Archive | November, 2011

Black Lips @ The Galaxy

25 Nov

(Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 19th, 2011 for OC Music Magazine)

There wasn’t a moment during the Black Lips show at the Galaxy last Sunday when a fan didn’t jump onstage. They weaved in and out of the mics, kissed the lead singers, and danced, before diving into the crowd so hard their shoes went flying.

They threw their bras onstage, stole the mic and sang, and took off their shirts and swung them over their heads. Security guards looked the other way, but if someone hung around too long, they’d push them back into the crowd or escort them off stage by their arms and legs.

The high energy was so infectious that even singer/guitarist Cole Alexander stage-dived, bringing his guitar with him. It felt as though there were no rules, and the song “Bad Kids,” off the Good Bad Not Evil album, seemed to be the night’s anthem.

The Black Lips formed in Atlanta, Georgia back in 2000 and in eleven years they’ve put out six albums – each different from the last. These Southern boys, who describe their sound as “flower punk,” are far more punk than flower, though their recordings would have you believe otherwise. Their psychedelic, country, doo wop, and indie influences never seem to overpower their true punk nature, but you’d only know this if you saw them play live. They’re the kind of band that has to be experienced with all the senses – maybe that’s why over fifteen girls ran onstage to steal kisses during the show.

By the time it was over, everyone in the pit was drenched in sweat – their faces flushed, and grinning from ear to ear. It was the experience teen-aged punks have wet dreams about, but you had to be twenty-one to get in.

Inspired by the anarchist mood of the evening, I seized the opportunity to sneak backstage when I saw the door to its entrance swing open and the security guard walk away. Read on for the post-show interview with bassist/singer Jared Swilley:

A: So how do you feel about all these girls jumping on stage and trying to kiss you?

J: (He laughs) Well, tonight my girlfriend was on stage behind me but I always try to pull away from it anyway.

A: What’s your favorite part of performing?

J: Usually when the show’s over, that’s best part. It’s a good feeling. I didn’t have much schooling but its like if you take an exam and you know you aced it, and you’re done with it, it’s like there’s no more cramming or studying – you’re done.

A: What’s been your favorite place to perform so far?

J: In the world? Oh, that’s hard to say. There’s so many places – I guess New York is cool, and Tokyo. Big cities, they’re fun. Small towns are fun too. We’re not really in a small town right now though so…

A: Well it’s Orange County so it’s kind of like the greater LA area…

J: Yeah. It’s cool here. I like the youth of Orange County. They’re like real punk – I enjoy it.

A: I saw you guys perform at the El Rey on Valentine’s Day like four years ago and this show was completely different. It was much more of a punk scene. Everyone was jumping onstage and I feel like last time it was more…

J: Well the El Rey is kind of strict. But yeah, Orange County is fun.

A: How do you feel about people jumping on stage? Do you ever get worried, because they’re hitting your mic and…

J: I like it, the only thing I worry about it, sometimes, is I don’t have dental insurance so like the mic is right there but I’m really good at balancing it with my knee, so when I see someone running I catch it real quick. But you don’t want a mic in your mouth because then your teeth are out.

A: Yeah, and it ruins the whole show.

J: And it’s a lot of money.

A: What’s your least favorite part of touring?

J: I guess the no sleep part kind of sucks. Touring is really fun. The only bad parts of it are like what’s shitty about anybody’s day. Like oh, I’m tired, I have to wake up. So it’s not really shitty at all.

A: Does it ever get to the point where it feels like a job?

J: No, this is the most bullshit job. It’s the most awesome job.

(The lead singer of Bleached walks up)

J: I’m really glad you guys got to play tonight.

B: I know, it’s the best. I lost my voice.

J: I can’t believe I have my voice still. Losing your voice, that’s what sucks about touring.

A: What’s your remedy?

J: Well I learned it from a long line of old soul singers from Atlanta. Mighty Hannibal taught me this trick that he and James Brown and Sam Cooke used to do. It’s just white vinegar and cayenne pepper and you shake it up and gargle it before you sing. It’s not a cure-all but it’ll get you through. And boiled ginger, that works well. I just boil ginger all day and drink the water. It’s good.

