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Hard Labor: Knitting Factory News Volume One, Issue XVI

Knitting Factory News

Welcome to Knitting Factory News, our intermittent (let’s say, twice monthly or fortnightly) bulletin of highlights from inside and outside the Knitting Factory universe. It’s an opinionated guide to featured artists at our California venues, KFE-managed artists on tour, giveaways, ephemera, and…well, things we like, no matter where they came from.

Love Song To The Earth

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The worldwide environmental movement has never had a soundtrack or rallying cry—until now. Internationally renowned artists have come together to record a song to support the UN Secretary-General’s leadership on climate change and the United Nations’ call for a meaningful, universal, global climate change agreement to be signed by governments in December.

“Love Song to the Earth” features performances by Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Fergie, Colbie Caillat, Natasha Bedingfield, Leona Lewis, Sean Paul, Johnny Rzeznik, Krewella, Angelique Kidjo (a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador), Kelsea Ballerini, Nicole Scherzinger, Christina Grimmie, Victoria Justice and Q’Orianka Kilcher.

Written by Toby Gad, Natasha Bedingfield, John Shanks and Sean Paul, and produced by Toby Gad and John Shanks, the song is available now exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music via Connect. The artists, producers and directors of the Love Song project – as well as Apple – are donating their respective proceeds to Friends of the Earth U.S. and the United Nations Foundation.

Featured Shows

rEPRising At The Echo 2015 NES

There are a number of exciting live shows happening in California over the next few weeks, including festivals Hiero Day, Long Beach Folk Festival, KABOO Festival Del Mar, and Hi-Fi Rockfest. And don’t miss The New Electric Sound at rEPRising At The Echo; this show is compromised of standout bands from Echo Park Rising.

Friday, September 4
!!! – SLO Brew– San Luis Obispo, CA

Monday, September 7
The Coup – Hiero Day – Oakland, CA

Saturday, September 12
Prima Donna –Maui Sugar Mill Saloon – Tarzana, CA

Hi Fi Fest 2015 TTT

Monday, September 14
The New Electric Sound – rEPRising At The Echo – Los Angeles, CA

Friday, September 18
Deer Tick– City Winery– Napa, CA

Saturday, September 19
Deer Tick – Long Beach Folk Revival– Long Beach, CA
The Nervous Wreckords – KABOO Festival Del Mar – San Diego, CA

Saturday, September 26
The Two Tens– Hi-Fi Rockfest – Long Beach, CA

Sunday, September 27
The Two Tens – The Casbah – San Diego, CA

FYF 2015 Recap

by Saeli Eshelman

This week, in lieu of a music city artist pick, we will be doing a quick retelling of my experience at this year’s FYF Fest, as we did for Coachella.

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Photo courtesy of Sheyda Zebarjadian: The crowd at DJ Harvey’s set

As with Coachella, I am approaching FYF veteran status, as I have attended the past four years (and its only been going for ten!). And also like Coachella, FYF has changed a lot over the time I have been attending–FYF has ballooned in size and subsequently changed its venue to the USC Coliseum and surrounding Exposition Park last year. But overall, FYF hasn’t “sold out” in quite the way Coachella has been accused of doing, with the exception of Kanye last minute headlining this year. In fact, FYF has been lauded for its growing popularity and simultaneous sticking to its roots, making it a significant festival for its authenticity. This is why, regardless of your opinions on the burgeoning festival scene and its many iterations, FYF’s acts are worth discussing.

And now, I present you with my list of the top six FYF 2015 performances (and a couple honorable mentions at the end):

The Drums

All photos courtesy of the FYF website unless otherwise noted

The Drums: The Drums have been a favorite band of mine since the release of their first EP, Summertime!, in 2009. Since then I have seen them live after each of their studio LPs have dropped and each time have fallen more and more in love with them. Lead vocalist Johnny Pierce is an amazing performer, enrapturing the audience with his awkward yet slick dance moves and unfaltering voice that hits pretty high up in the vocal register sometimes. This show was great not only for his still-amazing stage presence, but also their song selection which ranged throughout their discography, not ever spending too much time in one era or another, and executing each unique sound flawlessly. I enjoyed dancing the entire time and singing along to every word, and I saw more than a couple surrounding fans who seemed to be doing the same. And I got a bonus thrill when I ran into Johnny and his husband not once, but twice later in the weekend!

Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels:
Run the Jewels is a rap duo comprised of rapper/producer El-P and rapper Killer Mike. And to give you an idea of their rapping prowess, one need look no further than Kendrick Lamar’s Killer Mike shoutout on the song “Hood Politics” off his most recent album: “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’/ Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum.” As expected, their rapping is aggressive and confrontational, addressing real issues, such as police brutality. But they really won over the crowd with their humor and stage presence, keeping an open dialogue with fans, talking to us in between song breaks, and getting us involved in songs where they could. Not to mention, their graphics were pretty dope.

Kanye West

Photo courtesy of Goldenvoice

Kanye West: Kanye West requires no real introduction, he is a self-proclaimed rap god (or real god?) and generally pompous ass. Many people are turned off by his personality, but I am a huge fan of his simply for his artistry–almost every album he has ever made has been new and different in some way, most often in his production, but also often in his content. While his music is not perfect, I think he deserves major respect for his vast body of work and continued success. However, he was not originally on the FYF setlist, but instead replaced Frank Ocean very last minute, like two days before his set last minute. This proved to be a problem, solely in the festival’s under-preparedness for an artist of this caliber as far as security positioned throughout the crowd, which was very large and spanned a crazy amount of the parking lot the main stage is situated in. I was very close to the stage after working my way up for Chet Faker’s performance and stood in the most packed crowd I have ever experienced at a festival (and I’ve attended upwards of ten) for almost a full hour while Kanye fans bum-rushed the stage and pushed us closer and tighter than was possible. It was pretty miserable, but then Kanye went on and I could see him from where I stood and for about five minutes the entire crowd jumped and shouted along to the lyrics to “Stronger.” But when the music slowed and the jumping stopped, there was no longer room for everyone’s feet on the ground and a large section of the front began to ebb and flow and eventually sections tumbled like dominoes. I saw people pass out and without security stationed anywhere but the front people were unable to get out easily and safely. I left after that and while this was not Kanye’s fault and it didn’t affect his incredible show, it was a bummer that mismanagement of the crowd sort of ruined this show for myself and many others (depending solely on where you were standing).

Death Grips

Death Grips: Death Grips is an experimental hip-hop/rap group that blends this sound with punk and electronica, as well, making for very complex and very loud music. They were set to play FYF last year but announced the band’s disbanding only a month-or-so before the festival, and were replaced. Luckily, since then, they have released more music and announced a world tour that included their slating at FYF, again. As such, my group (which included a die-hard fan) and I felt it necessary to see them while we still could, and they did not disappoint. Their energy and physicality was off the walls, as was the crowd’s, and my friend got to mosh her way all the way to the front (while I remained a little further back after the previous night’s ordeal). She came back grinning over her positive experience, both as a spectator and with the other fans.


Morrissey: Morrissey’s voice was expectedly impeccable and his demeanor expectedly irreverent. As far as his performance, he really did get to show off his musical chops, but the show was far more for fans of Morrissey’s solo work than it was for fans of The Smiths, much to the chagrin of large portions of the audience. But he did get a couple of The Smiths’ tracks in, and considering how well he sang I saw no reason to complain. Fans were ironically not disappointed, however, with his usual morose mood. He began the set with a doctored image of the Queen pulling a double bird, pleaded the audience to not vote for Trump, criticized the festival for its over zealous disbursement of security guards, and showed his unwavering support for veganism with a graphic compilation of escalating violent slaughter (next to a VIP section that only served vegan for the day at his request). Everything you could expect and more.

