HOW DARE I?!
It would be pretty nervy of me to write about the Pier concerts without even having gone this year. (And last year I went for only parts of two shows.)
But like other highly-paid award-winning journalists, I have my sources, my spies, my eyes and ears, my experts, and I know what I need to know.
What I know is that this once-beloved local treasure, the summer Twilight Dance (now Concert) Series, has not only been lost in a tidal wave of humanity, it’s become a nightmare that is perplexing local officials.
I remember when the last show in 2013 featured a rare appearance by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, and an unprecedented 30,000 people showed up for him.
Now, bands you’ll forget existed in a year or two draw that many. SMPD Public Information Officer Lt. Saul Rodriguez (not to be confused with Argentinian bombshell Sol Rodriguez) told me the crowd estimate on the first concert this summer was 30-35,000, the second 35-40,000. Asked about the influence of the light rail, he said they are in the process of evaluating the numbers. Some 80 percent of the crowds are on the beach, without even video screen participation, after the Pier fills to capacity.
It’s pretty clear this has become Party Time at the Beach! Who’s playing? Who cares! Let’s go! — programed for, and dominated by young singles.
That local treasure survived, through tough economics, 26 years, with amazing bookings of stellar artists of every genre. All ages experienced the joy of great live music, under the stars on balmy summer nights, surrounded by the ocean.
Then for what may have been political reasons (if it ain’t broke…), the booking contract was taken away from Santa Monica’s Katharine King in 2011 and given to the experienced, highly regarded Rum & Humble agency. But they blew it. It appeared they were trying to go more youth-oriented, and that may have grown the monster. But it’s not a matter of age, it’s quality. The offerings of the last six years do not hold a candle to King’s track record.
I know I may sound like a grumpy old man but I’m not. (Grumpy, or old.) Anyone who knows me knows I don’t care what age you are (I once booked a 12-year-old blues harmonica whiz on my cable TV show), what color, politics, restroom choice or how many heads you have, as long as you can play.
Peruse the schedules for the last six years, then tell me if it matches this sampling: Pancho Sanchez, Bo Diddley, Tower of Power, Rickie Lee Jones, Beausoleil, Flaco Jimenez, Joan Baez, Joe Higgs, Asleep At the Wheel, Tito Puente, Buck Owens, Boukman Eksperyans, Queen Ida, NRBQ, Maynard Ferguson, Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Dick Dale, Thomas Mapfumo, the Shirelles, the Mighty Diamonds, John Mayall, Angelique Kidjo, the Yellowjackets, Toots and the Maytals, Eddie Palmieri, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Ozomatli, Baaba Maal, Koko Taylor, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Eric Burdon, Burning Spear, Jose Feliciano, Hugh Masekela, Patti Smith, Dr. John, the Ventures, David Lindley, Los Lobos, Agent Orange, David Grisman Quintet, Tinariwen, the Knack, Fishbone, Wailing Souls, Richie Havens, Shonen Knife, Shuggie Otis, Graham Parker — you may not know all those names, but your world will be brighter if you do.
You want younger, but good? Unknown Mortal Orchestra Sept. 1 ain’t bad. But how about booking Ty Segall, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (phenomenal), Wild Wing, Prettiest Eyes, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Thee Oh Sees, Jake Bugg, Fartbarf (really phenomenal), Kamasi Washington?
Who knows? Maybe if it’s all about the music again, the party crowds will go somewhere else.
I’LL HAVE A SINGLE PAYER, PLEASE!
Obama and the Democrats wanted it from the get-go. Bernie has been preaching it for decades. Not having it stands in the way of life-saving, guaranteed healthcare for every American.
Nearly every developed country on earth has it, but one. Costa Rica, Oman, Uruguay, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Estonia, Cuba — all have universal healthcare, but not us? It’s a basic human right — if you get sick you’ll get proper medical care. Probably won’t cost you a penny out of pocket. (You’ll have to live with higher taxes but you’ll come out waaay ahead.)
Single payer (the government pays) works all over the world, and reduces healthcare costs enormously. It could save us $350 billion a year in the U.S. Medicare, limited to seniors, is single payer and has worked well for decades. So what’s the problem? Insurance companies, and the politicians they’ve bought.
A group called Physicians for a National Health Program, California are celebrating Medicare’s 51st birthday and raising awareness of this vital issue this Sunday, 2-5 p.m., at 939 San Vicente Blvd., with a garden party at the home of Jan Goodman and Jerry Manpearl, two longtime social activists. State Sens. Ben Allen and Holly Mitchell will be there, Mayor Vasquez and Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (guest speaker), lots of smart doctors, and me. Tickets at the door are $51, or $250 patron. I can tell you, the food, by Dr. Nancy Niparko, is worth at least $51.
This is it. We finally are losing a local legend of nearly four decades in Santa Monica, a master Michoacan leather worker, and one helluva fine hombre.
Ignacio Alejandro Benevides Corona (aka Alex) will lock the door of Alex’s Shoe Repair on north Main Street July 31 and walk away, but he’ll be moving out his mountains of inventory and tchotchkes and his three heavy machines first, all that week, and probably can’t even take your new job if you brought it in today. But go by anyway, ask him, offer to pay him double or triple (c’mon, he’s undercharged you for decades) and even if he says no you’ll have a chance to say goodbye and wish him well.
So many times in the past year it looked like Ignacio might beat the odds, but he was finally overwhelmed times three (eviction battles, fire hazard inspections,and health) and had to wave the white flag. (He looks good now and says he feels great.)
There are some changes in Santa Monica that don’t have to be, and should be fought tooth and nail. This, sadly, is not one of them. Gonna miss you, Ignacio. Have a SOLEful journey, mi amigo.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You can lead a man to Congress but you can’t make him think.” —Milton Berle
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com.