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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Saw It Happen Today

It's a terrible thing when people lose their jobs...

I saw a business close today. The general manager came out of his office toward the end of day and told what staff was lingering that he needed them to work late. They needed to call all of their clients and tell them that they would not be delivering or selling anything the next day. He told the staff that, at the stroke of midnight, none of their inventory belonged to them. The employees took it pretty well. They'd apparently known it was coming. But it's not much different than when a long suffering, sick relative finally succumbs. It's as if a haven or destination you've come to count on has been bulldozed. You are compelled to return, but the door is boarded up. There is emptiness where there was easy meaning. The manager had freshly learned the information he was disseminating. It was clear that he was laying it out for his employees at the same time he himself tried to process it. I don't know how long these people had shared the office or each other's lives, but moments before they'd been joking about all the cocktails that start with "C" and bragging about the toys they'd given their kids for Christmas a few days ago. Now, just two days before a new year, they were being shut down. I felt like I should do something to help. But there was nothing for me to do. I simply said, "I'm terribly sorry about all of this" and departed. As I was leaving, I heard the manager telling the office staff to have all the employees come in at their usual times. One more day to say good-bye and think about what would happen next. It is an awful thing to watch the involuntary ending of any group of people. And what's sadder than dissolution of a company is the worry that in this economic landscape, some of these disenfranchised people will not find a new office to occupy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Violet Tremors - Sci-Fine!

The VIOLET TREMORS leave a place in the middle of the bed for you!

They characterize their milieu as "minimal-synth". Aesthetically, that may be true. But Lorene Simpson and Jessica White, with their ambitious songs and stylish performance, Sci-Fi fly in the face of simplicity or mathematics. The girls appear childlike in their Futurist-Victorian schoolgirl garb, but their comparisons span the grownup range of 80's middle-brow pop, the likes of Adam Ant and Lene Lovich to the art music of Laurie Anderson or sexy-messy rock chops of P.J. Harvey. At the El Rey Theater at the close of their first US tour, they opened the show for Ogre (purveying his OHGR project).

OHGR is as Ogre does.

On paper, the Violet Tremors seem an unseemly fit with the grandaddy of industrial rock. But within two songs of the Tremors' set, the audience excavated a context and welcomed the lithesome duo. In performance, the Violet Tremors forge an integral relationship to monster-man, Ogre. Just as the girls seemed infected by the conjuring trance their headliner has honed over decades, Ogre himself seemed to be having a better time than ever, playing and interacting - perhaps attributable to the infectious playfulness of the Tremors? This spirit was not lost on the audience who found footing in the uncharacteristic whimsy. But if the Tremors installed a patina of good nature on the show, it served to remind the crowd that Ogre has always been a serious artist who doesn't take himself as seriously as he may take his multiple personas.

Jessica and Lorene welcome you to the machine.

As the front gal of the Violet Tremors, Jessica White is a sultry and sexy dragon lady, dancing on a bubble of wry humor. She bleated ethereal lyrics in a voice that did its best monotone but intermittently betrayed melodic sensibility. I liken it to Chris Cornell's rock-shriek which does little to disguise that beneath his choice of style is the voice of an angel. But the Tremors' vision and voice are clearly, carefully contrived. As is the group's persona. As Jessica teases the audience with mixed messages of jaded dismissiveness and desperate pleas for attention, Lorene skirts the shadows, intent to concentrate on keyboard and effects, practically hidden under pitch-black bangs. She occasionally comes up for air to smile at an inside joke a fan may have telegraphed from the floor.


The threat of pretty-girl pretense gives way to robo-clownery as Jessica morphs from sassy siren to funky chicken. Again, Lorene cracks up. This is what separates the potentially drab from the devilishly delightful in this rhythmic, sometimes hypnotic band. The Violet Tremors were on tour in support of their debut CD (on LP for you vinyl-heads): Time Is The Traitor. This first release is a fairly accurate representation of what the Violet Tremors sound like. But it only scratches the suggestive surface of who the girls are in performance. I'll be following this group interested to see where they plant their flower seeds and how their tremulous vibrations resonate at the core of the scene.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tex & Daisy. What a pair...

Susan Beth Stiefvater

I met Sue Stiefvater when I got my first job on the "Mainland". That job was at Sambo's Restaurant in Reseda and I was a busboy. I had just gotten off the boat from Hawaii and was trying to make my way in the big city. I didn't yet know that people who lived in "the Valley" were actually nesting there to foster their denial about living anywhere near a city. I was so naive I had my feelings hurt by an operator who hung up on me when I couldn't answer her because I didn't know what an area code was. "Do you live on an island?" Then I met Sue. My pal and co-worker Carol Carbone introduced me to her after another co-worker, Dana had introduced me to Carol...

Carol: Who is that guy?
Dana: A Mexican who speaks really good English...

Carol and I hit it off at once. Even though she was wearing a brown Polyester Swiss Miss uniform. Carol took me to meet her best friend Sue who had her face buried in a school book and would barely look up at me. I smiled, turned on the charm and used my best tap-dance to get her attention. Nothing. I made quips and did funny voices. Crickets. I was put off, insulted and left hating the little snob. I should have known I'd end up crazy in love with her.

Sue and Carol were roommates and they took pity on me when I broke up with my first LA girlfriend Jeannette. I moved in with the Sambo's girls. I was jobless, demoralized and dumb. But Carol and Sue were New Wave Valley Girls. They lifted me up, encouraged an 80's hair-do and dragged me over the crest of San Fernando to West Hollywood and The Odyssey disco. There we met all kinds of New Romantic young folks, popstars of the day (Kristy McNichol, Rick James, Billy Idol) and encountered the most alternative of lifestyles. I also threw up for the first time from drinking too much. Then there were the mythical drives up and down the winding gauntlet of Laurel Canyon, shit faced. Carol with her forehead against the steering wheel sorting double vision from curves while I held Sue by her waistband while she leaned out of the Subaru backseat window and filled the canyon with Southern Comfort.

This is as far as I'll get. A few days ago when I mentioned to Sue that I was writing a blog about her, she had a bona fide fit. She not only got angry that I might be embarrassing her, but the thought of me talking about the past dredged up some pretty big issues. It made me a little sad, but if you know Sue, you know she doesn't like the attention and HATES being misunderstood or misrepresented. Susie didn't want me to tell the story. So, this is all you get. I won't tell you about our 5 years together or what we learned or should have over that time. I guess the most important thing for you to know is that we survived each other and are still very close friends today. I call her "Little" she calls me "Big". We still fight, laugh and lend each other money. She was my first true love. I will love her forever.