Friday, September 4, 2015

FYF Fest 2014

FYF was back again at Exposition Park, this time with a new walkway, an extra stage, and some new food options.  Here are the highlights. 
  • The New Walkway really cut down on the time it took to get from Main Stage to The Trees.  This took about 7 minutes of walk time for me.
  • The Lines to get in were constantly moving, although a bit long on Day 1.  Day 2 was much better.  Still, getting in was a vast improvement over Day 1 last year. 
  • It was a bit sad that FYF didn't sell out all their tickets, but I was glad it wasn't as packed as last year.  Guess the previous year's logistics really did a number on this year's attendance.  
  • ID Check was conveniently located right after security. 
  • Perrier Greenhouse offered nice cold cans of sparkling water...and free bubbles.  
  • BADBADNOTGOOD was an interesting choice for The Arena, but they sounded great live.  I enjoyed their modern jazz version of hip hop. 
  • Caught a few of Goldroom's songs at The Trees.  Wish I had stayed for the entire set because he got me dancing even though I was sitting on the grass in the back.  Till Sunrise was the perfect song to hear at sunset. 
  • The Trees stage was fancier this year, which was really noticeable once the sun set. 
  • On the way to the Flying Lotus DJ set, I got distracted by the lights and music of Shlohmo.  His music paired really well with my tasty lavender and orange blossom donut (aka Joyce Lavender from Donut Friend.  Love their punny band names btw). 
  • The twice fried Korean chicken wings from Status Kuo were probably the messiest things you could eat at FYF, but they were also some of the tastiest.  Note to SK:  add moist towelettes to every order.  We went through several napkins and a few moist towelettes that I luckily had.     
  • Chet Faker's live show was much more energetic than his sometimes mellow songs on his albums.  No Diggity attracted people to the stage and the rest of his set kept them there.  
  • As a last minute replacement, Kanye West only had bright lights and smoke as his stage setup, but he still had the crowd going wild over every song.  It was fun to see him try to do 10 hit songs in the last 10 minutes of his show.  Surprise guest Rihanna sang with him from the pit and then later on stage.  
  • Flume turned the Main Stage into a giant dance club.  Did anyone find it strange that Lorde came up on stage to dance with him, but didn't actually sing?  I was surprised that he was actually kind of polite and undouchey for a DJ.  He kept thanking everyone after his songs and seemed genuinely excited about performing there.  
  • It was my second time seeing Belle & Sebastian, but my first time actually being close enough to see them on stage (the last time I saw them was at Hollywood Bowl forever ago). I can't believe that even after 9 studio albums, they're still considered indie.  Singer Stuart Murdoch was wearing a nautical shirt and a hat, which I feel like is the exact same thing he wore at Hollywood Bowl.  I like to imagine he has a closet full of striped shirts.  During The Stars of Track and Field, they showed this amazing old footage of the opening ceremony for the 1984 Summer Olympics that took place in the Coliseum at Exposition Park.  Jetpack = epic. 
  • D'Angelo & the Vanguard were having a sexy dance party at The Lawn stage.  We could feel his James Brown-like energy all the way from the beer garden.  He put on a great show including costume changes and him playing multiple instruments.  
  • Morrissey sounded good live and I even got to hear a Smith's song, but I pretty much lost interest in the rest of his set after he launched into the preachy Meat is Murder and played the accompanying bloody animal slaughtering video.  I do admire him for playing past his set time for his fans.  And I hope people listened to him when he urged them not to vote for Trump. 

More Reviews:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sound Bites 20.0: Northern California

I'm A few weeks ago, HC and I drove up to San Francisco and "wined and dined" (ok, not always wine) our way around northern California.  Here are some highlights from our road trip.