A: You guys are from Georgia. How do you think that affected the development of your sound?

J: I grew up with a lot of gospel and like country music and my father is a preacher and I grew up in the church, like singing and so I guess just like traditional music. I actually live in California now. The other guys live in Atlanta. I’m a Californian.

A: What do you think? It’s very different, right?

J: It’s cool. It’s just a different vibe. I don’t know, Southerners are different from Californians. There’s no Southerners here – I haven’t met one yet. But it’s cool, endless summer, I dig it. Tacos…

(A guy comes up and asks if Jared would make his boyfriend’s dream true and take a picture with him.)

(“Of course,” Jared says, and makes sure he’s given me enough of his time before he leaves.)

J: Alex?…

A: Yes?

J: It was a pleasure meeting you.

He shakes my hand and walks away.

What a Southern gent…

Lyric Breakdown: ‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog

21 Nov

photo: Michael Forester

There are some songs that are so painfully beautiful, so lyrically sound that they speak to that dark place inside of you the way nothing else can. They articulate the human experience in such a pithy, honest way that you no longer feel like you’re going through it alone.

We turn to these songs each time we need that cathartic release because we’ve become numb to our emotions or situations. For me, that song is ‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog. I think it is an example of brilliant songwriting and is the perfect breakup song, but it also applies to falling-outs of any sort, or those times when you feel like you no longer know yourself.

Scott McMicken is a true poet and ‘I Hope There’s Love’ is just one of the many Dr. Dog songs that represent the power of music and lyrics.

Listen to the song whilst reading the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean.

‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog:

I don’t want to fight.
I don’t see no point, we will never get it right.
So, what do you think in the middle of the night,
When you’re all alone’

Will you pick another town,
And pick up and leave once you’ve burned your bridges down
Until the point when you’re sleeping on the ground
And the whole world is out of your reach’

Well you learn how to talk.
Like a baby, you learn to walk the walk,
But in the end it’s just you in the dark
Did you learn who you are’

Well something broke that I can’t seem to mend.
‘Cause somethings break before they bend
I hope there is love at the end of your day to take you away.

When you tell a lie,
Can you look in the mirror and see it in your eye’
Who to do you fool with the things that you hide’
Is it for your sake or mine’

Well I can’t wear your shoes
Nah they just wouldn’t fit I’ve got too much to lose
By walking so fast when you can’t pick and choose.
The people you walk on

Well I know an old band
And I know your face like the back of my hand
And I hope that maybe you will understand
That I don’t know who you are anymore

Well something broke that I can’t seem to mend.
Cause somethings break before they bend.


14 Nov

Moments, like those I had last night, affirm that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

I am a journalist and I measure that based on these moments – not just how many times my name is printed next to something I’ve written.

Dear Blank, Please Blank

11 Nov

(You can buy these cards from Sapling Press through their Etsy page.)

Is Anyone Up?

10 Nov

Is Anyone Up is a website where people can avenge ex-lovers by submitting sexts they’ve recieved from them, and then founder Hunter Moore will post the pictures for the world to see. The posts start with a screen shot of the person’s Facebook page (so anyone can find them) and sometimes a defaming story about what they’ve done to deserve the submission. Below that are a few pictures of the person fully clothed, but if you keep scrolling… BAM!!!: full nudes, compromising photos and pictures of people you wish would never get naked again.

The whole concept is awful really, not to mention sad – considering the majority of the people on there entrusted these photos with someone they didn’t think would end up sharing them on a site where they will be “put on blast” and judged for every hair out of place or pound they need to lose. But as Moore said in one post, the site was made “so everyone can enjoy these peoples’ mistakes for generations to come.”

Moore and some dude in one of the original reaction photos.

