Ska Boom! The Lively Origins of American Ska

Ska Boom! An American Ska & Reggae Oral History” is a great new book from Marc Wasserman, ska enthusiast and bassist/lyricist of the first NJ ska band, Bigger Thomas. His heartfelt introduction and Stephen Shafer’s excellent opening history of ska in the U.S. sucked me right in, even before I got to the band testimonials. Shafer (“The Duff Guide to 2 Tone”) highlights the important contrast between the social setting in England that sparked the original 2 Tone scene with the harshly segregated U.S.:

“Thanks to the enduring legacy of slavery, the failure of reconstruction, implementation of the white supremacist Jim Crow laws, enduring and pervasive institutional and societal racism, and good old-fashioned discriminatory redlining, there were far too many places in America where white kids didn’t grow up next door to Black kids, didn’t go to the same schools, and often didn’t consume the same music. Contrast this with the many white, working class kids in the UK growing up in the same neighborhoods with the Black Jamaican working class sons and daughters of the Windrush generation. . . “

He also marks the importance of these three seminal albums, aside from the obviously huge influence of the 2 Tone bands from the UK: The Untouchables’ “Wild Child,” Fishbone’s self-titled record and The Toasters’ self-titled.

After that, the book reaches back to 1973 with The Shakers in Oakland, who were most likely the first reggae band in the U.S., and who often had to explain what reggae was to most people. Started by Ron Rhoades after he first heard Johnny Nash and Desmond Dekker and began digging in to Jamaican music, The Shakers follow a pattern here of one person discovering ska and reggae, and then recruiting other musicians. People that heard them would tell them their rhythm was off or even backwards, because they just had no concept of the music at all. Apparently, Joni Mitchell heard them in the studio and even asked, “What is it?” Not to mention the fact that their producer at Elektra didn’t understand them at all and made ridiculous suggestions like rewriting Toots & The Maytals’ “Got To Feel It” before they covered it, because he thought listeners would find the song structure confusing.

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L.A.’s Restaurant Community Mourns the Loss of Mark Peel, Pioneer of California Cuisine

Mark Peel. Photo by Elise Thompson.

According to The LA Times, Chef Mark Peel, co-founder of Campanile, died Sunday afternoon at the age of 66. He was diagnosed with cancer only nine days before his passing.

In 2009, I had the honor of attending an event for the release of a cookbook featuring recipes from his famous family-style Monday Night Dinners at his beloved LA restaurant, Campanile. The restaurant closed in 2012. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to taste his food and have a quick chat with him at numerous food events. He was never too busy for his customers.

The last time I saw him, he was trotting down the steps at Grand Central market with an enormous fish slung over his shoulder. I was tickled to see such a noted chef doing his own heavy lifting.

He was a pioneer of California cuisine, with its focus on fresh, local ingredients. Peel began his foray into the revolutionary new cooking movement with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison in 1975, and was part of the team that opened Michael’s in Santa Monica (Which was featured, with an appearance by Peel, in the recent Top Chef Oregon). It was at Michael’s that he met his longtime wife and collaborator, Nancy Silverton. He then worked the kitchen of perhaps the restaurant most emblematic of California Cuisine, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, before becoming the chef de cuisine of Spago in 1981.

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Lethal Amounts Reopens this Weekend with Works by Legendary Punk Photographer Ed Colver

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Last-Minute Guide: 15 Father’s Day Food & Drink Specials Around LA

Photo courtesy of Eureka!

After a low-key, stay-at-home Father’s Day last June, restaurants are reopening their doors and filling up again. Why not show Dad how much you appreciate him this Sunday, June 20, with a special meal, or maybe some gourmet cookies, special tea or coffee? See below for a few of our favorite options…

Enjoy an exhilarating Father’s Day celebration at Porsche Experience Center. For $65, Dad can ride in a Porsche with a Porsche Drive Coach speeding around the extensive, 53-acre Handling Circuit after a luxurious brunch at one of the center’s two restaurants, Restaurant 917 and 917 (K)afe. Brunch options include snow crab legs, prime rib roast, wild salmon with lemon dill cream, oysters with mignonette, French toast with mixed berry compote, and more.

You and Dad can enjoy craft beer, cocktails, and charcuterie boards at Palos Verdes Peninsula’s stunning South Coast Botanic Garden all weekend long. This Gnome Sweet Gnome Father’s Day celebration also includes an optional scavenger hunt, with garden gnomes hidden throughout the garden’s 87 acres.

Pasadena’s Union is famous for its porchetta. This special dish isn’t always available, but it is this Father’s Day at both Union and the new U Street Pizza. Rubbed with rosemary and Fresno chile, pork belly is slow-roasted and served with pancetta and garlic pan sauce, along with farmer’s market shelling beans, Weiser Farms potatoes, and arugula with bagna cauda vinaigrette at Union. U Street Pizza, meanwhile, will offer the porchetta atop a white pizza with roasted pickled peppers and arugula with bagna cauda vinaigrette. Continue reading

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Moby Kicks Off NeueHouse’s ‘Summer Sounds’ with Moby Doc and Reprise Event

Moby Photo by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat

Moby has always been an intriguing person. He’s proved to be a popular, energetic and innovative creator. He also has a number of personal struggles that have gained public attention and earned him some notoriety. He has managed to turn those challenges around by bettering himself with a thoughtful introspection and advocating for both personal growth and social and cultural change. Moby kicked off NeueHouse’s “Sunset Sounds” on Friday with a special acoustic performance referencing his new Deutsche Gramophone album “Reprise,” followed by a screening of “Moby Doc.” The event concluded with Moby manning the wheels of steel with a DJ set. The album and film were both released on May 28th.

