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

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

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

My good buddy Rob let me interview him for the May 17th issue of OC Weekly, so we went at got some beers at Monkish Brewing in Torrance and shot the shit for a few hours. This is a waaay edited down version of the original interview–that’s what happens when you only have space for 450 words.

Repeater (Mostly) Reunite to Work on New Material

[Checking In On . . .] Rob Wallace and Steve Krolikowski aim to take their sound in yet another new direction

Say it again

When Repeater went into the studio to record with “The Godfather of NĂĽ-Metal” Ross Robinson in 2009, fans of both the famous Korn producer and the unsigned post-punk-ish band from Long Beach were stoked. But by the time We Walk From Safety was released last summer, the band were near dissolution. After performing a seemingly routine show at Detroit Bar in September, Repeater went on an unannounced hiatus, regrouping only weeks ago (minus a few members). We sat down with keyboardist-turned-bassist Rob Wallace to talk about writing pop songs, “right” vs. “wrong” music, and singer Steve Krolikowski‘s genius.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

Love the headline OC Weekly gave this installment of my bi-weekly “Checking In On…” column. Immediately called Brian to make sure he wasn’t offended by it, but then I remembered he really and truly does have a bedroom full of obscure action figures and his cat’s name tattooed on his arm, so he was definitely okay. Also, he’s in a fucking ska band in 2012, so he clearly has a sense of humor.

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Suburban Legends’ Brian Klemm Has the Bedroom of a 40-Year-Old Virgin

Longtime Orange County ska outfit and Disneyland’s favorite choreographed band-with-horns Suburban Legends have been looking for locals to open for them at their album-release show tomorrow night at Chain Reaction. Day Job, the latest from these fun-loving guys, is nearly four years coming, and its entirely self-recorded, straight OC-ska sound is breathing new life into a scene that, by all accounts, peaked 15 years ago.

We sat down with Suburban Legends guitarist Brian Klemm to ask for his and his fun-loving bandmates’ thoughts on building their own recording studio, experimenting with pop music and comic-book geekery.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

A little backtracking on some of my published work that I forgot to post on here. This was a Checking In On… Q&A with the Growlers that went to print right before they played Coachella. I still think that Brooks (the singer) looks like Chalino Sanchez–or at least some handsome, Italian pop star–especially (especialmente?) when he swaggers all over the stage in his polyester pants washing over your astonishment at his throwback stage attitude with a silky, DGAF stare.

The Growlers: Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

[Checking In On . . .] There’s life after recording with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys

Lineup

Last time we talked to Growlers singer Brooks Neilson (“Further? Fursure!” by Chris Ziegler, Dec. 23, 2011), his bandmates were gashing girls’ heads on a small winter tour and waiting for the album they recorded in Nashville with Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) to find a release date.

The band are still waiting for that date, but that doesn’t mean they’re just hanging out. By the time you read this, they will have played their first set at Coachella and, hopefully, completed recording 20 more new songs on their and their friends’ collections of all-analog devices. It’s all about 2-inch tape, yo.
READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

touchdown, turn around

April 5, 2012

Originally published in the April 5 issue of OC Weekly.

Hellogoodbye Says Hello, Long Beach, Goodbye, Huntington!

[Checking In On . . .] Singer Forrest Kline talks about moving (slightly) north and the band’s upcoming album

For the past 11 years, Forrest Kline has been writing, singing and playing guitar for Hellogoodbye, the Warped Tour-friendly saccharine emo-pop band who once called Huntington Beach home. But after nearly a decade of keyboard-and-vocoder pogo jams about high-school crushes and innocent, booze-free parties, Kline didn’t call it quits, as did many of his contemporaries. Instead, he moved to Long Beach, got married and released 2010’s Would It Kill You?—a record of straightforward, grown-up indie pop.

After recovering from his recent trek to Austin, Texas, for this year’s South By Southwest music festival, Kline talked to us about his 100-year-old house; Hellogoodbye’s next record, due out this year; and all the Long Beach weirdos who make you feel sane.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

This column appeared in the O.C. Weekly’s March 22 print issue and online here.

Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour Is Back

[Checking In On . . .] Different format, same literary geniuses

Derrick C. Brown is our local literary scene’s wordsmithing rock star, whose “act like a band and hit the road” approach to poetry promotion has found the former paratrooper touring the world and opening for bands such as Cold War Kids, the Decemberists and the White Stripes. In 2010, Brown created a similar cross-pollination paradise at home with Long Beach‘s Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour, a weekly live-radio variety show that featured musicians, humorists, poets and writers in a Prairie Home Companion-style format that was later made available as podcasts. By the end of the year—just as the show began to gain momentum—Brown pulled the plug. But this past February, Lightbulb Mouth returned. With a new format, a new venue and a new night, this new non-“radio hour” Lightbulb Mouth is in it for the long haul.

