Tag Archives: downtown los angeles

Live: Big Bang at Olympic Gymnastics Arena

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Fans arrive at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena to see Big Bang’s first concert of the 2015 MADE World Tour on April 25. SCREAMfmLondon

Approaching Olympic Park in Seoul this weekend was like arriving in Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. The expansive sidewalks were lined with banners billowing in the wind — each one depicting a member of the five-piece K-pop group Big Bang sporting a ridiculous hairstyle. Above them floated giant, luminescent balloons displaying phrases like “빅뱅 IS BACK.” It was magical.

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Big Bang’s official light sticks are so cool until you’re trying to see around them in the crowd. SCREAMfmLondon

The moment had finally arrived for Big Bang’s much-anticipated comeback after about three years of the members focusing on solo work and not releasing any new group material. The momentous occasion was marked with two consecutive concerts at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena on April 25 and 26 — and I attended them both.

The MADE 2015 World Tour dates in Seoul served to usher in a new era for the band. Here’s the plan: Big Bang will release an EP on the first day of each month from May to September of this year (“M,” “A,” “D” and “E”). Each EP will feature two new singles — until September, when the full-length studio album “Made” will finally be released. It’s kind of complicated. I love it.

The first two songs — due to be released May 1 — were introduced at this weekend’s concerts. And they are both killer tracks.

The group presented “Loser” first by screening the official music video, which was filmed just a few weeks ago in downtown Los Angeles. One scene shows G-Dragon sprawling out despondently across Spring Street as the ol’ Metro Rapid lumbers past. Truly a merging of my favorite worlds.

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T.O.P rocking that hairstyle like only he can. SCREAMfmLondon

The video is exactly the kind of music video I love — a classic strung-out, rock ‘n roll aesthetic to match the song’s maudlin theme. Taeyang spray paints messages about sin at a trailer park, Seungri smashes some furniture, Daesung gets his ass kicked out front of a convenience store, T.O.P wears his pajamas outside. It’s perfect, and it perfectly matches the song’s gorgeous lyrics. In the first verse, G-Dragon admits, “Honestly, I’ve never fit in… / Love was already forgotten to me, who was alone. / I’ve had enough of hopeful love songs.”

After screening the video, the band reappeared onstage in a revolving platform of windows and mirrors to perform the song live for the first time. In fact, they performed each of the new songs about three or four times each (if you count some of the a capella bits) both nights, which sounds like it would be annoying but was actually wonderful and super effective in harnessing the excitement for the first EP release. Now I don’t want to listen to anything else. ‘Cause I’m just a loser, loner, a coward who pretends to be strong~

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Seungri in the foreground with T.O.P on the big screen. SCREAMfmLondon

During the live performance, Seungri really sold “Loser,” carrying the chorus and adding emotional flourishes to his act. Seungri’s overall performances really stood out at both of the Seoul concerts. In between “How Gee” and “Feeling,” he appeared onstage with a set of turntables to try his hand at DJing, which was a cool way to introduce yet another style of music to Big Bang’s already eclectic repertoire. Seungri was terribly affable and charming during all of his spoken interludes too, but the real highlight was the unexpectedly sexy dance he delivered during “Strong Baby.” Also, his is the only 2015 Big Bang makeover that doesn’t look kinda stupid.

At the midpoint of the band’s three-hour long concerts, each member took the stage solo to show off their individual strengths.

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G-Dragon, Seungri and Daesung perform in Seoul on April 26. SCREAMfmLondon

T.O.P made an impression with his intense rendition of “Doom Dada” in a Piet Mondrian-print suit. Definitely in the running for best wardrobe change, but slightly edged out by G-Dragon in calf-length fur, combat boots and gold, glittery jackets for his “Good Boy” duet with Taeyang and solo performance of “Crooked.” G-Dragon is an incredible artist, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to be in his presence while he’s doing his thing. What a joy it is to be in the same universe, the same country, the same room as Kwon Ji-yong.

