There goes the neighborhood: LA Times’ Brand X says goodbye

Yet another news publication has bitten the dust.

Its not quite the headline-breaker like Rupert Murdoch‘s recent folding of the News of the World, the 168-year-old British tabloid that has received allegations for hacking into the cellphone of a murdered schoolgirl.

But, the free, LA Times-owned, weekly arts, entertainment and culture magazine known as Brand X has been a staple in the Los Angeles youth scene for a few years.

And by youth, I mean the twentysomething hipster population that has taken over spots like Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock and West Hollywood.

Its strongpoints, at least to me, were extensive reporting on the rising Los Angeles craft beer movement and its coverage of the indie music scene.

There is, however, a silver lining. The Los Angeles Times Media Group also announced in a memo that it will be expanding its roster of community newspapers.

I interned at Brand X (formerly thisisbrandx.com, the site was taken down July 8th) when it was still Metromix Los Angeles (formerly la.metromix.com, folded into the Times, then morphed into Brand X). This was back in 2009 and was my first of three journalism internships after college.

I was really going to miss the weekly tabloid, as I’m moving (back) to the Bay Area in a few days.

But now, everyone will miss this fun and edgy guide to what’s what, who’s who and what’s happening in LA.

I’m sure it was only a matter of time.

Best of luck to Deb Vankin, Alexandra Le Tellier and the rest of the staff with their new roles at the Times.

More information check out LA Observed‘s coverage.

One of my first non school-related publications was on Metromix.com in 2009. The short blog contribution is below:

Published on Metromix.com in 2009.

New ‘Countdown’ begins on Current TV

The liberal firebrand news host known as Keith Olbermann returns to television tonight after departing from MSNBC a little under six months ago.

As I reported HERE, Olbermann takes his “Countdown” show to the fledgling TV station and Web community known as Current TV and Current.com. (Current was founded in 2005 and pulls in under 60,000 viewers during peak hours according to the New York Times)

The real motivation for Olbermann here is a majority stake in the company. He joins former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt as an executive of the company.

Full disclosure: I interned for Current’s Vanguard back in summer ’09. Blogged about my experience here and also contributed to Current’s news blog here and here.

Current is not exactly a house name just yet, but getting a heavy hitter such as Olbermann on board may start to change that — at lest that’s what the station is banking on.

Besides Vanguard and now Olbermann, the network received mass media spotlight for its two reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, that were held captive in North Korea.

Keep an eye on this five-year-old channel, because despite setbacks and low ratings, (around 25,000 viewers during prime time) shows like Vanguard, infoMania and now Olbermann’s are worthy of your attention.

Current has always been forward-facing: it initially gathered much of it’s programming through incorporating submissions from online contributors and was the first station to incorporate tweets into it’s coverage of the 2008 presidential debate.

But with new efforts focused on getting the station into more homes and a recent redesign (or more like design overhaul), I have heard few outcries but my own over what I find to be one very big problem:

Current, which was known for bridging the online and televised worlds, stopped allowing full episodes online. So much for anywhere, any time. What year is it?

The channel says the only way to continue carriage on networks like Verizon, TimeWarner and Comcast was to offer exclusive deals and Olbermann tweeted that the TV companies have them “over a barrel.”

Instead, Current is pushing clips big time, all over Hulu, iTunes and YouTube.

But for those of us who already cancelled our exorbitant cable subscriptions, we’re shit out of luck.

I can’t even legally purchase the shows in their entirety…anywhere. Now that’s just not right.

That’s why I scheduled a viewing party of sorts at a friends house for tonight’s premieres of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a new season of Vanguard.

WATCH TONIGHT: Countdown premieres at 8/9c and Vanguard’s new season follows at 9/8c.

Check out behind the scenes with “Countdown” HERE.

Give this band some press: Let’s Drive to Alaska

From left to right, Let's Drive to Alaska is Marisa Kirtland, Chris Garcia, Cris Holguin and Patrick Haag.

Orange County indie up and comers Let’s Drive to Alaska are an experiment.

An experiment that explores the art of sound creation and manipulation.

Moody synths meld with glitchy beats and melodic strings to create an introspective and atmospheric arrangement. Throw in a dash of post-rock sensibilities and you’ve got Let’s Drive to Alaska.

Think From Monument to Masses meets The Notwist and the softer side of Explosions In The Sky. Music you can think to, write to, sleep to and even wake up to.

The Whittier-based instrumental outfit Let’s Drive to Alaska has become an OC mainstay throughout the last six months, making an impact on the local scene with well-honed live shows that draw a good crowd even on a Monday night.

