without the vinyl junkie who strives to perfect the oral history of music, peddle albums to music appreciators, and promote local and popular music everywhere, record companies and musicians will ultimately fail. Bands must now rely on selling merchandise first-hand in order to make the smallest of profits, but most fans are unable to go to purchase that merch because that band cannot afford to tour through town. On top of that, concert tickets that used to be sold at record retail locations are now claimed by Ticketmaster and LiveNation, which monopolized the market on online ticket sales.

Head to Silverlake, past the lake in Echo Park, and up to Sunset. On the left, tucked near the venue The Echo, is Origami Vinyl. Simple, chic wooden bins extend, implanted on each side of one long corridor, hiding walls that shine with a grey winter glow. All the way in the back, a classic metal spiral staircase winds up to an empty loft area for bands to play in-store performances. Each month a new collection by a local artist is placed on the walls above the record racks. Despite the detached music scene in Orange County, this portion of Los Angeles has figured out a way to create a local neighborhood of artists, musicians, and venues. Origami sits right in the middle of it all. That makes it easy for the shop to connect with local venues like Spaceland, for which they promote and sell concert tickets. Musicians and a handful of record companies are also local, allowing Origami to work directly with artists to purchase wholesale vinyl, instead of corporate distribution companies. The middle-man is then cut out, leaving most of the profit to the artists.

Sometimes an enigma, despite the odds, secures its spot in history. In a world of digital, vinyl seems to survive even with the battle between tape, CDs, and digital audio files. Perhaps it is because some of the most passionate artists and music appreciators live in the world of vinyl. The true collectors that are scattered throughout record stores across the nation will always be obsessed with enjoying the music they surround themselves with. Each band, song, album, and artist will stay with that collector forever, even if their vinyl collection doesn’t. For them, music is tied to personal memories; moments made in the past in which one specific song is the catalyst for reminiscence. A type of spirituality is engrained in the rich sound waves of vintage vinyl. And as it still carries merit in this modern time despite the desire for digital, performers of the future will no doubt continue to pay tribute to vinyl by pressing their own LP’s to live on forever as a collector’s items.

A Week at Detroit

Every night there is something to do at Detroit Bar, the music venue hiding in the corner of the Vista Center located in Eastside Costa Mesa. Drive on 19th street past Placentia Ave., past the old eVocal, past Avalon, turn left at the brightly lit marquee, and in towards the corner of the parking lot. There, you will find one of the most vital contributing venues in the underground Orange County music and art scene.
Throughout the venue, the reoccurring theme is an aged, yet chic style of Mod. Knitted pieces of tangerine-colored pillow art litter the walls of the dance floor, bar area, and pool hall; buffering the music that spews from speakers. Every piece of interior has rounded corners, whether it is the stools, tables, or booths. The establishment is split into three tiers; the first being the open concert hall, the second the bar, booths, and DJ arena, and the last being the pool room that possesses a digital jukebox, a classic joystick Pacman arcade game, and more lounge seating.
For nine years, the stage has featured thousands of bands; some good, some great, and some to forget. But each performance always shines in it’s own distinct way. From a wooden beam above and away from the stage hangs the modest light system and fog machine. To the right and left, suspended with a tilt towards the audience, are two substantial house speakers. Monitors litter the extension of the platform that was built into the existing frame of the stage just a few weeks ago, providing a little extra space for the performers. Surrounding the musicians are three walls of orange-painted concrete hidden behind a perimeter of deep red curtains. In the back, centered in the drapery, is an oversized smooth metal replica of the Detroit Bar logo, always beaming in the glow of shifting red, blue, green, and yellow beams of stage light. For those who see the merit in discovering new and upcoming musical acts to add to their life playlist, it is the perfect place to reside every night of the week.
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Today the week starts with Resident Live Music Monday, and for the first evening of the Billy Kernkamp Mysteresidency, the sounds of The Relative Strangers are booming out of the doorway of Detroit. “The feeear of taking you for graaanted, the feeear of letting yooou go,” has wandered into my head a lot over the last month. This Thursday will be their first appearance at the House of Blues in Anaheim.
Pleasant surprise is the second mystery band, Wake Up Lucid, hailing from Los Angeles. This three-piece played a healthy set of psychedelic Southern rock to impress the crowd. Tonight, the three-band-lineup is letting each group take advantage of extended time on stage. Wake Up Lucid took advantage, showing a great extension of their musical range, including an impressive drum solo transitioned seamlessly into an intense song finale. Definitely downloading their new EP as soon as possible.
Gossip of the night is all about unveiling the Ruffian music blogger, whether or not he was there, and who it may be. It is still unclear if they are male or female, one person or many, and what crowd they seem to run with. But the consensus seems to be that, whoever it may be, he or she is probably not much of a musician.

