Monday, April 27, 2009

Stagecoach: It's Not Just for Country Fans

I'll put it this way: My husband treats me right, my dog - well, my cat - is not my only friend, and my Volvo station wagon runs great, but it looks almost as out of place parked with all the trucks and SUV's as I feel--make that felt for the first few minutes--at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival this weekend.

So what was I doing there, and why do I want to go back next year?
First, and most obviously, there's the music. If you don't consider yourself a country music fan, but you don't exactly hate it--you should check this out. The over-35 Rock crowd was singing along with me on Pure Prairie League's "Amy" (..Fallin' in and out of love...)and would be just as excited about Poco with guest appearances by absolute legends (no doubt there will be other blog posts from the weekend with more details on the amazing bands.) I fell in love with The Knitters, (punk fans will remember X) and a favorite musical moment was a little Jimi Hendrix riff in one of Brad Paisley's songs. (I am, truly experienced!) The bluegrass, the crossover hits, the really talented new bands were all a treat to the ear--even if I couldn't always sing along. And the energy at the "Mane" stage with all the headliners was nearly nuclear. The Stagecoach festival rocks--without the rock!

I learned that cowboy boots and cowboy hats go with everything. Bathing suits, sun dresses, beer guts in t-shirts and jeans, Celtic tatoos, footed PJs on the under 5 set. They're not just for Daisy Dukes any more--but there were plenty of Daisy Dukes. I was thinking I was a fish out of water in my sun hat and long sleeves, but there were plenty others like me. Everyone was comfortable in "whatever." Perhaps that was because they were all having such a great time. And that is not the alcohol talking although they had a wide variety of wine, mixed drinks, and some pretty respectable beers. If you don't mind Budweiser, you're in luck, but if you do mind it, you're still in luck! Fat Tire was available along with a couple of other craft beers. My beverage of choice was the Stagecoach souvenir bottle that could be re-filled free with cold filtered water from H20 booths. This was a great program that cut down on all those plastic bottles--but even that was interesting because if you turned in 10 empties you got a new full one free. A concert with a conscience. There were lots of booths sponsored by Global Inheritance who returned this year. Take a look at this non-profit and all they do at
Another great deal was the BBQ contest--a festival for your mouth. (Again, I'm sure there will be other posts with more on that for all the foodies.) Five tastes for ten bucks. That filled me up, and each taste was different from the last. The adventure didn't stop there! For the first time, I tried funnel cake. I know--most people have that by their first or second school carnival. But somehow I never did. So now I am really and truly experienced! If you like great music, great food and drink, and an amazing experience, this is the place. It's fun for everyone!

Photo of The Knitters (John Doe and Exene) by karenfromthelbc. Watch the ExperienceLA blog for Stagecoach pictures from Curt Gibbs and additional commentary.

Interview: Stanley Bennett Clay (and an "Armstrong's Kid" Giveaway)

Armstrong's Kid - the explosive new play written by and starring three-time NAACP Theatre Award-winner Stanley Bennett Clay, is running at Lucy Florence Village Theatre. Read Daood's interview of Clay after the jump (and we're also giving away tickets!)

Daood: Armstrong's Kid is about a school teacher falsely accused of child molestation by his best friend's 14-year-old son. Let's first talk about how child molestation became the subject matter for your new play?

Stanley Bennett Clay: I think that child molestation is very prominent on the table of social discourse, as well it should be. Children are our most precious treasures and to violate a child is beyond criminal. Today, child molestation is at the top of the list of morally reprehensible behavior, thank God, because there was a time when such behavior was routinely swept under the rug, during the children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard period. Now children are encouraged to report the slightest violation.

Now, having said that, often times in our zeal to protect our children and our encouraging our children to come forth, many adults have been falsely accused and successfully prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. All it takes is for a child to say 'he touched me there' and that adult is hauled off to jail. I wanted to examine that slippery slope and how a lie can destroy an innocent adult as much as molestation can destroy an innocent child.

Daood: What was the basis for creating the three main characters of the play?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Actually there are only two characters, the falsely accused school teacher Mr. Drake and the now-grown accuser Thaddeus Harris. The play actually takes place 11 years after the accusation was made and 10 years after Mr. Drake spends a year in prison before the truth is revealed.

The entire play takes place in Mr. Drake's cabin in The Catskills which he purchased with the settlement money paid out by his former best friend and Thaddeus' dad, Armstrong Harris (who is never seen but heavily discussed). Thaddeus contacts Mr. Drake and asks if he may come up and offer a formal apology, which Mr. Drake grants. It is during this meeting that emotions explode with anger, jealousy, accusations, and shocking revelations.

Daood: Being accused of molesting your best friend's child has to be right at the top of the list of horrific acts that you can be accused of and my curiosity begs the question, why did you choose the accuser to be a friend instead of a stranger?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Aside from the fact that statistically most child molesters are indeed friends of the family, or family members, there is a deeper emotional and dramatic impact when you believe that someone close to you has done such an awful thing to your child. There are all kinds of additional conflicts involved, some of the principle ones being trust and betrayal. You're always cautious about your children being around some pervert on the street, but your best friend in the whole world? The emotional drain is devastating, I would think.

