View from Mulholland Drive

View from Mulholland Drive

I probably should have realized, as we were sitting on the runway on our United flight from Boston to Los Angeles, and it was announced over the loudspeaker that our pilots were having some problems with the transportation from their hotel, and we would have to wait for them to arrive (obviously), that this was not a good omen for our trip. Over an hour later, we were finally taking off.

I felt dazed and was experiencing the beginnings of what would be a 3-week long cold, having finished a marathon month of non-stop working. But my goals were simple ones: to visit a friend of ours who’s been going through some tough times and offer a little physical and emotional support. To meet with someone I started working with on an exciting music-related project. To hang out in a very cool part of Los Angeles called Silverlake (and Echo Park, Los Feliz…) that I grew quite fond of during my trip a year ago. To do a bit of clubbing and see as many cool L.A. bands as humanly possible in 12 days. And to see my favorite L.A. band, The Airborne Toxic Event. The official reason for the trip: visit ailing friend, a noble and selfless thing to do over the Christmas holiday. Actuality? Total unabashed selfishness. I waited to book the flight until after confirmation of TATE’s Knott’s Berry Farm show. Oddly, or perhaps not, the selfish part of the journey proved mostly successful — hacking cough, stuffed head, and temporary laryngitis notwithstanding. The good Samaritan part? Not so much.

[See my “Live in Los Angeles – Four Great Shows” post for brief reviews of the gigs I saw.]

View from Runyon Canyon.

Though the tardy pilots (no doubt arriving straight from the hotel bar) caused me to miss my dream concert (The Deadly Syndrome, Castledoor, Pity Party, and Happy Hallows on the same bill (Sweater Festival at the Echo), I did manage to catch — in addition to TATE at Knott’s — Earlimart and The Deadly Syndrome at The Slidebar in Fullerton, Soul Junk and Marshweed & Sunshine at Echo Curio (both previously unknown to me… and wonderful), Summer Darling, Terrapin, and Vaudeville at Spaceland (also unknown to me, and also great), and The Movies at the second to last show of their Spaceland residency, along with Adeline & the Philistines, Voxhaul Broadcast, and The Damselles. Not too shabby, I thought, for a sniveling mess on her deathbed.

Mulholland Drive

My meeting went well (even with the laryngitis), I got to visit with my comedian/actor cousin, and took Victor for some serious record shopping at Fingerprints (Long Beach), Freak Beat Records (Sherman Oaks), Rockaway (Silverlake), and a brief appearance at Amoeba (Hollywood) on Christmas Eve. And I fully enjoyed some Eastside delights — wandering around and shopping in Los Feliz, Sunset Junction in Silverlake, and Echo Park… a morning jog around Silverlake reservoir… spectacular Mexican food at El Gran Burrito (with a new inspiration to learn Spanish)… Griffith Park and the Observatory… kick ass espresso con leche and free WiFi at Café Tropical. Plus a lovely cruise along Mulholland Drive and the Hollywood Hills.

But back to the beginning of our trip. Standing outside Union Station at around midnight, looking like stupid East Coast tourists with shoddy carry-on luggage, with a dead cell phone and a non-working pay phone (and no quarters in any case), we had two offers of taxi rides from cars that clearly weren’t taxis. I probably should have just started walking to the Echo. Call it the first of many bad judgment calls, we instead called our friend Peter collect and perhaps a half hour later, Victor found himself nearly in the middle of a drunken fracas outside a taco stand on Sunset Blvd. Again I say, and probably not for the last time: embrace your first selfishly motivated hunch, and go with it.

I’d like to personally apologize to all Los Angeles residents for my visit, as I seemingly brought with me what appeared to be monsoon season — cold (for Los Angeles), windy, and with torrential rain. Yes, I know, it hadn’t rained like that for a year (when I visited last December). I’m now back in freezing cold, dreary Boston, and happy to see California back to its usual warm, sunny self.

Griffith Park Observatory

Griffith Park Observatory

But the rain (and my voice) miraculously held out for the Airborne Toxic Event show, and my god, they were wonderful. Really great to see their triumphant return back home after a few months of solid touring, and I met some cool people that day. Most of that following week was spent being ill and trying to pretend I wasn’t (with mixed success). I did go for a lovely jog around the reservoir Tuesday morning and had a nice though vocally-challenged lunch at Millie’s in the afternoon, but had to bail on a Rocco DeLuca concert that would have been an hour’s drive, on my own. Wednesday was pretty much a wash (literally), and Thursday — instead of going to see the Henry Clay People down in Long Beach (it’s ok; turns out they’ll be on tour with TATE in March) — ended up seeing the film “Milk” at the Vista instead. Though this proved to be a cool idea, being as how it’s a California story, and just to hear the derisive snickering from the back of the theatre when Orange County was mentioned made it worthwhile. [I would understand this reaction the next evening, when I drove to Fullerton to see Earlimart and The Deadly Syndrome.]

