Monday, June 18, 2007

The Beat-Down: Random Thoughts To Open the Week

Random thoughts and observations for this week:

- If you see Pac-Man Jones at a strip club, by all means, just leave. It's more likely to be raining bullets than dollar bills when he's in the building.

- Battle of the Bay: April headline in the SJ Mercury News: Hyphy is Dead. SF Chronicle headline last week: Hyphy Not Dead, Just Reloading. In the meantime, Keak Da Sneak remains unsigned. Somebody help.

- Obligatory Sopranos reference: The Journey song "Don't Stop Believing," played at the end of the series finale, has recieved a 400 percent download bump on iTunes. Butt rockers rejoice!

- On the local front, Rock Wars are coming up at Lava Lounge in Monterey. Wasted Noise will defend it's title against all comers. For more information, visit the Lava Lounge MySpace page,

- Other local news: This weekend, Gunslinger at the Lava Lounge (Thursday night) and Robbie Rasta and the Love Militia at Monterey Live (Friday night).

- It's not too soon to get your tickets to the West Coast Regional Poetry Slam, July 21-22 at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. For more info, visit the Web site

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Audible Treats For The Kiddies: The Beat Interview Archives

Here's the deal: I got interviews. Tons of 'em. They're sitting here and I don't know what to do with them.

Of course, some of them make the paper in some form: an excerpt here, a quote there. But not the whole thing. And some of these things are gold. I'm telling you. Gold.

So, in the interest of sharing wealth, I am holding an interview clearance of sorts. The following links are for you audio perusing. You can thank me later.

Steel Pulse: This interview was taken in February, 2007. I spoke with Selwyn Brown, original member of Steel Pulse and the band's keyboardist. This was cool because I've always been a big fan of the band, and Brown was really pleasant over the phone even though he was filling in for an absent band mate.

Here's the link:

Mic Quin: Salinas rapper Mic Quin has been getting some shine recently on the Street Low car show tour. He's recorded with Mistah FAB and Guce, to name a few. Check him out at


Ice Cube: A west coast rap legend, movie idol and producer extraordinaire, Ice Cube was also my hero in high school. The interview of a lifetime.


El-P: El-P is a true artist, original, uncompromising, unsteady. The one thing I learned about him through this interview: he's got a sense of humor, and a pretty good one at that.

Check it out:

Lou Adler: Adler is the father of Monterey Pop, a hollywood icon and Jack Nicholson's Laker game homie. What more can I say.


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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Beatdown: The Sopranos Series Finale

So, "The Sopranos" ended with a Journey song and a close-up of Tony Soprano getting... whacked? content? hungry?

(Spoiler alert, if you do not want to know how the finale ended, stop reading here)

Sunday night's grand finale to the greatest television show of all-time (yeah, I said it) proved anti-climatic to some, outright maddening to others. I was in the minority — I really liked it.

In it's series finale, series creator David Chase managed to pack in a little of everything that the show has been known for. There was ultra-violence (Brooklyn boss Phil Leotardo got whacked and beheaded by SUV), hilarity (Paulie Wallnuts sitting at a table with the youngsters and unzipping his pants), pathos (Tony telling a shrink his mother didn't love him; Paulie sharing a vision of the Virgin Mary), and food (Bobby Bacala's wake had a fat spread; the final scene of the family being served onion rings at Holsten's restaurant).

In the end, Tony sat with his wife Carmela and son A.J., while daughter Meadow showed up late after some miserable parralel parking. The camera cut to a quick shot of Tony's eyes, while the chorus was cut mid breath. Then, it all turned to black, as the world was left to ponder whether it was truly over, maybe they forgot to pay their cable bill.
Chase defended himself against any criticism for the show's final scene.

"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding towhat is there," he says of the final scene.

"No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God," he added. "We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people's minds, or thinking 'Wow, this'll (tick) them off.' People get the impression that you're trying to (mess) with them and it's not true. You're trying to entertain them."

My take: How else are you going to end it? Chase has proven in the past he is not bound to any traditional rules of story telling. Loose ends remain loose ends, as in life. The Sopranos are no different.

Which is the reason I enjoyed Sunday's ending. In some alternate gangster universe, The Sopranos live on. There's no definite closure, just the end of another chapter.

You can go on about what didn't get solved with the series finale, but I'd rather take a moment to point out some of my favorite images from the final season:

- The sight of Tony cradling AJ after a failed suicide attempt
- Bobby Bacala dripping with blood, laid out on a train set, after getting hit in a hobby shop
- Tony and Bobby doing their best sumo wrestling impression in the woods
- Chrissy Moltisanti killing his movie producer
- Every scene in "Cleaver"

Those images (most of them violent, although that's not the only reason I watch the show) stand out for me in memorable season that will continue, if only in our most ilicit imaginations. Yes, the finale left us hungry for more. That was the point.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

The Beat Q&A: Lou Adler (Pt. 2)

In part two of our Q&A, music producer extraordinaire Lou Adler, co-producer of The Monterey International Pop Festival, talks about the music at Monterey Pop.

This interview will be reprinted in the Sunday edition of the Monterey County Herald, as part of our 40th anniversary special section in honor of Monterey Pop. Check out the Sunday edition for more coverage...

Q: Another part of the story was that this was the big American break through for acts like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. What did you know about these acts? Where they brand new to you?
A: The San Francisco acts were familiar to us, because John Phillips and myself had gone up to San Francisco to look at some of the groups. We had seen Janis perform before at the Filmore with Big Brother, and we saw Country Joe and Quicksilver. So we were familiar with the San Francisco groups. As far as Hendrix and The Who, we had heard about them but had not seen them until Monterey. Obviously, acts like The Association, Lou Rawls, those acts of that genre we knew well. Buffalo Springfield. All of the acts ouf of LA, we knew real well.

Q: Was there any one act or performance that you considered the best or that stood out?
A: That's three or four. I think Otis Redding's performance is one of the best overall concert performances ever, and certainly on film. (It wasn't) just one song. Janis Joplin was incredible, but it was one or two songs thtat got the audience. Every song that Otis sang was a termendous performance that night. And Hendrix and The Who. If you watch the Monterey Pop film, you can see the look on the audience. That's pretty much what we all had. We were like Dylan's Mr. Jones at that point. Something was happening and we were in on it for the first time.

Q: What was the response from locals once you guys touched down and started setting up?
A: It took us seven weeks from the time that we started going after acts and hiring people and pretty much working out the production of what the festival would be. We took up residence in Monterey two weeks before the festival. By that time, it was more curiosity than anything. Being the first festival and Monterey not really knowing what was going to happen or who was coming in, the only inlking they had was one, Hells Angels, and two, what was happening up in San Francisco in Haight Ashbury, with the influx of people from all over the United States, runaways, etc. There was that negative aspect to it: What are we in for? But mostly it was curiosity. What are these guys doing?

Q: Aside from performances, are there any hight lights or lowlights that stick out in your mind?
A: A lot of it is a blur. Things were happening so fast. The fact that there were no rules or regulations or anything to follow. Because we were the first and we had 32 acts and we had to get them on and off and get the audience in and out, it was just a blur. There were a few things that jump out . . .
My approach to it was to manage the 32 acts as if they were one. Get them the best accomodations, get them the best sound system, all the things you would do for any act that you were managing. Just treat all 32 like that. The premise was, if we can make the acts only have to worry about performing, and (take care of) all of the things that up until that time bothered acts. Like a bad sound system or “Where's the nearest White Castle?” So we provided all of that. The best sound system, the best places to stay, food 24 hours a day. And all they had to do was perform. That had a lot to do with the performances that came off that weekend.

Q: Where did you put up the acts? Where did they stay?
A: There were 11 hotels and motels in the area, and they were spread out. But every act had a driver. It was just things that rock and roll acts had not experienced yet. Some of them had, but very few, and they had whatever the best rooms that we could get in those hotels, and motels if we had to.
We had set up a tent directly behind the stage, and that was open 24 hours a day. Served everything: cracked crab, lobster, caviar. Anything that they wanted.
It was a chance for acts that had heared about each other and listened to each other but never had a chance to see each other perform..or sit down and have a meal together or pull out a guitar and start playing with someone. The jams backstage were exciting to watch

Q: Any specific jams that stick out?
A: Well, it was unusual to see Hendrix and Paul Simon play together (laughs).

