About ghostwoodcountryclub



Words – MIKE BOHM – Sunday, December 11th, 2022

Photography – RYAN DOMSKI

You would be forgiven for mistaking last Monday night in the basement of Berlin for a Friday as an energized crowd was moved by the final performance of the Brooklyn-based SUNRISERS for this year. The nine song set more moved with an unrelenting energy reminiscent of the golden age of New York’s punk scene.

Opening with a cover of Johnny Thunders’ PIPELINE was a perfect musical amuse bouche, a little bite to signal the flavors to come. Original songs BULLSEYE and SHUT UP! turned the dial up with an unapologetic brashness.

LITTLE WHISPER and BACK POCKET revealed a depth of songwriting ability, with elements of funk and humor infusing with the consistent punk rock and grunge vibe that permeated the entire set, allowing the crowd to catch its breath as the set raced to its conclusion. A cover of NICE BOYS set the dials to eleven before ending with I DON’T WANNA.

At one point, another witness leaned into my ear asking which Nirvana song the band was covering. They weren’t. Instead it was OUT ON THE MIDNIGHT, another hard and fast song that paid beautiful homage to lead singer and principal songwriter Shawn Ghost’s love for Kurt Cobain.

The crowd enthusiastically cheered with each audience interaction but I felt compelled to boo, only once. That was when they announced that Monday night was their last show for the year.

2023 can’t come soon enough.




New York City is rich. The most valuable assets in all the Big Apple are not the glittering skyscrapers, not the global volume of Wall Street trades, nor the bubbling oil wells of tourism dollars. The most priceless commodity in NY is the electrifying culture of the people, the art and efforts of millions of passionate creators making their mark on the world’s shiniest stage.

In a town where legendary rock clubs have been replaced by over-priced designer boutiques (CBGB’s) and the bohemian enclaves that once nurtured a musical and artistic renaissance have been bulldozed for college dorm rooms (too much of the LES), local artists have been challenged to find ideal places to gain exposure.

Any void in nature must be filled, all demand must be fulfilled to maintain vital equilibrium. Born in 2010, the Quarterly Arts Soirée has been providing a major spotlight for countless performers, artists and musicians at various Manhattan venues for over five years, and continues to expand across the big city of dreams.


The original idea for the QAS was sparked by co-founders and curators Gerard McNamee and Jenny Mushkin-Goldman, who joined forces to express;

“The mission of the QAS is to exhibit, expose and promote talent in painting, music, film, fashion, theater, graphic design and performance, installation and video art, while celebrating the rich cultural history of the Webster Hall venue and of New York City’s dynamic East Village. We seek to showcase art, fashion and music in a vibrant, unassuming manner, so that the art form is not held in the traditional pedestals of the white-cube gallery, sleek runway, classic stage and the like. Rather, the prospective spectator may witness the creations as an organic part of a communal environment, where not one thing is set apart from another, and where art may fuse with everyday life.”

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In all of Manhattan it doesn’t get much bigger and better than the world-famous Webster Hall. Established in 1886, no one disputes its status as the longest-running nightclub in Manhattan still rocking every Monday through Friday, 365 days a year. Once upon a time it was called the Ritz, and the song that coined the phrase “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (meaning to make oneself as well-dressed as possible to go out and socialize at a popular venue) was written about and for the very same place.

For 129 years Webster Hall has hosted everyone from Al Capone to Guns ’N Roses and that friend you went to college with who is now in a cult-famous indie band or EDM group. Trying to encompass and capture why Webster Hall is so historically and currently significant and important to NY nightlife in mere words is like trying to explain why the planets revolve around the sun.


The scope of the billing has led to the vast spaces of Webster Hall being used in unconventional ways, such as a large-scale staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Grand Ballroom in 2010. The number of names of artists, bands, performers and presenters of every imaginable dimension are simply to many to list or even attempt to summarize.

The concept and mission of the QAS is too big to be contained to even a space as massive as Webster Hall. In turn, the concept has evolved into a further form dubbed “The QAS Presents”. These shows often take place at downtown nightspots East Village Social (Mondays at 126 St Marks Place) and The Late Late (Wednesdays at 159 East Houston St).

While the QAS Presents shows don’t involve eight-plus hours filled with hundreds of people, they retain the spirit and energy of the QAS as a collective, keeping the modern salon busy and active during the downtime between coordination of the larger events.

Matthew Evertsen is the founder of RONIN, LLC and music director at Moondog NYC. Matthew was an integral part of the QAS from the outset as one of the founding co-producers and music liaison. He recalled the show as;

“An incredible night, all types of artists, all types of musicians, all types of sounds, just a gathering of the creative arts. To be involved with such an important project that means this much to the community at such a legendary venue is an honor and a privilege”

Michael Morello is an actor, writer, General Manager of Slake in midtown, and long-time member of the Webster Hall community. He’s been co-producing the QAS and it’s spin-off QAS Presents from day one. When asked what the project meant to him he replied;

“The QAS is what every artist longs for, a place to belong and call home. It has grown into one of the largest artist communities in NYC. Like any well kept garden, it grows and grows year after year and reaps talent from every medium.”

The soul of the QAS is directly descendant from exalted creative scenes from history. Clear parallels can be drawn to the libertine French salons of the 19th century, the parties of Swinging London in the 1960’s or the rebellious art shows like PS1 curated by Diego Cortez in the early 1980’s that helped bring names like Jean-Michel Basquiat to fame.

No matter how many luxury hotels, skyscraper condominiums, pharmacy chains or banks clog the real estate of Manhattan, no matter how high the rent is or how culture changes in any conceivable way, the people need art to survive. Art, music and free expression are equally vital to the good health of any human being as food, water, sleep and shelter.

New York City needs more events like the QAS and QAS Presents. Follow the hashtag #QAS, keep your eyes, ears and collars up, because the next one will happening sooner than you think.





