Coachella 2016 – The Good & Ugly of A Festival Attendee

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The people we bonded with at the Festival on Saturday night.

People attend Coachella for various reasons. Some go to be seen in the latest fashions, celebrities go for the free publicity, and others go for the music. Attendees spend an exorbitant amount of money over the course of the three days each weekend and this past year was no different. Every year it is a guessing game of “which weekend do I want to attend.” If you are lucky you can go to both, but very few people have that kind of money or time to burn. You risk missing special guests when you chose one weekend over the other, or purchase tickets based on rumors that may never happen.

For the second year in a row my brother and I decided to attend Coachella but this year we did weekend 1 instead of weekend 2. It seemed in years past the special guests have been more exciting the first weekend then the second weekend, when in reality neither weekend is better than the other; you always miss someone you wanted to see. This year the two big conversations surrounded the reuniting of Guns N’ Roses as well as the possibility of Ice Cube reuniting N.W.A.

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Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses did not disappoint. Even though Axl Rose was set up like an invalid with his broken foot, the band made sure the crowd was visually entertained. Richard Fortus jamming on his guitar as his long hair and opened shirt continued to rock out with each song as a series of facial expressions made attendees get a little more lost. Slash on the other hand was calm, controlled and cool with every note that whaled out of his guitar you couldn’t help but think “God I want to be that cool.” The band brought out a rock guitar legend Angus Young from AC/ DC. His school boy charm dressed in an all blue shorts suit is infamous as is his fish like mouth opening and closing in an “oh yeah” fashion throughout his playing.

Ice Cube’s set was a little disappointing. The rumors swirled over the previous months that N.W.A would be getting back together for a performance at Coachella. He brought back DJ Yella and MC Ren, but Dr. Dre was missing. The heart pounding excitement that formed as I watched them perform “Straight Out of Compton” and “F*** The Police” bubbled up, but it would have been more of a celebration if Dre was there and they brought another artist in to sing Easy E’s parts. The second weekend got that treat and I am beyond jealous. Dr. Dre did not sing on the original N.W.A recordings as he was primarily the producer for the group. At the show he came out and performed “California Love” and they had Easy-E’s son come out to perform “Boys N’ the Hood.” It was a full-blown N.W.A love feast full of every guest that truly needed to be there.

Rapper and rocker fans are no different to boy band fan-girls. No joke I have never witness a bunch of 20 and 30 something year old boys lose their shit when Tim Armstrong of Rancid come down from the stage to sing right in the crowd. Being a girl at the front of the gate as a bunch of men reached to touch the coat of their punk rock idol was not only a laughable moment, but one where I could see the inner fan-girl on every outer boy’s face. Lord Huron received a different kind of worship where everyone in the vicinity knew all the lyrics to each song and proceeded to dance with one another as the L.A. Indie folk band played songs ranging from their six year repertoire.  Personally never heard of them, but I felt like I was in the middle of a cult that I didn’t truly understand yet.

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Chvrches

Disclosure and Chvrches were some of the best electronic music and bands that were at the festival this year. Unlike Calvin Harris’ music which all sounds like a Jersey Shore after-party they had music that actually says something. Maybe it’s because Disclosure studied all styles of musicians in college and from their musically gifted parents from funk and soul to hip hop and dub step that intertwines with electronic beats. Maybe it’s because Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) had a career in journalism where stories were her livelihood and now lyrics hold that place. Not every artists that dabbles in electronic music is good. The best artists in electronic music usually have a background in playing more classical instruments and have a deeper exploration in rhythms, beats, and how it all intertwines.

Alessia Cara was one of my personal favorites at the festival as her sound is still honest and pure. Her set and wardrobe were simple as her band knew every lyric and drowned the audience into the synthesized sounds of guitar, bass, and keys. Her songs are poetic. “Seventeen” is something that I have been able to relate to lately. Turning thirty in the next few months I sometime wish that time could be simpler. It’s not about not wanting to be an adult but to be able to have some moments where time can stop. Where life doesn’t have to move so fast.