Daood: Without giving away too much of the story about the child, impart his relationship to his father?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Since the audience knows walking into the theater that the kid lied, the whole question of the show is 'why?' And, yes, even though his relationship with his father is a part of it, it is certainly not all of it. Through many pyschological twists and turns, the truth of the matter, the answer to the 'why,' is ultimately revealed.

Daood: Is the child's relationship with his father's best friend the accuser of duplicity being bad and good?

Stanley Bennett Clay: That is something that audience members must determine for themselves as they watch the play.

Daood: People attending the play, you're hoping that they will walk away with what perspective?

Stanley Bennett Clay: Those who are familiar with my work, particularly my play "Ritual", know that I'm deep into knock-down-drag-out psycological "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" type of theatre. I don't believe in putting an audience to sleep. You will certainly not be bored when you see a Stanley Bennett Clay play.

You will be emotionally gripped by things you may not have thought about before, or even things you have supressed. What perpective do I wish them to walk away with? Their own individually unique perspective, their own examination of personal demons, denials, discoveries, and the healing force of facing even the darkest challenge. I want my audience to be provoked and entertained, like the scary thrill of a rollarcoaster. If I don't provoke and entertain my audience, if I don't give them something to think about and a show that they can snap their fingers at, then I need to get out of the playwrighting business.


Armstrong's Kid runs until July 2009. is currently running a giveaway for the May 23rd show. Giveaway ends May 7th. To learn more about show, check out

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coachella Friday 2009 - There and Back Again

Coachella 2009 - Franz FerdinandIf you were following the ExperienceLA Twitter, you would have gotten the play-by-play of my Friday at Coachella with Katie, my Grammy Museum pal (Follow them on Twitter: @thegrammymuseum). But in case you weren't following along, here's the recap (with Flickr photos!)
Neither of us had been Coachella, but we played the trip by ear (The adventure's in the unknown. That's the best kind of trip. The planning part? It's stifling!). We began our road trip at 10:30am (unsure of whether or not that was going to work in our favor with traffic). We had some close-calls where the traffic looked bumper-to-bumper, but we got in at around 2-3 hours. We stopped at an A&W restaurant (which served their famous rootbeer in mug glasses) where I charged my iphone up hoping that it'd last me through the rest of the day (kinda, not really).

Speaking of iPhone, while on the road we used the awesome Coachella iPhone Applicaton (Coachooser) to plan out the bands we wanted to see during the afternoon/evening. It ended up working out well, we saw our overlap in music interests and figured when we'd eat dinner/snack.

Coachella 2009 - On the Road, By the WindmillsSoon before we knew it, we were passing by the windmills like Don Quixote (ok, i think he had more adventure on the brain) and met up with the expected traffic of cars getting into Indio. When we parked, we spent some time making sure we had enough sunscreen on - it was hot! - before we headed in for people and music.

I'll skip the part of how long it took to get my pass inside - fast forward - and then we were inside seeing all the different types of people attending and the stages everywhere. The dance/DJ stages looked the coolest because they were practically art with brown and red (and later, the lights).

Coachella 2009 - M. WardAfter staying for a bit with Katie for The Hold Steady, I headed off to M.Ward's set. M. Ward is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, so I was extremely excited. While I'm sure a number of us (me included) hoped that Zooey Deschanel would make it a partly She & Him performance, alas didn't happen. But M.Ward was great, with songs from his latest album "Hold Time", plus a great cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven."

Coachella 2009 - Franz FerdinandKatie and I couldn't find each other post M.Ward (Coachella is huge, we were afraid of this), but after some cell phone communication issues, we managed to meet up again. Next on our Coachooser list was Franz Ferdinand who were incredible! There was this perfect desert sunset lighting for their entire set and it looked amazing on the stage video monitors.

Morrissey followed with his set and the crowd - obviously longtime fans - was loving his music. I'm not too familiar with his music, but the vibe from the crowd was awesome.

Coachella 2009 - Paul McCartneyAfter some tacos (yum), we waited around for the Paul McCartney set. We could only stay for about an hour and a half before heading out (little did we know his set was going to be THREE HOURS). Given McCartney's body of work, everyone got a little bit of everything. My favorite moment was when he brought out a ukulele (and ukuleles are a fave of mine of course) in honor of George Harrison (his wife was in the audience) and played "Something" (my favorite Beatles song). Excited as I was for M. Ward, Paul McCartney on ukulele playing "Something" was pretty much my perfect Coachella 2009 moment.

We headed out to the mayhem of Coachella parking to find the car (I had never wanted the iPhone 3G with that Parking application as badly as that half hour) and to wait for the parking to make sense (I'll refrain from talking about that).

All in all had a great time at Coachella listening to awesome music, seeing those that have established the place as tradition, and just having a great time.

Check out all my pictures through Flickr from Coachella 2009:

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Manager

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Khmer (Cambodian) New Year!

The actual Khmer New Year was last week, but you can still get your saik-ko ang (grilled beef stick marinated in lemon grass) fix by visiting one of the largest New Year celebrations outside of Cambodia. If you have never been, think of it as the Cambodian version of a Cinco de Mayo celebration. You'll find tasty food booths, games for the whole family and performances from critically acclaimed Khmer Dance troupes/singers. It's a great place to people watch too!
There are multiple staging areas so here's my suggested plan of attack:

Pre-Party (optional) -
  • Breakfast at Hak Heang (2041 E Anaheim St, Long Beach). I suggest the Ga Thew Phnom Penh (Noodle Soup with various meats). Get it dry with the soup on the side.

At The Park -

  • Grab a beef stick at the Food Court, head over to the nearby small stage for some contemporary live music. Be prepared to pick up some new dance moves.
  • Play some cultural games at the games section near the informational booths. You'll probably see a group of people kicking a large badminton birdie type object. Feel free to join in.
  • Take a stroll around the booths and pick-up some free swag.
  • Take a break at the covered main stage and a watch fashion show or flower dance.
  • Head back to the Food Court to pick up some delicious mango with sticky rice (yum!) and a snow cone.
  • Then head to the Carnival Games to win some prizes.

You might get hit with some baking flour. Don't worry it's good luck. Sorry, but the location isn't Metro friendly. Go green by carpooling!

Check out details on

-Michael Kolana Kek, Contributing Writer

2009 Stagecoach Weekend: Performance Times Released

Stagecoach, the Country Music Festival produced by Golden Voice and AEG out in the Coachella Valley, just released today the detailed 2009 performance schedule for Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26. It's been known for months the big name Country artists closing each night. This information from the Forum is not surprising. For the Mane Stage, closing Saturday night at 9:30 pm is Brad Paisley and closing Sunday night at 9:15 pm is Kenny Chesney.

The Stagecoach Country Music Festival, now in its third year, is a family friendly event with activities and music for all ages. I will again be attending and joining the temporary RV City created for the event. Tickets for the two-day event are still available in all price ranges and the long range weather forecast looks to be quite pleasant by Palm Spring standards.

Even if you are not a country music fan, and you missed last weekend's Coachella Music Festival, head out to the Coachella Valley to see what our downtown LA music producers and promoters have been doing with this event. All of the temporary performance art work should still be up, including the piece done by Downtown's Sci-Arc. Plus, if you are a foodie, this is a must attend event for the Barbeque Competition considered among the better ones in the entire USA. You will be in food heaven with what these BBQ purveyors are doing with beef, chicken, and of course, pork. Ten tastes for ten dollars and you are voting with your tastes.

I blogged about the 2 day Stagecoach Event in 2007 when we stayed in one of the local Coachella Valley hotels for 2 nights. Headliners returning in 2009 from 2007 include Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert. Since I had to eat dinner back in 2007, I missed Miranda Lambert's performance. This time I will be there, and have my dinner with me, for her Sunday, 6 pm performance.

Stagecoach for 2008 was a 3 day event, in which I blogged about staying in the RV campground and about the Eagles on opening night. Returning from 2008 is John Doe (from X) playing with the Knitters. The opening picture above was Riders of the Sage, a classic cowboy band, who were great. As always, Stagecoach will have the full range of country and western acts, but this year, no former American Idol stars. The cowboy bands can always be found on the Palomino Stage, while the Bluegrass bands can show up on the Mustang and Palomino Stages.

These festival promoters have introduced me to many new Country music bands over the last 2 years, and that's what's great about the two smaller stages under the tents. Plus, this year, I get the chance to see the Dukh's on the Palomino Stage on Sunday at 1:30 pm, a band that blends many different genres of Country and Celtic music. The gates open at noon with the first sets in the early afternoon at the covered stages, while the Mane Stage does not getting going until 2:30 pm on Saturday and 3 pm on Sunday. Thus, park your portable chair at the Mane Stage upon arrival, and explore the roots of Country Music at the other stages upon arrival. Or check out many of the vendors selling Western wear and other items of interest.

This is a great event to take pictures with your point and shoot digital camera on the smaller Palmino and Mustang Stages under the tents. You will not be allowed in the Festival with a digital SLRs, removal lenses, or video cameras. The official Stagecoach website hosts pictures uploaded from previous years, and you can find many Stagecoach pictures on Flickr. You can get great results with your point and shoot camera. Again No Digital SLRs (except for credentialed press photographers).

Here is a link to my Sony point and shoot Stagecoach picture set from 2007. These pictures provide an overall feel for all aspects of this Festival. For those with the more expensive tickets, there is a larger viewing area in front of the Mane Stage, which allows for decent camera range with a point and shoot camera. The crowds are quite large around the Mane Stage which features mammoth viewing screens on each side of the stage.

So mossey on over to the official Stagecoach website to get the lowdown on getting yourself to this great event. Watch the ExperienceLA blog for a recap on the event, especially if you passed on this year's event to find out what you missed. I am also especially looking forward to seeing Little Big Town again (whom I saw at the Nokia in Downtown LA) and Lady Antebellum for the first time.

-Curt Gibbs

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Week's Music Picks: Pedro Rivera, UB40, The Boxmasters Music Picks: LA's an eclectic place of musical opportunities. No wonder we're able to give you this week's list of music events that run the range of genres, venues, and places in LA.

-Tuesday, April 21st: Pedro Rivera, the Patriach of Corrido (corrido - "a popular narrative song and poetry form, a ballad, of Mexico" -Wikipedia), is at the new LATC.

-Wednesday, April 22nd: Dido and AEneas is an English Baroque opera by Henry Purcell. Performed by UCLA Opera. Also on the 24th and 25th.

-Thursday, April 23rd: UB40 will be at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, Thursday, April 23rd. Check out Daood's interview on LAist with UB40's Brian Tavers!

-Thursday, April 23rd: The Boxmasters: A Musical Journey with J.D. Andrew, Billy Bob Thornton and Mike Butler. At the GRAMMY Museum in Downtown LA.

-Friday, April 24th: SOUNDS OF KOREA features folk music and dance of the classical Korean court. At the Beckman Auditorium at CalTech in Pasadena.

[Photo by Fire Monkey Fish from the ExperienceLA Flickr Group]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mother's Day

Underpass flowersMake your mother proud by bringing her to a cultural event, a fun festival or a dramatic play. Below are some ideas that may help you celebrate your mother and thank her for all her hard work!

Maybe you aren't looking for a mother-specific event? There are plenty of other events happening on Mother's Day.

[Photo Credit: ~db~ from the ExperienceLA Flickr pool]

Indie.Arie at Club Nokia Review

A Blue Nile ambience illuminated from the stage out into the arena while another lighting system from the balcony streams interchangeable passionate colors as we awaited for Indie.Arie. With the flick of a bic lighter down went the lights as one of the background singers stood behind a mike draped in a tangerine floor length scarf and out came the roar from the capacity filled crowd. After the band members one-by-one took to their instruments along with another female background vocalist, Indie.Arie then gracefully walked up to her mic wearing a tank pullover brown dress with an amber graphic design with the crowd hysterical. She sat down at the piano and led the audience in a song prayer "This Too Shall Pass", a medley of verses included from Sly and the Family Stone, "...Things are going to get better..." to The Winans with Anita Baker, "...It’ll be all over in the morning..."

Gone was the short afro replaced with a classic short auburn colored haircut. A pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos hardly complimented an image of a woman whose essential nature bosomed humility of the disciples for a supreme being but they did resemble Stuart Weitzman 'Swayed' pump; everything worn, with the exception of her silver giant hoop earrings, was created by her mother. A sparkling burnt orange knitted shawl wrapped around her as she has donned her acoustic guitar for a Stratocaster.

Songs of inspiration, despair, and love from each album for her fans was an invitation to sing along. Whether "Brown Skin" from her Acoustic Soul CD, Testimony Vol. 1 Life & Relationship, "I Am Not My Hair", or "God Is Real", from Voyage to India, the crowd knew them all! Testimony: Vol. II her latest project unveils her political, social conscious side with compositions, "Ghetto" and "Better Way," as the point of objective of her latest cd " to celebrate and talk about and think about the oneness of all things, the interconnections of all things and all people..."

If the offering of an olive branch symbolizes longevity and happiness, then Indie.Arie's music cultivates a serene awakening and tranquility, taking the path of the past into the future.


[Photo credit: Diop]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Follow ExperienceLA to Coachella

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival begins tomorrow and ExperienceLA will be covering some of its amazing line-up of bands and art.

Charity might attempt to see what she can manage in one day (and we'll see if the festival keeps her on for another day). Follow ExperienceLA on Twitter to get live updates on experiencing arts and culture a few hours from LA. Still haven't gotten into twitter? Check back on our blog (subscribe to our RSS Feed) for any updates we might have along the way.

-ExperienceLA Staff

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview: Mark Valinsky - Part 1

Daood interviews the multi-talented Mark Valinsky who will be in Downtown LA for a free photography workshop.

My very special guest today is as versatile as they come: he played the role of Dr. Nathan Tate in the film The Cost of Living, is a black belt in martial arts, is a professional photographer for numerous prestigious events, and is currently the executive producer of the film that is in pre-production titled Without A Voice, part of his "Sudan Hope Project" and without question a renaissance man. If you're not convince yet, here's more: His nickname is Doc and prior to his thespian career he attended medical school and became an internationally known podiatrist and medical specialist of the foot. He has 10 published research writings that are medical credited and three consumer books on foot care. Wait, I'm not finished, before you attempt to guess as to whom I'm speaking of. Doc presently is executive producer for the Sudan Hope project. For those who guess correctly, yes this is Mark Valinsky, Publicist, Business Consultant and Marketing Specialist, Actor and Humanitarian.

Daood: Greetings Mark Valinsky!

Mark Valinsky: Greetings Daood! Thank you for this opportunity. It's a privilege to be interviewed by you.

Daood: As a photographer you've had the pleasure of taking pictures of musical icons such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and others including Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and The Eagles. Could you share with us a one of your photographer stories that would interest the readers?

Mark Valinsky:In those days, both security and crowd control were very different then now. Let's just say a lot less organized and civilized. I always shot from in and around the front of the stage. There is nothing like being up front at a concert of the talent and energy of some of the classic rock bands I photographed. I shot both indoor and outdoor concerts. It's quite a scene to have tens of thousands of people trying to get closer to the stage and you're right up against the wall shooting as they are pushing forward and then on top of that having security and in those days known for their meanness rather than their manners hassling you as well. It was alive!

