2010 Tour de Fat: 10/2/2010

Last minute weekend plans had me hopping on my bike over to Balboa Park for the second annual (for San Diego) Tour de Fat presented by New Belgium.  Beyond beer and bikes, I really had no idea what to expect.

Since I use my bike to commute back and forth from work this event was also my first time riding with others. Like running, I have always felt bike riding is really a single adventure. Riding and carrying on a conversation I found a bit difficult while navigating traffic and chugging up the Florida Canyon hill. My gear range is small (I have a 10 speed) and my endurance is pretty bad. Excuses aside, I had a great time traveling with my friend in derby spirit, Hurly Curly also known as Liz. Not  a serious cyclist herself, we took things casually arriving just in time for the “parade” of bikes.

Parade  should be used loosely as it really was just a joy ride with other  cyclists on the scale of critical mass. I have to admit, it was the first time I have felt safe riding down University Avenue through Hillcrest. 

The real excitement came afterwards with beer and live performances in the park near 6th and Laurel. The performances varied from a polka style band dressed in yellow robes to silly competitions. Great stuff.  

Hurly and I mainly stood and watched what we dubbed “loony bin.” The loony bin was a caged off area where people rode handcrafted bikes easier described through images than with words. Note the coordination needed to undertake any of these contraptions.

Tour de Fat has a community feel. Everyone attending  was connected through their love of cycling and drinking decent beer. The atmosphere  promoted cartwheels and bare feet… not really, but no one would have bat an eye. The event capacity was not met so amenities were plentiful and there was space to breathe.

One of coolest things about Tour de Fat was any money raised through donations, beer and merch sales went directly towards a local  non-profit whose mission included supporting bicycle advocacy or the environment. San Diego’s chosen charities were San Diego County Bicycle Coalition (SDCBC) & San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA).

In addition, a Bike-Car Trade ceremony occurred where an individual willingly gave up their car and in exchange for a very cool touring bike – “a New Belgium, fully-loaded, hand-crafted, Fort Collins-built commuter bike.” This individual was chosen ahead of time. 

There was also an opportunity to win a new bike at the event by telling a good 2-minute story about why you deserve a new bike (real or made up). The guy who won, Sean, told a true story how he was shot in the ass with a BB gun by guys chasing him in a pickup truck. The story concluded with the guys being caught by the police since Sean called 911 and the operators had him routed to the nearest squad car.

This event is a must for anyone who has a bike and loves to drink. I hope to see you there next year.

Adam’s Avenue Street Fair: 9/25-26/2010

The hottest weekend of the year happened to fall on one outdoor event that our family never misses: Adam’s Avenue Street Fair. Musicians were melting and turnout was low, but that didn’t stop us from sweating the limited shade and dancing on the scorching asphalt. We came out to celebrate our fourth anniversary of the day Roger proposed to me in the back of the Ould Sod. The day also happened to be the fifth anniversary of the first time we kissed/made out in the same location. Although the Ould Sod is no longer part of our destination, the Street Fair holds a particular warmth in our hearts. Plus we have the new luxury of cooling our heels and filling up on good beer and food at the recently expanded Blind Lady Ale House. While we were there, our favorite reporter from the UT, Nina Garin took in a couple of words from Roger about our celebrations.

We had a few acts we wanted to check out while we were there, one being the ever-so sexy Smart Brothers. This harmonious trio (then duo, now back to trio) changed up their act a bit going from beautiful ballads in a southern old-fashioned barbershop style to a straight-up rock n’ roll group that prompts you to move your feet in more than a top-tapping sort of way. Different but still good. 

Citizen Band rocks my world. The most Americana band in San Diego hands down. Only slightly sad Jeff Berkley didn’t wear the Derby Dolls hat I gave him. But seriously… this guy wears that hat nearly everywhere.

Exene hit the spot on Saturday. Her vocals sounded better than previous shows and I had second and third motions on that fact. Combined with the vocal power of Cindy Wasserman, her acoustic set really did make my day.

Dead Rock West features my two favorite vocalists, Frank Lee Drennen and Cindy Wasserman, who belt out their emotions from their hearts. Love, love, love these two.

I stood in the shadows as Peter Case took the stage. The sun and beer had fried my brain by this point in the weekend.  