“My view with a looking glass won’t catch the past
Only photographs remind us of the passing of days
Oh nothing stays the same from yesteryears
See I recall being afraid of the dark
And holding on to teddy bears
I’d wrap myself in blankets just to cover me from fears
That was then and now I’m here
And the night is mine

So hear me scream
I was too young to understand what it means
I couldn’t wait til I could be seventeen
I thought he lied when he said take my time to dream
Now I wish I could freeze the time at seventeen”

In consideration of attending the 2017 Coachella don’t let anyone try to fool you that weekend one or two is better than the other. More special guests do attend weekend one – Sam Smith and Lorde with Disclosure, Angus Young with Guns N’ Roses, and O’Shea Jackson Jr, Snoop Dogg, DJ Yella, and MC Ren with Ice Cube. Weekend two may surprise you and have such a huge event blow up like a group reuniting that hasn’t performed together in years (N.W.A). There is no right or wrong weekend only an enjoyable one full of memories where you wish you could freeze time. Make music your refuge and curl up into the space between the notes as you fall into the perfect sound.

**Be on the lookout for a video coming soon**

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A Soundtrack for the LA Commuter

3608475365_189200eaa5The normal Los Angeles commuter usually consists of people spending hours in their cars, by themselves, driving five days out of the week to get ten to twenty miles to work.  We waste an exorbitant of time alone, miserable, and constantly in a hurry to get nowhere.  It amazes me that in Los Angeles people are in such a hurry behind the wheel of a thousand pound bomb, but walking they have no sense of urgency.  Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I can’t handle walking behind slow people.

Communing on the Metro you get experiences that you will never get to experience in the comfort of your own car.  Like a homeless man sleeping sprawled out over two seats, a father and a child who carry all their possessions with them in a baby carriage, or a woman passing around the same story everyday at the same time saying that she hadn’t eaten today, but will never accept food given to her only money.  In Los Angeles, I’ve learned to appreciate what I have and as I people watch on the train, moving in slow motion, you see that society is nothing but a big giant high school full of judgements.

Yesterday, there was a man on the train probably in his 60s, long white beard, balding, and kind of looked like Santa Clause who hadn’t taken a shower since last Christmas.  He seemed sad, empty, lost, and smelled a little funny.  Everyone that was sitting in a two foot vicinity moved to the opposite end of the car; except me.  He watched everyone move away and it made him sadder. He looked at me, and was waiting for the same reaction, but all I did was smile.  He smiled back and then got off the train at the next stop.

A few weeks ago there was an African-American man in his 20s that sat next to me on the train.  His friend told him that he scared me.  So, he looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was scared.  I told him that very few things scared me anymore.  We had a long conversation about work and our lives.  He grew up in LA and worked with children in the inner city and teaching them to play basketball.  I guess my point in this post is to listen to everything and everyone around you – smile, talk, and laugh with people you don’t know.  Sometimes we are so connected to technology that if the world unplugged for the day I don’t think any of us would really know how to have a normal conversation; how to truly slow down.  Society judges people based on appearance.  We are brought up in a world where people who look or dress in a certain way are more worthy of our attention.

Sometimes music can be a basis of conversation.  Full of understanding our feelings.  We never truly understand what people are going through on the outside.  Someone could be smiling and laughing, but be a complete and depressed mess on the inside.  So, I leave you with this playlist full of fifteen songs that I hope encourage you to look at people a little differently.  To slow down in more ways than one.  Change does not happen over night.  It takes year of practice.  Full of critical mistakes, being stressed out, and scars to your beautiful self, but with a little bit of real friends, images of when life was simpler when we were young, and developing close functional relationships, we can all change the way we think, act and do.

Check out the playlist here!

Jahna Frantziskonis – Insta-Dancer & Rising Star

imageJahna Frantziskonis, one of San Francisco Ballet’s corps members and an Audrey Hepburn look-a-like, is exploding on the dance scene with her behind the scenes access of the ballet world on Instagram.  The saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words.  Her photos and videos capture more than a backstage glimpse of dancers, but a gaggle of young people having fun, living their lives with friends while doing a job they love.

Born in Tucson, Arizona Frantziskonis started dancing young.  She began her training with Mary Beth Cabana at the Ballet Arts Tucson.  She explored and developed at various summer programs including School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School.  She danced in the corps for the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) for three years before joining the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) corps in 2015.  At the PNB, she was in feature roles for Justin Peck’s “Debonair” and Twyla Tharp’s “Waiting at the Stations.”  Her elegant jumps, effortless looking pirouettes, and commend of the stage draws an audience view straight to the corps.

