An Evening At The Hollywood Bowl: Music By Glass – Dance By Diavolo


Well if I’m not sticking to my car seat and finding creative ways to miss pool parties to avoid showing my body then it’s not summer in Los Angeles! But aside from the heat and the BBQs, something that screams summertime to me is an evening at every gay man/old person’s favorite outdoor amphitheater…the Hollywood bowl. I’ve had the pleasure of attending five different shows at the Bowl so far this season, most recently to see the fabulous and caustically witty Bramwell Tovey conduct Phillip Glass.

Now, everyone who has ears and and a central nervous-system knows that Phillip Glass is just amazing and badass. There’s something in it for everyone. His music is simple yet rich, pretty yet cerebral, and just downright wonderful. Someone could be trepanning my scull right now and I’d enjoy it as long as Songs From Liquid Days was playing in the background. So, needless to say you wouldn’t have to work very hard to make my enjoy “Music by Glass”, but Bramwell and the always astounding LA Philharmonic really knocked this one out of the park. For the most part.

The show started out with a piece called “The Chairman Dances” by John Adams, which I’d never heard (of). If you’re thinking to yourself “I never even knew the second president of the United States was a composer”, then you’re where I was last night. This piece was nothing short of MESMERIZING. I enjoyed it so much I pulled a Millennial and added it to a Spotify playlist this morning for handy access. The orchestra really killed it. Even though the sound and acoustics in an outdoor theater aren’t going to be spectacular, the performance just felt rich and LOUD in all the best possible ways. The ensemble had such a great sense of movement. The brass section really popped while the music of the piece oscillated back and forth like the most glorious tug-of-war match. All in all it was a relatively short piece but it was such a dynamite opener to this show.

The middle piece was a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The best part about it was that Bramwell comes out, sits at his cute little piano with his cute little English accent and takes you through the whole story of Romeo and Juliet (which I’m sure everyone knew but it’s LA so you can’t be too careful), highlighting all the different moments of the suite and all their musical signals. He has this really charming albeit at times biting wit when about the way he talks about music. He often peppers his speeches with phrases like “remember this for the next time you go to one of your Beverly Hills dinner parties” and “Alright you guys are cute, now shut up I’m talking”. Someone like him could very easily make you think “Ugh, I feel like I’m at a music lesson” but instead makes you say “Yay! I feel like I’m at a music lesson!”. The piece itself was of course lovely and beautiful but ultimately I’m thinking “alright when’s Phillip Glass happening?”

So he breaks for intermission and immediately after the lights go up, the crew (in their uber modern black shirt/slacks combo) wheels out this GIGANTIC statue sculpture into the middle of the stage. They then cover that thing with a giant screen so you can’t see all the tinkering I’m assuming was happening. The structure looked like a giant silver half-dome made out of Swiss cheese. About 25 minutes later they start the piece, Bramwell and his podium dwarfed by this monstrosity of a sculpture. The lights were turned low (frankly I’m not sure how the musicians actually read their music) and this giant upright plastic tube is revealed behind one of the screens (huh??). The performance starts, sans music I might add, with a handful of people clawing and climbing their way out of the tube and onto the stage. Once they’re all out of there, the music starts and the group all gravitates towards the Swiss cheese dome, and the dancing starts. The woman and gay men (I’m assuming) of the dance company all hover around it until slowly getting sucked in to its holes (hehe). The dome itself I didn’t realize was on some mechanism that let is rotate and and change angle. While the dancing wasn’t exactly Cirque Du Soleil (which apparently in this post is the gold standard of dance companies), they were a compelling addition to the piece of music. Oh, right the music. So the music was happening concurrently and was certainly a very nice rendition, but was a) a bit eclipsed by the dancing and b) not the absolute most gripping performance I’d ever been witness to. They were performing from Glass’ Symphony Number 3 which I’ve only heard segments of but remember thinking “Yep, this sounds like Phillip Glass” about it most of the time. I have to say the most compelling part of the whole shebang was this highly elaborate set with the mechanical moving dome and the really spectacular lighting design. And because we were right in the middle this strange optical illusion happened where the dome appeared to be concave when it was ACTUALLY convex (my mind is blowing all over again talking about it). The performance ended with one of the dancers crawling back into the tube, the other dancers lifting that tube and sliding it out of one of the holes of the dome as if to shoot her out like some drive-through ATM deposit chute (remember those?). HOW that tube was heavy enough to stay steady while people climbed through it but light enough to be lifted by three people is beyond me but there you go. The dancers lingered in the spotlight a beat too long of course during the curtain call but it was really a fascinating spectacle.

If you (the person reading this who’s NOT my mom) haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl this summer then you should go STAT before they switch back to performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on the 30th and you have to sit indoors to listen to music without deli sandwiches and way too much smuggled wine like a wild animal.