I look back at my photographs and realize all the phenomenal angles I was able to get, from full stage to being close enough to capture the glazed over look in Mick Jagger's eyes. I experienced the concerts from all angles and distances. In many cases I was actually lucky to come out of there alive and unharmed, not that it wasn't a struggle to keep it that way.

The concerts and bands I photographed were filled with emotion, raw passion, pounding music and energy. These were and still are the greatest of the greats of rock and roll.

Daood: "In photograph, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a leitmotiv," which is a quote by Henri Carter-Bresson and from one of your many photographs single out one that exemplifies the aforementioned?

Mark Valinsky: Well, I must admit I had to look up the word "leitmotiv" - A melodic passage or phrase, especially in Wagnerian opera, associated with a specific character, situation, or element. A dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel. That being said, my photographs are like a parents' child, each one unique unto itself, all coming from the heart of their creator.

Daood: Yousuf Karsh was a photographer and journalist and this quote pretty much sums up my opinion of you. "I have found that great people do have in common an immense belief in themselves and in their mission. They also have a great determination as well as an ability to work hard. At the crucial moment of decision they draw on their accumulated wisdom above all they have integrity."

Mark Valinsky: Thank you for your generous compliment! Those are very wise words. I've always believed that integrity is at the core of greatness. Integrity to one's values, one's art, integrity to one's life, from that core one can believe in themselves.

Part 2 of my interview with Mark Valinksy will discuss his acting career, Sudan Hope Project and other issues that Doc is involved in.

In the meantime, check out Mr. Mark Valinsky as he conducts a free Downtown Photography 101 Class on Wednesday April 15th. To learn more about his photography, visit his website:


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Go Metro: April Destination Discounts

View from Metro GoldlineApril is the perfect time to start going green. It does host Earth Day after all. But if that doesn't convince you to leave the car at home and let Metro be your guide, check out these great discounts you can get by making "Go Metro" a part of your April plans.

Just show your valid Metro pass, Metro Rail ticket or Destination Discounts card to:

  • $3 Off Admission to the GRAMMY Museum

  • Go Metro, Go Green for Earth Day 2009 events
    • Wednesday, April 22 - 8am-5pm - Earth Day event at Metro Headquarters Building at Union Station. Get a reusable tote bag at the Public Works Environmental Programs information booth

    • Wednesday, April 22 - 11am-2pm - 2nd Annual Wilshire Center Earth Day/Car Free Day.

    • Weekend of April 25-26 - East Hollywood Earth Day Festival - Santa Monica Blvd between Vermon/Virgil. $1 for a silk streened American Apparel t-shirt

    • April 25, 2008 - 10am-4pm - Pasadena's Greening the Earth DAy and Armory Family FREE Festival - Receive an Earth Day Giveaway at the Transportation Booth

  • Sunday, April 26 - Fiesta Broadway - World's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration for the 20th Anniversary of AT&T Fiesta Broadway. No giveaways, but located in Downtown so Metro will be the easiest way to get there.

For additional information on discounts check out, Metro's Destination Discounts Page.

[Photo Credit: simonela from ExperienceLA Flickr pool]

Geeks and Guitars: Fender Custom Shop and Tom Morello at the Grammy Museum

The GRAMMY Museum has some very famous guitars - Woody Gunthrie's, Bob Dylan's, Odetta's, and that's only naming a few in the current "Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom" exhibition. And while this post isn't about those guitars specifically, it brings to mind that one of the best things the museum has to offer is all the ways you can create your own musical experience there through your own interactions - whether it be connecting with an artifact, exploring music and technology, or seeing an artist on the stage.

I don't know anyone that music hasn't influenced, so I personally believe that everyone has a certain level of "music geek" factor - something that makes you just a little spastic (or maybe I'm just writing this to make myself feel better...). But this "geekiness" isn't a bad thing. It's a great thing. Because when you reach that level of absolute, complete amazement about something or someone, it's a complete honest truth.

My last two events at the GRAMMY Museum reminded me of this, not just within my own experience, but within the reactions of others around me. Incidentally, both events featured guitars - the Inside the Fender Custom Shop: The Art of Custom Guitar Building (3/30) and An Evening with Tom Morello (3/31).

The Fender Custom Shop event was a free education program event where Mike Eldred, Fender Custom Shop Director, gave the audience a flavor of the different types of custom guitars they've made recently - one went with motorcycle, another was designed to look like it was part of a billiard set. Talk about the opportunity for guitar aficionados to geek out. There was a certain atmosphere in the room - no matter how invested and skilled in guitars each individual was personally - everyone was learning something new.

Eldred also interviewed Yuriy Shishkov, Fender Custom Shop's Senior Master Builder. Shishkov started to learn how to create guitars under the Communist Regime of Russia. The government didn't approve of this, so he had create guitars in his root cellar and he had to find materials in black market-type trading. Brings dedication to music to a whole other level, doesn't it? We followed Shishkov's humble beginnings through black-and-white photographs that coincided with the interview and then moved on into his own amazing work at Fender Custom Shop. The event concluded with Shishkov teaching the audience a tuning method that they can apply (not to mention that glimpse at Keith Urban's work-in-progress guitar...).

