L.A. the Blog: Los Candiles Night Club – Decadence Welcome (A changing city, Part 1)

The night air left little doubt that summer sat and reigned over the city. On the streets of Hollywood women wore mini-skirts and guys short-sleeved shirts as they bar hopped, waited in line for night clubs and found the nearest tattoo parlor. The signature city heat that makes Los Angeles either a massive, sweltering discombobulation of people or a destination-dream-paradise cradled the city like a blanket, and added a frenzied pace to everything happening on the boulevard as if heat aiding the movement of mass multiplied and proliferated the various possibilities alive in the night. The mass – people, traffic, love, friendship, drinking, drugging, music, sex – everything.

This city is often like a slow blooming flower, every year unfolding a new petal, unveiling a new aspect of itself for anyone looking and discerning the cities beauty. Hollywood sits close to the heart, but numerous other areas and neighborhoods combine to create the rose that is Los Angeles, or maybe it resembles more a lily or a farewell-to-spring. Forget Hollywood for the moment. This story only starts in Hollywood with a ride into the dark-rising heat of the city streets, ending just on the other side of the L.A. river directly north of downtown in a small nondescript Latin nightclub named Los Candiles. Just for the purpose of translation, Los Candiles means “the candle.”

If asked where the club resides you might say Eagle Rock just because most wouldn’t recognize the name Glassell Park. Like so many working-class neighborhoods its history and uniqueness rest forgotten and ignored among a maze of similar streets with names like Desire, then further lost in a puzzle of similar cities and neighborhoods that all fit into a mold named America. Or perhaps with a history of violence and crime people looked more towards Eagle Rock or Atwater Village for homes, writing the neighborhood off as the bad side of town. Glassell Park – the bad side of Eagle Rock, the bad area of Atwater –  goes unmentioned. For instance the LA Weekly published a story about a crime family, an AK-47 and typical L.A. violence that belongs more to the late 80s and early 90s but happened in Glassell Park in 2008. Or just the other week while talking to a resident he simply stated in sterile terms how some kid recently got beat with a baseball bat, and June 12 of this year a young woman and young man died in a shooting. Violence makes neighborhoods disappear in this city like so much bad food in the refrigerator, people must discard it or the stench and mildew ruin the pleasure of modern society. For instance have you ever heard of the neighborhood of Del Rey?

Of course for the past 20 or 30 years (if not more) a majority of working-class families have called the neighborhood home, and only recently with the whole area of downtown including everything below and above experiencing a renaissance in every sense of the word, although some call it gentrification, the neighborhood has begun to see a shift towards the middle. With middle we mean demographically. Young professionals looking to buy good real estate and others just seeking a more authentic Los Angeles find the neighborhood perfect. With beautiful large homes atop hills that lead into Eagle Rock providing breathtaking views and hidden away in trees; or authentic and great Latin food available through street vendors; or even a sense of community that exists where people live and die together daily; the neighborhood offers a friendly hello at the local gas station, that is of course if you don’t mind a rougher handshake and a little dirt covering up a gem. A gem discovered and just starting to see the light.

Take Los Candiles, an unassuming Latin dance club that sits along a main drag in Glassell Park. You find these clubs all over the city. Some like the ones in Echo Park and Venice have been converted into new sleek dance venues for indie rock and electronic acts, but most in the city still keep their original flavor and offerings. At first look nothing out of the ordinary, but like the neighborhood this club is a gem. Scouring the online website gives the first hint that this club offers something unique with the traditional Latin dance music. “Venga y disfrute con nuestro show Fantasia con Las Estrellas” that loosely translates as “Come and enjoy our show / Fantasy with the Stars”; or later when you click the ‘show’ link in the menu sidebar “Ven y disfruta con nuestro travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas” and the show Fantasy with the Stars comes up again, this time with the word “travesty” attached. Most people relate travesty to what happens during a war when innocent people die, but few relate the word to its original usage that is closer to “burlesque” than to “appalling.” In fact the Latin word “travestire” means to disguise or more literally to cover up with clothing; and travesty means a literary or artistic imitation usually incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter. Maybe it gets confused because it is so close to tragedy, or because people use the statement “travesty of justice” too often changing the meaning. So a travesty show? Call it what you will, but at Los Candides it means a drag show with singing, and don’t forget the male stripper and the DJ.

