As much as I like Jay Z, I really can’t stand what he did to Alphaville’s chart topping single from 1984 “Forever Young”. Alphaville’s recording was a song of my youth. For me, it was a song played as the one of the last songs at summer boarding school dances (the other being Don McLean’s “American Pie”) where groups of friends would gather in a circle on the dance floor to sing along and reminisce of the memories they had made the past few months. In my opinion, what Kanye and Jay Z did to that song was a bastardization of the original, and I always flip the tuner on the radio if it starts playing. Sure, it appeals to the modern day youth, but to me? … they should have left good enough alone. I mean the Jay Z rap? … ugh. Just terrible. Terrible lyrics. Terrible sentiment. Just … ugh.
Below are are videos of Alphaville’s original recording and Jay Z’s version. You be judge.
When I noticed that Dirty Loops did a cover of “Forever Young”, I was bracing myself for the worst. I mean, these fellas are amazing musicians, and in the other covers I’ve heard them perform, they usually flip the arrangement into something breathtakingly crazy. I was keeping my fingers crossed when I pressed on the Youtube player, hoping that that they’d keep it somewhat laid back and mellow like the original. I was pleasantly surprise.
Yes, their arrangement is impeccably complex. The bass line? Ridiculous. The vocal runs? Effortlessly fluid. The chord progressions? More sophisticated than a bottle of your finest bottled of scotch. These guys haven’t let me down yet, and I’m glad they did such a phenomenal, and unique, cover of Alphaville’s original. FYI, I didn’t need a chaser.
House parties in Los Angeles can be hit or miss. More often misses, than hits. At Toddchella, I discovered what it takes to make a house party a sure-fire hit (i) have the house party at a really cool location, (ii) have fully stocked bars with bartenders, (iii) have vending machines that dispense party essentials (i.e. lighters, cigarettes, condoms…), (iv) have a free taco truck, (v) have a very cool photographer capture the evening, and (vi) have live music that kicks some serious booty.
Held at the Penfield Mansion, Toddchella celebrated the birthday of Todd Hurvitz. Though I had only met Todd once- perhaps twice- before, I’ve hung out with his friends on several occasions at concert events like Coachella, and they were the ones organizing the shindig. The location aside, the party flyer listed three bands that’d be performing that evening: Tijuana Tears, The Record Company and We Were Indians. Me, being the music junkie that I am, checked out each band’s music. I immediately RSVP’s for the festivities.
Penfield Mansion is located in Woodland Hills, so I booked an inexpensive room at a local hotel so I could have a place nearby to crash. Such a good call. Unaware that there would be full spread of food at the party, I stopped by a local market to pick up some late night munchies (roast beef sandwich, mac and cheese, and a large bottle of water) just in case. After settling into the hotel, I called a cab to drive me 2 miles to the spot.
I have the cab pull me up to the entrance of the driveway, and I notice a black SVU parked out front. Inside is my friend Lyndsey who was one of the peeps in charge of putting the event together. I say, “Hi,” then let her alone to take care of her business with the bouncer of the event. After walking up the steep driveway, I let myself into the house that Frank Sinatra once lived in.
It was early, about 8:00pm, but the party seemed to have already been kick-started. I do a short walkthrough of the venue, especially impressed with the views and the full bar, then make my way to the kitchen/living room area where the early crowd had congregated to watch the end of the final four matchup between Michigan and Syracuse. I see a couple of my friends hanging out on the couches, and I pull up a wooden rocking chair to join them. Even though there was a full bar, I still brought a good bottle of scotch to sip on (Macallan 12) and open it up, pouring glasses for my friends that wanted some. Following the conclusion of the game, I head to the back yard where the bands had set up. The first band was about to take the make-shift stage.
Tijuana Tears was the first band to take the stage. A five man band that came together in 2012, they released a 5 song EP on September 14, 2012 called “Phantasmic Consciousness”. Team Toddchella did good in having this band open the night. Their sound was kind of music you want to hear when you’re starting the evening. It was the kind of music that lets you know that the party was about to get fun. Having only released one EP, their set was relatively short, but it was the perfect kick-off. Reza in the band gave me the set list, and it is below:
1. “Oceans”: When this song started, I felt that there was definitely a Cali influence. For some reason it reminded me (excluding the intro) of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The bass line and vocal melody felt very Flea and Keidis.
2. “Howl”: When this song started, I had a feeling that some of the guys in the band were from Texas. A very Tex Mex punk, hillbilly vibe.
3. Bryce Alber guitar solo.
4. “Beloved Venus”: A solid pop-rock song.
5. “Woman To Serve”: A solid rock and roll, blues number. A song that cresendos into a heavy frenzy.
6. “Phantasmic Conciousness”: They concluded their set with a song that I liked the most off the EP. It’s sound reminded me of Local Natives, but with more soul. Especially effective use of using call and response with the audience to sing along at the end with, “Whoa, what I say goes”.
