July 31, 2014

Viva La Rodeo!

Rodeo Clown, photo by Jenny Schlax
During Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo is one of my favorite events. I discovered the Fiesta Rodeo a couple years back when I was looking for events to take my father to that did not center around drinking, would have well-behaved attendees, and that would be enjoyable for him – viva la rodeo!

Yet going to the rodeo in Santa Barbara can be somewhat precarious. People definitely have strong feelings about it one way or another. I happen to be a fan; I enjoy the well-mannered and well-dressed patrons, the patriotism and sense of community, the majestic and athletic animals, not to mention the BBQ and beer.

Bearing the contention in mind, I did some research. The Old
Frank Mechado
Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo is in its 90th year as a premier event for Old Spanish Days, with Rodeo Cowboy Association (RCA) events added in 1958 and Professional Bull Riding (PBR) incorporated in 2005. The Fiesta Rodeo spans four days and includes paid evening arena performances from PBR and PRCA, as well as other classes and competitions held throughout the day. One must live within the Tri-Counties to compete, and competition includes events for children and adults of all ages. More than a 100 ranchers, cowboys, and businessmen volunteer their time and equipment to organize this event. And each year since the late 1960’s, an “Old Timer” whose career contributed to the ranching community is designated the “Honorary Vaquero” of the Fiesta Rodeo. This year’s Honorary Vaquero was Frank Mechado.

In years past, I have only attended the PRCA events – which consist mainly of horse competitions. This year I decided to check out the PBR event – which is entirely bull riding. Again I did some research. The bulls used by the PBR are bred from a long line of bucking bulls. According to the PBR, this breeding program is the major factor that determines a bull’s ability to buck. A flank rope is positioned around a bull’s flank, in front of their hips, which creates the urge to buck. The flank rope does not come into contact with the bull’s genitals – which was rumored to me. Bulls are treated as family and in most cases, considered the stars of the show. They are limited to how long they can travel, how many bucks they can perform per day, and how many bucks they can perform per event. For more information, go to

The PBR event is Thursday of Old Spanish Days and well
Star Spangled Banner, photo by Jenny Schlax
attended. The line to enter the arena wrapped around Earl Warren. Once inside, attendees scooted close to each other to make room on the benches. The event started with a prayer.  Old timers then rode out carrying the American flag and made their way over for the Star Spangled Banner. Introductions were made for the competing bull riders, yet the big announcement of the night was the retirement of Bushwhacker – a nine year old, 1500-pound American Bucking Bull.  
Some rules were explained to me by my seat neighbors: A rider must stay on the bull for 8 seconds to score; the rider and bull are matched up randomly before the competition; the rider brings his own flat braid rope to “tie” himself to the bull, which drops off the bull once the rider does. In the ring were four horsemen with lassos that help coral the bulls after the rodeo clowns distract them from the riders. Apparently, bulls remember who rode them and will go after the rider. In the middle of the arena was a “shark tank”, a metal enclosure holding ten people picked from the box seats through a lottery and a cooler of beer. That was pretty crazy.  

Lasso-Man! Photo by Jenny Schlax
Upon entering the rodeo, you are supposed to receive a day sheet with the rider and bull names to use to keep score.  I did not.  This was a lesson learned after the fact. Names elude me, but the action was intense. We started with 40 riders, which reduced by half each additional round.  In the first two rounds, no rider was able to stay on a bull for the required 8 seconds. In the third and finally round, two men were able to make the 8 seconds, with scores of 85.6 and 89.
However, two riders were injured when the bulls were not able to be distracted and came back to trampled them. Some bulls were ornery, and refused to get off the field. They definitely have attitudes to match their girth.  The horsemen on the filed undeniably pulled their weight hustling the bulls back into the pens. In between rides the sideline and dancing arena announcers entertained the crowd. This was a tough crowd to entertain. 

BUSHWACKER, photo by Jenny Schlax
Alas the finale – Bushwhacker!  Although J.B. Mauney, reigning PBR champion, was not a winner tonight, he was the chosen rider for the retiring Bushwhacker. Mauney has ridden Bushwhacker 12 times, with his longest ride being 1.13 seconds. Bushwhacker is a beautiful animal, standing almost as tall and wide as a VW Bus (from where I was sitting).  He is absolutely HUGE.  The crowd cheered for him as he entered the chute. Mauney didn’t stand a chance. The moment Bushwhacker was out, Mauney was off. The official time was 2.56 seconds – which seemed a second too long for me.