Billy Kernkamp, accompanied by Justin Deckert, Brendan Murphy, Teddy Duran, Justin Morales, minus organist Dallas Kruse, takes center-stage. In the spotlight after a few weeks of hiding out, Kernkamp graces his many fans, singing their favorite songs with deep passion and romantic fervor. A month-long residency is good practice for the group, as they will be entering the Red Bull recording studio in a few weeks to claim their OC Music Awards prize. Nearby, Trisha Smith and Ryan Radcliff of Honeypie enjoy the music. They will be playing next Thursday at Detroit with Melanoid, Preacher’s Sons, and May McDonough.

At the end of the night, it is necessary to swoop out undetected, otherwise goodbyes would last on through the night. Always a good time seeing friends at Billy’s shows. Looking forward to the rest of July Mysteresidency.

For local artists, the Monday night residency spot is coveted, and reserved for the most legit Orange County musicians. Over the last year, bands like The New Limb, Railroad to Alaska, and Blok have chosen their favorite openers to join them in filling up the Detroit dance floor for four weeks in row. Not only is this Residency one of the best ways for a band to gain exposure, but it is also a challenge that truly shows a group’s stature and following in the Orange County music scene.
* * * * * * *

Started off this Tuesday night Everyday Noise event by walking into Detroit to the words, “People get goofy to this song.” The Tail, a group of four, sounded reminiscent of a modern-day Beach Boys or Dr. Dog, but with more quirky and intellectual lyrics.

Near the DJ booth, Everyday Noise founder, Ash Eliot, works away on her laptop, while her partner, Albert Ching, runs to and from the stage area to observe the show. This duo is running the Local Indie Night every first Tuesday of every month at Detroit.

Next up is another four-piece hailing as the California Condors. Each member, with their own personal microphone, stood up to sing his own song, with only a few truly being memorable for the night. This is an Indie band with excellent musicians and democratic songwriting style.

A faux-redheaded female takes the stage with her psychedelic rock band. Spirit Vine had made the rounds through Los Angeles and now enters Orange County, with the possibility of a memorable show tonight. With red lights turned low, a few riffs from the lead guitarist, and the occasional harmonies hit just right, Spiritvine was unforgettable.

Peyote Players closed out the night as the population dwindled to the final few. This funky, hip-hop, soul, psychedelic rock trio, featuring lead bass, is the most entertaining of the evening; enough to earn fog and a technical light show from the house. A mellow evening at Detroit with a full range of Indie bands.

While the local musicians usually host Tuesday evenings, the final one of the month is reserved for Dubtroit, a night filled with the heavy basslines of dubstep music. The crowd has been anticipating this Tuesday all month, checking in with friends days in advance to make sure they are attending. Every time Dubtroit rolls around, the bouncer knows it is time to prepare for that long line that always builds in front of his station. One by one, he checks ID’s, always attempting to tame the orgasmic electricity shifting though the crowd, and the smell of hydroponics in the air on the patio.
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Dolphin City is glowing in raw projector light, laced with flecks of digital color. Dressed in all white, perfectly puzzled together on stage like opaque tetris blocks. The stellar musical experimentations radiate over the snug audience that consumes the concrete dance floor. And the standard is set high for the musical acts of the night.

