Another Self Portrait Begets Review

Another Self Portrait

Rating:

“Shut up take my money!” or “Keep talking no money for you!”?

It’s never a bad idea to remain acquainted with your paperbacks (they might be worth something someday… or not). This is a compilation of rare and previously released tracks which are mostly suited for Dylan devotees (most music nazis would concur). Even then, the collection is missing something. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening to over and over. Newbs, consider earlier material such as The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall.

Review:

Can the ubiquitous sounds and words from a famed maverick’s heyday still make a buzz (or give you one)? Bob Dylan always found a way to reinvent himself. He wasn’t as eccentric as David Bowie, but he withstood the sands of time by doing his own thing. Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10  offers (yes, another) peek into the audio vaults (imagine you just won the golden ticket and you’re going to Willie Wonka’s  studio archives. Yeah, The Umpa-Lumpa’s really wanted to get their dumpadi-do’s down). The four CD deluxe edition, there’s a three CD version, has alternate takes and unreleased tracks from Self Portrait, New Morning, Nashville Skyline, as well as a remixed and remastered cut of the Isle of Wight performance with The Band. The Deluxe Edition’s fourth disk contains additional unreleased material (can you say “audio candy”?). At the time of these recordings his fans still thought there was nothing sweet about his genre jumping escapades but artistic complacency didn’t seem to exist in his lexicon.

Dylan upset many of his loyal fans (that’s a bit of an understatement, a fan calls him Judas in the 1966 Volume 4 Bootlegs) that knew him as the vaudevillian singer of ballads and topical folk songs distinguishable by a jazzy Appalachian Mountain voice. He trapezed from folk, to rock and roll, country, has worked with ragtime and barrel-house pianists, cajun, zydeco, jam bands, (he paints a better, ahem… self portrait in his memoirs Chronicles Volume One) and the list goes on as he still tours and collaborates with different emerging artists (he just finished a tour with Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Richard Thompson).

Even though hid didn’t venture out further than electro-acoustical Americana (the closest were covers. Much like Johnny Cash covered Depeche Mode, somewhere in the bootleg ether resides Dylan’s cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”) his music remains relevant. That’s because after jousting and surviving a flaring digital music industry his work still belongs to the institution of troubadours (strap that chain male on pilgrim) and songwriters such as Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and even Cole Porter (minus the whole broadway musical pizzazz and jazz hands).

The compilation starts with “Went to See the Gypsy” whose sound quality and lead guitar aren’t the most dynamic but it has the humility that most independent artists are all too familiar with (fit to play at a latter-day bootleggers ball). Immediately thereafter you hit the unreleased and alternate Self Portrait material where you hear the vocally melodic twang that defined his country sound. His guitar and harmonica are there by his side like the trusty companions they’ve always been (think Sancho Panza and Rocinante).

Once you hear the alternate version of “I Threw it All Away” from Nashville Skyline you begin to realize what distinguished him from The Beatles. His self-reflective confessional songs put you in his shoes. Next thing you know you’re on a boat floating around the song’s scenery. You see someone smoking a cigarette, furry yellow couches with plastic covers, a warm colored living room rug, and wood panels lining every wall. Your cognizance begins to blur.

Eventually, your boat lands on the Isle of Wight recordings where Robbie Robertson’s tele-twang and the rest of The Band take you on a bustling caravan of live material (to that home on the range, where the blue notes and the dominant 7ths play). You can hear them rip up some rustic rock ‘n roll in “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Highway 61 Revisited”. As the wind begins to sway you hear the folkiness of “To Ramona” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” sung with a country falcetto which leads into standards like “Lay Lady Lay”. Autumnal gusts pick up as organ tones vibrate and tremble. The guitar slides,  leaves’ colors change, pumpkins cluster, strings are arpeggiated and played in finger-style, remorseful lyrics are suspended, and “I Threw it All Away” resurfaces but this time as a live track from the Isle of Wight.

