I recently took a vacation trip out to California. SoCal-LA specifically. I had never been. And everything I thought would happen did. Traffic. People. The vibe. The view. It was everything your mind makes it out to be.
Saw a Deadhead sticker on an Audi. But not a Cadillac.
Sat in the Conan audience next to the guys from Ha Ha Tonka. Got on camera about 5 times.
Took in a Dodgers-Mets game at Dodger Stadium. Ate a Dodger dog. Best ballpark view I’ve ever seen. Looked just like it does on TV.
Stumbled into a dive bar during a Conan taping break and became an extra. Got paid in pretzels.
Avoided the hustlers at Venice Beach but enjoyed the Calypso Tumblers anyway (YouTube them).
I thought the Guadalupe River was cold until I got in the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Monica pier was crowded yet still gorgeous and stunning.
The best view you’ll find is at Griffith Observatory. It’s just like in LaLa Land minus the star dancing.
Driving on the PCH was as cool as I thought it would be. Cranking Dawes, Eagles and Sublime helped.
Drank at the Rainbow next to some burnouts and posers. Toasted Lemmy anyhow. Missed the Alabama Shakes next door at the Roxy by a day.
Caught a kid named Alex Rosales playing upstairs at a bar on the Sunset Strip. He was great. Too bad the downstairs had a DJ playing simultaneously and loudly. #LA
Our rental was a Ford Focus with a sloppy transmission but she made it through the entire journey.
The traffic is everything you think it will be…but wasn’t any worse than Dallas, Houston or Austin at rush hour.
We spent two nights at a hotel in the fabulous neighborhood of West Hollywood. Everything was festive, rainbowed, safe and close to everything.
We spent one night at a ritzy beach hotel in Marina Del Rey. West Hollywood was cooler.
Hollywood Blvd is like if Nashville’s CMA FanFest was year round. The most popular star was Marilyn Monroe’s. But we hiked until we found Elvis, The Beatles and Cash.
Hollywood Bowl is a music fan bucket list thing. Saw Jason Mraz there. His band was good. I think I’d take Red Rocks over it in a close one though.
Continuing a theme from Hangout Fest, I saw Big Boi from Outkast at LAX.
Saw David Geffen being driven by an assistant in a Porsche SUV.
Saw 3 Masseratis, 2 Bugattis, and 10,000 Prius. One F350.
I say all that, not to give a literary version of vacation photos, but to explain my experience. It was cool, yet so relatively expected. I’m a planner by nature and go into overdrive on vacation. I’d already pre-Yelped all restaurants, bars and tourist haunts.
What struck me most were the trends, or lack thereof.
Growing up, I had an older cousin who lived in Dallas. He was like a brother to me, as I only had a sister. I looked up to him and emulated him. He would come down to Elm Mott each summer and we’d spend the days racing dirt bikes, skiing Lake Whitney (on the weekends), pulling off Jackass level stunts on the West Pool trolley (zipline to the rest of the world), roman candle wars and all sorts of juvenile American as apple pie type shenanigans. I had a charmed adolescence. Like if Linklater, Crowe and Hughes collaborated on a movie. All of those times were happy, memorable and full of stories. My cousin was a big part. And I’d soak up all the “Dallas” he could give me. From lingo, I first heard things like “sike” and “rad” from him. He brought me to the world of Vans pre-Spicoli. NBA jerseys were unheard of. We went to the mall and I convinced my grandmother to get me a Larry Bird jersey to go with his Magic Johnson one (ed. note–I was aware of the NBA—but not the hard fought rivalry recently covered in the 30 for 30). Basically, each August I’d return to school as the most on trend young person between Dallas and Austin. Solely, because I was seeing what was happening in the big city before anyone else. In a pre-internet age, I was like an anthropologist bringing back mind-bending new discoveries of culture, style and relevance.
And so it went, I’d always assumed whatever was happening in big cities was much cooler than my small town. Then I lived in a couple. But, they were in Texas (Austin and Fort Worth to be specific). I quickly discovered everything was the same. Chalked that up to being Texan. Certainly, New York City and LA were producing new culture at a rate my tiny Texas brain couldn’t comprehend.
