Los Angeles- more than just tans, juice cleanses and traffic

Having experienced Berkeley, Oakland, and even San Francisco for a year, my loyalty still lies with L.A.—it is more than just my home. I am not going to discredit how Berkeley has shaped my mentality, because it really has made me even more open-minded and driven than I already was. More importantly, Berkeley taught me to never take L.A. for granted.

I find it both really obnoxious and funny when I hear people who live in L.A. “talk shit” about it. I genuinely think people have no idea where to go for a good time. There is a reason why people move to “the city of flowers and sunshine.” Just one weekend in L.A. has the ability to make you fall in love all over again—like it happened to me.

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Chinatown Plaza main stage

So, it is a Friday night in L.A. and the streets of West Hollywood are packed because of the SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality (hell yeah!), but being the Berkeley student I am, I opted out and decided to stay home and review some LSAT practice tests. Berkeley cured me of FOMO (fear of missing out).

I would like to briefly add that I just got back from a girl’s trip to Miami last week and experienced the “partying until 5 A.M. and sleeping in until noon” lifestyle. Although I still think that it is dumb how last call at bars and clubs in L.A. is 2 AM, there are some things you just have to overlook when you realize just how good you really have it. We have amazing beaches, perfect weather all year round, fantastic restaurants, a fresh music and arts scene, and also, we are genuinely really friendly.

Before I start talking about what Angelenos did this weekend, one thing that all outsiders of L.A. have to get familiar with is KCRW–one of L.A.’s and Southern California’s gems. It is much more than a radio station. It is the voice of L.A.

DJ Raul Campos
DJ Raul Campos

During the summertime, they host a variety of events—mostly free (yes free!) concerts at Grand Park, UCLA’s Hammer Museum, the Santa Monica Pier, Chinatown Plaza, and the Annenberg Space for Photography. Just a few artists include, Real Estate, Sister Nancy, Ariel Pink, Jagwar Ma, and KCRW DJs Jason Bentley (who was also at Coachella), Anthony Valadez, Garth Trinidad, Mario Cotto, and Raul Campos. If you have some money saved up, KCRW hosts a concert series at the Hollywood Bowl, with artists like Basement Jaxx, Underworld, Grace Jones, Empire of the Sun, St. Lucia, and Future Islands.

So, finally, it is Saturday night and all of L.A. (and much of the U.S.) just wants to celebrate. This weekend was a special one. Marriage equality is now a guaranteed right to everyone, whether you are in California or in Alabama. This weekend was a celebration of progress, freedom, and history being made.

So, naturally, I grabbed two of my best friends and hit Chinatown for a night of celebrating, dancing, and food trucks. It was the first KCRW Chinatown Summer Nights event of the summer hosted by Raul Campos and Anthony Valedez. To make things even better, on the other side of the Chinatown Plaza, L.A. Weekly was also hosting an event with five indie bands.

It was a night that consisted of dancing outdoors (in perfect 78* weather, might I add rather than inside a stuffy, sweaty club) surrounded by neon lights, confetti, and colorful lanterns. Also, did I mention it was free? There was no pretentiousness at all, which I know is a quality that a lot of people give to Angelenos (and only sometimes rightfully so). It was raw and real. To my right, there was a group of pre-teens dancing and to my left there was a couple salsa dancing. Damn, it was refreshing.

The "OG Wachos" from The Lobos Truck
The “OG Wachos” from The Lobos Truck

We made our way to the dance floor just as Campos dropped Calvin Harris’s 2007 single “Colours.” Perhaps, it was a nod to marriage equality…or was it just a song representing L.A.’s diversity and culture? Or both.

After about an hour of dancing, we went to check out the food trucks. Everyone knows that L.A. loves trends and since food trucks are still trending, (thanks to trucks like Kogi and Lobsta), it only makes sense that L.A. loves food trucks. I went for The Lobos Truck, which offers “wachos.” Substitute tortilla chips in nachos for waffle fries and you have the glorious wacho.

Chinatown Plaza
Chinatown Plaza

The best part of these events, and L.A. in general are the crowds. Attendees ranged from toddlers to seniors. Even though most of us have been on summer break for about a month now, the moment Campos played the 1980 disco track “Mandolay” by La Flavour, I knew that it was definitely summer.

