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.”

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thesis vomit 1

January 30, 2012

My thesis is currently a lead sandwich in my stomach, a thorn in my side and a big pounding headache that prevents me from doing anything else except stare at a blank page and attempt to write it. Luckily some of my other class material coincides with the various things I’m thinking about and I am required to blog about it. So consider this first in a potential series of idea vomits that are helping me trudge through both my thesis and my class simultaneously.

Tia DeNora’s “Music in Everyday Life” focuses mostly on the findings of field work conducted among indvidual listeners and their interactions, uses, embodiments and semiotic relationship to music. Because my research interests lie prior to fan interaction–in the people and places that result in the creation of music–I became discouraged that this book would have little to help me as it was looking at the process through a different lens entirely. But through interviewing Long Beach musicians for my thesis, I realized that all music creators are also music listeners and if I thought of musicians’ outputs as extensions of their musical selves, then DeNora’s concept of a musically constructed self is extremely useful.

Though we are all not defined exclusively by our musical tastes, there are many ways in which “musical materials are active ingredients in identity work” (p. 68). DeNora’s book does not specifically analyze the importance of place in these musical/identity practices, however, she does acknowledge that if someone listens to a wide range of music, it is in “relation to their self identity and socio-cultural situation” (p. 73). To me, this takes into account the fact that listening to a wide range of music is a socio-cultural privelage, based on access to different kinds of music either through traveling, internet familiarity or interaction with various musical forms in everyday life.

For musicians from Long Beach, I see it as a combination of the three. In honor of DeNora’s use of field work quotes, I will let the words of one of my thesis subjects, Dennis Owens, prove this point for me.

“People always talk about how the Beatles were a paradigm shift and they were, but James Brown is equally as important. It’s apples and oranges. To me, he’s my Beatles. That was the music that changed me and blew my mind initially. That and punk. They’re both energetic music. Punk is moving at its most basic level, just look at the dancing involved in it. It makes kids lose their shit. Made me lose my shit. Fuck, man, when you’re 14 years old and you listen to Bad Brains and Minor Threat, that shit is the best music in the world. You can’t even fuck with that. Everything else sucks. Except for the Specials and Selectra and all that. When I first heard Group Sex by the Circle Jerks and In God We Trust, Inc. by Dead Kennedys when I was a kid, I can’t even describe it. I’d never heard anything like that. I just knew when I heard it, this is for me right here. This is it. Everything else on the radio just doesn’t compare.”

With so many different styles of music influencing him so greatly, Owens is a consummate Long Beach musician. Growing up in a diverse port town attached to the growing International city of Los Angeles in the late 80s/early 90s, he had access to a wide array of music with which to use as a “material rendering of self-identity” (p. 69). He was provided with “material markers of his multi-faceted personality that allowed him to spin the tale of ‘who he is’ to himself and others” (p. 72) and with that musically formed identity, Owens went on to influence others through his musical endeavors. Since 1990, Owens has remained a pillar in the music scene first as the singer for influential 3rd-wave ska band Suburban Rhythm, then as a DJ at his monthly funk club Goodfoot and currently by playing bass for the experimental jazz/hip-hop/dub/indie-rock band Free Moral Agents.

In shorter terms, Owens’ identity as described through the music that affected him is comprised of classic funk bands, local and national hardcore punk bands and underground 2nd wave ska. And the music he has made reflects that diverse identity, formed through his listening and meaning making of the music he discovered as a teenager.

Below is a sonic result of Owens’ musically formed identity, an early song by Suburban Rhythm–the best Long Beach band that never made it! (Owens is crowdsurfing in the photo on the album cover).

dino j.

December 13, 2011

as originally posted online at the OC Weekly music blog, Heard Mentality

Dinosaur Jr. at the

Samueli Theater last night

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Dinosaur Jr.
Samueli Theater
December 12, 2011

Click here to see the slideshow.

Last night’s Dinosaur Jr. show at Costa Mesa’s Samueli Theatre was a three-part affair, each of which seemed slightly out of place in the upscale-but-welcoming Segerstrom Center for the Arts digs. Opening act Pierced Arrows put on a punk performance more suited for the Prospector, Henry Rollins interviewed Dinosaur Jr. like they were in an MTV2 studio, and then the band ripped through the entirety of its third album Bug to a crowd that only half filled the acoustically sound room.