Burning through the hot night the road led through the up-and-coming neighborhood, to the unassuming Latin dance club and to a birthday party for an unknown girl with unknown people at an unknown place. The invite seemed strange at first, a phone call promised a party with a ton of women while at the same time offering a drag show. For some reason the two promises didn’t go together, I always equated drag with gay bars in West Hollywood, not straight woman celebrating a birthday in a working-class neighborhood. After learning more about Glassell Park the place even seems more unlikely since gang violence and the machismo of the hood normally make anything GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) unacceptable. Or even more so with a possible large Catholic population, you would think such a place harbors the ill will of the church. Regardless of its location and its stigma, for the ladies who arrived to the birthday it meant dancing to sweaty South American rhythms and letting loose in a place tingling with an open atmosphere that celebrates what it means to be beautiful and a women.

The local crowd loved the band playing, while the ladies loved every minute of every second. Every song brought out dancers, and the enthusiasm of the small local crowd showed they came for the music. The birthday girl found a dance partner for every song.  She often grabbed a friend, or a friend grabbed her, some of her guy friends followed the girls to the floor to dance with the birthday girl as tempos sped up and the band picked up energy.  A few times an older gentlemen, a veteran of Latin rhythm clubs would escort her to the floor and steal a few moments of youth back. Him and the other few older gentlemen masterfully controlled the dance floor leading their partners around in what from afar seemed slow rhythm combined with the quick turns and spins of ballroom dance. Looking more closely the majesty of what it takes to have that control and grace was tantamount to intricate and precise dance steps that happened quick and fast so the eye could barely follow the practiced patterns that flowed with ease. For these few gentlemen the smiles on their faces and sparkles in the eyes meant that whatever happened earlier in the day at work or home, and whatever happened tomorrow meant nothing in the moment of the dance. For some a cold beer and a shot of hard liquor washed away the day, the week and the years. For those weaving a spell with the Rumba or sweeping across the floor with a Cha Cha the dance gave them the same dignity along with the semblance of eternal youth.

The club wasn’t very packed but if everyone got on the floor room became sparse. This led to a perfect intimate spot for a birthday. As the women drank alcohol and their male friends did the same the atmosphere around the table slowly unwound becoming looser and looser. More alcohol, more drinking and finally the show started, the “travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas.” Beautiful women dressed up as famous Latina stars, the most notable Shakira in gold and flowing blond hair. In true Burlesque and travesty, sexuality permeated the singing and dancing along with a hint of the more sultry tradition of strip clubs. Every so often a famous Latin singer would mount the lap of a gentleman in the crowd shaking her hips back and forth while continuing to lip sing to the radio hits.

After a few acts of famous latinas, they unleashed the male stripper onto the floor dressed in classic cowboy attire, chaps and all. He made his way around the room to the various women at the various tables, collecting dollars along the way, unzipping his fly for extra smiles and girlish embarrassment. At this point it might be worth skipping the entire rest of the episode for a stripper is a stripper. Hunter S. Thompson in “The Rum Diaries” writes this beautiful scene during the Carnival celebration where a beautiful woman dancing with a fabulous man gets drawn further and further into seduction as the tempo and rhythm of the Samba create an explosive sexual energy. If anything about the stripper at Los Candides, his pure sexual energy should be remembered. When tempted over to the birthday girl by dollar bills and innocent eyes, her friends put her up to experiencing first hand the show and his dancing while the alcohol made anything possible, words alone and even pictures fail to describe what happened next. Never has a female stripper ever performed that well for a man, and the question remains who was more surprised – the dancer for his own abandonment in the passion of the moment, or the birthday girl for her willingness to wear a cowboy hat and straddle his lap, chaps and all. The club gave them everything they needed for a memorable night of partying. Of course if they forget they can always refer back to L.A. the Blog and the pictures we posted online of our brief time at Los Candides. We hope the girls tipped their cowboy dancer extra for that one.

Los Candides and Glassell Park might never be the same with young people looking for new exciting and fantastic neighborhoods to live. We left the girls and their friends still drinking and partying. The DJ came on before as we walked out replacing the band and his opening track rocked like a Tijuana night club. Before getting in the car we grabbed tacos from a food stand down the street. One of the best burritos we have ever ate. Maybe year after year from this point forward the murder rate in Glassell Park will slowly become nonexistent, and like so much of the city that we grow up in the neighborhoods continue to change and become wealthier as the working class moves on. Local thrift shops become small boutiques, and development slowly brings large corporate chains. Maybe Los Candides will eventually host techno clubs and indie line-ups, but for now it remains a jewel of a good time … especially for the ladies.

UPDATED: Below find some video from Los Candides …

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L.A. the Blog: Happy Independence Day!

Time-traveling Pirate Surfers!

Damn good holiday to you!

Today, we have no heroic stories – we will leave those for television; we have no personal triumphs – other than finding happiness while working at the mall; and we have nothing reverent to say – we even have a draft dodger here at L.A. the Blog.  What we do have is a few pictures we collected in the last week.

So have fun out there, go see some pretty explosions in the sky, eat some good ole’ BBQ, wave an American flag, drink some beer, kiss your girl, put on some music really loud, shoot a gun, attack the beach, sing the national anthem, peel out in your ride, spend money, build a bonfire, push someone in a pool, scream you love America, and if you need too go to the store and get yourself some!  We love Amerika, it was such a great book.

Butt Paste – happy 4th of July!

L.A. the Blog: One Love Improv In Session

Improv group Nonstop Pregnancy Scare onstage at One Love Improv – June 25, 2012

Monday night, a sleepy night, a night of wholesome television and family gathering, the start of the work week and mostly uneventful. A night of recuperation, extra rest and nothing much. That is why L.A. the Blog says thank you to One Love Improv for taking Monday night from the cradle of normal and making it hilarious, raunchy and more fun than a bag of raw chicken.

The brainchild of comedians Mike Callaghan (a friend of ours who turned us onto the show), Victor Lopez and David Danipour, the weekly show invites local comedic talent from all over, and the jokes are as varied as the performers. So for those wishing to escape the confines of the couch and disappear into the Hollywood night, One Love Improv provides the perfect excuse, and at the same time a fun comedy show with a guaranteed laugh.

Originally started back in May as a one-off event they dubbed the Secret Improv Show held at the Neon Venus Art Theatre, they packed the house (albeit a small house) as guest improv groups like Sticky Nights, and the founders own act Gummy Tears provided enough immodest and off-the-hook improv to garner them an ongoing weekly show. Still in the same location and retitled One Love, Mondays will never be the same.

So far L.A. the Blog visited the last two shows along with those first few Secret Imrpov shows, and the events bring in top, underground talent. The group Nonstop Pregnancy Scare, who’s making their rounds in the L.A. area performed a few weeks back and they left a soul-scouring mark on innocence as they profaned everything from love to religion. We won’t mention the Star of David poop joke or the abandoned Evangelist child skit … oh, whoops!

MurderCliff onstage ripping one of their signature and uncanny raps at One Love Improv – June 25, 2012.

This last Monday, July 2, saw Gummy Tears onstage again in a courageous display of dragon slaying and sleepwalking children, along with their astounding guests Elephants Gerald and The Lady’s of Anne Taylor’s Loft. Elephants Gerald, a two-person improv show staffed by Suzi Barrett and Rebecca Drysdale stole the night as the experienced duo bantered and generally poked fun at everything from cell phone family plans for gay couples to Hollywood screenwriter’s critiquing Total Recall the total remake.

Some other fabulous acts that have graced the stage: MurderCliff, Monika Smith, Colton Dunn & Friends, and Mr. and Mrs. All-Star.

While a light crowd at the last show took some of the energy away that the first two shows brimming with standing room only put forth, generally the comedic troupes bring the humor. A trip to One Love is a guaranteed laugh, or your money back … haha. The best part is the show’s donation only (in other words free) so the jokes on you. We haven’t heard the lineup for next week but as soon as we do the Blog will provide an update. Below find some pics we shot, and some info on the Neon Venus.

One Love Improv happens every Monday night, from 10:30 pm to midnight, at the Neon Venus Art Theatre, 7023 Melrose Ave (@ La Brea), Los Angeles, CA 90038.  Please check their facebook page for updates and show information.

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L.A. the Blog Poetry: ‘Friendship Lingers’

Pain lingers,
Friend,
Inside, Shown only
When lashing out speech
Destroys patient hope, or
Friendship’s gift, as if
Words burned angry scars
Upon the silence around us.

We die,
Alone,
In moments of
Denial about what we
Suffer from; it never came to
Light that alone mirrors
Twisted upon themselves take
Light and reflect back what
Is hated most –

It reflects back
What is you and what is me.

The truth,
Together,
We know:  You see me
I see you.  Only together, though,
Never any other time, never with
Family close, or love in the picture
Bringing soft stares from opposite
Here, as conversation moves time.

Like lies,
Words,
Hide the truth,
Confuse the issue, drag the
Doom beneath layers of
Pain – remember our doom?
It consumes like fire, but
Exists as phantoms, cold
Memories that strip life away –

And it never leaves,
For it is you and it is me.

It pauses,
Lessens,
Almost drifts away
Until raging it scars not
Just you, not just me.
You loved her, like I loved
Another, yet where
Are they now?  Consumed,
Spent, the memories smoke.

Alone again,
Friend,
Turning inward
We breath what’s left –
What we left for us
Becoming that very thing,
That same very thing
That haunts our sleep.

Pain lingers friends,
Inside you, and inside me.

—————————————————————————————————————

Dedicated to my friend Charlie (who wants to remain anonymous)

L.A. the Blog Essential Read: ‘Project Dad’ Documentary

Making a film requires so many things, and unfortunately no matter how much talent you have if you don’t have money nothing ever really happens.  Even a student film five-minutes long runs at least a hundred dollars.  Sharon Shattuck, a filmmaker and animator, definitely has the talent.  This writer has been privileged enough to work with Sharon in the past on a few of those student projects, but that was years ago in New York City and much has happened since then.  Sharon’s first documentary short ‘Parasite’s: A Users Guide‘ screened as a finalist for the Student Academy Awards; her animation that premiered at Radiolab won awards; she currently works with Wicked Delicate a production company teamed up with Ian Cheney, one of the filmmakers of the documentary ‘King Corn‘; and her most recent documentary entitled ‘Project Dad‘ glows with such potential that we here at L.A. the Blog get excited just thinking about watching it on the big screen. Her current project needs that one thing to get it off the ground and it is so close!!!  It needs money.

The project described in Sharon’s own words:

Project Dad  (working title) follows Sharon’s quest to understand her LGBT family through a two-way dialogue with her dad.  Funny, poignant, and above all real, the film uses a mix of verité and interview footage shot by the filmmaker, and point-of-view flip-cam footage shot by her subjects, to answer the question, “What is a healthy family?”  Springing from her experiences growing up in a supportive family surrounded by outside misunderstanding, the filmmaker seeks out other children of LGBT families, expectant LGBT parents, family law experts, and politicians from both sides of the fence, to craft a film that is national in scope, and centered on hope and redemption.

With a Kickstarter campaign in the works with a just a few days left to raise the rest of the needed cash we encourage all of our readers and supporters to give the same support to Sharon and donate whatever money they have left after donating to KCRW/KPFK/etc, or perhaps split this years donation with Sharon.  Or just outright cough up the cash.  The project gathered some great support from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Advocate.  It also gained the attention of a Sundance documentary programming associate who kind enough blogged about the project.  The project is a co-production of Wicked Delicate, and please if possible donate to the project.  And with that we have whined enough, pleaded until our fingers bled, and hopefully cajoled you with the big name dropping above.  Below find a short film Sharon worked on with this writer, and if interested in donating or supporting for ‘Project Dad’, or for just more information click here.

UPDATE:  Congratulations to Sharon, her projects got funded through Kickstarter, and congratulations to everyone who donated.

