Girl Talk: Sounds for the ADD generation

GIRL TALK aka Gregg Gillis brought his larger-than-life dance party persona to the Pomona Fox Theater Saturday night.

And I was there for the all-night rager.

Mixing the likes of hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G. to teen pop melodies from Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, Gregg Gillis and his plastic-wrapped Panasonic Toughbook can really move a crowd.

The Pittsburg native, whose hometown mayor named an official day after him, is every bit rockstar and just as much geek.

He spends hours carefully crafting his now infamous mashups, only to come on stage in a sweatshirt and headband with a laptop  as his only instrument.

And while that keeps costs low on that front, Gillis reportedly goes through three computers a year. I’ve had one computer for more than three years.

By the end of the night, Gillis has stripped down from sweatsuit to nothing but pants, with a head of long brown hair drenched in sweat due to excessive rocking out behind his computer screen (thus the plastic wrap). Well, that and the 20 fans he brings on stage to dance with him for the full hour-and-a-half long set.

But the glorified “DJ” knows how to put on a show. And if you’re one man and a laptop playing to a sold-out crowd of at least a couple thousand, you damn well should.

There were toilet paper shooters, giant balloons and blow ups, a stellar neon LED light show, plus lots and lots of confetti.

The music rarely stopped, beats thumping behind blends of the Beastie Boys to Outkast, Journey and Rhianna; changing fast enough to give your parents a seizure.

Surprisingly, for an “artist” who makes his living mixing other people’s music to make his own, he has yet to be sued.

And Gillis has used more than 300 different samples on his last two albums, “All Day” and “Feed The Animals”.

This from a former biomedical engineer who quit his day job to sell-out dance parties across the country.

Girl Talk was featured in a New York Times Magazine cover story a few months back and has been featured as one of the Times’ Nifty 50. Read more about him here and check out an interview here.

You can download Girl Talk’s latest album free HERE and see a list of all the samples used HERE.

Videos below from the performance. Enjoy!

Ratatat rocks the Fox, RX Bandits polish off third straight night at the Troubadour

Ratatat @ The Fox Theater in Pomona. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

IT was a double header concert weekend Friday and Sunday with RATATAT and RX Bandits.

AMAZING visuals from Ratatat, the electronic duo that combines video game synths with blazing guitar riffs to create a monstrous, head-bobbing sound.

There were two giant glass panels on either side of the stage, probably a good 50 feet high. Each one had a projector pointed at it from behind, creating ultra-real 3-dimensional images like a violinist and celloist dressed in Victorian-era white wigs and getup. Cue in the X-shaped neon lights on the back of the stage and add the massive pull-down screen with music videos and strange visuals being projected to match or contrast the panels.

For a band that makes completely instrumental music, the sounds are funky enough and change frequently to keep the ears tingling all night long.

RX Bandits was a completely different style concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

The Troubadour has got to be my favorite venue simply because of its size. Its a tiny, divey club on the outskirts of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and you can get so close to the bands there that you taste the sweat from stage.

RX Bandits have been a favorite of mine for a few years now, since I re-discovered them in college and realized their music style had progressed along the same line as my own tastes. No longer ska-punk, and more reggae-funk experimental prog-rock, it must have been a career milestone for the Long Beach fourpiece, celebrating their growth and indie-level success by performing their three previous albums in entirety from Friday thru Sunday.

So they played “The Resignation”, “…And The Battle Begun” and “Mandala” from front to back, side to side and kept the crowd moving, grooving and singing along.

LA Weekly put it nicely HERE in a weekend highlight.

Love these guys and love how far they’ve come.

They never put on a bad show and since interviewing them at Cal Poly Pomona a couple years ago, I still feel like I know the guys – Matt, Steve, Joe and Chris.

“Mandala”, which I reviewed HERE on its release, is RX Bandits’ most melodic and transcendental album, blending Embree’s soulful voice with flying guitar solos, smooth Rhodes keys and ever-changing rhythms.

Check out one of the awesome percussion jam-outs below:

Now have a listen to “White Lies” by RX Bandits and see what I’m talking about. Click below or on Box.net widget on the right to download the track.

A real update? Something to say, music to spare

So my biggest problem with blogging is that I don’t take enough time to actually do it!

Right now, my schedule is pretty intense — Monday Wednesday Fridays @ Current TV in Hollywood (more on my experiences with LA public transportation to come). The other four days of the week are at The Apple Store in Brea. The rest of my time consists of sleeping, eating (yet another topic of discussion to come), drinking girlfriend, email, etc.