But while the venue may have been an unlikely choice to host the opening night of Dinosaur Jr.’s nine-day West Coast mini-tour, locals lucky enough to attend another installment of the SCFTA’s Indie Band Series received an intimate evening with one of indie rock’s most influential outfits and the album that once signaled for it the departure of a founding member.

After a solid Pierced Arrows set — featuring the latest in fast, heavy rock ‘n’ roll from Fred and Toody Cole of Portland’s Dead Moon — Rollins and the three Dinosaur Jr. members took the stage for the interview.

Though the 2005 return of bassist Lou Barlow and drummer “Murph” brought back together the classic threesome that recorded Bug in 1988, the album remains frontman J. Mascis’ least favorite, mostly because of the bad memories associated with its recording. During the interview, however, Rollins either ignored or was oblivious to this fact and asked the band a series of Bug-related questions that were met with awkward silence and, when lucky, uncomfortable answers.

“Our relationship as a band had really deteriorated by that time,” Barlow says of recording the album. “We weren’t speaking much.”

Twenty-three years must have buried the hatchet, because the band’s ensuing performance of Bug in its entirety was nothing short of blazing, with Barlow and Murph coalescing as a blistering rhythm section and Mascis nonchalantly presiding over the complementary intricate riffage.

Self-proclaimed “triple-XL fan” Rollins had earlier referenced Dino’s huge influence on the ’90s rock scene, and it was easy to hear melodic glimpses of future bands like Pavement and Mudhoney in Bug‘s opening numbers. After the first few songs, however, it became hard to hear at all as Mascis and Co. further secured their reputation for being one of the loudest bands around.

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Andrew Youssef
J. Mascis

With necessary earplugs drowning out subsequent vocals, Mascis’ fretwork lay front and center, his meticulous plucking continually threatening to hypnotize the audience. Walled by three Marshall double stacks that separated him both visually and sonically from the rest of the band, he often seemed in a trance as the distortion-filled notes of his own creation filled his corner of the stage. His eyes half-closed and his long, grey hair nearly unmoving as he rocked his body side to side like a nervous 4th grader, Mascis appeared to be a sleepy wizard in a fantasy forest land.

Barlow spent much of the set thrashing around on stage, his shaggy hair covering his face as he created walls of the high-volume bass lines that once marked his departure from the band. Murph maintained sanity throughout the whole thing with well-placed drum fills and moments of beat-laden clarity that were perfectly timed respites from Mascis and Barlow’s incessant shredding.

For all the noise that Dinosaur Jr. made when they played, however, it was consistently a tight mix, each note and beat specifically placed in conversation with another. And after wrapping up Bug and re-emerging for a four-song encore, these formerly feuding band members again proved why this album is so important — not only as documentation of Dino’s final studio sessions before losing Barlow, but also as a testament to the three incredible musicians who have since put aside their differences in the name of rocking the fuck out.

Critical bias: I probably should have been drinking grain alcohol out of a flask in order to accurately review this one.

The crowd: Secretly cool OC dads; old, bearded secret hipsters; one thugged-out white guy who knew all the lyrics; and a lot of normal-looking folks who probably came because they saw Henry Rollins’ name on the bill but seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway.

Random notebook dump: That’s a shitload of Marshall stacks.

Overheard in the crowd: “Fire it up, Lou!” “Play a loud one!” was also yelled several times between songs.

miles runs the voodoo down

December 1, 2011

Bitches Brew Returns For The Holidays: From Miles Davis To Your Pint Glass

originally published online at the L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink

When the 9% ABV fusion beer Bitches Brew was first released by Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery in June 2010 — on the 40th anniversary of the jazz fusion album of the same name — the beer world sipped slowly, hoping to delay the inevitable end to its glorious existence.

But as with most limited releases from Dogfish Head, Bitches Brew evaporated from shelves as quickly as it arrived. And though a second round of this imperial stout/African honey gesho beer blend was sent out late time last year — after the Sony Legacy collaboration was featured in an episode of the Discovery Channel show Brew Masters — and several kegs mysteriously appeared during L.A. Beer Week, it seemed unlikely that another batch would be bottled.

So imagine our surprise upon seeing the familiar melting colors of Davis’ album cover staring back at us from 750mL bottles on a BevMo merchandise display last week.

