Consider this yet another chapter in the schizophrenic reporting lifestyle I have made for myself: I am now writing arts features for the IE Weekly. Yes, that’s IE as in Inland Empire as in now we have to try and hate on two area codes because the 909 isn’t bad enough. I really appreciate the fact that the badasses at the IEW kept me on their radar from the City Beat Long Beach days, which was also run out of their Corona office. But I have to admit that when Lynn sent over the interview request, I had no idea who Twin Shadow was. Nothing a good Google search can’t fix, though.

So I listened to his tunes and started formalizing some ideas about what I wanted to ask him. Since he sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Cure, I thought that he would be really into talking about the 80s. But as I discovered during our rescheduled phone interview (during which I was in my friend’s car in the parking lot of Pizza Port San Clemente), he is not. So I diverted the subject to his diverse upbringing and spent the rest of the day having deep drunken thoughts about how the 80s was the height of multicultural postmodernism and that Hall and Oates might just be the muddled grey that you get when you combine every genre of music in the world. But then I put the beer down and started writing…

This Ain’t No Throwback

Twin Shadow is a culmination of George Lewis Jr.’s many influences

George Lewis Jr. might look like Hall and Oates’ lovechild, sing with Morrissey’s hypnotic baritone and play synth-loving pop as if a John Hughes film soundtrack just got thrown on the record player, but please don’t call his act an ’80s throwback.

“I don’t really think about it in that way,” Lewis says of the music he makes under the name Twin Shadow. “I see why people see that, but I just make the music that I make and it has more to do with being influenced by so many different styles of music.”

Instead of taking notes from a particular decade, Lewis drew more from his diverse upbringing—which took him from the Dominican Republic to Florida then Sweden, Berlin and eventually New York, where Twin Shadow began.

Along the way, the multi-instrumentalist listened to soft rock, hip-hop, R&B, rock ’n‘ roll and punk. He composed music for a dance company, worked for an experimental theatre group, played in a punk band and messed around with noise music before creating Twin Shadow’s textured-synth sounds from a computer in his Brooklyn apartment.

“I don’t really think of my life in types of music really,” Lewis says. “I just think this is what I’m doing now and I’m enjoying it and I’m seeing some success with it.”

With production help from Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, those initial bedroom demos soon became the basis of Twin Shadow’s debut album, 2010’s Forget. Laced with intricately spiraling guitars, verses of tormented emotions and tinges of classic rhythm and blues, the album goes beyond those from others crowding under the “chillwave” umbrella by hinting at a songwriter with more to offer than pure nostalgia.

Today, Lewis is riding his own wave—playing music festivals, touring the world and promoting Twin Shadow’s polished sophomore release, Confess, which came out earlier this summer and presents Lewis’ sultry synth sounds with even more bad-boy swagger.

“I think being a person who comes from two parents who are from two totally different worlds never really identifying with being black, never identifying with being white, never identifying with being Dominican, just identifying with being different—that kind of informed the way that I approach things in my life,” Lewis says.

With Twin Shadow’s latest, however, 27-year-old Lewis solidifies his musical worth as a post-genre poster boy. Confess references decades of pop ideas while incorporating fresh takes on underground artistry to create something quintessentially millennial. As artists become freer to draw from all ends of the spectrum and audiences relish in the hybrids and hyphens of today’s sounds, music such as Twin Shadow’s begins to make sense.

The east coast native also recently moved to the cultural laboratory of Los Angeles, where—when not on the road (or playing this year’s FYF Fest)—he rides his motorcycle, drinks by the swimming pool and crafts poetic pieces of fiction such as the futuristic novel he co-wrote that is being published both online and in zines.

“I think I’m always exactly where I need to be, I don’t wish for anything more than what I have in the moment,” Lewis says. “And I hope to keep evolving. As long as I’m evolving and I’m constantly getting better and better, then I’m good with where I’m at.”

Twin Shadow at The Glass House, 248 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Sat, Aug. 25. 8pm. $12-$14. And at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Thurs, Aug. 30. 7pm. $20. 

