The Enrique Experience
In Japan, sumo wrestling is a highly respected, centuries-old martial art, laden with ritual elements. Stateside, it's a pretty damn hilarious theme for a club night that VAVi, a local sports and social group, recently staged at Aubergine. The hosted bar included free sake in designer flavors like ginger mango and Asian pear. At one point, a bartender fumbled, and I ended up getting squirted with the rice-based alcoholic beverage. Contrary to popular belief, nothing stings quite like sake in your eye.
After a good buzz, VAVi members threw on inflatable Sumo suits and had a go at it in the ring—sexy round-card model included. DJ Kidwonder spun electro staples along with tunes like “Turning Japanese” and “Kung Fu Fighting” while wrestlers came up with intimidating nicknames—The Gusher, The Hair Dryer and Pork Chop were among the night's best. Once inside the velvet-roped ring, even the closest of friends became sworn enemies.
“My girlfriend is fighting my roommate's girlfriend, and if she wins there's gonna be much trash-talking for the rest of the month,” VAVi chairperson Latane Meade told me right before he reached inside the cordoned-off area and tripped his girl's opponent.
Later, in the evening's battle royale, club mascot Leroy the Liger stepped into the dohyo and defeated his adversary with a Karate Kid-style crane kick. The crowd roared. Mr. Miyagi would have been proud.
Along with bona-fide sport matches, VAVi hosts ongoing oddball activities such as flip cup, cardio strip-dance and a weekly BOOZESkeeball tournament at Dave & Buster's. The group's website is www.GoVavi.com.—Enrique Limón
View from a stool
It's been several years since I've felt like the youngest person at a concert, but such was the case at Swervedriver's show with Film School at The Casbah on Friday night. The age contrast was apparent immediately. As a companion noted, “There's a bunch of people here reliving their college-radio days.” It was pretty refreshing, actually—it's a better show when people are there to see the bands as opposed to showing off their new skinny jeans and scarves.
Film School, one of several acts riding the current shoe-gaze revival, is a cross between Norway's Serena Maneesh and L.A.'s more subdued Autolux. Filled with My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of guitar, they've moved from the spikier post-punk of their debut album on to dreamier pastures. Not to say they're too derivative, but the main points of reference have shifted from Factory Records circa '79 to Creation Records circa '90. Not bad, but more focus on songwriting (and less on guitar effects) would probably do them some good.
Meanwhile, Swervedriver sounds like they've lost no momentum during their 10-year hiatus. Undoubtedly spurred by the renewed interest in their back catalogue, they sound incredibly fresh despite the fact that every member of the band besides singer/guitarist Adam Franklin looks as though they've been riding the white horse for far too long.Their set was filled with lost classics, including “The Birds,” “Son of Mustang Ford,” “Never Lose That Feeling” and, most importantly, “Last Train to Satansville,” arguably one of the greatest rock songs of the '90s. By the encore, they had the crowd entirely in their grasp, but as we attempted to coax them on for a third time, it was clear they weren't coming back. Let's hope it's not an omen.—Todd Kroviak
Vamos a D-Town
Tijuana indie record label Estoespop! and Naza Space Club, the production team behind some of the best dance parties in Tijuana during the past few years, are kicking off Naza's biggest project to date—the three-day D-Town Tijuana festival starting this Friday, June 6, at Planeta Tijuana (on Ave. Constitución between Calle 6 and 7). Throughout the weekend, Tijuana will welcome more than 20 artists, including DJ/dance headliners MSTRKRFT and Guns 'n' Bombs. (Late note: Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós has cancelled.)The lineups on Friday and Saturday fall in line with the types of parties we've seen Naza throw in the past—fun, fast and furious. On Friday, electronic indie-rockers Buddy Akai and DJ duos Shark Attack, Loud Noises and L.A. Riots will open for Toronto's glitchy, dance-punk duo, MSTRKRFT. Saturday's set includes a newer local DJ collaboration, Heavy Mental, alongside Audio Guns, Latinsizer and L.A.'s electro-house duo, Guns 'n' Bombs. Sunday's decidedly more low-key lineup includes the sultry, jazz-infused sounds of Madame Ur y Sus Hombres and the experimental stylings of A Beautiful Noise and The Album Leaf.