The best places in New York City are the ones that embrace both the past and the future. The East Village Social is one of these excellent establishments, catering to a modern crowd with the vintage aesthetic that people travel from all over the world to experience.

EVS sits at 126 St Marks Place, tucked into the eastern stretch between 1st and Avenue A. On a street cluttered with rowdy and awkward bars, it’s really the only one worth stepping into to hang out for more than five minutes.

Up the pair of steps and through the front door you find an elongated space decorated in rustic repurposed wood, brick and iron. The bar is a massive slab of dark-stained lumber. If you listen carefully underneath the music you can catch the whispers of the gigantic tree’s soul reassuring you everything will be fine if you trust in Nature.

Tables and chairs stretch down the wall opposite the bar, providing comfortable space for kicking back under the soft glow of tiny white lights strung along the ceiling panels. Drinks are served up in sturdy mason jars, keeping with the rural speakeasy, Twin Peaks-meets-Tompkins Square vibe of the overall décor.

A newer kid on the block, the bar was established in 2012 by co-owners Dee Dee Patton, Tony Lopez and Gerard McNamee. All three possess intimate knowledge of the Lower East Side nightlife, having followed and been integral parts of the local Rock ’N Roll pulse since long before The Ramones were still playing live.

Hearty craft beers fill the taps, and people rave about the Sangria and specialty cocktails. A touch of welcome, healthy modern influence is found in the organic cabernet featured on the wine list. The robust food menu is comprised of feel-good classics with a Southern twist. The specialties are fried chicken and burgers, sweet potato hash and tangy fried pickles. The ‘special sauce’ for all the EVS signature jalapeño aioli. But it’s not all crunchy and crispy. When was the last time you enjoyed a delicious fresh spinach and arugula salad at leather-jacket casual hangout in Alphabet City?


The two coolest spots in EVS are the pocket-sized corners that border the front door entryway. Only big enough for two to fill, they incorporate a solid timber shelf under iron-framed windows that look out onto St Marks. When the weather is gentle they open up to a people-watching display far more fascinating than the many big-budget movies that try to fake the NYC energy that St Marks abounds with.


It’s a tangible spirit and sense of unrestrained enjoyment of life comparable to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Las Vegas strip or Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. All day and night crowds of people parade by in every possible variation of sobriety and inebriation. You’d be safe to bet that few places on Earth rival the area from 3rd Ave. to Ave. B across what’s technically 8th street for it’s infinite kaleidoscope slideshow of humanity.

Live music is always booked for Sunday brunch and on Monday nights curated in conjunction with the Quarterly Arts Soirée. EVS consistently caters to and offers its available space to singers and writers seeking to share joyful connections through spontaneous music and heartfelt performances.

It’s easy to feel welcome, at ease and at home at the East Village Social. Drop by between 2 PM and 4 AM any day of the week and you’ll be happy you did, like meeting an old friend you didn’t even know lived in the same city.EVS is the kind of place that, if you had your second drink in hand and a Creedence Clearwater Revival song came on the speakers, it could easily instantly cure a bullet wound, a broken heart, or worse.






MC show 8

The razor’s edge of modern funny is being sharpened and brandished like a cultural battle-axe every month in a scrappy Brooklyn performance space. It’s called The Macaulay Culkin Show and has absolutely nothing to do with Macaulay Culkin.

If the nutty enthusiasm of mid-70’s prime Saturday Night Live was blended with the panicked adrenaline blast of Iggy Pop jumping off the stage and attacking people, you’d have something comparable to the visceral energy of The Macaulay Culkin Show. It’s a stand-up revue starring the best and brightest names in comedy, curated by a mind-bending array of outrageously attired zany characters with adorable names like Sweet Daddy Longlegs and “Skull Fucker” Harley Tucker.

The underground-famous venue Shea Stadium hides in an industrial stretch of Bushwick, a brisk walk from the Montrose L train stop. The door cover is cheaper than a sandwich at $5, and adult beverages are available for a reasonable couple bills. DJ JD Salinger keeps music in the air while the show rock and rolls. On and around the stage, all kinds of eccentric hilarity explodes – mocking, taunting and drawing joy out of everyone in a hand-grenade atmosphere that can feel unsettling in the most wonderful, genuinely enjoyable way.

This is no amateur-hour open mic night. It’s a once-a-month comedy all-star game mini-festival. Everyone from movie stars (Janeane Garofalo) to emerging TV stars (Chris Gethard) and a caped weirdo in an Eyes Wide Shut secret society orgy mask called The Grand Inquisitor have graced the stage. The comics are consistently top-shelf. One after another, they make it look much easier than it is. Jo Firestone

To get a glimmer of the action, do yourself a favor and Google all these jokers; Good Cop Great Cop, The Lucas Brothers, Jo Firestone, Eliza Hurwitz, Connor O’Malley, Nimesh Patel, Andrew Fisher, Mary Houlihan, Katie Hartman, David Carl, Julio Torres, Brian McCann, Chris Gethard, Ana Fabrega, Ike Ufomadu, Josh Rabinowitz, Brooks Wheelan, Nick Rutherford, Mike Abrusci, Christi Chiello, John F. O’Donnell and John Reynolds.

No scene descriptions can fully capture the wicked insanity of watching a lobotomized Count Dracula, a creepy Grand Inquisitor or Sweet Daddy Longlegs and “Skull Make-Love” (as the crowd renamed him) misbehave. The comic book villain-esque Sweet Daddy created so much absurd nervous tension in one recent performance of crowd interaction that it became shocking, knee-slapping and maybe brilliant? You had to be there. We can only hope that guy’s unsuspecting mother has a great sense of humor.

A lot of the hard work behind The Macaulay Culkin Show is executed by co-host Brett Davis. We shared a subway ride with Brett on the afternoon of the Snow-Pocalypse that shut down New York City on a Monday in January. We had finally convinced a small gang of our friends to check out The Macaulay Culkin Show the preceding Sunday night, and after they all raved for hours about how great it was we decided to ask Brett for an interview. He was kind enough to accept and here’s where it unfolds.

