musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: September 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Lost and Found (V of XII)

A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Joey Siara at the final Henry Clay People show at the Echoplex during Echo Park Rising

Joey Siara at the final Henry Clay People show at the Echoplex during Echo Park Rising

Part V: Echo Park Rising, An Evening at the Echoplex

On this first evening of Echo Park Rising, it was all about The Henry Clay People. This was a band I first discovered in 2009 when they toured with The Airborne Toxic Event. Actually, it was before that, early on in 2008, as I was bouncing around from band page to band page on MySpace (remember MySpace?). If there was any band that captured the feeling of good ol’ classic rock ‘n’ roll and that careening out of control, celebratory and reckless spirit, it was HCP. Sadly, theirs was another one of those “almost but not quite” success stories. Here was a band that really seemed poised for at least the semi-big time, especially after major tours with Airborne and Silversun Pickups. But it didn’t happen as much nor as quickly as it needed to happen, and other important life events had to take precedence. So here we had their final performance, at Echo Park Rising, and Echo Park did indeed rise to the occasion.

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A Musical Celebration and Benefit for Warren Leslie – tomorrow night!

Warren_Leslie_Benefit

A Musical Celebration & Benefit for Warren Leslie
with Haley Jane and the Primates, Warren Leslie and Dana Crowe, Kingdom of Love , Peter Montgomery band, Maura Young and special guests
The Plough and Stars, Cambridge MA
(Central Square)
$10 suggested donation
Facebook event


Ok, so this is rather late notice, but a very worthwhile cause. Singer-songwriter and blues musician Leslie Warren was recently diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 liver cancer, and his musician friends and non-musician friends have started a GiveForward campaign to raise badly-needed funds to help him.

The happy news is how many people are rising to the challenge. Tomorrow night, there will be A Musical Celebration and Benefit for Warren Leslie at The Plough and Stars in Cambridge. Have a listen to a few of the bands below, and make it out there if you can.

* Maura Young 9:30
* Peter Montgomery band 10:00
* KOL 10:30
* Warren Leslie and Dana Crowe 11:00
* Hayley Jane and the Primates 11:30

And then they jam into the night with special guests!!

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Lost and Found (IV of XII)

A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Manhattan Murder Mystery, at the Echoplex

Manhattan Murder Mystery, at the Echoplex

Part IV: Echo Part Rising, Saturday Afternoon

I woke up on a floor in Echo Park to discover it was Charles Bukowski’s birthday. The public radio station KCRW, broadcasting from Santa Monica, was airing a special in honor of the legendary author, short story writer, novelist and poet. As I listened to his friend Harry Dean Stanton’s beautiful reading of the stark and gorgeous Bluebird, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to prepare for the Echo Park Rising Festival than with streetwise and poignant words from this prolific Angeleno.

In the aftermath of the reading, I thought of my first few days in Los Angeles. There was the massive decompression at Echo Park Lake from so many layers of stress, and just wandering around the streets of Echo Park and Silver Lake in contemplation and what I’ll call “life evaluation.” My friend’s barrage of stories of his current state of mind and recent miseries, his supporting characters of the kind that Bukowski might like to write about, if he were still here. There was the young and naive female sub-letter he found on Craigslist, who put his belongings in bags and tossed them out into the yard, crashed his car and ran back to Pennsylvania after just a few days in the big city. The crack addict and “crack whore” hooker, who stole the car and took it on a joyride. The police. The disorientation. The restless days, locked out and temporarily among the lost and the homeless, out on the streets. The crack addict’s ex-wife and her ominous warnings, and other sordid and sundry characters who had come in and out of his life, wearing him down, taking, not giving, and leaving just a hollow shell in their wake. And through his and my sleepless nights, mysterious packs of barking dogs, like roving canine gangs. Interwoven with the dogs were the ubiquitous ghetto birds. It was horrible and yet gloriously romantic grit.

Besides just the joy of being there (and not being on the East Coast), there was that which strengthened and sustained me: a neighborhood that was relaxed, easy-going and filled with working-class Latino families. Bright, never-ending sunshine. The Tribal Cafe a short walk down the street, with their vegetarian Mexican dishes, amazing kale salads and powerful energy drinks. All of it dirt cheap and in a casual, bohemian setting. Tired as hell but strangely energized, I grabbed my things and headed out for an afternoon and evening of fine music with some old and new friends. It was time for Echo Park Rising.