Q: Fourty years later, is it still fresh in your mind, or does it seem like five lifetimes ago?
A: I've been reliving it because of doing the 40th (anniversary), and having these kinds of conversations, and putting out the new CD. Reliving it, listening to the music, making sure all of the tracks are right. Talking about it a lot. It seems like, I mean, it's cliche to say, but it really does seem like yesterday.

Q: What impact did it have on pop culture, overall?
A: The impact, I think, you can state it easliy if you look at the parallels and see what we went through then is happening now. I mean, we have an unfortunate and a very unpopular war. We had then a new way to read about our music, which was Rolling Stone, and now we have blogs and the internet. We had a new way to listen to music then, which was FM, and now we have iTunes. And, more ironic, in California for the second time we have a republican governor that's an actor. We had Reagan then and we have Schwarzenegger now.
It just shows that the history that was being made then, it was a generation coming alive, and dictating what music they were going to listen to and who they were going to listen to and becoming so powerful that the politics and politicians are looking to them. It was the birth of a new generation and a new culture. Monterey was the key to opening the door of what became the summer of love.

Q: For you persoanlly, what did the experience mean to you?
A: It's corny, but to be a part of history and to be able to in a sense, be the spokesman of it. But what's most important is that the foundation that we started in 1967 continues to be funded by the ancilaries that the film and the videos and the CDs, the dvds, that were created then. And to fund the foundation and give to things like free clinics and PS Atts, which keeps art going in public schools... and all of these things are still being funded on behalf of the artistst that appeared in Monterey. That's very gratifying.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rio Del Mar's Very Own Murs, Live in SC

Murs attended Cabrillo College? I did not know that.

Performing in his backyard of sorts, the charismatic Living Legends MC played to a pretty packed crowd Saturday night at The Catalyst. That's when he revealed his former residence in Rio Del Mar and status as a Seahawk.

Opening up with the lead track “Murs Day” from his collaborative album “Murray's Revenge” (with producer 9th Wonder), Murs got the crowd hype for the night. It was a nice jump off for a fast-paced showman who commands a stage with a smile and a wink.

Oh, and some really obscene lyrics. Murs is one of those underground bad boys who manages to be both sexed up and grass roots. One minute, he's lyrically exercising with the song “Fulfill The Dream” off the Felt album, the next he's inciting the crowd to yell the b-word on his raunchy tale “Bad Man.”

Through it all, Murs jumped around, smiled a lot, and played the "aww shucks" card with equal aplomb. And then he gave a shout out to his old stomping grounds.

“This is like where it all started...I came from a place along Highway 1 called Rio Del Mar and I was a student at Cabrillo College,” Murs said as the crowd erupted with cheers. Flashing that winning smile, you could tell he was touched by the moment.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Don't Call It A Comeback: Kweli's Been In the Building

Kweli is back. Thank goodness.

I'm speaking of course, about Talib Kweli, BK MC, who has been regarded with both honor and disdain in the underground rap universe. His latest album, “Ear Drum,” leaked on the internet last week. It's not scheduled for proper release until July, but in today's music market, bootleg material is as ubiquitous as political campaigning.

“Ear Drum” is full of the hard beats and hard (as in complicated) rhymes that earned Kweli accolades from heads everywhere. There are some monsters on here, but the overall vibe is that Kweli has created his first true solo masterpiece, and it's about dang time.

The album opens with the somber “Everything Man,” Kwe spitting about how he's everything to everyone, a boast that might have gotten him in trouble only a short time ago with his alienated fans. Kweli's fan base has been hard on the guy because he hasn't lived up to the potential of his first two albums, “Black Star” and “Reflection Eternal.” “Ear Drum” should go a long way toward fixing that.

The second track, “New York Weather Report,” is a heat rock that finds Kweli in his comfort zone, dishing out lines like "I'm not a judge but I'm handing out sentences/for political prisners, or regular inmates with no visitors. ” Kweli rides the beat with his signature 1000 syllables a bar pace, but he manages with ease. It's hard to command a breathless flow while balancing word play and content, but Kweli makes it look easy.

Other standouts include the thumping “Country Cousins,” a humorous foreign exchange between the Brooklyn academy alum and Texas legend Bun B and Pimp C, aka UGK. The song “Soon The New Day” finds Kweli spitting a sexy tale about trying to pick up on a fly heina. With Nora Jones singing a sultry hook and producer Madlib flipping the beat, it's a solid choice for a second single.

While talk of a comeback is reserved more for cynics and haters who don't want to afford Kweli his room for growth. “Ear Drum” isn't a perfect record, but it's a perfectly timed record, as Kweli now has a chance to re-establish himself as one of the best in the game. Hopefully, there's no turning back from that.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

The Beat Q & A: Lou Adler (Part I)

"The Beat" takes a slight detour from our regularly scheduled urban/pop culture coverage to share an exclusive interview with a music legend.

Most folks in this myspace generation may not recognize the name Lou Adler, but in Hollywood, he is that dude.

He's that dude sitting next to Jack Nicholson at all the Laker games.

He's that dude who directed Cheech & Chong's first movie, "Up in Smoke."

He's that dude who guided the career of The Mamas and The Papas and Sam Cooke.

Oh, and he's that dude who helped create and organize the Monterey Interenational Pop Festival.

Like I said, he's that dude.

Adler took some time to talk to "The Beat" on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Monterey Pop. That was the iconic event that launched the careers of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Otis Redding, among others. Inside the pantheon of rock promoters and pioneers, Adler's table seat is somewhere near the head. Peep game (This is Part I in a two-part series) .

Q: Where did the idea (for the pop festival) come from?
A: ..(A concert promoter) had the idea to do a one day, one night show. Not a festival show, but in a festival setting in Monterey. They came to John Phillips, the Mommas and Poppas and myself, and they wanted to buy the Mommas and Poppas to close the show.
Weeks or so before that, John and I and I think (Paul) McCartney and a couple of other people were at Cass Elliot's house, and we were talking about how Rock and Roll wasn't considered an art form in the same way that jazz was, and how they still thought we were a trend that would be over by the summer. And (we thought) it would be great if we could validate (the music) in some way.
So knowing that the fairgrounds up in Monterey also had the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Monterey Folk Festival, we thought this might be the time and the place to do this. And we bught the dates from the promoter and we expanded it to three days and we started calling acts.

Q: You sort of answered the question, but i'll ask it anyway: Why the small town of monterey?
A: Well, (laugh), because that's where they already had the dates. We werent' looking to do a fetival, we sort of fell int it, and the dates were already in Monterey. But the appeal to us was the fact that the Jazz Festival was held there, so that if you do a rock festival in the same venue, you sort of validated what we were doing.

Q: For the first ever Rock and Roll Festival, you would think you would have chosen San Francisco or Los Angeles as the site.
A: Actually, what we wanted to do was be right in the middle, so we could get the LA bands and San Francisco bands together without favoring one or the other. Monterey and Carmel was right in the middle, a little toward San Francisco, but not in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Q: Was there any dissension from the city officials or local authoritites about the festival?
A: Yeah, we had to win them over. The police chief, his name was Marinella, and he was a captain of the Monterey Police (Department). He was retiring about six months from that date. He wanted no problems, no bumps. He just wanted to ease out, and to him the hippie and the Hells Angel was the same thing. Everybody was a Hells Angel that didn't look like the people of Monterey.
The idea of what he thought might be 30,000 people coming, which eventually turned out to be 200,000... We had to win him over, the mayor over. We went to a lot of city council meetings. John Phillips was very charming and quite a good lier, actually, so we were able to promise him anything...
What I really mean was, to understand what we were up against. The city officials were asking a lot of questions that we didn't have answers for. It wasn't really lying, but it was making up answers. He's not really a liar.

