Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Boonville Beer Fest

16th Annual Boonville Beer Festival
I like beer. I like it a lot. It makes me happy to drink it, I get happy just thinking about it. In the West Coast--particularly Northern California--craftbrewing is a cult-like obsession. The best brewmasters in the world live there as do the snobbiest drinkers. They go hand-in-hand in fact; obviously the people with the best tastes are going to be producing beer that tastes the best.

This is all common sense, but what might not be commonly sensible is the fact that one of the greatest beer drinking events in the world occurs annually in a Mendocino County town with a population of just over 1,000. Boonville, California is home to the award-winning Anderson Valley Brewing Company, producers of a lovable line of satisfying suds like the caramel and toffee-tinged Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale. The pastoral mountain town is also the setting of an annual party to which some of the 50 greatest beers on the planet are all invited. And although the Mendocino County Fair is only a few acres, every year on the second Saturday of May it represents the Mecca of microbrewing.

Knee Deep Brewing Company

For just under $50, you can spend the entire afternoon sampling unlimited amounts of porters, stouts, lagers, sours, IPAs, wheats, Belgians, wild ales, barleywines, pilsners, doppelbocks, saisons, lambics, bittersKölschs, Imperial IPAs and stouts or even the occasional trippel. Am I missing anything? Probably, because at around this time of day I passed out behind the shade of an old pickup truck.

But that was well after enjoying mind-numbing offerings from Knee Deep Brewing Company--with their award-winning Hoptologist DIPA, the illustrious pinot barrel-aged Supplication sour by Russian River and a whole slew of lesser-known-but-equally-magnificent micros like the Space Oddity from Redwood Curtain Brewing Company in Arcata. They experiment with all kinds of flavorful hybrids such as Belgian Style Porter or Imperial Golden Ale, and are all very difficult to find anywhere outside of Humboldt County.

Bear Republic out of Sonoma had a few selections on tap that I had never seen before but none were as memorable as the Campfire Stout from High Water Brewing out of Redwood; dark and delicious with the mouth-watering tones of melted marshmallows. I am making myself very thirsty right now and extraordinarily jealous of my former self. 

There were of course a few other things going on that day. I distinctly remember eating a bunch of deep-fried pickles while listening to a band of unknown genre play some entirely unmemorable tunes. 

Show Me The Way To The Next Beer On Draft...
After the festival ended in the early evening, local restaurants served up veggie pies and seafood dishes of questionable origin to patrons that were drunk enough to enjoy just about anything. In exchange, I offered our waitress some homemade quinoa salad which she seemed to enjoy. 

The evening ends with much deserved rest around the campfire as some final bottles of local libations are consumed on a subdued evening at the nearby campgrounds. Ultimately, in looking back, I am filled with a certain sense of sadness: all I have now are a bunch of fuzzy memories to hold me over until next year's go-around. 

Next time I'd be smarter to try smaller pours so as to enjoy a little bit more of everything before slipping out of consciousness. Can't guarantee that will happen, but I can guarantee that I shall return triumphantly to the Anderson Valley on the second Saturday of every May, ready to rock. Good God, I love beer so much.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Know Now Why You Cry...

I have posted the following clip in order to illustrate a simple point: the action movie genre has gone to complete and utter shit. When I was growing up, action movies were more than just high-priced vehicles for which to showcase state-of-the-art special effects. They actually told captivating stories, providing a window into the very heart of humanity as well as warning us of the dangerous trajectory down which we are so fool-heartedly entrenched. Drama and social commentary tucked into the core of a Hollywood blockbuster--with an impossibly large budget. Can you imagine such a beast existing in today's climate? Of course not. Nowadays you have 'films' like The Avengers--largely devoid of any metaphorical significance whatsoever. Vapid wastes of celluloid specifically-engineered to cater to the lowest common denominator while steering clear--at all costs--of any sort of overtly controversial subject matter. When you hit up theaters this week to help make this pavlovian drivel the highest-grossest film of all time (I'm as guilty as the rest of you), just remember that there was a time in the not-so-distant past when action movies were actual films, capable of eliciting emotional connection and provoking us to contemplate the complexities of the human condition.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hardcore (Food) Porn--L.A. Edition

Since this is a family site, let's try and keep it mostly PG-13:

Sloppy Joseph -- Stout-braised shortribs with fried onions @ Golden Road Brewpub

Sausage and Peppers Pie @ 800 Degrees

Bacon Cheeseburger @ Rustic Canyon

Côte de bœuf @ Patina

Birthday Cake @JDoubleO

Slippery Shrimp @ Yang Chow

Home-cooked Bacon Egg and Cheese

Albondigas for Cinco de Mayo

Friday, May 4, 2012

Concert Review: Radiohead at Coachella

It is said that Hipsters love irony. Perhaps this is why one of the most universally-embraced bands in that all-too-easily loathsome community is the ever-venerable Radiohead. After a particularly revealing 90 minutes with them in the hot California desert, it became increasingly apparent to me that the World's Greatest Rock Act regards many of their concert-goers with a certain, thinly-veiled disdain. Maybe it's because Thom Yorke and company are so hellbent on promoting some vestige of social awareness in this markedly apathetic world into which we have grown. In return, many of the attendees at a typical Radiohead show--especially at the unforgivably scene-y Coachella Music and Arts Festival--could give two shits about changing the world for the better. They're much more concerned with capturing this live event on their smartphones so they can post incontrovertible proof by way of Instagram and Youtube that they were here--LOOK AT ME! How very fantastic for them, and indeed the world.