L.A. the Blog: ‘bright lights & fist fights’ Gallery Show; Next Stop ‘The Art of Coop’

Annie Preece

Annie Preece frames her own painting during the exhibition opening of ‘bright lights & fist fights’ group show at the Rebecca Molayem Gallery in West Hollywood – June 14, 2012

Is Los Angeles essential to the art world at large?  L.A. the Blog can’t answer that question but the scale of art happening in this city on a daily basis makes art essential to understanding Los Angeles.  A city dreamed up from behind a camera with an identity inextricably enmeshed with visual arts making it a tide pool of artists birthing pictures, stories, scenes, music, canvases, books, tunes, compositions, scripts, reality and fantasy; where often as not the creativity becomes harnessed in an art department for film, a stage setting for theater, or a gallery full of stunning visual art.

Better late than never the pictures have arrived!  Arrived for what (as the statement goes?), arrived for another round of art happening in the city of Angeles.

A three-person gallery show opened a few weeks back that spotlighted a diverse young group composed of a street artist, a tattoo wizard and a graphic artist who stepped into roles respectively as a painter, a caricaturist and a furniture sculptor.  At this point some analogy to the Wizard Of Oz keeps trying to escape but that would make this writer either Dorothy or Toto, and the only yellow brick road somewhere hidden along Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard.

The highlight of the show Annie Preece displayed her most recent paintings done in vivid, bright colors of contorted faces, haunted imagery and taboo subjects.  Her art is best described in the statement ‘having too much fun,’ with a mixture of recognizable and iconic images and symbols re-purposed with confrontation, dripping paint and intensity.  Yet as stated all of them rebalanced with the light atmosphere that reds, yellows and bright blues elicit emotionally.  Almost like the perpetual Los Angeles sunshine even makes suffering look happy.  The one painting in the show that is the exception to the bright colors comes from an early series of Annie’s work to a project of paintings, photographs and public art installations entitled ‘Persecution Takes A Holiday In L.A‘, that takes a critical look at the oppression of women in the Middle East.  This exception to the rule simply puts eyes staring from a black surrounding.  By the way Annie do you have any free artwork for us to decorate our headquarters?

Candice Molayem

A series of portrait caricatures by Candice Molayem from the show ‘bright lights and fist fights’ – June 14, 2012

Tattoo artist and painter Candice Molayem showcased a series of portraits keeping with the bright-color motif in classic caricature style.  With 1950’s hair-dos, thick rimmed glasses and jewelry-to-match the words ‘hip and cool’ rise from the dark recess of the subconscious and immediately yearnings for indie rock take over.  L.A. the Blog is curious if any persons posed for the paintings or if the inspiration came from classic comic books.

Jad Dovey

A naked lamp by artist Jad Dovey from the ‘bright lights and fist fights’ show – July 14, 2012

The final artist presenting at the show Jad Dovey subtly created lamps in a style you might expect to find at The Factory during the 1970’s and 80’s.  A wonderful use of color and the nude form, or maybe just ‘found’ mannequins and some electrical ingenuity Dovey created a post-pop art presentation that seemed so natural in the gallery they belonged more to the entire space and less to the name tag that marked them for display.

A fun event basking in the glow of a hot summer ahead, and art definitely worth visiting.  Please see a slideshow below of pictures from the show.  Included in the photos are other artists’ work showing and hanging in the gallery including artists Rebecca Molayem, Lynden St Victor and sculptures by Leon Leigh.  ‘bright lights and fist fights’ is now showing at Rebecca Molayem Gallery, 306 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048 for another few weeks, please check online for the current and future shows.

Portion of a painting done by Coop showing at his book release party – June 16, 2012

Moving right along into the week and arriving at our next stop where well-established artist and instigator Coop partied and celebrated in high fashion for the release of his new artbook entitled, ‘Idle Hands: The Art of Coop.’  So much has been said of Coop (click this link here), so to avoid mundane repetition, and pointless conjecture it is enough to say that even if you haven’t heard his name before you definitely have seen his art.  His images of devils, dames, drugs and cars make pop culture an afterthought and fine art an everyday accessible experience.  Mickey mouse gloves on a drug anyone?  If you can’t relate I am sure Walt Disney and Salvador Dali hanging out making pink elephants would.