It was the perfect representation of what L.A. is. We do not all have tans and surf. Some of us are Chinese, Mexican-American, African-American, young, old, fat, skinny, gay, straight, or undocumented. Some people who live in L.A. are just here to see what the city has to offer. Basically, L.A. is the party that everyone is invited to.

Then we called an Uber, aka one of the best things that has happened to L.A. other than our sunshine.

Sunday night was just as good. My parents and I went to hear funk legend Bootsy Collins and Grammy-winning electronic dance duo Basement Jaxx.

Their album “Remedy” was released in 1999, when I was just five years old. But, I still remember when I heard “Bingo Bango” and “Rendez-Vu,” and how it shaped the music I listen to. Basement Jaxx’s sound is a combination of reggae, pop, house, ambient techno and funk.

One of the many terraces at the Hollywood Bowl.
One of the many terraces at the Hollywood Bowl.

If you have never been to the Hollywood Bowl, you should when you get a chance. Personally, it is my favorite venue in Los Angeles. The set up of the stage is extraordinary and the sound is like no other. Concert goers have the option of having a picnic before show starts with an amazing view of the city or eating and drinking during the show.

5 minutes into the performance, the stage lit up in rainbow colors–another way of showing the world that we are progressive and accepting. L.A. understands you. As Basement Jaxx chanted, “We are one.”

Thousands of people began to dance to the tropicalia house song “Mermaid of Salinas.” It is not only the anthem of Ibiza this summer, but an anthem for unity and togetherness. It goes like, “The world comes alive as I dive into your eyes. Just you and me.”

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Hollywood Bowl

Having traveled to different cities in various countries, L.A. is still one of the most diverse and exciting places in the world where you feel at home no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality you are.

And then we sat in traffic. I love you, Los Angeles, but I miss you too Berkeley. I can love NorCal and SoCal if I want.

A Modern Maestro— Stromae —The Belgian Sensation You Should Keep an Eye On

About a month ago, Belgian contemporary pop singer-songwriter, Paul Van Haver, better known by his stage name—Stromae, made a stop in the Northern American portion of his world tour at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Having heard a couple of his better-known songs, I entered the venue essentially a blank slate, void of any expectations as to how the night would proceed.

IN-CRED-I-BLE.

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Androgynous, thin, tall and with piercing green eyes, Van Haver himself is not what you would expect. He epitomizes the blending of cultures, musical tonalities and styles that create an experience unlike any other. His performances on stage mimicked scenes from his music videos.  Van Haver adopted two characters on stage to perform, “Tous les Mêmes,” a song that criticizes the divisions created by gender stereotypes and rather encourages the acknowledgement of unifying truths between men and women. Minutes later, Van Haver returned to center stage, clumsy, tripping over his own feet and stumbling to right himself. The crowd, momentarily confused, erupted into applause, when the music started, and they recognized the character he was now portraying. Van Haver created the music video for “Formidable,” a song about loneliness, by acting drunk and helpless in public and observed the voyeurism, empathy and confusion amongst those he encountered in the streets, interpreting their reactions as a reflection of the human condition. Van Haver’s actions, his style, his dancing and his music somehow normalize the unusual and celebrate the eccentric.

I was first introduced to Stromae in a French class where we analyzed the lyrics to his chart topping song, “Papaoutai”. The dense lyrics that spoke of absent father—Van Haver himself lost his father to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994—is juxtaposed entirely by electric, pop, dance music. His lyrics could be interpreted to be depressing, yet he defends the duality of his lyrics that allows him to represent all aspects of life. In his own words from an interview on Vulture, a division of New York Magazine, “It’s not depressed music. It’s half and half, because life is like that. I just want to be realistic. I want to have not only the good side of life, but the bad side of life. And the both combined is just my music. It’s funny at the same time as it’s sad.” The choice is left to the listener—whether you want to revel in the nuances within his lyrics that highlight truths about everyday life, or whether you want to simply dance to the music.

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Maybe his success can be attributed to the fact that his music speaks to everyday people, and ultimately gives the listener the opportunity to choose their own interpretation of the lyrics. His song “Papaoutai,” from his sophomore album, Racine Carrée (Square Root) went to No. 1 across Europe and has over 255 million view on YouTube. And his song “Alors on Danse” trickled into the Western spotlight when Kanye released his remix of the song, adding further dimensions to Van Haver’s chimeric creation. It has been years since a non-English song has made the Billboard top 40, and it’s no coincidence that Van Haver’s music is the first to break that trend.