FKA Twigs

Photo courtesy of Goldenvoice

FKA twigs: I know that Knitting Factory News readers have heard a lot about FKA twigs since I first mentioned her earlier this year in my Coachella recap, but as her star continues to rise I feel it necessary to cover its impressive journey. As mentioned before, “she got her start as a backup dancer and now makes a very ‘her’ style of music that combines all sorts of genres, most notably R&B vocals with a slightly house, slightly more mellow form of electronic synth backing.” Her music is very chewy, but she made it far more accessible at FYF than she did at Coachella (maybe in part due to her growing success and growing crowds). What I really found myself amazed by this time though, was the choreographed dance that lasted the entirety of her set. She was able to enhance the storytelling of her lyrics with the storytelling of her movements, along with movements of her other dancers–who are all featured in her music video for “Glass & Patron,” which houses a choreographed dance sequence that was reenacted in its entirety on stage. At one point I heard a first-time viewer exclaim, “You get music and a show!” and while I don’t think he meant to make such a poignant statement, he hit the nail on the head as far as what is so intriguing about twigs. As we explained in our article about her new EP/video release, her art is enhanced by other artistic interpretations, such as film and dance, making her a killer multi-medium threat.


Photo courtesy of Sheyda Zebarjadian: BADBADNOTGOOD’s light-show in The Arena

Honorable mention (each of these artists deserve their own feature if we had the space!)

!!!: (pronounced chk chk chk) is a Knitting Factory Management band who was dancey–like really dancey–funky, and playful in all the right (and weird) ways.

Chet Faker: an incredibly swaggy (yes, I said it) Australian electronica musician who croons as well as he plays synth and piano, and gave the audience major feels and sways in the process. It was worth it seeing him to just to hear his mega-hit “Talk is Cheap,” which you should check out if you haven’t already.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: a little bit psych rock, a little bit indie rock, a little bit electronic, and a lot experimental, UMO gets mad props for not only sounding great, but sounding great in the direct (very hot) sun, especially while frontman Ruban Nielson wore a jersey over a long-sleeve shirt!

Toro Y Moi: another favorite band of mine, but while the show was a little too quiet to really send them into greatness territory I had fun dancing and enjoying their radiating coolness and ease in rocking like they’ve been rocking forever.

DJ Harvey: a DJ I discovered at FYF four years ago looking for some respite from the sun (instead I ended up dancing to the entirety of his disco as dance music set). He was the resident DJ at the Woods stage for over three hours on Sunday (honorable mention is deserved simply for the length of this set) and my group and I made sporadic stops there throughout the day to get our groove on.

Flume: an electronic musician-extraordinaire, though most of his popularity comes from his genre-spanning samplings’ for remixes, and this played to his advantage, bringing out artists like Lorde to accompany his turntables. More than anything though, it was a dance break for fans of all sorts of music and again, super dope graphics.

D’Angelo and the Vanguard: D’Angelo first experienced success in the ’90s with his neo-soul album Black Sugar and ’00s with Voodoo, the latter of which earned him a Grammy, and both of which cemented him as a bonafide sex symbol with washboard abs. But he struggled off and on with writer’s block and other personal problems relating to his stardom, and fell off the musical map. Thus, his most recent album, Black Messiah (released 14 years after his second) was highly anticipated and put him back in the spotlight, most notably due to the album’s genre-fluidity and social relevance. This comeback story made his show a can’t-miss event and it really was, there was so much funk and so much soul visible and audible at all times, and while I made the decision to leave early in order to see Morrissey I wish I had gotten the chance to stay for more.


Until next year!

Federal Bars

The Knitting Factory’s two Southern California gastropubs—the Federal Bars in North Hollywood and Long Beach—feature a range of resident and one-off shows.

Randy Emata

This month, North Hollywood again hosts the unique act of Randy Emata, a multi-talented producer, pianist, composer, etc., etc., who is a regular performer at The Federal. Come on out on September 8th to see him show off his many skills in person. (And it’s free to boot!)

Radio Moskow 2

The Federal Bar in Long Beach will be hosting Knitting Factory’s own Radio Moscow, who we’ve featured in this publication before, along with The Sheepdogson October 11th. Radio Moscow is best known for “playing the kind of music that makes the neighbors call the cops,” in other words, playing rock that really rocks. And The Sheepdogs are no different, as a band that is categorized as “boogie rock” but could easily fall into the garage- or psych-rock genres, as well. With a new album set to be released by The Sheepdogs prior to this show, and Radio Moscow’s most recent album being released just one year ago there will be plenty of new material and good time to be had by all.