For The New Limb, tonight is the ultimate homecoming after a two-week tour up the veins of the West Coast. A new maturity, wisdom, and confidence pulses in musical succession from the five members. Time apart results in a sense of nostalgia, and a new excitement for the group that I’ve seen so many times now. Welcome home.

Young the Giant, previously known as The Jakes, sets up and briefly checks their levels. “It’s time to start a fight,” flows from the romantic vocals of the lead. These young men, previously known as The Jakes, exemplify the Indie scene perfectly in Orange County, with charismatic tunes bouncing throughout the establishment. The promoters have changed up the schedule for the month of August, with Young the Giant taking a slot as Resident band. Any other Wednesday night would consist of a DJ set, and completely different kind of crowd than musical hipsters. Go through the door of Detroit on hump day, and be greeted by a dance floor that hosts twirling bits of colored lights moving to the beat of the pop, ‘80s, house, and techno beats that inspire the crowd to drink, pick up on each other, and dance all night long. Refreshing to have a Costa Mesa venue with bands on a Wednesday for a change.

When Detroit was first introduced to the public after purchasing the punk venue, Club Mesa, in 2001, the entry line on a Wednesday evening shoot down the sidewalk, stretching past the neighboring businesses, all the way to the parking lot entrance near Alejandro’s Mexican food. Although the initial charm has worn off a bit, Detroit still boasts lines like this for Tuesday night Dubtroit, and national headliners like Cold War Kids, Crystal Castles, and Autolux.
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Thursday night; semi-official start to the weekend. That means there is probably a cover, with a touring band or special-event taking place. On this specific evening, it is Chainsaw’s Birthday Massacre featuring Railroad to Alaska, The Vespertines, Strange Birds, and Names In Vain.

Names In Vain are setting up, lights turned low and a thin starting crowd. Railroad members are split between the front door patio and the concert hall. Members of Strange Birds line the bar, with an occasional glance at one of the three televisions that float in orange encasings over the back bar. Each screen usually displays cult classics, eclectic music videos, or an occasional sports game. As the night wears on, The Vespertines enter the scene, with local musicians, scenesters, and surfers following. And the smoking patio fills.

By the end of the evening, the crowd is stretched full with booze, and an itching desire to get rowdy. Perhaps it was the booming voice of Vespertine’s lead female vocalist, crying low tones of Change, with a solid band of brothers behind her, matching her intensity in great harmony. Perhaps it was a particular crowd of fans, including birthday girl, Vanessa Barnes, that shot the rest of the audience up with adrenaline with their violent dancing, pushing, and rhythmic screaming.

As the people begin to exit the venue, friends and acquaintances continue to linger out front. But a few super drunk buddies, led by the-most-plastered-king-of-the-night, begins looking for some trouble. A fight quickly flames and fizzles, but a row of Detroit regulars, Railroad guys, and bouncers now line the patio, guarding the entrance to the establishment, making sure there’s no more trouble for the night.
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On Friday evening, everything changes. The crowd, the music, the mentality. A full set of DJ’s take over the venue, transforming it into a club with men and women on the prowl. Pay five bucks at the door, and enter into a world of lights, lazers, and the sound of MSTRKRFT, Justice, and Daft Punk remixes. Club attire is more prolific tonight, with the men in button-ups, and the female’s skirts being tighter and shorter than any other night of the week. All three tiers of Detroit are bustling with young adults looking to throw a few drinks back and officially welcome the weekend.

Around the establishment, a cocktail waitress dressed in a black ruffled skirt and tank hustles from room to room, checking constantly for drink orders. At the bar, tequila shots are being shared. On the dancefloor, club-goers assimilate in drunken dance movements, while local photographers shoot from all angles, bending the perspective and light in every which way. Friday’s are reserved for the crowd that wants to absorb entertainment and alcohol from all sides.

