Monday, June 25, 2007
Let's Go Bowl-ing!
There's nothing like spending an early summer evening at the Hollywood Bowl. Last night was my first performance with four more throughout the summer.
I eagerly anticipate finding out what the season's offerings will be and I usually find a few that I want to attend.
The Hollywood Bowl was built in 1922 and is nestled in the Hollywood Hills, about a mile or so north of Hollywood Boulevard. The surrounding terrain forms a natural amphitheater. One thing I especially like is catching a glimpse of the famous "Hollywood" sign beyond the ridge behind the band shell.
It is a long-standing tradition to have pre-concert picnics at the Bowl. From waiter-served meals for those high-rollers in the box seats to bringing your own cooler full of beer and a bag of pretzels and everything in between are options. The grounds are pretty rustic and there are a few picnic areas and lots of benches in the walkways surrounding the amphitheater. One can have a box seat and cater your own spread. I've done it a few times, and it is pretty fun, especially if you make it a sort of potluck with your friends all contributing. Some people get rather elaborate, but its a pain to schlep all the stuff. There are also delis on site where you can pick up already prepared items and beverages. Lately, in an effort to save money, I've been getting tickets in the bench section. So its been mostly snacky things and finger-foods for me. Last night I had my famous Southwestern Shrimp/Corn/Black Bean Salad.
The other great thing about attending a show at the Bowl is taking the bus. I'm fortunate to have one of the park and ride lots about a mile from my house. So for 5 bucks, someone else can have that headache! And I can drink some wine!
Now for the show!
Last night was headlined by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, with supporting acts Carlinhos Brown and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. In other words, a night of hippin' and hoppin' and scritchin' and scratchin'.
First up was Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The band was formed during the civil war in that country and the group has endured many hardships to get where they are today. The liner notes say the music is a blend of "traditional West African music, roots reggae, and rhythmic traditional folk." It was mostly high-energy, positive, shake-yer-booty stuff. Great drumming and percussion. Lots of the songs had that positive-love vibe familiar to reggae music. One guy was an awesome rapper, not the gangsta kind, but that really super-fast African style. I really enjoy West African music when I hear it, and you sure can tell where David Byrne and Paul Simon got their ideas from!
Next up was the Brazilian artist Carlinhos Brown. This was primarily Afro-Brazilian and not the samba style Brazilian. More of a chanting, rap feel to it with rock mixed in. Again some great percussion and love your fellow man lyrics...well, the ones I could understand anyway!
I didn't know much at all about the two DJ's headlining the show--DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. I had heard of them, but never heard their music.
Both are aficionados of 45's and have vast collections. Neither are fans of digitally-procured music. They have collaborated in the past on all-45 mixes. Last night's show was a combination of two of their collaborations "Brainfreeze" and "Product Placement" which combined equals "Brain Placement" subtitled "7 inches of Fury"
Before the show started, we were informed that it was going to be all 45's and all- live real-time mixing. Four turntables, 2 effects pedals and two looping computers.
The show starts with a "film strip" sort of video on what is a 45 (probably 90 percent of the audience had never seen one, so this was a good idea), how they are made, the history, and the decline over the years. It also explained on how DJs do their "work"--how they identify the correct grooves on a disc so they can access them at will. That was pretty interesting. That part sure wasn't explained before my dismal attempt at DJ'ing at the Music Experience Museum last month!
The guys then started playing and mixing it up. Lots of good beats and pretty esoteric samples. Lalo Shriffrin, James Brown, Motown stuff and even Bogie!
The visuals alternated between camera close-ups on the turntables and images that enhanced what songs were being played. The best one was of what is their little icon--an old-fashioned jukebox--which came to life Transformer-style. The jukebox was in a video game atmosphere and was shooting flying iPods out of the sky with his laser-eyes.
All-in-all, a great evening under the stars! Except for the part where I didn't bring a jacket and froze half to death!