Moore calls himself a “professional life ruiner” and came up with the term ‘gnargoyle’ – which I’ll let you figure out. The site’s slogan is “are you textually active?” and mostly features pictures of hipsters covered in tattoos with the occassional recently divorced, new-to-the-dating-scene mom. Categories include: herps confirmed, today’s band whore, gay or straight?, and would or would not? But you can also browse by girls, guys, band, or city, or you can type in the unlucky person’s name in the search bar.

There’s even a store to buy merch and the site has become such a hit that hipsters everywhere are getting the twitter hashtag for the site, #NBHNC (no butthole, no care), tattooed amongst the plethora of their other random, meaningless tattoos.

But I really can’t hate on it too much because I found myself oddly mesmerized by the site. I discovered it a few weeks ago when some of my friends and I were sitting around my kitchen table, drinking coffee after a Halloween party I’d had the night before. They asked me if I’d ever heard of it and then told me that one of our friends was on it. As we looked him up, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there he was – in all his naked glory. I was shocked, I was blushing and I knew I’d never look him the same way again. And the best part is that he owns it and doesn’t mind being on there at all. It even got him laid, apparently.

We sat there that Sunday morning typing in the names of people we all knew (and then typed in our own to make sure there wasn’t a gnargoyle amongst us.) One of my friends warned us that the first time he found the site he spent hours on it, and that day, after the guys left, my best friend Jessica and I spent another hour on it – cracking up, o0-ing and awing and scrunching our faces in disgust. The site is oddly compelling and somehow leaves you feeling insecure about your body while at the same time wanting to strut what you’ve got.

The best part of the website however, are the reactions under the photos. I found myself scrolling through the nudes just to see what ridiculous photo or GIF would be paired with it. They’re so good that Jessica and I compiled some of our favorite reactions for your viewing pleasure.

Just picture that babe you’ve been lurking on Facebook trying to entice you as she stands in front of a mirror, naked and holding her phone, or picture a gnargoyle you wish had the same insecurity issues you do… Enjoy!

What I Learned From: Cleaning Out My Closet

7 Nov

One of the things I’ve been doing to prepare for my trip abroad is simplifying my life here, first. I’ve been going through my cabinets, drawers, and closet racks to weed out some of the things that have been weighing me down.

Admittedly, I’m a pack rat. I keep everything, and I had the clothes and old metro passes to prove it, but I decided it was time stop my hoarding ways and purge the junk.

I started with my closet – my logic being that if I haven’t touched it in a year, it’s only function right now is to take up space. I tried everything I owned on and started a Goodwill pile, a sell pile and a give-to-my-little-sister pile.

I realized how attached I am to objects because of what they represent: a time in my life, a memory, a goal…but they’re just things and they’ve become a strong link in the chain the keeps me stuck in Southern California.

The upside of decluttering is not only the lighter feeling that follows, but it also presents a great opportunity to make some money. I made over a $100 taking some of my old clothes and shoes into consignment stores and I plan on selling my old camera and camcorder on Craigslist.  And if I had enough things I’d have a garage sale.

As I sifted through the piles of clothes some things became apparent to me:

1. Impulse buys are never a good idea.

Just because some obscure trend comes back into fashion – like leg warmers, for example – doesn’t mean you should run out and buy some in every color. Trends fade as quickly as they begin and if you’ve got seven pairs of giant fake eyeglasses with the lenses popped out, a year from now you’ll feel like a fool. And speaking of fools, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can pull off looks when you can’t, because your impulse buys will collect dust and taunt you every time you find them.

2. Classics pieces are always in style. 

Classics stand the test of time. Peacoats, little black dresses, leather jackets and pencil skirts will always be in fashion and opting for a classic look over a trendy one looks effortlessly cool and can be worn for seasons to come.

3. Invest in one nice article of clothing rather than four cheap versions of the same thing.

I  learned this when I got my first pair of designer jeans when I was 15. At $125 a pair,  I had to beg my mother to buy me a pair for Christmas. I had so many $40 and $60 jeans with cheap fabric and bad cuts that I was always looking for a better pair. A decade later, I still have those jeans and they still fit. (I don’t wear them anymore, I’ve moved on).