The Moby Doc and Reprise event was held at sunset on the NeueHouse outdoor terrace overlooking Sunset Boulevard. The open-air event space on the third floor of the mixed use building is located in the former home of the historic CBS radio building and studio, across from Gower Gulch where Rodney Bingenheimer’s favorite Denny’s is located. The terrace is facing west, so the location gets all the marvelous golden light of sundown. The area is wide open and you have a 240-degree view of Hollywood’s wonderful architecture, rife with towers and those iconic palm trees. There are plenty of comfortable seating options and a bar in the back. NeueHouse has large attentive wait staff to wait on you wherever you may be seated with a menu of delightful food and drink options.

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Movies Till Dawn: Summer Shockers

The Columnist” (2019, Film Movement) Writer Katja Herbers takes a direct approach to the ceaseless toxic spew issuing from anonymous male posters about her column: she tracks them down and murders them in increasingly gruesome ways. The blackly amusing conceit at the heart of this Dutch comedy-thriller from director Ivo van Aart is likely to raise a crooked smile from anyone –writer or otherwise – who’s found themselves on the receiving end of a online troll’s ire, and there are some smart touches sewn throughout the film, like her daughter’s agitprop response to a teacher and her boyfriend (Bram van der Kelen), a horror writer in Criss Angel gear who’s really a stay-at-home kind of guy. Aart doesn’t dig too deeply into the complexities of revenge, though he also doesn’t make it easy or pleasant for Herbers; it’s ultimately grisly entertainment that nods at a real-life problem. Film Movement’s DVD is subtitled and widescreen

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Help Save LA’s Last Chili Bowl-Shaped Restaurant

Businesses shaped like cameras, tamales, coffee pots, a stockinged leg, animals, hats, and more emerged in the 1920s through the 1940s as a quintessentially Los Angeles art form, with a novel charm that attracted customers and gawkers alike.

Sadly, most of them have been demolished, and one of them is under threat of annihilation right now. The Chili Bowl, located on Pico Blvd. on the West Side, was one of a chain of chili restaurants that began in 1931. It’s one of LA’s oldest (and all too rare) remaining examples of programmatic architecture.

Both the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission sought landmark status for the Chili Bowl, but the current property owners want to instead raze the historic building. The matter went up to vote on June 15, but City Councilmember Mike Bonin voted to deny landmark status to the building, and the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee deferred to Councilmember Bonin’s wishes.

The cultural historians behind Esotouric just started Friends of the Chili Bowl, with a petition calling for Bonin to save and move the last Chili Bowl restaurant in the city of LA. You can help this effort to preserve a piece of LA history by signing the petition.

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Cosmic Horror in a Glass: Enjoy a Cthulhu Cocktail with “H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones”

Though H.P. Lovecraft never touched a drop of alcohol, one imagines that the Recluse of Providence might be amused by the idea of a cocktail inspired by the Big Daddy of his sprawling and influential Cthulhu Mythos (actually, he wouldn’t – Lovecraft was a bit of a drip, among other things). Regardless, the fine folks at Alliance Entertainment and 123 Go Films would like you to raise a glass to the Elder and Outer Gods and sample their Cthulhu Cocktail, a signature beverage that celebrates the release of “H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones,” a new horror film arriving today on DVD, digital, and your local Redbox.

Directed by Chad Ferrin – an always inventive and entertaining genre filmmaker who’s on something of a roll right now, having released “Attack in L.A.” and “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet” in the last couple of years, and currently at work on three more – “Deep Ones” has been reaping awards at international festivals and promises to be a grisly and atmospheric addition to Lovecraft cinema.

As for the Cthulhu Cocktail – mixologists will note that it’s essentially a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, but one that comes with the diabolical blessings of the Great Old One himself, who undoubtedly enjoys them at his house in R’lyeh. As Chad himself told The Los Angeles Beat, “I’m beyond excited for the world to see ‘H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones,’ and and equally thrilled to kick back numerous Cthulhu cocktails!” Shouldn’t you do the same in your own lost and forbidden lair?

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Gracias Madre’s New Agave-Based, Japanese-Style Highball Program is the First of its Kind

Mezcal highball at Gracias Madre. Photos by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat.

Gracias Madre is known for being ahead of the curve. The plant-based Mexican restaurant opened in West Hollywood in 2009 with a menu of elevated vegan dishes and a cocktail menu that is “all agave, all the time.” Every cocktail here is made with tequila or mezcal — or sometimes both.

You’ve got to respect that kind of devotion: it lends itself to attention to detail and ongoing innovation. Gracias Madre’s Beverage Director, Maxwell Reis, told me “I wanted to emerge from this pandemic better than before.” He pushes the envelope, bringing sustainability and newness to his cocktail menu.

Reis’ latest innovation is the very first of its kind. The El Tesoro HIghball Machine, made in Japan, is an authentic highball machine that’s been customized to use with agave spirits, rather than with whisky. 

In case you’re not familiar with whisky highballs, they are huge in Japan. It’s a ritualistic process to get a whisky highball in Japan, and that’s part of the pleasure. The ice needs to be perfectly clear, while the high-quality soda water used to lengthen the flavor of the whisky must be exceedingly chilled and highly carbonated. 

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watt’s picture of the week – sunday, june 13, 2021

crimony but how else do you get them to/from oak-town?

photos by mike watt

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mike watt’s hoot page

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