San Francisco

If you like cheese... 
  • Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar serves breakfast until 10:30am.  We ate these very filling breakfast items:  
    Baked Egg Sandwich / Cheese Toasties
    • Baked Egg Sandwich with sauteed mushrooms, Gruyere & herbs.  Added pancetta bacon 
      I had to get this because I love mushrooms.  I almost questioned adding pancetta, but everyone thought I was crazy not to, so I did it and I definitely don't regret it.  
    • Cheese Toasties - open-faced grilled cheese made with Calbot Clothbound Cheddar with caramelized onions & maple mustard
      Not as small as the name implies.
    • Poached Egg on cheese grits
      I thought this was a side item, but it was filling enough to be a meal.  
  • Ferry Plaza Farmers Market takes place at the Ferry Building every Saturday (8am - 2pm) and Tuesday & Thursday (10am - 2pm).  I wish we hadn't eaten so much for breakfast because some of the cheese stands were generous with their samples.  
If you want some oysters without the long wait...
  • Hog Island Oyster Co. actually has a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.  You can order from their Raw Bar or even take some home!  
If you like creative and tasty bar bites...
  • ABV has a standout food menu.  What we ate: 
    Goose Salame / Kimchee Fritter
    • Goose Salame
      I've never tried goose in the form of salami before and it was great.  Glad it wasn't just the meat alone. 
    • Kimchee Fritter
      I thought this would be in the form of several small fritters, but I guess it was listed as a singular fritter, and it big fritter. 
    • Falafel Lamb Dog
      So, I thought this was going to be a hot dog of some sort.  I have to admit that I was disappointed when I saw it arrive in the form of two corn dogs because I dislike corn dogs, but to my surprise, it was delicious.  Using falafel to replace the corn bread (which is what I hate about corn dogs) was genius.  This was one of my favorite dishes here.  I was actually craving it the rest of the night.   
If you want good cocktails...
Gran Cobbler / Cool Runnings / Coffee Cup /
El Vampiro / Spanish Negroni
  • Forgery has been open for almost two months now.  It's not really close to much, but don't let that deter you because the drinks are great and so are the bartenders.  We drank:
    • Gran Cobbler - Gran Lusso Vermouth, raspberries, absinthe
    • Cool Runnings - Appleton VX Rum, Byrrh, grapefruit, nutmeg
    • Coffee Cup - Coffee-infused Bombay Gin, Pimm's, Thai chile, ginger ale
    • El Vampiro - Fidencio Unico Mezcal, Manzanilla Sherry, Creme de Cassis, salt 
      It was my cousin's birthday, so the bartender surprised him with his name in his cocktail! 
    • Forged & Bound - Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Montenegro, Galliano Ristretto, green chartreuse, bitters 
      Yes, there was a snake in HC's drink.
If you like toast...
  • Trouble Coffee has a damn good cinnamon toast...and coffee, grapefruit juice, coconuts, and a small assortment of pastries.   Hear the fascinating story behind the shop on This American Life


If you want to pack a picnic...
  • Lazzini's Market has a great selection of made-to-order sandwiches, local wine and beer, and the kind of snacks that would make any Whole Foods customer happy.  We got this to munch on with our wine later in the day:
    • The Godfather sandwich - hot BBQ tri-tip, pepper jack (HC swapped out the cheddar cheese), pepperoncini, red onions, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise on a soft French roll
      The amazing smells coming from the BBQ grill outside may have been a factor in us ordering this sandwich, but I'm glad we did because the tri-tip was SO good.  Definitely want to try their other BBQ items next time. 
If you like bubblies...
  • Iron Horse Vineyards has a great collection of sparkling wines that you can enjoy while taking in their gorgeous view.  My favorites wines were: 
    • 2010 Ocean Reserve - 100% Chardonnay
      I usually hate Chardonnays on account of their butteriness (One time I had a Chardonnay that was so buttery it tasted like popcorn. Gross).  I didn't even notice a hint of butter in this wine.  $4 from the sale of each bottle goes to National Geographic's Ocean Initiative.  I love Nat Geo photos and ocean photography, so this bottle was practically begging me to buy it. 
    • 2010 Rainbow CuvĂ©e - 69% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay 
      Its release celebrates diversity. 
If you want to have wine by a stream...
  • Arista Winery has a peaceful Japanese garden along with other spaces where you can relax with your wine.  We enjoyed their: 
    • 2014 Ferrington Vineyard Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley
    • 2013 Smokey Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel
If you want to impress someone...
  • Gary Farrell Winery's Terrace Tasting allows you to enjoy a stunning view of the Russian River Valley from their terrace with a wine flight and cheese pairing.  If you can't get a reservation, the view from the tasting room is still impressive.  
If you really love beer...

