Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, I've been away at this high school journalism workshop the past week. Out of the newsroom, stationed in San Jose, working with young, energetic, ambitious writers and critical thinkers considering a career in a field where layoffs are abundant and any veteran with more than 20 years of experience will tell you that the sky is falling. Suffice it to say, I'm having a great time.
All the while, I've been trying to pace myself as I approach 200 posts, a modest achievement, but one I want to mark with something special, maybe. I'll figure it out in a post or two.
In the meantime, I get this, from a random reader who signed himself on as "Hip Hop is Hip hop Not 'Latin Valley Rockers'" and wrote in response to my N.E.R.D. "Seeing Sounds" review. He writes:
I for 1 am glad your Pastilla whatever didn't show up in the paper. LAME. Where you get off including Hip Hop in a blog about Latin Valley Rockers that 2 or 4 people are interested in I have no idea. U did that cuz u knew no one would look at your blog otherwise. Take your Rocker ass back to Mexico.
Wow. I guess he told me!
I responded with a "Thanks for reading," my customary response to any negative feedback. It's not like I'm lying. I really am thankful for the 2 or 4 people who take the time to read my work.
Not much else to say, but I am tempted to quote the poet Kanye West, who wrote "Love your Haters. Their your biggest fans."
Seems my editor dropped the ball and forgot to include my article on Rock en Español band Pastilla today (it's all good, I still got luv for you Mac). Here's the article, in it's entirety. Al rato.
Pastilla brings Latin Rock to the Fox By Marc Cabrera
Valley rockeros will have a night all their own when one of the hottest Latin modern rock bands plays tonight at the Fox Theater in Salinas. Pastilla has been tearing up the Latin Rock charts in the past year on the heels of their 2007 release “A Marte.” Their fourth album, the record is filled with the distorted guitars and laid-back harmonies that have marked their work and earned them fans from the most hardcore Mexico City loyalists to newly discovered scenesters in New York City. The show is hosted by Aguas Brothers Entertainment. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. tonight, show starts at 7:30 p.m. Formed in the 1990s by brothers Victor and Adrian Monroy, who were born in Chihuahua, Mexico but raised in Southern California, the band started out with Brit Pop, Grunge and New Wave influences, while holding close to the Spanish Rock scene that was emerging in Los Angeles. They recorded their first album in 1996 on the now defunct Aztlan Records, and eventually signed with BMG records two years later. Their first major label album, “Vox Electra,” included their first foray into bilingual musical experimentation. The song “Be” included lyrics in both English and Spanish. The group mixed down the track so the words were sung in both languages at the same time, with the English vocal panned to the right and the Spanish version to the left. “It was something to show people that the language doesn't have anything to do with it, it's mainly the music,” said Monroy. “Of course it has something to do with it because of the meaning of the words in each language and blah, blah, blah, but what we're trying to show is when music is good, it's good in any language and you can appreciate it.” More recently, the band played an international festival in Texas where the theme revolved around African culture. Monroy conduced the between-song banter in English, which eased the audience into the Spanish lyrics. “It was funny and I was proud to see African-Americans, Asians and white people rocking out to Pastilla, even though they couldn't understand anything we were saying,” he said with a laugh. Cultivating listeners and maintain consistency has required strategy as the band has evolved. Victor Monroy's brother Adrian left the band a few years ago, and the current lineup consists of Monroy on guitar and vocals, original drummer Eric Rubalcaba and bassist Eduardo Trujillo. The band has maintained a stronghold on the Los Angeles and Mexico City scenes, while finding new fans in New York City, where the genre is starting to catch a buzz. “We are going there the day after the Salinas show,” said Monroy. “When we were invited to play, I posted the gig on our MySpace page and found out we have a bunch of fans in New York. Everyone's waiting for us there. It's pretty cool.”
Here's another Karma Loop TV interview, this one with Tyga of Young Money Entertainment (aka Lil Wayne's vanity label). It must be nice to roll with the hottest rapper on earth, judging from this video.
I missed N.E.R.D. open up for Kanye last week, so I just have to imagine that they were as good as I've seen them the past two times. Listening to their new album, “Seeing Sounds,” I'm still pretty bummed out about skipping their spot (even though my sister's graduation was kind of sort of an important deal).
N.E.R.D. could easily be one of the world's most indulgent vanity projects, thanks to the mega-multi-platinum success of its founders, The Neptunes Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams (along with "frontman" Shay). But the band's music has been so far left of the production team's signature sound that it's become a nice outlet for the pair to explore new sonic frontiers.
"Seeing Sounds" finds them doing just that and taking the listener along for the ride. The singles "Everybody Nose" and the irresistible "Spaz" have become commercial staples (the latter is my favorite Zune commercial of all time). Both songs mix frantic break beat drums that veer into jungle/drum n' bass territory, the energy reaching furious crescendos.
Other songs venture boldly into alt-rock land. “Happy” is true to its namesake, with Pharrell giving a shiny, joyous ode to post-breakup glum, siren guitar riffs and pop melodies falling into place along the way. “Anti-Matter” is “Check Your Head”-era Beastie Boys synth punk, with its chopped and screwed hook/chorus serving as a kick-ass proclamation.
Through it all, Williams and Hugo and Co. pull from all different contemporary styles and sounds, making for a compelling mix. It's the ease with which they sashay through their set without leaning too heavily on one sound that gives the album its merit.
The age of music hybrid has reached near formulaic levels, but N.E.R.D. have managed to stay ahead of the curve with each release. “Seeing Sounds” lives up to its name in that it could have the audience tripping out and visualizing the beats the band has produced.
