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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

L.A. - Part 2 (Warped Tour)

If you want to read the first part of this blog post, go here.

I knew the Warped Tour was going to be in L.A. at the same time as I was there even before I left, but hadn't bothered to look any further into it - it is a big place after all. After becoming an aficionado of the public transport system, I looked up the venue in Pomona, a suburb on the east side of the city - a nifty two-hour bus trip and I was there (I could have stayed on that bus for another hour and still technically been in L.A. - I can get much of the way across this entire country in that time...hmm).

If you've never heard of Warped Tour before, it's a travelling music festival that happens each summer, moving from city to city across the U.S. with loads of bands spread out over different stages. My favourite bands have played the tour over the years and I'd always wanted to go, and today was the day.

Now one of the things you read/see/hear about Warped Tour is how hot it is in many of the locations they visit throughout the summer. Despite knowing this in advance, I still wasn't prepared for the mind-numbing temperature that I walked into. I have honestly never felt anything like it. I arrived at around midday, making a short walk from the bus depot. I walked for probably half an hour after being told to go to the wrong entrance by some dumbass attendant (one of the first indications of quite how disorganised Warped Tour is). While I was walking, the temperature reached 111 degrees (43.8c). Fuck that.

This is me when I got to Warped. I swear I was in a good mood, despite what my facial expression indicates, but the heat was so hardcore I was pretty much just looking for some shade to hang out in.

First impression of Warped (after the heat of course) was 'wow, this is smaller than I thought it'd be' - I guess we are spoiled for festivals in this country, so I was kinda expecting something like Reading Festival to appear as I came round the corner. I'd always figured that bands I saw at Reading were just stage-talking (saying what a crowd wants to hear) when they said they had never played anything like that before, but Warped is only slightly larger then the festival they have in my home-town each year in our local park. Weird. This is not a bad thing by the way. It was easier to see the bands, and the stages were tiny so you could be right in front of the band if you wanted to. All good.

The running order of bands changes every day. This board gets put up with the times. This system doesn't really seem to work that well. All the stages seemed to run early or late at their own speed and I heard loads of people saying they had missed their favourite band coz the time was wrong. One band I saw, Tat (English band who we saw at Reading years ago and I chatted to after, nice guys) weren't even on the board!? Flyers were getting handed out with different info from the board anyway. It was confusing to say the least.

This is me watching Angels & Airwaves. I don't know why, I've already posted here that Tom Delonge has kinda lost me on this one. They had the biggest crowd all day at the start, they had lost much of it by the time I left (5 or 6 songs in). Tom's singing was even worse than normal. This made me miss Blink 182 so much it hurt.

This is The Audition - I had no idea they were playing as, you guessed it, they weren't on that stupid fucking board. I just wandered past this tiny stage and recognised the songs. Decent band I guess, haven't heard any of their new stuff.

When I said we were spoiled in this country for festivals - it's not just their size that's different from Warped, it's some basic stuff like organisation. Each band and record label has a little gazebo where they can sell merch and do signings etc which is awesome - however each signing creates a massive queue which snakes it's way across the festival. When there are a couple of these going on at the same time, this makes a kind of 'wall' of people which then creates pandemonium when a band finishes and about 1,000 people decide to move to watch someone else. The steward type guys are there watching, but don't seem to work out that their job would be easier if they just moved the queue. I suppose that stereotype about the British loving a good queue is true..it is something we do well.

Bands I watched include Reel Big Fish (great, always good live), Say Anything (Max Bemis can do no wrong in my eyes - did some songs solo which was cool), Anberlin (Great actually...massive crowd too), The Audition (good - entertaining although I'm not really that into them), Katy Perry (good, wish I'd had the album before I saw here, some of the songs didn't come over that well live, but she's hot so who cares?), The Academy Is (much better than their Reading set from last year, new songs sounded good too), Angels & Airwaves (not for me), Tat (Great, she's hot too). I saw a bunch of other bands who's names I never caught, but they varied from the average to the utterly, utterly terrible.

I took a bunch of videos from Warped, but they will be posted up on our street-team so you'll need to sign up if you wanna watch them. They include a few live songs from Say Anything, Anberlin etc

Quick observation. The cliché that "everybody drives everywhere in L.A" was highlighted massively at Warped. I caught the bus there, and as I got off at the depot there was me and three other people heading for Warped (two of them totally owe me MySpace love, they know who they are!). On the way back, as people poured out of the festival, there were 9 people catching the bus, out of the thousands of people. There was no train route, and nobody was walking, trust me. Crazy.

All in all, an awesome day - if a little weird. The best part was chatting to bands, some people from PR companies, record labels etc. it was nice to have them all in one place and not have to chase them all up on the phone/email, it just made promo more convenient ;)

Part 3 will be up soon.


Friday, July 04, 2008

L.A. - Part 1 (Santa Monica, The Viper Room and The Strip)

To attempt to write a decent blog about the couple of weeks I spent in L.A. recently, I figured it was best to leave it a few days before posting. The reason for this is partly my mind-numbing jet-lag that was exacerbated by only sleeping three or four hours in the previous forty-eight before even getting on the flight home, and partly because it was all so surreal that it's taken being back into the routine of home life to get it into some sort of perspective.

Some background information first. Dan had to go away for work for a couple of weeks to France and although some friends were chatting about going on a group holiday, I am not really a typical tourist, I am not someone who would book a sightseeing tour and waddle off, camera in hand, enthused about the snaps I'll get to show everyone back home. So with minimal thinking about it (I am pretty much incapable of doing anything totally on the spur of the moment, I think everything through despite appearances) I booked a ticket to L.A., got a small amount of cash together and decided to disappear for a couple of weeks.

Here is a vaguely interesting social observation for you. When people ask where you're going on holiday, they greet your response of "L.A." with the kind of awe that would make an observer think that you had achieved a miracle by managing to snag a ticket to this holy land, when in fact all you had to do was root around some grubby website for a cheap fare. When they then ask who you're going with and you duly reply "I'm going on my own", that awe and admiration swiftly turns into a mixture of pity and suspicion. They search further with "do you know people out there then?" No. "Oh, right, well...you be careful then." I had this conversation ad infinitum before I left. I have no trouble being on my own, if anything I like my own company. However if I do decide to travel on my own again, I will probably lie when asked simply to save myself the funny looks, and I am no stranger to funny looks.

Anyway, onto the actual trip. Well done for sticking with me so far.

I like flying. I have done for as long as I can remember, I even like the little pre-packaged meal you get. Sat next to a lovely middle-aged woman, who's name I forgot as soon as she'd told me, who was travelling home to visit her dying sister. She was hoping to get home in time to say goodbye to her before she died. Despite that, she seemed pretty chipper and gave me a full run-down of what life was like growing up in Detroit. I would like to think I have a very healthy perspective on life and am fully aware of it's simultaneous brilliance and irrelevance, but you need a conversation like that every once in a while to show you how unimportant your problems are.

So I waved goodbye to my temporary companion as she sauntered through customs like the rest of the American citizens that had been on the flight, with that care-free air of people who are at least 50% confident that they aren't about to have a full-body cavity search. The rest of us would have killed for those odds.

There are large signs at the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) desks that say "We are the welcoming face of the nation." Well, the welcoming face of America does not smile. Ever. Still, they let me go without too much hassle although I was pulled aside a couple of times on my way through the process and asked about why I had so little luggage, is it my fault I travel light? Anyway, having avoided any internal inspections, I was soon out into the bright L.A. sunshine.

For the first few day I stayed in Santa Monica, right on the beach. It's a pretty nice place, just a few minutes north of Venice Beach....which, if I had to compare it to something I know from home, is basically like Covent Garden on the beach, a lot of stalls and shops selling things I don't want mixed with street-entertainers. This turned out to be a pretty good way to ease into L.A.-life because it's a pretty chilled-out place...highlights of hanging out on the beach were small things like a cool skateboarding exhibition, a movie being filmed on the beach, buying some cheap clothes from the 3rd street promenade, meeting some cool people in the bar on the corner of the block I was staying on...just small stuff, but I had a cool time either way.

I guess now is the time to introduce some characters other than myself into this little story. I arrived in L.A. with two cellphone numbers (yeah, cellphone bitches...i'm angelino now baby) from our manager Richard, who lived out there for years. I arranged to meet a guy called Adam who we'll get back to later on, but he couldn't make it due to car problems which meant I ended up in Hollywood at 2am chatting to some guy who was apparently Robert Miles' architect, random but fun. I also got to see some bands that night - Two Guns (not bad), The Secret 6 (good) and some other band I couldn't find on MySpace. With that little escapade out of the way I arranged to meet Amanda, a sales manager for EMI. After a little mis-communication due to the fact that she couldn't understand my accent on the phone I finally arranged to meet her at her apartment in Hollywood.

Amanda lives about a block up from Hollywood and Highland, which is pretty much the centre of the main tourist area in Hollywood. Her place is a cool little retro-themed apartment block complete with roof terrace where we sat out for a bit, drank beer and stared out at the L.A. skyline. Very cool. Her friend Gil, a mastering engineer and his girlfriend (ok, so I can't remember her name right now...sorry to her if she ever reads this) came over and we headed west to the Sunset Strip.

I was actually surprised by how laid-back the strip was, I knew it's history and figured it would be a bustling, tightly-packed area with everyone crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with each club and bar fighting for my attention - but of course I am from an island running low on space. Every bar and club is spread out neatly over a couple of miles, each with it's own decent-sized huddle of smokers outside on the sidewalk (yeah...sidewalk). We headed straight for the Viper Room to see Nico Vega, who were awesome - waaaaay more rocky and fun than the songs on their MySpace make them sound (a new producer required? sure, i'd love to do it...). I fell in love with the singer a bit, but so did everyone else so I'm at the back of a long queue. The headline band that night was Semi Precious Weapons - totally not my thing, and judging by the fact that the place half emptied after the first couple of songs, they weren't many other people's either. We bailed and headed back to Amanda's place, which I drunkenly stumbled out of a few hours later into the warm Hollywood night to work my way through a couple of late-night pizza places and grab a cab home.

Ok, it looks like I'm gonna have to break this little story up into a few parts as I am already bored of typing and I have other things to do in my life. I know there are no photos or anything in here, but like I told you, I am not a very good tourist. There are photos and videos in the next parts for everyone that's asked me about them since I've been back. It's weird to write this, as there are hundreds of mini-stories crammed in amongst the first couple of days I've already told you about (some have been skipped to make this shorter, and some have been edited out due to content) but to be honest if you are that desperate to hear them, then ask me - or just buy a ticket to anywhere and get the hell out of wherever you are, because if my stories are more exciting than yours, you really need to be getting out the house more.

Part two soon, promise.

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