Following G-Dragon’s solo, the band premiered its second new song, “Bae Bae,” with a lyric video followed again by a live performance. “Bae Bae” is another brilliant track — so different in tone from “Loser” but nonetheless cohesive. It’s a more seductive, R&B-style track with a mellow, guitar-driven chorus. G-Dragon and T.O.P both deliver killer verses (GD’s intonation on each repetition of “bae bae” is so perfect — I don’t know how he does it). My favorite line is GD’s “Is she a person or an angel? / Oh, Jesus, bae bae!”

There was never a low point at either of Big Bang’s two Seoul concerts this weekend. Both shows were exceptional from beginning to end.

For two days, I had the pleasure of spending three uninterrupted hours watching pop music at its absolute best. It’s truly a sight to behold. I feel like I have seen a lot of things, but I have never seen anything like Big Bang. Onstage, they bare it all: the dedication and work ethic, the unique talents of each member, the genuine enjoyment of the craft, the fun-loving energy, the limitless creativity, the catchiest hooks of “Fantastic Baby” and “Stupid Liar,” the powerful range of “Blue” and “Bad Boy,” the outfits, the dancing, the special effects, the thought put into every moment.

You may have seen a lot of things, but you have never seen anything like Big Bang.

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My picks: Best brunch spots in Los Angeles

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The cobb omelette at Alcove Café and Bakery in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

The worst thing about breakfast is that it takes place so early in the day. Who even wakes up before noon? On a weekend? Not me. But if, by some strange twist of fate, you happen to find yourself both alert and hungry in the wee hours of the morning, there are some great breakfast and/or brunch spots in Los Angeles for you to check out.

Eat This Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood

I was already fond of this restaurant long before I managed to try the brunch, and, man, did that change everything. The truffle cheese and egg panini moved me. To put it into perspective: the first time I ordered this sandwich, I actually called someone on the phone afterwards to tell them that I’d just had the best breakfast of my life. Now I bring everyone there to drink bottomless mimosas with me. The sandwich is served on toasted sourdough bread and is made with fried eggs, truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and a balsamic glaze. It’s all served with seasoned roasted potatoes and a small cup of fruit. Wow! It’s magnificent.

Larchmont Bungalow
Neighborhood: Larchmont Village

Larchmont is the kind of cute neighborhood that gives off a “brunch” vibe all day long, you know? There’s a Sunday morning farmer’s market and streets lined with expensive, kitschy boutiques and cafes. And Larchmont Bungalow is the best place to brunch there. If you’re into extravagant dessert, you will be into their red and blue velvet pancakes, which are not pancakes as much as they are moist little cakes filled with cream cheese spread, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with walnuts. So indulgent. So good.

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The truffle cheese and egg panini at Eat This Café in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

Eggslut
Neighborhood: Downtown

If you find yourself cruising through Grand Central Market between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., it would be wise to stop by the Eggslut kiosk, where they serve up super deluxe egg-based breakfasts that you can eat at their counter or across the street at Pershing Square. The food rules. There’s the Fairfax: a sandwich on a brioche bun with soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo. And there’s the cheeseburger: wagyu beef, caramelized onions, pickles, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise and an over-medium egg on a brioche bun. This food will get all over you, and it will be worth it.

The Griddle Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood Hills

The line is long, and the portions are gigantic. I was completely prepared for everything to be huge, and it still surprised me how huge it really was. That’s how it goes at the Griddle Café: your plate will be overflowing with toppings. You roll with it. There are pages and pages of pancake options — they’re all served three to a plate, and they’re bigger than your head. Some of the choices are just amazing. The Black Magic pancakes are filled with crushed Oreos and topped with whipped cream and Oreo cookie pieces. The Red Velvet pancakes are topped with swirls of cream cheese icing. Mhm.