Rugged terrain of Griffith Park, and walking trail.

Rugged terrain of Griffith Park.

Also on Friday was our visit to Griffith Park and the Observatory (highly recommended). Alas, we didn’t get to do our vaguely planned Mexican road trip (probably just as well, judging from recent news stories), but there are some pretty cool non-Hollywood places to see right in L.A. that I hadn’t been to before, this being one of them. Saturday was a little time spent with my cousin Fred, visiting his friend Kime at her cool boutique in Echo Park, Show Pony, and checking out her wonderful artwork. That night, I again refused to acknowledge that I was ridiculously ill, and instead walked down to the Echo Curio (awesome tiny performance space in Echo Park) and was rewarded with two marvelous bands, Soul Junk and Marshweed & Sunshine, the latter of whom impressed me so much I spent some time chatting with them afterwards.

View from Griffith Park Observatory.

View from Griffith Park Observatory.

Sunday started out well (at the last day of the Silver Lake Arts & Crafts Fair), got weird and stupid in the middle (culminating in a sold out show that I had planned on going to at the Hotel Café), but ended surprisingly well at good ol’ Spaceland (you can always count on Spaceland to save an otherwise f*cked up evening). The middle band, Terrapin, was “ok” I thought, though I personally wasn’t crazy about the vocals. But the first and third bands, Summer Darling and Vaudeville, were both excellent. Victor managed to put aside his cold to join me for this one, and fortunately enjoyed them as well. Monday we drove down to Long Beach to have a look around and visit Fingerprints, and by night I was again on my own and popping cough drops, but delighted to see our friend Brian Cleary’s band The Movies (absolutely fantastic), and supporting himself (neat trick) in the equally impressive Adeline & the Philistines. In between the two was Voxhaul Broadcast (a favorite of mine from mySpace), and surprisingly I also really enjoyed 50’s style The Damselles, who closed out the evening’s festivities. I’m usually not a big 1950’s fan, but those three ladies were a lot of fun. It is truly mind-numbing how many astonishing bands there are in the Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park area.

Drummers at Silverlake Arts & Crafts Fair

Drummers at Silverlake Arts & Crafts Fair

A rare dry day on Tuesday found us driving around in the Hollywood Hills and along Mulholland Drive, another highly recommended “inside L.A. and non-Hollywood” activity, with amazing views of the city and mountain vistas. More record shopping in Sherman Oaks at Freak Beat Records.

Nice palm tree on Silver Lake Blvd., near the reservoir.

Nice palm tree on Silver Lake Blvd., near the reservoir.

Wednesday, Christmas Eve, and raining again. Decided to do some more shopping – cool pair of boots at American Vintage in Echo Park, lots more indie CDs (and rekkids for Victor) at Rockaway in Silverlake (best prices for used CDs, so I thought). Quick visit to Amoeba on Sunset and Ivers (’cause if you visit L.A., everyone asks if you went to Amoeba. Well, at least the people Victor and I know do.).

Somehow it doesn't look quite so impressive up close from this angle.

Not quite so impressive up close from this angle.

Christmas day, frayed tempers and nerves reaching the end of their limits so probably a good thing we were leaving that night (though I would have loved to see Spaceland’s New Year’s Eve show with The Henry Clay People, The Pity Party, and The Happy Hallows). Peter and Victor did an early morning radio show on KXLU (6-10 a.m.) that I’m sure no one was awake to hear. I opted to stay behind this time and sleep. We flew back on a red eye, loaded with cold medicine and cough drops, and apart from thinking my head was going to explode during the landing at Logan, everything went fine. Except, of course, that I was really not happy to be back in Boston. Especially when it snowed a few days later.

[Note: if you insist upon placing a neurotic Scorpio woman and an angry and bitter gay man with misogynist tendencies and a penchant for WWII Nazi films and right-wing talk show hosts in a small one-room studio apartment for twelve days… well, there’s gonna be fireworks, and you might want to invest in a large cannister of pepper spray, at the very least. Add to that a recently adopted stray kitten with a taste for Mexican food and a reserved older female cat not terribly interested in sharing her space or dealing with a pissy little brat, and let’s just say there were cat fights of both the human and feline variety. (though, even having said all that, thanks very much to Peter Choyce for hosting us once again in his palatial Silverlake digs.)]

[P.S. See my “Live in Los Angeles – Four Great Shows” post for brief reviews of the gigs I saw.]

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