Aiming to Shed Light on Urs Fischer’s Installation at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.


Art is something that, the older I get, I seem to have less and less of a grasp on. As someone with little to no formal education on “fine art”, I always feel glib in giving my interpretation of artists’ work or attempting to assess exactly what art is. And that value on what makes art important certainly seems to evolve with a person’s age (certainly for me). I think too that so much of what a work of art is hangs off the place it happens to be. A rusty old soup can on the street is just that, but resting atop an ivory podium in a glass case in the Guggenheim it obviously takes on a whole new dimension of “meaning”.


With that in mind, I wanted to impart my thoughts on the new exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary Museum at MOCA. The exhibit is spearheaded by Swiss-born American artist Urs Fischer. Urs actually has work displayed in both MOCA locations downtown. The concept of the piece is this: 1,500 people in the Los Angeles area were invited to the Geffen and handed a mound of clay at their disposal to create anything they wanted. Having walked through the whole installation, I will say that in my somewhat glib opinion, it is everything art should be. In the past, I’ve always harbored this sense of ambivalence about typical museum fare; “Am I moved and inspired because I feel like I should be or because the art is that powerful?”. Well, walking into this exhibit I had little to no expectations and my immediate reaction was truly one of awe! I walk in and shuffle down a corridor past the entrance where you see a massive, life-size “Last Supper” display completely fashioned out of clay. It was a pretty staggering thing to see. Once I passed by, there was a ramp towards a clearing where I suddenly realized how massive the installation is. Like a monochromatic war-zone, there’s an endless array sculptures, scraps and shrapnel pieces all composed of clay strewn all over the floor. It was quite a sight to see. Each individual, handcrafted piece of at had its own completely unique identity (obviously since it was made my different people). Although I do think the fact that each piece used the same material gave it all an air of subtlety so that everything had almost an interpretable aura to it (especially in the context of the work around it). If there’s one word that immediately came to mind it would be immersive. It’s not a work that’s contained in a space so much as a work that becomes and transforms the space. And in that sense, it becomes a more visceral artistic statement because the notion and the condition of the space doesn’t influence the work.

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The rest of the installation was spread across a concatenation of rooms and platforms and each little nook had its own display. Some certainly larger in scale and scope than others. Some of the pieces were beautiful, some were scary, some were vulgar, some were pretty funny and some were downright perplexing. The most powerful piece to me was arguably the “centerpiece” of the installation and was a nearly two story tall roman statue composed almost completely of wax. It depicted three people climbing on top of each other towards (in this case) the skylight in the building. At the top of the highest figure you could see it was melting from a series of wicks inside it that were lit on fire. It was absolutely gorgeous. The face of the highest figure was black and charred from the flame and literally melting to the ground while the other two figures were etched with expressions of horror. It was beautiful albeit unsettling. In some of the rooms towards the back of the museum there were a few pieces that had splashes of color: a life-size wax mold of a man wearing a suit and an orange office-chair. Both of which were lit like the statue by wicks and were actively melting. From a purely visual perspective, this little smattering of color cast against an otherwise drearily uniform grey palate, created this wonderful pop that I personally found wonderful.

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What I appreciated too was the sense of immediacy it all had. There was a balance of intricately crafted sculptures with haphazardly molded mounds. But the notion that it was all assembled IN that one space seemed to break a barrier of “placement” that I often feel in museums. There were smears of clay on the floor and little scraps hanging on railings and walls in a way that made the art feel “live”. It felt created rather than placed. I think there’s something to be said about art that was created at the place of its exhibition. Not to get too far into it but it harkened back to my college days studying Walter Benjamin and his theories about the fading aura of art in the “age of mechanical reproduction”. There was very much a sense of authenticity and immediacy about all the work. On a side note, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they were going to get these 100’s of lbs of clay out of there but I digress.


Urs seems to really utilize the SPACE he’s given to its absolute full potential, bending even breaking it to suit the work he’s creating. And what I find inspiring above all else is how collaborative his vision is. It’s incredibly modern in scope: in the age of crowd-sourcing and YouTube propelled talent, I think it’s incredibly refreshing that Urs didn’t hesitate to engage a community of people in realizing an idea. This collapses another barrier of identification between spectator and art. The lingering idea that not just artists but everyday people produced this work that’s hanging around a museum aided to a sense of connection with the piece. The collective work also has a history and was part of a process, which lends to its sense of being “live”. It’s a wiki-art project and I dig it.

Urs Fischer is clearly a talented and dynamic individual and this is utmost representation of that as far as I’m concerned. With his newest work at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, I take it as a little nudge to create something meaningful in my own life.