But the point is: Invest in quality, style and a good fit. Your clothes will last longer and you’ll be happier having one item you absolutely adore over a few that barely make the cut.

4. Buy the right size.

I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for me, but buy clothes that flatter your body now. Don’t buy a dress that’s a tiny bit too small and then intend to lose the weight. And don’t buy something you’re swimming in just because you’re feeling like a chub that day – you’ll only end up looking bigger than you actually are.

And the same goes for shoes. Don’t buy a half-size smaller – because they’re the last pair or they’re on sale – thinking that they’re going to stretch out. And don’t buy them bigger and tell yourself you’ll wear big socks, or you’ll end up walking like a duck to try to keep them on. If your shoes don’t fit correctly or they aren’t comfortable, you’ll hardly wear them – or worse, you’ll mess up your feet.

5. Take stock of what you have every few months.

Taking inventory is not just for stores, it will help you realize what you have and how much you have of it. This will stop you from buying excessive amounts of v-necks because you’ll know you already have eight of them at home. It also helps with those days when you feel like you have nothing to wear because you’ll discover you’ve just forgotten about half of the things you already own.

They say we wear 20% of our clothes, 80% of the time. Mix it up every few months and stop consuming if you can’t afford to.

Comfort Zones

1 Nov

As I sat alone at a dimly lit wine bar in West Hollywood after work, killing time while the traffic died down, I took in my surroundings. The owner and waiters had thick Italian accents, the room was large but intimate and mostly everyone sat at the bar.

I took to the lounge area, where a black and white Audrey Hepburn film was projected on a screen on the wall. The candles on the tables were my only source of light and as I grabbed out my notepad, the waiter thoughtfully asked if he could bring me a lamp, then returned to clamp a book-light on the candle votive in front of me.

The tunes of Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart and the Eagles played in the background and posters of Old Hollywood graced every wall, even in the bathroom. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay and some roasted fingerling potatoes with sautéed green beans and a light dusting of Parmesan. And as I ate, I realized I was alone.

I wasn’t uncomfortable or embarrassed about this, but I recognized how out of habit I kept reaching to check my phone. It’s like I subconsciously pulled it out to remind myself that I wasn’t alone at all – that my friends and family were a phone call away. The phone acted as some kind of anchor to my life outside this restaurant, something to hide behind and something to find comfort in.

In that moment, I was struck with the realization that in 71 days I will be leaving all the comforts of home behind. Toilet paper, Western toilets and hot showers will become a luxury. I will have to question the safety of the water placed on my table and I’ll have to buy inexpensive bags to act as decoys for the valuables inside, rather than buying overpriced purses to hold my lip balm.

squat toilet

Western toilet

When I sit alone in a restaurant in Asia, I will have the accent. I will have to decipher the menu and I won’t have my handy dandy iPhone to help me, or to numb any lurking loneliness or boredom.

Reality sets in and I start to fear the change.

Why is that we always long for something different and then when we finally take the steps towards making a change fear creeps in? My mind begins to race: “What if the culture shock is so intense I regret going? Am I really prepared for this? What if I hate Asia? Why did I decide to buy a one-way ticket to a country I’ve never been to, to travel around for months or possibly years?”

But I snap out of it as quickly as I was sucked into it.

I am ready. I’m going because I’ve been wanting this, itching for it, aching for it, for almost two years now. I’ve traveled to Europe; I’ve traveled in North America, I to want something radically different. I want to be shocked. I want to be shaken. I want to learn and I want to change.

I’ve been juggling four different jobs over the past few months and every time I get burnt out because it’s been weeks since I’ve had a day off, thoughts of walking through wats, eating authentic street food, meeting locals, learning about the culture and creating lifelong memories, get me through it every time.

I’ve worked so hard to get here, why doubt myself now? How can I possibly be afraid of taking the reigns of my life and diving in headfirst into something I’ve always dreamed of doing? I can’t. I bought the ticket; I’m taking the ride.

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