Showcase Journal #7: An Excuse To Be Independent


Downtown to a sandy shore, #afterthebreak…

July Showcases Include:



“This sure beats reading in bed,” I said to myself as I wandered around Grand Park in the heart of Downtown on Fourth of July.  That’s how I spent 2013.  Starting & finishing my friend’s copy of “Into The Wild”.  Felt like a different man then.  That Justin yearned for mysterious adventure.  The troublesome kind.  No matter how hard I worked or tried to quell that part of me…my desire to adventure had manifest itself into the non-stop barrage of music showcases I was privy to then & now.  My goal was to keep the fire & camera len(s) burning.

echosmith-alt 987-block-party-2014


July’s first showcase was a biggie – a free block party sponsored by Star 98.7…I mean, ALT 98.7.  The rebranded local radio station promised ALT music, crappy vendors, and crazy amounts of fireworks to close the evening.  They delivered.

Downtown LA looked like it was being blowup.  That’s how crazy that fireworks spectacle was.  Spent about $15 on parking.  Brought my own water bottle for some cheap refreshments.  Hell of a deal.

Echosmith & Phantogram were two of the midcard acts I was looking forward to seeing.  I missed both cause of that SXSW 14 debacle.  Got glowing reviews from my correspondent about Sydney, Sarah, and their guys.  Happily, they both lived up to the hype.  If you like Paramore or The xx, you’ll love these two acts.



Watch Echosmith‘s “Cool Kids” & Phantogram‘s “Fall In Love” from The Block Party below:

You’ll be hearing a lot from these two buzzworthy artists.

The biggest surprise was LA’s Freedom Fry.  Their down-to-earth indie rock made for the perfect kick off to the holiday weekend.  Marie & Bruce’s chemistry infuses their songs in this beautifully sweet veil.  Low point?  Um…took most of my energy to stick around during Brick + Mortar’s set.  Oh boy.  Me no likey their political brand of garage rock garbage.  The performance was out of control…in a bad way.  Santa Monica’s very own Brandon Asraf tried to raise a ruckus in the pit despite the crowd not feeling it.  No artist should ever put the crowd before the art form.  If they don’t like it, don’t jump into the crowd & wave a sign like a idiot.

“I watched the plane hit the ground” is how I’ll sum it up.  Yeah.  Poetic.

Brick + Mortar

Brick + Mortar

Didn’t care for the rest of the bands & decided to spend the rest of the evening just exploring the heart of Downtown for the first time in my 30 Years.  Walked in awe of such brilliant architecture that hide hidden between one way streets.  Reminded me those scenes in 500 Days of Summer with the bench or old film noir moments.  For when dreamers think about LA, they really focus on Hollywood.  Not Downtown, business sector, Los Angeles.   But if you ever see the timeless Times Building & seriously just walk around for a good 20 minutes…that’s when opinions change.

Pity my camera died when the Fireworks hit the sky at 9 P.M.  Probably one of the coolest displays of fire & explosions since the revolutionary war.  It was the kind of moments write songs about.  To be surrounded by natives & foreigners alike was quite brilliant.  We were all sharing this time & place for the few minutes then never again.  I turned my back to the crowd, smiled, and wandered on.


July 5th, I returned to DLA; Bringing a few of the comic book click to Downtown to experience Bar EightyTwo with the weird chiptunes battle royale at ArtShare LA. It was just a basement with friendly battles between youthful chiptunes artists.  Not as cool for Thirty-somethings.  The entire audience was early ’20s nerds & Asians.  Part of me felt like I crashed a high school party full of outcasts that 18-year-old me would’ve been apart of.

If the lights would’ve turned on the group of us would’ve scattered.  Happily, the lights stayed off & the chiptune battle of the bands raged.  Different, in a good way, is how I’ll sum it up.  The one 8-Bit rock cover of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” was the standout performance of the battle royale.  Pity I don’t remember who performed it.  Should take better notes, huh?

Another week would pass before I stepped foot in another venue.   Was ahead of schedule.

My third showcase would bring me back to the lovely Sunset Strip to experience buzzworthy indie pop outfit — The Chain Gang of 1974.

Their one claim to fame so-far during their short career is the track “Sleepwalking“.  Sounds familiar?  That’s because it was theme song for Grand Theft Auto V.  Music to damage to Los Angeles.  Am I right?  Embodies everything wonderful about the city I love.  TCGo74 headlined the venue with supporting acts, The Active Set & Empires.

Didn’t like the latter, but really dug The Active Set‘s set.  The kind of indie pop rock that really gets me swaying.  The way they describe it is: “Born of the excitement of late ’70s/early ’80s post punk and new wave, unified with ’90s alternative and viewed through the referential lens of the ’00s.”  You could tell they were battle tested musical veterans with chops.  Personally, I think they were better performers than the headliners.