Though I do spend a lot of time on computers, I tend to be doing other things. Like devouring news, interning, and selling them.

Computers aside, let’s get to last week’s shows (I know, sooo outdated. so sorry. my post times should improve with the upcoming purchase of a long-awaited iphone (more on that later, again)…

The experimental indie group started a dance party at the Troubadour Sept. 27.

The experimental indie group started a dance party at the Troubadour Sept. 27.

!!! (pronounced, sometimes written chk chk chk) rocked the house at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, one of my all-time favorite venues. Small club with two bars, and a very up close and personal stage.

Played a lot of good ones from “Myth Takes” and an older one called “Intensify” that was awesome.

An all-out dance funk party. The crowd was into it; touching, fondling and grooving to the somewhat homoerotic dance moves and hip thrusts from frontman Nic Offer.

And there was an awesome old-school cool black lady singing gospel-punk style backup, dancing and clapping when she didn’t have a part.

The eight piece Brooklyn ensemble definitely kicked ass, and the crowd interaction with Offer was great. He even went up to the green room at one point mid-set, not coming back to the stage until a few minutes into a new song.

Most impressive though? The Troubadour fans actually screamed and clapped loud enough, for a good long 1 or 2 minutes (gasp!) before the band returned. Which in writing doesn’t seem all that cool, but if you’ve been to as many rock shows as I have where the audience hammers out a clap for under 30 seconds before a group comes back, that’s just lame. If you’re gonna put on an encore, make sure it’s really worth it! I can’t remember what songs were played for the encore because it’s been too long, so we’ll move on.

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Rewind one night and I’m at the Glasshouse in Pomona. I love this locati0n. Mostly because I can catch great bands really close to home. I live a good mile away from downtown Pomona and have been taking the Metrolink from there to get to Hollywood lately. The train station is actually quite nice. A transit center for buses too. But I also love the Glasshouse because there’s now an amazing bar next door called Acerogami. Nothing on tap disappoints me greatly; but Perry Tollet, the owner of the Glasshouse, Acerogami, and part-owner of the Pomona Fox and Goldenvoice, apparently has a thing for Souther American beers…so besides the basic low quality bottles of domesticated Coors and Miller stuff, ask for the unique ones.

Getting to the point here, I went with my buddy Art to see Portugal. The Man. This is a band I will not stop talking about. You can watch or listen to a live performance in the KCRW studios here from a few weeks ago to see what I mean. The band’s live show has evolved greatly from simply performing excellent quirky indie numbers to turning the set into a full-on jam experimental jam session with a few pop morsels from their latest, The Satanic Satanist, to round things out.

Words can’t describe, so go here for yourself. I’ve still got a tune called “The Sun” sitting in my box widget over on the right hand side that you can download, free of charge. I’m sure the Alaskans by way of Portland (from Alaska, residing in Portland) wouldn’t mind. Share the love right

ptm

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TO finish this age-old update, I also caught Wallpaper (I know, crazy fuckin week) on Tuesday @ Cinespace. An entertaining performance for sure. Amazing? Naw, but we had fun. Wallpaper, I recently discovered, is a hilarious side project of Eric Frederic. Who is he? He is someone I’ve been following for years, fronting Locale A.M. and more recently Facing New York. FNY is incredible — an audio triceratops as Matt Embree of RX Bandits once referred to them as in conversation.

Wallpaper is more of an autotune R&B white rapper kinda thing that is ridiculous in far too many ways to explain. The dude’s wearing white jeans, a 70s style shirt, a gold chain, shades and a hat, singing about “going big on the weekend” in my personal favorite: T-Rex. See for yourself…thanks to my friend Claire for introducing me, not knowing who was behind the creation, and to my friend Grant who probably thinks its awesome:

THIS WEEK IN MUSIC

rx bandits mandala

rx bandits' "mandala" is the best of the latest

I’m waiting for Rhino Records to call me with my copy of Portugal. The Man’s “The Satanic Satinist,” the new one everyone is talking about. I couldn’t find it at Target, Best Buy or Rhino last week! I’m a little in the dark, waiting for my own copy to give it a listen. Sure it’s good, though – “Church Mouth” is one of my favorite albums. And “Censored Colors” was good, but overlooked.