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Lost and Found (III of XII)

A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles

Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles

Part III: Echo Park

While on this trip, I started thinking about predilection and perception; on the power of preconceived thoughts in creating your own reality. I thought about the internal rhythms of people and of places, of being “in sync” as opposed to “out of sync,” and wondered if a particular person might be better suited to one part of the world rather than another. I thought of being closed and of being open, and maybe being a little too open. I contemplated the line that separates hyper-perception and madness — and wondered if maybe they were the same thing, and there wasn’t a line at all.

All of this was churning in my head as I sat in standstill traffic on the 405 in a rented Hyundai, on my way to Echo Park.

My plan was, for two weeks, to live a slice of Los Angeles city life, as a resident and not as a tourist, and see if it suited me. There are a lot of misconceptions about L.A. Contrary to the opinions of many Bostonians, it’s not just about the superficial glitz of Hollywood. Nor is it NCIS or a West Coast version of The Wire. In the Echo Park neighborhood where I was staying, there are working class families with kids playing in the street, and musicians lugging around equipment and playing shows in all sorts of small clubs, bars, coffee houses, performance art spaces, record stores and occasionally people’s homes. Despite being a stone’s throw from downtown L.A., it has a very livable, cozy and artsy neighborhood feel, much like New York’s Lower East Side or the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Nearby Silver Lake and Los Feliz are a tad more upscale and comparable to Greenwich Village; that is, if you can imagine those areas with almost constant sunshine and substantial stretches of woods and greenery.

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Introducing… Modern Time Machines

Here, why don’t you listen to this nice mind-melting offering from Silver Lake band, Modern Time Machines, while I work on the third installment of my “Lost and Found”… This marvelous band blends driving melodies and screaming guitars with dreamy outer space strings and ethereal voice atmospherics. We move from gentle floating to beautifully layered cacophony. The vocal harmonies of Ben Golomb and Chelsea Jean Speer-Guzman drift around and through each other, and a particular favorite is “Lucky Lady” with a frantic and then soaring, screeching violin. Gorgeous. They’ve performed at SXSW, recently appeared at the 2013 Make Music Pasadena Festival and were featured in the Silver Lake music scene documentary “Pass the Music” along with The Happy Hollows, The Henry Clay People and The Airborne Toxic Event. Listen below to their debut full-length, Continuity Girl, which was released last year. They’re finishing work on a new single entitled “Loveletters,” which will be acommpanied by a music video and an EP in the coming months. Stay tuned. For now, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, they will be performing at The Viper Room on September 16th (tomorrow night) with Seasons and Tequila Slam. On the 22nd, they’ll be at the Satellite.

web | ReverbNation | facebook | twitter | YouTube | bandcamp

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The Life is good festival 2013 ~ Sat., Sept. 21 & Sun., Sept. 22

Life is good Festival 2013
Saturday, September 21 & Sunday, September 22
Prowse Farm, Canton, MA – Rt 93 (Rt 128) at exit 2B
(15 minutes from downtown Boston)
More info. | ::: BUY TICKETS :::

It’s that time of year again for the “feel good and do good” Life is good Festival. I had the great pleasure of going to one of these two years ago, and was greatly impressed at the smooth organization, family-friendly events and easy-going nature, exceptional line-up of performers and the awesome fundraising efforts for a noble charity, the Life is good Kids Foundation. They help children who have been traumatized by abuse, domestic violence, neglect, natural disasters and poverty. Through purposeful play, they give these children back their childhood, which is crucial to social and emotional health and well-being.

With music, arts & crafts, games & demonstrations, a variety show, nature show, storytellers and — new this year — a coffeehouse with acoustic performances, the Life is good Festival is an amazing two days of fun for music lovers and families alike.

The musical lineup includes Jack Johnson, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Amos Lee, Trampled by Turtles, Dawes, Ryan Montbleau and many more. See their website for a full list of musicians. This year, the new Life is good Coffee House is an intimate atmosphere which will feature the new line of Life is good coffee and a stellar musical line-up curated by Ryan Montbleau (see schedule below). The Coffee House celebrates the launch of the new Life is good coffee, which is UTZ Certified, promoting sustainable farming and support for farmers and their families.

Saturday, September 21: Lori McKenna (1:30 – 2:20) | Vance Gilbert (2:35 – 3:25) | Ryan Montbleau (3:40 – 4:30) | Nathan Moore (4:45 – 5:35) | Stephane Wrembel (5:50 – 6:45) | Mike Doughty (9:15 – 10:00)

Sunday, September 22: Tall Heights (1:30 – 2:20) | Caravan of Thieves (2:35 – 3:25) | Ryan Montbleau (3:40 – 4:30) | Zach Gill (4:45 – 5:35) | Amber Rubarth (5:50 – 6:45) | Session Americana (9:15 – 10:00)

Life is good: web | facebook | twitter

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Lost and Found (II of XII)

A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Part II: The Arrival

I had not slept well, nor for very long, the night before. A heady mix of anticipation and trepidation, I suppose. There was a list of about a dozen people I meant to connect or reconnect with in the two weeks I would be there — and a good deal of anxiety over one in particular. He was a friend, not terribly close; more of an acquaintence really, who I planned to stay with in what he referred to as a “one room house” in Echo Park. The east side of Los Angeles. Mecca. My imagined shangri-la where that low-level constant of dread would magically disappear and where impossibly good bands worked, played and called home.

I had visited twice before, with a mutual friend, and we stayed at his old place in Silver Lake. But this time was different. I was traveling alone save for my personal demons, who nearly strangled me to death back in Boston. I hoped to set them free in that expansive Western sky. The acquaintance-friend had just been in Boston for the summer, and while there, I could see the edges of his sanity already frayed. I reasoned that I would offer a small amount of emotional support in return for a centrally-located and free place to stay. Nothing is ever truly free, but you learn in time that everything is worth experiencing. Certain events, however painful, are like those people movers at airports that race uneasily along but let you cover a lot of ground in a short span of time.

The first of several miscalculations on this trip, I struggled to complete a work assignment between mistimed connecting flights and poor internet service. Robbed of my work-obsessed escapism and given no other options, I was left with no choice but to surrender to the emotions and experience.

Flying now over the alien landscape of Colorado and Utah, I fantasize about an unfamiliar planet where one can rediscover oneself amidst startling new surroundings. That wide open space, the endless possibility, and I could see it so clearly. In the nearly cloudless sky, the mind becomes free of distracting thoughts.

Landed in L.A. and feeling like a stranger in a familiar land, it takes a little while to remember and I mistakenly ask a homeless man for directions. He asks for spare change, but doesn’t provide any direction (“If I give you some money, will you tell me where I am?”). Later on, I sleepwalk through a warm summer’s evening humming with people, swaying palms and city lights. I no longer feel lost.




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Mount Peru: Is This Thing On?

photo by Liz Linder Photography

photo by Liz Linder Photography

Here’s a little something from Somerville-based Mount Peru, an upbeat alt-country affair with a little psychedelia mixed in for nice effect. Comprising guitars, pedal steel, piano, trumpet, tenor sax, percussion and delicious rootsy harmonies, it’s a friendly and engaging, feel-good sound. Their debut, “My Sweetheart the Destroyer,” was released early in 2011, gathering praise and fans and leading to touring throughout the East Coast and Midwest. Their EP, “Your Kingdom’s Come Undone,” followed in the spring of 2012, with a residency at the newly opened Davis Square Theatre. Regrouping with a new rhythm section and recording new songs, they released “Is This Thing On?” back in the spring of this year.

Catch them at Davis Square Theatre on Saturday night (9/14) as part of “Crash Safely: Benefit for the National MS Society” and enjoy/purchase their fine music on bandcamp (or get it from Amazon.com).

ReverbNation | facebook | twitter | bandcamp

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Lost and Found (I of XII)

A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Elysian Park, Echo Park in Los Angeles

Elysian Park, Echo Park in Los Angeles

Part I: An Introduction

Every city has a soul. It might be the accumulation of individual experiences filtered through architecture and landscape. There are the natural forms that are the foundations handed down from ancient times, with the hopes, dreams and fears of those people as faint imprints on every surface and in the ether. There is every generation that followed, each one leaving its mark, taking from and then giving back ashes and essence.

The concept of people traveling West to seek their fortune and destiny dates back to early pioneer days. Besides the trappings and currency of what they seek, nothing much has changed. Whether it’s the promise of gold, the lure of celebrity or just a place to make a fresh start, that shared yearning, and at the end of so many dreams disillusionment and realization, continues to bind them. The human experience of searching for something more.