Van Haver’s music, his performance, his humility, and his fluidity make him the best kind of modern pop star—artistically compelling, socially aware and honestly relatable. Van Haver’s concert tour is more than the name implies. His dance music is irresistibly compelling, and his lyrics portray the disillusion prevalent amongst youth in Europe following the Eurozone crisis. His performances do not just constitute a concert—they’re glimpses into modern pop culture’s future.

 

The Gaslamp Killer Experience

Let me first start off by saying I go to concerts very often, so when I say that The Gaslamp Killer’s show was one of the best I’ve seen—it’s pretty serious. William Bensussen, better known by his stage name The Gaslamp Killer performed at San Francisco’s Ruby Skye on Thursday, February 19th. Just to give some background, his stage name was coined when he started performing in his hometown of San Diego in the Gaslamp district. In an interview with Resident Advisor, he said that his “unique sets often ruined the music vibe in the club,” hence The Gaslamp Killer. His Jewish and Lebanese heritage can very well be heard through his music.

He started his set roughly a little after midnight and lasted for two hours. His show was comprised mostly of new and not yet unreleased tracks. I swear I even tried to use Shazam. Immediately, he began to take us through a psychedelic, WEIRD, spiritual, musical journey. He played everything from jazz to experimental music. For example, in his Boiler Room London set, he spins tracks by Flying Lotus, Tame Impala, Mount Kimbie, Outkast, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, James Blake, Khun Narin, Dimlite, Eprom, Chilly Gonzales and then busts out some never-before heard (at least for most) Turkish, Japanese and Indian tracks. His self-produced songs are heavily Middle-Eastern influenced, like “Nissim.” His latest album is titled Breakthrough and was recently featured in the new iPad commercial that aired during the Grammy’s.

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I know that the track-list is obviously the most important part of concerts, but the visuals in his show were something I have never experienced in my life. Everyone in the venue was mesmerized and couldn’t take their eyes off the projector, which was behind his huge afro. There were images of his face on the screen, the image “1-800-Satan,” and the question—“Are You On Drugs?” in a huge, bold, trippy font. His performance was much more than just a concert—it was an experience. His energy is unreal and he’s seriously unclassifiable. One would think he is completely tripping on some psychedelic drug, but he’s actually been completely sober for two years because of a near fatal scooter accident that left him without a spleen. His show confirmed that music is really a drug in itself, and no amount of alcohol or marijuana will make me feel the way The Gaslamp Killer’s set did.

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NSSN 2014

As a Bay Area native, attending Live 105’s Not So Silent Night has become sort of a yearly tradition. I was fortunate enough to attend night 2 this year, which featured a line up of Vance Joy, Spoon, Cage the Elephant, Interpol, Alt-J, and Imagine Dragons.

Vance Joy was the first act of the night – as the crowd began to fill in, he opened his set with his song “From Afar”. Predictably though, the night truly got started when he swapped his acoustic guitar out for a ukulele to play his summer hit “Riptide”. While somewhat incongruous to the season, it was a sunny reminder of carefree days in this current barrage of finals panic.

Spoon performing at NSSN 2014
Spoon performing at NSSN 2014

Next up were Austin-based Spoon. My personal favorite of the night, they performed a mix of singles off their eight albums. Britt Daniel played the part of veteran frontman well – electrifying and engrossing, Spoon sailed through the set with heady appreciation from the audience dancing to songs like “I Turn My Camera On” and “Don’t You Evah”. Infectious and cool as ever, Spoon closed out their set with the song “Underdog”.

Building on the momentum, Cage the Elephant unleashed a ridiculously energetic set. Characterized by copious crowd surfing, Cage the Elephant capitalized well on their anthemic rock sound. Playing a repertoire peppered with crowd pleasers like “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”, Cage the Elephant had the audience on their leash.