Q: Was there ever an effort to have a second festival?
A: We recieved a lot of requests from not only Monterey and California, but from all over the world, to do a secone one there. We actually went up to Monterey and talked to them a little bit, but the situation had changed so much. They were very naive — all were going in. But once they saw the numbers and what it meant, all the prices went up: cost of insurance, cost of police. And it's just that the atmosphere was a lot differnt than the first one. We just thought, ‘We've done it. Why do it again?’

Q: Going into the event, it was pretty revolutionary, just the idea of a rock festival, but did you have the any inclination the impact it would have?
A: Up until that time in the U.S., there wasn't much media coverage — other than the trade magazines, like Cash Fox and Billboard — on rock and roll. The difference, for example, in England, if Mick Jagger got a ticket, it would be on the front page of all the tabloids. In America, there wasn't that type of coverage. Not until November 1967 did Rolling Stone have their first issue. So there wasn't too much coverage.
We had no idea what we were going to get until the Friday morning (of the fesitval), when we showed up that morning at the fairgrounds before the first show. There were approximately 1500 different media outlets that had showed up to cover the festival. Crews from all over the world. At that point, we knew something was happening in Monterey. I didn't think 40 years from now, I would be talking to you about it, but that's the first inclination we had that something big was about to happen.

Q: Talk to me a little more about what it was like working with John Phillips.
A: Phillips, he went to West Point. He obviolsly didn't finish and didn't go into the army. But he was from the south, very well educated, very charming. He and I, we were like two guys that went to different schools together. We were about the same age, grew up liking the same music — Four Freshman, High-Lows. We were aware of a lot of the musical events that had shaped jazz and had shaped pop music. We both liked playing basketball, we both had played in school, so we were close very quickly. He was a brilliant song writer, and the unfortunate thing was that he died relatively young and wasn't able to continue, because he could have written in any genre. He was like a throwback to the Tin Pan Alley type song writers, as well as a pop and a folk songwriter. I guess, with Brian Wilson, he may have been the best vocal arranger to come along in 50 years. He was quite a guy.
Destructive, very self-destructive and along with whoever might be close around him. And unfortunately, whatever he got into just accelerated that and we lost him.

Q: Going back to the festival, when you were organizing the lineup, there's the legend that McCartney insisted that Jimi Hendrix be there, stuff like that. Can you walk me through what it was like figuring out who was going to play and when.
A: What we did, we formed a board of directors, and I tried to include (everyone)in it, for a couple of reasons. One to get a lot of input on who would be good to have at the festival and the other was, once again, to validate what we were doing. It was difficult to call and say we're doing a pop rock festival, because it hadn't been done before. So, we knew that the first two acts to come on, because we were going to do it without the acts getting paid in order to form a foundation that would give a way money through the years. In the same spirit that we were doing rock and roll. In other words, to give back for everything we had made from rock and roll, to give back in that spirit.
The first two acts were The Mommas and Poppas and Simon and Garfunkel. So we had our headliners and we had some one where the other acts would see that these guys were acts that were getting paid the most money in rock and roll, it was okay to come aboard. If they were doing it for nothing, then they could come aboard and do it for nothing. So we had our first two headliners for two of the nights. The festival was three nights and two days, and so we had Simon and Garfunkel for Friday night and The Mommas and Poppas for Sunday night. We had The Beach Boys for Saturday, but at the last nimute they pulled out. The second act was Otis Redding, so that moved him into the closing spot on Saturday night.
Then we had one day where we used Bloomfield and The Electric Flag, those bluse-oriented groups. We knew we had Ravi Shankar for a whole Sunday afternoon show. And then, McCartney suggested Hendrix and The Who, and we knew about Eric Burdon through Ann Jolden. He was a producer for the Rolling Stones and he was on our board of directors.
So we started to fill in trying to get representation of each genre of pop music throughout the performances. That's pretty much what we were trying to accomplish. And the reason it worked so great was because the music coming out of San Francisco, which was brand new, and Hendrix and The Who, who had success in England but hadn't had exposure in America yet. We couldn't have put those acts on and drawn the amount of people that we drew. But with The Mommas and Poppas and Simon and Garfunkel, we got that crowd and introduced the other acts to the audience, through having the power of draw of those successful acts.

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