Carmel Valley 

If you have a special event...
  • Holman Ranch* is popular for weddings, but they're also equipped to handle events like corporate retreats and relaxing getaways. We: 
    • explored the wine cave and got to try some wines from the barrels.  The cave naturally provides cool temperatures, which are effective for storing and aging wines. 
    • toured the vineyards and the lovely property.
    • dined at the restaurant they own, Will's Fargo Steakhouse.  It reminded me of The Hitching Post II.  Will's Fargo doesn't just serve steak, they also have: 
      • French Onion Soup
        In the past I've found this type of soup to be overly heavy on the cheese and extremely salty, but I really liked this version.  Not too salty and the cheese was good.  I actually wish I had more soup when I finished it.  
      • Goat Cheese Ravioli, garlic, tomato, Parmesan cream sauce
      • Roasted Free Range Chicken, "Sauce Marchand de Vin", potato gratin, mixed salad
        I wouldn't normally order chicken at a restaurant, but this one was actually pretty tasty and I liked having a break from the meat with some salad and potato.
      • Warm Truffle Cake, Holman Ranch olive oil ice cream 
        I overheard a guest raving about the ice cream on the way to the restaurant. 
    • went to the game room and joined some other guests playing pool and throwing darts to the soundtrack of a jukebox.  I can see why this room is known as the groom's favorite room.  
    • slept in charming, western-themed guest rooms.  The tranquility of the ranch reminded me of camping...but with the comforts of a hotel. 
    • ended our stay with a morning hike.

More about Holman Ranch:

Song Pairing:
Gooey by Glass Animals

* Holman Ranch was a media sponsored trip. 

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Summer 2014 Playlist

    Summer is ending, but you wouldn't know it in LA.  During these continuous warm temps, I've been using SOL REPUBLIC Master Tracks XC headphones to put together an it-still-feels-like-summer playlist inspired by this year's FYF lineup.  Enjoy!

    Headphones gifted to me for review.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    FYF Fest 2014

    This year FYF got a new location, moving from LA State Historic Park to Exposition Park.  Here's my best and worst of the festival:

    High Notes:
    1. The Lawn - my favorite stage had screens, cushy grass, and great sound no matter where you were.  I saw some of the best performances at this stage.  
    2. Real restrooms - being able to use something other than porta potties made such a huge
      Sports Arena
      difference in my comfort and hydration levels.  
    3. Water - free bottle of water for anyone who took the Metro.  Best. idea. ever.
    4. Sports Arena - with colorful lights, disco balls, cool air, comfortable seating (the second day), good music, and nonstop dancing, the arena made me forget I was even at a festival, at least when I could get in.  
    5. Grimes - before FYF I felt meh about Grimes, but I kept hearing about how great she was live.  After FYF, I am definitely a fan.  Her show was surprisingly energetic and entertaining even though it was mostly her and her two dancers.  Go was fantastic with her caped guest, Blood Diamonds.
    6. Les Sins - if Wing hadn't recognized Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bundick, I would've skipped Les Sins.  I'm glad I didn't.  Not only was sitting in the Sports Arena a welcome relief to the heat, but it was actually a good set.  I prefer the dance music he played over some of the electronic noises I typically hear from other DJs.  I could hear a hint of Toro Y Moi in some of the songs, but in a good danceable way.  He looked like he was enjoying himself as he was bobbing his head and dancing.  Other DJs I saw that weekend just kept their heads down and looked like they were working.  
    7. Built to Spill - often cited as an influence for many of my favorite bands, I knew I had to see them play.  I loved that they were quietly awesome.  There was no cockiness, just amazing guitar solos, vocals (slightly huskier, but still good), drums...  I only saw singer / guitarist Doug Martsch crack a brief smile once during Carry the Zero
    8. Haim - typically poppy with an R&B flavor, they were actually very rock 'n' roll live.  They were all talented, playing not just one, but several instruments.  Especially loved watching all three of them play drums on Let Me Go.  Also, this was one of the rare times the sound was good on Main Stage.  
    9. The Strokes' set list - this was my first time seeing The Strokes.  They weren't the best band that weekend, but they were better than their solo performances.  They didn't really talk much, which was probably for the best because their banter from the day before was kind of weird.  What was impressive was their set list.  It was like traveling through time, starting off with Barely Legal, then touring all of their albums.  Hearing the older songs transported me back to when I first heard them.  So nostalgic.  And I was excited I got to hear New York City Cops live. 

    Low Notes: 
    1. Lines - okay, I actually walked right into FYF the first day, but I felt bad for everyone stuck in the long line wrapped around the very large block.  I don't even know why the long line even existed because once you entered, security and searches actually moved pretty fast and those lines were short.  Luckily, this was adjusted the next day and everyone got in quickly. 
      Main Stage
    2. Main Stage - it took 20 minutes to walk there from the farthest stage, The Lawn.  This made me dread having to see anyone at Main Stage.  With hardly any shade, it was located on hot asphalt and facing east, so you could barely see anything as the sun was setting.  This was the only time I was glad to see tall people because I used them to block out the sun.  Also, the sound was somewhat muffled compared to the other stages.  
    3. Future Islands - I don't deny Samuel T. Herring's enthusiasm and energy on stage.  What I don't get is his need to use death metal growls in his synthpop songs.  It was weird.
    4. Julian Casablancas + the Voidz - he did sound better than the first time I heard him live, but it was a douche move to use the screens to show crappy computer screensavers instead of the actual performance.  Not everyone can get close to the stage.   
    5. Daisy Dukes - how is it comfortable to have a wedgie so high you can see your butt hanging out?  When did these short shorts become festival fashion?  Ew. 
    6. People - the larger venue allowed for more people, and apparently more of the shoving, pushy, obnoxious kind.  I thought standing off to the side of Main Stage would be safe, but no, there's no escape from jerks who think that after the band is several songs in is the best time to make their way to the front of the stage, especially through an already tight crowd.  

    More reviews: 

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Fall 2014 Tech Essentials

    Summer's coming to an end, so enjoy the last of it (or the beginning of fall) with these essential gadgets (in no particular order):   
    1. Mophie space pack - battery + case + storage = Mophie space pack.  Not only does this case protect your iPhone, but it can also charge a phone up to 100% AND can add up to 64 GB of extra storage for more music, photos, and videos.  
    2. Danbo external battery - there are tons of options for external batteries for non-iPhone users, but this is one of the cutest.  The eyes light up in different colors to show the remaining power, and it has two ports to charge two phones at the same time.  One of the ports can even charge tablets! 
    3. GoPro Hero3 - with a waterproof case and built-in Wi-Fi, you can capture your last summer trip, party, or any upcoming music festivals (ahem, Austin City Limits). 
    4. SOL REPUBLIC DECK - finally a wireless speaker that doesn't sound tinny.  Indoors, the sound is impressive, but switching to Outdoor Mode really boosts the acoustics, great for BBQs and pool parties.  A fun feature is Heist Mode, which lets up to five people connect at the same time.  It's beyond easy to pair phones and immediately start playing music.  Plus the speaker lights up with different colors, so you know who's DJing.
    5. FlipBelt - okay, so this isn't really a gadget, but it's great for holding one when you go on a run.  Work out and listen to music without your phone / iPod bouncing around, weighing down one arm, or slipping out of your hand.    

    SOL REPUBLIC DECK given to me for review.