Bow & Truss

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Credit: We Like LA

Craving a trip to wine country? Look no further. Celebrate Labor Day with wine and cheese at Bow & Truss!

On the first Monday of each month through November, latin-inspired restaurant Bow & Truss will be serving up wine and cheese pairings with flavors from around the world. Starting next Monday, Andrew Steiner of Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica will provide the cheeses and provide notes on the wines as well. Check out the event featured in!

The first Monday of each month from August to November.
September 7 – 7:00pm
October 5 – 7:00pm
November 2 – 7:00pm

WHERE: Bow & Truss
11122 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 985-8787
Make your reservation:

Drive Time

Feast your eyes on the latest episode from Knitting Factory’s weekly web series Drive Time, with soul/pop group Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas.

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Drive Time is hosted by Juliette Beavan, the front woman of the critically acclaimed trip-hop rock band 8mm, whose music has been licensed on films and shows such as Pretty Little LiarsGrey’s AnatomyUnderworld: Awakening, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Each six to eight-minute episode follows Juliette driving bands around Austin during SXSW, which inevitably brings out their devil-may-care, on-the-road personalities. Stay tuned for more episodes featuring up-and-coming artists.

Lit Cine

Lit Cine

Lit Crawl L.A. proudly presents vintage files with conversations and readings of cinema’s impact on the Los Angeles literary community and life in the Southland. Lit Crawl L.A.’s first film screening series celebrates the intersection of film and L.A. literature.

The upcoming films are as follows:

The Vanishing American
Wednesday, September 16th at 7:30pm
Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse
673 East Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91101. 310-478-3836

Fahrenheit 45
Wednesday, September 30th at 7:30pm
Laemmle Noho 7
5240 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601. 310-478-3836

A portion of ticket purchases will support Lit Crawl L.A., a free to the public, grassroots literary festival, returning to the NoHo Arts District on Wednesday October 21, 2015, as a free-to-the-public evening of 40 presenters including readings series, lit journals, performance groups, local presses and more at 35+ locations in the NoHo Arts District. For more information, go here.

Giveaway: deVour Magazine’s Into The Dark

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deVour is a quarterly magazine founded by a collaborative brainchild of artists that breathe music, fashion, art and beauty.

This Saturday, experience a live avant-garde production, a “style-and-shoot,” of deVour Magazine’s next issue: where high art, fashion and lifestyle meet. As part of a sprawling Gypsy Bazaar, deVour will host a night to remember filled with vendors, artists and performers. Spectacles include a runway show, live musical acts, body painting, fire dancing, and a fortune teller. Featuring VIP artists such as Tea Cake, Callowlily, Carissa Louise Martin, Shayne of the Dead Bohner, Vincent Gabriel, Valentine Anger, and plus a special appearance by famous plus-size model Tess Holliday!

Saturday, September 5th from 7p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
ArtShare LA
801 E 4th Place
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Admission is $10 presale and $15 at the door. Ticket price includes a digital copy of deVour’s latest issue and entry into a raffle with prizes including home décor, jewelry, cosmetics, and art prints.
Get tickets here.
Check out the Facebook event here.

The first 5 readers to email about the event before Noon on Saturday will win a pair of tickets!


That’s it for this week. We’re writing you because you’ve expressed interest in Knitting factory shows, artists or productions. Like us? Want us to consider covering your artists or shows? Please tell us, your humble writer/editors: Henry Eshelman, Sabrina Zeile and Saeli Eshelman; we can take it from there.

Hate us? As someone once said, “please confine your comments to compliments only.” But we’ll (regretfully) accept your unsubscribe requests humbly and without question. Thanks for listening!


Knitting Factory Entertainment Newsletter Volume One Issue XV–Straight Outta Compton, FKA Twigs, Mescal and More

Welcome to Knitting Factory News, an intermittent (let’s say, twice monthly or fortnightly) bulletin of highlights from inside and outside the Knitting Factory universe that we’re publishing here on Killer Hooch.  We think that it’s in the spirit of Killer Hooch as most issues highlight bar, drinks and other spirited news.   The newsletter is an opinionated guide to featured artists at our California venues, KFE-managed artists on tour, giveaways, ephemera, and…well, things we like, no matter where they came from. Also welcome additional authors Sabrina Zeile and Saeli Eshelman–credit where credit is due!