How did you get started performing?

When I was a teenager I was a big fan of The Best Show on WFMU, a really hilarious comedy radio show hosted by Tom Scharpling. Like a dumb teenager, I pranked the show as a character named Steinberg a few times. He finally asked me what I was doing and I expanded on this character by making him an aspiring rapper. MC Steinberg was born, and Scharpling encouraged me to keep writing bits and it led to rap battles with Ted Leo and in-studio appearances. That character crossed over to Jake Fogelnest’s show on KRock and soon I started doing it live at basement punk shows with my friends We Are The Seahorses. Those were my first live comedy shows.

Did you know you wanted to do comedy as a kid?

Yeah. There’s a video of me singing “When I Grow Up” in preschool, and when every little kid says “policeman” or “fireman” I said “movie star” like a little piece of shit. But growing up, I was obsessed with The Simpsons and I would stay up late and watch SNL. I was always making little comics and stuff like that.

Who are some of your biggest influences and why?

Biggest comedic influences in no order leaving out a ton: Andy Kaufman, Scharpling & Wurster, Andrew Daly, Chris Lilley, Fred Armisen, Chris Elliott, Louis CK, Tim & Eric, Zach Galifinaikis, Amy Poehler, Charlie Chaplin, The Onion, Gilda Radner, Chris Gethard, the writers of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jon Glaser & too many others. I guess the thing they all had in common was going against the grain at the risk of alienating people and walking the line between dumb and smart.

Your outfits are rad, where do you shop for clothes and what inspires your costumes?

Thanks! They’re mostly split between vintage stores and costume stores. They know me at Halloween Adventure. Inspiration comes everywhere. Sweet Daddy Longlegs was inspired by Jackee Harry from Sister Sister and 227.

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Have you ever been badly heckled and how did you deal with it?

Since I only perform in-character, I need to find creative ways to stop the heckling. Sometimes the sadder characters just take it. Others will go ballistic and yell till that person is gone. One of the worst times was during a bit where my comedy partner Darren and I were doing a wrestling bit where he charged through the crowd. Somebody didn’t get it and a fistfight erupted. Since I was the good guy and Darren was the bad guy, I cheered them on. It’s okay they got us beers afterwards.

What famous comedian’s career would you most like to emulate?

I’m already doing a really good job emulating Chris Gethard’s! I guess Albert Brooks? He’s managed to do his own thing auteur-style for a long time, releasing things on different platforms, dipping into other genres. Sacha Baron Cohen is another good one. I would love a big budget Borat-type movie where I mess with people on a grand scale.

Have you ever considered doing a comedy album, in song or traditional stand-up form?

Yeah! One of my favorite records is Andrew Daly’s Nine Sweaters. It’s similar to what I do but much better.

What are some of the best comedy shows you’ve ever seen personally, excluding shows you hosted?

New York has so much comedy. Avoid any comedy “clubs” unless you want mediocre comedy for expensive prices. Even the Comedy Cellar isn’t that great despite all its history. If you want to see good, fresh comedy, go to The Macaulay Culkin Show, The Tuesday Special, The Lethal Lottery (all three are my shows haha jk but really tho). I love Fresh Perspectives (Muchmore’s) they do a really good job finding unique and weird voices. I love The Dan + Joe + Charles Show (UCB East), Do Something (Tandem), Cool Shit Weird Shit (UCB East), anything hosted by Jo Firestone, Night Train (Littlefield), Comedy at the Knitting Factory, Cube (Muchmore’s), Creep (Over The Eight) improv shows with John Reynolds or Connor O’Malley and company (The Annoyance), You & The Screen. There are a lot of great one-offs at Over The Eight these days, too (because I’m booking certain nights with my favorite performers).

Besides Shea Stadium, what are the best comedy clubs in New York City?

Shea isn’t a comedy club so it is the best one. I don’t ever say any venue is better than another. It’s like saying I feel like going to see music so I’m going to get a ticket for Irving Plaza. You may end up seeing a great band, you will probably end up seeing G. Love & Special Sauce or something. But if you seek out certain shows, you’ll get some good curation.

Are there any venues you dream about playing but haven’t yet?

I would like to do some festivals, comedy and otherwise. I’ve been lucky to perform on some shows that I really respect like Big Terrific and Wards of Merkin, but there are some still out of reach. There are tons of shows in LA I would like to be on, too.

Who are your co-hosts and collaborators?

I host The Macaulay Culkin Show with Sally Burtnick, a really funny gal currently in Philly. I also produce the show with Frank Flaherty, and my comedy partner is Darren Mabee. They were all part of this crazy band called We Are The Seahorses, a kind of crazy sexterror-core performance art electro party band. I used to open for them at basement shows and weird venues in college. We decided to start doing comedy shows and when Macaulay started, they were natural collaborators.

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Imagine that the one and only Mac himself is a fan of the show and wants to be involved. What’s a rough sketch of what you would maybe ask him to do?

We have a contingency plan in place if he were to show up pretty much every show, just in case. The name was such an afterthought that stuck for whatever reason. I’m pretty sure he knows about it, but we’ll see if he ever wants to check it out. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Comedy can be distilled in many forms, from film to television and live stand-up. What are your preferences and goals in terms of different formats?

I’d like to do them all! I want to write a book, make movies, do a series, do a large scale play. I’m down to do it all if they’ll let me!

Everyone should go out to see more live comedy. Laughter is the best medicine. The comics putting it all out there at The Macaulay Culkin Show go to the tough places and soften the sting by making fun of everything. No topic is too unpleasant to throw out in the spotlight to be deflated.