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Interpol performing at NSSN 2014

 

Following Cage the Elephant were indie stalwarts Interpol. Interpol’s darkly melodic sound echoed through Oracle Area in a beautifully ominous demonstration of their craft. In perfectly ironic fashion, Interpol’s pyrotechnics’ coordinated perfectly with the lyrics of their song “NYC” – whenever Paul Banks crooned the lines “Turn on the bright lights”, the stage lights were illuminated accordingly. Interpol capped off their segment with their hit “Slow Hands”.

Alt-J performed an amalgam of material off their debut and sophomore albums. Old favorites like “Fitzpleasure” fit well among new tunes like “Hunger of the Pine” and  “Left Hand Free”. Alt-J’s onstage presence was augmented by heavy smoke and artful lighting, which complemented their enigmatic sound.

Finally, Imagine Dragons closed out the show in dramatic fashion. One highlight was a holiday medley mid-set that features “Last Christmas”, “Creep”, “Jingle Bells”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Singer Dan Reynolds stood front and center with a bass drum that incited euphoric pandemonium in the last song of the night “Radioactive”.

Treasure Island Music Festival

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I made it to my first music festival on the beautiful, although sort of out of the way, Treasure Island (and now weeks later finally have time to write about it). The Treasure Island Music Festival was a great relaxing introduction into the world of music festivals. It was manageably sized, with two stages that had alternating acts from 12pm to 11pm, a row of 20 or so food trucks, some arts and crafts tents, lots of merchandise booths and a big grassy area dotted with sculptures and local art. It definitely was a bay area scene and a nice sampling of many the artistic, homegrown, Oakland and San Francisco companies.

Getting there was not as much of a hassle as I thought it would be. A friend and I caught the free shuttles at the Civic Center in San Francisco, and surrounded by a bunch of rowdy 30-some Outkast fans we made our way to Treasure Island.

Unfortunately, my phone died during the festival and I didn’t bring a camera so I don’t have any of my own photos to show y’all but I’ll add in some photos from the profesh Treasure Island gallery. To get a taste of the atmosphere just watch their promo video!

Photo Courtesy of Josh Withers and http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/gallery/

We caught the tail end of XXYYXX, which was a nice, relaxing, sit on the grass and listen kind of act. Then we made our way over to the other stage to see MØ. She was amazing to see live. Her voice was flawless (and I loved that she talked to the crowd throughout her set, her accent is awesome). She took up the whole stage, flipping her classic MØ braided ponytail and crowd-surfed, all while rocking an eye patch as she developed an eye infection the day before.

Photo Courtesy of John Withers and http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/gallery/

I hadn’t heard of Jungle before I bought my tickets for Treasure Island but now I am really digging their sound. Described as a modern soul music group, they had really fun personalities on stage.

At this point we explored the festival a little bit, mainly because I was in need to a phone charger, which we did find at the booth giving away free bags of Kettle chips (and we may have had 5 or 7 bags of free chips). In one corner DJs were playing jams in an area sectioned off as Silent Frisco to listeners wearing sound-cancelling headphones. It became a sort of art exhibit watching everyone jam to the same music in silence.

Photo Courtesy of John Withers and http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/gallery/

The Treasure Chest, the row of tents in the middle of the festival featured Camp DIY where I made one of those music festival flower crowns, of course, right? The DIY tent had this really cool collaborative, relaxed, creative atmosphere. And plus they had guys putting flowers in their beards to advertise the flower crown making.

Photo Courtesy of John Withers and http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/gallery/

I initially agreed to go to Treasure Island with my friend on Saturday solely because I would get to see Classixx. Wow. I have never felt energy like that at any other concert. Classixx had one of the best time slots. They got on stage right when the sun was setting, giving their set a magical sunset, San Francisco skyline backdrop. Hearing “All You’re Waiting For” live was unreal especially with the energy of hundreds of people around you jamming to the same beats blasting from the stage. As the sun slid away, the lights of the stage lit the crowd and the up-beat electronic was all that existed in that moment.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Rosati Photography and http://treasureislandfestival.com/2014/gallery/

Immediately after Classixx we pushed our way to the front of Zedd. Zedd was definitely a change of pace from the rest of the day. While the other sets were pretty relaxed Zedd brought a whole new energy, complete with intense lighting and pyrotechnics. Although it was a little out of place, I thought, Zedd brought some great dance music that everyone knew to pump up the crowd. There were, however, a few displeased festival-goers still trying to lay on their blankets and listen to Zedd amidst the jumping crowd. I think they were missing the vibes from earlier that afternoon.