Tracks like that and “In Search of Little Sadie” really pushed the boundaries of Dylan’s library (just when you thought the library closed. Yep, there’s a drop-off slot. Phew!). The latter resounds with gritty staples such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Lost Highway” on a whole other level (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Come on. Stick ‘em up and give us the loot!).

If that weren’t enough you eventually hit the bonus disk (Deluxe Edition holders, nod your heads in agreement. Yes, that’s right) where you hear the sweet country soul of “Let it be me” that can’t help but remind you of Ray Charles and his homespun expansions. Doo-wop vocalists in “Blue Moon” take you lakeside where moonlight wallows, frogs ribbit, and grasshoppers fiddle their legs. Out of some recess in the recording archives, our bootlegging friends managed to get ahold of an incomparable duet with Paul Simon in “The Boxer”. Next thing you know you’re close to the end when you hear Mexicali brass in “Wigwam” which sounds like something out of an early Beirut album.

From base to treble clef, it’s the same Bob Dylan you remember except his history hasn’t proceeded him. This bootleg volume will keep you tied down until he releases new material (or you get hungry and go out for some fries).

Gnarliness Reigns at the Echo and Echoplex

Classically trained Yale grad is the brains behind San Fermin’s breakout operation (yeah, see. you’ll never catch ‘em now coppers, see. yeah…)

A gnarly set of indie and garage rock waves will plunge into The Echoplex Tuesday October 15th, 2013 as the Jacuzzi Boys open with a tubular set downstairs (hangloose breh!). If it weren’t enough, that same night San Fermin will close upstairs at the The Echo with the chamber and orchestral indie-rock sound that they’ve become well known for. Here, listen to the NPR sound bites .

Florida Natives the Jacuzzi boys have come off of their self-titled third album release. With tunes like “Domino Moon” their set is sure to make a splash.

For more info on The Echo and Echoplex location and times check out their calendar here.

Santa Ana Artwalk. Even the Canvases Want to Stroll.

Every first Saturday of the month the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk and Arts District are the hearsay of Orange County luminescence. Saturday October 5th, 2013 was no different (if you missed it don’t worry, you can walk off all those holiday fixin’s later).

As your tamales… ahem, feet hit the pavement you see the pastiche of musicians, painters, street performers, muralists, break dancers, cops on horses, lofts, galleries, restaurants, and clubs all come together like mixed paint on a palette.

You can see all the Memphis and Gypsy Den devotees bustling and mingling through the candle lit panes (try Memphis’s face melting pancakes, or Gypsy Den’s legendary Waldorf chicken sandwich and seasoned fries. For the love of all things holy don’t forget the seasoned fries!).

You walk right between both of their outside patio areas just in time to catch a group of street performers.

Street musicians perform by the water fountain in the promenade.
Street musicians perform gypsy bluegrass rock and roll by the water fountain at the promenade.

As they finish their set you stop to think about which gallery to absorb first. There’s Grand Central Gallery, the Santora Building galleries, or the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA).

The Santora Building houses some of the independent galleries that have been around to see the local art scene come to fruition.

Matt Leroy's Studio Del Sotano houses some of the more grassroots portraits of Santa Ana's history
Matt’s Studio Del Sotano displays  some of the more intimate and grassroots portraits of Santa Ana’s locals and history.
Thomas Tom's spacious impressions at the Avantgarden channel Mark Rothko and Stephen Hawking.
Thomas Tom’s spacious impressions at the Avantgarden channel Mark Rothko à la Stephen Hawking.

You zig zag from space to space until you decide to head towards Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Gallery. After going through the double doors you notice a perspective piece based on El Salvador’s Civil War, but it escapes the highly politicized topic of immigration and plays more with the innate curiosity and romanticization of a foreign land. The installation is a cubic room that you can walk into (no, there aren’t any pupusas in there) and a punctured image of the Los Angeles Observatory on the outside.

Beatriz Cortz's The Time Machine  (no egg shells and banana peels power this baby)
Beatriz Cortz’s The Time Machine (no egg shells and banana peels required)

As you wander back into the promenade you make your way to OCCCA to see their exhibitions, try their assortment of complementary niblets, and wine. If Soho or Tits Tacos is not outside then some other truck of mobile delicacies  is out there tantalizing your taste buds and nasal chambers.  

You walk eastward on  3rd where you spot the glowing marquee signaling The Yost Theatre (land ho!). On you way there you see a few nifty clothes racks in the alley of some thrift store where a band is setting up to play. You march towards the enclave of street art next door to the Yost that is the Box Social.

A rugged and raw warehouse collective of art, photography, graffiti, and music (give or take a few mediums) unfolds before your very pupils.

Urban tinges juxtaposed with a mural of Egyptian-like beauty. Part of Box Social's exhibit.
Urban tinges juxtaposed with a mural of Egyptian-like beauty. Part of Box Social’s exhibit.
Multimedia installation by Jack Marko
Multimedia installation by Jack Marko
Basquiat influences on the wall
Basquiat influences on the wall
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Neenr ( right? )

There’s plenty of to see and dive into (no suit required). You notice how the different pieces coalesce with one another–they speak the same parler. People are taking pictures of graffiti in an open room where metal bars the windows. Artists are interviewed for a documentary across the room as people come in and out.

It was all very jovial, eventful, and so cool it was ice cold.

Icky? Not Hardly

Flashing lights? Indie pulses? and Wayfarer-wearing musical notes?? Yep, all these veiled the Echo, Friday September 27th, 2013, as .blow and Oh Boy Les Mecs opened for Icky Blossoms.

.blow are comprised of music industry musicians that have worked in areas such as production, recording, and writing. The four, vocalist Sohanny, beat conductor Prozak Morris, guitarist Mike Dez, and drummer D$, have signed with Interscope Records (one third of Santa Monica’s Universal Music Group) which manages Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, No Doubt, Maroon 5, and Eminem. All of these big timers are seasoned performers but have already proven themselves whereas .blow (their ‘younger siblings’ if you will) are out to make a name for themselves, and they sure can make an impression.

The Ickys were anything but
The Ickys were anything but

Morris’s table, composed of computer and electronic equipment, is there looking  like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory desk. His plasma tube gives the impression that some musical experiment is about to take place (à la Danny Elfman’s “Weird Science”) as electricity stretches and branches throughout the glass encasement. Alas, there are no trumpet rips but the rhythm fiends nonetheless get the pot lid jumping. It’s easy to spot their 80’s influences (sorry no flock of seagulls hair-do’s). Think Talking Heads, The Cars, and Missing Persons.

Covering “No body walks in LA” to a tee, Sohanny sputters lyrics with her Rihanna-ish beauty and Keith Richards swagger. Morris and Dez bump and jive amping up the crowed (a definite wild rumpus if you’ve ever seen one). Out of nowhere Morris whoops out some electro-musical contraption (it’s alive, it’s dead, no it’s a beattar!! Or something you’d find in the music room at Hogwarts). A beat machine attached to a guitar neck for rockin’ stances and epic whirlwind strums (double takes allowed). They keep playing with this energy for a few more songs but fatigue begins to set in (much like any other mere mortals). You definitely get a rush from .blow’s performance but Oh Boy Les Mecs are there to catch the sway. They’re less rock ‘em sock ‘em and more stroll through the forest amidst twilight.

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.blow conditioned the room.

The singer’s echoes brood sentiments similar to what you get whilst listening to Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”. Her voice at times sounds like Bjork–minus the impeccable vocal range. Their mood is haunted by Beach House and at the same time the vocalist’s style kind of reminds you of Zooey Deschanel from She and Him–wearing a white prairie dress. Their dreamscape backdrop works in general but it is tough to follow an act like .blow. Especially since their styles are so different. In light of this, they do well opening for the headliners from Nebraska.

Icky Blossom’s most recent self-titled album is the musical accolade that Bright Eyes and Beirut tried to accomplish with dance and electro in their later albums. It kicks out dismal dance jams that most indie bands are not able to do so easily, but they made it happen.

Lurid lights drop onto the murky stage. Sarah Boling’s baritone pipes and livid bangs infiltrate the crowd as she sings their ode to sacrilege “Sex to the Devil”. You look around to see people hypnotized by the backing synth-drum overlays and recursive electro bleeps of Derek Presnall and Nik Fackler. Everyone is rocking and swaying nonchalantly as they transition into “Babes”

In it you can hear the wonton strobiness of Peaches. Think of the scene from Lost in Translation where Scarlett Johansson is set to meet Bill Murray and friends at a Japanese strip club only to leave and later get shot at with an automatic bb gun flashing a green laser sight.

Their steady uptempo slightly reminds you of Neon Indian or Grimes (minus the falsetto feedback) but not quite. They blossom nicely with an added ick. Why DJ’s like DFA haven’t started remixing these boss gothic dance tunes is beyond me.

—Bosque Urbano

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About the author: Bosque Urbano is a creature of the night, flitting from club to club, scene to scene. His astute perceptions, musical and otherwise, stem from his vast store of human knowledge. It is rumored that he is so intelligent that he actually keeps a computer in his own home. His blog lives at christianaraya.com

Weekend Closes Out Echo’s Weekend. Or Begins the Next.

Head shakes, nods, and body jerks surfed The Echo on Sunday September 15th, 2013 as Cold Showers, Disappears, and Weekend played the heck out of everyone’s eardrums before the start of the week.

Weekend closes out the weekend at the Echo
Weekend closes out the weekend at the Echo

If there is anywhere to catch a legit indie show in the L.A. area it’s at The Echo in Echo Park. The city is more than just neighbor to the hipster capital of the world–Silver Lake (great hunting grounds by the way). It’s a broth of rich history as intellectuals and artists–Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck among them–were known to have resided there in the early 20th century.

It’s lake is home to the Lotus Festival, birthday parties, paddle boats, ducks, and frogs (oh my!). If you’re in the mood for a hoedown, The Grand Ole Echo opens its saloon doors for a fine hoot and holler. There is barbecue and sweet twang every Sunday from 5-9 p.m. for free.

That night’s country line-up included Taryn Stickwrath, Casey Neill & the Norway Rats, Chris Laterzo & Buffalo Robe, and the jammerific Gimme 5’s. Somewhere Hank Williams gave those guys a serious thumbs up. Their jam band super powers and Hammond B2 wunderkind can take you on a midsummer night stroll through New Orleans’ French Quarter whilst jasmine is in full bloom.

Not bad for a free show. The only minor drawback is that there’s an hour between The Grand Ole Echo and the main show line-ups. Fortunately, there are some places that are leap-frogging distance away.

Like f’r instance:

Origami Vinyl — The folks there are really nice. Their prowess, collection, and knowledge of music are genuinely diverse. It’s very easy for any audiophile to spend hours sifting through their soul, punk, locals, country, indie, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Rummage carefully though. Lest ye be experienced, you might end up with six-packs on your fingers and miss the show!

Two Boots Pizza — Very original and tasty slices. Also, they’re open until 2:30 p.m. Try “The Dude” slice, and you too will abide.

The Gold Room — Want to watch some sports, milk a drink, drink a milk, crack open some peanuts, and savor some tacos (yeah, all in that order!)? Try this happy-go-hipsterish bar. Ask for the Gold Room special, you’ll thank (or curse) me later.

Stories Books and Café — It’s is a hop-skip-and-gothic-twostep away, next to the Jensen building and across from Rodeo Grill. Check them out if you need to procure java or embalm some Edgar Allen Poe couplets in your poetic psyche. Try their iced mojito coffee (gyration alert level orange) and or raspberry lemon tart. Also, they have wifi (pronounced weefee).

Once you make your way back to The Echo you’ll notice the crowd for Part-time Punks is very chill. Most aren’t there to shake it like a Polaroid picture as much as they’re there to hang out, unwind, and get some noise. As things started up you could see people starting to make their way to the stage.

