By Alexander Laurence
I went on tour with The Kills for a week. I have seen them a bunch of times. I saw their first tour in 2002. I have written about them. I have met them a few times, but I wouldn't say that I knew them at all. All that changed when I got a call from Dex from Magic Wands. Magic Wands were on a month-long tour which started at Coachella in mid-April, and ended on May 22nd, 2009. The Kills played most of the shows with The Horrors, and Magic Wands.
The tour manager of the Magic Wands had to head back to Tennessee, to go to a wedding. I was supposed to meet the bands in Portland, and tour manage the Magic Wands for the last part of the tour, and the west coast. I had done interviews with bands. Some friends of mine were presently tour managers. How hard could it be. I have been to all these venues. It just seemed natural.
When you think of The Kills and The Horrors, you can imagine some wild nights and wild partying. Maybe some celebrities or models hanging around. When I met up with the bands Jamie had an ear infection. He had seen a doctor. Both he and Allison were ill. Jamie spent most of his time sleeping on the bus or in dressing rooms. Otherwise he would be on the phone or doing the soundcheck, then back to sleep. Allison was often the first person I saw each day when we got to a venue.
I met the managers of the other bands. They didn't look like tour managers so much as guys from other bands. Since I was in control of the merch, I would be seeing the other people who did the selling for the other bands. Emily was the merch girl for the Horrors, and Holli was the merch girl for The Kills. The merch girl is often a superfan of the band, or a close friend of the band or manager.
My day consisted of waking up and having breakfast. Checking messages. If I had a few hours I would visit some places in the city where the gig was. If I was with Magic Wands, we would be driving a lot. If we got to the venue early, we would go get lunch. When we got to the venue I would say hello to the other bands, and have a chat with whoever is in charge. Every venue has different rules. I would load in the gear myself. At places like the Fillmore, there are a bunch of guys there to help out. It was great when they had a dolly. Load in, and then park the car. We would wait for the other bands to soundcheck. Since we went on first, we would soundcheck last.
So there is a lot of down time. You load in at 5pm, and maybe the show doesn't start until 8pm or 9pm. You sit in the dressing room and make phone calls. Deal with the list. Do some interviews if there are any. Do a photo shoot. At the Fillmore, they have a kitchen and some great food. So you eat while you are waiting, to do sound check. The Fillmore is a great place, especially when you have to be there 8-10 hours.
Unfortunately, the night Magic Wands played there at the Fillmore. The Horrors and The Kills decided they wanted to do an extra soundcheck for a collaborations with both bands. They played a version of "Baby, Please Don't Go" while we watched the clock. Magic Wands had about 15 minutes to set up. People were about to come in. They eventually played two songs, and the sound person was a little eccentric.
I had seen The Kills and The Horrors play before. So I watched a little of their sets the first night. But most of the time I was watching the audience or hanging out backstage. I would watch most of the Magic Wands' set, and if there was a sound or lighting problem, I would run over and talk to the technican. At the Fillmore, they have a guy doing merch for all the bands, so I didn't have to worry about that.
Once the Magic Wands were offstage. I cleared the stage and hauled it back to the car. It took about 15 minutes. After that most of my job was done. I could sit back and watch the show. At the Fillmore show, the label, Bright Channel were there. I spent some time talking to them. After the show we stayed at a house in Mill Valley.
The next day I woke up, and had a coffee. We went to the nearby cafe and had breakfast. The other bands had to rush down to LA to do a TV show, and the Horrors were on KCRW. We took our time, and enjoyed having a day off. As we pulled in to Hollywood, we discussed what we should be doing. We went to get some burritos. Then we went home. I stayed in Hollywood at my friend's apartment next to the Whiskey. We ended up seeing the Walkmen at the El Rey.
All the bands were extremely professional. They had been on tours before and they know how to do it. If there is anything excitement of excessive behavior, it's all saved for the stage or days off. Between the Minneapolis and Seattle shows, there were three days off. I expected some craziness. We all often seemed like invading armies taking off these different towns. In San Francisco, there was a lot of Kills fans. In Pomona, it was like a Horrors fan club show. As we came by the Glasshouse, we saw some tour buses. Oh that must be the venue? It wasn't. Apparently Gogol Bordello was playing the Fox theater that was around the block.
The Glasshouse as a venue is not my favorite. It's out of the way. Nowhere to sit down. Always people telling you where to stand. But as a touring band it's great. The backstage area is cool. There are bars and restaurants nearby. You can go out in the back alley. When we got there, I realized I left a strobe light back in SF. We decided to use the bubble machine and some christmas lights. We waited around for a few hours. Dex and Chris of Magic Wands went to go get some food. We were hoping for a better sound check tonight. The guys at the Glasshouse are pretty young. We waited around an hour for Faris of the Horrors. They ended up not doing a soundcheck. And we had ten minutes to do onee. The angry throng of young goths were waiting outside for the show.