The next evening I attended the Tom Morello event on the GRAMMY Sound Stage. For those unfamiliar, Tom Morello is an amazing guitarist who has worked in Rage Against the Machine and Audio Slave. He currently is known as "The Nightwatchman" for his acoustic guitar playing political alter-ego. Let me take a moment to just say that Robert Santelli, Executive Director at the GRAMMY Museum, conducts the best interviews - he's able to ask great questions and really delve into the artist's past, present, and future while making it feel like a real conversation. Santelli's questions discussed Morello's upbringing (which Morello noted had some eerie similarities to our current president - Midwestern Mom/Kenyan Dad), his time at Harvard (yup...HARVARD...with honors), his political activism background, and what would have happened if he hadn't become a rock star (essentially, there was no other option.)

The Q/A after the interview featured questions where almost all seemed to be prefaced by a thank you and the person's history with Morello's past work. Questions ranged from "When is Rage coming out with a new album" (no plans for that yet) and "What advice would you give my son who's a big fan of yours?".

Morello's set was his Nightwatchman music which included harmonica at one point. Perhaps the most memorable - and the best reflection of his sway over the audience - was getting us to jump and sing along to "This Land Is Your Land", which Morello deems as one of the most political songs he knows.

The line for Morello's autograph wrapped around half the floor and the fans ranged from the young to those listening for years. The most touching moment was when one of the younger fans was so overwhelmed that he got all teary-eyed and his mom kept on trying to take pictures, until the security guard stopped her (I'm sure that kid will appreciate that security guard for potentially embarrassing years to come. Geeking out is fine, but I'm sure all of us like to keep the photos to a minimum).

So how did I geek out? My Fender Esquire guitar was Tom Morello. I'm remembering that experience until the day I die (many, many years from now). Though now I look at my guitar and feel the pressure to play well, it does, after all, have Morello's Nightwatchman tagline: "Whatever It Takes".

Guess I better start practicing...

-Charity Tran

[Photo: Compilation of photos made available by the GRAMMY Museum on the website]

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Interview: Singer/Guitarist Robert Cray

Daood interviews the legendary singer/guitarist Robert Cray who will be performing at the Grove in Anaheim. The podcast and a transcript of the interview after the jump!

Podcast of Robert Cray Interview:

Click here to Download 9.5 MB

Interview Transcript:

DAOOD: Good morning, good morning! The legendary guitarist/singer Robert Cray is my very special guest. Robert Cray's first debut album "Whose Been Talking" is definitely a collector's item and his musical journey has continued decade after decade with his 2008 latest release "Live at the BBC". Robert Cray has shared the stage with other legendary blues singers such as John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Tina Turner, Muddy Waters and others. Robert Cray is here with us to talk and discuss his amazing career. It is an honor and privilege to speak with you today Robert Cray.

ROBERT CRAY: Thank you.

DAOOD: Thank you sir. Let's get things started. With over a dozen albums, your last two recordings have been "Live From Across The Pond" in 2006 [and] your 2008 album "Live From the BBC". Share with us your decision to record Live....

ROBERT CRAY: Well, with "Live From Across Pond" at that particular point, we have never released a live cd, that was something we always wanted to do. Except we never really found anything we wanted to release because every time we did record, it was a one shot deal, we had one night and it seems to me we always wound up being too tight and too concerned about the process of being recorded live, so when we did record "Live From Across the Pond", we were on tour with Eric Clapton and we performed 7 nights at the World Albert Hall Theatre in London. So we had 7 nights to record, just get good material. We weren't concern about the recording process because we were the opening act. We were more concerned about the performance and we did some great performances on those 7 nights.

DAOOD: Yes sir, "Live From Across the Pond" was recorded on your recording label Nozzle Records. If I'm correct, "Live At the BBC" was recorded on Island/Mercury Records.


DAOOD: How come "Live at the BBC" is not recorded on your record label?

ROBERT CRAY: Because the Island/Mercury recordings were culled from years of recordings that was done and owned by Mercury/Polygram at the time we were under contract with them. So that album was released post Robert Cray Band being on that label.

DAOOD: Okay, so is Nozzle Records still in existence?

ROBERT CRAY: Yes it is, as a matter of fact, we are recording a new record now. We are in the process of mixing and that'll be our first studio record since 2005.

DAOOD: "Live at the BBC" has a number of great compositions from various albums. How did you determine the selection of songs that would be included?

ROBERT CRAY: Well, what I did was I looked for performance, because although we did change up the shows on a nightly basis, we did a lot of the same songs on some of the nights as well. What I looked for was performance, every night with the same song, we changed the tempo, the solos were different, different fields and different approaches on a nightly basis. That was difficult of 7 nights. We got a lot of good stuff, but yeah just looking for the grooves.

DAOOD: Okay, okay I'm sure like most artists you thoroughly enjoy something you create, what songs from "Live at the BBC" when you performed them take you to a particular place in time where the emotional state of a relationship that took a nose dive into a dark place where you never want to return?

ROBERT CRAY: There's a few songs - "Bad Influence" - that was written from a personal point of view, then there's the song "20" which is about the war in Iraq which is about a dark place for all of us.

DAOOD: Exactly.

ROBERT CRAY: None of us never want to go back to a situation like that.

DAOOD: Yes, sir.

ROBERT CRAY: So there's a few here and there.

