WELL, WELL, WELL…
There’s not a lot of things the LA Weekly newspaper does right but their music calendar, for decades, was the shining exception. Now that’s in the toilet, too.
I have some basis for these harsh judgements. A year after I moved to LA in 1980, on the verge of having my paltry bank account go below sea level from trying to scrape together income from freelance writing about music, I went from writing occasionally for the paper to handling the nightclub ads. Big ka-ching.
I had absolutely no experience for that gig but talked my way into it (thank you, publisher/founder Jay Levin, for not figuring that out until it was too late) and wound up doing pretty well. In two and a half years I increased the ad revenue for club ads by more than 250 percent, and my bank account could breathe. I could write a book about my strange adventures as the Weekly club ads guy in the early ‘80s — several of my clients went to prison, one for murder — and maybe I will.
For a few years the Weekly did some great political and cultural reporting, and music journalism. When I was writing for them it was under two truly amazing Music Editors, Bill Bentley and Mikal Gilmore. Bentley was part of what we called the Texas Mafia, the gang of ridiculously talented writers New Yorker Levin somehow lured as a group from Austin. For all their smarts, gifts and the power that came with that Music Editor’s position, Gilmore and Bentley were both also two of the nicest dudes you’d ever want to work with, whip smart, music encyclopedias, but not at all full of themselves. Bentley, among other things, rose to Senior VP at Warner Bros. Records, and Gilmore has been turning out critically-acclaimed novels since ‘94 as well as continuing as a Rolling Stone editor since the ‘70s.
But after they moved on the darker forces took hold and it seemed to me the music writers being published delighted in raving about really weird but talentless musicians, with an attitude of, if you don’t think this band is the next Clash it’s because you don’t know jack about music but I — I am a visionary. By the mid-to late-‘80s the only reason to pick up the free paper was for their matchless music calendar. (Credit to Joie Davidow.)
Online, it has been my first source for this column. But now they have absolutely ruined it with a recent remake that blows in almost every way possible. I just got an email response that they are working on retooling it but, I don’t know, so much is broken from before. So, kiddies, I’m sorry but I may miss even more good stuff. But I’ll do my best.
LA OPERA – LA TRAVIATA (it is the most popular, most performed opera there is but you must see this one, an LA Opera original production premiered in 2006 and reprised in ‘14, designed by Marta Domingo — Placido’s wife — to shift from mid-19th Century Paris to the Art Deco Roaring ‘20s, her “lavishly gorgeous settings and flamboyant costumes provide a feast for the eye” and when golden leaves come fluttering out of “the sky” it is exquisite, and the dance number, Robert Palmer meets walk like an Egyptian, is worth the price of admission, the three pricipal vocalists are stellar, Verdi’s classic tale of the fallen woman redeemed, almost, coming out of his personal experiences and longstanding resentment of authority, the middle opera of the trilogy he wrote and premiered in the mid-1850s — three in less than two years! — leaving behind the mythic foundations of Wagner and his predecessors for realism, courageous and groundbreaking in its time, the censors deemed his previous very similar libretto to be of “repulsive immorality and obscene triviality” but the censors settled for changing the title), Sat 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, DTLA, $154-$339.
TONIGHT! — JOE LABARBERA, with Everyone (LAX jazz club Sam First is a stylish place, designed from the floor up to be a jazz club, not the make-over of some other space into one, but it is pretty small so I’m not sure where they’re keeping the cot that Bill Evans-Art Pepper-John Scofield vet LaBarbera must be sleeping on because he will be performing there four straight nights, through Sunday, with four different bands, starting tonight with the bass-drums-two saxes, look ma no chords, of the Billy Mohler Focus Quartet, Friday with the Chris Lewis Quartet, Sat-Sun with his own stellar quartet featuring ace guitarist Larry Koonse and pianist supreme John Beasley, if I could only pick one night I’d probably go Sunday), Thurs-Sun, 8 p.m., Sam First, LAX, $15-$20.
TONIGHT! — AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD, The Art of Safecracking, The Start (goin’ for the first band only, what an opportunity, gotta love LA and LB has some treasures), Thurs 8 p.m., Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, $20.
Trumpeter GILBERT CASTELLANOS QUINTET: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham, alto sax master KENNY GARRETT QUINTET, STEVE COTTER TRIO with vocalist Marina Pacowski (how much great jazz can you take? — come on, you don’t even have to leave Santa Monica to hit the Jazz Bakery but maybe they have a cot for you so you can take in all three nights, impresario Ruth Price continues to score with a hat trick of great and diverse talent, it’s an intimate stage setting and the acoustics are superb), Fri-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 5 p.m. Jazz Bakery, Moss Theater, New Roads School, SM, $30-$40.
30TH ANNUAL MARIACHI USA (you like mariachi? — welcome to heaven because this event has become the largest gathering of mariachi bands and performers anywhere, with musicians from Mexico and the US, mariachi is the soundtrack to Latinx life in LA and the filled Bowl will once again testify to that), Fri 6 p.m., Hollywood Bowl, $39-$155.
“DEATH OF A SALESMAN” by ARTHUR MILLER starring Rob Morrow (Tony and Pulitzer winner from 1949, Ruskin Managing Director Mike Myers says it is very contemporary in its themes, and hinted it has applications to Santa Monica, but then, he always says that), Fri-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $20-$35.
SUMMER SOULSTICE (you probably won’t discover the next Bob Dylan but you will definitely hear someone who sounds a whole lot like Tom Petty, and John Fogerty, and Steely Dan, because our annual mile-long closure of Main Street to anything but fun on foot mixes tribute bands with original performers on seven stages, seems like I remember The Danger Band as being pretty good, music from 1 to 7, lots of other stuff going on, the new stage sponsored by our 60-year-old treasured local venue McCabe’s might be a good bet), Sun 1-7 p.m., Main Street SM, free.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: JOHN McEUEN & The String Wizards present Will The Circle Be Unbroken, June 29, RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT, June 30, McCabes, SM.
BODACIOUS BIRTHDAYS: No personal anecdotes about greats CHET ATKINS (1924) or ERIC DOLPHY (1928) but I do have a pretty good one or two about Beach Boy BRIAN WILSON (1942) — that will have to wait until I have more space.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com