Cold Showers’ guitarist blasted some aura-oric arpeggios and chaotic strums into the crowd. Their vocalist channeled Ian Curtis’s doleful legattos. These young lads brung on the noise and put on a magnetic set. Definitely worth you catching ‘em. Don’t forget your earplugs!

Intermissions at The Echo are great because they have an outside area around the back where you can sit and get some air, you can hear when the next band is starting up, or notice how everyone is scurrying to get their spot.

Disappears had less noise but a much more polished sound. Think The Rolling Stones meets Krautrock meets crisp minimalism. Prevalent were the sharp sonic riffs that their recordings at legendary Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago spawned. Their act didn’t require that much audience participation or energy which was perfect because it was conserved for our headliners.

Weekend opened with “Mirror” from their second album Jinx which received good reviews from both Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times. Frontman Shaun Durkan’s reverb and echoing words, “ I feel sick sick sick” resonated with the abrasive urgency of My Bloody Valentine. The song galvanized nostalgia with bittersweet euphoria like driving through downtown Los Angeles amidst skyscrapers as every moment stretches into a wormhole of long exposed lights.

When they played “July” you could hear the post-punk growl and rhythmically visceral similarity with their San Franciscan cohorts Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The feedback and acidious flange from guitarist Kevin Johnson suspended their brooding mood while the off-and-on fuzz from their bassist kept everyone’s head nods honed in. Abe Pedroza’s drums set a sinister beat for all of their more atomic tracks without ever breaking a sweat. Their overall cohesion shot right through the lo-fi plane of shoegaze and rained down like a meteor shower. Captivating, indeed.

—Bosque Urbano

Solar Superstorms: Not to Worry. Yet.

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 Solar storm activity from Spring 2013

Off-the-grid living might be more of a possibility than most would like to consider, (Treehuggers, you have a little dribble right there), but current scientific data puts that in a little more perspective.

Our star creates intense magnetic activity every 11 years in a Sunspot Cycle. Sunspots are visibly dark regions (but yes, they’re ahem… spottable) and occur in the sun’s photosphere. They’ve been tracked by solar observers since the time of Galileo. Currently the Sun is in its 24th Sunspot Cycle.

How do these dark spots affect life on Earth and more importantly, your smartphone Tetris scores? Well, as the number of sunspots increases so does the size of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME). CMEs are highly energized particles in the form of hot plasma clouds weighing as much as 220 billion pounds and sped up to 7 million miles per hour by solar winds! (Pretty impressive. We know that. ) These winds are comprised of energized particles that the sun emits on a regular basis.

Earth is constantly hit by these charged particles, the radiation from solar flares, and CME’s. They cause geomagnetic storms–disturbances to the the Earth’s magnetosphere. These disturbances are what cause Northern Lights near the north and south poles. Now you know.

Once CME’s reach Earth, they wrap around its magnetic sphere and release electric energy in the form of lightning. Their storms can overload power transformers, cause blackouts, and damage sensitive electrical equipment. In 1989 Quebec’s power grid was brought down for 9 hours due to such a storm and left the Canadian province with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damages and lost revenues not only in loonies, but in toonies, as well. (Look it up.)

When intense solar storm activity is above average, satellites, GPS systems, and aircraft communications might be rendered useless by electromagnetic interference, and astronauts might be exposed to high energy particles.

So how does a planet avoid these radioactive spitballs?

Ironically, one way is by doing nothing. Due to the Sun’s size and geometric shape with respect to the Earth, a large majority of these plasma clouds are not potential threats. Don’t release that raspberry just yet, because what if such a cloud were to be aimed towards Earth? What precautionary measures are in place?

There are several national space weather teams that dedicate their resources to predict geomagnetic storms and how strong they’re going to be. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado is on sunspot-counting duty 24/7, 365 days out of the year. Its control center’s walls are lined with rows of retro monitors displaying satellite, telescope data, and images. It’s as if a thrift store’s window display crew recreated the control center from The Empire Strikes Back.

The team looks for sunspots, magnetic activity aimed toward Earth, eruptions, and what magnitude these incidents may be. The information is then shared globally with airlines, satellite operators, space agencies, and power companies. Any predictable solar threats are shared with Emergency Agencies and the White House.