I just downloaded Grizzly Bear‘s new one, Veckatimest. I have to say, I’m not a fan. I’ve gotten about halfway through the album and I’m not sure what the fuss over this band is. They’ve got some good qualities, but overall I get very bored listening.

This SoCal beach-based band has been around for 14 years, and evolved from a second wave ska act to something with far too many labels to full encompass them (progressive, reggae, ska, rock, funk to name a few). I interviewed the guys when they came to Cal Poly last fall, and just caught them on their headlining tour with Dredg at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Killer, to say the least. Their sound gets more off the wall with each record, and for me, that tends to be a good thing. “Mandala” is no different. Gets better with each listen. UPDATE: check box widget on the sidebar to download a track from “Mandala”!

Now, something a bit disappointing was The Mars Volta’s new one, “Octahedron.” I expect a lot from this band, who is now on its fifth album and has a very strong cult-like following of prog rockers, scenesters and hipsters. “Octahedron” is so-so. It’s got a few cool tracks, like “Cotopaxi,” but is nothing new. It’s easy to forget. I still have got to claim “Frances The Mute” as my favorite. Closely followed by “De Loused” and a few tracks from “Amputechture,” like the 11-minute “Meccamputechture” Now that’s the Volta I know. “Octahedron” is sort of just there. Doesn’t do anything significant for me. Just a bit too mellow for this outlandish band, who I still can’t wait to see at Outside Lands in San Francisco in about a month.

Lastly, I just saw mega mashup DJ Girl Talk @ The Fox Theater in Pomona Friday night. Great, great venue. Three bars, space for 2,000, multiple rooftop lounges. Rad. I was unsure of going to see a DJ headline a show at a venue much larger than your typical LA club. While the free show only brought out maybe 1,000, Girl Talk got 40+ people dancing on stage with him his whole show, and got me and the rest of the crowd dancing. Mixing tracks from “Feed The Animals” (download it there…you pay what you want) and “Night Ripper” with an eclectic variety of other mainstream and classic hits and beats, Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk impressed. Not to mention, the guy plastic wraps his laptop so his sweat doesn’t get all over it.

Hit me up if you need some tracks. I’ve got the tuneage.

Pomona’s Big Changes

downtown-pomona-fox-theater

The Fox Theater is one of the newer attractions in a revitalized downtown Pomona.

Pomona is working to change its reputation from the inside out.

A city known for gang violence and graffiti has been working to revitalize the downtown and breathe new life into an area that has fallen apart from years of neglect.

A revitalization effort has started turning Downtown Pomona into a vibrant community of galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs.

For some, it’s an “island of safety” within Pomona.

But residents are unsure about what’s next. The Downtown Pomona Owner’s Association, a group created to improve the business district, has helped to usher in the facelift.

A.S. Ashley, a local artist, resident  and chair of the Pomona Arts Colony Association, says that what’s good for the city is good for the district and what’s good for the district is good for the individual.

“It’s taken decades to get it to this point where it is actually living,” Ashley said.

The downtown is creating new impressions on locals who used to stray away from Pomona for fear of their safety.

John Clifford, who writes for various Pomona blogs and is vice chairman for Friends of the Pomona Fox, said he used to spend all of his time in Claremont because Pomona was “downright scary.”

“There’s been no life in Pomona for a long time,” Clifford said.

Pomona, the fifth largest city in Los Angles County, suffers from reoccurring gang violence, prostitution and homelessness.
Pomona’s crime rate is 1.31 times the national average, and violent crime is more than double that of neighboring cities such as Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and Claremont.

Of major concern to citizens is that Pomona police close only 44 percent of their homicide cases, compared to 70 percent nationally.

Residents have written submissions to the local newspaper, calling “abusive police practices and individual police misconduct” reasons for not solving murder cases.

This is in a city of around 155,000 that is reported to have 21 documented gangs and 1,320 gang members as of 2006.

Clifford first experienced Pomona in 1972, when he first came to town to work on a political campaign. His office was in the Second Street Mall, the commercial hub of Pomona Valley until the 1950s.

“Buildings were vacating, long-term businesses left town, the mall was rife with gangs and graffiti and all kinds of problems,” Clifford said.

Second Street was home to a thriving post-World War II suburbia until the 1960s, when shoppers were drawn away to the newly built Montclair Plaza and Eastland Mall in West Covina. Pomona attempted to compete by creating of a new kind of pedestrian-friendly mall, but the project failed by the early 1970s, leaving many of the businesses vacant and the streets empty.

