I GOT A CALL FROM SHANGHAI A FEW DAYS AGO, from William Black, a young friend who’s a math and computer science major at SMC. He had earned a six-week internship to write programs and websites for a tea company. That’s right, all the tea in China.
It was a great experience, he said, but he was glad it was coming to an end. When he went he hoped it would lead to other things, but his skill set and the work were not the perfect fit.
Lean Mr. Black can pack away the food — he heads the SMC bike club and bikes 100 miles and up mountains — and he found a restaurant right across the street from his apartment where their huge bowl of noodles with everything in it filled him up, and it was only three bucks. He’ll miss that.
He won’t miss the Chinese penchant for smoking cigarettes like it’s 1950. Breathing the Shanghai air is like smoking anyway. He’ll be glad to once again access absolutely everything directly from his unix-powered laptop, instead of having to use an app to link to servers outside China. The Chinese government does not allow Google, YouTube, Facebook or other social media or anything that could be dangerous to the public order, or, um, entertaining, educational, stimulating or fun.
Black is not a complainer, but he told me he couldn’t wait to get back to L.A. for some good live music. Shanghai was founded in the 13th century and is the largest “city proper” (don’t count the suburbs) in the world at 24 million-plus people. But Black discovered that what the young Chinese mostly do for fun is go out to bars. Bars where everyone is smoking. When you do find a live band, they’re pretty bad, he said.
I was reminded of that when I saw two good shows in Santa Monica (smoke free, of course) within four days. The first was a strange, smile-inducing one-off: Robbie Burns Night at the Daily Pint on Pico Boulevard. I wrote about them three weeks ago. Proprietor Phil McGovern is a Londoner with Scottish roots, and for six years now he has honored Scotland’s revered poet with a celebration that includes a giant haggis paraded around the pub with great ceremony and “addressed” (“Ode to a Haggis”) before everyone digs into that yummy sheep’s stomach, preceded by a wailing bagpiper in full kilted glory. McGovern and a handful of other men showed their legs in their best kilts, too. The ladies loved it, let me tell you.
Four nights later I walked down to Finn McCool’s on Main Street to check out the bluegrass band who plays there every Wednesday. Yes, bluegrass. Haven’t had that available since they stopped doing it at the Thai restaurant on Lincoln a long time ago.
I can’t exactly tell you how good the band, the Devil’s Box, is, because the jam had already started and there were a dozen or so players gathered around and I could only guess who was band and who was sittin’ in. There was a really good mandolin player who seemed to be blind, and a banjo picker who was an absolute rock star. Chris Murphy fiddles on all sorts of strings and runs the show, with a light hand, and told me all players of any skill level are welcome. The next open jam, and maybe the last one, will be Feb. 25. I’ll be there.
LOVE OF MUSIC “ON THE RADIO” TONIGHT, with yours truly. A few years ago I ran the music section for the world’s biggest audiophile publication (since sold and decimated). I had to sweep house of the music reviewers who were there, and an international search turned up gold in my backyard: Kevin Poore of Long Beach.
He’s a cool guy, laid back, but underneath burns a creative dynamo who juggles more chain saws than anyone I know. Under the name K L Poore, he’s written for film, dozens of twisted, brilliant music reviews, four novels (in print), eight plays, tons of music, directed music videos — none of which have yet made him rich or famous, but he does not waver from his creative vision(s).
He’s now spending 90 percent of his time editing his movie, “Long Playing,” which I can hardly wait to see. It’s a doc about music on vinyl and the people who love it and why. Great stuff, and an impressive cast of characters.
His other projects revolve around his partnership with Mike Stark, who started LA Radio Studio in San Pedro. One of them is the show I’ll be on tonight at 7 p.m. (also available as a podcast), on your computer or phone — “Nights At The Sound Table,” simply described as “people who love music, talking about the thing they love.” It’s more interesting and fun than it might sound.
Poore comes up with a set of questions and the panel gives their wide-ranging, informative, sometimes surprising replies. Tonight’s questions: What is the dumbest band name of all time? What is the best Paul McCartney album? What album do you listen to on a regular basis that you are certain the other members of the panel have never heard? What is the worst example of a teenage anthem (one of those songs that purports to explain the “youth of today”)? If you needed to cheer a friend up, what album would you buy them?
GOT THE NEW DYLAN ALBUM FROM A FRIEND, ALL SINATRA SONGS, OUT TODAY. I need to listen a few more times, but I can tell you that it’s good and really interesting and somehow, miraculously, his voice is better than it was on his last album. Good thing, ’cause I had just about given up on his vocals.
OF COURSE YOU KNOW ABOUT VIDIOTS BEING SAVED FROM IMMINENT BANKRUPTCY by longtime customer Dr. Leonard Lipman and film producer Megan Ellison. I’m going to send them a thank you postcard, c/o Vidiots, 302 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405, or maybe I’ll drop it by. I think that’s the least I can do. Maybe some of y’all will too.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Most people wouldn’t know music if it came up and bit them on the ass.” –Frank Zappa
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com.