Photo by James Norton.
Shot on Scene
It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, including this poor Mexican mule-zebra piñata. That's right, Tuesdays are officially the new Fridays at El Camino's themed karaoke nights. Last week, hipsters were in a frenzy trying to find “Cowboys and Indians” ensembles on the quick. I'm still not sure if cowgirls ever wore American Apparel Tri-Blend Halter Rompers, but I'm ready to give these farmers' daughters an honorary Sioux name just for trying to resuscitate papier-mché animals. Let's see—Lays With Zebras?
View from a Stool
Christian Scott, a 26-year-old trumpet-playing sensation and nephew and protégé of one-time Jazz Messengers saxophonist Donald Harrison, gets a lot of attention. Noted for his sociopolitical edge and for not being too strictly a jazzhead to cover Thom Yorke's “The Eraser,” Scott's been signed to Concord Jazz, nominated for a Grammy and hyped on the cover of Downbeat magazine.
The premise of the buzz is that Scott's combination of chops, fashion sense, badass-hip-hop-consciousy attitude and his hodge-podge style makes him, as Jazz Times magazine puts it, “the Architect of a new commercially viable fusion.”
Scott can play, no doubt. The notes in City College's Saville Auditorium last Tuesday night soared fast and loud on burners and came in for a soft, understated landing on meandering ballads, thanks to masterful dexterity and breath control. It takes a lot of discipline to get that virtuosic on an instrument.
But it's not enough.
Wynton Marsalis has called out Scott's band for lacking swing, that essential feeling that is the pulsing heart of the jazz groove, and I agree. I don't require precious purity, but I know what sounds magical versus what sounds forced.
Scott's drummer, Jamire Williams, for instance, used a double snare drum on his kit—unorthodox, but so what? The problem is that the tuning of the drums made them sound like two wet, rattling plastic boxes and the playing felt introverted. It's not what I want to stick in my ears for 90 minutes. Same with the shrill siren of Scott's trumpet on up-tempo numbers, Matt Stevens' syrupy guitar tone and the too-loud bass of Kristopher Funn. These young cats can play, but they lack dynamics and come off as show-offy and joyless.
Fortunately, my friend grew tired of having her “ears assaulted,” as she put it, and we left before the last number. When I got home, I put on a Clifford Brown record. That's more like it. If Christian Scott is the future of jazz, I think I'll stay stuck in the past.
Scott Mercado's been a busy guy. The man behind Manuok just finished his third album, The Old Horse, which was recorded in between clubs and hotels while on tour. Even so, Mercado still managed to find time to record the score for the new film The Duty of Living, which will premiere this weekend at the California Independent Film Festival in Orinda, Calif.
Poppy indie-rockers Republic of Letters will celebrate the release of their new album, Painted Hour, at Walk the Walk Presents' monthly Sight & Sound event at Queen Bee's on Saturday, April 24. War Stories, Erika Davies and Smile Now Cry Later will also perform. Reggae-funk group Full Blown Stone will play at 710 Beach Club on Friday, April 23, to mark the release of their debut album. Uproot and Tatanka will open.
Belly Up Tavern will host an afternoon benefit show on Saturday, April 24, for Lisa Keeping, a local music champion who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Along with a silent auction and raffle, the bands Stratos and The Swingers will perform.
The Enrique Experience
Crunchy hippies, environmentally conscious hipsters and a crazy lady dressed solely in plastic bags commingled on Sunday in Balboa Park for EarthFair's 20th anniversary.
Itchin' for a green bar, I drew a blank and headed to CJ's (222 W. Washington St.) after the tropical-fish stained-glass backdrop that adorns that bar came to mind—a tad ironic since the establishment serves as an unofficial waiting room for a couple of nearby sushi eateries.
Often regarded as the Dell Desktop to The Lamplighter's shiny iPad, CJ's is the best of both worlds: rough when you need it and there to comfort you after it's bitch-slapped you.
Thanks to prominent fence work, the smoking patio can best be described as prison-holding-pen-chic. Inside, a Chargers-bolt-emblazoned ceiling fan twirls and Costco-sized bottles of booze dominate the bar; if Absolut by the liter isn't your thing, every flavor of Schnapps known to man—from the run-of-the-mill Peach Tree to the jazzy Butterscotch can also be found here.
Feeling continental? Pop open a mini bottle of Cook's California Champagne and sit by the faux fireplace (the kind the Amish make), which is flanked by a distinguished foursome of empty beer kegs.
A sports clusterfuck—from hockey to the bull riding “World Cup”—plays on a seemingly never-ending row of flat screens, and, motivated by the bravery of Mexican pro bull rider Rocky McDonald, I struck up a convo with my bar neighbor as another partygoer started b-boying to Sade's “Ordinary Love.” After he shared his thoughts on the Frangelico bottle looking like “a badass dude” and how it probably would bang Mrs. Butterworth's if given a chance, I quickly changed the topic to the day's eco-conscious spirit.
“Everyone else cares, so I figure I don't have to,” he sulked. Later, he mentioned that if he knew it'd been Earth Day, he'd have probably left his car idling all day to celebrate.
Earlier that day, I'd learned about the proper disposal of batteries and heat pumps, but this last comment left me scratching my head, wondering: Are douche bags recyclable?
From refurbished dives to the shiniest clubs, we scout and then rate the newest nightlife destinations. Grades are based on a five-bottle rating system with one bottle being poor and five bottles being a must-go-there-now.
It behooves me to begin with what's right about Fluxx, the new Downtown club from much of the same gang that brought you Stingaree and Side Bar. They've taken what had been a vapid and under-designed space (it used to house Aubergine), gutted it and brought in badass club designer Davis Krumins (who also designed Sting and Side, along with the Kress Hollywood in L.A.) to create what seems to be a mix of faux-organic elements (there's moss on the walls?) and space-age aesthetics (the circular, albeit wooden, dance floor is surrounded by L.E.D. lights, which can make it feel like you're dancing in a UFO). It has the feel of a Vegas-style nightclub erected in the Redwood Forest. It's disorienting and seems unfocused, but it's bold if anything.
Now, what's wrong with Fluxx? The fact that it doesn't deviate too much from the formula that's worked for the proprietors before. The mega-clubs of the pre-recession Gaslamp, while still popular, seem prehistoric, and it's not wholly inaccurate to say that clubs like El Dorado and Voyeur changed that formula when they made the club experience more inclusive without sacrificing the elements that make Downtown clubs more upscale than those in Pacific Beach and North Park. “A club of constant change” is how Fluxx is marketing itself, but the only thing new that it's offering is an improved sound system and huge nitrous tanks that spray the crowd with a cool blast that drops the temperature about 20 degrees. Fluxx isn't bad, but it's only good for what it is. Instead of changing the game, they're still partying like it's 2007.
“That cold fog made all the girls' nipples get hard,” remarked a male approvingly to his friend while I was there. That's change he can believe in, I guess.
Rating: 3 out of 5 bottles