musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Category: Road Trips (Page 1 of 3)

Lost and Found (VII of XII)

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

123Death at Los Globos, Silver Lake

123Death at Los Globos, Silver Lake

Part VII: Boardner’s in Hollywood to Los Globos in Silver Lake… and back again.

It was now Day 6 in my bleary haze of broken sleep and beautiful sights and sounds. Tuesday night — must be time for my personally-curated “Julie’s Eastside L.A. Welcoming Party” (or so it seemed). Former members of Death To Anders, Rademacher, Radars To The Sky and The Henry Clay People, all in new projects at two different clubs at opposite ends of town. It was also the night when I wondered why, despite all our technological advances, transporters haven’t yet been invented.

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Lost and Found (VI of XII)

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

Ryan Fuller and Rob Danson of Fort King, at The Echo

Ryan Fuller and Rob Danson of Fort King, at The Echo

Part VI: Echo Park Rising, Sunday

Upon waking on Sunday morning, the second day of the Echo Park Rising Festival, I was badly in need of loud music, comfort food and a cozy spot to curl into a fetal position. Preferably all at once. I had a strange dream during the night. There was a paranoid and delusional crack head who had left a cryptic message on my friend’s cell phone, threatening to come by the house and quite possibly do us bodily harm. In a dazed panic, we discussed various options (call the police, take a posse back to the house, not go home that night and stay elsewhere, etc.), while standing in a drunken crowd that included a throng of KXLU DJs on the sidewalk outside the Lot 1 Cafe in the middle of the night. As the fog began to clear from my sleep-deprived brain, I realized it was not a dream. After an hour of strategizing our next move, we actually listened to the message and determined that he was not a serious threat after all. As it happened, our sleep was only disturbed by the usual roving dogs and ghetto birds. At a friend’s suggestion (thank you, Rob Danson), I grabbed my stuff, scrambled back to Lot 1 and found the safe haven, satisfying brunch and healing music I was looking for.

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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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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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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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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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The East Coast in June with The Airborne Toxic Event ~ feverish devotion in three flavors

SummerStage in Central Park, New York City

SummerStage in Central Park, New York City

In my attempt to tell the story of a bleary and beautiful three days of travel underscored by the music of The Airborne Toxic Event, it occurs to me that the backdrops were dramatically different and provided a glimpse into three distinct East Coast ecosystems. What links them all together is a relatively new emergence of a rabidly devoted — and slowly growing — community of fans. The beautifully written and exquisitely performed new songs from Such Hot Blood have been embraced like dear old friends and added to the communal singalong repertoire in this rock ‘n’ roll moveable feast.

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Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys & Jaggery are off to the Wild West

I can think of no better way to come out of semi-hibernation than to promote two of my favorite Boston bands as they hit the West Coast (and Texas, whatever one calls that) — and to indulge in some pony/bunny/unicorn madness. The fact that this uber-strange video (by the inimitable Walter Sickert) seems to fit my current frame of mind is worrying indeed.

So anyway, Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys have a haunting new album out mere days from now called Soft Time Traveler. It was inspired by Walter’s chance magical encounter with a deer while in Block Island, while reading about the battle between natives and American Colonists. As one might imagine, the music is filled to the brim with beauty and angst. But then, isn’t that always the case with the Army of Toys? They’re heading off with the equally awe-inspiring Jaggery. Have a listen to a few songs from the new offering, which includes one of my live favorites, “Devil’s In The Details.” And let the trance-inducing pony video revert you back to an earlier life form. If you’re not familiar with the epic productions of these two stunning bands, do see them if you can.

Also, a full stream of the entire album is available for a limited time only on American Songwriter.

Musical tornado warning for the following areas:

4/13 Seattle, WA – The Royal Room
4/14 Portland, OR – The Hollywood Theatre
4/15 San Francisco, CA – Cafe Du Nord
4/16 San Diego, CA – Queen Bee
4/17 Scottsdale, AZ – Rogue Bar
4/19 Victoria, TX – JAM Fest
4/20 Austin, TX – Swan Dive


Note: Jaggery will be doing shows as a duo (Singer Mali & Tony Leva) on their way back; check the Jaggery site for more details.

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A Montréal Sojourn

and The Airborne Toxic Event Saves Osheaga! (for a few hours, anyway)

Montreal, as viewed from Parc Jean-Drapeau

Montreal, as viewed from Parc Jean-Drapeau

It was the smartest thing I could have done. Stuck in a nerve-wracking holding pattern for so long, getting nowhere, I needed something just outside my comfort level – the uncertainty of a long road trip in my beat-up ’93 Corolla, a looming border crossing, unfamiliar roads with speed signs in kilometers, and mostly unfamiliar language. Despite the edginess, there was this temporary freedom from the expected, the ordinary, the noose that had been tightening around my neck.

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