Obscura Society LA: Exploring DTLA’s Arts District

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Live in Los Angeles long enough and you’ll get the impression that you know all there is to know about the city. Wrong!   Cindy Schwarzstein, the founder of Cartwheel Art, an Arts District resident, a Los Angeles River Artists and Business (LARABA) Board Member, and a founding member of All City Mural Endeavor hosted what was billed as a “living history walking tour.”  Even Though I have worked downtown (#DTLA) for over 20 years and have seen it evolve from ghost town to vivant city, I learned things about graffiti art and architecture of which I had no idea.

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Soul Tasting: 9th Annual Taste of Soul

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Crenshaw district is jumping again for the 9th annual “Taste of Soul”. Along with the usual politicians, several Hollywood notables showed up: Queen Latifah, Cedric the Entertainer, and Fox’s Steve Edwards. Lots of food, music and information booths.


Photos by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix

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“Fuzzy” Knight Brings Blowin’ Smoke Rhythm and Blues Band and the Fabulous Smokettes to Harvelle’s for Some Great Music

The Smokettes and 'Fuzzy" Knight on stage.

The Smokettes and ‘Fuzzy” Knight on stage.

Often times, the smaller intimate rooms bring out the best in a group. Such was the case Saturday night at Harvelle’s, once the only place west of LA’s Central Avenue where you could hear blues, soul and R&B. The Blowin’ Smoke Rhythm and Blues Band with the Fabulous Smokettes packed the place with a crowd that was there to enjoy great music played the way it should be. And in a place like Harvelle’s, dating back to 1931, where the horn section is practically on the dance floor, it is easy to see them playing the same club in the ’40s, with ‘Easy’ Rawlins coming in to enjoy the music.

Bandleader Larry “Fuzzy” Knight started in music in his hometown of St. Louis at the age of 15. His mother helped him buy his first bass, which, decades later, is still the only bass he has ever had. He learned to play and was soon working with some of the best blues and soul players in St. Louis. By the late ’60s he had moved to Los Angles where he took a musical detour, playing bass with the well-known psychedelic rock band, Spirit. In 1981 he called it quits with Spirit and went back to his first love, the blues. Seventeen years ago, he decided that he wanted a band of his own, playing the music he loved, so the Blowin’ Smoke Rhythm and Blues band featuring the Fabulous Smokettes was born and he’s never looked back. Continue reading

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Upcoming Brew Ho Ho Starts Off the Beer Drinker’s Holiday Season Right

IMG_9673. Photo courtesy of the ACE Agency.
As any one knows, beer and ale drinkers are always looking for a holiday to hoist a glass. So, coming up on Saturday, December 13 at the Anaheim Phoenix Club will be the 3rd annual Brew Ho Ho. Over 60 fine beers will be on tap at this event, celebrating the season and the season’s fine beers. Ballast Point, Bootleggers Brewing Company, and Cascade are just a few of the breweries that will be bringing their best beers, ales, porters and stouts to the Anaheim Phoenix Club.

For a special collaborative brew, this year will unite the talents of Valiant Brewing in Orange with Black Market Brewing of Temecula. The new 13% ABV beer will be unveiled in the coming weeks and combines vanilla bean, cherries, and smoked wood to create a complex and robust Russian Imperial Stout that will be available in bottles and at craft beer centric drinking establishments in Southern California. Continue reading

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Offbeat L.A.: Fall is in the Air- Apple Picking in Oak Glen

Riley's Los Rios Ranch in Oak Glen (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Riley’s Los Rios Ranch in Oak Glen (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Los Rios Ranch (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Los Rios Ranch (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Those on the other coast like to tell us we don’t have seasons here in Southern California. They romanticize images of red and golden leaves, bright orange pumpkins on the vine and the sudden nippiness of the weather after a humid summer. That is all lovely, but those of us who have lived in the Southland long enough pick up on more subtle changes- the askew slant of the once direct sunlight and a heavier feeling to the air. For those who enjoy a deeper taste of autumn’s potential there is always the town of Oak Glen. Nestled up in the foothills of San Bernardino County, 90 minutes east of L.A. and a long winding road up in altitude from Yucaipa, it is a different climate and a step back in time.