Featured Music Videos

by Saeli Eshelman

This week, in addition to featuring our stable of Knitting Factory Entertainment bands, we’ve decided to fill you all in on some music news from outside the Knitting Factory world! And we’ve chosen some incredibly timely and relevant music videos from two artists we’ve previously discussed in this publication–FKA twigs and Kendrick Lamar.

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First up, is FKA twigs’ new video for not a song, but an entire EP. On a Beats 1 radio interview a week or so ago, twigs announced the new EP for the first time, playing one of its tracks, “Figure 8”. Then she completely surprised fans by dropping the album M3LL155X (or MELISSA) today, completely unannounced. With it she released a 16-minute video encompassing the entirety of the very good, very experimental EP. But while the music is great, yet dark in classic twigs-fashion, the video is an even deeper (visual) reflection of twigs’ style, proving to be supremely darker and weirder. The whole video is really too much to explain, with scenes ranging from a depiction of a human angler fish (you know the one with the light on its head?), twigs as a living sex doll, and a choreographed dance–and that’s all before the halfway point! So if you’re a fan of twigs, or interested in watching an art film, or just curious give it a peek and see what you think.

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Next, is Kendrick Lamar’s relatively new video for “Alright”, the biggest radio hit off of his previously-Knitting Factory News featured tour-de-force album To Pimp a Butterfly. As mentioned in our last piece on To Pimp a Butterfly, this album “deals with issues of black pride and unity during such a trying time for young black men, as well as the complex issue of being black in America today (contrasting the dual desire to represent your roots and fit into the big picture). It all culminates in a very important discussion of rap and blackness in America between Lamar and none other than Tupac, crafted by Lamar from a rare Tupac interview.” And it is with this theme in mind that Lamar created the video for “Alright” which touches on all the nuances of the topic. As such, this piece becomes one of black pride, but also fear, with almost as much time spent on Lamar’s relationship with and to the black community as there is spent (very frankly) on issues of police brutality inflicted upon black men. As such, this video is handled just as delicately and aptly as the album; it is both beautiful and topical.

Featured Shows

There are a number of exciting live shows for our artists happening in California over the next few weeks, including music festivals Echo Park Rising and FYF!

Saturday August 15th
The Knitts – The Echo at 2PM (Echo Park Rising) – Los Angeles, CA

Sunday August 16th
The New Electric Sound – Little Joy at 4PM (Echo Park Rising) – Los Angeles, CA
The Two Tens – Little Joy at 5PM (Echo Park Rising) – Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, August 19
Dilly Dally – Casbah – San Diego, CA

Echo Park Rising

Both festivals are highly recommended and have killer lineups, so if you have the opportunity to go, we say take it!

Q&A with Bill Straus, Producer of Straight Outta Compton


We’ve been talking about music films and films about music a lot lately, and this week brings a signal achievement: the NWA biopic STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (opening everywhere Friday August 14). The entertaining Straight Outta (insert ironic statement here; mine, pictured, is “the shower”) “Rep Your City” app,, belies a serious movie about a serious subject, coming as it is 50 years after the LA Riots. We talked to producer Bill Straus about the film.

Bill Straus

Why did you decide the make this film?

Someone sent me the script. I knew immediately it was a big idea. I had a history with Hip Hop and films that married the Hip Hop aesthetic with movies. NWA just felt more grandiose than any of them because of their potent place in the cultural landscape.

What were the challenges you faced in getting it before the cameras?

The big challenge for us (my co EP David Engel & Leigh Savidge, one of the original writers) was getting the music rights. We used six degrees of separation to get to Eazy E’s widow Tomica, who controlled them. Many big producers had tried. But we spent two years connecting the dots and pulled it off. We were not the biggest producers in Hollywood at that time so it’s a bit crazy that we got them.

It seems given their illustrious careers, this film might have initially made sense as a doc. How do you think it works as a narrative?

There was a fairly recent doc on NWA called “The World’s Most Dangerous Rap Group”. It does make sense as a doc, as that was a nice film. But this has an epic quality that really befits a narrative for the big screen and it has potent character arcs because of what happened to Eazy an because of the significance of the group across so many pregnant issues from police brutality, to the first amendment, to AIDS.

Many people seeing this film weren’t even alive when Straight Outta Compton came out. What is it about NWA that has seared their music on our consciousness?

They don’t remember NWA, but they know Cube and Dre and they likely know the music, even if they don’t know they know the music. Happy accident is the wrong wording because there is nothing happy about it, but what has been going on from Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Baltimore is also part of what makes it important for younger viewers. The BLM movement is very much of the moment. The movie is also just incredibly fun. Young people will be bobbing their heads and their adrenaline will be going That may be the best part of the movie. It moves because it’s a great ride. (w. some definite poignant moments).

What do you want audiences to take away from the film?

I want them to realize that NWA were antecedents to the wild west of the digital age where people can say whatever they want in a public forum with virtual impunity. They were not afraid of anything or anyone and that made them special. And they combined this impervious quality with some intellect to back it up. The press conference sequence in the film is a great example. The guns and drugs came from overseas and they didn’t have passports, they explain. They were brazen free thinkers and hope this is imparted on audiences. Hope people remember the film in 25 years, like they remember Boyz N The Hood or Menace to Soceity both seminal films in a similar space.

What’s the one most interesting thing about it you think that audiences might not notice?

I think Jerry Heller is kind’ve the heavy, but I like the scene with the police in Torrance (shout out to my friend Inny Clemmons—not an actor by definition-who is incredible as the racist black cop). I think Gary really tried to portray him evenly—which I think adds to the characters dimension and the drama that we are left with as we get to his ultimate fate. It makes him more interesting. Tomica is also interesting because she is Eazy’s eyes and ears. And she had a big effect on him at the end. That may come across, but may not. Also not sure it hits it that hard, but Cube went to high school in the valley at a predominantly white school called Taft as I understand it. Sort off adds to the complexity of him as a person, I think. His son is incredible in how much he embodied his father. That was Cube. All the acting was great. F. Gary Gray is a very, very talented director that is going to finally get his do, not just for Compton, but for his body of work.

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Federal Bars

The Knitting Factory’s two Southern California gastropubs—the Federal Bars in North Hollywood and Long Beach—feature a range of resident and one-off shows.

Elixir Anniversary Poster Small Version

On Saturday, August 22, The Federal Bar in North Hollywood will host Elixir The Show’s 3rd Anniversary Gala Event “Nuit Blanche.” Imagine a time when Mad Men would meet up with the Rat Pack, at the Playboy Club for a martini or three…and you have ELIXIR The Show. Critically acclaimed as “LA’s Best Variety Show,” ELIXIR’s Nuit Blanche is an ultraviolet blacklight party, and all guests are encouraged to dress in white to enjoy the unique immersive experience and décor of show.


The Federal Bar in Long Beach will host alternative folk duo HoneyHoney on Saturday, September 26. Lead singer/banjo player/violinist Suzanne Santo and vocalist/guitarist Ben Jaffe met at a costume party then signed a record deal a year later, twisting their gritty, harmony-driven brand of Southern-flavored rock & roll through tales of lost souls, broken boys and girls with gold in their spit. Just two months ago, the duo released their third full-length release titled ‘3.’ Paste Magazine describes HoneyHoney’s style as “display[ing] the common pop thread between, spaghetti western soundtracks and swampy blues.”

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Also in Long Beach, don’t miss a special acoustic performance from Sean Danielsen of Smile Empty Soulon Saturday, August 22. As the frontman for hard rock band Smile Empty Soul, Sean is known for his powerful, rage-filled vocals, which had an impact on the early 90s alternative music scene. Sean’s two solo albums, Enjoy The Process and Food Chains, have been well-received by critics. Screamer Magazine acclaims, his “lyrics are tight as usual, and his signature voice and angst-influenced lyrics are clearly represented.”