It turns out that the brewers had a change of heart. After all, they spent the last year convincing everyone they had all but moved on from Bitches Brew, releasing another Sony Legacy collaboration beer this May — Hellhound On My Ale, in honor of Robert Johnson — and and posting on Dogfish Head’s website as recently as March that there weren’t any plans for a 2011 Bitches Brew.

Still, news of this latest BB release seems to have gone unreported by many outlets that were initially stoked on its creation. Only a press release posted back in October over at BeerNews.org explains that a new batch would be released as part of the publicity package for Dogfish Head’s latest Sony Legacy collab, an homage to Pearl Jam’s 20 years as a band called Faithful Ale.

​The Belgian-style golden ale that celebrates Pearl Jam’s status as a “long-player band in a singles-obsessed world” might be delicious in its own right (assuming it wasn’t inspired by the sexual innuendo built into the band’s name), but forgive us for focusing on the holiday return of the much bigger, bolder and seasonally appropriate Bitches Brew.

Actually, don’t forgive us: Just find yourself a bottle, put on the album and pour yourself a glass of the ultimate liquid version of Davis’ smooth-sweet sounds. Because who knows when you’ll have the pleasure of hanging out with this Bitches Brew again.

back to the roots

November 23, 2011

As published in the December issue of City Beat.

Kwanzaa—the creation of a Cal State LB professor and activist—showcases the importance of African culture

Though its history is much younger than the other holidays celebrated during this time of year, Kwanzaa is by no means less significant. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way for African-Americans to honor their shared heritage and culture, the seven-day celebration (Dec. 26 to Jan. 1) has become an important holiday for blacks worldwide.

The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza (which translates roughly to “first fruit”), and the holiday’s template is loosely based on traditional pan-African harvest festivals. But that is where any precedent stops. As an internationally celebrated, non-religious, non-heroic, non-political African-American holiday, Kwanzaa is a unique experience that encourages unity among those of African descent and attempts to preserve common African culture.

Dr. Karenga—a leading theorist during the ’60s Black Power Movement who is now a professor of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach—organized Kwanzaa around a set of communitarian African values, called the Nguzo Saba. These seven principles include Umoja (unity), Kujicahgulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujama (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on one of these driving principles and is expressed through the lighting of colored candles, dancing, reciting poetry and the giving of appropriate gifts.

In addition to the daily celebrations, Kwanzaa calls for a central place in the home to be dedicated to the construction of a Kwanzaa Set—a display of the holiday’s symbolic objects. Central to this is the kinara, a candleholder that carries the seven candles—three red, three green and one black—as well as a Unity Cup, the filling and sharing of which is a central Kwanzaa ritual.

While Kwanzaa was originally directed at a small group of activists, it gained popularity as interest in multiculturalism expanded in the late 1980s and has since coexisted alongside Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations for both black and white families nationwide. Though estimates of the number of people who celebrate the holiday worldwide vary—from 250,000 to 40 million—Los Angeles has multiple Kwanzaa celebrations, several of which take place in Long Beach including one at the Long Beach Senior Center and another annually organized by Village Treasures, an African art store near downtown.

insane clown posse

November 18, 2011

As originally published in the OC Weekly music blog

Yeastie Boys Talk Clowns, Cops and Venues That Rhyme With ‘Slidenard’

The Yeastie Boys might be simultaneously the best and worst band in Orange County right now–a good old-fashioned punk rock cover band that takes itself so un-seriously it’s got a circus theme.

Started three years ago as a way to replace typical cover band pitfalls with red noses and flourescent curly wigs, our little local Yeastie Boys (not to be confused with the Oklahoma homebrewers club of the same name) might have lost this year’s OC Weekly‘s reader’s choice award for Best Punk Band, but that won’t stop them from bringing clown-filled lyrics and a refined Ringling Brothers aesthetic to adults and open-minded children across the county.

The band’s endless roster of clown-clad members are known for throwing popcorn, cotton candy and peanuts at slightly suspecting fans during its raucous sets, which take place at whatever venue hasn’t banned them yet. This weekend, that list includes Queen’s Wharf–an old time seafood restaurant along berth 55 in the Port of Long Beach–where the Yeastie Boys will help anchor the all-ages Punk Rock BBQ #2, a make-up show for the September 25 punk-and-skate event that was unexpectedly shut down by Costa Mesa PD.