Deterioration continued as rents plummeted and lower income individuals moved into the area. The population is now around 65 percent Latino, a historically lower socioeconomic group according to the Census Bureau.

Today, Clifford and other residents are comparing downtown Pomona to Old Town Pasadena, Long Beach and even Hollywood.
The common thread within these cities is a downtown revitalization effort in the form of a Property and Business Improved Business District, commonly known as a PBID.

A PBID forms when businesses get together and agree to pay fees for special benefits the city can’t afford.

Those benefits include security, maintenance and promotion.

The district was recently renewed for 10 years, with a $712,000 budget for the first year. Much of the money goes to security, with the rest devoted to street improvements, marketing and professional services.

Business owners are assessed based on the size of their property.

Carolyn Hemming, district president, said the additional taxes have helped the area succeed.

“The DPOA is cleaning up the reputation of Pomona,” Hemming said. “Now it’s a destination.”

Hemming says it has taken a while for people to start feeling like they could come downtown again, and the improved district has been the catalyst in developing the community of unique shops and entertainment.

“I really want to see this place succeed,” said Hemming, who was born and raised in Pomona.

The improved district is bordered on the north and south by First Street and Mission Boulevard, and on the west and east by South Rebecca Street and South Eleanor Street, respectively. Garey Avenue runs through the middle.

David Armstrong, a downtown property owner, wants the city to create laws and ordinances to govern the maintenance, making sure businesses are held accountable for their own trash.

“It’s really up to the City Council to support the P-BID with laws and ordinances that will benefit everybody.”

Armstrong said he has seen the downtown change drastically from a family-oriented daytime business district to a nighttime entertainment atmosphere.

He’s concerned the city needs to better prepare for the newfound crowds coming downtown at night.

“If you bring three or four thousand people down here at a time, you’re going to have a certain amount of problems,” Armstrong said, mentioning parking and cleanup.

These are all good problems as far as Hemming is concerned.

“I’m happy to see trash because that means people were here,” she said.

Hemming, who has owned a shop downtown for more than 20 years, said she used to keep a shotgun and handgun ready at all times.

“Now that isn’t the case,” Hemming said. “I leave them at home where they’re not needed.”

The district has made progress in cleaning up the downtown and meeting business owners’ needs, adjusting trash pickup cycles for people like Armstrong.

The Pomona police have also been active in recent years, making efforts to address the gang problems.

The police department’s primary focus has been enforcement, to catch criminal gang members, and prevention, to steer youth away from getting involved.

Violent crime was more than double in the 1990s compared to what it is today.

Andrew Kanzler, a Cal Poly Pomona student who lives in south Pomona, sees the overall improvement as a step in the right direction.

He goes downtown regularly and has started to bring his friends.

“The city obviously needs help,” he said. “And I think by amping the businesses that have the most traffic, which is the downtown area, that will be able to pump money back into the city.”

Pomona’s connection to higher education is ample, with Cal Poly Pomona, Western University and DeVry University located within the city and plenty of other colleges nearby.

Most of Western University, located centrally downtown, was carved out of the new district map because the university handles its own security and promotion. But Senior Vice Provost Greg Guglchuk said that the school is onboard with the changes.

Cal Poly Pomona’s presence in the district is marked by its downtown center, which hosts galleries and children’s events.

However, Kanzler knows that many of his fellow students aren’t interested in what Pomona has to offer.

“People go to our school and they’re expecting two things. Some people … like the quietness of it. Some people … want more. If the downtown grows, that will provide what is missing on campus, but also keeps the people that want the quiet campus happy at the same time.”

The previous City Council helped modernize Pomona a few years ago through installing wireless Internet access in a mile radius downtown.

But memories of children like 3-year-old Ethan Esparza, who died in a gang-related drive-by murder in 2006, remind residents of what’s going on in the rest of the city.

The Pomona police have developed the Gang Resistance Education and Training program to work on discouraging gang involvement and deglamorizing the behaviors glorified in movies and media.

As the city tightens its belt to balance its budget for the state, essential programs and services are being cut, from tree trimming and street cleaning to fewer police on duty.

With the downtown district renewed, a friendlier Pomona is starting at the heart of the city.

Clifford thinks Pomona is near tipping point, and that is has the downtown has the potential to flourish and give hope to the rest of the city.

“Today you can go downtown [in Pomona] on the second or fourth Saturday and the place is jammed,” Clifford said. “People are walking – it’s very pedestrian orientated and it’s absolutely wonderful.”