I have also begun writing a weekly food column for the OC Weekly called Long Beach Lunch. It’s an honor to represent Long Beach’s daytime food scene and thanks to Gustavo for trusting my food-writing skills based on a few bits of beer blather. Links to the first two installments are below:

Long Beach Lunch: MVP’s Grill & Patio

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With the Olympics finally over and Long Beach athletes earning more medals that most countries, it seems appropriate to start off Long Beach Lunch at MVP’s, a sandwich and burger stand built right on Fourth Street with a menu full of sports-themed items such as the “Patty Day Melt” and “The Mean Joe Green” that are more than their kitschy names.

The concept of naming food items after athletes, coaches and other sports celebrities might get a little hairy (Harry Caray, perhaps? Sorry, but I’ll be here all week!), but MVP keeps it clever by creating dishes that manage to make sense with their namesake.

The “Greg Louganis,” for example, is a pita bread filled with chicken, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce–a reference to the gold medal swimmer’s adoptive Greek-American parents. The “Shaq” burger, meanwhile, includes double meat, double cheese, double bacon, avocado and dressing — presumably for Shaq-ish-level hunger.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

Long Beach Lunch: Taqueria La Mexicana #5

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Long Beach may be lacking in the 24-hour taqueria department (you win this time, Taqueria De Anda!), but it more than makes up for it with a slew of daytime-dwelling taco stands that cook up some of the best quick-n-dirty asada, pollo and pastor around.
Taqueria La Mexicana is LBC’s hometown taqueria chain, with five locations scattered throughout various area neighborhoods and a sixth one on the way in nearby Hawaiian Gardens. Though all of them provide typical Mexican items with the standard ordering-window-with-outdoor-seating setup, only Taqueria La Mexicana #5 simultaneously serves tacos, burritos and sopes along with an entirely separate menu of burgers and teriyaki dishes.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

So since I started my new position as Executive Editor at the Long Beach Post in July, my freelancing work has been greatly diminished. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been writing any less. In fact, it’s the exact opposite–I have write at least 2 to 3 news briefs a day and several major feature stories per week. The only thing is that all of these stories are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the opinionated and critical arts features that I usually write and are forcing me to utilize newswriting skills that I haven’t tapped into since Journalism 101 in the 10th grade. It’s a change for sure, but a good one that is allowing me to prove that good reporting skills can be transferred to any subject matter.

The story below came about after the PBID was renewed and the news brief received a lot of comments from locals who were upset about the weighted voting system, something I knew nothing about. I got in contact with a Downtown resident’s advocate and the City Clerk’s office to come up with a fair and balanced look at a voting system that is not so fair and balanced. Three weeks ago, I had no idea what a PBID even was, now I’m the expert. It’s amazing where a “real-world” job can get you!

Explaining the PBID’s Controversial Weighted Voting Process

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A member of the DLBA’s Clean Team, which is a service afforded by the recently renewed PBID.

One for one is not the way that voting worked when Downtown’s Property and Business Improvement District was reauthorized for another ten years last week. Instead, each property owner’s vote carried with it the weight of their portion of the total PBID assesment, a procedure that is implemented in accordance with California State law for establishing and renewing such districts.

For most of the 200 or so California municipalties that have established PBIDs, the weighted-ballot vote has not stirred up much controversy as approval must still come from a wide range of property owners in order to reach the one penny over 50 percent of total assessment dollars needed to pass. In Downtown Long Beach, however, there are so many large properties owned by just a few entities that it only takes a small number of weighted-ballot votes to pass the PBID and many residents are left feeling like the process is unfair.

According to Sandy Rendell, spokesperson for the anti-PBID group Downtown Homeowners Unite, because of the weighted-ballot system, the votes of all of Downtown’s residents combined is only seven to eight percent of the total assesssment amount even though they make up the majority of the votes cast (about 1900 out of the 3000 votes are classified as residential).

This is because for many loft, condo and residential property owners, the assessment is usually under $200 and for smaller property owners, often under $50. The assessment on larger properties such as office buildings, leased commercial space and city properties, comparitvely, runs into the tens of thousands of dollars (the Landmark Building on the corner of Pine Ave. and Ocean Blvd, for example, has an assessment of $41,000). So while 77 percent of the money voted to renew the PBID, nearly 60 percent of the raw ballots voted no.

READ THE REST AT LBPOST.COM

This interview was done totally last minute and mainly because I wanted to drink the Manhattans being offered at said event and my editor last-minute came back from vacation and approved the piece. I was on the beach with my cell phone, trying to keep the hair out of my mouth and the wind out of my recorder, neither of which worked and I later spent an hour listening to a nasty feedback trying to transcribe this damn thing. Definitely earned my $50 ticket.

Q & A With Chop Suey’s Adam Acuff: Craft Sake, Collaboration Beers + The Manhattan Project

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naotakem/Flickr
Manhattan cocktail

Little Tokyo’s historic Far East Café has for years been divided up into two establishments. One is L.A Weekly’s most-improved craft beer bar of 2011, Far Bar, and the other is an underutilized restaurant and lounge next door called Chop Suey.

For the last few years, we admit we’ve skipped over even entering Chop Suey — and who could blame us? Far Bar carries an impressive selection of domestic, Japanese and Belgian beers. Plus, we like feeling a little “New York” as we slip down the narrow brick alley adorned in white Christmas lights that leads to this Little Tokyo gem.

But for the last few months, Chop Suey’s been quietly renovating, installing a new 18-seat bar, a cask system for real ales and — thanks to new hire Adam Acuff — a stellar craft cocktail program that will rival other bars like Steingarten L.A. and Seven Grand.

Though a more official grand opening will be planned for the future, the new bar (along with Acuff’s new selection of craft sakes, whiskeys and mescals) will receive a low-key coming-out party tonight with its inaugural spirits-based event that includes a sampling of four different Manhattans dubbed the Manhattan Project, to be held in Chop Suey’s new upstairs “tasting room.”

We sat down with Acuff to talk about the new space, the new liquors and a special collaboration beer in the works with Eagle Rock Brewery. Read our interview after the jump.

READ THE REST AT LAWEEKLY.COM

I’ve been wanting to be friends with Kerry Caldwell since she came into my work and silently drank a Firestone Walker Double Jack at the bar alone. Then, she got hired at Belmont Brewing Company, found a fiancé and now is to be up at 4AM to brew kick ass beer unlike anything the restaurant has ever served (no offense, Blackwell). This schedule severely cuts down on girl hangout time, but does not diminish my admiration for her and all her pink booting! You go, girl!

Q & A With Kerry Caldwell, Assistant Brewer at Belmont Brewing Company: Updating Classics, Bragging Rights + How To Be A Lady Brewer

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Sarah Bennett

In the late 1990s, Long Beach’s Belmont Brewing Companywas at the top of its game. With a longtime homebrewer named David Blackwell at the helm, beers from BBC — which is the oldest operating brewpub in Southern California — began picking up awards at local and international contests. Soon, its Strawberry Blonde became one of the first L.A.-area beers to be bottled and sold in stores.

Since then, however, the craft beer world has changed drastically and BBC’s decade-and-a-half-old pale ale, stout, golden ale and amber recipes — once on the forefront of the industry — have been little competition for the aggressive flavors and experimental styles of modern-day brewers.

Kerry Caldwell — Blackwell’s assistant brewer since last summer — is slowly changing all that.

As one of only two female commercial brewers in the greater Los Angeles area (the other, Caldwell’s friend Hayley Shine, is the brewmaster at Rock Bottom Long Beach), the Idaho-via-Placerville transplant has brought about some small but much-needed updates to Belmont Brewing’s beer program, which today also extends to a sister BBC — Bonaventure Brewing Company, inside the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A.

From suggesting different yeast strains for their year-round brews to making new seasonal beers based on her own recipes (think: black IPAs and British-style old ales), Caldwell is coaxing the independently successful BBCs back into craft-beer relevance.

We caught up with Caldwell early one morning as she watched over a boiling kettle of beer (while wearing pink rain boots) and talked about being a new female in the industry, breaking Blackwell out of his shell and why BBC will probably never brew a triple IPA.