The evening had officially started for me. This band got the adrenaline in my system pumping. As the band was putting away their equipment, I briefly introduced myself to the band. I ended up having a brief convo with Bryce, the singer. I offered the band some of my scotch. Bryce accepted.
This is a band that you need to see live. Their recordings are great, but their live sound has so much energy and joie-de-vivre. I was especially impressed with Bryce’s vocal timbre. With the scotch starting to set in, I think I may have made some silly comparisons, like telling Bryce that he reminded me of how Jamiroquai may have sounded if he grew up in the mid-west, and how during certain passages of certain songs I had Jeff Buckley flashbacks. Needless to say, I was impressed with his live performance.
I had noticed people behind me dancing with little LCD light bracelets, and I asked around to see where they got them. I was informed that a photography company named Harmonic Light was taking psychedelic pictures for the party, so I head into the nearby room (with a stripper pole) where they were set up.
With my scotch buzz settling in, I was cajoled into taking a pic. I think it turned out pretty cool.
The Record Company = Unfiltered, unadulterated roots/blues/rock. They’ve been around since 2011, but I was only introduced to this band through Toddchella. Marc Cazorla, Chris Vos and Alex Stiff are all Los Angeles transplants, and I couldn’t be happier to have them play this kind of music in Los Angeles.
They taste like the Black Keys, but are sprinkled with different spices. Chris Vos, the lead singer, has a voice that was as rich, or richer, than the 12 year Maccallan I was sipping on. A husky baritone with second tenor range, I was transported by the bluesy vibe that emanated from the make-shift stage while they were performing. I was particularly impressed with Chris’ work on the slide guitar (see the video- which happens to have the best light of all of the videos I shot- below).
They all seemed to have a good time, like performing this kind of music was second nature to them, and I was grooving with the sounds. After their set, I introduced myself and got the set list from Mark Cazorla. Mark is a good guy. Apparently, in my tipsiness, I forgot that I gave him my phone to write the set list. He went out of his way to find me and return the my precious life-line… seriously …. I’d be lost without my phone. The set list is below, with links to the original recording that I could find.
2. “Born Unnamed”
3. “On The Move”
4. “Whatcha Want” (Beastie Boys Cover): Freaking Awesome. I best they could blues out any hip-hop song they wanted.
5. “This Crooked City”
6. “The Burner”
7. “Medicine Man”: This was one of my favorite cuts from their set. Love the sound. Love the lyrics. Made me love my scotch.
8. “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely”
9. “In the Mood”
10. “That Alright Mama” (Ray Charles Cover)
11. “All Day, All Of Night” (The Kinks Cover)
At this point in the evening, infused with good music and good scotch, the evening started getting a little hazy for me. I had some nice conversations with various people … but I can’t remember any of their names… then again, that’s kind of par for the course for me, as anybody who knows me knows that remembering names is not my strong suit.
BUT, I do know and remember this. If you are having a hankering for some bad ass roots/blues/rock music and you’re in Los Angeles, check the current issue of LA Weekly, or start Googling, and see if The Record Company has a gig coming up. They will satisfying that craving. Trust me.
My buzz was still going, and I kept going to the bar to get more ice for my scotch. I tipped each time I ask for more ice. I never had to wait for ice. Tipping usually works that way. I head back out to the stage area, and by the time I returned to my spot, on cue, We Were Indians started to perform.
I found their Soundcloud site and listened to the four songs that they had posted. It was a small sample size, but when listening to their recordings I got excited. “Love Over Gold” felt like gothy, glam-rock. The lead singer on “Dream Store” sounded like young Eddie Vedder. “Long Way From Home” had hints of classic rock. This was a rock band, and I was anticipating a high energy, rocking set.
As We Were Indians started playing, I was immediately drawn to the lead singer’s stage presence. It felt like I was watching a dark version of David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger. He commanded the small stage and more and more people starting filling up the space around him.
Sometime during the first few songs, I felt some water drop on my face. Then again. I then turned to the guys next to me and said, “I think it’s starting to rain.” We started to looking up to the sky, when all of a sudden the lawn sprinklers went off full blast. The party goers immediately found trashcans to place over the sprinklers, and for a minute it seemed like the evening was going to end right there. I’m glad I was wrong.
After the sprinklers had stopped, the band made sure the water hadn’t damaged their equipment, and by created a barricade of towels from preventing the lawn water to overflow on the concrete, make-shift stage, and announced that it was time to rock-and-roll.
We Were Indians continued their set as if nothing had happened. The lead singer immediately captivated the audience. I took some photos during the set and recorded some video, but during the set the band announced that they didn’t want pictures taken. In order to respect their wishes, I’m not going to post the videos I took on youtube (the lighting was terrible though), however, I have to break their trust and post this one, dope-ass picture of the lead singer rocking out. It doesn’t get more rock and roll than this.
By the time We Were Indians had wrapped up, I had killed a whole bottle of scotch. Needless to say, I didn’t do it on my own (I’m not that much of a lush … coff, coff…), but I’d had enough to drink that my brain went into “water-mode”. I went to the bar several times to ask for ice water, and I remember tipping the bartenders for each.