Cheap drinks, temporary transcendence of existential angst and only five bucks at the door. Go now before these talented names become famous, so you can confidently brag to your disbelieving pals; “Hey listen, I saw them first…”

Brett has a brand new show airing on New York City public access channel the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, called The Special Without Brett Davis. It premieres Wednesday night, February 11th and will be available streaming online here;


Hey listen…

All images via




Death Defying Acts

Death Defying Acts

On the crisp new Angus & Julia Stone, the Australian brother and sister combo whisper peaceful invitations to follow them to a secret garden party somewhere relaxing and comfortably numb. This album is built with tracks of hopeful sadness for lovesick dreamers, witchy women and nomad men, girls with a glint in their eye and boys on the edge. Vagabond hearts busy living, loving and learning life road-tripping from glory to disaster and back, accompanied by simmering, smooth-sailing driving music. This is a perfect record for very early mornings and very late nights.

Younger siblings to older sister Catherine, middle-kid Julia and baby-brother Angus were raised by folk-singer parents near Sydney, Australia. Angus began playing guitar as a teenager, then met up with Julia, who was traveling abroad in Bolivia. Soon they were strumming side-by-side in a jungle wonderland and work-shopping songs that led to contracts with international talent agencies. EP’s with cool titles such as Heart Full of Wine were followed by sold-out tours and a plethora of television and film music licensing.

“Death Defying Acts” is bold and menacing, like the score from a 1970’s thriller or crime drama. Julia’s vocals are beguiling and mysterious, soft and hard in the same breath. The alternately stinging and soothing guitar lines are a spaghetti-western soundtrack reborn on the Malibu bluffs.

“Little Whiskey” is one of the best tracks on the record. Angus plays the faded troubadour; heavy-headed from experience but wise, proud to have earned the keys to the highway. “My Word For It” is stubborn and playful like a purring cat. Julia’s range as a singer is limited, but she uses this to charming effect. Her dynamic intensity never escalates beyond casual brooding, as if she’s loved, lost and seen it all. Not completely jaded, but defiantly bittersweet.

“Grizzly Bear” wants to be a funky, Some Girls-era Rolling Stones groove, and it comes close. The instrumentation is sublime but the lyrics are distracting and leave something to be desired (“Yeah I like it when you smile – Won’t you stay with me, just for a little while?”). If only they’d spent another fifteen minutes with the pen and pad. The boozy synths and clipped electric guitar still make it a winner.

“Crash And Burn” is a languid procession of brooding, dirt-crusted twanging guitars. Casual, let-your-hair-down human release is brimming over the rim of “From The Stalls” and “Heart Beats Slow”. “A Heartbreak” and “Main Street” are lingering chimes of breakup catharsis. “Other Things” presents the vague mood Julia and Angus revel in and make a career of exploring. Happy and hopeful or heartbroken and fragile? Maybe always a little of both.

The true star of this record is the raw genius of producer Rick Rubin. You can clearly hear why he’s paid well for his skill set. He’s an enigmatic wizard, the legendary Gandalf the Great, tough to compare to others because his diverse body of work is so singular and unparalleled. The dazzling audio quality captured on this collection is further testament to his zen-master superiority behind the boards.

Angus & Julia Stone is ethereal and blissed-out in space while also sounding immediate and close enough to touch, like you’re sitting legs-folded under you on a plush rug in a home studio, just to the side of the drum kit, as the musicians and vocalists follow the wandering groove of the cosmic muse. It’s a really chill party that you’re thrilled to be invited to. Dance and drift around the fading firelight, slipping into an effortless dream you won’t soon forget.






Above & Beyond: 

Riccardo Tisci & Givenchy Give The Legendary Air Force 1 New Wings

When everyone owns multiple pairs of Air Force 1’s, how are yours special? A massive trans-continental industry of custom and boutique edition kicks has flourished for the needs of every Sneakerhead’s wildest dreams. True connoisseurs continue to thirst for that rare, extra-special color combo. AF1 aficionados need look no further since French luxury label Givenchy’s brand commander Riccardo Tisci and Nike have teamed up and done all the hard work to produce a top-shelf release that will be an instant classic and collector’s must-have. 

The AF1 is a dominating cornerstone of modern footwear; cross-genre, cross-gender and sublime in its smooth lines of less-is-more architecture. Named for the airborne chauffeur of the President of the United States, the Air Force 1 was born in 1982. For some unfathomable reason they were discontinued in 1983 but miraculously reborn in 1986. Tisci is aware of this dynamic.

“And so I was thinking, what is the essence of the Air Force 1? And how do I make that essence and make my own statement? For me the Air Force 1 is not about gender, it’s not about a particular city, nor is it about a certain style. The community decides. It’s democratic. It’s love.”

Over seventeen thousand different versions of the AF1 have been officially produced so far, not counting any of the countless one-of-a-kinds commissioned from your airbrushing pal around the way. Annual AF1 retail sales are humbly estimated at upwards of eight hundred million dollars. 

Givenchy has been internationally renowned and distinguished for over sixty years. One important thing you should know is how to pronounce it. The name sounds like Jhee-Von-Shee. The French house was founded in 1952 by the visionary Hubert de Givenchy, who caused a major sensation for using fabric called ‘raw cotton’ for high-end garments. It was Punk Rock twenty-three years before Punk Rock music was born. The hits continued and in 1993 annual sales escalated past one-hundred and seventy-six million dollars.

Riccardo Tisci became Creative Director of Givenchy womenswear in 2005. Three years later in 2008 he expanded to menswear. His themes are noted for dark shades of dense color and a concentrated push toward minimalism. Givenchy chief Marco Gobbetti notes what works about Tisci’s sensibility.

 “He (Tisci) has an elegance that is very modern, very contemporary and romantic at the same time.”

Tisci had some big shoes to fill when he took the job. He was preceded as Givenchy Creative Director by John Galliano and the late Alexander McQueen. Fortunately his run has enjoyed critical and commercial acclaim. Taking all that into account, how do the shoes look? They cooly embody all the aesthetic choices that made the name Riccardo Tisci first stand out to fashion movers and shakers. 

