DRESS REHEARSAL FOR A NORML 4/20?
UCC, LA - The spacious venue in the greater LA area known as the Ukrainian Culture Center or YKO, is a landmark showcasing Los Angeles’ Ukrainian cultural heritage with holiday recitals, Ukrainian festivals, cultural classes and a dance studio upstairs on the second floor. The building itself is worth a tour, as it is one of those art deco gems of early Hollywood design. Like so many older buildings in this part of town, if you look past the worn edges, you will find some beautiful details.
The file photo at the right shows the elegance of the old world grandeur with a full house in attendance. Unfortunately, the LA NORML event that unfolded on January 19th played to an empty house due to ‘rookie mistakes’ proving once again that experience in promoting provides what ego and delegation doesn’t – results, or conversely, the lack thereof. But I come not to bury Caesar with my words, only to wonder if this event Fail will lead to a much more successful 4/20 party for LA’s NORML. After all, everything else went pretty good, and the ‘leftovers’ will yield several new LA tales from this journalist. So let’s get crackin’.
You have seen inside the venue hall. Getting to the UCC bright and early, I had plenty of time to scout out the neighborhood along this section of Melrose Ave. The trendy four block section located adjacent to LACC (Los Angeles City College campus/parking/housing) contained one eatery worthy of note, a place called Scoops, which will be featured in the upcoming story, Comin’ Round Mohawk Bend/Scoops & Poops – To Live and Eat in LA.
Getting to the venue early is advantageous for more than just scoping out the neighborhood or getting to say those four little words, “I’m with the band.” My first new acquaintance was the OC sound guy, Tom Emmert (swirl tie-dye), Street Shaman Sound. Securing the ballroom's high ground to hawk my wares via the Doomsday Memoirs Book Tour 2013, I watched Tom set up his console dead center stage in the room’s acoustic sweet spot and adjust the mix/volume to excellent. No rookie here. All the bands that played sounded great with aural clarity pumped to the max.
The actual event started at 2:30PM, down from the original 10AM projected opening. Since only four of the announced eight bands showed up to play (no doubt because news of the show’s collapse spread via social media to the other bands), the night yielded longer set times for the evening’s performers. This ‘leftover’ proved a plus for those in attendance, with added Janis Joplin tribute singer, Sparrow, ‘channeling’ the white soul singer of the past sans the Southern Comfort rasp. Excellent.
Interestingly enough, for those lucky enough to snag one of the ‘back to the 60s-peace symbol’ show poster produced by Jeff Clark, High Mtn Studios, the second through fifth bands listed in red ink (left poster side) are the bands that played the event. The Bluesetta Band opened the show and rocked the house ‘old school’ like a seasoned roadhouse band. With no set time restrictions, the band went through a number of songs they felt comfortable doing in a relaxed fashion. Being usually at a show playing a more contemporary music genre, hearing and seeing this style took me back to the 60s as well.
Having arrived in town a few days before the Saturday UCC event led me to reconnect with comic book artist/art instructor Michael Jasorka (see comic book review, Dec. 3, 1967) back at Rafas Lounge. Besides a new project aimed at the AHL/Out Of The Closet thrift store foundation (see upcoming story, Style & Grace Against HIV/The Adventures of Homelessman), an early spring romance has bloomed for the talented pencil and inker in the form of Jessica, a Santa Monica wind sprite who admits to being 30-40% hipster. From her lips comes the tip of the night, ‘The Janks are the ones to watch’ out of all the names listed when she sees the announced acts via my poster.
The Janks do play a style of rock that I am more accustomed to with newer lyrics done in a melodic, alternative approach that is absent of the Occupy Rock lyric element. Like a visit to a reality lacking Loose Change, oligarchies, and chem trails, this modern band brought its own melancholies of family/personal angst tunage to the party. Adding to the folk rock/New Americana vibe is the use of a 12-string lead electric [lead vox] and an eight string Fender electric mandolin [backing vox].
Dead To The Core, a newly formed band, added a rousing Dead element via a unique red wood French curved 7-string bass, keys, drums, guitar, and female b/up vox. Once again the expanded set time allowed the band’s three singers to stretch out musically for the enjoyment of all those in attendance. The Dead influenced/cover songs once again took the music era retro. Given those in attendance as either vendors or seasoned activists were now aware that the gate had crashed, the jam music soothed the warped reality like a stroll through a Dead parking lot yielding the flower girl’s bottle of acid spray. Our 'parking lot' was the load-in entrance backstage, a spot we called the Green room, in honor of Mary Jane GREEN, the Queen of the Scene in Memoirs.
Headlining the night was the band Exssex made up of veteran musicians, fronted by a leather pants wearing Frankie Valli type who sang like it was 1965 while playing a 12-string acoustic, belting out songs from the mainstays back in the day like The Beatles (Dear Prudence), Journey (Lights), and The Animals (House of The Rising Sun). Though all covers, the seasoned musicians played the songs more like session players than some tribute band doing a note-for-note rendition. The three part harmony done on Dear Prudence would have thrilled any Beatles fan.
Sponsors in attendance besides yours truly were old friends The Human Solution (see archives for picture story, Where The Pot Faerie Lives) and their crew which included Kathie Z Jewelry, various garden/plant books/products, and Original Rider Waite Tarot packs by A.E. Waite. There was a Jack Herer table selling the latest edition of Jack’s masterpiece, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, however the latest edition is thinner than previous releases. Also represented were 420BailMeOut.com bail bonds and Chronic Candy.
The Saturday night also brought me back in contact with my favorite eye-candy high, the 420Nurses, [“Medic!”] in the first of two callbacks from the NORML Xmas party and the Don’t Judge Me news story that keeps popping back up in the Top 5 after it seemed to peak. As I type this, the story has pushed back into the number three spot. CEO Cha Cha is the head 420Nurse on the left in glasses. I find their social network better than Facebook, and way sexier. Women and weed, wowsers!
Look for the upcoming sizzle story, The Sexy Secret Side of Mary Jane Green/Ur Sweetest 420 Munchies.
As I said when I opened this news report, the anticipated crowd never materialized but that doesn’t mean no one showed up. Giving me a hand at my vendor table (background, center) was my Memoirs editor and LA guide, Jeff Bradford. There were a number of new faces in the fight to end the prohibition on cannabis and so I made some new friends in the trenches. Perhaps the one name people would recognize is Allison Margolin, defense lawyer, writer, and daughter of Bruce Margolin, founder of NORML (1974), and my last upcoming story drop, Looking At LA’s Dopest Esquires/All In The Family. To Allison and the others who purchased a signed copy of Memoirs at the UCC event, THANK YOU. For me, all the leftovers were my meal. Hopefully next time everyone will get fed.
(All photos after jump courtesy of Dead To The Core Facebook wall; cover photo is file shot - Ed)