Alcove Café and Bakery
Neighborhood: Los Feliz

At Alcove, you place your order and pay inside, then find a server to seat you (preferably on the spacious outdoor patio on a lovely Los Angeles day). It’s a little stressful, and you occasionally have to wait 50 years to get up to the counter. But once you do, the food (and dessert!) is delicious. The cobb omelette is a truly fabulous piece of brunch art, stuffed with warm grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese and tomato and topped with large slices of avocado. The omelette itself is huge, but it also comes with a large portion of delicious rosemary potatoes and four slices of toast. I don’t even like toast, but I still finished mine because it came with butter and a tiny, personal-sized glass jar of strawberry jam. It’s adorable.

Blu Jam Café
Neighborhood: Fairfax

Blu Jam is another must-try brunch location in an area full of brunch locations. There’s a little something for everybody. If you’re into savory breakfast: order Kamil’s Breakfast, which is pan-roasted macaroni scrambled with eggs, smoked bacon, ham, garlic, chives and cheddar cheese. If you’re into sweet breakfast: order the crunchy French toast, which is egg brioche dipped in batter, rolled in crunchy corn flakes, grilled and topped with fresh fruit and vanilla bean sauce. If you’re me, order a California omelette, which has three eggs, smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

Live: Miley Cyrus Bangerz Tour

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Miley Cyrus performs “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” with Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips at the Staples Center in February. SCREAMfmLondon

On May 6, Miley Cyrus plans to finally return to the stage, resuming her world tour in London after rescheduling an Amsterdam concert date and postponing the final leg of her US tour. The final US dates of the Bangerz Tour were pushed back until August, when Miley will perform nine additional concerts in the Eastern part of the states.

Earlier in April, Miley faced some considerable setbacks when her beloved dog died, causing her to have a pretty heartbreaking public meltdown. Shortly thereafter, the medication she was taking for a sinus infection caused a severe allergic reaction, and she had to be hospitalized for many days.

It’s a bummer to see her slowed down when the Bangerz Tour began with such incredible forward momentum.

I attended one of the first Bangerz Tour dates on Feb. 22 at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. It was a truly impressive spectacle with enough costume changes, larger-than-life props and choreographed dance routines to make your head spin, really.

Anchored by Miley’s strong stage presence, her concerts are the perfect blend of both polished performance and off-the-cuff spontaneity. I was expecting some zaniness — I knew that she would enter via her trademark tongue-slide protruding from a giant projection of her own face, for example. She delivered zaniness and then some: she pretended to fellate a dancer dressed as Bill Clinton during “Party in the USA” and leaned off the stage to initiate a kiss with Katy Perry, who was in the audience, during “Adore You.”

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Protesters outside of the Bangerz Tour at the Staples Center. SCREAMfmLondon

About halfway through the concert, Miley migrated to another stage at the back of the venue, where a band was set up to play an unplugged cover of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” with her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, cheering and proudly clapping along from a few feet behind her. Not long after, Miley introduced Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips, who approached the stage carrying large silver balloons in the shape of the words “FUCK YEAH” and dressed in a red cape, respectively.

Together, they performed an amazing cover of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and then they decided that they were drunk enough to do it a second time — so they did. And it was awesome.

The acoustic set, the old-school country and the unexpected cover songs are great elements of the Bangerz Tour. It’s the perfect way to remind the audience that Miley Cyrus isn’t all spectacle. She’s smart.

There is no doubt in my mind that Miley’s entire rebranding has been carefully planned from the moment the very first video of her twerking in a unicorn suit went viral in March of 2013. It’s kind of genius. And it’s been executed incredibly well. And, best of all, Miley has the talent and personality to back it up.

Ultimately, I am really rooting for her. Not only do I love her ability to get under the skin of the general public, but I am impressed with her in-your-face feminism, musical talent and down-to-earth attitude on- and off-stage. Of course, there are large elements of the media she’s produced that are problematic and worthy of criticism. But I think the “Bangerz” era is an important one in the evolution of pop music, and I would love to see her continue to grow and succeed.