I had a conversation with Mike McGill (the guitarist) after the set, and he was kind enough to message me a picture of the set list.
I’ve embedded the songs that are available on SoundCloud here so you can have a listen too.
Mike shot me a text that the next We Were Indians’ local gig is May 10th at King King in Hollywood. Barring anything else coming up, I may have to do the 40 minute drive into Hollywood to check them out again.
I have to give the party planners major props for the way they set the line-up of bands, because they really couldn’t have done a better job. They took three distinct sounding bands, and made it work seamlessly. It was the perfect soundtrack for a party; a soundtrack that crescendoed into a party that was truly, 100%, rock and roll, leaving everybody with an adrenaline high. On my way out, I gave props to the sound guy working the evening.
I woke up the next morning sans headache, which was surprising. I woke up in the hotel room and noticed that my LCD bracelet was still on. A subtle reminder of one of the best house parties I’ve been to in a while. Toddchella was dope. The bar has been set high, Coachella … you have some work to do…
It’s been quite a surreal day for me. Yesterday, I took my dog, Samson, to the vet as I noticed he was bleeding from his mouth. The vets noticed a growth on his tongue and diagnosed an Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancer. My heart broke. The vets told me that it looked bad and that I should consider getting additional tests and prep him for surgery to at least remove a portion of the growth.
I took Samson back to the vet this morning and signed the papers to have the vets do what they thought needed to be done. At around noon, I get online to check my social media platforms, and notice that a song I’ve been working, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” by Snoop Lion featuring Miley Cyrus on was making the rounds on Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc. Yes. I work for Snoop.
The song seemed to be getting a good reaction from the interwebs, so my day was picking up.
About an hour later, the vet called me. It turns out the the growth in Samson’s mouth was actually larger than the initial observations. It was down his throat and most likely had already spread throughout my pups chest area. Then the vet broke my heart again when she recommended euthanasia. The vet considered the odds of Samson living pain-free for the next few weeks as close to nil. I lost my shit.
I’ve had family members pass away. It’s not like I haven’t experienced heartache before. But it just seemed a little different this time around.
I remember going to the pound November of 1999 with my then girlfriend looking to adopt a dog. There was a litter of about a dozen chow-mixed pups in a cage and though each one was tumbling over each other to get our attention, I noticed one pup sitting in the corner, looking at me with his beautifully, sad eyes. I immediately pointed him out to the proprietor of the pound and adopted him on the spot. I find out after having adopted him, that the rest of the litter was going to euthanized the coming weekend.
I have to thank girl I was dating then for raising Samson right. She had grown up with dogs of her own, so she was excellent at potty training Samson and teaching him how to be obedient. Really though, Sammy’s always been a mellow pup. I think anybody who has ever had the pleasure of meeting him fell in love with his demeanor, and I’m sure she’s partly responsible for how awesome Samson is.
It’s been 13 years with Samson. As cliche as it sounds, he’s always been there for me. Even when he was living with my parents while I was in law school, he’d always be waiting at the gate to my parent’s back yard each weekend when I came to stay with the folks. He was always there to console me when I had bad news that I didn’t necessarily want to share with my friends. He’s warded off animals attacking me. He’s helped me meet cute girls. He’s just always been there. And now, I’m torn with the thought that I’ll have to make a decision about euthanizing him soon.
13 has always been my lucky number. I was born on the 13th. Friday the 13ths always seem to be good to me. I feel like I should resent the number now since it’s become the number of years I’ve been able to have Samson at my side.
I’ll have a few days to figure this all out. I’m hoping that Samson beats whatever odds are against him, and I’m still trying to hope for the best. I’ve never had to make this kind of decision before and it’s really making me lose it, and though I just wish I could write about how great Snoop’s newest song is, which it definitely is, I felt the need to editorialize this post with what’s happened to me today. Life is trying to tell me something, and I hope I get to figure it out sooner rather than later.
For everybody that’s ever met Samson, please say a few doggy prayers for him.
[Verse 1: Snoop Lion]
Tonight there’s gonna be a whole lot of smoke in the air
Blow it hard for the ones who ain’t here
Seems like every day we putting one six feet underground
What goes up must come down
[Hook: Miley Cyrus]
Now my buzz is gone, I need to re-up on reality
Can’t let me see them me weak I need to pause on it
Is there any possibility that everyone feels like me
Ashtrays and hearbreaks
I lost some, let’s toast one
So put ’em high, and tell ’em this
You gonna aim, but you never missed
Ashtrays and heartbreaks
I lost some, let’s toast one
So raise a glass to the memories
Set ’em free and fill up all those ashtrays
I’m gonna fill up all those ashtrays
[Verse 2: Snoop Lion]
Tomorrow when you wake up and realise life ain’t fair
Throw it back and make the whole world disappear
You never miss what you had, until it’s gone
When it’s right, something will always go wrong
UPDATE: My dog, Samson, passed away April 18, 2013. May his beautiful soul rest in peace.