Ouch.  Um…hear me out.  I expected ‘The Chain Gang’ to be a bit more vicious then they were.  Or to have better performance than they do on their new record — ‘Daydream Forever’.  Boy was I wrong.  Quite unimpressed as lead singer, Kamtin, tried to balance singing while using his mixer & guitar.  The background noise from the band really did over power his raspy vocals.  That shouldn’t happen when you’re the Chain Gang’s boss.  You need to be star of the show.


The Chain Gang of 1974

Sad part was I couldn’t tell if the crowd were into the music or just really liked to dance when they were bored.  It was all the same beats with no pacing.  Got repetitive.  Would’ve loved if Kam stopped, pulled out an acoustic guitar, and played one of the songs raw.  Those young girls would’ve needed new draws.

The final outcome made sense in hindsight because if TCGo74 were really, truly amazing…I would’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder in a Sold Out Roxy Theatre with the only way to get in was to cop a bootleg on StubHub.  Getting a GTA bump couldn’t even help them.  How disappointing.  Go spend $10 on record, save the gas, and stay in and experience Chain Gang.  That’s my advice.

Some bands can’t be helped.  In an age with machines, any record can be banger.  Take a listener into the clouds with beautiful electronic soundscapes.   Everyone does it great.  Stay in your genre & your fans will increase.  But to transcend all that…that’s what TCGo74 needs to ponder on.

I needed to ponder too.  Work was overwhelming as we worked day & night on pretapes.  That, with still “getting over the personal”, made for an interesting conclusion.  Hard to make make positive steps in life when the chains remain tied. What better to reflect than on the sandy shores of Santa Monica beach.    The battleground of our July showcase finale.

The Twilight Concert Series is a wonderful concept.  30 Years of wonderful headliners makes it a summer staple for the local Santa Monicans & traveling Los Angeleans.  Heard about it last year and always wanted to add it to my list ever since.   Seeing a concert on a beach?  Who wouldn’t.  An excuse to go to the beach?  Try and stop me!

Meant I had to cancel a wing night & make the drive through the mountains back to 3rd Street.  Happy I did too.  Exactly what I needed.  I mean…boy, was that a beautiful night.


Leaves me speechless…

The Twilight Session I chose was with two local Santa Monica beach rock bands — Cayucas & PAPA.  Yes…two bands.  The combo name of “Cayucas & Papa” still leaves some of my friends asking if it’s one band to this day.   Don’t get confused.  Papa was better than Cayucas.  Well…when I focusing on the show.  Give me a beach and I’m moving around that b**** like a lost dog searching for change.

When Papa hit the stage I was patrolling the beach where the vast majority of concert goers were just sunbathing on towels with their friends.  The SMPD had cordoned off a section of beach beside the pier to the rowdy picnickers.  I ran through the rows of the people so I could  put my new chucks into the murky pacific.  Baptism by water.


PAPA @ The Pier

Then I stood just there.  Watching the sun duck behind the Pier’s Ferris Wheel.  Watching the water run up to my feet while listening to PAPA serenade us with their Santa Monica perfected mellow beach rock.  “Oh, the places I could be,” I thought to myself.  The places I have been.  Nice moments I’ll always recall fondly. Afterwards, I promised myself something.  My beach tradition.  Keeping it close to my chest until it’s accomplished.

Both PAPA & Cayucas were good.  Not spending $35 good.  Free good.  Can’t recall anything they played or moments they created.  Just a soft hum of their guitars strumming that song of the sea.  Perfect for the beach hipsters who liked to play volleyball in the dark in the shadow of the pier.  Take listen & watch both PAPA & Cayucas live from the Pier from that night.

My recommendation to anyone traveling to experience the Twilight Series at Santa Monica Pier is pack yourself a basket full of goodies, equip towels & chairs, park yourself on the sand, and enjoy the show.  Bring a friend(s) for optimal enjoyment.  This isn’t a show for the solo.  No need to stand up on the pier either.  Leave the artists as a mystery.  Make the music the soundtrack to your night.  Afterwards, hit up one of the great restaurants at the Pier or 3rd Street.


Not sure what I do if I lived at the beach.  Probably wouldn’t be as special when I reach the shore.  The beach is a romantic symbol in my glossary.  The ultimate ending to any story.  This time it ends the quiet July Chapter of my rocking blogger life.   Prepare for an even crazier August feat. Rap Gods, Futuristic Islands, ’90s icons, Three Festivals, & some rising sons…whew.


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