Saturday, May 1, 2010

morning meanderings in the City Of Angels

It's a stunningly gorgeous day in my current locale, the magnificent city of Los Angeles. The glitter, the glamour, the grit. It's still a bit like the NYC of yore. The graffiti splattered urban jungle from the 70s and 80s. It's ironic that the home of Disney is not as gleemingly sterile as its east coast counterpart.

But that's part of what made NYC more sexy and seductive 25 or 30 years ago. The smell of the greasepaint on Broadway or the curious melange of urine and rotting garbage in the grimy subways. The seedy underbelly of 42nd Street or LES (Lower East Side for our out-of-towners). It allowed for art, fashion and music - the towering triumvirate still present across Europe - to feed off each other in an organic frenzy. NYC was king beat and every walk of life on that tiny island collided and conspired to create disco, freestyle and hip-hop.

Now the city is sanitized. Don't get me wrong. I still love it. But it has been scrubbed clean. Simultaneously with that, technology moved the music off the streets and into the sleepy bedrooms of the suburbs. That once vibrant scene is a distant memory. Most of the record shops are gone. The iconic concert venues have been shuttered. Communities and creative collectives have taken up residence online. Now the streets are alive with the sound of high end eateries and upscale fashion boutiques. It's all very "Sex In The City". A Carrie Bradshaw wannabe sipping a latte on every corner.

But back to LA. The artifice. The air of phoniness. The laid back insincerity. That layer is ever apparent. But there are still a few places where you can dig a little deeper. Just like any city, really. Due to it's sprawling nature, LA still has some grit to it. There's a sense of us and them. Both ends of the financial spectrum are well represented and, therefore, tension exists. That underlying sturm und drang is marinade for the musical masses.

Right underneath the scalpel enhanced noses of the botox revolution and the phalanx of fake tits, there is a heartbeat among the creative classes. It's all tears and tiaras. A clutch of people honing their emotive crafts in the shadow of the entertainment machine.

There's a sense of energy being created by the rubbing together of sticks despite the presence of reality show renegades and pseudo celebrities. The very existence of the Hollywood system, and the desire to simultaneously reject it and aspire to it, is the friction that fuels the artistic fire in this town. LA still has pockets of that inspiring urgency NYC lost during the millennial shift.

Perhaps I'm romanticizing it a bit too much. This is what I ponder in the quiet, early morning hours of a jetlag induced haze. With a cup of tea in hand and a laptop at the ready, it's a sunshine day in LA. And my soundtrack for the thoughts brewing and swirling around my cerebrum? The sonic sensuality of Maxwell.

He's touring with Jill Scott this summer. And he just dropped the magnificent, fourth single from his still gorgeous, fourth longplayer, "BLACKsummers'night"

A beautiful, piano driven, soul ballad dripped in shades of Marvin Gaye and Al Green. Love the simplicity of the video with its nod toward old school, Hollywood variety shows like "The Ed Sullivan Show".

Will you look at the time? Gotta dash and make my way over to Amoeba to scour the bins for valuable audio baubles. But first, I'm gonna swing by Robeks and pick up a freshly made, carrot juice with extra ginger to kickstart my afternoon. Health, health, health! Welcome to LA.


  1. I love this post; especially "phalanx of fake tits"!

  2. @countpopula - I call it like I see it. :)

  3. Zounds! What a poetic post! Are you auditioning to wordsmith "Sweet Smell Of Success II" or what? Let it not be said that you don't love this dirty business called show!

  4. great post - you bought the city alive. i haven't been for eons and i so need to return :)