The Good ol’ Boys of The Marshall Tucker Band 

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Doug Gray and the members of The Marshall Tucker band just want you to get down have a good time at their show. And that I did. The stars  aligned as I was finally able to catch them live last night at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. I’m really digging that venue after 4 or 5 shows. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike up the 101 but they get some super cool bands, offer plentiful free parking, awesome sound system and generally super laid back, fun-loving crowds. I feel like I’m on a field trip out in the country somewhere every time I drive down the dark, winding road approaching this place. They offer dinner seating at most shows, but realistically speaking, it would be a virtual impossibility to get there by 7pm, so I just opt for the standing room only tickets and aim to get there by 9pm to allow traffic to die down a bit. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Since 1972, Doug Gray and a myriad of others have been making music. And not just any music, but soulful, bluesy, jazzy, Southern-fried rock music. After hitting all time professional highs, as well as sustaining the tragic loss of Tommy Caldwell in 1980, The Marshall Tucker Band is still kicking and they are here to entertain you. 

Opening the show with his deep southern drawl, Doug Gray says,  “Let’s get on down to it,” and I knew we were in for a treat. 

  
Their sound is so deliciously 70’s. The guitars, bass, drums, the FLUTE, ohhhh the amazing flute. Being a flute player myself, I was always a fan of the brilliant use of a flute in a rock band. And can this guy, Marcus James Henderson play a flute or what? As well as the saxophone, keyboards and outta sight vocals as well! And how can you NOT love any band whose lead singer plays the tambourine? The whole band jams and sings and are clearly loving what they do, and even said so… “We’re not afraid to stand up here and have a good time.” And you believe it too! You can just feel the good vibrations.

Playing hit after hit,  “Dog Eat Dog World,” “Take the Highway,” “Fire on the Mountain”. The crowd sang and cheered along. A quick side  note about the audiences at The Canyon Club, a bit older than the LA crowds, with a few bikers and cowboys thrown in the mix. Just another reason why I know I’m not in LA proper anymore. Love it!

  
“Desert Skies” resonated like a lonely cowboy singing beside the campfire. So so good. Gray explained it was from 1974, an classic country song while traveling around in an old dodge van. A new favorite of mine! 

“Heard it in a Love Song,” I recognized it in a millisecond. God I love that song! The PERFECT country roadtrip tune, with just a hint of a beers on a beach in Mexico. 

As the crowd hollered and begged for more, they left on a high note with a sincere, “Thank you very much for keeping us around all these years,” and broke into “Can’t You See.” Now this is a band worth seeing over and over again. Talent, showmanship, grace, good times and great music… Now that’s what I call a show! 

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Pink Martini: Trapped With No Way Out

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I excitedly purchased a ticket specifically to see Doc Severinsen at the Hollywood Bowl without even looking to see who he was playing with. When I learned it was Pink Martini, I thought, hmmm well I’ve heard of them but have never seen them so this will be a chance to check them out. Cool!

The Hollywood Bowl is without a doubt a spectacular outdoor venue, but as you may or may not know, it is not exactly known as user-friendly when it comes to getting there and parking logistics. Another interesting tidbit that you may or may not be aware of is the fact that they only offer STACKED PARKING. What is stacked parking you ask? Well, imagine a puzzle made out of 981729812479234 cars and your car is one piece in that puzzle. Once you park, you have committed to staying for the entire concert with no way out until enough car owners around you return and move so that you can forge your way out behind them. When asked what people do if they had an emergency and HAD to get out? A parking lot attendant told me “call a cab.” Ah. Peachy. Good thing I usually choose to take the shuttle and bypass all the parking madness. Wondering how any of this is relevant to the story? Hang tight and read on, my friends.

I have heard all of the hullabaloo about the much celebrated Portland band, Pink Martini and after thoroughly enjoying every minute of Doc Severinsen’s set (and wishing for more), it was time to finally see and hear what all the excitement was about. The band took the stage at 9pm. “We are Pink Martini. We are from Portland, Oregon. Please welcome the lovely Miss China Forbes.” At a glance, they are going for the Big Band era look, just to give you a mental picture.  First comment out of China’s mouth after the opening song… “How are you up in the cheap seats?” Did she really just say that? Was she trying to be funny? Not too sure, but my first impression is now based on a condescending remark made by the lead vocalist of a band I’ve never seen before. Not sure it’s a very gracious (or cool) act to call out your audience based on the price of their seats? Hmmm. Not off to a stellar start if you ask me, but let’s see what happens from here.

Yap, yap, yap, yap. Not sure I care how many times you’ve played Carnegie Hall, and all the other top venues around the world. Way. Too. Much. Talking. And not just talking, but self-congratulatory talking. Incredibly impressed with themselves, is what kept crossing my mind. A ridiculously long story about writing a song in French. Waving her arms around with her feet cemented to the stage, China’s voice was completely emotionless. I’m not buying into it. Now (bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is reciting a story about the poetic meaning behind the next song. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Granted, Thomas is a talented piano player, but again, there is no authentic vibe or energy emanating from the stage for me whatsoever. They are coming across as flat and uninspiring.  A member of the band takes center stage with a bright red glockenspiel-looking instrument and sings in Spanish while swerving and waving his hips merrily. Crowd loved it. I however, did not. “Que Paso Yolandaaaaaaa…” yawwwwn. I am not into this at all. 

More talk of sold out Carnegie Hall shows and how China lost her voice so the next singer had to learn 10 songs in 5 languages in time for the shows to go on. Welcome.. STORM LARGE. STORM LARGE? Seriously? What in the hell kind of name is that? She comes out on stage. Pretty girl, but dark roots with cheaply dyed PINK stringy hair? WHY? How does this equate to a class act? How can you take a band like this seriously? I don’t get it. I will give it to Storm, she has a great voice. And is infinitely more entertaining to watch than China with her waving arms, but still, Pink Martini is not winning me over. I have seen thousands of live shows in my lifetime and I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of music and what is out there, but frankly, this band is doing nothing for me except WISHING that I could get the hell out of the parking lot and head home.

Now we get to hear another story from Thomas about how he mixed in Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” into the next song. Cheers from the crowd. Wow. I cannot believe how completely TIRED this band and their whole shtick is. Another elongated introduction and out pops Ari Shapiro. Apparently, I am the only person in the audience who is not an avid Pink Martini fan, because I have no idea who this person is. Who is he and why am I supposed to be impressed with this cameo appearance? Yap, yap, yap and more yap. “We have played in London, Paris and Istanbul. In amazing venues all over the world but none compare to the Hollywood Bowl, and I’m pretty sure Judy Garland felt the same way.” For the love of God would someone tell this band that they talk WAYYYY TOOO MUCH!?!?!? Yet another mention of their sold out Carnegie Hall shows. They bring out Doc Severinsen (thank GOD) and that was great. The highlight of their set for sure.

Oh goody, another intro story from Thomas. This time about a man named David LaChapelle who became a famous photographer thanks to Andy Warhol and even though he has never sung on a stage before in his life, he’s going to do so now. Can’t wait.

Here he comes, all Rockabillied out and attempts to sing “Son of a Preacher Man,” with China and Storm backing him up. Look, I’m not saying I’m a world class songstress, but dude, don’t quit your day job. That was it. My fun meter had overflowed at this point and I could take it no longer. I walked out to my car and sat there in shock, laughing about how GOD AWFUL this Pink Martini show was, until I was freed from my stacked parking situation and headed home. Dripping with pretension and self-love, Pink Martini may have musical talent but they fail as performers. I would not see them again and if ever asked, I will be sure to share my two cents. Thank GOD for Doc Severinsen!

P.S. And to those of you who think I’m being a hater…sorry but it had to be said. I’m just being honest. #sallysopinionmatters

Doc Severinsen: Dig That Man and His Horn!

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When I heard that the Grammy-winning prolific musician and band leader Doc Severinsen was playing the Hollywood Bowl I knew exactly where I would be on September 2, 2015. Just the mention of his name takes me back to the good old Johnny Carson days. That iconic combination of trumpet notes that signaled the beginning of each show, his amusing and playful back and forth banter with Johnny and Ed. 30 years of classic entertainment that will be embedded in our memories forever.

Donning a blue jacket with multicolored rhinestones, a purple shirt and lime green pants in typical Doc style, he showed the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl that at 88 years of age, he’s clearly still got it!

Considered one of the best trumpeters, musicians and band leaders over the last 60 years, Doc Severinsen is highly respected across classical, jazz, and big band genres. His bright tones, upbeat rhythms and masterful command of the 16 piece band are phenomenal. He seemed so at ease and comfortable on stage, shared a lighthearted quip here and there, but knew he didn’t have time to waste, so kept the music coming and the talk to a minimum.

We were treated to “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “When You’re Smiling” (a personal Tony Bennett fave of mine) and a tasty mix of bongo, drum, violin and horn solos thrown in to spotlight the tremendous talent surrounding him. The guy has endless ability, flair, wit and spunk. What’s not to love?

We were graced with 38 minutes of pure musical delight, ending with an explosive and dazzling rendition of Harry James’ “Two O’Clock Jump” that absolutely blew our socks off!  Brilliant! Throwing a kiss to the crowd as he exited the stage, this cat has class! A+ performance! Only wish he was the headliner versus the opener so we could have enjoyed more time with him. Now THIS is music. Thanks Doc! See you next time around!

Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth Last Night

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If you love Disneyland, AND I DO, then it only makes sense to become an Annual Passholder on some level. And even being the lowest mouse on the tiki totem pole, you still get to reap the benefits with all the others. A few weeks back I received an email and postcard in the mail to inform me of a special after hours party for Passholders with anniversary dates within the range of mine. Free to attend, just RSVP on a first come first served basis. In a manic panic I called the dedicated Passholder customer service Cast Member and signed up pronto. I was not about to lose out on this opportunity! Scheduled from 9pm to 1am on a Tuesday night (aka “school night”) was going to be a little rough but I didn’t care. Nothing would stop me from going to this event. 

Finally! Yesterday arrived. The day had come! In light of rush hour traffic, I held off leaving home until about 7:45. Traffic was such a breeze I regretted not leaving earlier. I pulled in to the massive Mickey & Friends parking garage just as the fireworks show began. Cool perspective to watch it from your car! Like mystical bombs of fairy dust exploding over your head! 

 
The parking lot Cast Member waved her magic wand and poof! My first secret gift of the night. 

I was giddy with excitement for a late night of Disney fun. The event check in line was more or less nonexistent and I was off like Buzz Lightyear! First stop PETER PAN!!! This ride has ALWAYS been a crowd favorite but after being closed for numerous months of remodeling and updating, everyone’s curiosity has piqued and the lines have been outrageously long according to insider reports. I knew I had to knock this ride out first because it was on the top of my to-do list! I had to stop for a moment and admire the exquisiteness of the Castle. All lit up and glittering with diamonds for the 60th (diamond) anniversary. Breathtaking! Oh Walt, you were a true genius! 

  
Well apparently Peter Pan was first on the list of everyone else who showed up as well. No worries. This is Disneyland. The Happiest Place on Earth. It’s a beautiful, cool Southern California evening and I’ve got all night to play. Thankfully I got in a line to get in THE line right after the fireworks ended around 9pm. It seemed daunting but I only ended up waiting maybe 30 minutes? NOT BAD, not bad at all!  

   
I have to be honest and say that while the sound system and music were greatly improved, the visuals were a bit disappointing. I was expecting Peter and Tinkerbell to be riding alongside of me for all the hype that’s been created regarding the reopening of this ride. It was thoroughly adorable and sweet OF COURSE, but I will admit I liked the old “scenery” better. Oh well, at least I got to experience it first hand without a 2+ hour wait filled with stifling temperatures and screaming tired kids. Next stop…the Mickey Mouse pretzel cart! 

  How can a pretzel fanatic go to Disneyland and NOT get one of these bad boys, complete with a side order of hot cheese, OF COURSE? Love it! As I sat with my pretzel and cheese for a few minutes, I looked around and was absolutely amazed at how the crowds had thinned out. Basically they close off all the “lands” and as non-event “riff raff” attempts to enter, they are pleasantly reminded that Disneyland is now closed for a private event. So within the first hour, the crowds were gone and it was just us Disney Diehards. Hardly any small children, very few strollers… Was I dreaming?? THIS IS AWESOME! 

  
Mesmerized by the dimly lit up Small World, I headed over in that direction and was greeted by a Cast Member who happily announced, “walk right up, there’s virtually no wait!” Now THAT’S what I want to hear! What is there to say about the Small World ride that hasn’t been said before? Its song and precious dolls of the countries of the world are an iconic symbol of Disneyland and Walt’s vision to bring everyone together to enjoy the fun. Period. My memories of this ride go all the way back to 1975, my first visit to Disneyland. Priceless.  Come along on a miniature version of the ride, and remember to sing along with the words…

 It’s a small world after all….

 It’s a small world after all,

  It’s a small world after all, 

    
It’s a small, small world!! 

 
Ahhhh don’t you just feel all warm and happy inside now? I know I do! 

Ok. Back to business! As I made my way over to Adventureland, I spent a little time around the Castle. Oh the glorious Castle. Where dreams really do come true! Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. All the veteran Disney Princesses. Unforgettable. Timeless beauty and innocence.  

   
 
Waltzed in to Indiana Jones with a 10 minute wait! Lovin it!! This ride cracks me up! It is definitely one of the best attractions, but way too bumpy for photos while riding. So here’s a little teaser for you.  

 

Wanted to check out the Haunted Mansion but it’s closed in preparation for HALLOWEEN. However, my walk over was not wasted because look who I got to meet! 

  
That’s right! Daisy and Donald! As a special event treat, certain characters were out in each land ALL NIGHT for you to meet them, get a photo and a hug. I was on Cloud 9! 

Pirates of the Caribbean is another must for me every time I visit. A lasting symbol of Disneyland. Those gold-crazy, booze-guzzling pirates! And of course that wacky Jack Sparrow. He is everywhere! Just like Waldo! 

   
    
   
En route to the Tiki Room I ran into this guy. He may seem evil but I think there’s a nice guy in there somewhere deep down inside! 

  
After meeting Jafar, I was hooked on the idea of meeting as many of the character as I could in the remaining minutes of the event. So I decided to forego the Tiki Room and headed straight back to Fantasyland to meet Pinnochio and Geppetto! The line was a bit long but SO WORTH IT! Precious little Pinnochio! 

  
One last stop before the night was over…on the hunt to find Chip and Dale in Frontierland. For some reason no one I asked knew where they were. Time was running short so I had to be quick. Walking at high speeds through Frontierland and THERE THEY WERE! I was so happy to meet these two little guys. And while the photographer Cast Members were happy to snap shots with your iPhone, another perk of the evening was that they would take your pass card and all the professional photos will be uploaded within a day or so. Can’t wait to see them! 

  
I can’t believe how fast those 4 hours flew by and how much I did in that time! Wow! I am still glowing with pixie dust and smiles! It was an absolutely perfectly supercalifragilistically magical night at Disneyland and I am here to tell you that the price of your annual pass is worth this one night alone! Thanks for the memories Walt and Mickey! Thank you for this sensational gift that allows us all to let our inner child out to play as if we have not a care in the world. Happy 60th Anniversary celebration to The Happiest Place on Earth! 

Good night Walt. It’s comforting to know you will always be around here at the park watching us all laugh, play and have fun! God bless! 

  
 

Old Town Music Hall: Fantastically Old School

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Thanks to Bill Field and Bill Coffman, two men who had the dream, inspiration and passion to team up in the 1960’s to save and restore this splendid vintage 1921 theatre in the historic downtown district neighborhood of El Segundo (aka the “Mayberry” of Los Angeles). And thanks to their labor of love, we are now able to stop in and enjoy classic films dating back to the 1920’s.  All visitors are amazed and entertained by the pre-show concerts with Bill Field on the Mighty Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ… and everyone has to join in on the audience sing alongs! Everything from the seats to the chandeliers were salavaged from around the LA area and added to this theater’s splendid antique decor. A picture perfect night out! The lights displays and decorations at Christmas will melt even the coldest of hearts.  

  
Old movies and occasional jazz, ragtime and big band music concerts too. Such a quaint little neighborhood, tasty nearby dining options, plentiful and easy street parking, ticket prices that won’t break the bank and the tastiest homemade treats ever…try the giant macaroon..out of this world!
This really is what a night out on the town should be like. The choice of films is a fantastically fun and quirky collection, everything from Laurel and Hardy, to cartoon festivals, silent films, Flash Gordon short films  and classics such as W.C Fields’ “Poppy,” that are all listed on their website for your convenience. Bill Field is there every night to welcome his guests, give a personalized intro and background of the theatre and masterfully play the Wurlitzer (which has neon painted pipes that even glow in the dark!) with themes that coincide with the movie. He has truly given his heart and soul to this theater, and it shows. An absolute first rate entertainment experience.
Long live Old Town Music Hall!

Lancaster and Palmdale: Footloose and Fancy Free in the High Desert 

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Staying true to my stubborn Aries self, I chose to overlook the stern warnings from a coworker about all the dangers of this area, threw caution to the wind and headed out to the “big bad” Antelope Valley Fair for some fun in the High Desert sun. And now that it’s all over, I have to say…Man! What a BLAST! 

My primary goal was to see Dennis DeYoung play a show at the AV Fair, but upon further research I discovered that there really are some cool things to see and do here.  Once there it’s hard to believe that you are still officially in LA County. Whoa… What a difference 78 miles can make!  

First stop, Antelope Valley Winery where we were warmly greeted by Candace and offered two complimentary samples of the locally made wine. Candace took in my feedback from the first pour and was able to pick just the right wine for me! The Runway White was exactly what I was looking for. A very chatty and informative hostess, she suggested I try some dipping pretzels with cheese. And you know what? She hit a homerun! Sitting outside in the shade of a big tree on the lovely Donato Family Vineyards, I got to chillax for a while and take it all in. Just what was needed on this toasty late summer afternoon. Too bad I didn’t arrive a few hours earlier, as they have a Farmers Market Saturdays from 9am to noon. But I did get to meet a really sweet, young couple who recently moved to the area from San Antonio and we chatted about all the incredible things to do in Southern California. Always up for meeting cool people and those kinds of conversations! Such a lovely and memorable afternoon. 

   
  We said our goodbyes and made our way over to the Oxford Inn & Suites Hotel in Lancaster.   

This town, like most others, may have some less than stellar areas and residents, but I will tell you what… I have nothing but positive remarks when it comes to this hotel. The front desk staff were friendly, quick and easy check-in and as luck would have it, I arrived just in time for Happy Hour! Each room receives drink vouchers and access to the late-afternoon Scooby Snacks! I made a small garden salad for my little vegetarian doggy man, Elliott and a small bowl of chips and salsa for me! How cool is that? 

  
The room was neat as a pin and well appointed. 

   

Got little man settled in and headed out for the AV Fair!

Oh boy, me and my fascination with fairs and festivals. The wild rides, neon lights, fried food creations, the laughter, screams and electric energy. Intoxicating! I got an insider tip on the phone when I called to get ticket info on the concert. If you buy a General Admission Ticket to the fair, you can sit in the Grandstands (first come first served) for FREE to watch the shows. Well HELL! I’m all for free! Thanks for the tip! I cruised around for an hour or so before the concert. I love perusing all the booths and exhibition halls. I met Raul, a super interesting Peruvian man who was selling craft goods from his homeland. We talked all things Peru and he even turned me on to the hauntingly angelic voice of Yma Sumac and her song about fairies and spirits called Chuncho. Check it out! God, I love meeting cool new people! 

  
Snagged a perfect front row aisle seat in the grandstands and before I knew it, Dennis DeYoung took the stage! See my separate post on the show. But in summary, BEYOND AWESOME!!! He was everything I had ever hoped for in concert!! 

After the show, I strolled around a bit, snapped some shots of the neon lights, and indulged in the ultimate fair food… FRIED OREOS. OH MY GOD. So sinfully delicious! Like donut holes with melted OREOS in the middle. YOWZA!  Note: I DID give 2 of the 4 away to some kids in line, so as to save myself from complete gluttony. 

    
 As the cliche goes, it’s always best to leave on a high note, so I did just that. Got to my car without incident and made it back to the hotel to reunite with my furry little friend who was anxiously awaiting my return. 

Slept like a log on the ultra comfy bed and while enjoying the fabulous free brekkie in the dining lounge, I meditated on the day ahead. I had wrestled with idea of whether or not to take the trek out to the land of the unknown to check out The Kill Bill Church and finally decided WHAT THE HELL, WHY NOT? The adorable young man at the front desk chatted with me for quite some time and came up with two other filming locations for me to visit, since I would be all the way out there anyway. He even printed out maps for me to each one. So sweet! I had a full tank of gas, 3 bottles of cold water, snacks and Elliott by my side. I was confident that I could make this journey safely and have photos to share. And I did! And here they are! 

Out in the middle of NOWHERE…and I mean NOWHERE, if you pay close attention to directions and mileage, you will come across THE KILL BILL CHURCH. And let me tell you, the vibe is just as desolate and otherworldly as it was in the movie. LOVED IT! Beautifully isolated. Set against a deep blue sky. And no one around…anywhere. Can’t you just picture Uma now? 

  
A suspicious white van passed me, stopped ahead and began to back up in my direction. Without a second thought I took that as my cue to get the hell outta dodge. No sense in sticking around to see what he wanted. 

More peaceful open-road driving amongst scenery like this: 

 

  
And by the grace of the smart phone map, arrived at the next stop…Club Ed. Google it. A movie set built circa 1970’s and has been used in countless productions. Again, you are out in the middle of NOWHERE. Kinda scary yet so exciting at the same time. My adrenaline, along with the A/C was on full blast all day. 

   

   
 Two down, one more to go. I read about Four Aces Movie Set and someone mentioned “watch out for the caretaker, he doesn’t allow anyone to walk around or take photos.” Well as soon as I pulled up, there he was. I was a little nervous until he waved me over with a smile. I told him I was just passing through and was hoping to take a few photographs. Must have been my lucky day. Thanks to my Guardian Angel.

   
    
    

This set was built by a Santa Monica man, who actually built Club Ed way back when. He purchased over 250 acres here and built this multi-faceted movie set. A diner, a mechanics garage and a Route 66-esque Motel. SPECTACULAR down to every single last detail.  

  
  

After a good long visit and chat session we headed out with smiles on our faces and creative spirits buzzing from the thrills of the day. 

The last item on my to-do list was a visit to the world famous Musical Road. Honda engineers actually built grooves into a 1/4 mile stretch of pavement in such a way that when driven over at approximately 65-70 mph you will delight in the sounds of The Lone Ranger Theme song! 

Honestly, how much fun are you allowed to have on any given day? 

All this to say, get out and explore, discover, see, hear, taste, do, experience & live! That’s what we’re here for, right?