Coop’s show took place at a great location in downtown Los Angeles hidden away in a produce distribution factory/building.  Industrial-scale loading elevator and all with a great view of a seedy downtown strip club made the entire experience some strange descent into Coop’s world.  Did we mention naked devil girls cruised the party?  Included in the slideshow below please find pictures from the event held at Studio Servitu, a downtown venue that the L.A. Weekly names the #4 essential location of 2011.

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L.A. the Blog: ‘Grimes’ At Make Music Pasadena 2012

Indie Rock Stage

Old Pasadena Indie Rock Stage as the Cults perform – Make Music Pasadena, Saturday, June 16, 2012

Last weekend L.A. the Blog visited Make Music Pasadena 2012 to listen to recording-artist Grimes perform live. Tipped off about the show well-worth seeing and scheduled for the 5 o’clock hour, we arrived via the Metro Gold Line from downtown at 4:30 p.m. right near the main stage as the Cults finished their set. As a free event, the city of Pasadena definitely knows how to throw a good party, and the main stage area with great sound and a stellar lineup made concerts look fun again. The Cults sounded amazing and left an ache inside for missing the majority of their show.

The point of heading into conservative Pasadena wasn’t the Cults, though, nor was the reason we came performing on the Indie Rock stage. At this point, describing how Make Music Pasadena works will help understand the sheer scale of the event. The main stage area drew a humongous crowd stretching two blocks down the middle of old town Pasadena’s main drag Colorado Boulevard. They closed off the street at the stage but not the whole downtown area for the event, as streets leading off in various directions remained open for traffic. This way business and life went on as the concert rocked. Five smaller stages setup in various directions from the main stage, ranging from a few blocks to 10 blocks away, allowed for more bands with a wider variety of genres. From a Jazz stage to straight Rock ‘n’ Roll with old-time Blues and Funk mixed in between the event offered a bit of everything for everybody. Six stages are just the tip of the iceberg as different bars, the local library, coffee shops, a book store, the playhouse and even a church opened their doors to different musicians. In total over 30 venues setup for live acts and the number of musicians can make the head spin. A little something for everyone – literally.

Grimes on stage

Grimes singing live on stage to adoring fans during her performance at Make Music Pasadena, June 16, 2012.

So heading over to the Eclectic Stage, aptly name with KCRW as a sponsor (the stage highlighted a DJ set by their own Jason Bentley who hosts their signature morning show Morning Becomes Eclectic), we arrived just as local-based Dengue Fever finished up and Grimes setup for her show. Eclectic indeed as Dengue Fever plays tunes best understood as music suited for the old, silent film ‘Lost World” (literally); and Grimes represents the heart and soul (or call it rhythm and blues if you like) of electronic music with driving deep bass and ethereal vocals that easily capture the mind as well as emotion. Originally from the underground Montreal music scene dating back to 2006 Claire Boucher (aka – Grimes) recently moved to the L.A. area, that is if the Blog heard her announcement correctly, bringing with her a style of music both intense and alive in a synthesis of pop, punk and rave culture. A well-needed infusion of fresh talent to shake up the music scene in sunny Southern California.

Not to mention that young boys and girls love her – really, never have so many teenage boys and early-20’s men screamed for attention at a beautiful lady with pink hair. This writer understands for no one is a bigger sucker for a girl with pink hair, or blue, or red, or purple for that matter. Highlights of the show include the crowd surfers who kept popping up and the young dancing fan who jumped on the stage, well, dancing. As security removed the fan, Grimes between verses told security to let him stay to no avail. Even as they roughed him up she voiced her support.

The only hitch of the entire show came from the horrible sound system provided for the stage. The lows and highs played alright through the speakers but all the mid-level tones arrived muddied and weak. Even so the show definitely left an impression, and if it is an example of things to come, Grimes promises to deliver many more memorable events. Check out video we shot on our trusty cell phone, and since its a crap video we are placing a link below to an official music video of the same song.