However, any weekend the schedule may change, depending if a band like The Growlers, the GZA, Matt Costa, or Valient Thorr is coming through town. But no matter the night, Detroit supplies a hub for local music, socializing, and an escape from the work-week.
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It’s Saturday and the crowd consistently wanders in for the Echo Echo CD Release (with vinyl!). Tonight, the group shares their new album,Fall Like You're Flying. Through the main entrance, and towards the merch booth to find sprigs of delicate faux cherry blossom branches twinkling, each laced with tiny bulbs of light inside rice paper flowers. A few line the stage, with the rest set around the brown suitcase at the table. Inside the gaping mouth of the case, copies of the album are joined by digital download cards.

National act, Film School, under code name Fission, takes stage at 9:15pm sharp, making it an early start to the night for the venue. It has been two years since the foursome have played on stage together, and the Detroit stage is the first of many on their Fall tour schedule. The electro-indie band, with wedding rings and a hint of maturity on their faces, run their set and check the response of the crowd every song or two. Nervous to reply, the crowd keeps a distance, but continues listening closely.

To follow is Semi Sweet, a local bitch pop group, boasting the ratio of three females on vocals, keys, and drums, to the two men playing bass and guitar. A crowd gathers to the breathy croons of the lead vocalist; a seductive female with Fender in hand, sharing dramatic lyrics with the band’s followers. A fan posted up front grabs a prop bubble machine that had been implanted at the foot of the stage. He points and shoots, scattering a rain of gleaming orbs amidst the melodies of songs titled “Sleazy” and “Sugar Free.”

Third for the night is The Relative Strangers. As they play, more people wander into the establishment, proving the band is the perfect buffer for the headliner of the night. The two pairs of actual relatives finish up, allowing plenty of time for Echo Echo to share a full set of their new record before last call. As the band begins, a darker and more emotionally rattling mood begins to linger in the air. The four members, comprised of music locals, Steve Carson, Jameson, Darren Carr, and Bruce Yoken, escape to a place of broken romances. Carson, with his sorrowful voice resonating strong, leads the group in an epic set that extends into the wee hours of the morning.
* * * * * * *

Last chance to enjoy the weekend, and this specific Sunday, the crowd stumbles through the door, drunk from the events of Labor Day, ready for some top-notch karaoke. First stop: the bar. Second stop: the Book. Within the plastic covers of the karaoke binders is a thick selection of the classics, the current, and everything else in between. On stage, Lester Trombone, the host of the affair, is dressed in black and red pin-stripe pants, slicked back hair, and one of his t-shirts that simply states, “Organic Robot,” “Love Songs for Everyone,” or “ I Like Stuff.” He hunches over his karaoke stand, tucked away in the corner, his table littered with white strips of music selections. Scrolling through thousands of songs in his database, Lester hollers song titles from the likes of Danzig, Nirvana, Fiona Apple, and Weezer.

A swarming crowd ripe with booze serenades loudly along with a hip young man basking in the fog and lights of the red-carpeted stage. Tonight, owning the platform for a few minutes is difficult, with a growing crowd steadily throwing their favorite tunes towards the host. In the back corner of the dance floor, the sound technician adjusts vocal levels and lights, with fog and green beams of lazer reserved for only the finest acts of the evening. With a tempo change in lights and a puff of swirling smoke, this young man has achieved his acceptance from the establishment, and the crowd roars on.

Tomorrow each individual may regret the song selection they made, the amount of alcohol they consumed, or the decision to hit on that plastered guy or girl at the bar. But no matter what experiences were had, karaoke is the best way to close out the week at Detroit.