Here is one of my favorite photos taken of Thomas at the Street Fair. It’s the color, composition, shadows, the heat you can feel radiating off his cheeks and the dude dancing in the street. Justified.

LA Times Celebration of Food and Wine

We stumbled upon this little gem of a festival when we found out that She and Him were going to be playing at the festival at the Paramount Studios Backlot on the same weekend we happened to be there. We were originally going to pay for just the concert but the price difference was only $15 and since we had nothing else planned for the day, we bought tickets for the full day (but not the $125 VIP tickets). So far this has been one of my favorite events of the year…

For its first year, the LA Times Celebration of Food and Wine was a huge success. After talking briefly to LA Times’ Food Editor, Russ Parsons, we discovered that they predicted to sell only 2,500 tickets but they sold out the event at 8,000 people. Even with 8,000 people there, it never felt crowded, the toilets weren’t over-flowing (or even dirty) near the end of the event. Since this post has taken over two weeks to compile, I’m going to save you the details and give you a bit of a photo tour of the event.

Hip and with the times, Twitter signs like this one were posted everywhere. This one was my favorite:

The event felt almost like a street fair with fake buildings and much narrower streets. Lot of wine choices, some liquor and sake available too. There was even options for soda tasting. Restaurants were few and there was about 15-20 food trucks with 45 minute to an hour-long lines. Yep, food trucks are not really made for making mass quantities of food.

I am a sucker for ice cream sandwiches. We shared an orange chocolate Cointreau ice cream on a chocolate chip cookie from the Cool Haus food truck. Divine… although steep at $4. I would rather have less odd choices (brioche ice cream sandwich?) and pay $1.50 like at Diddy Riese in Westwood.

Russ Parsons, Food Editor for the LA Times did a little Q&A session; answering questions like “Where is the best farmer’s market?” to “what is the best place to get fresh fish?” The primary answer to the questions the crowd posed was “It depends on what you like.” Cool part… if you asked a question you got a copy of one of his books or Dodgers tickets. I asked a question about “What food blogs does he recommend?” and I got the typical answer of “It depends what you like.” But I did get a copy of his book, How to Read a French Fry. Roger’s loving the read.

She and Him took the stage with a request that no photos be taken and to just sit back and enjoy the show. I managed to take a couple but refrained from any more out of respect. The stage was set inside the studio’s backlot where there would normally be water (horizon scenes are filmed here). Comfortable and not packed, we watched the couple perform some of my favorite from both albums: Volume One and Volume Two.

The ambiance was perfect. And then hearing them sing their rendition of the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was heart-wrenching. I wish you could have been there. This was one of those musical acts I needed to “check off” but would gladly see them again if the timing fell just right.

I feel slightly bad that this post was rushed since this event was totally awesome. I wish we could have something like this in San Diego. I definitely plan to bring some of the components into the North Park Festival of the ArtsCraft Beer Block and the Taste of North Park… well, not this year since the event is on Oct 2, but next year.

2010 FYF Fest: comedy

After a number of years in Echo Park, F’ck Yeah Festival (also known as FYF Fest) moved to the LA State Historic Park near the Chinatown station. There didn’t really seem too much that was historic in this gravel pad with patches of browning grass. With the new location, came a new name for those attending: Clusterf’ck Fest.

Lines were long (1-hour was a short wait) and the basic human needs were pretty much ignored (shade, bathrooms, food and water were all in shortage). The photo below was taken on our way out of the venue (aside: we had a hard time finding an exit too). The end of the line is indicted by the arrow circled in red. Poor kids, whose parents wanted to catch up on the newest bands on the scene ,were melting in the sun; heartbreaking. We were only able to stay a few hours, so we made the best of our free tickets (thanks, Kevin!) and enjoyed the little bit of festival that we could.

After our short hour wait to get our tickets and pass through security, we snuggled down in the “comfortable” rocky ground in the cool shade of the comedy tent as we hydrated ourselves with four-dollar waters and a dose of hilarity. As much as this festival was about the hottest new indie bands, the selection provided in the comedy tent

Erik Charles Nielsen, who has made his mark as Garret on NBC’s Community,  rambled through his set, shouting with comedy-filled rage at his audience. The disjointed jokes made his set hard to follow and the anger only made the crowd uncomfortable. A few laughs parted my mouth, but over all I wasn’t impressed. I understand where he is trying to go with his comedy, but I also know that most people will not follow along on his rampant path. Oh, and check out the Christmas wrapping paper stage skirt!