In 2014, she began her exploration in choreography as apart of a collaboration with another PNB ballerina, Angelica Generosa.  Featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s Professional Division, the duo titled the work “Jaja Y Qua” which highlighted three couples set to three movements by the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Generosa and Frantziskonis made the perfect team as Angelica was the idea person and Jahna was the detail-oriented coach.  Her choreographic aspiration has been pushed to the back burner since 2014 as she made her transition to the San Francisco Ballet in 2015.  Her time has been dedicated to the stage due to the busy schedule she began to keep at an international dance company.  She says, “This career allows you to gain knowledge each step of the way.  SFB does a lot of touring and there are alternating reps for each season program.  A dancer can be a Shade and in the same week dance Forsythe.” She has flourished at the SFB as this past December she dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the “Nutcracker.”

Frantziskonis says, “Dance serves to connect with something bigger than ourselves.  Where there is potential to create what we imagine.”  As a dancer and human you can see in her photos her dreams to change the course of dance.  She has a light in her that resinates through through her eyes, smile, and excitement as she rehearses and waits in the wings with her fellow dancers, choreographers, and friends.  Just like Audrey Hepburn, she shines from the inside out as she is figuring her place in this crazy dance world.

Check out Jahna’s Instagram here!

The Ramones – 40 Years of Punk Rock & the Blitzkrieg Bop

The Ramones Album Cover - 1976

The Ramones Album Cover – 1976

The Ramones are legendary!  Formed in New York City in 1974 where they received limited commercial success.  Joey (lead singer), Johnny (guitarist), Dee Dee (bassist), and Tommy (drummer) were major influences on the Punk Movement in the 1970s in both the United States and United Kingdom.  In 1974 the band was formed. The Ramones had their first performance on March 30, 1974 at Performance Studios.  The Ramones had timing and luck on their side as a new music (punk rock) scene was emerging in Manhattan at two clubs – Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s.  CBGB’s is known for the birth of punk rock and if the walls of that club could talk we would hear the stories of the B-52’s, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Blondie, and the Ramones.

In 1975 the band was signed to a deal with Sire Records by Seymour Stein.  The band was unique with songs built on rhythms and guitar riffs that makes the audience want to jump up and down as well as the lack of lyrical complications it was easy to just fall into the music.  The 70s become the age of music segregation – the hippy music that was all about the lyrics and the punk rock scene that was all about the rhythms, riffs, and bass beats.

The Ramones at CBGB in NYC

The Ramones at CBGB in NYC

The Ramones recorded their debut album which was released in April 1976 with a list of fourteen songs.  Dee Dee Ramone was the primary songwriter, even though credit was given to the whole band.  The album was produced by Craig Leon and Tommy Ramone with a low budget of $6,400.  When I saw that number I was in shock.  Try making a record that has the impact the Ramones have I would say you are crazy, but today I think there are more capabilities to make a cheap record than there were in the 1970s.  Today, you have computers that can be used to record and mix an entire album and release it, while back in the day you needed monstrous equipment to even develop and create a song; let alone a manufacturing company that had the ability to make physical records to be sold.

The band received glowing reviews from rock critics everywhere for the album “Ramones”:

Paul Nelson of Rolling Stones Magazine said, “Constructed almost entirely of rhythm tracks of an exhilarating intensity rock n’ roll has not experienced since its early day.”

Robert Christgau of the Village Voice said, “I love this record…For me it blows everything else off the radio.”

Unfortunately, even though they received love from every critic that listened, they did not receive the same welcoming by the public.  The album only reached 111 on the Billboard charts and the two singles “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” never charted.  Now, “Blitzkrieg Bop” is one of their most recognized songs with guitar riffs that repeat, drums beats that carry the lyrics, and rhythms that makes the awkward kid in me just want to bounce.

“Hey ho, let’s go
Hey ho, let’s go

They’re forming in a straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The Blitzkrieg Bop

They’re piling in the back seat
They’re generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The Blitzkrieg Bop.

Hey ho, let’s go
Shoot’em in the back now
What they want, I don’t know
They’re all reved up and ready to go”

It wasn’t until a brief tour in England in July 1976 when they began to gain popularity.  The Ramones performed 2,263 concerts and toured non-stop for 22 years.  In 1996 the band disbanded due to a slew of problems with various band members including drugs, drinking, OCD, and bipolar disorder.  In 2002 they were inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame while in 2011 they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  By 2014 all of the original band members had passed away and all we have left now is their legacy and the punk rock music that started it all.  In April 2016 we celebrate 40 years of the Ramones giving the public music that made head banging appropriate in the car to lyrics you could never understand.

Click here for the album that started it all!