Music or the Misery

"What came first, the music or the misery?" -High Fidelity

If a person's environment is a determining factor in the development of personality, then music listened to, especially during adolescence, tends to become a personal brainwashing device. Depending on the genre and subject matter--whether it be religion, hate, happiness, angst, love, or jealousy--a single song can be a catalyst of influence, sending abstractions of emotion to surround a person's entity. This ultimately affects the individual's mental state, which is then carried on into adulthood. But, there is the factor of personal selection. You pick the music to listen choose wisely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Bus with the Growlers

Middle of their cross-country tour, and the Growlers are in Iowa City. The pack has decided to post up at The Mill, the dive they played at last night that offers PBR on special for $1.75 on Sundays. It is 25 degrees outside the bar and snow is scheduled to fall for the next two days. Every television in the country is stationed to the Superbowl, including this Iowa barroom. The prior evening, percussionist Warren fell deep in love with his soul mate Emily, a young resident who has offered the rowdy bunch some food, drink and a place to stay once the Mill locks the doors. Tomorrow, the crew of young hooligans will be dipping and rising and rolling their old stripped bio-diesel school bus down the road, weathering the late-winter storms on their way towards Omaha, Nebraska to continue their nationwide tour with Philadelphia-based band, Dr. Dog.

On the cross-country voyage, the boys have chosen to name their vessel Brandy the Bus. She has been the Growlers’ means of transportation, shelter, a recording studio, hangout spot, hotel room, and a place for mind exploration. On the bus is lead singer Brooks Nielsen, guitarist Matt Taylor, bassist Scott Montoya, drummer Brian Stewart, guitarist Kyle Straka, percussionist Warren Thomas, photographer Jack Coleman, and Ellie, a rad musician chick friend who has come along to help out with merchandise. A couple rows of old brown leather bucket seats remain at the front of the bus, but the rest of Brandy’s guts have been completely stripped clear. Replacing the rows at the rear are two sets of bunk beds that Brooks and Jack have sawed, drilled, and nailed into place. A table, kitchenette area, and equipment corral fills the rest of the space, with a tight aisle running through the middle. Drawings, pictures, and the mementos collected from friends and fans so far frame the fogged windows that block the vagabonds from the freezing winter weather. This alternate existence has caused the Growlers to lose track of what day it is, the town they visited five days ago, and what shows are scheduled for next month. It’s become a blur of experience.

Through Nebraska, over to Illinois, on to Ohio, up to Pennsylvania, and finally, by the grace of J.C., a spot opens up for the Growlers to park their vehicle in Brooklyn on a beautiful Valentine’s Day in New York. Outside, the air stills feels cool, but snow scattered on the concrete has melted into brown. A crowd is huddled in the bus, getting inebriated, killing time before sound-check for the show at Union Pool Bar. Tonight, the Growlers will be framed by a healthy stage, lined with round glowing bulbs and red velvet; a view straight from the Moulin Rouge. Hypnotic, eerie rhythms will entrance the intoxicated crowd, morphing the little kiddies into Dionysian creatures who sway in a sea of human motion.

Instead of striving for intricate technicality, the Growlers have chosen the more primal aspects of music as their weapon on the masses. These songs emerge from rough jams of guitar, vocals, bass, drums, keys. Each track stems from the roots of relationships, art, angst, mind-enhancers, females, surf, politics, philosophies of life, and the attempt to transcend the levels of their own consciousness. For the Growlers, this goal doesn’t involve leaving drink, drugs, or women behind, because it is the craziness of the world they surround themselves with that is the true inspiration for their music. A story of syllables might multiply from Brooks, growing into something tangible once Matt adds his touch of eerie guitar. Scott builds a bassline, while Kyle tinkers with keys and his own melody on guitar. Warren rounds out the sound with his own vision of backup vocals and the beating of conga drums and shakers. Each is receptive to one another’s vision, constantly testing how far they can break through musically.

Back on the bus, the boys have now made it through three weeks of touring with no flat tires, engine trouble, or tickets, despite a few close calls. From Denver, the Growlers now venture into San Francisco to join friends for their final homecoming show of their National tour. While here in the Bay, the boys entrance the gypsies, the hippies, and youthful degenerates into a hypnotic state. But after more than a month of traveling, Brandy is ready to take the boys back to Orange County for some rest and renovations before heading to Austin, Texas for their first appearance at SXSW.