Karma Loop TV keeps coming through and making my job easier. This time out, they've got The Cool Kids for y'all.
Repping The Chi, The Cool Kids have this whole retro-'80s babies, golden-age hip-hop era thing down pat. Their latest EP, “The Bake Sale” is a collection of some of their popular songs ("88," "Black Mags") mixed with new bangers. Once again, thanks to Chelsea at Karma Loop for hooking this up. Part 1 posts today, with Part 2 sometime tommorrow.
Gotta say what's up to Chelsea and the good people at Karma Loop TV, who provided us with this interview with Mr. Cartoon.
Cartoon is a Los Angeles hood legend. A tattoo artist whose cholo-style found a niche amongst hip-hop elite. From Nike to Beyonce, he's done design and tat work for some of the biggest names in entertainment and commercial enterprise. This was shot on location at the grand opening of the store he co-owns in Hollywood.
From the second level seats of the HP Pavillion in San Jose, I watched Kanye West put on perhaps the best hip-hop show I've ever seen.
This was not your average rap show, where a rapper is on stage with 20 people, all carrying microphones, yelling over pre-recorded beats and demanding the crowd to throw their hands in the air, yaddada. As Kanye's talent, profile and ego have developed over the years, so to has is insight into what live rap shows could and should become.
The first thing seems to be theatrics. Kanye is drama king el primero in the pop star universe, so he understands that in order to gain attention he has to stage everything accordingly. That means all eyes on him front and center, with absolutely no accompaniment.
However, that doesn't mean 90 minutes of Mr. West rapping and dancing on a hallow stage. His set-up was a cross between the barren desert landscapes of the sci-fi novel/movie “Dune” and the neon-glow of Michael Jackson's “Bille Jean” video.
The show's story arc had something to do with West traveling in search of inspiration. He crash landed on a mysterious planet and woke up on a lit center-stage riser. “Good Morning,” the intro to his third album “Graduation” bumped through the arena sound system.
The impact was fierce. West, laid out on his back staring toward the ceiling, as the powerful bass hit hard enough to tickle my nose. As the song's hook paced in, the crowd couldn't help sing along to the ‘Ooh-we-oohh” harmony.
The rest of the set was a crash course through Ye's considerably dope catalog. “I Wonder” was an inspired with West yelling the song's spaced-out vocals. Throwing up the Roc-A-Fella records diamond gang sign during “Diamonds Are Forever,” the crowd participated in traditional yet completely new-feeling, hands up partying.
While the party was getting warmed up, Ye left plenty of room for spiritual awakenings and charged affirmations.
“Can't Tell Me Nothing” became an arena rock-worthy ode to self-perseverance and determination, Ye defiantly emphasizing the line “This is my life, homie, you decide yours!”
“Spaceship,” transformed into a back-in-the-day, rags to riches tale, while “All Falls Down” piggy-backed the former song, with its lines of self-consciousness resonating more than ever.
Ye somewhat awkwardly shoe-horned two of his biggest hits, “Gold Digger” and “Good Life,” into the narrative. The former song also features some space-age booty shots of what may or may not have been Salinas native video queen Ms. Veronica.
The last quarter of the set was a non-stop, emotional and self-reverential affair. Whereas Ye could get the arena to chant along to the stomping rhythm of “Jesus Walks,” he flipped it with a heartfelt “Hey Mama” dedicated to his deceased mother.
The weird parts came as show-closing self reflection. Ye's back-up singer blasted through a funny rendition of Journey's “Don't Stop Believing” (Ye mus have loved that Sopranos series finale) and ended the set with a near-rant, targeting the media before declaring “I am Michael Jordan, I am Muhammad Ali,” in an attempt to declare himself the biggest star in the universe.
For all of West's grand-standing, it was hard to argue his point. Ye has in fact propelled himself, through sheer will no less, to universal superstar status. That much was obvious from the cheap seats on Friday night.
Sorry folks, but "The Beat" video-blog is taking a haitus this week. I got too many all-county softball and baseball videos to edit today. Holla back next week when I should have something read to roll. I'll post back in a few hours with something, I hope.
On the occassion of Ree Brunell's 80th birthday, The Golden State Theater became a grand ballroom fit for a diva on Tuesday.
Brunell is a Monterey original, a singer and performer who has been tearing up stages for more than 60 years. Her 80th birthday party was a chance for her friends and loved ones to celebrate not only her born day, but her life and work.
Looking lean and mean in a black outfit and stunna shades, Ree-Ree was a queen hostess. An endless stream of guests lined up to take photos and offer up hugs and kisses, birthday wishes and love showers. The first time I went up to try and greet her, I waited almost 10 minutes and lost her in a flood of people.
Finally, after the well-wisher line had settled, Ree came up to me while I was munching on some appetizers.
“Marc, you made it,” she said. “There's plenty of food and drinks up and down. Have a good time, hon.”
I got to say, in the few years I've gotten to know Ree, I've come to understand that she is a caring, strong woman. She's endured health conditions, personal relationship drama, and the ups and downs of a career as a performer. Through it all, she's emerged as a fabulous woman full of grace and elegance.
Here's to you, Ree-Ree, a true lady and Monterey original.
The good folks at Karma Loop TV provide us once again with a nice video interview. This one with the Ruler himself, Slick Rick. This was taken a day before MC Ricky D was pardoned by the governor of New York for a past attempted murder conviction. The move also cleared the way for Slick Rick to avoid deportation. The New York based MC was born in London, and following his conviction in the mid-90s, he was sought out by U.S. Immigration Department for excommunication from the country. Big up to Chelsea at KarmaLoop for providing us with the video.