On the road promoting their most recent LP, The King of Limbs, most sets from this tour kick-off with the unsettling melancholy of that album's first track, Bloom. In the opening lines, Yorke advises all those that would listen to "open your mouth up wide" in a "universal sigh." This phrase has torn at the tendrils of my soul since the very first time it entered my ear canals. In the bleakly-aware landscape of our times we have traded in our desire to coagulate into meaningful masses in exchange for falsely elevating ourselves onto meaningless pedestals of self-diluted grandeur. Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke suggests that the obligatory response is a billowing sigh.

In the 60s, hundreds of thousands of socially-conscious spirits would descend upon the streets and parks of our cities with minimal amounts of premeditation. Today we have the "social media" at our disposal to facilitate rallies ten times larger, yet instead we all sit at home in front of our screens to post pictures of our latest vacation to Facebook. As Yorke asks in his next number, the techno-rhythmic 15 Step: "You used to be alright, what happened?"

After he's done prancing around the stage in his trademarked maniacal manner, Yorke wonders aloud if the crowd of some 75,000 people are "drinking enough water?" It's a reasonable inquiry for a drug-addled mass of humanity that has been baking in 100+ degree temperatures for much of the day. Yet his sarcastic din implies that he doesn't really give a shit. You can't help but wonder if the sea of cellphones and MDMA is really attune to such nuance. 

The band fearlessly plods forward, offering an enchanting array of new B-sides that didn't make it onto the latest record. Only with Radiohead am I able to feel the same level of inspiration regardless of what era of their catalogue is being showcased. In fact, one of the most transcendent moments of the show came during Staircase. A song that can't be more than a year old, yet offers so much in the way of mesmerizing melody that you can't help but be drawn in upon first listen. Of course the elaborate stage setup helps to up the ante, with a series of large monitors--each displaying a different band member--slowly ascending in a staggered pattern high above.

After a hearty assortment of newer material, Radiohead digs slightly deeper into their repertoire--to the obvious enjoyment of the crowd. Busting out standards like Kid A, steeped in eery post-apocalyptic musings, There There, a heavily percussive piece that always starts off with the guitarists accompanying the drummer's beat with large toms hanging from their necks, and the anthemic Karma Police, which culminates in a (somewhat-forced) sing-along: "phew, for a minute there I lost myself. I lost myself." To me, this is always the most redemptive quality of a Radiohead show--or any great concert--the transcendence of losing yourself to another spiritual plane. These guys can bring you there like no other and for that I am eternally grateful. 

Radiohead's live experience typically features two separate encores, which were somewhat truncated on this late Saturday night/Sunday morning to accomodate the strict cut-off time of Coachella which I assume to be 1AM. As the concert is winding down they decide to break out a few tracks from 2007's In Rainbows. The first of which, Reckoner, is a supremely haunting number warning that you "can't take it with you." A fitting admonishment for this uber-materialistic menagerie of Southern Californians. The tune ultimately arrives at a crescendoing finale of spiritually-uplifting falsetto that I wish would just have the decency to extend into infinity. 

Unfortunately that's not possible and upon the angelic conclusion, Thom takes a moment to tell the horde about why the band chose to play large festivals this summer. Essentially: togetherness. Yet I have to question if there's anything to be gained in the collective process of passive listening; are we really all sharing the wonder or are we just hopelessly quarantined within our own respective bubbles of isolation? Goddamn, somebody's breath smells just downright rank! At any rate, they end the first encore with the gutbusting guitar-driven frenzy of Bodysnatchers, a gritty number that you can tell guitarist/mad scientist Jonny Greenwood just loves sinking his fiery fangs into.

For the grand finale, they decide to unearth a couple of classics from their seminal work, 1997's critical darling, OK Computer. Nobody's going to argue with a decision like that. The spine-tingling, Floyd-esque Exit Music (For a Film) never disappoints. And when Yorke commands us to "wake from your sleep," you have to wonder if anyone is really paying attention, or are they too busy trying to capture his mischievous mug on a million little smartphones speckled high above the landscape. When the drums kick-in halfway through this jarring masterpiece, it marks one of the most visceral moments of the entire show. 

Thom busts out the acoustic guitar for the final number, signaling the inevitable: a performance of their quintessential composition, Paranoid Android. No surprises here; played note-for-note with every iota of its arena-rocking grandeur. Many songs throughout history have hinted at an impending apocalypse and some paint the grim sketches of a dreary, post-apocalyptic world. But no other piece of art captures the end of days--as it unravels in real time--with such compelling vigor as this: "the dust and the screaming...the panic, the vomit." And everything comes to an end with that most classic of ironic lines: "God loves his children." A tidal wave of applause erupts into the desert night. Perhaps a universal sigh would be a more appropriate response.

The Aftermath