After Zedd, I finally tried one of the food trucks: barbecue Cambodian style ribs on rice. Overpriced but definitely delicious. We stayed and listened to St. Lucia from a far. Their disco-pop was a nice break before Outkast.

Three songs into Outkast’s set, we decided to head home because it was getting cold and I realized that the only song I knew by them was “Hey Ya!”. But it was fun to talk to people that were fans from the beginning and knew every oldie they played.

Although I wish I went to TI on Sunday to see Alt-J, Washed Out, and Massive Attack, Saturday was a great first experience in the music festival world. I definitely recommend Treasure Island Music Festival for a more relaxed, easy, festival experience. I know I definitely want to go back.

All profssional image credits go to the Treasure Island Music Festival Official Gallery.

Lemaitre and Dead Times at Rickshaw Stop

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I’ve been labeled a “hipster” many times for my supposedly obscure taste in music, but I’ve never actually seen a live indie act until last night.

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I went to Rickshaw Stop for their PopScene lineups – that night’s show happened to consist of Lemaitre and Dead Times. Rickshaw Stop is essentially a shack with clips of ‘80s music videos playing on the background, Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, and DJs working the floor. Situated near the bathrooms is a bar selling reasonably-priced sangria and gin+tonics – probably the reason why there was a crowd of drunk toddlers swaying on the floor, inebriated on the promise of cheap alcohol. The more mature crowd differed to the second floor which has a few couches and rickshaws you can presumably lounge around on if you’re feeling to cool to bust a move.

I absolutely loved everything about the venue. It was the just right amount of grunge and personality.

(Plus, the usher was pretty nice to me. Points for that.)

After the clean-up crew finished cleaning up a party foul, my friend and I were unceremoniously pushed to the front of the stage. As soon as that happened, Dead Times came on, with front-man Calvin showing off his sequined socks in an elaborate dance number. I’m usually dubious of opening acts, but I have to say that I really enjoyed their act – it probably helped that Calvin had some MAJOR sex appeal. Then again, I am a sucker for lanky, tall guys with beautiful hands, perfectly tousled hair, and sultry voices.

For more on Dead Times’ act, they definitely have a come-hither R&B vibe going on. A little smoky, a little intense, and definitely with a whole lot of feeling. My favorite song by them was ‘Feel’, with its perfect chorus of angsty intimacy. I’d recommend bouncing on over to their SoundCloud to give them a thorough listen!

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ANYWAY, after Calvin-with-the-major-sex-appeal-and-beautiful-hands departed from the scene (and my heart, unfortunately), Lemaitre came on.

And holy sh*tballs was that an epic show. Like, WOW. Hear me out. When you first hear Lemaitre, you’re probably imagining some European androgynous looking dude to be singing with his dulcet tones, right?

So I’m just a teensy bit surprised when Ulrik Denizou, the singer, comes out with a scruffy beard and wrinkled Ralph Polo Lauren shirt. His bandmate Ketil Jansen, the man behind the guitar, seems more of a fit in terms of vocal imagination. That is, until you hear Ulrik let out those first few notes. Ulrik is the kind of singer that leaves you with no doubt that he can sing absolutely beautifully on album AND live.

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Lemaitre played most of their songs on their Relativity and Singularity EPs, playing favorites like ‘Iron Pyrite’ and ‘Continuum’. They are exceptionally good at exploiting those hard, disco beats, stirring the crowd up into a frenzy of frothing craziness. When Ulrik stepped down to sing with the crowd, I could’ve sworn the world was going to end with the amount of excited screaming that was going on. Yet, he was more than happy to interact with his fans, hugging them, fist-bumping them. Yours truly got a very sweaty hug and gratuitous selfie with him.

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It was a pretty flipping awesome set, topped off with the cherry that is Time to Realize. By that point, everyone just went crazy and I can’t really remember what happened except that there was a LOT of dancing, jumping up and down, and head banging. And sweaty couples making out.

All in all, I’m extremely happy to have seen them live. That, coupled with the far more intimate venue of Rickshaw Stop, has made me eager for future shows to check out there.