This event was intense. I am not sure if I would attend again, the danger aspect and intensity is a bit much for this ole heart, but I am glad I got a chance to experience PBR for myself. After the show, I was able to stroll along the back area to talk with the cowboys and ranchers staying at Earl Warren and check on the livestock. Kids were running and playing amongst the horses, and ranchers were caring for the cattle. The bulls were resting in large stalls, bathing themselves in dirt. Paramedics were attending to the bull riders. The backstage scene rounded out the evening, and renewed my love of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo.

Five fun facts about Rodeo
Fact 1:
Rodeo emerged from an industry of working with the animals.
Fact 2:
The roping contest has originally developed from cowboys who hold cattle for doctoring.
Fact 3:
There are rules that regulate the handling of the animals which were first put by Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1947.
Fact 4:
Bull riding has become rodeo’s most popular contest.
Fact 5:
The term rodeo means to “go around” in Spanish.

June 30, 2014

Ceremonial Burn

Sometimes you just need to purge. And sometimes, when it’s really personal, the purging needs to be ceremonial and include fire. So of course a summertime beach bonfire with the girls is the answer to all that holds you down in life.

Armed with a fistful of letters, pictures, cards, and what nots from lovers past, I grabbed my best girlfriends and a pile of wood and headed out to the beach to cleanse my soul. You know the saying; clear out the old to make room for the new. We were clearing with fire! And wine, lots of wine - let's be honest.

We sat up a camp at a beach where bonfires were “mostly” legal, in an alcove protected from the wind. After popping open some bubbly, I set forth to make fire while the other ladies put out a nice food spread. With only one injury (do not pick up a smoldering log with your bare hand), we had a bona-fide ceremonial bonfire.

There were four of us gals, each coming to the purge with our own items to clear. I with my items from ex-lovers, Adrianne with her utility bills from a previous residence, Carri with gifts from her last love, and Rachel offering ceremonial support. We also brought a Sharpie and paper to write down items we wanted to bring into our lives to offer the fire. It was a very well rounded ceremony plan.

We started to attract attention from passers by on the beach as our piles became smaller and the fire larger.  An older, elegantly dressed couple approached us as we fed the fire.

“Who are you burning?” The lady asked, unabashed to be intruding on our ceremony.

“We are clearing out the old,” Carri replied, not yet willing to divulge our ceremonial plans.

“No,” the lady replied, “you guys are giving it to someone. A man. What did he do?”

Again Carri clarified, “It’s just old stuff we’re getting rid of, clearing space.”

“No. It’s a ‘fuck you!’” Said this extremely proper looking lady on the beach. “A ‘fuck you fucker!’ I always wanted to do that! Can I help?”

My jaw just dropped. Does every woman dream of seeing evidence of unrelinquished love being engulfed in flames. It’s such a brutal but satisfying image. No one gets hurt, but you get to see fire physically removing these items from your life. It’s very cathartic.

“You can write a note and add your own to the fire,” I offered.

“I am happily married. That’s my husband right there.”

“Hi,” waved the handsome, quiet white haired man at her side.

“I want to give it to your guy. Fuck you fucker!” exclaimed the lady, jumping excitedly about the fire and twitching her hand towards it as if practicing.

Carri, not one to decline someone joy, handed the lady one of her own cards. The lady jumped excitedly as she took the card. Then she read it… this stranger actually began reading Carri’s personal ceremonial burning item.

“I don’t think you are supposed to read it dear,” whispered the nice husband, obviously getting it.

“Hush,” She said, “It’s alright”

Carri nodded, “No it’s ok, it’s not a good one.”

The lady started bouncing again, preparing to get her burn on. “FUCK YOU FUCKER!!” And with a twitch of her wrist, the card darted into the fire and was slowly consumed.

“Thank you so much! I’ve always wanted to do that.” As the lady watched the card burned, a smiled spread from her mouth to her eyes.

The husband circled the lady’s waist with his arm and directed her back towards the beach as she beamed giddily at us. “Thank you,” he said, somewhat embarrassed. But the lady was exhilarated, obviously a result of the power of the F.Y.F. burning ceremony.