They have a merch table in the front of the Glasshouse, so much of my time was spent there. Me and Emily watched as security beat up some drunk fan. He fell right in front of the door. At this show there were some young kids. We had a open guest list so I invited a few people. The Magic Wands show was great. But they complained that they couldn't hear themselves. I told them it sounded great in the audience.
Magic Wands hung out for a while. I put all the gear in the car. I called up a friend to pick me up. The band went back to Hollywood, while I stuck around to sell merch. I was there until midnight or so, before I headed out. Great. Two shows down. Only the final show in Hollywood.
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By Alexander Laurence
The Prodigy is one of the best live acts in the world. They have done five albums and sold over twenty million records. They had a worldwide number one record with Fat of The Land in 1997. They were sort of at the tail-end of the Britpop movement. In America they never seemed to catch on, because they played festivals only, and people here struggled with the idea of this punk techno band, that had no guitar, and was mostly computer generated. A few years later we had the watered-down versions with Korn and Limp Bizcuit. The Prodigy was definitely ahead of their time.
It all goes back to hiphop culture and British techno music. Many critics called them "faceless techno dummies." The Prodigy would take this music into a new direction. They were influenced by punk, techno, the rave scene, Kool Keith, and the Beastie Boys. They started out as a rave type band, but in 1997, Keith Flint re-invented himself. He started singing on some tracks like "Firestarter." Before Flint and Maxim Reality were more like dancers and frontmen to Liam Howlett's musical beast. They toured heavily for a few years, but rarely in America.
So tonight's show was their first Hollywood appearance in fifteen years. They are playing rather large venues and arenas this time. Apparently people have gotten the idea. Most Britpop bands are more popular now than they were in 1995-1998. The warriors have gathered. It also helps that the new Prodigy album is the best thing they did in many years. We have new anthems like "Omen" and "Hounds On The Run" to go along with the older hits. Every song is a fun track. The audience is hopping up and down to the beat. Flint and Maxim Reality can really energize a crowd
The Palladium was packed with fans, and other bands, checking out what this is all about. I saw some guy dressed up like a robot. They didn't let him in. I haven't been to a rave in a while, since I went to Electric Daisy. That was a disappointing affair. The Prodigy made the idea of raving fun again. They, along with Nine Inch Nails and Beastie Boys, are re-energizing the hiphop and electronic music scene, which their very physical music. Definitely a show to see this year!
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Dot Allison live at St Barnubus
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All photos by Angel Ceballos.
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Check it out!
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The australian band The Lovetones return to LA on May 14th, show at Spaceland. They also play at Redwood on May 15th.
Photos: Angel Ceballos
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It was another great night at Three Clubs. I djed with the amazing DJ Karen. She is my main influence. It was my birthday and there was cupcakes for everyone. Thanks to everyone for showing up.
DJ Playlist: May 6th 2009
Primal Scream "Can't Go Back"
Oasis "Falling Down" (Chemical Brothers)
Singapore Sling "Song For The Spirit"
Miranda Lee Richards "Life Boat" (Neil Halstead)
Sparklehorse "Don't Take My Sunshine Away"
The Morning After Girls "Hi-Skies"
Black Angels "Doves"
Velvet Underground "There She Goes Again"
Donovan "Mellow Yellow"
Bowie "Panic In Detroit"
Band, the DJ Karen
Band, then me again:
Leonard Cohen "Diamonds In The Mine"
Brian Jonestown Massacre "Got My Eye On You"
MBV "When You Sleep"
The Auteurs "Show Girl"
20/20 "Yellow Pills"
Patti Smith "Because The Night"
Generation X "Wild Dub"
Wire "Our Time"
Bob Dylan "That's All Right, Ma"
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Rex Bruce is an artist based in Los Angeles. We thought that it would be a good idea to do a long interview and see where it goes. Hopefully we can cover art, the world, pop culture, and our selves. Here we go:
1. It's a summery day. I am relaxing next the pool in Southern California. How are you doing today?
REX: I'm out in the high desert. My boyfriend and I have a house in 29 Palms, a very arty dropped out place next to Joshua Tree. Today I took a computer moratorium. I wanted to go 8 hours, but only made it six before I had to check my email. OCD, for sure. But compulsion makes for a good artist.