Rolling rolling rolling down the California coast, and the Growlers finally pull into the parking lot of their home studio in Costa Mesa. After a night of rest, it’s back to business, preparing for upcoming local shows, and conducting interviews. In through the back door, and eyes are exposed to a circus of light bulbs, fake flowers, music equipment, hanging baby dolls and array of lights. Every inch of the Growler lair is covered with something Brooks has hoarded from the trash, thrift store, or yard sale. Each character wanders through the maze of makeshift rooms, up and down stairs, disguising themselves in various wigs and masks that double as decoration. In the back parking lot, Brooks and Jack are making adjustments to the bus, adding more plywood beds, maybe even a spa, they joke. The Entrance Band, another member of the Everloving Records family, will be joining the Growlers on the journey from Orange County to Austin in just a few days, so more space must be made for the trip of 3,000 miles.

Tuesday night before St. Patrick’s Day, and the Growlers briefly settle into their two hotel rooms in Austin, Texas. From there, the Growlers must wind Brandy through crowded streets to play a handful of downtown stages throughout the three days of music during SXSW. For the Irish holiday, the group commences their first of eight shows at The Wave Bar for a rooftop concert scheduled for the midnight hour. In the packed crowd, an intoxicated Bill Murray bobs with the youth to the beat of Red Tide. After the show, the Growlers hustle through the alleys of inebriation until the wee hours of the morning. Meanwhile, My Pet Saddle, Audacity, and AM have followed the SXSW train, crashing in the Growlers hotel rooms, partying hard and spending over $100 bucks on porn and amenities. A couple of hours of inebriated sleep, and the party begins again in the early afternoon. Like ants, the crowds swarm the downtown, stepping in and out of music venues, passing huddles of bands in the streets, listening to bits and pieces of the vast selection of music.

After traveling over 10,000 miles on the veins of American highways, Brandy finally loses her steam as the Growlers reach the outskirts of Orange County. Despite wanting to cut holes in the bottom of her frame to bring her in Flintstones style, the boys must resort to more modern methods to get her home. During her lifespan, Brandy has been redesigned, painted from the inside out, and seen more of the country than the average individual. As for the boys, they can’t help but sleep for two days straight once they reach their own beds. With all the traveling, the group has hardly had time to practice, let alone mold the new songs they so anxiously hope to finish. Despite having jobs, girlfriends and everyday lives, the Growlers tend to feel antsy if they aren’t staying busy with their project. One more Spring tour up the coast to Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, and the boys might finally get to rest. During their journey, Brandy and friends will stay behind, waiting patiently to have them back home in Orange County.

The Dawn of Stanley Lucas Revolution

Report Subject: Stanley Lucas

Date: February 2000

Department: Tavistock Internal Research Center, Montana #41336

Status: Top Secret

To Whom It May Concern,

Patient Name: Stanley Lucas has escaped the facility and his recapture is of the utmost importance. Due to his sociopathic behavior, he is dangerous to himself and those around him. His extreme revolutionary perspective is detrimental to the ways of society if he is given the opportunity to spread his extremist ideas to normal civilians. Patient possesses ability to manipulate the minds of others and cause anarchy, and in some cases, reckless derangement. A complete background, protective precautions, and possible whereabouts is included below.

* * * * *

Insanity is merely one perception of the man. A violent attitude will be used as a mask, mainly to cast fear towards any paranoid onlookers, keeping them at bay. Behind the fa├žade, Lucas has actually achieved an extremely high level of clarity that may only to be reached after severe mental, emotional, and physical torture. While housed at the Institute, Lucas was chosen by Dr. Teller as an ideal candidate for The Epicurean Procedure due to his highly evolved brain patterns. Historically, such experiments had continually caused dementia and split personality in patients. Dr. Teller anticipated that when the mind is able to withstand excruciating pain, a higher level of mental clarity can be reached. Patient Stanley Lucas was one of the very few to survive this process, but not without said side-effects. Despite his success in withstanding the trauma, Lucas retreated from any human interaction; locking his thoughts deep inside windows of glassy eyes, unwilling to cooperate with his superiors at the Institute.

