This edition of the neighborhood blog is about The Arts District... or The Artist District... or is it The Artist-In-Residence District... or perhaps The Artists' District? This, and other issues, will be sorted out by blog's end to everyone's satisfaction.
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the Arts District
To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood to be the subject of a neighborhood blog, go here. To vote for one of the communities in Los Angeles County other than in Los Angeles, go here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.
William Wolfskill La Grande Station
One of the greatest cultural tragedies in the history of Bay Area music is the way an entire musical scene or movement was literally wiped out, and all ironically in the name of "development" and "progress." The music was the blues and the (once very vibrant) place was West Oakland, in the area on and surrounding 7th Street. Now simply known as the area where the main Oakland Post Office and the West Oakland BART station, along with its overhead tracks and its extended parking lot sit, this was once ground zero for the blues on the West Coast. But tragically, from the 1960's into the 1970's "developers" bought out and displaced nearly all of the clubs, venues and homes to build the BART and the area's vibrant music scene was put to sleep forever. Above is the Amoeblog interview with longtime Oakland resident and blues and r&b fan Buck on this tragic topic, that at its core was a function of racism in that it displaced a minority community who at the time had little political power to help fight to save their cultural scene.
A little reported on part of Bay Area history, one of the few places that you can read about the death of the blues in Oakland is in Ishmael Reed's recommended Blues City publication from five years ago in the Crown Journey published series where authors walk their city and report on its streets and inhabitants, weaving in its history en route. Toward the end of Reed's wonderful book he encounters Ronnie Stewart of the Bay Area Blues Society and allows him to vent and educate on this tragic slice of Bay Area history. Among the many nuggets of history emparted by Stewart, "Seventh Street between Wood and Center Streets, Pine Street, Henry Street, and Campbell Street were full of blues. You had the Reno Club and Miss Essie's Place, a very popular club on Wood and Seventh Streets. Essie had hamburgers and a jukebox and every now and then she'd put a band in there. They had black and white clubs, segregated, but lined up one next to the other. Then they had Pearl Harbor Liquor, which had a jukebox. See, back in those days, there was a whole culture of jukeboxes. They played nothing but blues. One outstanding musician was Saunders King. He played guitar, and he was raised on Seventh Street. He had his first hit back in 1942 and his daughter Deborah [was married to Carlos Santana for 34 years]. He was extremely important in the development of the Oakland blues; the reason the Oakland scene was so popular was because [of] people like Saunders King and Bob Geddins [a songwriter, producer, and arranger]. Geddins owned three or four record labels and was the first African-American to own one. He owned Big Town Records and Uptown Records. He recorded Jimmy McCracklin, Johnny Hartsman, Lowell Fulson, Roy Hawkins. He even recorded 'The Thrill Is Gone' but Modern Records ripped him off for that. It ended up being the biggest hit of B.B. King's career. That came out of Oakland in 1949."
After Todd's recent LA performance we've been anticipating the release of his third studio album, and it was well worth the wait...
Forms is perhaps the most complex and mature album to date from Berlin producer and DJ Todd Bodine. As a DJ playing around the world and as a producer in the highest ranks of consistency, Todd Bodine has constantly developed as an artist. Releases and remixes on respected labels, and collaborations with various artists have made him an internationally popular electronic musician. In 2007, he finally began to perform as a live act, and, as Todd shows with Forms, his innate knowledge of the two sides of electronic dance music has only exponentially increased. This is a meeting of peak-time euphoria with the relaxing bliss of the hazy morning light. A meeting of hypnotic natural rhythms and driving, cut-up sounds. Todd can impress you with dancefloor bombs and also with his sophisticated sound visions. The sound of Detroit would probably be the best comparison. All of the tracks are cleverly designed to work without being overly intellectual. Everything flows and is filled with a subtle density of character that is well-known to those familiar with Todd Bodine. This album speaks its own language -- a rare and unique form of communication that very few other producers are able to replicate. Minimal tech-house at its most severely pumping and addictive.
Ay Ay Ay
This is Matias Aguayo's second full-length for Kompakt. Chilean born, German raised Matias Aguayo is one of those rare talents you come across that genuinely works in music for the sake of loving music. Kompakt's long love affair with Matias Aguayo runs all the way back to his first official act (together with Dirk Leyers) as Closer Musik back in 2000. Though short lived, their releases were foundation builders for the label and still stand as relevant as the day the songs were recorded. Following their demise, Matias felt the urge to abandon the rules that he felt techno imposed on him and moved toward a more organic approach to making music. His first foray into this would be with his 2005 debut solo album Are You Really Lost (KOM 044CD). Matias returned to Kompakt in 2008 with 2 12" bombs -- the club anthems "Minimal" and "Walter Neff." Feeling refreshed and inspired from travelling throughout Latin America, Aguayo was back to end the cycle of boredom that was permeating dance music! That brings us to his sophomore full length Ay Ay Ay. Recorded in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Paris together with Vicente Sanfuentes (Original Hamster), Matias has conjured an impossibly unclassifiable full-length that is certain to surprise and elate anyone that should come across this true breakthrough of a recording. Take opener "Menta Latte" -- countless layers of his voice revel in a psychedelic dream park together with a simple xylophone chord. The chorus of Matias' unpretentious first single "Rollerskate" is damned to stay on auto repeat in your head for days. His leanings to traditional African music resonate with the beautiful crooner "Koro Koro." Fans of his recent singles will rejoice to the rhythm of songs "Me Vuelvo Loca" and "Juanita" -- Latin harmonies embraced with Matias coaxing you to get up and dance. To call Ay Ay Ay ambitious would be an understatement -- Matias Aguayo has managed to come up with a recording that is undeniably all his own and a landmark release for Kompakt.
I hate to admit a commercial's had an affect on me, but "suddenly" I find myself in the mood to listen to some Cat Stevens. The fact that something that's blatantly created merely to sell something to me is backed by a song by one of the more anti-capitalism, anti-authority, anti-everything artists ever to play music is quite twisted. The irony is not lost on me, nor any of Cat's fans I am sure.
Nonetheless, so many of my earliest memories are of listening to his music on the record player at my childhood home or on long car trips with my family. It provides a feeling of comfort to me. He's one of the artists whose impact is indelibly carved into my psyche; my connection to his music was formed practically in the womb. Maybe it sounds weird to say, but his songs effected me deeply and taught me some important things about how to both contemplate and live life even in a time before I'd either lived much or had much to contemplate. They also taught me about what great music can have at its best: integrity, melody, message, rhythm, compassion.
Later in life I reached for Cat right after September 11, I remember. It's funny, the universality of the lyrics is as interesting to me as it ever was, even when I was a small child considering, "If I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south..." Quite a shocking thought to a kid! He's very much the talented, if a bit overly serious, song writer. Not that we've all forgotten this, it's just sometimes maybe a "reminder" in the form of a horrid bit of merchandising is at least good for something anyway...Even though it feels sorta shameful all around, the music still stands.