Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Special Weekly Update: Los Angeles

Weekly Update 2019-19: A very special update from Los Angeles, California, the final stop on my stateside expedition in search of summer.

Music: Beach House
Certainly one of my first influences in the dream pop scene back in 2009, Beach House continues to reinvent their genre with each new album since. If you're looking for some melancholy music to wait out a rainy Sunday or help you through some bad times, look no further. The band is comprised of lead singer and keyboardist Victoria Legrand, along with guitarist, keyboardist, and backup vocalist Alex Scally.

Two people (plus a rotating touring drummer) may not seem like a lot, but they can sure silence a crowd in awe. I wasn't sure how they would do as the second stage's final band of the night, but they somehow managed to bring an eerie calm over a crowd of drugged and drunken Californian millennials.

I can't believe the band has no fewer than seven studio albums, but I suggest you start neatly in the middle with Teen Dream (their breakout album from 2010).


Accomplishment: We left off last time at University of California San Diego, awaiting my third bus of the day to take me along the coast to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. From there, it was a 20 minute walk with all my luggage across two highways and a set of train tracks (at least there were sidewalks for 90% of the walk!) to the fields. Luckily, the admissions person let me keep my bags with her while I walked the massive fields and gardens.















After visiting the gardens, I walked back to the bus stop (and caught it just in time) to continue the rest of the journey to Los Angeles. I took the bus to Oceanside Transit Center, where I thought I would continue on the Pacific Surfliner with Amtrak, but surprisingly the local Metrolink train (along the exact same track) was less than half the price of Amtrak and also arriving sooner.








The Metrolink ticket also gave me free transit for the remainder of the day in LA. I took a deceptively simple and quick subway ride and final bus (transit vehicles #6 and 7 in my trip respectively) that dropped me off a five-minute walk from my AirBnB. Too bad the walk was mostly up a huge flight of stairs. With all my baggage.



Somehow I made it and was inside the most beautiful AirBnB I had ever seen in my life. My friend Laura did very well in booking this place. I would greet them the next day after they arrived from a late-night flight. The next day, we would meet up with our friends Vicky and Olivia in Venice Beach.














The next day was all planned by my friend Eric, a Californian Nature Adventure consisting of a hike and climb into the mouth of a mountain cave and an exploration of rock formations at El Matador Beach.
Can't have a hike without a good breakfast!


















Saturday brought the main event of our trip; we Ubered all the way down to Long Beach for Just Like Heaven Festival. More on that in the Random Thought below!

Our last day came all too soon, I tried to pack as many things into it as I could. First up, I headed to Museum Mile to visit the La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA.

A statue of an elephant drowning in tar. These pits actually bubbled because they're real tar!!


Tar pits workers excavaing fossils right in front of me (behind a gate).

LACMA is beautiful and huge.



The public art piece Urban Light was also in the area, a must-see area for art lovers.




The Automotive Museum.



I'd really love to go back and visit LACMA, I only had time to poke my head into one small area in the three huge ROM-size buildings that make up the museum. It is simply massive.

It was only a 15-minute walk from there to the Original Farmer's Market of Los Angeles.













After the market, I continued on eastward in the direction of Downtown LA, stumbling upon the most beautiful outdoor mall I had ever seen. The stores were all certainly upscale, but nothing I cared to venture into. I was mostly amazed with the architectural beauty, as well as the double-decker troller with a spiral staircase(?!) that took shoppers across the mall.










Some people waiting in line for...something?

I didn't think anything else would amaze me more than that, until I stumbled upon the LA location of Dominique Ansel's bakery. Finally, finally I could have my cookie shot that I had waited in line in New York like a fool for, only to have them sell out before I could get one. It was magnificent.


Then I grabbed yet another Uber over to DTLA to meet Eric and Laura at the Grand Public Market. Complete with more restaurants than you could ever try of all different origins and cultures, a mariachi band and all the neon my eyes could want, I was in heaven.










We tried to take a weird Gondola one street over, but it broke down just as we were about to board. Talk about bad public transit...so we took the stairs.





The beauty that my eyes saw next, I was not prepared for. As we joined the standby line to get non-reserved access to the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, there was literally no one in line! We strode right into the museum, which was at least as beautiful as the art it contained. More on that in the inspiration section below, along with the Walt Disney Concert Hall right next door.









After a simply magical visit to the museum and concert hall, we walked down the street in an attempt to find an underground tunnel through which bootleggers used to smuggle liquor in the prohibition area. Since it was Sunday, we didn't have much chance of making it too far into the basement of the old Hall of Records. Supposedly the entrance to the tunnel is down a few floors into the basement, all while making sure no one catches you since this is definitely an act of trespassing.