As the couple walked away, the four of us stared at each other. “Well that was something,” Rachel remarked. We refilled our glasses and resumed our burning activities.

As soon as we did, the fire grew and drew another older couple our way.

“Is this a burning ceremony?” asked another older lady, this one with long, flowing white hair streaked with purple wearing an ornate purple blouse and matching purple slacks.

“Yes,” Adrianne responded. “We are purging the old and making room for the new.”

“Ohhhh. I love it. I did that once. I stripped down and danced around the fire as I burned everything I had from an ex love.” She waved her hands above her head, illustrating how she danced around the fire, and I couldn’t help but picture her naked.    

“How did that work out for you,” I asked, immediately intrigued by this unique creature.

“Wonderfully! I met my husband, over there,” she said, pointing to a man who had remained a reasonable distance away from our woman fire festivity. “We’ve been married 30 years.”

I offered her paper and a sharpie, “Do you want to write something to burn? Either something to let go or something to invite in?”

“Ooooh! I’d love too!” She squealed and snatched up the offered goods. She spent some time scribbling down her thoughts, her tongue jutted out the side of her mouth as she gave all her focus to the activity. When she completed the note, she folded the paper neatly in two and walked over to the fire.

“Do you want to say something before you burn?” Carri asked.

“No thank you,” the stranger replied, obviously not trusting us with her innermost thoughts. She leaned over the fire and placed the neatly folded paper into a hot spot, then leaned back and watched it burn, intent on the flames.

“Thank you ladies for letting me share in your fire ceremony.” And with that, she turned and left us.

“Wow! How different were they?” Rachel exclaimed. Two extreme examples of women and ideas on fire ceremony brought to us by a purge bonfire.

We refilled our glasses and watched as the fire burned down, giggling over the images these two women brought to mind. The last of the burn glowed a bright orange, letting go of what no longer served us and ushering in what may. The sun was beginning to set and the tide was coming in - it was just about time to leave.

June 15, 2014

The Call

I received the message mid-flight, somewhere between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. “There has been a change in Dad’s condition and you need to come home.” My younger sister can be a bit dramatic, but the quiver in Andrea’s voice let me know this was serious. An icy pit formed in my stomach, I didn’t want to return the call.

The small twinjet descended into a warzone that was LAX. Earlier that morning a man sporting a rifle had gone on a shooting spree, killing one TSA agent and injuring seven by-standers before being apprehended by police. As a result Terminals 1, 2, and 3 were on lock down. I arrived in Terminal 3.

En route to Miami to host a work conference, a career milestone, I had flown from Santa Barbara to LA to grab a flight to Miami. The flight to Miami had been delayed due to the shooting, and in some weird way a blessing to me.  “Home” was near Los Angeles.

I walked away from United Airlines Flight 5324, not really knowing where I was going, watching the scene as if floating above myself. This is not happening. Keep moving forward. Pressure built between my ears, a loud roar auditable only to me. My vision blurred, but I kept moving forward.

I hit the call back button on the message as I walked forward. “It's not good,” said a familiar female voice.  “The doctors are sending your father home to hospice care and the family thinks you should not go to Miami. You need to be here.“ Your father? The family? Then it struck me who had answered the phone and was speaking. “Is this Mom?”

“Yes,” the voice on the other end replied, and then rambled on. But I had stopped listening. What right did this woman have answering my sister’s phone and laying this information about my father on me like this? Who the fuck did she think she was? She lost all rights to talk about family when she left my father for a woman 20 years ago.

“I don’t have time for this,” I snapped, interrupting her mid ramble. “I need to figure out how to get out of here.” I hung up as a wave of heat overtook me, sending my mind spinning. I stumbled to the other end of the terminal hall, passing stranded passengers lined along the sterile airport corridor charging their iPhones, passing the closed Starbucks and locked Hudson News Newsstand – the last signs of civilization. Dead End.

I turned in place not knowing what direction to take next, disoriented like a lost child. The absurdity of the entire situation struck me, and I held back a hysterical laugh.

How was I going to get out of here?

May 21, 2014

American Idiot @ The Granada ~ May 21, 2014

Here’s to You Suburbia

If you woulda told me back in the day that the post-hardcore pop punk band Green Day were to be responsible for one the most touching and relatable, well produced and polished musicals on stage in 2014, I’da told you to bug off.

