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. 

    Friday, July 25, 2014

    Dreamworks Animation Celebrating 20 Years @ Hollywood Bowl



    High Notes:
    1. Jack Black was a funny, energetic host and managed to recover quickly, and humorously, even when flubbing his lines.  Has he ever been considered to host the Oscars?  
    2. The amazing Judith Hill singing Prince of Egypt's "When You Believe".  Don't know how my friend's have never heard of this song, let alone the movie.  It was all over the radio and featured two powerhouse singers (Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston)!  
    3. The USC Marching Band lined up on stage to perform on The Croods. 
    4. Remembering how great the soundtracks were for Puss in Boots and How to Train Your Dragon.
    5. Getting to see one of my favorite composers, Hans Zimmer, live AND on guitar! 
    6. Awesome fireworks during I'm a Believer with Jack Black on vocals and all the Dreamworks composers playing instruments. 
    7. All the popular Dreamworks characters coming out on stage to dance to I Like to Move It.  Jack Black shimmying with Po (it's like he's dancing with himself!) and Shrek was particularly amusing.  Life-size Toothless was so adorable!


    More: 

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    Evening of Chinese Splendor @ Hollywood Bowl

    High Notes:
    1. Not just one, but FIVE dragons before the show even started,  


      one dragon during the show, 

      and a flaming dragon with fireworks at the end of the show.  
    2. Perry So conducted the LA Philharmonic and looked unexpectedly young for someone so talented.
    3. The concert brought together generations with classical pianist Rueibin Chen, beloved folk singer Song Zuying, and pop star Wang Leehom.  The lineup made for a fun family activity. 
    4. Wang Leehom's cover of his uncle, Li Jian-fu's, hit song Descendants of the Dragon  
    5. All the performers on stage together for Time to Say Goodbye.  Wow, Song Zuying's voice is amazing 

    Low Notes: 
    1. I know it was an outdoor concert, so you can bring whatever you want to eat, but stinky tofu definitely should not be one of them.   
    2. So this is just a personal low note, but seeing Wang Leehom play piano, violin, AND sing really made me wish I excelled at something, anything!
    3. I've never seen so many Chinese people in one place outside of China.  Having been to China, I know people don't seem to follow any traffic rules (or rules of courtesy in crowds).  It was a pushy, rough herd of people.  First time I've ever gotten stuck in the tunnel while exiting...

    More:
    • Can Leehom Wang transcend China and America's pop cultures? - LA Times 
    • Wang Leehom's video diary of that day 

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    Barry Gibb, Jared & the Mill @ Hollywood Bowl

    Jared & the Mill
    On the ride up to the Hollywood BowlJennio and I were the youngest people on the shuttle...not accompanying a parent (it's so sweet that these kids took their moms to a concert).  At the Bowl, we did see even younger people...working the event.  I think it's safe to say that Barry Gibb draws an older crowd.  So, I'm not quite sure how the opener, Jared & the Mill, was chosen.  Don't get me wrong, they were good, but their Mumford & Sons sound would've been a better fit at an indie music festival.  After reading their AZcentral interview, I was impressed to learn that Gibb selected them out of 70 acts.  The man recognizes talent.


    Barry Gibb
    Barry Gibb with son, Stephen
    When I went through a Bee Gees phase in my early college years, I never thought I would get to see any of them live, so I was excited when I heard Barry Gibb was touring and that there was a show at Hollywood Bowl (one of my favorite venues).  I mostly knew of disco era Bee Gees, so I was pleasantly surprised by their pre-disco hits (such as Spicks and Specks) and collaborations (like the album Guilty they did with Barbra Streisand).

    The concert was a family affair with a duet with his niece, Sammy Gibb (who I like to imagine is a punk rock jazz singer.  Her voice was amazing) and a performance by his son, Stephen Gibb (who has a gritty voice fit for death metal).