In 1859,  the Carrington Event, one of the largest solar superstorms in recorded history, lit up the world’s skies with wondrous auroras, even over the Carribean. Induced currents caused telegraphs to operate without batteries and sparks were reported to have flared out of operators’ equipment.

Communications technology has come a long way since the Victorian era, but high-intensity CME’s could have long term effects, says Bill Murtagh, NOAA’s Space Weather Program coordinator. The concern revolves around damages to larger power transformers, some of which are as big as houses. Power companies don’t have spares stored away somewhere, given the rarity of solar superstorms. (Space weather solar storm forecasting is still in its infancy.) Power companies would also be loathe to risk losing profits by turning off their network for the same reason.

But Murtagh says that not all hope is lost. Slower CME’s could give us as much as a 12-hour notice before reaching Earth. Even though the current 24th Sunspot Cycle started in 2011 and was expected to climax sometime in the Spring of 2013 some observers say we can definitely expect another maximum–a twin peak, if you will (sit down David Lynch fans, sit down).

While some in the scientific community feared a CME during this current cycle, Godard Space Flight Center’s solar physicst C. Alex Young believes that there are actually two peaks in the Cycle. We’ve already safely encountered the first and the second is expected to occur sometime between right…..now, and as late as 2014.

This year’s activity is not as intense as previous years, because the maximum number of sunspots varies from cycle to cycle. World wide telecommunications technology might be threatened, but only if a solar storm is intense enough to penetrate Earth’s magnetic defenses. It would have to be a big one, in other words.

Many power companies are aware of the situation and have taken their own precautionary measures. Such was the case of the Canadian province’s power company. Given that the current cycle is not as intense compared to others in the past, and that the second peak is unlikely to register much larger than the first, it looks like foraging for sustenance and epic Mad Max desert rumbles will have to wait (unless you were at Burning Man, then cheers to you).

 —Christian Araya

About the author: Christian Araya is not only a two-major college graduate, but also has an actual computer in his own home

Stars Outshine Tinseltown in Yucca Valley

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On Saturday, October 28th Angelino stargazers got together in Yucca Valley for the Andromeda Society’s 17th annual Starry Nights Festival. The stellar (few astro-puns I promise, hope to die, stick a telescope in front of my eye) folks at the Yucca Mesa Community Center did a cosmic job (no, really, that was the last one!) of making everyone feel at home.

The center is a few hours out, before Joshua Tree, right after the strip of windmills on the 10 freeway. It’s a quixotic adventure that takes about an hour and a half from downtown Los Angeles (just don’t engage the windmills in a chivalrous battle to the death for your sweetheart’s honor).

You arrive in the small town and notice how there are few places to eat but that’s okay because the Community Center sells baked goodies, pizza, coffee, and hold a raffle to give away a myriad of prizes.

There are plenty of seats there for listening to guest lecturers. Some of which includes Dean Arvidson, Paul McCudden (Professors from Los Angeles City College), David Levy, and Galileo Galilee himself! Not really, zombie Gali would look a little under the weather. But still, there’s someone dressed up as one of the founding fathers of modern day science! How cool is that!?

Around dusk the Andromeda Society sets up enough telescopes for everyone. Once night falls there’s a deep space telescope, surrounded by Christmas lights, and projected onto a screen–making nebulae visible for skywatchers to acquaint themselves with.

Arvidson and McCudden make a great team putting on their star tour (calm down Star Wars ride fans, this one is the real deal!). They map out constellations in the night sky using green long-range laser pointers, share the greek stories behind it all, and help you identify satellites which are commonly confused with other night sky objects.

Yucca Valley is gorgeous at night. It’s difficult to imagine most people wanting to move there, but with the Milky Way and its stunning glow right outside of your back yard who wouldn’t?

Definitely worth checking out (don’t forget the pink floyd)!

For future dates go to -> http://www.andromedasociety.com/

Food for thought. Or not.