2. You, more than anyone, have seen a lot of art in the past five years. People send you images all the time. What do you think of what you seen?REX: I literally look at over 10,000 images, videos, installation shots, websites, etc. every year. One big divide is between educated and not educated. There are equally bad and good projects on both sides of that. You can be academic and be not very thoughtful about what you are doing, there is a 'common practice' within that--visual iteration of cultural literature or "theory." You can be relatively naive and create very thoughtful work, very stunning and collectible. There is really lots of terrible attempts by those without the MFA though, and a vast and fascinating culture within academia.
The quantity of culture in our world is daunting. Now we have China, Russia and Eastern Europe--our art world has grown as never before in recent years.
3. In the past hundred years, much art has a certain look: early modernist pre-WW1 period, post-WW2 abstract expression, conceptualism, minimalism of the 1970s, etc. What trends do you think are going on presently?
REX: The trend is "no-trend." I think the art world is unusually unfettered lately. There is just too much going on, so many different cultures; tons and tons of art. No one I associate with in L.A. really cares what 'style' something is. Each specialty is judged on its own merits, not so much how it compares with some other thing. That's it, people specialize now. Mine is art and technology, of course.
4. LA had an art boom around 1986. MOCA opened and there was a gallery explosion. It died out after a few years. Something similar has happened in the past few years. What do you think?
REX: This boom is sustainable, it has already lasted longer and it continues to grow. It is bigger now, more solid and mature. The other major art capitals besides New York are growing. Berlin, London, Beijing, L.A... Urban renewal is a worldwide trend and it involves art as a main ingredient.
5. You yourself have explored various artistic mediums since the early 1980s. But it seems like you found your voice in shows like "Inversions." Was it because your vision had to wait for the technology, or what?
REX: Art works are made in a flow of ideas. One thing leads to another or reverses from the former. As technologies emerge they naturally become part of my flow. The new work is a result of that. My work is mature now, artists work for decades to come to a certain point where many complex things resonate in parallel within what seems a simple artifact.
They resonate with the people who see them, too. These new works are very popular, I sold 14 large images in the last couple of months--many to persons associated with museums. A person from Shepard Fairey's P.R. firm bought one. Two went to the set decorator for "Californiacation." They will be on T.V. in the third season.
A giant white move truck with the W.B. logo on the side came downtown from Burbank to pick them up: two 38" square pieces. That was bizzare. Those people do have money to burn.
6. I am just reviewing some of your answers and sidenotes. Do you still think of some art addressing academic issues and other art dealing with mass culture?
REX: I'm not sure the divide between academic and non-academic belongs to the issue of exploring mass culture. This is an important area in social theory going way back. Of course Pop and all of it's descendants deal with mass culture, much of which is a 'low-brow' area of experiment. Academics are largely upper middle class professionals. They get accused of being a big 'circle-jerk' of self-promulgating job creators. But I think this kind of study is largely in earnest, and is an important hotbed of progressive politics and a generally open and well informed discourse. It should not be seen as any 'better' or 'worse' than another culture. It just is what it is.
7. You have spoken about how there has been art explosions in certain capital centers. There are other reports that "art is dead" in other places like Berlin. Does good art follow locals anymore, or is connected to economic surges?
REX: The whole notion of declaring "art is dead" is completely silly. That is predicated by the notion that you know what 'art' is, and that people are no longer doing it much. There is more art now than ever, historically speaking. And it operates in a fairly free and freewheeling free-for-all. A lot of art is free, although a lot is overpriced. Meaning, the tides of economy don't really slow things down much, it just gets more Darwinian in terms of who will slug it out and survive. All art comes out of a local culture. In New York is is more directly connected to the upper class and established avenues for promoting artists amongst the wealthy. But, that is just another scene.
8. You mentioned the "no-trend." It's like this period after the post-modern which some called "post-everything" we are in with individual artists. These "no-trenders" often resonate with previous art. Is it taking art from the past, and adding a new twist, or new mechanism? Secondly is the grouping of artists into movements, just a selling point from now on?
REX: That would be a yes on all of that.
9. Can you talk about how the internet has open things up in art? It's no longer Braque and Picasso working in a basement, but a worldwide community riffing with each other.
REX: The internet has made the world shrink exponentially, and discourse expand by multiple exponents. It fosters more oppurtunity for anyone and engenders a more egalitarian environment for small business types. Small business makes up about half of the art world, I guess.
10. Just to comment on your footnote: we are now in a period where emails and cell phones are so much a part of daily life. We are all on facebook. We are sending messages all the time, but since they are texts, the meaning is warped, delayed, misunderstood. How does all this new techology inform the new art?
REX: It is a new area to be examined, explored and experimented with. The three "e"s (I just made that up). No one would argue the relevance of this as a cogent point of departure for aesthetic pursuit. The art world is obsessed with "newness," so as technology emerges it creates attention towards those who use emergent technologies (along with all of their side effects) for their creations.
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