We got as far as a locked double set of doors about three levels down into the basement, passing by all sorts of creepy sights (and not the slightest hint of another human). Eric, the biggest horror lover of all of us, was too frightened to even pass by the desk in front of the doors, he definitely felt some kind of ghostly presence down there. I'd really like to go back on a weekday and try again.






Next on our list was a walk south past Grand Public Market toward our last stopThe Last Bookstore in Los Angeles is housed in an old abandoned bank, and is just as topsy-turvy as you might think. Two floors of bookshelves filled with all different genres and in interesting arrangements like tunnels, labyrinth walls, and even a rainbow wall organized by spine colour.


















This had been quite a long day and we had to get up at 4:00AM the next day, so that ended it off. What a fabulous trip!

Goal:
This weekend brings many good spring events, one of which being the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It's always a double-bill of fun for me to attend talks and panels of my favourite comic artist celebrities as well as visit the tables of my friends and acquaintances in the industry. A particular highlight this year will be the first ever North American event for famed horror manga artist Junji Ito. A past topic on this very blog, I am a pretty big fan and super excited to see him talk.

It's also Mother's Day weekend, so I am taking my mom (or is she taking me?) all around town to visit the Aga Khan Museum, David Dunlap Observatory for Richmond Hill's Doors Open, a special Chinese restaurant called Maple Yip, Sky City Mall for the best bubble tea, and more. She has good taste because they're all my favourite things to do, too! Or is it because we get to do them together? :)

Random Thought: Just Like Heaven
The entire reason for this trip to California started back in February, when I posted on Facebook about a festival lineup that had just been released: the very first year of Just Like Heaven. This lineup was stacked with bands from a pivotal time in my own life, when I was starting to discover my own music tastes separately from my parents, as well as finding a sense of identity and relationship with music.



















Bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Grizzly Bear and Miike Snow were some of the first concerts I had ever attended around 2006-2008, and it was super duper special to see them all again in the same place. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many of the other bands all distinctly mentioned how great it was to all come together with the bands they had come up into fame with, and all the fans who had followed them as well (yes, it me).

On the flip side, seeing bands like The Faint, Passion Pit and Beach House for the first time after listening to their music for so, so long was satisfying in a completely different way. I ricoched between these two feelings all day long, until Phoenix took the stage for the final performance. They gave me a sense of nostalgia to two separate occasions, having seen them close out two festivals prior in 2013 and 2017.

As music remains a huge part of my life and surely always will be, this music festival provided me with a moment to look back on some great concerts I've seen, great music I've listened to, and awesome memories I've made surrounding music and festivals. While I am drifting farther and farther out of the mega three-day weekend music festivals I used to attend, this felt like a nice last hurrah to end off that chapter of my life.

Inspiration: DTLA Architecture
I had a sense that Los Angeles was renowned for its architecture, but I was simply dumbfounded as we approached the Broad, aka most beautiful building I had ever seen in my dang life. I immediately recognized it because it had, completely by coincidence, been my computer's desktop wallpaper of the day that morning. Everything was coming together like fate.

Totally by chance! Isn't it beautiful?!

Completely free of admission, the museum features all the pop art and contemporary art giants (literal and figurative) of the 20th century. Jeff Koons here and Andy Warhol over there and Jean Michel Basquiat on that side and Roy Lichtenstein on this side.



















The museum also contains not one, but TWO Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror pieces. For the likes of these, I had to pay for a full-year membership to the AGO and wait in several lines, both physical and digital (months before attending), to finally enter.





Alas, as we ventured downstairs to see the bigger, classic mirrored room Kusama piece, we realized the queue line for the room had closed for the day. Extremely dejected, we had still seen some amazing pieces. It somehow gave Eric a push to decide to move next door to the Walk Disney Concert Hall, which proved to be great timing...

This building was equally as magnificent as the Broad, but in a totally different way. Designed by Frank Gehry, it feels like the shape some music takes when it enters my brain through my ears.






The great timing was all due to Eric's daring to go as far into the hall as we could before a staff member questioned us - and we attempted this right at the exact time that a matinee concert was letting out. Yep, we swam upstream against the crowd of bluehairs and tweeds and right into the concert hall auditorium. We even got to hear a bass clarinet do a bit of beautiful-sounding tuning, and walked around for five minutes or so before we were asked to leave so the ushers could clear the seats.

We climbed even more stairs into the adjacent garden of the hall, equally as beautiful as the building itself.




As we left the hall, I requested that we head back into the Broad one last time to see the gift shop. They had some pretty cool Yayoi Kusama enamel pins that I wanted to look at. This turned out to be another stroke of amazing timing because as we re-entered the magnificent building, we saw that the lineup for the Infinity Room had reopened! We put our names in the queue and waited almost an hour (totally worth it) before we were allowed our 45-second moment in the room.



Those two buildings, plus all the other wonder of DTLA, make it one of my new favourite places in the world.