The museum at Oak Tree Village, specializing in stuffed animals and live reptiles (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

The museum at Oak Tree Village, specializing in stuffed animals and live reptiles (photo by Nikki Kreuzer)

Billing itself as Southern California’s largest apple growing region where apples grow a mile high, Oak Glen has been farming the fruit since 1867. Situated along one mountainous loop of Oak Glen Road there are 7 apple orchards, several cider mills, a half-dozen quaint restaurants, more than a dozen little speciality gift shops and the kitschy-cool 14-acre Oak Tree Village full of artisan shops, a petting zoo, a stocked trout fishing pond and a bizarre museum filled with taxidermy animals and live reptiles.

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LA Beat Contest: Win Tix to the YouBloom Music Conference!

YBcontestimageWant a free pair of tickets to the music conference at the YouBloom Festival? The conference takes place at The Ebell Club in Highland Park on Saturday November 15th, and the program includes masterclasses on the economics of DIY production, as well as discussion panels on topics like touring and busking, and music placement and publishing.

Speakers include Tom Sturges (former President of Chrysalis Music, Head of Creative for Universal Music publishing), producer/engineers Jan Fairchild and Adam Moseley, among many others.

Here’s how to win: Answer the following question in a comment below and next Friday (Oct 24), we will draw a name from the comments for the winner. Good luck!

Which artist are you most excited to see at the YouBloom Festival and why?

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Richie Onori talks about Sweet and the Rockers Against Cancer 3 Benefit Show Tomorrow

buque3. courtesy Doug deutsch PRHow many people can honestly say they’ve never heard these lyrics?

And the man at the back said everyone attack
And it turned into a ballroom blitz
And the girl in the corner said boy, I wanna warn ya
It’ll turn into a ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz

When Sweet first performed this song in 1973, little did they know that it would peak from #5 to #1 on just about every major music chart in the world during the mid-70s. Tia Carrere would cover the song in Wayne’s World. And forty years later, original Sweet member Steve Priest would still be playing the song to audiences, dancing up a storm to the music. Steve then semi-retired, until the pull of music became too great and he called up drummer Richie Onori, a seasoned rock drummer whose style had been compared more than once to Mick Tucker, the original drummer for the Sweet. Richie told me, “Mick Tucker, who was the original drummer, we both go from the same kind of rock drumming, the Buddy Rich/Gene Krupa kind of style where you really apply yourself. You have to have your drum chops up. It was a perfect fit; I get that all the time, how close I am to playing like Mick Tucker.”.

For Richie Onori, asking to join Sweet was more than just a drumming gig. Richie said, “It’s been a really good ride, joining Sweet. Steve Priest is really the only founding member of the band that is left. Steve decided to reform the band after being pretty much retired in 2008. He called me up and we put a pretty good lineup up. Most of that lineup has been going since 2008. We’ve toured with Journey, been to Europe, South America, Canada, all over the world and that music just lives on and on. It’s a legendary group and it’s been a great experience for me. When Steve asked me, I became a full partner in the band, so it’s not just like a side gig, it’s like Ron Wood when he joined the Stones. He wasn’t the original guitarist, but everybody that is in the band has earned their position in that legendary band”. Continue reading

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Grandpa Johnson’s: Johnny Zander’s Glamorous Hollywood Cocktail Lounge

Bad-ass sconces

There was a time when you could replicate a bar’s cocktail without having to buy anything more unusual than grenadine and angostura bitters. A tattered copy of “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” is not enough anymore. As bartenders morphed into mixologists, and back into bartenders again, ingredients have become increasingly exotic. A recent tasting at Grandpa Johnson’s featured cocktails with special ingredients like green tea syrup and black walnut bitters, as well as uncommon liquers like amaro and cynar. Cocktail creator Alex Straus, a member of the a mysterious secret society known as Bon Vivant, has developed eight standard cocktails for the bar. There are off the menu specials, including some developed especially for Portland Cocktail Week, where Grandpa Johnson’s will have an opening night pop-up. Ask about “The Mind Eraser.”