The enhancements are focused on distinct, contained areas; under and around the tongue and laces, the back above the heel, the side swoosh and strap. They look sleek and refined. Each different size (low-cut to knee-high) also presents the much desired trait of being a design you and your crew can not reproduce in the driveway with spray paint and duct tape. The first version in white debuts March 1st, the black pair is released April 1st.  

The Tisci AF1’s are a cut above. They won’t be cheap, but they’re an investment. Keep them extra clean with a crisp box and you can probably flip them online whenever you feel like it. But chances are you can probably already tell from the photos, these are keepers.









Venue: The Bootleg Theater, Hollywood

Date: April 5th, 2014


Remember Pop Rocks? Ripping open the pouch and pouring out a pile of bright crumbled crystals. As soon as they touch the moisture of your tongue the candy fragments start fizzing like flurries of carbonated fireworks. Enjoying Pop Rocks is a unique experience, a singular candy-grenade demolition spree. Pop Rocks are fun. The fun is what matters.

A Saturday night at the Bootleg Theater is one of the best places you can be any weekend in Los Angeles. New garage-synth sparklers Beginners recently played the Bootleg and won over the audience with sugary hooks dangling on sharp beats.

This fresh ensemble is the creation of writer / producer Nick Ruth and vocalist / bassist Samantha Barbera, who used to play together in a band called Malbec. When it dissolved a few years ago Barbera kept her chops up punk-rocking with Holy Fever while Ruth collaborated with various solo artists, including Blaqstarr, Mikky Ekko and Active Child. Nick and Samantha decided to compose together again after hanging out at a Foster the People concert.

Beginners’ set opened the night. When they kicked off people were still ambling around the bars, lounge and patio. The hard four-four drumbeat and simmering harmonies worked magic right away.  During the first song a steady stream of people came crowding in, drawn to the bouncing synth-pop like curious children toward a big colorful bowl full of unguarded candy.

You can bet your online reputation that Beginners play tunes people enjoy. They may be recently formed but Beginners play with an understated confidence only seasoned musicians can really afford. It helps to have a convincing, charismatic frontwoman. Samantha Barbera projects determined intensity that demands attention without being bombastic.


Overall the group produces a casual dance-rock sound that fits what’s most popular in indie music right now. Some of the backing vocals are reminiscent of certain kids with augmented kicks, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Beginners released a self-titled EP on March 25th. “Ever Love” puts the cherry-cola chorus right up front. This mellow, flirtatious groove is a potential single top-to-bottom. It also boasts a scuzzy electric guitar that drapes the keyboard chrome in a well-worn leather jacket. “Who Knows” is a ringing kick-drum driven number full of pop-timism that shrugs with wistful acceptance we’ll somehow decipher our collective confusion as we roll along to the beat.

The best track on the EP is easily “So Close I Almost Believed It”, an elevating buzz that doesn’t rush the warm progressions. This songs cinematic future-vintage soundtrack beauty is hard to resist. The melody line sways back and forth in the breeze and the floating vocals tug you into an ambient harmonic drift.

One aspect that really helps is how the production is not overcooked. Super-slick production is an unappealing problem most modern artists suffer from in the digital age. Beginners keep the sonic elements expertly balanced and economically arranged. The pacing and tempos are breezy and refreshing.

They’re edgier live than on record and that’s good. In the end their set at The Bootleg could’ve been a little longer but they accomplished the commendable task of leaving the crowd wanting more. Beginners are cool fun and that’s what matters.





March 9th, 2014


In the sprawling celestial crystal palaces of Heaven there is a large elegant building devoted to music studios. In Room 112 you’ll often find the smiling faces of Freaky Tah, Big L, Big Pun, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the golden boys Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

They’re head-nodding and rhyming ferociously into mics that look like golden ice cream cones topped with shimmering scoops of diamonds. Friendly musicians visit all the acoustically perfect rooms. Bob Marley often rolls up, Hendrix is always recording cosmic solos that even God is surprised by and Amy Winehouse is always in demand. The concept of epic jam sessions doesn’t come remotely close to describing the mind-melting sonic orchestra constantly reverberating in Paradise.

The music they make up there is so incredible you have to die before you can hear it. Jesus has exceptional taste. He’s truly seen and heard it all. When Jesus wants to pump it up he wears his heavy chain, a thick cuban link necklace made from solidified starlight with an iced-out medallion of BIG’s face. He likes to call it his Biggie Piece.



Remember the first time you saw the video for “Big Poppa”? It instantly changed the room into the coolest nightclub in the world, even if it was just you watching in your sweatpants. When BIG and Method Man rip the chorus of “The What”, doesn’t it make you feel like you could easily conquer the world if you just work hard and believe in yourself? “Who Shot Ya?” always rocks hard, but do you ever feel a quick cold shiver run up your spine on those ominous piano notes?

On his debut album Ready To Die, Notorious B.I.G. had already mastered multiple sides of songwriting, swinging from edgy head-bangers to champagne drenched R&B party songs with nonchalant ease. The content is emotionally deep and vulnerable in its honesty. It also greatly benefits from Biggie’s playful sense of humor. Track 8 on Ready to Die and the “Nasty Boy” intro stand with other skits and interludes as evidence he was a funny guy. Rapping conversations with himself in slightly different character voices (“Gimme The Loot”, “Warning”) shows his cinematic creativity in full stride, like Eddie Murphy or Peter Sellers playing different parts in the same film.

Though an undeniable full-on Rap Star, Biggie seemed somehow accessible. Listening to his music means walking and hanging side by side with him. His baritone flow draws you in, hypnotizes your attention and weaves a web of dynamic intrigue. The scenes are vividly detailed right in front of you. When he’s having fun you’re at the greatest party ever, and when he suffered you felt his pain. “Suicidal Thoughts” is a threatening, terrifying recording.