READ MORE AT LAWEEKLY.COM

This interview was posted on the OC Weekly music blog to coincide with the print edition hitting the streets with my feature about Dawn of the Shred in it. Brad brought a Creepy Fingers t-shirt with him to the interview and I subsequently cut off the sleeves and turned it into my favorite tank top of the summer.

From Fu Manchu to Creepy Fingers: Brad Davis Talks Boutique Pedals and Crappy eBayers

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Courtesy of Creepy Fingers

When the OC stoner rock band Fu Manchu began twenty years ago, the world of effects pedals consisted of a few rusty ones leftover from the 1970s waiting to be stumbled upon at random pawn shops. But today, even that world has become dominated by mass-market brands such as Boss and DigiTech that sell distortion and fuzz just as McDonalds does hamburgers.

Fu Manchu’s bassist Brad Davis, however, is part of a growing number of new pedal builders who are hand-soldering a range of effects products unlike anything the ’90s ever dreamed about. Based out of Davis’ Fullerton garage, his company Creepy Fingers is one of the few locally-based contributors in this growing world of boutique, small-batch music gear–producing knob-filled models with names like Fuzzbud, Sugarboost and Doomidrive.

Long Beach’s specialty music store Dawn of the Shredthe subject of this week’s feature story–is the only brick-and-mortar in Southern California that carries Creepy Fingers, which made sense when we discovered that Davis was the impetus for opening the business in the first place.

Dealing with Brad is the reason I got into this,” Dawn of the Shred owner James Demetra says. “At the time, not a lot of people were doing the types of pedals he makes. So I asked him, ‘If I’m gonna get this pedal, how many do I have to get to become a dealer?’”

We sat down with Davis at Dawn of the Shred while he was dropping off a recent shipment of pedals (which consisted of a Trader Joe’s bag filled with his handmade wares) to talk about his hobby-turned-full-time-whenever-Fu-Manchu-isn’t-on-tour job, the perils of buying transistors on eBay and how his pedals became popular with everyone from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top to Erykah Badu’s guitarist.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

Wrote an in-print feature about my buddy James’ boutique pedal shop for the OC Weekly. If you are a musician–especially one fond of adjectives like fuzz, reverb and distortion–you should definitely stop by.

Giving these notes some room to breathe

 

Dawn of the Shred Has a Special Effect on Local Sound

Gearheads flock to the Long Beach guitar shop for hard-to-find accessories

On a recent Friday night, Andy Zipf and Sam West were in the far-back corner of East Long Beach’s Dawn of the Shred, warming up for the gear shop’s first in-store performance. Zipf plucked at a new semi-hollow prototype from Wilmore Guitars, the Long Beach-based company that organized the event.

Plugged into a white Marshall amplifier, the handmade guitar sounded warm and clean, almost dreamy in tone. The singer/songwriter smiled to himself; gliding from note to note, he looked genuinely astonished as he faced West at the drum kit. “This guitar is really cool,” he whispered.

“I know,” West slowly mouthed back.

This is the reaction most musicians have when trying out stuff at Dawn of the Shred, a store specializing in handcrafted and small-batch amps, guitars and effects pedals. In its cavernous storefront across from Heartwell Park, you won’t find any mediocre Boss distortion pedals or Fender Stratocaster gift packs—just a generous selection of small, quality brands; select vintage finds; and owner James Demetra, who is more than happy to help you navigate through it all. “I genuinely enjoy selling stuff,” says the scruffy, heavily inked Demetra. “I love those moments when everything clicks, such as when a musician has found what he’s looking for in the store and is playing it through the right pedal or the right amp. It all becomes one, if I can get overly romantic about it.”

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

Now that I have actually been to Belgium, I feel confident in this list of top 5 Belgian-brewerd Belgian IPAs, which is one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s sweet, it’s dry and there are centuries of amazing Belgian beer history brewed into every unfiltered, frothy cup. Let’s just say that drinking De Ranke XX Bitter at Moeder Lambic in Brussels was life changing. Yup, I drank the Belgian Kool Aid.

Top 5 Belgian IPAs: More Fun With European Hops

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Flickr/cheeseslave

Sorry England and Germany — if the American craft beer revolution owes its adventurous and hoppy spirit to any country’s brewing tradition, it’s Belgium’s.

While brewers next door in Germany were stuck abiding by a beer purity law, Belgians were free to experiment with yeast, herbaceous plants and the sour flavors from airborne bacteria, resulting in a varied beer repertoire that includes everything from light and sweet Belgian wits to dark and boozy quadruples.

One of our favorite Belgian styles, however, is one that the Belgians didn’t even know they invented: the Belgian IPA.

For nearly a century, Belgian breweries have been combining old-world sweetness with an extra dose of fresh European hops to give certain traditional golden ales a bitter tinge. Only in the wake of the West Coast’s reinvention of gratuitously hop-forward beers, however, has this style been given its own designation.

Light in body, (sometimes) medium in alcohol and heavy on the crisp hoppiness, Belgian IPAs are a perfect summer beer. And while American homages to the style — such as Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, New Belgium’s Belgo and Stone’s Cali-Belgique — are well-crafted, some of the most interesting brews are still coming out of the country that unknowingly invented it.

The only trouble finding Belgian-brewed IPAs, though, is that Belgian brewers don’t call them that. So to help you out, we’ve checked all the foreign labels with hop drawings on them, drunk through everything with the syllable “hop” in the name and come up with a list of the five best Belgium-brewed Belgian IPAs that you can find in your local bar or bottle shop.

READ THE REST AT LAWEEKLY.COM

Before I went to Europe last month for my post-graduate beercation, I pitched a bunch of zany ideas to a lot of outlets and nothing took. But God bless Gustavo and the OC Weekly for allowing me to use some of my travel photos and personal notes to share at least a little sliver of my discoveries with its readership. And for keeping my Austin Powers reference in the headline. :)

The Bruery Goes Global: Bottles Spotted In Netherlands–Ishn’t Dat Vierd?

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Sarah Bennett
Beers from Placentia’s Bruery on the shelf at De Bierkoning, a bottleshop in Amsterdam.

We all know the Netherlands is the place in Europe to get great pot and decent-looking legal prostitutes, but bottles from Orange County’s own craft beer creators (and subject of last year’s cover story) The Bruery? Yup.

As this beer geek discovered on a recent vacation to the land of windmills, canals, clogs and the Cannabis Cup, the Dutch love American craft beer. They love Stone Brewing’s bitter, hoppy IPAs; they love rich, chocolate-y stouts from Ohio’s Hoppin’ Frog Brewery and they love aromatic pale ales from Anderson Valley and Port Brewing Companies.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

Congrats to Long Beach’s own Andrew Pedroza and Ellen Warkentine for having their opus LOLPERA (yes, an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme) accepted into both the Hollywood Fringe Festival and the New York International Fringe Festival! I have been following this project since its initial workshop back in 2010 and to see it come this far and on the verge of being shared with the world makes me all kinds of proud mama. Thanks to L.A. Weekly for letting me cover this extraordinary moment in internet-meets-reality meaning-making.

Hollywood Fringe Festival Can Has LOLPERA

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Fresh Frame Foto
LOLPERA co-creator Andrew Pedroza (center) as Dreamer Cat in last fall’s production at the Garage Theatre in Long Beach

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon a month before the start of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and LOLPERAis in its first day of rehearsal. Cast members have just finished a run-through of the work’s dramatic opening number in the living room of Director Angela Lopez’s Long Beach apartment. The word “masterbate,” which was sung loudly and repeatedly as part of the chorus, reverberates off the walls.

“Okay, that was good,” Lopez casually tells the group, many of who were also a part of LOLPERA‘s original run at the 35-seat Garage Theatre last October, when it was L.A. Weekly‘s pick of the week. “Let’s try it one more time — starting from ‘Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.’”

Yes, those are the stage directions, which in this show can’t help but sound a little silly. As an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme, LOLPERA‘s plot, aria, characters and libretto are culled from the wide range of user-generated images that combine photos of cats with overlying text of their grammatically incorrect and adorably poorly spelled thoughts.

READ THE REST IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE OF L.A. WEEKLY OR ONLINE AT LAWEEKLY.COM

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