Outside of the venue, middle-aged men with potbellies and bucket hats smugly unfurled signs that read “SMILEY VIRUS WILL WRECK YOUR LIFE” and “SLUTS, ETC. TRUST CHRIST OR END IN HELL!” One wore a shirt proclaiming him “Holygound Security” and shouted through a megaphone at the teenage girls walking past him that they were prostitutes and whores.

Somebody’s got to stand up to those guys.

I was a seat-filler at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards

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It’s possible that I am in this picture. Via AP Images/Invision

“Come with me, right now!” our wrangler commands, one hand on her walkie-talkie, before she takes off into the auditorium.

A voice announces over loudspeakers that the show will resume taping in a few moments.

I try to keep the wrangler in my line of vision as I hurry after her over the uneven flooring — hastily-laid carpet covering clusters of wires and power cords, some sort of plywood functioning as speed bumps, and a very sharp incline. I am hyper-aware that if I trip over my six-inch heels and faceplant, I will be doing so directly in front of Channing Tatum.

I was a seat-filler for the 2014 MTV Movie Awards on April 13.

Seat-fillers exist to fill in gaps when a guest gets up to perform onstage, hang out at the bar, use the bathroom or go home because they’re bored, so there are no empty seats when the show is aired on TV. I am well-suited to this particularly glamorous Hollywood job because filling seats is basically my strongest talent. I’ve been training my entire life, and I was really excited for the opportunity to finally take sitting in chairs to the professional level.

Here’s how it went down:

My day as a seat-filler began at 10 a.m., when I had to assemble the red carpet look I was going to wear that day (by “red carpet,” I mean the Metro Red Line I would take from Hollywood to Downtown Los Angeles, where the event was taking place inside the Nokia Theatre).

Our meeting location was outside of a parking structure underneath the Santa Monica Freeway. There, they separated us into three groups: the “pit fans” (who stood for the duration of the event closest to the stage), the “red carpet fans” (who sat in bleachers to watch the procession) and the seat-fillers.

We weren’t allowed to bring our cellphones along, so we had no way to judge the passing of time. I can only estimate that we stood around approximately forever, and then we moved to another waiting area where we sat down forever.

Finally, we made the long trek across LA Live toward the venue in rows of four, passing Lakers fans and tourists shooting confused stares at the parade of weirdos looking ready for a long night of clubbing in our “hip and trendy” best in broad daylight. Once we passed through a security checkpoint and were finally inside the Nokia Theatre, we got to, well, stand around some more before they brought us to the holding areas on either side of the stage.

From there, we were moved around a lot. If someone returned to their seat, the seat-filler had to go back to the holding area for their next assignment. This resulted in a lot of sprinting across the room at a moment’s notice and, in one fantastic instance, a fellow seat-filler getting stuck crouching on the floor between two seats when someone came to sit down after the show had already resumed.

Here are the coolest parts:

When seat-fillers are not filling important celebrity seats, they fill significantly less important regular ol’ seats in a holding area at the very front of the auditorium. My holding area was in the path leading from the auditorium to the backstage area, where everyone was entering carrying popcorn and champagne. I didn’t get to partake — in fact, I didn’t get to eat or drink anything all day because I’d been busy with all that standing around I was doing. But I did get to watch a lot of people make their entrance: Max Joseph and Nev Schulman from “Catfish,” the entire cast of “Teen Wolf,” Snooki and JWoww, etc. And that is how I learned that Nicki Minaj is incredibly tiny – she’s apparently only 5’2”! Who knew!

Zac Efron took off his shirt onstage. Actually, Rita Ora forcibly removed his shirt onstage, but the result was achieved. And I was in the same room as that.

Being in the front row for the musical performances was not a bad time. Twenty One Pilots, an all-Christian kind of indie rock-rap group, started off with the song “Car Radio.” About two seconds before they began, lead singer Tyler Joseph passed masks into the audience and gave everyone an incredibly speedy rundown of the complicated choreography we were supposed to perform. It turned out alright, though, and the song and performance were both great. I also enjoyed being in the front row for Eminem and Rihanna’s “Monster” duet because that’s a situation I can’t imagine I would find myself in under any other circumstance.

Here are the worst parts:

I ended up sitting a short distance behind Grumpy Cat, who was slumped over in her chair (a front row seat) in what looked like a heavily-sedated stupor, living a pretty crummy life as a newly-minted feline celebrity. I disagree with cats-as-celebrities anyway because that’s ridiculous, but after seeing Grumpy Cat in action at one of her many public events, I just felt really bad for her.

She barely moved, aside from her head lolling lethargically as she was grabbed, petted and held up for photos with nearly every guest in attendance. Otherwise, she was kept in her seat and subjected to pyrotechnics, loud music, explosions, flashing lights and fog machines, which I’m sure she loved because cats love being famous. Everybody knows that.

Also, no one seemed to know what they were doing. Amanda Seyfried couldn’t read her lines. Chris Pratt didn’t get a microphone when he went onstage. Someone promoted the upcoming “Godzilla” movie (an actor, probably), but nobody could see him through the excessively thick fog from the fog machine. It was a bit of a mess, but, to be fair, it’s just the MTV Movie Awards. I don’t think anyone was watching anyway.

Afterwards:

As the show ended, I awkwardly realized that I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with myself. I was lost in the crowd: Shailene Woodley was trying to squeeze past me toward the exit and Holland Roden was leaning onto my chair to take a selfie. I figured my job was complete. I sat like a pro. I was proud. I headed off into the night.

My feet hurt, and I deeply regret not trying harder to sneak into an after-party. But will I sit again professionally? I really, really hope so.

Live: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Battle of the Seasons

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Willam, Detox, Michelle Visage, Pandora Boxx, Ivy Winters, Carmen Carerra, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck and Manila Luzon perform in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons. Via Pandora Boxx/Facebook

On Feb. 6, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons brought eight performers from the reality television show, as well as host Michelle Visage and RuPaul himself, to Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles for a phenomenal display of theatricality.

Individually, Willam, Alaska Thunderfuck, Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles, Detox, Manila Luzon, Carmen Carerra and Ivy Winters all took the stage to show off their individual talents at least twice.

Interspersed between performances were videos of the stars backstage and on the road, as well as promotional material from the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which will premiere on Feb. 24. The entire event was incredibly seamless and professional. But with a lot of dick jokes.

While I would deem the whole evening a success, some performances stood out more than others. My jaw actually dropped in awe at Ivy Winters, who juggled gigantic knives while wearing a tall, silver-horned helmet and walked on stilts to Little Mix’s “Wings.”

Alaska wowed me with her singing talent and impressive vocal range during an impassioned cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” (a nod, perhaps, to announcing the breakup with longtime boyfriend Needles late last year), as well as her original song “Ru Girl.”

Detox and Willam were fantastic as usual as two thirds of DWV (missing fellow drag queen Vicky Vox, who has not appeared on “Drag Race”) while performing their parody songs “Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A)” and “Boy is a Bottom.” Detox, especially, is not a bad rapper, and her black light shoes were fantastic, although her solo numbers were considerably less interesting. Willam, however, looked amazing, performed flawlessly and had a commanding stage presence throughout. But, of course.

And Needles, my personal favorite and the fifth season winner of “Drag Race,” was as hilarious, creepy and sexy as I’ve always dreamed she would be. For her first number, she was carried onstage in a coffin before launching into “Call Me on the Ouija Board” from her 2013 album “PG-13.”  It’s a really, really great goth-pop song with a catchy hook, smart lyrics full of tongue-in-cheek references to classic horror movies and a super polished sound. I actually haven’t stopped listening to it since. In the song, Needles declares, “I’ll be your Carol Anne, / I’ll be your pentagram. / Let’s dabble in the black arts.” Onstage, Needles picks up a dollar bill that was thrown at her and takes a few bites out of it before throwing it back.

Fun aside, there was also talk about the growing popularity of the show and its increasing influence on creating “drag queen society,” which is not entirely an exaggeration. The show and its contestants appeal to a wide range of audience members, reaching many underrepresented demographics. The wide appeal of fun, kitschy drag queens has allowed for stars that use the platform for political advocacy.

Carerra, who came out as a transgender woman after competing on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” has since become a very public proponent for transgender equality. In January, she appeared alongside “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox on Katie Couric’s talk show to speak about transgender issues, and last year, an online petition aimed at persuading Victoria’s Secret to have Carerra as its first transgender model gathered around 45,000 signatures.

Luzon, also a competitor from season three, has been pretty involved in AIDS awareness since appearing on the show. She and other “Drag Race” alumni appear regularly in public service announcements on Logo TV promoting safe sex and HIV testing.

Fittingly enough, the Battle of the Seasons show took place just as I’ve been following another story of drag queen activism unfolding overseas. On Feb. 1, Irish drag queen Panti Bliss spoke (amazingly effectively and eloquently) about gay rights and oppression in Ireland. Shortly thereafter, a video of the speech garnered such international attention that it has been discussed everywhere from Ireland’s houses of parliament to Russia, where anti-gay legislation was famously passed in 2013 to prohibit “propaganda” in support of “non-traditional” sexual orientation.

All of this just makes me feel like there should be way more drag queens occupying political office.

Theater: Eric Rudnick, ‘Day Trader’

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The Bootleg Theater. SCREAMfmLondon

“Everyone knows a career in Hollywood is a gamble, and this play asks if people can ever come to grips with the fact that a large part of gambling is losing,” playwright Eric Rudnick is quoted as saying in the playbill for the Bootleg Theater’s current production of “Day Trader.”

The play is expertly staged, using sound bites of Mo Gaffney’s soothing narration from a how-to book on day trading to break up the scenes. The ongoing theme of day trading (the buying and selling of financial instruments before the market closes for the trading day) mirrors the plot of the play as unhappily married screenwriter Ron (Danton Stone) uses his family and friends as bargaining tools in an attempt to score a fortune from his wealthy wife and, thereby, make himself finally feel meaningful.

The Bootleg Theater makes excellent use of the space, projecting elements onto the minimal backdrops and revealing a jazzy drummer (Josh Imlay) to accompany the narration during scene changes. Although Ron’s wife Brenda never makes an onstage appearance, her presence is still felt through the shadows in the background and the snippets of Shakespeare she leaves for Ron to discover at opportune moments, foreshadowing the development of the plot (“A little more than kin, and less than kind”).

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Particularly impressive is the performance of 14-year-old Brighid Fleming as Ron’s daughter Juliana. While the audience sees her deal with the dissolution of her parents’ marriage and crave a better relationship with her father, in true Hollywood fashion, we also see that she is smarter and more capable than anyone anticipates.

Ron has long been yearning for a way out of his marriage, but, as per his prenuptial agreement, he is unable to file for divorce without forfeiting the share of his wife’s fortune to which he would otherwise be entitled. When he meets a beautiful young waitress/aspiring actress named Bridget (Murielle Zuker) who wants to help him get his hands on the money (and is willing to accompany him on overnight trysts in Solvang), he thinks his luck is finally turning around.

The plot is exciting — particularly in the final act, wherein the characters show their true, twisted, morally corrupt selves. The resolution is delightfully cynical and entirely satisfying.

And, moreover, the Bootleg Theater is impressive. It’s an interesting space that hosts a number of art events, from dance and theater to live music and spoken word. The set designers and stage managers are clearly very talented. It will definitely be worth checking out what they come up with next.

‘Day Trader’ at the Bootleg Theater

2220 Beverly Blvd.
7 p.m. Thursday – Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 16
General Admission $25
Students & Seniors $20
For more information, call 213-389-3856 or visit www.bootlegtheater.org.