DAOOD: Currently you are on tour you performed in New York over the weekend, so far into this tour has there been any highlighted moments from your fans?

ROBERT CRAY: Yes, there's been some. We're getting some good responses from the audience, so far a lot of that is attributed to personnel changes over the winter and we have back with us, once again, on bass Richard Cousins. He and I started the band in 1974. Richard is back after leaving in 1991 or 92. We are also working with drummer Tony Bronical who is a fantastic drummer, he's been around a long time, he's performed with a lot of different artists, and together that makes our new quartet, I think, very strong. We're also sneaking in some of the new stuff we've just recorded. The audiences is responding in a positive way to same of that as well.

DAOOD: Beautiful! You just earlier spoke about recording, so there will an new album coming soon?

ROBERT CRAY: Yes, if everything works out right, we hope to have the album out by July.

DAOOD: Is there any artists you would like to work with currently on the horizon?

ROBERT CRAY: Right off the top I don't know. I've been the type of guy who just takes them as they come.

DAOOD: The reason I ask is because, you've have performed with great historical music legends such as John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. I was wondering are there any artist that have touched you, actually say "that's an artist I want to perform with"?

ROBERT CRAY: We've been lucky working with a lot of people more recently. We've been doing a lot of shows with Kev Moe, he's a great song writer and doing a lot of shows together and will continue to do so. That's been a good combination for us.

DAOOD: Yes Sir. When you're not recording and touring what artist do you take pleasure in listening to?

ROBERT CRAY: I'm the kind of person who likes to go back in the catalog. I listen to a lot of different music Jamaican music, my favorite blues Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jazz Theolonious Monk, Clifford Brown. I'm all over the place.

DAOOD: Okay, beautiful, I'm going to quote someone you know and who is very dear to you... "that's funky". Do you know who said that?

ROBERT CRAY: "That's funky", that sounds like my son Winston.

DAOOD: Exactly, I was talking with your road manager he said he heard a composition he said "that's funky".

ROBERT CRAY: He heard my wife say that about something. He's only 20-21 months old. My wife put on some new material that we've been working on the new record. It was one of the songs written by Keyboard player Jim Pugh. He turned around to Sue my wife, and said "that's funky".

DAOOD: That's so funny! Does he seem to be on the path of his father?

ROBERT CRAY: You know, Jim our keyboard player, says he bobs up and down to the music. But when Jim was over one time he said there's more to him [than] bobbing up and down to the music...Jim says he's turned his head to the side as if to say "do you hear that"? He thinks that Winston may become a drummer.

DAOOD: April 9th, you'll be at the Grove in Anaheim, this will be my first time seeing you perform. My final question, will you only be performing songs from your latest album or will you go to your glorious past? Will you give us songs such as the "When the Welfare Turns Its Back?"

ROBERT CRAY: We do go back to the "Bad Influence" records. We play cuts from then onwards. Yes, we do dip into the books, we get a wide variety of songs and plus we are sneaking in some of stuff that has not been released yet.

DAOOD: Robert, I want to thank you for this opportunity and to have the pleasure of interviewing you. I'll tell you, it took a lot of courage for me to actually go through with this interview. I've looked at your career, the people you've shared the stage with, and you're truly a music legend!

ROBERT CRAY: Thank you very much.

Robert Cray Band performs at the Grove of Anaheim on Thursday, April 9th at 8pm. Check out for more information.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Interview: After the Victory - Eddie Chambers

Whether you were there at Nokia Theatre or kept up elsewhere, you probably know by now that Eddie Chambers beat Samuel Peter in Nokia Theatre turn at hosting its first boxing match ever. If you haven't already, check out Daood's round-by-round post while the fight was going on. In this post, have a listen to Daood's interview with Eddie Chambers post-event. Hear from Eddie Chambers himself on his thoughts and reactions after his victory. Podcast after the jump.

Click here to Download 6.5 MB

Photo is a screencapture from the Fast Eddie Chambers website.

Knockout at Nokia Theatre Recap: Peter v Chambers

Fast Eddie Chambers jab connects as Samuel Peter grimaces - Photo by Marco Perez for ESPN.comDaood gives you the inside scoop on Knockout: Peter vs. Chambers at the Nokia Theatre last Friday (March 27, 2009). Check out Daood's interview with Eddie Chambers before the match!

Samuel Peter weighed 265 pounds Thursday, March 26, 2009 at the weigh in; over ten pounds more than in his last fight in October in Berlin against Vitali Klitschko in which he lost his title belt. Eddie Chambers, on the other hand, weighed in on Thursday at 223 pounds.

Stakes were high as a victory for Peter or Chambers would position either for a title shot. The arena wasn't quite to capacity but the fans were quite excited as Samuel Peter walked into the ring looking confident, wearing blue trunks and white gloves with a blue trim; Eddie Chambers followed, walking into the ring and entering in wearing red and black trunks and black gloves with red trim. There definitely was electricity about the arena as we waited for the long time ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. to announce the fighters.

The first bell wrung as Eddie Chambers began giving a lot of movement with Samuel Peter coming forward throwing his jab. At 265 pounds Samuel Peter was very quick and agile; midway into the round Eddie Chambers was staring to catch Samuel Peter with Lefts and rights. Samuel Peter was trying to keep Eddie Chambers on the ropes but Eddie was giving a lot of movement and landing his jab consistently as the crowd began chanting "Eddie, Eddie" as the round came to an end. I gave the round to Eddie but it was very close as both guys were landing punches.