    Barry Gibb's voice, by the way, still sounds fantastic after all these years (zero old man voice).  And he has a sense of humor.  He put up a photo of him with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake on the Barry Gibb Talk Show skit (start at 4:22 to skip the weird Madonna part.  I wish he had actually been on the show and had a sing off with Fallon).  Then he went into Nights on Broadway.  The only thing that could've improved the already outstanding performance was if he had started the song with the skit's lyrics or shown the end song from the video.

    Photo via Dailymail
    The tour was a wonderful way to pay tribute to his brothers.  You could tell Gibb really missed them when he told stories while showing old family photos.  He even did a duet with Robin on I Started a Joke.  The video of Robin made it feel like he was there.

    The show was a brilliant display of the Bee Gees' extraordinary musical career.  I never knew they originated To Love Somebody.  Everyone knows that song, but that night was the first time hearing the original.  And Grease live was amazing.  I didn't even realize Frankie Valli sang it, but I'm not surprised that Barry Gibb wrote it, definitely has his sound.  So many of Bee Gees songs have been sampled and covered.  Islands in the Stream was used in Ghetto Supastar, for instance.  The only song missing from the concert was Emotion, one of my favorite songs (written for Samantha Sang and covered by Destiny's Child).


    More Reviews:

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Coachella 2014 Packing List

    Sadly, no Coachella for me this year, but since I saw so many Coachella packing guides going around, I figure I should add to them with something more than just "cute outfits".  These are the essentials I would bring to Coachella (or any festival).
    1. Vapur Bottle:  can be rolled up when empty and takes up way less space than a plastic water bottle.
        
    2. Mophie Juice Pack Plus:  protects your phone AND provides 120% extra battery to keep your phone functioning all day long.
       
    3. Phone charger:  With the above Mophie case, you can charge your phone and the case at the same time. If you're lucky there will be tents with charging stations like the amazing H&M tent last year with AC, cold water, outlets, sunblock, and wipes to clean your sweaty face. That tent was an oasis in the afternoon heat.    
    4. ETY Earplugs:  a friend changed my live music life with these earplugs.  They don't muffle the voices or instruments like other earplugs.  I remember using them for the first time and I kept taking them out to compare because it sounded like I wasn't really wearing earplugs.  The sound was amazing.  More details about how they work here.  
    5. Bundle Monster Waterproof Beach Blanket:  folds up into the smallest of pouches.  Doesn't take up much space in your tote bag and you'll be glad you brought it because the grass can get dry and itchy in the desert and at night you have no idea what has been tossed on the ground throughout the day.  Plus it's huge unfolded, could fit 2-3 napping people.
    6. Neutrogena SPF 100 Sunblock Spray:  yep, high SPF still exists and now in the form of a convenient spray!
    7. Eos SPF 15 Lip Balm  
    8. Hand sanitizer
    9. P-mates:  if porta potties gross you out as much as they gross me out (I've gone all 3 days without using them) then these are a precious commodity.  They look weird, but they work.  I've used them in Tibet and China where a hole in the ground is considered a toilet...
    10. American Apparel Thigh High Socks:  I tend to wear shorts during the day, so these are nice and warm for nighttime desert temps.  
    11. Bandana:  for the dusty walk to and from parking / shuttle and a little extra warmth for the cold nights.
    12. Fjallraven Totepack:  you have to have a bag to throw all this stuff in.  This tote bag converts into a backpack, which is great when you want to be hands-free while dancing.
        
    13. Comfortable shoes:  my black Converse are my go-to, but if you're old like me you might also want a cushy, lightweight sneaker, like the Nike Air Pegasus 83 (if I have to wear sneakers I like them retro), for the next day when your feet are in pain from Day 1.  

    Bands I would check out: 

    Friday
    Saturday
    Sunday

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Sound Bites 19.0: Central Florida

    The last time I was in Central Florida was about 20 years ago.  A lot has changed over the years (hello Wizarding World of Harry Potter!), but some things stayed the same (like my unwavering love for Epcot).  Revisiting the places I went to as a teenager was even more fun as an adult, and part of the fun was discovering new food and drinks.  Here are some of my favorites. 