Alex Straus’ cocktails combine several flavors to create a new, balanced flavor without ever getting muddy. He is able to mix in these exotic ingredients while allowing the taste of the quality liquor to shine through. I think Caroline on Crack has disabused people of the notion that bourbon and rocks glasses are exclusively for men, while pretty, fruity drinks are only for the ladies. Rather than describing the drinks as masculine and feminine, I would say I categorized them as either intense or refreshing.

The “Crockard”, which included Atlantico Reserva and Cognac, was pretty intense, as was one of our favorites, the “Eddie,” with Auchentoshan 3 wood (a Scottish single malt), Ancho Reyes, Banana Syrup and Coffee Tincture. The Ancho definitely left its mark. We also enjoyed the sweet and refreshing “Seymour,” with Mandarine Napoleon (a combination of 10-year Cognac and mandarins) Fernet (a bitter Argentinian liquor), Lemon Juice and Ginger Syrup with a mint tea sugar rim. My British genes must have been guiding me, because my absolute favorite cocktail, the “Winnie” also included tea. Besides Djarling Syrup, it features Beefeater Gin and Giffard Apricot.

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Urban Death Tour at the Zombie Joe Underground

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Adventure

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Adventure

There is a small, pitch black cracker box of a theater near the NoHo sign in the valley where the spirit of Halloween and all things dark and disturbing find a place to rest their fangs and horns all year round. When the preternatural essence of October and Samhain rolls around, the treats that lie within The Zombie Joe Underground have to be extra special and you can bet the Devil your soul that they are.

For those of you not familiar with the semi-regular editions of Urban Death, it’s a virtually word free collection of horrific scenarios or suggestions purposely made to unsettle you in a very unique way. Some of the time is spent in utter darkness so murky you cannot see who is next to you. When the lights come on, what is in your face may make you scream, laugh or almost run out. Clowns, Necrophilia, the misshapen and the mentally ill all congregate in ways that are both simple and brilliant without any props or explanations. It’s alot like being trapped in Clive Barker’s basement, or a pastiche taken from H.P, Lovecraft or Silent Hill.

To tell you any more would be criminal. This is a class act of warped genius that is best experienced cold with little warning or expectation of content. What distinguishes The Tour of Terror Haunted House version of Urban Death from its former incarnations is that its lobby has been crafted into a dark maze. You navigate through with a tiny in point flashlight that actually gives the nightmares lurking more of a heads up than being a viable light to see with.

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Advanced Style comes to Los Angeles

I’ve been a big fan of Ari Seth Cohen’s “Advanced Style” blog since he began. Having had a great-aunt who was (and remains) one of my major style influencers, his work spoke to me immediately. Living in New York for over a decade, I loved seeing stylish older folks on the street. (I love seeing anyone who makes the effort to look good and defy traditional convention.) Now, Cohen and director Lina Plioplyte have released a documentary following seven of these extraordinary individuals. (I can’t imagine how they narrowed it down!)

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Advanced Style is a documentary that examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers aged 62 to 95 whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Director Lina Plioplyte follows these fashionable ladies’ daily adventures of living in the city, capturing their most entertaining and poignant moments. From the instant that Cohen first meets these vibrant characters on the streets of New York, it is evident that they are destined for fame. From a glamorous 81-year-old dancer from the legendary Apollo theater, to an 80-year-old owner of a storied boutique on the Upper West Side with a penchant for over-the-top accessories, to a 93-year-old West Village artist known for her colorful ensembles and iconic red eyelashes crafted from her own hair, these ladies offer their own unique perspective on overcoming life’s obstacles with style and grace, proving that age is merely a state a mind. Advanced Style paints colorful and intimate portraits of independent, stylish women who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, growing old, and Western culture’s increasing obsession with youth.

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