But American Idiot is just that. If you grew up a misunderstood, misguided youth in Suburbia, USA – this musical is about you and your friends. Truly.

When the album came out in 2004, it was different. If you owned the album, you might have gotten that it was a concept album. But if you were a casual fan of the band, like myself, you heard the songs as they were released – separate singles and in order of best for radio play.  And they were cool.  Allegedly, frontman Armstrong said, "As soon as you abandon the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge song structure ... it opens up your mind to this different way of writing, where there really are no rules." [Thank you Wikipedia – that’s legit, right?]. The album was made to be a rock opera.

Now jump forward to the musical adaptation. It is one act – one long act with no intermissions. It is comprised of songs only – 21 songs, no words except the very occasional one liner.  It is performed with a full rock band located on stage - rocking hard. The set is intricate; a city block scape and rock club interior both at once, with large TV screens set within its walls projecting wild images (think early MTV – when it was still good and about music). On stage, the crew effectively arranged movable props to draw your eye into the proper setting. A lot is going on quickly, the music driving the energy driving the emotion of the story itself.

I won’t go too far into the story… I’ll only say it follows the lives of three young angst ridden men living in Suburbia through their completely different paths to finding themselves. The performances were polished, well orchestrated and well delivered. Many of the situations brought tears to my eyes as I empathized with the characters.

American Idiot was a hellofa good roller-coaster ride. Here’s to you Suburbia for creating such dynamic emotional baggage, and to Green Day for recording it.

May 17, 2014

Eric Burdon with Dishwalla @ The Libbey Bowl, Ojai ~ May 17, 2014

A Moment Away From Home

The Libbey Bowl, photo via iPhone 
Sometimes we get spoiled in Santa Barbara, enjoying life so much in the bubble we don’t necessarily want to go anywhere else. Even when we have really great “escapes” next door. I don’t often think about escaping to Ojai to see great music, but the Ojai Libbey Bowl is definitely worth the fifty minute drive.

Established in the 1950’s, The Libbey Bowl provides that quaint feeling of being “home.”  Set amongst a forest of oak trees stands the outdoor stage with a beautiful shell roof in a space that accommodates about 1300 people, including the lawn area. Depending on the event, patrons can bring food and blankets into the venue to picnic on the lawn while enjoying the music. It’s a real comfortable space.

This day’s event was to celebrate the 73rd birthday of Eric Burdon, an Ojai residents and former member of the Animals and War.  Pretty much a rock legend. In our very own backyard – or at least our neighbor’s.   

photo by paul dunkley
But being a true Santa Barbarian, I only made the trek to Ojai (50 minutes!) to see a Santa Barbara treasure - Dishwalla.  With original members  Rodney Cravens (guitar), Scot Alexander (bass), George Pendergast (drums), and Jim Wood (keyboards) officially touring  with new frontman Justin Fox (former frontman of the SB band Tripdavon), Dishwalla proved themselves worthy of sharing the bill with a rock legend.

I had forgotten about Dishwalla, if I had ever thought about them at all. They were big before my time in Santa Barbara so I did not have that connection yet – they were just another 90’s band that had made a cameo once on Charmed. But they are damn good! I had also forgotten how many hits they had: “Counting Blue Cars,” “Charlie Brown’s Parents,” and “Once in a While” to name a few. They even went “full Eagles” according to Fox, as they pulled up seats and played “Every Little Thing” and “Somewhere In The Middle” acoustically, mixing in a little Led Zeppelin’s “All of my Love.” Dishwalla version 2014 was polished and tight, and definitely worth the trek. 

Soon the man of the hour was brought out by none other than 
photo by paul dunkley
Malcolm McDowell, of A Clockwork Orange fame, affectionately calling Eric Burdon a geezer from New Castle. Burdon took the stage and immediately went into “It’s My Life,” successfully emptying the seats of the Libbey Bowl onto the dance floor.  One hit after another kept the crowd going – he’s 73 and rocked the house!

It was an unique experience with an icon worthy line-up and a special space to celebrate. I’d say if you get the opportunity, definitely see Dishwalla and definitely make the trek to Ojai to experience music at the Libbey Bowl.