Soon after Dr. Teller and colleagues began to notice violent outbursts becoming more routine in Stanley. In efforts to keep Patient Lucas mentally balanced, the Institute prescribed a daily combination of Lithium and Seconal. Initially, the doses given by the Institute meant to render Stanley into a docile state, making his actions easier to study. In turn, his subconscious adapted further by concentrating on creative, dreamlike tendencies to settle the restless monster that was growing inside. Lucas turned to these mental outlets, and quickly proved to be a proficient writer, painter, and composer.

During various manic episodes, Stanley threatened staff nurses that he was designing propaganda, meant to spread “his message” to the public. Now that he has escaped, Lucas will most likely begin his quest within an underground ring of society. Individuals possessing similar creative tendencies will undoubtedly serve as his only human connections while in the outside world. His instability will force him to remain absorbed in a personal hideout. Look for him at night, most likely in a major American city. Lucas is a sleeper cell, patiently waiting behind receptive eyes, generally bound to the conventional manners that accompany normal human interaction. He was adept to covering his tracks at the institute, usually leaving little or no traces behind of his mischievous actions. In order to prevent manic attacks, he will most likely acclimate a daily routine that involves consuming illegal pills and possibly marijuana. This intake of drugs can be assumed to be mostly handmade and smuggled.

A chance of recapture means discovering his local hideouts. Without the creative outlets to funnel the chaos into, his attitude will quickly become maniacal. Under these conditions, Stanley becomes completely unpredictable, and loses all sense of guilt and shame. Unless he is returned to his mental shackles at Tavistock, he will spread the news of our existence, and the experiments conducted here. Stanley Lucas knows too much. He must be stopped, or all progress made will be destroyed in our efforts to conduct the De Banco Experiments.


Dr. Robert Stockholm

Tavistock Supervising Technician

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sitting in the G-Spot with Honeyboy

David “Honeyboy” Edwards is here, in Los Angeles, tucked away in the corner of this very living room. One of the two remaining original Delta Blues men is twenty feet away; legs crossed in a simple wooden dining chair, argyle socks showing, thick golden rings stuck in wrinkled skin, suspenders, and a ball cap with “Honeyboy” printed across the front. Nearby is a C. Bechstein grand piano that is worth more than this entire swanky Los Angeles hills home. The owner has converted his abode into a Blues club for the evening, aptly named “The G-Spot.” It’s not polite to stare, but the eyes of the small gathering keep shifting in the old legend’s direction. From time to time, his head begins to droop and his eyes begin to nod. At the age of 94, it can be expected. In the last two weeks, he’s flown from Chicago to Los Angeles, played two public shows in Sherman Oaks, is waiting patiently to play at a private one tonight, then must get ready to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s on Sunday. The eager crowd can’t help but stare in wonderment.

All visitors tonight have to be on a list, consisting of no more than fifty names, with the location revealed only upon purchasing a ticket. One by one, the guests have checked their coats, wound down the dark adobe-tile stairs, past the mahogany bar stocked with wine and cheese, and into the living room with large corner windows overlooking the cityscape of downtown Los Angeles. Musical equipment has implanted roots all over the space; grown from ceilings and walls, carpet and tile. Up near the bar a few people are perched on a mini balcony, floating above Honeyboy’s row of chairs below. In the miniature stadium area, the front-row seating is comprised of a curved twelve-seat leather couch. The nosebleeds consist of a handful of plastic patio chairs, placed in rows behind the VIP sofa. As the invitees shuffle in and settle, a full Blues band named Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners takes their place under the yellow lights.