The band’s May 23rd performance at Fullerton’s Commonwealth Lounge, where I caught them live, was no exception. This is a tight group — band member Cris Holguin says they practice three times a week, upwards of five hours at a time.

Yet no one is talking about them. You can find LTDA on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Soundcloud, but a quick Google news or blog search leads to links mostly related to, of course, Sarah Palin.

LDTA is a distinct breed of band, where the music stems from one person’s creation.

It’s like Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s industrial rock collective. Reznor writes and records most of the music but brings a full band on tour. Conor Oberst, frontman of Bright Eyes, and Zach Condon of Beirut have similar strategies.

In this case, it’s 23-year-old Chris Garcia…at least for now.

LTDA has seen a few different lineups, and the current four-piece is just Garcia’s latest efforts to realize his musical visions.

Garcia, who started making music on his laptop in 2005, has held many monikers for his eclectic musical projects. He has The Coherent Mammals, an ambient group not too dissimilar from LTDA and the more guitar-driven The Golden Tongues, to name a few.

With the latest incarnation, Garcia has brought on solid talent for a more permanent arrangement: drummer Pat Haag (ex-Mississippi Man), sampling and effects artist Cris Holguin and violinist/celloist Marisa Kirtland.

But the still-fresh group has yet to face it’s biggest challenge — winning over the toughest crowd to date: LA hipsters.

The band knows that pull in Orange County means nothing in Los Angeles and that it’s not unusual to play to an empty audience the first few shows.

They’ll find out soon enough as their first LA show is at The Airliner Monday night.

Right now, the group is putting finishing touches on a new EP, “Floating Mammoths.” This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup.

And while the album is almost in the bag, Holguin says he is working on a groundbreaking visual set to sync up to the music during live performances.

And if you’re curious about seeing Holguin on stage hooking up his effects board to a 20″ white iMac instead of a laptop, you’ll have to ask him about the first Let’s Drive to Alaska show for that story.

Check out a track from Let’s Drive to Alaska:

Pictures from the Commonwealth Lounge show HERE.

You can watch an interview with LTDA frontman Chris Garcia here:

Genre: Electronic/Experimental/Postrock/Electronic

I Am A Wild Orchid Child!

With a nod to old school favorite “Three MCs and One DJ” by the Beastie Boys, my latest musical obsession Wild Orchid Children recently released a new music video for the song “Ahead Of Us The Secret.”

It’s a front-row seat to an 11-minute-long, epic jam session that is nearly triple the length of the original video for the same song (watch that one below). I can’t help but smirk at the Seattle seven-piece’s ironic sense of primal Americana, noted by the flags, ponchos and Minnetonka-style fringe boots.

I wasn’t complaining about the first one, but they definitely cranked it up to a whole new level with this one.

This supergroup, formed from Gatsby’s American Dream, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and Forgive Durden, has got to be the new Sound of Animals Fighting — another epic, prog-rock super band with members from Circa Survive and RX Bandits.

Three MCs and One DJ:

Ahead Of Us The Secret (Original):


Urban Outfitters goes to Israel!

Israel
I recently came across the new Urban Outfitters Early Spring 2011 Catalog and started flipping through.

Didn’t take long for me to realize I recognized some of the locations in the photos.

Turns out the photos for the hip clothing brand’s latest fashion catalog were taken in ISRAEL.

I wouldn’t venture as far as saying Israel is my homeland since I’m not from there, but it is close to my heart.

I traveled to Israel in October on a birthright trip with about 16 fellow Jews from the Los Angeles area for a 10-day experience of a lifetime. And the best part? It was free. Sponsored by Jewish organizations, private donors and the government of Israel, these trips have been going on for about 10 years.

Specifically, Urban took its models, clothing and photographers to sunny Tel Aviv, Israel, which is sister cities with Los Angeles and has been referred to as a mini LA. Tel Aviv was beautiful, relaxing and of course…urban (seriously). On my trip in October, Tel Aviv felt like a vacation in between an educational journey filled with long hikes, early morning expeditions, camel rides and nights spent in a Bedouin desert tent.

Below is the shot from the Urban catalog featuring an interesting red sculpture. This is right across the street from the Grand Beach Hotel where I stayed. My picture from there follows.

Tel Aviv, Israel. Courtesy of Urban Outfitters Early Spring Catalog 2011.

Sculpture by the beach in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

Interesting to note, Urban Outfitters’ relationship with Israel isn’t exactly untarnished.