OC Weekly: Why did you decide to bring back Lightbulb Mouth?

Derrick C. Brown: I always said that if I brought it back, it would only be once a month and I wanted to change the format. I wanted to do a literary show that was fun for people who weren’t necessarily into books. It could be a space for them to get into books.

But you’re moving to Austin soon, right?

Yeah, I wanted to kick it off—reinvigorate it. Long Beach needs it. Not that it needs me, but the town needs a place where authors can have a blast together and the audience can enjoy themselves, even if they don’t write.

A lot of your writing outreach involves music. Do you think that’s necessary, or is it just how you like to do things?

I think it helps bring more people together. And since writers are best served in large crowds—they move more books that way—it’s a good way to expose people to writers they might not have heard about before. I like everyone pollinating one another’s scenes.

Weren’t you in a band, too?

I was the singer in a band called John Wilkes Kissing Booth, and we were signed to a shitty label for a long time. I think there’s something wonderful about being so raw in music, but it’s irritating in writing. You can get lost in a guitar melody, but it’s hard to get lost in a capella lyrics, which is essentially what prose is. You’re so locked into someone reading their work that if it’s shitty, you feel it times 10. It’s a very naked art form.

Lightbulb Mouth at Harvelle’s, longbeach.harvelles.com. Sun., 6-9 p.m. $8; $5 if dressed in cocktail attire. 21+.  Also Derrick C. Brown’s Strange Light book-release party at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, www.firstchurchlb.org. Fri., 7 p.m. Free. All ages.

checking in on

March 9, 2012

This is the first in a series of bi-weekly contributions I will be making to the O.C. Weekly’s new in-print column called “Checking In On…” The idea is to catch up with local bands that we’ve covered before and therefore can’t do another big feature on. If you have any suggestions or contacts, please let me know!

Published in print in the March 8, 2012 issue of O.C. Weekly and online here.

Avi Buffalo, Older and Wiser

Post-debut success, Long Beach’s band of teenagers have had some time to reflect—and write more music

In the two years since Southern California first basked in the dreamy guitarwork and lo-fi stylings of Avi Buffalo‘s self-titled debut album, front man Avi Zahner-Isenberg has grown both older and wiser.

A look back in time

Now 21, Zahner has had some space to reflect on his once-rigorous touring schedule—which found the band of teenagers playing coveted slots at mega-festivals such as All Tomorrow’s Parties and Primavera Sound—and the experiences have left him thinking critically about his next steps.

“We were exposed to so much craziness at such a young age. There’s no way around it,” Zahner-Isenberg says. “It was really good in so many respects, but it’s something you have to battle with. Your brain isn’t even fully developed when you’re 18, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown into opening up for epic people whom you’ve looked up to your entire life. What does that do to your head?”

For Zahner, the global exposure that came with being Sub Pop Records‘ latest buzz band only grounded him more. And since returning home to Long Beach more than a year and a half ago, he has been running a home studio (Hood Ranch Dressing), playing music with old friends and writing songs for the next Avi Buffalo album, which will start tracking in a few months. He even released a few experimental solo albums, partially recorded on his laptop while living in the band’s tour van, parked in the driveway of his parents’ house.

Messing around with his home recording equipment also helped him prepare for the band’s upcoming professional-studio time. “I’m really excited because this time we have more experience with recording,” he explains. “Being able to get into home recording has been really helpful. I’m able to have a perspective on what songs are supposed to sound like when we go into the studio. It’s not just the raw chord progressions and lyrics anymore.”

Since the songs are already written for the new album—some of which are (Ă  la San Pedro‘s Minutemen, he says) 20 to 50 seconds long—Zahner’s concern now is balance. What is the right mix between hi-fi and lo-fi? How do you prepare your songs for recording, but still leave room for spontaneity? Can you avoid sacrificing depth and vibe for cleanliness?

Working with fellow local musicians during the past few years of downtime, both through Hood Ranch Dressing Studios and performances with the Wild Bunch, as well as other friends’ bands, has brought Zahner closer to answering these questions. But reconnecting with his circle of talented friends may have been beneficial in another, more important way.

“At the end of the day, you have to go back to those people whom you’ve played with for years who in some ways haven’t gone through that so you can humble yourself and realize why you’re playing music,” he says. “As long as I’m connected to those people, then I’m emotionally sound.”