Then, I visited. New York struck me as that way. It has an energy and vibrancy that is a pace setter. I totally expected LA to be the same way…and then it wasn’t. It was a sea of fidget spinners, Sperry’s and soul sucking in a cultural sense. We ambled into a bar and heard the dude covering Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars. Everyone was drinking Miller Lite and Mich Ultra. I felt like the entire place was lost.
All that to say, here in Texas we have a great thing going on. We have cultivated and developed our own culture. One that is vibrant, trendsetting and cool. One that causes other locales tremendous envy and (failed) emulation. You see bumper stickers that mention things like “Don’t California my Texas” or “Keep your LA out of my Austin”. We’re safe you guys. I looked at the beast up close and ain’t scared.
Our scene, our music and most importantly our people will continue to innovate, create and produce in our uniquely Texan ways. On our own terms. Trends be damned…even our own. You’re either stuck making waves or riding them. Both are welcome here…but our beaches kind of suck. 🙂
-It’s RIVER JAM month! I hope to see each of your smiling faces at all three nights of this planned extravaganza.
-July also means baseball is hitting the doldrums and football is cranking up. Speaking of, I can’t recommend the second season of Amazon’s fantastic football documentary All or Nothing. Season 1 focused on the AZ Cardinals and this one tracks the LA Rams. Fascinating, Emmy level television from the folks that bring you Hard Knocks…but it’s the entire season.
-Speaking of sports documentaries, the aforementioned Lakers-Celtics rivalry was covered in that 30 for 30. And it was amazing. 5 hours of edge of your seat storytelling, humor and drama. I just had one issue with the production. The narration from Donnie Wahlberg and Ice Cube. It was over the top and unnecessary.
-Why hire a radio promoter these days? Koe Wetzel is selling out venues and is the hottest ticket this scene has seen in a decade with zero radio presence. I wonder if all those dudes spending tons of coin to get a #1 on the TRR are wanting a refund.
-Get yourself a Spotify/YouTube/Snapchat/IG promoter.
-While on the Sunset Strip we were approached by a rather debonair older gentleman in a very unique get-up. Zoot suit with scarves, a fedora and Chucks on his feet. He was holding a cigarette holder as if he was Zsa Zsa Gabor. He ambled up to us at the bar, looked my girlfriend up and down and then goes “Dude, you have the hottest b*tch in this place.” I didn’t quite know how to respond so I muttered out a thanks, while my girlfriend cringed and blushed. He followed that up with “You know Motley Crue? I was the original singer before Vince. Mick hated me and had Tommy kick me outta the band.” I replied “Man, that’s awesome. Nice to meet you.” He goes, “My birthday is Sunday…I’m singing karaoke downstairs that night…huge party, lots of people will be there…you two are invited.” I didn’t have the heart to tell this surely homeless man that I was already going to be back in Texas. I just said “Sure man…we’ll be there.” We cheers’d each other other and he wandered off. On the plane home, I googled original Motley Crue lead singer and found out he wasn’t lying. His name is O’Dean. He’s a Sunset fixture. Crazy things happen to me sometimes.
-I mentioned the West Pool above as well. If you’ve never been or only stopped in West for kolaches…do yourself a favor and go. Coolest pool in Texas. No pun intended.
-Related to that, they aren’t all kolaches and Czech Stop is not the best place to get them. Educate yourself.
-I still haven’t made it to the Frisco Roughriders lazy river…but it’s on my list of things to do. I’m meeting my Texas, yet.
-This month’s recommended album: Slaid Cleaves – Ghost on the Car Radio. Few songwriters have as stellar a track record as Cleaves without attaining widespread acclaim. Slaid is one of the best to ever pick up a pen and is criminally underappreciated. When I first got into this scene 20 years ago, he was a mainstay and one that folks such as Randy Rogers and Cody Canada among others would nod toward as a genius. This latest record finds him still in fine form with songs like “If I Had a Heart”, this Texan by way of Maine hasn’t put a record out this strong top to bottom since the seminal Brokedown.
-RIVER JAM RIVER JAM RIVER JAM RIVER JAM!!
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain