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


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.


Long Beach Lunch: Taqueria La Mexicana #5


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.



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

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.


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.”


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


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.

published online here…

May 20, 2011
The Forum

If you’re reading this right now, then the rapture didn’t happen. But if you’re reading this right now and didn’t go to the Rammstein show at The Forum on Friday night, then you did not adequately prepare for what very well could have been the rapture.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Only a few songs into the set (finding the correct entrance was not fun) the interior colonnade was already filled with a source-less, sweaty fog. The main arena was no less eerie, with a dungeon-esque stage design worthy of a Blade Runner remake that quickly hosted the night’s first of many special effects stunts.

With guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers standing on either side of singer Till Lindemann, the threesome donned flamethrower-equipped masks that shot 10-foot flames towards one another as they somehow still managed to play through “Feuer Frei!”–known to most American fans as “the bang-bang song” for its onomatopoeia-filled chorus, but appropriately named “Fire Freely!”

No one seemed to mind the heat, which was reminiscent of Universal Studios’ Flashback attraction, and the entire two-minute-long spectacle–which finished with an amazing drum solo from Christoph “Doom” Schneider–left fans cheering for more.

Before anyone could recover from the fire-emitting face masks, however, three chandeliers made of scuffed up dead-baby dolls slowly dropped down from the rafters. As the next song (“Weiner Blut”) built in intensity, they one-by-one lit up with green LED eyes and during its final notes, were ejected from the apparatus as mortar hits shot from either side of the stage.

After slowing down the tempo and turning on the red lights for “Frühling in Paris,” a love song/power ballad, Keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz–who had until then remained a subtle accessory–emerged from under stage wearing a rainbow sequin full-body flared jumpsuit.

He awkwardly shuffled back to his elevated post between two keyboards and began to walk on a treadmill that materialized below his feet. The next two songs were keyboard-minimal, so he marched on like a backup dancer who had stumbled upon leftovers from the Forum’s last few weeks of Prince shows, owning every glittery second of spotlight.

Fan favorites “Du riechst so gut,” “Benzin,” and “Du Hast” came next with accompanying pyrotechnics for each, but it was the final songs of the set that brought out some of Rammstein’s craziest antics.

Sexual symbolism pervaded the entire evening (Lindemann’s crotch grabbing and forced-fellation pantomime did not go unnoticed), but it was during “Pussy,” the supposed last song, that it found its most obvious manifest. A skin-colored cannon was rolled out into the buffer zone between the pit and stage and as the guitars went wild, Lindemann mounted the phallic prop and proceeded to ride it back and forth while it spewed fake snow across the first few rows of the audience.

Two more encores followed, epically finishing the night with “Engel,” a grand finale that featured Lindemann wearing metal angel wings that shot fire out of the tips of its impressive 20-foot wingspan. And if an intensely futuristic German version of the Archangel Gabriel isn’t a perfect enough send-off into the apocalypse, then the final 30-seconds worth of loud-as-hell, all-or-nothing fireworks, flames, pyrostrobes and flash trays definitely was.
Critic’s Bias: I’m always looking for an excuse to headbang.
The Crowd: At least 80 percent dudes with a 50/50 split between people that wear patent leather costumes and are serious about it and regular college students feeding their dark side.

Overheard in the Crowd: “Exploding babies with laser eyes?! I’m so glad I’m peaking on mushrooms!”

Random notebook dump: Feeling guilty for not understanding German. He could be talking about the finer points of communism and we’d still all cheer at the fireworks.

And a video of the intense pyrotechnics that I took with my ipad…