Chicken Pickin’

A few days ago I went to see my friend, John, play rhythm guitar for alt-country guitarist, Jason Loughlin at The Mint. I showed up about bluesy dive bar about an hour before their set and met John backstage in their green room. We caught up on old times and he told me all about his life as a musician: the good and the bad. He introduced me to his bandmates as we listened to Mike Viola (That Thing You Do) tear it up on stage.

When John, Jason, and the rest of the band took the stage, I had no idea what to expect. Apart from checking out a few clips on iTunes, I had walked into this show relatively blind. It was awesome! I had no idea how good John was and Jason is unbelievable. If you have never heard of Jason Loughlin, check him out! His picking is insane. It’s like he has eight hands. He specializes in crazy fast twangy finger picking riffs that John later described to me as “chicken pickin.'” It was an absolute blast and I look forward to seeing more of these shows in the future.

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Singing in the Spotlight

For all things musical, check me out on YouTube.

My mom said that I could sing before I could talk. Well… since I can’t remember that far back, I guess I am going to have to take her word for it. But for as long as I can remember, singing has been my passion. It’s how I celebrate and how I grieve. There is no better feeling then finding that perfect song that expresses just how I’m feeling at that moment. It’s like it knows…

I studied music all though out school and then it became time to enter the “real world.” Instead of pursuing music, because it’s a “really tough business” (which, yes I know it is, but, call me naive, but aren’t most businesses tough?), I took a desk job at a talent agency. I worked crazy long hours, which left me barely enough time to sleep, and I watched from the sidelines as others achieved my dream. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there long. My heart wasn’t in it.

A few months after I left, I found out the X Factor was having open auditions. While I have never, been interested in the fame and the flash that comes with this type of show, this was a chance to sing and I was going to take it. For two days, I waited in line outside the Staples Center and waited for my turn to audition. I was surrounded by thousands of other hopefuls and “career reality show competitors.” It was beyond intimidating. When they finally let us in, I waited for another seven hours for my time to audition. It was abysmal. They had set up little partitions all over the court and the din was maddening. I did a soft and sweet jazz standard that could not compete with the musical acrobatics that was going on around me and, after 30 seconds, I was shown the door. It was one of the most heartbreaking and embarrassing moments of my life. But, even after that massive blow, I was even more determined to pursue music, but this time on my terms.

Fate smiled on me when a new friend of mine, Kathryn, invited me to see her friend, Brandi, perform in the Mike and Brian All Star Show at UBG. I walked in to the tiny dive bar in North Hollywood and was immediately welcomed by them. Brandi was up next and was freaking out because, while she was a seasoned member of the show, she was having trouble remembering some of the lyrics to Mark Ronson’s Valerie. I mentioned that I knew the song (since it was one of the songs that I was considering performing for my X Factor audition) and then, just like that, she decided that I was going up on stage with her and we were going to sing it together. We had just met that night. She didn’t even know if I could sing, but there was no changing her mind. Brandi invited me up, the music started, and there was no going back. We sang and danced and laughed. This was the kind of music that I wanted to perform. When her set ended, Mike, the show’s producer/her accompanist, invited me to come back as a featured artist.

For over two years I performed in this little show and saw many evolutions of it. While I never was paid to sing, I loved the opportunity to pick my own music and perform in public. The show has been in hiatus for a while and I find myself itching to perform again. I recently ran into a friend of mine from high school and he’s now a working jazz guitarist. Seeing him achieving the dream has reignited my hope that is it possible. I’m learning guitar (very slowly but surely), and am now armed with a snazzy new recording mic (thank you wonderful fiancé). Stay tuned for singing updates but, in the meantime, check out my youtube channel for some of my past performances.

Not just for hipsters and kids

I attended a friend’s birthday party in the park and one of the guests brought hula hoops for us to play with, including a monster 6′ hoop. I don’t remember the last time I hula hooped. Maybe I was like 10?  But it was so much fun! I struggled a bit with the smaller/lighter hoops but was able to keep the heavier/more adult size ones going. It was hilarious to see some of the guys do it with the grace of well… these guys. Their hips do not lie…

It’s an awesome core/back workout and if you get really good you can be like this girl.

The Wrangler

I recently helped out at another charity gala which raised money for hereditary inclusion body myopathies (HIBM)–a group of genetic muscular disorders. One particular form of HIBM is IBM2, which causes the muscles to waste away, and is most common in late-twenty-somethings of Iranian Jewish descent. There is currently no cure for this disease.