According to D-Town's website (www.dtowntijuana.com), the festival is aimed at opening an artistic line of communication on a global scale and promoting cultural diversity in Tijuana's growing arts community. The event's recently renamed venue—remember MultiKulti, Lobby or Cine Bujazán?—is a 1950s-era movie theater that suffered major fire damage nearly 15 years ago. The blaze destroyed the roof of the theater but left most of the lobby area unharmed. Over the years, the burned portion has been gutted, leaving a concrete shell that is now used as an open-air concert venue. The lobby, with its large, mid-century staircases and ample floor space, is still used for indoor dance parties. Revenue generated this weekend will be used to restore the venue, now known as Planeta Tijuana, and will also help rehabilitate Tijuana's historic downtown district.—Justin Roberts
It's official: For the first time since 2002, San Diego is sending a team of hard-hitting, word-slinging, bad-ass performance poets to the National Poetry Slam.
Organizers Collective Purpose held a “Grand Slam” on May 18 to determine the top five local competitors. A mostly young, supportive and raucous audience packed the Eveoke Dance Theater in North Park, where Collective Purpose had set the place up like a boxing ring—with the mic in the middle and the audience closing in on four sides.
Event coordinator Christopher Wilson opened the night by telling five judges randomly picked from the audience to stick to their guns. Based on five points for content and five points for performance, Wilson explained they could give zero points for the crappiest poems and 10 points for perfection. He then encouraged the audience to express displeasure with the judges if necessary.
“I want you to give these judges hell,” he said.
When Judge No. 2 gave the sacrifice poet (a non-competitor who “warms up the room” with the first poem of the night) a score of five, the audience booed so loud the floor rumbled. But when competitor Nikki Blak—a young woman with fire in her voice fierce enough to melt iron—said that the flashing lights of police cars reminded her of “the flickering inferno of burning crosses,” the audience and judges responded with cheers and high scores. And when Grand Slam winner Deacon Blair delivered the line, “In this county, it's easier to get a gun than it is to get an education,” the judges responded with 10s.
The winners of the Grand Slam combined a keen sense of history and humanity with intelligent activism, humor and hope. Wilson, between rounds, told the room that “smart is the new gangsta!”
The winners of the night, Blak, Blair, Anthony Blacksher (aka Ant Black), Taili Lamumba Mugambi and Brian DeBenedictus, will go on to represent San Diego in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3 through 9 as San Diego's 2008 spoken-word champs. They'll show their best chops against more than 80 other teams from cities around the nation.
To support your San Diego slam team, come out to their first exhibition at Culture's Edge: 4X4 Performance Series at Bluefoot Bar and Lounge, 3404 30th St. in North Park, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 10. —Michael Chung Klam
The music offerings this week are good enough to reverse global warming, drop gas prices to $1.78 a gallon and coax dormant San Diego bands out of hibernation. Well, at least the last one's sorta true, with The Displaced reemerging on Wednesday, June 4, at U-31 (with SwanDive and Sorry Charlie) after a two-year hiatus.
Mama Red & The North Park Band, The Leevyns and Translation: Audio join forces at The Casbah to “Rock Against MS” (Multiple Sclerosis, not Maria Shriver) on Thursday, June 5. On Friday, June 6, The Bloody Hollies and Desert Diamonds hit up Beauty Bar while Calico Horse celebrates the release of Mirror at ye olde Casbah. That same night, Grampa Drew teams up with former Beat Farmer Joey Harris at the Whistle Stop, followed by Vision of a Dying World and Red Feathers at Tower Bar. Everybody Out (the latest band to sign to Hillcrest's Taang! Records) takes over the Tower on Saturday, June 7.
The all-day soirées begin with the Fiesta del Sol, which runs June 7 and 8 at Fletcher Cove and features locals like Transfer, Venice, Lady Dottie, Elijah Emanuel and Stripes & Lines opening for The Romantics (June 7) and The English Beat (June 8).
In addition to the stellar main stage lineup on June 8 at the FM 94/9 Independence Jam, the local stage at Southwestern College will showcase homegrown talents Transfer, The Muslims, The Silent Comedy, Kill Me Tomorrow, The Blackout Party and The Wrong Trousers.
Jon Foreman kicks off Switchfoot's “Bro-Am” week with a June 4 performance and charity auction at the Pacific Coast Grill that, like all things Bro-Am, benefits at-risk whipper-snappers via StandUp for Kids. The actual Bro-Am goes down June 7 at Moonlight Beach with surfers, musicians and surfer/musicians like (duh) Switchfoot, Tom Curren, Musket, Stripes & Lines and Escalera. The boys wrap things up that night with the after-party at Belly Up starring A Fine Frenzy, L.A. Symphony and the Nickel Creek siblings as Watkins Family Hour. —Nathan Dinsdale