Founding clown Dirt Williams (aka Dirt Clown) took some time to check in before blowing up inflatable penises for tomorrow’s show.

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Courtesy of Yeastie Boys
Yeastie Boys keeping it classy at the original Punk Rock BBQ on Sept. 25.

OC Weekly (Sarah Bennett): So…why clowns?
Dirt Williams: I’ve been called a clown my whole life, so I guess I am finally living up to expectations.

Are you sick of visual ICP comparisons?

Yes, the comparison ends at clown.

You seem to have invented the genre of clown punk. How is that different from other forms of punk?
Besides the obvious? Less serious, more fun I suppose…

Why do you have so many rotating members? How many are there total?

My member rotates often, as for band members there has been 17 or so – anywhere between 7-12 at any given show. It’s quite a circus. We have had members from Adolescents, D.I., 45 Grave, China White, the HATED, the Chiefs & others – some are full time clowns & others are special guests, our shows are like Pee Wee Herman theater popcorn – you never know what surprise you might find.

What venues have you been kicked out of and why?
I don’t want to mention any by name, but they rhyme with: Malaxy Theathre, Salex’s Bar, DiPiwasas, Mold Towne Pub, The Breast, Grand Bromance Rivergloat, Joke Joint, Slidenard and probably a few more that we are not welcome back to. Why? I’m guessing it’s mess that seems to happen at every show which can be pretty impressive even by clown standards.

Why should you have won Best Punk Band [in this year’s OC Weekly best-of reader’s choice] over Social Distortion?
Have you not seen one of our shows? Next year we hope to be nominated for both best & worst punk band.

This weekend’s Punk Rock BBQ at Queen’s Wharf is a makeup show. Tell me about the first one?
The first one was real fun right up until the cops shut it down.

Didn’t the cops come in the middle of your set? What does that say about your music and stage energy?
At least they let us finish the set. One officer asked us to play at his kids birthday party, I’m guessing he either liked it, or we are in for a surprise ‘occupy’ type beating.

Was there ever a thought that you wouldn’t play the make-up show? What are the promoters like and what else do they put on?
Because we wear make-up? I get it. Leave the jokes to me sweetcheeks. It’s the same promoter that puts on the ‘Punk Rock Picnic’, which is the biggest punk rock event in OC every year. We’ve played there the last two years & its been a lot of fun.

If this weekend’s Punk Rock BBQ is guaranteed not to get shut down, does that make it less punk rock?
I don’t think anyone can guarantee that any punk show will not get shut down, but we can guarantee a good time during our set. Keep an eye out for flying clown penises during the song ‘Clown Dick’ this Saturday….and bring the kids! We promise not to shower with them.

The Yeastie Boys perform with D.I., The Generators and more at Punk Rock BBQ #2 at Queen’s Wharf, 555 Pico Ave. Long Beach. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/206547, Sat. 11:30am-9:30pm, $15, all ages.

Note from event website: This is a make-up show for all who attended and paid for the first Punk Rock BBQ, your wrist bands, ticket stubs will get you in free. If you bought your tickets on brown paper tickets website, we have your name on a list, just bring your ID.

far and away

October 20, 2011

Originally published at the L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink

Q & A With Far Bar’s Jimmy Smith: Little Tokyo’s Craft Beer Scene, How Beer Brings People Together + Little Tokyo’s Beer Week Coming Out Party

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Far Bar
Japanese craft beers available at Little Tokyo’s Far Bar

For decades, Little Tokyo has been a destination for its history, food and art venues alike. But in the last year, Little Tokyo has put itself on the radar for another, more unlikely offering–craft beer. And as the second half of L.A. Beer Weekcloses in, the neighborhood is ready to show off why.

Starting three years ago with the opening of dedicated haunts such as Wurstküche and Far Bar — which has been home to the city’s largest selection of Japanese craft beers since its incognito location opened in the heart of Little Tokyo’s First Street — the area’s taps have been slowly replacing the proverbial fizzy yellow beer with more-flavorful libations.

The incorporation of both domestic and international microbrews, however, has hit new heights since this past May when Jimmy Smith took over Far Bar’s beer program, upgrading the basic-line craft tap list and turning the hidden gem into Little Tokyo’s craft beer epicentre. More local joints followed suit and now at least nine establishments within walking distance of each another have enough beer cred that Smith decided to organize tonight’s Big Crawl in Little Tokyo, the area’s first-ever pub crawl.

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Far Bar

Though Little Tokyo’s proximity to Union Station (where L.A. Beer Week’s closing festival is held) brought beer fans to the neighborhood last year, Big Crawl is the first official Beer Week event the community has hosted, making it a stylized coming-out party that will introduce drinkers to one of the highest concentrations of craft-beer serving joints in the city.

One of L.A.’s most notable historic neighborhoods is getting a new life as a craft beer destination and Smith is on the frontlines.

Squid Ink: Has an event of this caliber ever happened in Little Tokyo before?

Jimmy Smith: No, actually [Far Bar co-owner] Don [Tehara] was telling me that this is the first time something like this has gone on where the businesses put it on by themselves. Usually it’s the city or the neighborhood council, so this is big because it’s the first time businesses have put something like this together on their own.

SI: What does that say about the atmosphere between businesses in the neighborhood?

JS: It’s great! What’s so wonderful about Little Tokyo is that it’s a community and there’s no competition. That’s what’s going to make this event so special, too–we’re all working together, all promoting each others’ bars for the event.

SI: Do you think the timing is right or the product is right?

JS: We’ve always been very neighborly and close, but craft beer is really bringing everybody together because all the establishments serve craft beer and want to be more involved with it. They see what we’ve been doing at Far Bar and they’re on board with it. I really do think it’s more the craft beer. I mean, a lot of them carry craft beer and people don’t even know that they do.

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SI: What are the beer-drinking crowds like in Little Tokyo?

JS: Little Tokyo has become a very diverse area. It’s not just Japanese and it’s not just hipsters. If you saw a regular crowd at the Far Bar, it’s something from every age and race. That’s what’s so great about beer, you get people from all different demographics enjoying it.

SI: What’s your favorite scene in Big Trouble in Little China?

JS: I haven’t seen it in so long, but Don just reminded me that James Hong–from the movie–is a regular customer here and he’s friends with the co-owner. So any scene with him in it would be my favorite. He actually had an exhibition a few months back in Burbank where he enacted parts from the movie. He plays such a great villain.

Participating locations and featured breweries:

Far Bar–Stone
Escondite–Black Market Brewing
Spice Table–Alesmith
Weiland–Port Brewing
Spitz–Eagle Rock Brewing
Fu-Ga–Great Divide
Xlixe–Mad River Brewing
Senor Fish–Avery Brewing
Wurstkuche–Brasserie D’ Achouffe.

A suggested itinerary as well as a partial tap list is available on the event’s Facebook page.

burgers and beer!

October 19, 2011

Originally published in the Daily Trojan

Los Angeles overflows with delectable specialty taps

This time last year, the Daily Trojan wrote “Craft beer comes to City of Angels,” an article that cited a wave of gastropubs, alehouses, breweries and taverns that had sprouted up around the city.

In the 12 short months since, the number of beer-loving establishments has grown even larger and our former flavorful-brew no man’s land is overflowing with specialty taps. But how does one determine which places are worth the trek when anyone with the right distributor account can get a keg of Stone IPA? One difference lies in the food. And in Los Angeles, it’s all about the burger.

In honor of the third annual L.A. Beer Week, which ends Sunday, here’s a list of establishments that feature both of America’s beloved pastimes — burgers and beer. Some have been on the lips of foodies and beer geeks for a while. Others are farther off the radar. All are worth a try, especially if that Natty Light isn’t cutting it anymore.

Father’s Office
1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles

It’s fair to say Father’s Office invented the art of pairing burgers and beer. In fact, owner and head chef Sang Yoon’s gourmet, un-customizable burger has been credited with igniting a nationwide burger craze.

But these wood-paneled wonderlands are more than just their cooked-rare, dry-aged beef burger. As one of the first bars in Los Angeles to carry craft beer, F.O. more than lives up to its reputation for beer excellence. In addition to 26 taps — the number is doubled at its expanded second location in Culver City — that consistently rotate through rare local, national and international beers, there is an imposing bottle list full of brews, all of which contain as much flavor and craft as the spot’s famous burger.

Blue Palms Brewhouse
6124 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

The restaurant-and-bar space attached to the Henry Fonda Music Box in Hollywood wasn’t much to speak of until Brian Lenzo turned it into the Blue Palms Brewhouse more than three years ago.