Listening toFeel by Dead Times, Iron Pyrite by Lemaitre

Hoping to readChampagne Supernovas by Maureen Callahan

Banner courtesy of IHeartComix, all other images c/o Caroline Young

Hip-Hop, Meet Your Match: Introducing Ensemble Mik Nawooj

Ensemble Mik Nawooj's first studio album, to be released September 6, 2014.
Ensemble Mik Nawooj’s first studio album, to be released September 6, 2014.

I first interviewed composer and pianist JooWan Kim of Ensemble Mik Nawooj in April of 2013. At the time, the ensemble was still gaining popularity, building on a small but steady following of Bay Area artists since their start in 2010. The music merges concert and hip-hop aesthetics, resulting in a beautiful and unique sound.

Over a year after my first interview with JooWan, I am blown away by the strides Ensemble Mik Nawooj has made in becoming an internationally recognized ensemble that is no longer talking about changing the face of pop music, but actually doing so.

EMN has had major successes in securing work with some of San Francisco’s finest art centers. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts commissioned Ensemble Mik Nawooj for their 21st Anniversary project, as well as giving the ensemble the opportunity to perform at their festival back in May. The anniversary project required EMN to reimagine six classic hip-hop pieces from 1993, the year the Yerba Buena Center was founded and a “seminal year for hip-hop.” EMN chose to work with pieces from Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg’s “Doggy Style” album, resulting in compositions that were at once familiar and uniquely enjoyable. The premiere for these pieces is in November, although partial premieres have been taking place throughout this summer.

EMN was also granted the honor of a residency at Red Poppy Art House, a small, eclectic art and cultural center in downtown San Francisco. Many great artists have gotten their start at Red Poppy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if EMN were the next big thing to come out of the neighborhood spot.

Ensemble Mik Nawooj onstage. Photo courtesy of showbam.com
Ensemble Mik Nawooj onstage. Photo courtesy of showbam.com

Compositional leader JooWan Kim recognizes a similarity between advances EMN has made as a whole and changes in his own thought process as a composer. Kim has moved past his classical training, identifying instead as a pop musician nowadays. No other composer has crossed over as much as JooWan has into the world of hip-hop. The talented composer admits it is hard to forget the strict rules after being trained in classical music, but he does so fluidly by keeping an open mind. The result of JooWan’s dual knowledge of classics and modern hip-hop is beautifully quirky; pieces like the reinterpretation of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” prove Ensemble Mik Nawooj know what they’re doing and are capable of pushing the boundaries of musical language forward.

“I just happen to be rebellious in general and I decided that I’m not going to be one of these composers that die and nobody knows,” states Kim unapologetically. “And that’s what happened, I think. I didn’t plan it to be this way, I just did something and the reaction was great so I decided to continuously do it.”

However, the biggest achievement Ensemble Mik Nawooj has made since my first interview with JooWan lies in the worldwide recent release of their first studio album. The album combines the sounds of pop and classical melody to create a sound unique to Ensemble Mik Nawooj. The odd pairings of orchestra and rap are unexpected and strangely enjoyable, altering the experience of listening and pushing the boundaries of pop music. Tracks like C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) are reminiscent of the poetic and political raps of Jurassic 5. The ensemble plans on touring next year, with the intention of taking things slow but unable to control the exponential growth they have experienced in the past year.

JooWan puts it lightly by saying, “Either something big is going to happen, or I am going to die. Because this year has been crazy.”

JooWan Kim of Ensemble Mik Nawooj.
JooWan Kim of Ensemble Mik Nawooj.

Listen to the new album on Spotify, Soundcloud, or iTunes, and check out their album release party at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts on September 6. Lagunitas Brewery and NBC Bay Area, along with a handful of other companies, are sponsoring the event, guaranteeing it’ll be worth the journey into San Francisco.

For more info:

miknawooj.com

Twitter & Instagram: @miknawooj

https://www.facebook.com/ensemblemiknawooj

Bandcamp: https://miknawooj.bandcamp.com/album/ensemble-mik-nawooj-a-hip-hop-orchestra

Chipotle Makes Music

Music festivals may be more popular than ever, but few festivals have both great music and delicious food. Leave it to the creative geniuses at Chipotle to combine two equally enjoyable things into one festival. The best part: it’s free. The Chipotle Cultivate Festival was held in San Francisco earlier this month and I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of BARE as a VIP guest.

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My friend and I laced up our Docs and made the trek (we took one bus, two BART trains, and a Lyft ride) from Berkeley to Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park. The large festival ground was packed with attendees by the mid-afternoon despite the overcast sky. After checking in and snagging our press passes, we entered the backstage VIP area. A beautiful white cabana with plush seating, hanging light fixtures, and modern decor was at the center of the area. The full bar, seemingly endless supply of snacks, and free swag filled the cabana and spoiled the VIP guests. As luxurious as the VIP area was, I was most looking forward to the musical performances of the day. After getting our fill of sandwiches and cookies, we headed to the main stage to catch Smallpools’ set.

Although the band has only been together for a year, Smallpools performed like pros. The massive crowd of trendy locals didn’t phase the guys. Their sweet, upbeat rock songs got everyone smiling and moving. The lead singer jokingly thanked the audience for “waking up early” on the Saturday to come out to see them (it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon) before ending the set with one of my favorite singles, “Dreaming.”

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Credit: Chipotle Cultivate Festival

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Next up was the British popstar Charli XCX who has been making her break onto the US charts since early 2013. Known for her featured vocals on the tracks “I Love It” and “Fancy”, Charli is set apart from other female artists by her tone and songwriting. A full female band provided a backdrop for her performance– which she accompanied with intense dance moves, and head-banging her frizzy curls. Although she’s kept fairly close-lipped about her sophomore album, Charli debuted two new songs titled “London Queen” and “Breaking Up” during her set. The new songs fit her goth-meets-girly music and sound similar to Blondie and the Flying Lizards, two of her inspirations. After a delivering a jam-packed set, Charli closed with her latest single “Boom Clap”.

The festival ended with a performance from the popular pop-punk band Neon Trees. The band’s bold, eccentric music and image seemed to resonate with a diverse fanbase; in the front of the crowd preteens with braces and middle-aged women danced as they performed their latest songs. Flashing lights and a multi-colored inflatable brain–the same one pictured on the cover of their recently released album– mirrored the intensity of the lead singer’s voice.

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My friend and I left the festival with our stomachs full and our ears ringing. The sky was still overcast but it hadn’t stopped anyone from enjoying themselves. The festival delivered a unique experience for all attendees–whether they came for the food, music, or just an all-around good time.

Image c/o Evan Ruiz

How To: Coachella

Three days after the best weekend of the year, my ears are still ringing and legs are still sore. Coachella Weekend 1 was full of huge surprises, beautiful people, and some of the best music of the century. Whether you’re experiencing Coachella for the first time or the 5th time, here are the best 10 tips I can offer for all of you Weekend 2ers:

1. Make a game plan the night before you head out to the festival grounds. Compare the set times for each artist that you want to see and make a plan with your friends. The last thing you want is to split up from your group or have your entire day ruined because you missed the one artist you’ve been dying to see all year.

2. You DON’T need to take crazy drugs to make the most out of the weekend. One of the most common questions I overheard was, “What did you take today?” and while a lot of people may seem to be on some serious mind-altering substances, you shouldn’t feel pressured to try out anything new, especially if it’s offered from someone you don’t know well. Stranger danger, kids!

3. You also don’t need to wear a flower crown and fringes everywhere you go. Really. The fashion scene is pretty eclectic- just wear what makes you feel comfortable.

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Image courtesy of www.eonline.com

4. Get on someone’s shoulders during a big performance at least once- the view will blow your mind. As a 5’1″ concert goer, I cannot stress this enough! Not hanging around with any tall, husky men? Just ask the frat guy in the bandana and neon shorts next to you for a lift. They love that stuff.

5. Maximize your down time! If you have some time to kill in between sets, explore the festival grounds instead of just sitting down somewhere. There are tons of awesome interactive art pieces and sponsored tents all over the grounds this year. The Do Lab is still my favorite 2 years running.

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Image courtesy of www.coachella.com

6. HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE! Security lets you bring in a sealed plastic water bottle or an empty reusable water bottle. There are Hydration Stations all over the grounds where you can refill your bottles for FREE. Make sure there is always a full water bottle in your group. The desert is hot, crowds can be suffocating, and you will be sweating all day from the sun and dancing so much- don’t get dehydrated or faint!

7. See an unknown artist every day. The line-up this year is particularly impressive and there are so many quality acts to discover. Here are some recommendations: Cajmere, Chromeo, and Classixx if you feel like some serious grooving. Jagwar Ma for all you psychedelic kids. Jhene Aiko is a smooth up and coming R&B chick along with the group The Internet.

8. See Pharrell. Surprise, surprise, “Happy” is not his only song. Check out his older music with artists like Snoop Dogg, Common, and Ludacris. Pharrell has been featured alongside tons of big name artists, making his set perfect for guest appearances. He brought out Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, Odd Future, and Gwen Stefani during Weekend 1 just to name a few.

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Image courtesy of www.billboard.com

9. Have an emergency meeting place! Cell service is particularly bad in the desert and with huge crowds of people everywhere, it can be easy to lose one of your friends. Determine a meeting place in case someone gets separated from your group. I recommend meeting at the feet of the giant astronaut!

astronaut
Image courtesy of www.coachella.com

10. Put your phone on airplane mode. You have the rest of your life to Instagram yourself in your new high waisted shorts and text your friends about how amazing Disclosure is. Disconnect yourself from the real world and get to know the people around you, whether it’s the friend of a friend you’ve never met, the old couple enjoying their 10th Coachella, or the dude in a thong and cowboy hat jamming out next to you (I met two of them).

There are few times, if any, in your lifetime when you will find yourself in the middle of the desert surrounded by awesome people, incredible music, and endless sunshine. Be safe, sing loud, and don’t stop dancing.

Musings of a Street Walker

The custom of attending a concert is similar to that of bartering: we pay money in exchange for experiences that are often indescribably life-changing. On a rainy night in February, I embarked on one of the most thrilling (albeit slightly dangerous) adventures I have experienced thus far. I decided to attend Young the Giant’s Mind Over Matter tour, the first concert I’ve ever attended. Fortunately, the Fox Theater can be reached by simply hopping on the 1 or 1R bus and riding it all the way to Downtown Oakland. Though it was rainy and dark, the heat of excitement and the promise of seeing my favorite band in concert encouraged me to go.

Mind Over Matter

Mind Over Matter is Young the Giant’s sophomore album that was recently released this year. It is a follow-up of their self-titled album that was released in early 2011. Their first album featured the hit song Cough Syrup that has received a great amount of radio play and has been covered by many different artists, and it was even performed on the popular show Glee!  In my opinion, Young the Giant is the ideal album to put on in the daytime while relaxing at the beach or taking a stroll. Mind Over Matter has a more upbeat rock-inspired feel that I view as the nighttime counterpart.

Young the Giant

Clad in a large men’s cardigan paired with a black tee shirt, jeans, and black combat boots, I strolled onto the scene, unsure of what to expect. I was quickly greeted by a sea of eager faces. Ladies dressed edgily in jean jackets with colorful tops and frayed or ripped jeans while the men dressed up in dress shirts, rolled up jeans, and various types of loafers. We all looked around anxiously in hopes of catching a sweet glimpse of one of the band members as they moved around backstage. However, it would be about an hour and a half before Young the Giant graced the stage. Luckily, the two opening acts, Tapioca and the Flea followed by Cayucas, were amazing performers with catchy songs and awesome guitar riffs.

 

Playing live at Fox Theater.

It was a night of pure enjoyment and appreciation. Sameer Gadhia, the dashing lead singer, has a voice that is even more authentic and breathtaking when heard in concert. Each song was performed in a heartfelt manner that can only be produced by a musician who pours his or her soul into each lyric.

At first I had been hesitant about attending the concert alone but after arriving, I found that it was a liberating experience. I sang and danced as loudly and crazily as I desired without fear of embarrassing myself in front of others. I was able to feel close to the performers and sing along to my favorite songs with fellow concert attendees. In short, it was an amazing feeling.

I had purchased a ticket in the seated area rather than general admission, since it was my first concert. Who knew that people actually sit in their seats at concerts? I will definitely opt for general admission next time because I seemed to be one of the only dedicated Young the Giant fans screaming my lungs out from her seat! It was a little disheartening at first but I decided to ignore my reservations about looking out-of-place and kept on rocking out to the music.

Written by Katherine Okpara. Image courtesy of Impact89FM and Berkeley B Side. Video courtesy of “mynamebekim”.