Five grown men, with wedding rings, classy suits, and sparkling instruments fill the focal point of the room. They are too clean for traditional Blues, too LA. Front man, Dale is reminiscent of a younger and bearded Geoffery Rush. Every inch of his demeanor is electric with nerves as he tells stories of his childhood growing up in Chicago, listening to the songs of Honeyboy, and his own history of playing the Blues. Each band member waits patiently between songs with pursed lips and a small bead of sweat building from the corner of his forehead. Their peripheral focus always remains on Honeyboy. Tonight, their paths have aligned with the legend, giving Dale the opportunity to add one more story to his repertoire.

All is cleared, and Honeyboy now sits ten feet away, center stage. Shaky limbs grasp a custom stained-red Gibson Les Paul into the crook of the arm, while a leathered hand helps adjust steadily from the neck, until the groove of the guitar body fits comfortable on the leg. Many of its kind have rested in this niche for over 80 years. A middle-aged man adorned in a full denim getup who has been sipping back Heinekens all night comfortably takes a seat next to Honeyboy. Michael is Honeyboy’s manager, owner of Earwig Music record label, and close confidante. Whisps of grey hair are pulled into a ponytail, complementing a pair of glasses and gentle eyes. He bends over in his seat towards a vintage miniature briefcase on the floor. Unsnapping the metal closures, he pulls out a harmonica in the key of A to play, “Sweet Home Chicago.” Standing up, he introduces his old friend with a compassionate smile and warms the crowd up with a recap of their travels so far.

Honeyboy’s tired hands wake into life with the sound of the blues harp beside. Connected to the guitar, these worn fingers are conscious of every string, every slide, every bend and fret and note and scale. These actions still are as routine to him as making toast, brushing one’s teeth, or riding a bike. With the extension of age, each joint in his rhythmic arms have worn a little rust. A note or two is skipped, but the overall sound is no less traditional than the portrait of Honeyboy playing Delta Blues in his youth. Coarse musical mumbles fill the atmosphere; about the women who chase him, his life growing up in the South, and all the good and bad in between. Cackles burst from his smiling lips when he hits a fond memory, boosting drooping cheeks upward, pupils glowing with excitement. Fifty pairs of eyes do not dare blink or look away. Mouths remain closed in respect during the set, only coming alive with cheers at the close of each tune.

Halfway through the set, Honeyboy begins to tire. Michael pauses the show, and begins plucking musicians out of the crowd to join as special guests. There is a Grammy Award Winner on the trumpet, a music producer armed with a guitar beside Honeyboy, the editor of LA Times on the pristine Hammond B3 organ near the cityscape windows, and the South Woodlawners on drums, harmonica, and guitar. Each musician possesses his own style and background; joining from all corners of the country. For the finale, the stage is snug full of musicians standing and sitting in every nook of the stage. Turning heads look to one another, the drummer gets the go-ahead, and the group begins a jam of the classic Muddy Waters hit, “Got My Mojo Working.” Beer and wine glasses rest empty on tables at this point, and the crowd joins in, gently singing and tapping their toes.

Honeyboy remains seated center stage. He is now free from the bright lights, but not the line of meet-and-greeters. A few stay behind, helping clean, chatting amongst each other as friends, reminiscing about the night, still in disbelief. Dale helps break down the stage area, perpetually wide-eyed, shaking hands, still absorbing the night’s events. Lights begin to dim towards a midnight blue and the crowd continues to thin. Empty bottles and glasses are collected, chairs begin to disappear, and final goodbyes are passed between acquaintances. Up the stairs, grab the overcoat from the rack in the cozy entrance, through the threshold onto the winding road of this LA hillside, and into the night sky. Tonight will remain tucked away as a collection of memories 50 individuals will remember as a lucid dream. But outside the G-Spot, Honeyboy’s legend will remain forever as one of the last surviving cornerstones of Delta Blues.