Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts On January 2010

It was fun to attend the L.A. Weekly's Web Awards party last Thursday, January 21, 2010, at Bardot in Hollywood on top of the Avalon on Vine Street. I'm not even sure how I ended up being invited to this function, but I appreciated the opportunity to hob nob with other bloggers and writers.

Between bouts of the sky opening up and soaking the city, I managed to get inside before another drenching cloud-burst. I wasn't sure what to expect as I climbed the stairs, but this being Hollywood, I feared a room full of booming disco, surrounded by the dreaded "trend-setters" and the fatally hip. What I found instead was a large open bar, some beautifully appointed rooms, studious, but stylish looking people and the DJ was playing Super Furry Animals! I was in the right place. It was so dimly lit that it became an adventure simply to navigate the Bardot and venture into the many rooms, up and down the stairs, admiring the Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture.

This is the upstairs portion of the building that was built in 1927 and opened as the Hollywood Playhouse that year, now called Avalon. It is also the site of the first rock concert I went to in 25 years, after rediscovering rock and roll in 2005. Ironically, that was a Super Furry Animals show and it hooked me forever to a life of live rock and roll. So the place has a definite nostalgia factor for me. Of course, it was also the theatre I used to see every week on TV when I was a kid in the '60's and Hollywood Palace would broadcast from that venue.

Waiters, with trays full of tasty treats, deftly wove their way through the crowd, so food was never more than a few feet away, and another bar made refills too easy. I thought, maybe, I'd recognize some other bloggers, but apart from a few saying hello to me, I felt a stranger. Eventually, I spied a familiar figure across the room and it was Mr. Bronson of Buzzbands.LA, so I made a bee line for him. That saved the evening for me.

As enjoyable as this event turned out to be, we were both anxious to see Red Cortez play at Spaceland and Kevin urged that I ought to see Idaho Falls, who were the headliners, so off we went, arriving at a Spaceland packed with a familiar crowd and good cheer. This was a record release show for Idaho Falls and they performed a seriously entertaining set for an audience of friends and collaborators, who cheered every song. Infectious indie-pop.

Red Cortez (photo at right by Sara Law) played around midnight and thoroughly rocked the place. Playing many new songs, they rampaged through their set until finally Harley sat down to slap the piano around a bit for a spectacular finale. This band is like a pure shot of adrenaline.

For most of this month I've been obsessed with a few CD's, like Mew's No More Stories... which continues to have an unrelenting hold on me. Armistead Burwell Smith IV, of Pinback, releases solo material under the name Systems Officer, and his new CD, Underslept (cover art at right), creeps up on you and lodges itself into your subconscious. It's a wonderful Pinback/Black Heart Procession hybrid, with a little Three Mile Pilot mixed in, highlighted by Zack's singular bass style and his uncanny ability to write irresistible melodies that bypass all my filters and goes directly into my soul. It should have been on my list of best CD's of 2009. There's a wonderful variety and ambition to this album I find exhilarating, especially for one so prolific for over ten years now.

The other one is Letting Up Despite Great Faults ' self titled CD. When I saw them for the first time recently, Mouse recommended this album and I wasn't disappointed. Really well produced dreamy synth-pop sound, but with sharply defined melodies and sinewey vocals that never get buried in the mix. Very beautiful stuff. I'm particularly obsessed with "Sun Drips" which lifts me off the surface of the planet every time I hear it.

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