Biggie was fearless about putting his life story in the spotlight. His records share all the desperation of his lowest points and the intoxicating glamour of his success. It’s a compelling and thrilling journey that winds you up like a dramatic action-adventure movie anchored by a charismatic leading man. Ready To Die and Life After Death are visionary, timeless works of art that riff on the roller-coaster ride of the human condition, told through the unique perspective of a poetic genius from New York City in the early and middle 1990’s.


It’s difficult to pinpoint specifically what made Christopher Wallace so magnetically attractive. His magic was the kind that comes from within. When we see someone as confident and intelligent as he was, we want to spend time with them. We all wish we were sharper and bolder. He speaks to the best versions of ourselves.

The shadow cast by the Notorious B.I.G. is long and global, the impression he left on popular music tremendous. The legend of Biggie Smalls parallels our collective memories of the Twin Towers; majestic symbols of greatness, reminders of promises forever lost.

One of the hardest parts of being American is coming to grips with how deeply our history has been stained by gun violence. John Lennon, Tupac and Biggie would’ve never been shot down on tour in Europe, Asia, Africa, or most of the world, only in America. In the future, there’ll be no debate over gun control because human beings will evolve into having no use for instruments of killing.

In a perfect world where he survived the 1997 attack in Los Angeles, Notorious B.I.G. kept making critically and commerically acclaimed albums. He nurtured a remarkable roster of talent and co-owned Bad Boy Records with Sean Combs. Biggie and Tupac made an album together capitalizing on their former rivalry called Clash of the Titans. The record was such a massive success they made a movie based on it. Biggie enjoyed more acting gigs as he got older, including memorable roles as a close ally of Tony Soprano, as Larry David’s hard-partying neighbor on Curb Your Enthusiasm and supporting parts in all of Wes Anderson’s and Spike Lee’s films. Always a man of the people, in his middle-age Wallace successfully ran for Congress and thrived as a political working class hero. Libraries, hospitals and schools throughout Brooklyn are named in his honor.


“Big influenced a generation. This whole generation took pieces and bits. Everybody took a piece out of Big that’s on the charts right now. Everybody.” – AZ

It’s hard to listen to “Juicy” and not get a little choked up. The song is so positive, so full of life and hope. It’s moving to get the rush of how it must feel to have all your dreams come true. That pure joy is captured in the music, and it hasn’t dimmed in two decades. If anything, it’s gotten brighter. Reassuring yet untouchable, it’s there in that radiant light, where Biggie is and will always be with us all.

Image sources, from top;

1. hiphopolitic.com

2. twitter.com/HipHopGoldenAge

3. roninology.tumblr.com

*AZ quote;



picstitchphoto 1


Venue: El Rey Theater, Hollywood

Date: Sunday October 27th, 2013



Sky Ferreira is to the mainstream music industry what Daenerys Targaryen is to Westeros on HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Daenerys and Sky traverse the borders, storming castles and gathering powerful momentum expanding their armies of true believers. Sky’s dragons are her songs. You can see the fire in her eyes and hear it crackle on every chorus.

It’s been about one year since I first encountered Ms. Ferreira in an article on the Fall 2012 CMJ music festival in New York City. Who was this black leather biker jacket blonde scowling out from under the stage lights? She projected the rare kind of vibes our culture used to associate with Movie Stars. It used to mean something better than it does today to be called a Movie Star, long before the media circus dimmed the celestial luster.

The 2012 EP Ghost bewitched me like a zealous new convert to a cult religion. I wasn’t the only one. Positive buzz has been snowballing for Ferreira all year. Earlier in the Spring the title for her debut album was said to be I’m Not Alright. Months later it was reported as I Will. The days have mellowed into Fall and tonight is the album release party for Night Time, My Time. The concert was originally booked for the end of September, but rescheduled for a month later to line up with the album date.

One of the best parts of going out is the cab ride. You should be going very fast with the window down. You won’t be pulled over for speeding in a cab. If the driver isn’t zipping through yellows and hurtling past traffic then you’re being ripped off. Take the highway to go faster. My headphones oozed mirror-ball tremolos over snare-snapping beats, beckoning me into the electrified darkness.

Earlier in the day news had broke that the legendary Lord Lou Reed had passed on. Reed was so sharp and granite-hard as if to be immortal, like the Greco-Roman Gods rocking on Olympus. Part of me wanted to sit in dim candlelight playing White Light, White Heat on repeat for hours. My fingers were crossed that Sky might play a Lou Reed cover.

The boiling red and blue neon lights of the El Rey sign hovered above down the boulevard. When you look up past the palm trees and commercial structures the night sky is a solid, even shade of pale steel gray. You don’t see any bumps or wisps of cloud textures. There are no open pockets as far as you can see in every direction. It’s like a man-machine made digital dome yawning over all of Hollywood.

It’s both dark and bright at once. A similar visual effect happens in Manhattan when the light pollution bounces off overcast clouds. In New York the Atlantic Ocean winds shred the clouds into strips and puddles. In Los Angeles the gray blanket hangs incessantly throughout the night, a reflection of both Hollywood’s bright shining possibilities and it’s whirlpools of fatal darkness.

I sauntered under the marquee of the El Rey and made my way inside, cobalt blue wristband certified. The Investigative Journalist in me decided to use the Voice Memo phone function to drift around and ask random strangers; “Why do you like Sky?”

Thank you very much to all the friendly faces who gave these thoughtful quotes. Ages range from 18 – 50, with a mode of 18, median of 29 and a mean average age of 31.