In 2008, they sold keffiyehs, those Middle Eastern scarves that conjure the image of Palestinian leader Yaser Arrafat, according to fashion blog The Gloss. The scarves were a bestseller – in fact I have one – until Jewish blogs accused Urban of an anti-Israeli political agenda. The apparel company eventually gave in and stopped selling them, though they still offer similar items.

In addition the keffiyeh fiasco, Urban has no stores in Israel. That makes the exotic locale of Tel Aviv an interesting choice, as the company has been criticized for its lack of presence. H&M opened in Tel Aviv in 2010 and several pro-Palestinian groups attempted to boycott the chain. The Gloss says Israel does ship to Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.

So why Tel Aviv? It’s simple, according to Urban’s facebook page“We were craving some warm weather, so we headed to sunny Tel Aviv with photographer Marlene Marino to shoot our early spring catalog.”

Find photos from the shoot HERE. Check out my photos from 10 days in Israel HERE.

A sampling of my shots below, taken on a Canon XS DSLR:

The rest of my Israel photos HERE, Urban Outfitters’ Tel Aviv shoot HERE.

Shiomo Laha Promenade in Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

The Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

Downtown Tel Aviv from rooftop. Photo by Daniel Ucko

Banksy graffiti art in downtown Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Ucko

A taste of Israeli life in downtown Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

The CoCo and Leno Show

Like all major affairs in the media, the bout between NBC’s late night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien spurred a good deal of creative heckling in the month of back and forth over the future of “The Tonight Show.”
Every time something big goes down with major celebrities, the mass media is just one of the parties involved in event-naming, fun-poking and marketable mockery.
TeeFury.com sold a “CoCo and Leno-head” T-shirt for one day only on January 16.
Hollywood blog The Wrap dubbed the incident “LateNightCrisis 2010” and Examiner.com went with “Late Night Gate.” Even MTV joined in on the fun, featuring a battle of comic book cameos.
And we can’t forget “CoCo,” Conan’s first nickname in his 17 years of television. “I’m with CoCo” spurred Facebook groups, Twitter conversations, an epic-looking graphic and even a rally in the rain outside NBC’s Los Angeles studios.
All from those in support of O’Brien staying on board at NBC.
And people call our generation apathetic.We mobilize when we need to, in support of those we believe in and against what we don’t.
But it’s important that we remember to utilize the tools of the Internet and social media to spur real-world change, because, frankly, nobody ever won a war by creating a Facebook group.

Video of the Conan Rally in LA this past Monday:

From bees to bibles: real life comedy…in picture form

1. The bottom of my bill from an LA diner after going to a taping of Real Time with Bill Mahr. Apparently the servers take anything as payment — ass, cash or grass!
2. If you look closely at your Metrolink receipt, it’s really quite insulting. 1 round adult? At least I’m not square…
3. #4 getting arrested.
4. A Spidey impersonator at Hollywood and Vine over summer: Caught in a legal web
5. Good to know the staff at LAVENDA is Asian and Latina. Just another sign that people only seem to be comfortable around their same kind.
6. Free shower parking??! No way! I’ve been looking for somewhere to store my shower! Oh wait…wait…what the fuck is this place? Come and enjoy a free shower and parking? $10 off one hour? Something smells fishy here, LA…
7. / 8. These two go together — The Carl’s Jr. at Brea Mall got an award of excellence in 2007. Yet right below that is a sign saying some of the food ingredients may cause birth defects or significant harm. Yikes. Not sure how excellent that really is.
10. Apparently the honey at WINCO Foods is VERY, very fresh…
11. Taken at my girlfriend’s old church/Catholic middle school — gotta make the bible thumpers happy somehow.
12. / 13. #FAIL — here’s one for the failblog. The meters at Cal Poly Pomona read “FAIL” when they’re out of order. Now THAT’s comedy.
14. These two chairs have been sitting on top of my kitchen table for nearly a month now. My God-forsaken bitch of a roommate told me before I left for a weeklong trip that I needed to clear my things out of the common areas of our, er, his house. He moved some furniture around, bought one of those Roomba iRobot vacuum cleaners, and didn’t clean a fucking thing. But he kept the chairs on the table. Idiot.
15. Always funny — Super Trooper’s Farva LIVE at Brea Improv last night, telling a story about full frontal nudity. Nearly everyone in an audience of strangers has seen him naked, since we’ve all seen the powdered sugar shower scene from Super Troopers. Rad.

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.

——-

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

——–

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: