Off The Record is a recurring feature, here on the Drunkard, that marries two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native.
Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without, be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.
This installment of Off The Record again finds us in the expansive, eclectic, city of Los Angeles — our fourth foray in L.A. since OTR’s inception. Today the Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way dons his tour guide hat guiding us from the Westside to the Eastside…even managing to throw in a little valley (a brave move with Summer here). The band just released their latest studio effort, the Owl & Timber EP.
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01. Chinatown (aka Chinatownland) :: Since the very first time I visited this area of the city, I’ve never been the same. It really calms me down. The nice smells, the peace and quiet (somehow traffic sounds don’t carry around there), and the paper lanterns overheard – can’t beat it, in my book. I go there whenever I can. It feels like a whole different world, to me. All the people are nice and friendly – they’ll just randomly strike up conversation with you! I’ve spent a few nights there, just walking around, exploring. Across the street from the main shopping area there is a street called Chung King Rd. Its got a bunch of art galleries, with apartments above them. I just walk up and down that street in awe. Its so beautiful! Go here in the early evening, and just spend some time looking around. Go into some shops, grab a bite to eat, and then wander around after the shops have closed down, and just take it all in. I’m promise, it’s a great experience! I’ll go with you, if you want company.
02. Red Rockets Glare Studio :: This is the recording studio owned and run by our friend (and sometimes musical collaborator) Raymond Richards. Its just got a great homey atmosphere (partly because it is located behind his home!), and is filled with the best gear you can lay your hands on. Anything from tape machines to full on plate-reverb tanks. Every time I go over there it seems he’s got some new toy that I am jealous of. On top of that, he is the easiest guy to work with, and has put out some of the best records in the LA scene over the past few years. Just pick up copies of records by The Broken West, Frankel, The Weather Underground, or The Idaho Falls – the proof is in the pudding! Great sounding albums, recorded at the best little studio around. I jump at any chance to get over there and play music in that place. It really feeds the soul.
03. Vegetable Delight :: Okay, so this restaurant is in Granada Hills (trust me, it sounds further away than it really is … although it is pretty far away). But it is worth ANY drive. There is a reason that it is #3 on my list. It is all vegetarian/vegan Chinese food, and I swear that it is better than any NON vegetarian/vegan Chinese food. And this is coming from me – a meat-eater! The Orange Chicken is awe-inspiring and heart-stopping (in a good way).
04. Downbeat Café :: This is my favorite coffee place on the East Side, by far. Super good coffee, GREAT peanut butter cookies, and the nicest folks working there. The Parson Red Heads always stop there on our way out of town, whenever we go on the road for shows. It is our tradition – stop at the over-priced gas station on the corner of Alvarado and Sunset, and while I fill up the ol’ guzzler, the rest of the band takes Downbeat by storm. And I get rewarded handsomely for my willingness to stay and fill up the van, with a nice Americano, a peanut butter cookie, and a hug (if I’m lucky).
05. Beachwood Canyon :: I love Beachwood Canyon for a few reasons. Its really really beautiful. Brette and I like to walk around the neighborhoods up there and just look around with a serious case of house-lust. Such beautiful homes, in such a peaceful place! All the trees really take me back to living in Oregon, which is nice. Its nice to be reminded about trees every once in a while, you know? I also love going up and hiking around near the big Hollywood sign. The massive view of LA in all its sprawled out glory is a sight to behold. And lastly, but not leastly, there is a great little diner (appropriately named Beachwood Café, I believe) tucked up there. Its got a great down-home vibe to it – all grandma’s house style. Really nice place to relax and grab a lunch before (or after) a hike.
More Off The Record L.A. Picks and Parson Red Head mp3s after the jump…
06. Spaceland / The Echo :: These are, hands down, the best venues in town – whether you’re going to watch and hear music, or performing it. For us, these places are like a home-away-from-home. They’ve got the best, friendliest, most helpful staff. They are both just great all-around environments for a concert. They really embody the history of this music community, and the current climate of the music community here – which is really like a close-knit family. I’ll tell you: anyone who says that there isn’t dancing at shows in LA hasn’t gone to Monday night residency shows at Spaceland and Echo for the past year.
07. Big Tomy’s :: I’m gonna hit you all with another West Side location (no excuses – I lived there when I first moved to LA!). I think me and the rest of the bandmates went to this place an average of 2 to 3 times a day when we first moved here. It was walking distance from our apartment, and we just got in a strange Big Tomy’s pattern. Some people disagree with me on this – but I’m telling you, they serve great tacos (especially for the price!), and one of the best Patty Melts around. Oh! And the Fried Zucchini is pretty perfect, too. Now the real question – is it pronounced like “Tommy” … or is it pronounced like it’s spelled, which would be like “Tome-y”. I prefer the latter.
08. Cacao :: This is a bizarre, tucked away coffee shop on the West Side. Its only open from, like, 6pm to 8am or so. It always has great art on the walls, interesting clientele, and serves the best mother-loving latte around (yes, all you Intelligentsia-heads, I went there). I also LOVE that it is so hard to find, because its so small – but when you find it, its like you found hidden treasure. This place has a special place in my heart, because it is the first place Brette (my wife, and the Red Heads’ drummer) went after we got engaged … to get a celebratory cup o’ joe.
09. The Jet Rag $1 Sale :: Every Sunday, from early morning til sundown, Jet Rag Clothing throws a TON of second-hand (and third-hand, fourth-hand, and infinity-hand) clothes into what is normally their parking lot, and lets the people go wild. Every item is merely $1. Let me tell you – this event has basically made up the entirety of my wardrobe at this point (even jeans!). There isn’t a better place to find cheap vintage sweaters and t-shirts. It’s a real cultural event. Also, I believe this sale has been the source of some of the best and most interesting pieces of Parson Red Heads concert wardrobe – from strange white blouses, to pure white 70’s jumpsuits.
10. Taco Truck (@ Logan and Sunset Blvd) :: Decided I’d start my list out with a Los Angeles staple (albeit a staple that is under risk of extinction) – the taco truck. My particular favorite of all taco trucks is the one located at Logan and Sunset Blvd in Echo Park, right down the road from The Echo. It is a Parson Red Heads tradition to eat at this truck before every show we play at the Echo or Echoplex. It lifts our spirits, feeds our stomachs with great great food (for veggies or carnivores), and doesn’t hurt our wallets! Just a perfect experience, really. And for the record, if this truck had to move every hour, I wouldn’t likely eat at the other nearby restaurants more, I’d just hunt this truck down, if I could find it, and continue giving them my business. I’m just saying.