That’s when the owner and craft-beer lover decided to serve his brews like wine by pairing flavors from an upscale pub menu to complement brews flowing from the 24 taps. Local breweries love Lenzo, too, so the draft selection is always top notch (think: Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculipin on cask), and kegs blow daily, so eating the $12 blue cheese and fois gras truffle burger is a new experience every time.

The Golden State
426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

Staring across the street at the much-loved Canter’s Deli on Fairfax is The Golden State, a small burger-and-beer joint that represents a new breed of L.A. cafe. In an attempt to showcase the best in California food and drink, this counter-service eatery serves up its mouth-watering, maple-glazed, bacon burger — simply called “The Burger” — alongside a small number of rotating seasonal local beers from breweries such as Craftsman and Firestone.

This isn’t a place to sit for hours and get tipsy with your friends, but it is a great place to have a unique-tasting beer with your gourmet casual grub.

Beachwood BBQ and Brewing
210 E. 3rd St., Long Beach

Easily accessible from campus via the Metro’s Blue Line, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Downtown Long Beach is definitely worth the day trip. This expanded version of Seal Beach’s original beer-geek mecca features 24 guest taps of unparalleled exclusivity and an on-site brewery that supplies 12 more handles with solid house beers.

Owner and head chef Gabe Gordon left fine dining to open Beachwood in 2006, and though his restaurant is better known for its barbecue ribs and pulled pork, the half-pound smoked brisket and sirloin burger is a perfect match for any of the restaurant’s diverse draft offerings.

Mohawk Bend
2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Mohawk Bend, in Echo Park, is the latest offshoot of entrepreneur Tony Yanow’s Burbank beer bar Tony’s Darts Away. For a new concept, Yanow converted an abandoned movie theater on Sunset Boulevard into a cavernous craft beer haven with three separate dining areas, two state-of-the art kitchens and 72 taps that exclusively host California beers, and pours cost no more than $6.

Though Mohawk’s seasonal vegan- and veggie-friendly menu has been drawing in the locals, it’s the over-the-top Dork Burger — made of duck, pork and Spanish chorizo — that somehow makes the excessive, home-state, draft love seem less gratuitous.

Congregation Ale House Chapters
201 E. Broadway Ave., Long Beach
619 N. Azusa Ave., Azusa
300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

In a little more than a year, this Long Beach-based tap house has expanded its reign to include a location in Azusa and one forthcoming this November in Pasadena. But don’t let the monastery theme or the Catholic schoolgirl outfits fool you — this place is serious about its burgers and beer. At only $8, the standard rib-eye and white cheddar burger is the best burger deal around, and the half-domestic, half-international draft philosophy means there is always something interesting to help wash it down.

Catch the place during happy hour, appropriately called “Mass,” and the burger is only $6. And if you’re willing to read through the impressive 150-deep bottle selection, there are more interesting tastes hiding in the house’s fridges.

sitting in a waiting room

October 17, 2011

Originally published online here.

Album Attack: Fugazi’s 13 Songs at The Prospector Saturday Night

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David Thornton

Album Attack, Fugazi’s 13 Songs
October 15, 2011
The Prospector

As has become the custom in Long Beach, a hodgepodge-supergroup of local musicians took the stage at The Prospector on Saturday to play through an influential indie album in its entirety. In the spotlight this month–Fugazi’s 13 Songs.

The monthly shows–know as Album Attack–are performed by a one-time-only band, curated exclusively for each show by the concept’s creator, current cover-and-karaoke-band guru Jesse Wilder. Long Beach’s Fugazi included singer Warren Woodward, guitarist and singer Josh Teague, bassist Travis Laws and drummer Thad Paulson, four seasoned area musicians who were chosen for their ability to execute the frenetic energy found in the post-hardcore band’s first full-length release.

But before they ripped into the seminal 1989 album, opening act Sassafrassprimed the crowd by channeling chugging riffs and scratchy wails like early Black Sabbath or Motorhead. Though they were down a member–the Mike Watt-recommended bassist was apparently at a high school reunion–the two guitarists switched off bass duties, dropping keys mid-song as if it were their schtick.

About halfway through their set, my cohort explained that there are two types of bands that play guitar-driven cock rock: guys with too much testosterone and stoners. Judging by Sassafrass’ sped-up funk lines and prog-guitar tendencies, we both agreed they were definitely the latter.