May 11, 2014

Maynard James Keenan's 50th Birthday with Failure, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle @ The Greek ~ May 11, 2014

A Perfect Circle via boob-cam

Here's to Fifty More 

On stage May 10th & 11th at The Greek, located in old Hollywood, was the most amazing musician of our time: Maynard James Keenan. We were all there to celebrate his fiftieth birthday* – 5-0! He does not look, nor sound, like your typical 50 year old rock star. Looking extremely fit, with a voice of a fallen angel, Maynard transcends time and age.

All the words in the world cannot express the pleasure I felt once I understood how the show was arranged. There were three bands – three great bands. Failure, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. But they weren’t going to play one band, one set at a time. This became apparent as Failure’s drummer rotated out of site behind a screen, the band walking off to the side of the stage, and A Perfect Circle began to play after just three songs.

Of course I was scared at first. What just happened?! Is Failure only playing three songs?! Was I late? I swear it just started. What the…??!  It’s still light out! Does this mean Puscifer is headlining, not APC?! Confused I scrambled to gather my thoughts. But after three songs, APC’s drummer rotated off stage and Puscifer began to play….

Puscifer via boob-cam

They’re rotating! And playing together! It’s a mash-up people! 

The stage was set with a circular platform in the center which served to rotate drum kits on / off stage, a screen falling neatly in place behind the new drummer projecting the performing band’s graphics. To the left was a small silver stream trailer, known to be a permanent fixture of Puscifer’s stage set. In front of that sat a picnic table with chairs skewed about.  As each band rotated through a couple of songs, the players not playing sat around the picnic table sharing wine. It was a party. Occasionally one player would join in on another’s set, as if unexpected. The feeling was relaxed and full of affection.

Failure via boob-cam
Danny Carey of TOOL came out and played with Puscifer, and then tore down the house performing “Three Little Pigs” with surprise guest Green Jelly**. The place went wild!  Maynard walked out on stage after and quipped “what the hell just happened!”  It felt like we were all in on an inside joke.  

It appeared Maynard was thoroughly enjoying himself, raising his wine glass to the audience and embracing fellow artists on stage.  His son even performed a cello solo in his honor. It was an electric and emotional experience – one that won’t likely happen for another 50 years.  

*Maynard's actual birthday is April 17th. 
**After research, I found out the Danny, Maynard, and Bill Manspeaker, Green Jelly’s lead vocalist, were all roommates at one time – the 90’s ruled.
***Unfortunately they had a no tolerance rule for pictures, so all shots were via a hidden boob-iphone-cam (until I become a legitimate writer). 

March 20, 2014

Brett Dennen @ The Lobero ~ March 20, 2014

photo by paul dunkley

What You Don’t Even Know

I believe everyone has favorites; a favorite color, a favorite food, a favorite sibling. You know what you like, and you gravitate towards it. But what if you may like something and you just don’t know it yet?

This is how I felt seeing Brett Dennen at The Lobero for the first time. “Singer slash Songwriter” isn't my favorite music genre. Not that I have anything against the genre or its musicians, it’s just not my favorite so I don’t gravitate towards it. But I happen to hang out with some musically savvy people who dig Brett Dennen, so I thought I’d give him a gander.  

Brett Dennen is a tall, skinny man with big glasses and red
photo by paul dunkley 
hair. Coming out on stage barefoot, he still stood taller than his bandmates. Upon breaking out in a quirky dance during his first song, the ladies in the audience started screaming. I didn't get it – I thought something must have happened somewhere else in the auditorium. But no, it continued every time Brett did a little wiggle. He really knew how to sell this “I’m just a dork that can sing” thing.  

This leads to the music. The music was quirky and upbeat, like Dennen. The first couple of songs in the set sounded slightly like some other song I had heard – although I couldn't quite place them. I found this to be a bit distracting as I tried to identify the corresponding songs. But as the audience became livelier, I let go of the activity and became more engaged in the performance.

Dennen had a full range of genres covered under his singer slash songwriter umbrella. He started with the mellow guitar melodies, moved into upbeat dancing tunes, crossed over into country, then hit just a patch of rock, before jumping into pop. Then brought it back around once the crowd was up and dancing, taking over the Lobero.

Throughout the 20 plus song set list, Dennen set poetry to music spewing words of wisdom and of lessons learned. Each song seemed to have its owned designated movement to help emphasize its meaning and portray its feeling – which continued to set off the ladies. And although Dennen did not convert me to the singer slash songwriter side, I now know I can appreciate it.