My trip to Los Angeles was not so much a vacation as it was a reconnaissance mission. A vision quest, if you will. I wanted to meet some of the people I had been writing to and writing about from across this great expanse, but even more than that, I wanted a sense of the place — and a sense of myself. The walls had been pushing in, deep within a cavern from where there seemed to be no escape and no clear sense of direction. I needed to understand why. The feeling was that of being pulled from a stagnant swamp and dropped into something vital and brimming with possibilities, madly churning and metamorphosing, with occasional flashes of great beauty.


Still to come: sacred spaces at 30,000 feet; magic, madness and great places to walk and eat in Silver Lake and Echo Park; the musical mecca of the east side of Los Angeles, centering around the Echo Park Rising Festival; Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach; Solstice Canyon in Malibu; catching up with old friends and famous family; and did I mention music?

Bands to come: Black Hi-Lighter, Young Hunting, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Olin & the Moon, Haunted Summer, Moses Campbell, Kan Wakan, The Happy Hollows (electric and acoustic), The Henry Clay People, Spencer Livingston, Holes & Hearts, The Wild Reeds, Fort King, Helene Renaut, Sun Rai, Warships, George Glass, 123Death, Midnight Cities, Pretty Flowers, Delta Spirit, The Airborne Toxic Event, Infantree, The Diamond Light and whomever that was who played at Tribal Cafe on 8/15…

30 minutes before landing in Los Angeles

30 minutes before landing in Los Angeles

Echo Park Lake

Echo Park Lake

Andy and Joey Siara of The Henry Clay People, at their final show

Andy and Joey Siara of The Henry Clay People, at their final show


The Happy Hollows on a backyard deck for Echo Park Rising

The Happy Hollows on a backyard deck for Echo Park Rising

Malcolm Sosa's new band 123Death at Los Globos

Malcolm Sosa's new band 123Death at Los Globos

Fort King at Echo Country Outpost

Fort King at Echo Country Outpost


The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa

The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa

Solstice Canyon, Malibu

Solstice Canyon, Malibu

Elysian Park, Echo Park, Los Angeles

Elysian Park, Echo Park, Los Angeles


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Boston Calling, Day 1 ~ beautiful vibes, pretty music

Daren Taylor, Mikel Jollett and Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event at Boston Calling

Daren Taylor, Mikel Jollett and Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event at Boston Calling

Despite it being a rather corporate affair and priced out of the reach of many of this city’s music fans, the Boston Calling Festival did a lot of things right, as large outdoor concerts go. They made an effort to include two more local bands and support a Boston charity through their Sonicbids contest, with a portion of proceeds from the submission fee donated to Boston Children’s Hospital (VIVA VIVA! played on Saturday and Royal Teeth on Sunday). Though they served alcohol (naturally), they did so in a special “beer garden” set away from the stages, which I think contributed to the fact that most of those close to the music were there for the music, and not just to get shitfaced with their friends. This was no small thing, and was greatly appreciated. The downtown setting was unique, convenient and was I’m sure a great sales boost to local businesses. There were a few problems at the start (mostly to do with what was and wasn’t allowed on site and consistency between various entities), but as they sorted out the stage placement, I’m sure they can deal with this as well. I still believe the cost is prohibitive, considering that festivals elsewhere with more performers and stages are similarly priced. I’m disheartened by all shows that cost more than $20-25, but the whole “concert-going elite” subject is a much larger topic.

Boston Calling, City Hall Plaza, at high noon.

Boston Calling, City Hall Plaza, at high noon.

People begin to gather at the blue stage.

People begin to gather at the blue stage.

Onto the music, which was absolutely superb. They wisely divided up the bands between the more “indie rock” types and the “dance/hip-hop/electro” types, which made sense and helped those who could only afford to go one day. I planted myself in front of the blue stage for most of the day, so my photos are of those bands. Everyone was clearly energized by the audience, which was among the best I’ve seen at something like this. Extremely engaged, friendly, supportive… just great. I’m sure this might not have been the case further back or as the night wore on, but my experience was very positive, and typically I’m not a lover of large music events, far preferring the small sweaty (more intimate) club scene. But I have to say, this was a lovely day. Onto the photos and my personal favorites.

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