“Why do I like her music? I think she is edgy and I think she is um, very real, and she’s not a pop princess. She’s Pop, but it’s real, legitimate songwriting and singing and she has very real talent and she puts it all out, she lays it all out. I mean if you watch her performances, she cries on stage. This is not um, someone ‘Selling Out’, this is someone who is working. And this is someone who is selling their Art, and showing it, and that’s what’s important, I mean, I think that’s what matters.” – FRANKIE

“I think she’s really just fun to listen to, she has great lyrics, and I think it’s really cool how she started so young, and she’s becoming so big, and not only is she such an amazing artist, she has such a cool lifestyle that she lives and her style in general is just really cool.” – MARIA

“Yeah I’ve kind of been following her whole evolution since you know she first started releasing music a few years ago, so it’s exciting to be at her album release party and get to see a final product. Um, I don’t know, it’s just exciting, it’s personal.”

“Why do you like her in particular, like what about her music, do you like?”

“It’s hard to say because all of it’s been so different since the beginning but I think all of it kind of has, dark undertones I kind of relate to, so even with the poppier stuff like it’s just relatable, for me.” -TONY

“I just think she has a lot of soul, when she sings and uh, I don’t know I just like the music. It’s very, for me it feels old but very new and very modern, so I relate to that I guess.” – JUAN

“I think Sky overall is just such a cool person. Her style, everything about her is just really cool and you want to get to know her. Her music is upbeat but it’s also real, it’s not fake. With Pop music a lot of times it’s like ‘This is so generic’ but she has stuff that you don’t hear everyday.” – MARENA

“I’ve know her since she was 13, and she writes all her own songs, most of her own songs, so you know.. I’ve followed her career, and she’s got a voice and she has a good sound.” – CARL



The crowd starts screaming as the curtains rise. The shadowy figures of the band amble across the boards. Sky settles in center stage. The set kicks off with Boys. All her fast numbers evoke this jittery bliss. The music is like fireworks, booming and blasting with glittering colors. Her icy white gold hair is cropped short to the shoulder line. Dark jeans, black jacket and no costume changes. The fog machine effect is fun to watch. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker could be one of the songs on the soundtrack of SKY: The Movie.

You’re Not The One. Bloggers keep repeating each other trying to describe how perfect this track is. I remember playing an early live version of You’re Not The One over and over on a loop so much I was concerned my neighbor might cut my door down with an axe. It would have been worth it. The bass guitar line alone is priceless.

I love losing myself, talking to myself in the dark…

Heavy Metal Heart. A whirlwind hurricane orchestrated by a bent-synth soft-grunge siren. If I was a psychiatrist I would play this for my patients and let them go wild and smash things in my office. They would be cured of all their problems. This thunderbolt was built to rock stadiums and arenas. Bet on it. Don’t underestimate this song. Stadium Anthem.

It’s slipping away, there’s nothing we can do…

24 Hours. Pure unfiltered Pop Magic. Singer-songwriters and bands of the world; want to learn how to write an insanely catchy melody? Study this one. Ascension. Add in a fog machine at full blast and a sci-fi laser light show and you’ll have hundreds of people going absolutely bat-shit bonkers. Fact.

How could you know what it feels like to fight the hounds of Hell?

I Blame Myself. A phoenix rising from the ashes. This is your headphone audio exorcism. It does take many years of practice to craft tunes like this. Dreamers, keep practicing. This is how the chorus and crescendo are supposed to sound.

From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catharsis

ca·thar·sis noun \kə-ˈthär-səs\: the act or process of releasing a strong emotion (such as pity or fear) especially by expressing it in an art form.


Everything Is Embarrassing makes an appearance later in the set and the audience shrieks like it’s a last-minute touchdown. This Big Hit doesn’t define or limit her in any way. She’s already pushing further and farther beyond. Still, it’s a Neo-classic.

My somber wish In Memoriam was granted when the opening chords of Sunday Morning by Lou Reed rang out. It’s the first track from The Velvet Underground & Nico album and yes it was a Sunday morning when Lou moved on. Ask and you shall receive. Strands and branches of infinity twirling out above us…

Oh Japanese Jesus… Oh Japanese Jesus, Come on… I’m gearing up…I’m gearing up for a Japanese Christmas… Oh Japanese Jesus, Come on…

Omanko. I can’t explain exactly Why? but Omanko is devastatingly excellent and maybe as good or better than anything I’ve heard all year. I don’t even want to try to analyze it. I don’t need to, just go listen to it and you’ll get it. Top Five contender for Best Songs of 2013. Early call for my favorite off the new album, tied with Heavy Metal Heart.

I won’t forget the time Sky started sobbing in the middle of Sad Dream at the Bootleg Theater show of early 2013. It’s never pleasant to see someone cry. You always hope they don’t, that they battle on and keep it together. It’s awkward for everyone. You’re thinking; “Hmm. How do I react to this? I don’t like this feeling! Sad confusion?” They’re probably thinking; “I’m crying in front of all these people staring at me.”

It was the second verse or so of Sad Dream and Sky was crying, holding the microphone away and turning from the crowd. Her bandmates looked worried. Fans started cheering and clapping, urging her on to continue. She offered some anxious apologies. The crowd showered encouragement at her. The band kicked back in and she belted out the rest of the song with tangible slow-burning anguish.

I’ve enjoyed hundreds of memorable shows from the tiniest dank clubs to the biggest outdoor arenas. I can’t recall any similar feeling comparable to that moment at the Bootleg. You root for her because she’s tough and she must have gone through some serious shit to get that way.

He was of a different generation and gender but the actor James Dean had the same quality. When you watch James Dean on film, its vividly clear that he’s gone beyond the surface of acting. He is diving into the well of his own most brutal life experiences and excavating the pain and anger to find the flowers and gems of redemption.

I can feel the pulse of my Heavy Metal Heart, my Heavy Metal Heart Heart Heart oh-ohh…

Right here, right now, Sky is The Best. You’re welcome to disagree, but you’ll really be missing out on some phenomenal music. Go buy the album and just enjoy how fun and cathartic it is. Welcome to 2000-Now and welcome to New Pop. NEO Pop. Try NOT over-thinking so much and embrace it like the ambient synths embrace the diamond-cut electric guitars. Years from now Night Time, My Time will be praised as an iconic musical moment from the second decade of the new millennium.