Whole Lotta Trouble


I don’t know about you, but I am NOT a Whole Foods kind of guy. In fact, as far as I care, those jokers can take their food and stick it right up their wholes! There’s just something about the pretentious atmosphere and the trendy yet clueless staff that really rubs me the wrong way. Not to mention their horribly overpriced, corporate brand of health food that’s killing smaller, independently owned markets’ chance to stay afloat. And of course the highly conservative investments that the company makes aren’t a selling point either. I mean, as much as I LOVE paying $47 for a burlap sack and a peach, I think there are other establishments I can patronize with perhaps some better deals and a better attitude. Plus it’s always nice to avoid the Prius melee in the parking lot. Ahhh, yes, all those liberal minded health-conscious moms in their stilettos and designer jeans getting out of their Priuses that in 10 years will be expelling horrible noxious hybrid-battery chemicals right into our soil. God bless those trail-blazers.

So, I am at a loss as to what to. My favorite spot in the world to buy groceries was a charming little nugget of a market on Hillhurst called the Nature Mart. Anytime I needed some nice organic produce, some interesting pre-prepared snacks, some good supplements or good eco-friendly soaps/cleaners, I could pop over there and avoid that oppressive haze of upper-middle-class haughtiness. Don’t get me wrong, their prices weren’t exactly a STEAL, but I’m sorry, it’s still better than, well, its larger competitor which shall be henceforth be referred to as “IT”. Because, let’s face it, smaller stores can’t get as good of a deal on their stock because of the considerably smaller quantity in which they’re forced to buy it. Regardless, I’m not necessarily discriminating solely on price. Every time I would shop at the NM the staff was warm and friendly and not only knowledgeable but passionate about their product. All the time I would hear “Oh, dude, I didn’t know we had this in stock again! I’m gonna pick up some of this for myself!”. And definitely not too staunch on their prices, either. One day I was buying this fun, wooden toothbrush that I think was $5.99. The cashier remarked “Oh I have one of these! $6??? I only payed $3 for mine so that’s what you’re paying too” and rung me up at a discount. Another time the friendly older woman cashier pretended I had a gym membership and gave me $10 off the probiotics I was buying. Meanwhile over at that IT place I asked an employee if they sold kefir grains and was met with the reponse “Some what? Keifur what?” Apparently he couldn’t hear me through his shaggy blonde, Disney-sitcom hair and purple zip-up hoodie he was wearing. But, thank god he was able to call 9 different tiers of department supervisors to confirm that they in fact did NOT carry that item!

Anyway, the reason I’m at a loss is because the Nature Mart, in a sad and untimely twist of fate, was forced to close its doors a few months back. I’m assuming the colossal juggernaut that is Whole Foods…sorry…IT, was probably a big part of this. There’s something very bleak and unsettling seeing that quaint little market completely dead and picked over just before closing. The older woman working there was on the verge of tears. “We’ve been here since 1974 and it still looks exactly the same as it did the day we opened” she told me. Oh dear…

So what the hell do I do now?? Well, I did have one misadventure of note recently where I attempted to find a new store. After having lunch in North Hollywood with my friend this last weekend, I googled “health food store” in the area to try and find some produce and some granola on my way home. The most promising on the list was a place called A-1 Organics. It wasn’t far, it had solid reviews, so I thought I’d check it out. It was in a little bit of a dodgy area but whatever! I can handle it! I’m real (ish)! So i get there and all I see is an unmarked building with A-1 written on the front. No one else seems to be around, which was kind of unnerving but I proceeded. I noticed that the windows were blacked out and there was a smaller sign tacked to the wall saying “entry in rear” so I head around the back (completely not getting that this place was obviously not a grocery store). I head around back and all I see is a SECURITY GUARD perched on a stool reading a magazine in front of another white, unmarked door. Thinking “this clearly isn’t the place”, I pace around trying to find the REAL entrance to this reputable and high-quality store. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that this had to be it. I go up to the guard and ask “I’m looking for A-1?”. “This is it” he tells me. I go to the door and he buzzes me in (that’s right, buzzes me in. Still not getting it). I walk in and i see a long hallway followed by another door. However, something was amiss. The room was drenched in green light and there was this funky, lingering smell. Being the blithely clueless individual that I am, I head to the second door but this one was locked. I hear a few unintelligible murmurs from some chill-sounding dudes behind the door, but then a woman from behind me shouts “HEY! EXCUSE ME!”. I turn and walk back to the first door and see a little office attached. “Are you new?” she asks. “I guess so. Am I in the right place? What is this?” I say. She responds with “This is a medical marijuana dispensory”. So I panic and apologize and run out there feeling like a total jackass (which, I mean, if the really lame shoe fits…).

So, then, in a moment of desperation, I visit IT. And while I did see Newman from Seinfeld, it was not the most fruitful experience of all time. So, fellow bloggers and members of society (especially those in the greater Los Angeles area [even more specifically those on the east side]), if you have any tips or recommendations, please share with me your wisdom because, as it turns out, there ain’t a WHOLE lot of options out there!