The event was a black and white Gatsby themed gala and took place in the world famous Crystal Ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My team consisted of: Lisa our point person, a security/backstage manager, the voice of God, and I rounded out the group as “the wrangler.” My job that night was to “wrangle” any speakers/talent who were going to be on stage and guide them there. The first half went smoothly: everyone was at their respective tables and I delivered each of my “packages” right on time. The second half was…a little more challenging. I had a speaker go missing which, when you’re under the gun is absolutely nerve wracking. I spent 20 minutes looking through a sea of black and white tuxedos and gowns for he who shall remain nameless who…straight up hid from me. He found out that he would be performing during the dessert service and, in my opinion, threw a tantrum. I get that you want your audience’s full attention, but this is a charity gig, not your own private show where people paid just to see you. Suck it up and be a professional.

The highlight of the evening was listening to the keynote speaker. I was backstage with her before she went on and she was so kind, funny and playful. She looked absolutely flawless in her black and while floor length gown which hid her orthopedic shoes. This young and beautiful woman shared her heartbreaking struggle with the disease. She was strong and passionate and then broke down into tears when she spoke about her toddler and his hopes that “mommy will get stronger.”

The night ended on a truly only in LA random note. After the grand prize Birkin bag had been raffled off, Lisa and I joined the rest of the guests in the valet line. The female guests who had previously been dashing around in their Louboutins etc… were clutching their shoes and hobbling around on their balled up feet. Others, who had not quite given up yet, were gingerly shifting their weight from shoe to shoe, wincing each time. Suddenly, an ethereal young girl glides, and I mean glides, past me in her floor length flowy sky blue dress and 7 inch heels. And then there is another one. And another one. And another one, who sports a man in a full red suit and chunky heels on her arm. I look at Lisa and she looks at me and we realize that we had just seen Prince.

The Bad News Bears of Barbershop: River Oaks Chorus

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting but it sure was not septuagenarians singing and dancing off the stage to The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell.”

Tuesday night I attended a rehearsal for River Oaks Chorus and, while I grew up singing in chamber choirs and a cappella groups and have even performed by myself in a few showcases, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. I found their rehearsal on MeetUp.com and didn’t look too closely at the post. Word to the wise: Read EVERY part of a meetup.com post if you want to avoid surprises.

The River Oaks Chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International and the winners of last year’s the “most improved” award, is a living, breathing, show choir complete with “choralography” and costumes. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting but it sure was not septuagenarians singing and dancing off the stage to The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell.” I didn’t know what to think or what to say but I knew that I had stumbled on to something…special. I thought about turning around and walking right out but it was too late, they had seen me. At 25, I was by far the youngest person by give or take five decades, but I was immediately greeted like a long lost grandchild and given cookies and warm greetings.

They were preparing for their big competition in Bakersfield and, for the first half of the rehearsal, I watched from the audience as they performed: “In My Life,” “California Dreaming,” “Aquarius,” and “Fame.” Despite their dated repertoire and goofy dancing, their harmonies were spot on. These ladies were actually really talented! I was then asked to join them and jumped right in on stage trying my best to keep up with their harmonies as I clumsily mimicked their dance moves.

While these ladies were so sweet and vocally talented, I just can’t bring myself to don their purple sequins and jazz hands. I wish them all the best of luck at their competition! They are all so kind and so brave.

Lend a helping hand

Yesterday I had the honor of helping out with Face Forward’s annual gala. The charity, founded by the effervescent Deborah Alessi and her husband and top surgeon, David Alessi, offers pro-bono reconstructive surgery and emotional counseling for victims of domestic violence. It was a star studded affair, complete with a red carpet, exclusive auction items, and a powerhouse performance by Ms. Macy Gray (who is so nice and down to earth btw…). These glamorous events with all these moving parts don’t “just happen.” As I witnessed last night, it takes a whole team, a lot of patience, a ton of flexibility and a bit of magic to pull them off.

I was asked to help out by my friend (a seasoned road manager) who was asked to help out by her friend (a Face Forward board member) to help run talent at the event. It seemed that the the event planner, in my opinion, had bitten off a bit more than she could chew, and we were needed to lend a hand. My friend also called in four more friends to round out our rockstar team. For almost twelve hours straight we ran around making sure that all rider requirements were met, worked with volunteers, and wrangled talent and award recipients. We were thrown the extra curveballs of road closures (GLOW was going on two blocks away), swamped event parking, a delayed program start, and a program adjustment but we knocked them all out of the park. Oh, and did I mention that most of this was done sporting a floor length gown, headset, and (in my case) a freshly sprained ankle?

It was the most exhausting, frustrating, and exhilarating day that I have had in a long time. It definitely took me back to my days as a PA. And, while my legs are killing me today, I would absolutely love to help out again with future events.