    Food:
    • mug of Clam Chowder, Oyster Roll (Celebration Town Tavern) - the restaurant is located in Celebration, a town that thinks it's in New England and is so perfect and clean it's no surprise that it was developed by The Walt Disney Company.  Now I've seen cups of chowder on menus before, but I've never had the soup come out in an actual cup.  I have to say, I liked it.  Having a handle made it easier to pick it up and scoop every last bit of clam chowder.  It was creamy and hearty.  I don't usually eat oyster crackers, but I really loved the saltine cracker flavored ones served here.  The Oyster Roll was overflowing with delicious fried oysters on a delicate split top hot dog bun. 
    • Chicken Filet Sandwich, Chili Tots (Moonlight Drive-In) - eating a somewhat disappointing burger the night before turned me off to burgers that day (even though Moonlight's burgers sounded great).  The better-than-Chic-fil-A sandwich was ideal with its perfectly crispy and moist chicken.  And how have I never had chili tots before?  Loved it!   
    • Braised Pork (Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom) - since we were unable to get dinner reservations, the quick service lunch was the next best thing.  We ordered our dishes on a touchscreen, and our food magically (well by a homing beacon rose) found us.  The 8-hour Braised Pork, chef's favorite, was extremely tender and the gravy was good on everything.  The dishes were a bit inconsistent with one out of three having hardly any gravy, but the server was nice enough to bring out a whole bowl of gravy (yes, I was jealous!) just for Jennio.  I was glad she shared some of it with us.  With three elaborate dining rooms based on Beast's Castle, we couldn't stop ourselves from taking photos of everything.  
    • Pineapple Float with Orange Vanilla Dole Whip Swirl (Aloha Isle, Magic Kingdom) - pretty much an Orange Julius Dole Whip in pineapple juice.  Drool....  Wish Disneyland had this.  Oddly, you're not allowed to bring in Dole Whips, or any food for that matter, into the Enchanted Tiki Room, which is one of my favorite pastimes at Disneyland. 
      Jennio holding Dole Whip float
    • Italian Chili Cheese Fries with Granma's Classic meatballs (Jimmy Meatballs Truck) - I feel like meatballs are the drunk food of the moment, so having them on top of fries with our Cigar City beers was perfection. 

    Drinks: 
    • Butterbeer (Butterbeer Cart, Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure) - tastes like butterscotch whipped cream atop cream soda.  It was so good, I had to have a second one before the night was over, regardless of the high sugar content.  Worth it.  
    • Real Pineapple Milkshake (Moonlight Drive-In) - like having an Orange Julius milkshake, but with pineapple and pineapple pieces.  Mmmmmmm....
    • Sch√∂fferhofer Grapefruit Beer (Sommerfest, Epcot) - refreshing for the warm Florida weather.
    • Cookie Dough brown ale (Cigar City Brewing) - if Disneyland was a beer it would be this.  It smelled and tasted like whatever they pump through the air on Main Street.  I regret not bringing a growler of this home.  
    Song Pairing: 
    Believer by American Authors

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

    Trinidad Senolia @ Riviera 31 Lounge, Sofitel

    Xperiment USA presents HDG (House Disco Garage) every Friday night at Riviera 31 Lounge in the Sofitel Hotel.  I don't often hear this type of music at lounges, so I was curious when HC and I were invited to check out the residency of Trinidad Senolia.  Unfortunately, Mateo Senolia, the other half of the DJ-duo, was unable to make it that night, so we only heard the sounds of Garth Trinidad.  I don't listen to much EDM, but I did enjoy his set and their past mixes on SoundCloud, especially the one at Moonshadows. 

    Riviera 31 has changed my mind about lounges.  In the past, I thought of them as places where the music is terrible, but not as terrible as the drinks.  At the stylish Riviera 31, I couldn't stop myself from bobbing to the music, and who could resist ordering from a list of cocktails designed by famed Cocktail Chef Matthew Biancaniello?  My most memorable drink of the night was the Byblos (Plymouth gin, local wild arugula, pressed lime juice, agave).  The arugula was noticeable, but in a good way.  HC's tagline for the cocktail:  Detox while you tox. 