Round 2 began with Samuel Peter throwing good strong jabs that were landing. Eddie Chambers was fainting before throwing his jab which was causing Samuel Peter to stop throwing punches. Eddie was now going to the body and to the head but now Samuel Peter was going to the body and head as well. Eddie Chambers then threw a combination and Samuel Peter's eyes became red from the constant jabs landing on his face. Peter was becoming more aggressive and throwing more power punches. Eddie was giving better upper body and head movement to avoid punches as round two ended.

Round 3 began and it became apparent who was starting to take control of the fight as Samuel Peters eyes were becoming blood shot red. Samuel Peter had Chambers on the rope for a moment which brought a roar from the crowd and Peter landed punches but Eddie moved to the middle of the ring and began throwing beautiful jabs to the body and head as sweat from Peter's head flew right out of the ring. Chambers was doubling and tripling up on his jab with incredible hand speed; living up to his nickname "Fast Eddie Chambers" as I gave him the third round.

Round 4 saw Samuel Peter starting to slow down in movement as Eddie Chambers was picking his shots with great precision. Chambers even was bold enough to catch punches from Samuel Peter and shock his head and grin that he wasn't being hurt by Peter's punches. Samuel Peter continued to come forward but Chambers was starting to counter over the stop of Peter's left jab that was coming at slow motion. Chambers was throwing more combinations to the body and to the head and grinning in the fight and Eddie Chambers threw a wicked combination that sent chills into the audience as he connected to Samuel Peter. I gave Eddie Chambers Round 4 as well.

Peter was starting to swell up around the eyes as Round 5 began. Jab, jab repeatedly came from Fast Eddie Chambers; jabbing to the body to the head; Peter was game as he continued to throw punches to the body and head as well but Chambers was catching Peter more frequently. Chambers was becoming so confident that he's standing directly in front of Samuel Peter and making him miss. Momentarily Peter had Chambers on the ropes which caused a great sigh from the audience. He was landing punches but they didn't seem to hurt Eddie Chambers. Peter wasn't giving up as he continue throwing punches as I called the Round 5 even.

The sixth round began with both men quickly getting up from their stools. They both were moving slower then the first three rounds but Eddie Chambers is very deceptive as he threw fast combinations that landed. Peter started to give no head movement at all (in my interview with Eddie Chambers [before the fight], he explained that this was usually how Peter fights). Peter continued to press forward but now they were circling around in the ring throwing good exchanges as the crowd cheered. Chambers was throwing straight combination punches to Samuel Peter's head and landing the greater of number of punches as I gave the Round 6 to Chambers.

Round 7 began with Chambers getting up first. Chambers began throwing punches but now Peter was moving his head in this round making Chambers miss. Chambers was throwing his jab with less frequency but still landing. Peter was throwing punches but now the crowd was cheering for Eddie again. Round 7 I gave to Eddie Chambers but Peter was landing good clean punches.

In Round 8, Chambers once again was up first off his stool. Both fighters exchanged jabs and Peter was attempting to give head movement but Chambers was catching him with the jab. Peter landed another right hand and was giving more head movement in this round then all of the previous rounds as they actually clutched for the first time for the fight. Eddie Chambers was circling and still throwing good combinations and landing and the last combination definitely got not only Samuel Peter's attention but the crowd as well as they oohed and awed. I gave the eighth round to Chambers but I could see how some one could have scored it even.

Round 9 saw both men off their stools and eager to get it on. Peter was throwing jabs and Eddie was being "Fast Eddie" with his combinations but Peter was landing his right hand. Eddie was talking to Samuel Peter but there was now a slight swelling on the right side of Chambers' face from the right hand landing. Through out the fight Eddie Chambers was going backwards and circling Samuel Peter, but now Samuel Peter was going backwards as Fast Eddie was throwing combinations but Peter was landing quality punches as well as the fight was definitely heating up with punches being thrown with bad intentions. Chambers was still doubling up on his jab but now he and Samuel Peter were throwing serious bombs at each other as I called the ninth round even.

In the tenth and final round with Chambers off the stool first, the exchange is back and forth as both men are not easing off in the exchange of throwing artillery. Peter is game using good head movement. Fast Eddie was throwing that jab with speed and brutality, but Peter is also throwing in return with equal fire. Samuel Peter walked into a right hand that would have knocked down a Sequoia tree as the crowd was chanting "Eddie, Eddie" and there was only twenty seconds left in the fight with both men throwing punches as people stood up anticipating possible a knock out but neither man went down as the round came to an end.

You could hear some reporters saying the fight was even. I had the fight for Eddie Chambers. As Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the winner "Fast Eddie Chambers" the crowd ushered in with an ocean wave of approval. It was a good fight and Samuel Peter put up a very good fight but the victory deservingly went to Fast Eddie Chambers. I spoke with Eddie Chambers and this is what he had to say about his fight at the Nokia Theatre against Samuel Peter.

-Daood, ExperienceLA Contributor

Photo is by Marco Perez for