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Sarah Bennett

Our homegrown self-described Fauxgazi came out next, confidently tearing into 13 Songs despite the nervousness they must have felt playing such a defining album for their generation. Debates had raged earlier in the night over other Fugazi albums that should have been covered instead, but the band’s spot-on rendition of opener “Waiting Room” was a reminder of why 13 Songs won out.

It might not be a solid compilation of Fugazi’s finest work, but 13 Songs is an early testament to their raw sound of latent punk energy as it crashed into melodic emotionalism on its way out of ’80s hardcore. It shows the unrefined-yet-controlled style that initially drew listeners to Fugazi and, as an early recording, is fitting source material for an Album Attack band that barely has a month to find their own dynamic.

All veterans of the local music scene, the members of LB’s Fugazi replicated the 13 songs with ease.

Paulson nailed all of Brendan Canty’s aggressive rhythms, Teague’s masterful shredding turned his black cowboy shirt into a sweat-swimsuit, mop-topped Woodward sang some of Guy Picciotto’s lyrics while staggering into the crowd and Laws’ intensive bass-playing ensured if any mistakes were made, no one would stop moving long enough to hear it. The band even went beyond their required setlist and played two extra Fugazi songs, “Reclaimation” and “Blueprint.”

While maybe not an “authentic” punk rock show–no one started a pit and no one left shirtless–the intimate venue and talented local musicians made the fourth installment of Album Attack a success. Though rumors are floating around of a Rentals-album rehash in the future, we can only look forward Wilder’s next announced move–November’s Album Attack will be The Replacements’ Let It Be.

Critics Bias: I’ve been looking forward to this show since the Album Attack series began.

The Crowd: Enthusiastic thirtysomething friends of the Fugazi band members and the regular crop of whiskey-swilling Long Beach musicians.

Overheard in the Crowd: “This is fucking rad!”

Random Notebook Dump: The rhythm section is killing it!!!

beer blogging

October 12, 2011

Just in time for L.A. Beer Week, I started writing about beer for L.A. Weekly’s food blog Squid Ink. Finally, I get to do some work while drinking all this beer. Below the first post, originally published online here.

UNTAPPD: New Beer App Makes Drinking (Virtually) Social

untappdwebscreenshot.jpg

A little late for last year’s check-in app rage, but just in time for the third annual LA Beer Weekcomes another new Android and iPhone app for beer geeks and casual macro-enjoyers alike.

UNTAPPD started out last year as a web app that allowed users to share their current beer choices with others in the cloud, but last week the company rolled out their official mobile app (which is free!), making it easier than ever to use beer’s latest social-network on the go.

As FourSquare for beer, the app allows you to “check into” a specific brew you are drinking (which is beautiful imagery for those of us who have ever wanted to literally hang out inside of our favorite liquid). And just like Spotify and GetGlue, it will update your Facebook and Twitter with the news of what is going down at that very moment.

Sounds like a familiar concept to the types who insist on disclosing the innocuous details of their everyday life on Internet (or to beer geeks already involved with location-based beer apps such as Beerby and Taphunter), but UNTAPPD is more than just another instance of Twitter-inspired navel gazing.

Whether you’re slamming Newcastle at Lucky Baldwins or sneaking a Pliny into the movie theater, this app goes beyond mere bragging rights, putting the focus on the nectar of the Gods itself by allowing users to both track their personal drinking history and find out what friends are currently digging into. Discovering new brews is also easy through a virtual pub that aggregates updates from the greater UNTAPPD community and features a panel of trending beers, kindly separated into macro and micro.

The 140-character limit on check-in descriptions makes beer reviews, when given, short and sweet. By eliminating room for the Sommelier-style methods of beer judgment so prevalent on traditional beer-sharing sites such as Beer Advocate, UNTAPPD removes much of the pretention associated with online craft beer sharing and opens up reviews to beer-lovers who don’t care to dig into snobbish lexicon in order to describe an IPA that might as well just be “fucking awesome.”

With descriptions as simple as “Soooo crisp!” and as unrelated as “Go team!” UNTAPPD allows Bud Light and Russian River drinkers to mingle together in an unassuming virtual venue.

Follow the writer on UNTAPPD: thesarahbennett