Oh Japanese Jesus… Oh Japanese Jesus, Come on… 

(Repeat into infinity……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….



*All italicized song lyrics copyright Sky Ferreira.

Night Time, My Time is available on iTunes.




Venue: EL REY Theater, Hollywood

Date: Wednesday July 24th, 2013


West Hollywood, the El Cid theater on a weeknight in late July of the year MMXIII. Seekers are amassed in a cavernous hall draped and colored deep red in every direction. You slither through the crowd toward the front, drawn forward by the rumbling magnetism of four women on stage. Punk-Rock tight pants and tees in all black save for one in a pearl white shirt.

Sonic simmering, a slow-burn building to a volcanic crescendo of passion or the aggressive impact of an explosive punch of volume and tempo. Both have their own moments. Sometimes you want no one else but Dee Dee Ramone wailing out the “one-two-three-four” intro to ten songs in a row. Other times, it’s all about the ethereal Mood, an escalating seduction of the audience / listener(s) by the band / artist(s).

Savages are a four-piece Post-Punk group from London. Together they are a unique synthesis of four brooding young women, growling and glowering with a threatening allure. At first listen they even sound odd, not for negative reasons but because most bands (especially in Hollywood) in 2013 are not writing and performing in the defiant, droning rhythmic punk-thrash style Savages are.

Every modern musician or artist is a special result of influences from the past being absorbed, blender-shredded and re-born by the creative subconscious. In the colossal, imaginary ‘Earth’s Greatest Record Store’, there resides every single piece of recorded music in human history. Browsing the brimming aisles of this Cosmic Ameoba Records, you can find the chemical compounds to assemble the core sound of Savages by boiling and brewing the base elements of Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Public Image Limited.

Despite that simplified comparison, it’s fair to say that Savages sound like NOTHING this music connoiesseur has EVER heard before.


Drummer Fay Milton attacks the kit. The beats are measured and precise, pounding and filling the large room with a heavy thump. This drumming is easy to groove to. Milton plays with the brash confidence all really good drummers display, a brash honest pummeling attitude of “I’m going to make one incredible hell of a racket here, and you’re gonna like it!” She’s convincing.

Bassist Ayse Hassan rumbles along in the low end thunder zone with the drums. It’s an edgy pulse at a pace that saunters slowly at first then rises into hammering fury, like a human heart careening from calm rest into wild excitement and adrenaline. Fay and Ayse make for a solid, kick-ass combo. This catchy, dark, rocking sound pleasantly anchors the core vibe of Savages. These rhythms are not the most complicated, they’re repetitious but charming and fun to casually bounce along to.

Guitarist Gemma Thompson squeals and riffs in the trebly, distorted and boosted stratosphere above the rhythm section. A variety of Fender guitars provide booming low-note valleys as well as screeching lines of intense harmony. The guitar is not looping traditional patterns and leads across the verse and chorus structure, it’s painting and coloring textures and emphasizing moments. Overall it’s something a little different, and very effective. Which is a great way to describe the band in general.

Vocalist Jehnny Beth is not the traditional format female lead singer you would expect, and no less of a STAR for it. If anything, her rarely-seen particular blend of controlled fury and power of presence make her stand far out from the crowd as a singer you don’t quickly forget. She had every single person in the crowded venue completely entranced. Jehnny has a slight but noticeable Franco-European accent. It’s clearly not a voice from these shores. It wasn’t easy to decipher every word of every line given the style of music, but you certainly get the idea. Jehnny Beth is having a good time venting. She is also not kidding in the slightest and would seem at ease in a street fight. There is a distinct and unmistakable toughness to her. The specific sources of her rage aren’t announced, but they don’t need to be, we all feel it. It felt very real, not an acting stage-show pose or contrivance.

However, for all this mention of rough-edged attitude, it’s important to point out that the songs are melodic and catchy. After building the melodic tension to incredible levels, they really get grooving on a landslide riff plus punchy vocals and you don’t want it to end. You want it to stay up high and not come down, because it’s pretty damn wild and thrilling up there. Savages are pretty wildly thrilling all around.


Few would argue against the opinion that pop-culture trends come and go in rapid succession in the Modern Age. Maybe in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties you could map out major changes in music trends approximately every 4-6 years. Today those numbers have shrunk to every 1-3 years, or less. Around roughly 2009-2010 Psychedelic-Computer-Rock was strumming and chirping at all the hip bars, clubs and parties. This style of Beatles-meets-Eighties-Nintendo soundtrack was succeeded by the Digital Nervous Breakdown of Dubstep. Dubstep caught on quick, but it didn’t have much lasting power, so as the masses searched for the New Buzz the next logical step was Full Throttle “Electronic Dance Music”, or ‘EDM’ if you’d rather.

EDM is peaking right now, this summer of 2K13, brought to full global dominance by the French duo praised as early pioneers of the sound. The smash album Random Access Memories is the sound of “real instruments” (remember those?) played by human players. Daft Punk’s statement is a chandelier of Disco-Soul-Rock proclaiming their own personal boredom with EDM.

Watching Savages felt like seeing a strong contender for What’s Next. They could catch a major wave if they’re lucky, because their sound is a counter-point growth out of most of what EDM is about. It’s a step in evolution that keeps the tempos and crowd-pleasing low end pulse and does it with real instruments and heavy loads of emotional passion from the singer.

The beats are heavy but simple enough to groove on easily, the melodies bounce, attack and howl in repeated lines full of estranged fury. All the sounds you’re hearing are being played by people right in front of you, there are no DJ or backing tracks filling in. It’s a comfortable Next Step on from EDM, just familiar enough to what you already like and just new enough to make it glisten and sparkle when it hits your ears.

Challenging, seductive and visceral. Singing and blasting like a beautiful menace. SAVAGES.

____________________ _ _ _ _

Find them at savagesband.com