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Sound Bites 13.2: 1886 Bar @ The Raymond - Winter Cocktails 2014

    I get a little excited whenever the season changes because that means 1886 has a bevy of new cocktails to try.  And try we did when HC, Jennio, and I were invited to preview the winter menu inspired by Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

    Hot: 
    • Czech Mate - Becherovka, along with house made tamarind syrup and orange bitters.  Served warm in a signature toddy glass.
      Warms you up like a toddy should.  Love the giant fancy mug.  
    • The Snowbird - A blend of rums, accompanied by a hot chai latte.  Garnished with cinnamon. 
      I can imagine drinking this by the fireplace.
    Stirred:
    • From Prussia with Love - Blood Orange infused vodka, with Lillet Rouge and orange bitters.   
    • Memphis Bound - Fighting Cock Bourbon, two kinds tinctures, and garnished with jalapeno bacon. 
      Makes me think of cowboys, especially with the use of Memphis barbecue bitters.  I liked the spicy kick from garnish to drink.  The only downside?  One piece of bacon is never enough for me.
    • The Bull's Eye - Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Nocino, and Cr√®me de Cassis.
      Slightly sweetened Manhattan...that I can actually drink (since I'm not usually a fan of Manhattans).  
      From Prussia with Love / Memphis Bound / The Bull's Eye
    Shaken: 
    • Rico Suave - House made fruit and spice mix, served with a Bavarian Hefewizen. 
    • Sao Paolo Fix - Cuca Fresca cachaca, muddled lime, and imported preserves. 
      Loved the St. Dalfour French blackberry jam at the bottom.
    • Moroccan Exchange - A blend of rums, with exotic North African spices.
      Wonderful aroma and great mix of savory and sweet.  
    • Wild Inside - Saffron Infused Gin, mint, and pomegranate.  
      Rico Suave / Sao Paolo Fix
      Moroccan Exchange / Wild Inside

    Food: 
    • Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower with mint-cucumber dip -  
      Nice vegetarian option. 
    • Steamed Mussels, angry lady sauce, Chinese sausage - 
      Why don't more mussel dishes have Chinese sausage?  It added a nice touch of sweetness.  Broth was so good, we got extra bread rolls to sop it all up. 

    Song Pairing:
    Wake Up by Arcade Fire
    The song always makes me think of the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.


    Past 1886 Posts:

    Friday, January 24, 2014

    Skin & Bones @ Pour Vous, June in January

    June in January

    I joined HC and Fiona at Pour Vous for a tasting of specialty Esprit de June cocktails by Bar Manager Francois Vera. 

    Cocktails:
    Fleur de Vigne
    1. Fleur de Vigne - G'Vine Gin, lemon juice, Esprit de June liqueur, grenadine
    2. The Diamond - G'Vine Gin, Esprit de June, Reagan's orange bitters 
      Everyone loved this
    3. Vine 75 - G'Vine Gin, Esprit de June, lemon juice, Cremant Brut 
      A take on a French 75.  Great for brunch. 
    4. Banjo - bourbon, Esprit de June, Reagan's orange bitters  
      HC asked for June with a dark spirit.  A surprisingly good combination. 
    Not only does Esprit de June add a light touch of sweetness to cocktails, but it also tastes lovely on its own.  Made with the vine-flowers of Ugni Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, the liqueur does, as Natalie put it, taste like Paris. 


    Skin & Bones


    It's exciting to see something as uncommon as a suitcase drum and even more exciting when the band that uses it does not suck.  Sounding a little Johnny Cash and a little Mumford & Sons, the talented duo of Skin & Bones consisted of Peter Blackwelder on electric fiddle and Taylor Borsuk on guitar, vocals, and suitcase drum (yes, all at the same time!).  Borsuk's husky voice eclipsed his youthful 21 years.  Electric violin in a band is nothing new, but Blackwelder shredded his violin with solos meant for an electric guitar. Impressive.  When I asked how they were introduced to the music of Johnny Cash (whom they covered that night), Blackwelder said with a smile, "We have very old parents."