Good female comedians are hard to come by and I’m not quite sure why… lack of self-esteem really seems to only help. Joselyn Hughes does not lack self-esteem in any way, but still lacks hilarity. Harsh, I know. I don’t care much for blue comedy (vulgar, potty humor for those who are unfamiliar with comedic terms). Joselyn goes there nearly every time. I again understand this is a personal preference, but based on the audiences reactions, they would have rather had more thought-provoking humor. She is the one in the shorts and cowboy boots above if you want a visual for judgement.

The best laughs of the day came in the form of Matt Braunger. Good clean fun, akin to a monkey with an organ grinder. Seems like a bad comparison, but it really is true. Matt’s expressions and antics made it hard to tear your eyes away from. His poetic style is less intelligent and more along the lines of “I only wish it were real.” Topics of tigers, ninjas, unicorns and drunks are cornerstones to his set. Love. Love. I may have to take a trip to the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre to see him perform. 

The intensity of Matt Dwyer shines through in his set. An average intellectual Matt delves into the humor in everyday life. The crowd can relate to his awkward moments of reality and stories of his life. Apparently, Matt Braunger and Matt Dwyer have a sort of podcast/internet radio show called Matts Radio. Highly entertaining combination of interviews, comedy and music. Take a listen sometime.

The Sklar Brothers, the only comedians I had seen previously, banter like no other performers I know. Finishing each other’s thoughts and rhetoric questions with straight-faced hilarity and quick-witted timing. The dual vocal delivery style give particular emphasis to key points of a joke’s set up and punchline forcing you to laugh twice as hard. I believe my math is correct. You can always check my work by checking them out.  

This was just one set of three hosted at the FYF Fest. Later acts included Brent Weinbauch, David Koechner and Janeane Garofalo.

Comic-Con 2010: Final Thoughts

Out of the possible five days of Comic Con, I squeezed in two nights and one full weekend day. As a non-comic book reader and a person who has no cable, many of the people, panels and subject matter did not impress. The overstimulation only over took me once while I was in the exhibit hall, I immediately darted for the nearest exit to get some space. I’m pretty sure I passed by the entire cast of Community and maybe another movie star, but really I have no idea. Here are a few pictures from the exhibit hall that really made me smile.

Steampunk was in full effect. If you are unaware of what steampunk is, check out the Urban Dictionary before proceeding. This guy made his own time machine… but not steam-powered, human-powered with a hand crank, similar to an organ grinder. He really just needed a monkey.

So I managed to squeeze out of Comic Con with only purchasing one thing (well… really two things as a bought a Gama Go shirt for Roger) As I was meandering through the exhibit hall, a book about classic Hanna-Barbera caught my eye. Colorful images of old cartoon cells, storyboards and merchandise popped from the pages. The vendor shared that the author, Jerry Beck was standing nearby and that they were doing a signing at 2pm. I shared that I would be standing in line at that time for Ray Bradbury’s session. This prompted a full conversation about Ray Bradbury and his historical influence.

As it turns out Jerry Beck is a cartoon historian and also runs a blog called Cartoon Brew. Take a look. If you enjoy cartoons both old and new, check out his site. It was a pleasure talking to him, if even for a short while.

DJ Lance Rock! No, I didn’t stand in line for an autograph, but I do have 4th row tickets for Yo Gabba Gabba Live later this year. Whee! Speaking of lines, I was actually over-prepared for standing in lines. Apparently the stuff I cared about, no one else gave a $%!t. Bonus… but I really should have planned better for back up sessions. Next year, if I’m able to go I would like to see the Worst Cartoons Ever session, more Ray Bradbury if he is around, maybe a writing workshop or two, and hit up a Quick Draw session.

That really wraps up my Comic Con 2010 experience. Oh, except one more thing… San Diego should remain the home of Comic Con. I know I’m not the only one rooting for its anchoring; just check out what these experts have to say.