Mezcal and Comedy at Bow & Truss

Mezcal Tasting Flyer

We love mezcal. Tequila’s dirty little cousin, we’ve been fans since we pimped the late, much lamented Trader Joe’s brand and still dutifully tend its web site like an acolyte. The renegade spirit is finally getting the respect it deserves. Straight up: substitute mezcal for tequila in a margarita, slice a couple of jalapenos in there (add japaleno agave nectar for sophisticates), garnish with cayenne pepper and “voila,” the mezcal margarita.

Next Wednesday, August 19th, Latin-inspired restaurant Bow & Truss will host a mezcal tasting, followed by a free comedy show!

For one night only, guests have the opportunity to experience a flight of “single village” premium Del Maguey Mezcal tequila. The tasting starts at 7pm and a brand representative will be at the event to guide guests through the experience.

Later that evening, Bow & Truss will premiere its free comedy night event series ‘PATIO’ hosted by Mark Agee. Each show will feature a variety of notable comedians, with Al Jackson and Matt Kirshen on Wednesday, August 19th.

PATIO will occur on the following dates:
August 19 at 9pm
September 9 at 9pm
September 23 at 9pm
October 14 at 9pm

Patio Flyer

25th Annual Cotati Accordion Fest 2015


Mary Rogers Owings’ Accordion

So let me tell you a story. I thought I knew my aunt, who passed away last fall, pretty well. A lifelong schoolteacher and occasional CIA operative, she traveled the world but lived with my grandparents until THEY died. So, when my sister settled her estate she discovered this perfectly preserved beast–a 1930’s Scandalli accordion, along with a little leather notebook where my aunt recorded every song she’d learned, handwritten notes and lyrics, and an instruction/songbook…from 1918. I never even knew this instrument, or her (apparently modest) skill, existed.


Why do we bring this up? I’ve personally harbored a lifelong fondess for the instrument even though I’ll never learn to play it. There’s an adage (and a bumper sticker): “Play an accordion, go to jail. That’s the law!” which our friends in Cotati, a normally sleepy burg north of San Francisco, explodes with squeeze box racket every August and this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary! So behold the Cotati Accordion Festival. Play an accordion? Go to Cotati. That’s the law!

Giveaway: Hugo Race + True Spirit

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Ozzie Hugo Race did time with The Wreckery and the Bad Seeds before starting a solo recording, performance and producing career, producer and performer with acts such as Dirtmusic and Sepiatone. This week we had the pleasure of DJ’ing the US record release party for Hugo Race + True Spirit’s new album, which is currently only available in Europe and Australia. Variously haunting, melodic, angry, gritty, in the vein of Nick Cave (a mentor of sorts), this artist and band is a worldwide collaboration. The ten musically varied tracks on this disc all share a chewy, deep and occasionally twisted sensibility that rewards repeated listening. European fans will get to see Hugo Race + True Spirit in the fall but US fans must temporarily content themselves with an import disc. And, alone in the US, we have five of them. So, how complicated is this (not very!)? The first five fans to share our newsletter on Facebook and tell us can claim them.


That’s it for this week. We’re writing you because you’ve expressed interest in Knitting factory shows, artists or productions. Like us? Want us to consider covering your artists or shows? Please tell us, your humble writer/editors: Henry Eshelman, Sabrina Zeile and Saeli Eshelman; we can take it from there.

Hate us? As someone once said, “please confine your comments to compliments only.” But we’ll (regretfully) accept your unsubscribe requests humbly and without question. Thanks for listening!


Red, White and, um, Sangria?

It’s summer.  We’re lazy. As my late best friend Ian Hartman once wrote, “I feel the urge to sleep even as I write this.”   And as Alice Cooper said, “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes,” as you saw from the headline. This is a lazy column too, a couple hundred words compared to the usual [long] length. Hey, I want to go home, too.

So it makes sense that in summer, the fancy craft cocktails we carefully concoct with skill and measuring equipment and fancy ingredients give way to something…easier. And the easiest way to avoid repeat trips to the bar is to a) give your guests “a choice of one” and b) batch up some stuff. Bloodies. Sun tea. Or, a pitcher of sangria.


Our friends over and Bow and Truss in North Hollywood are totally on board the craft cocktail train and at one time had a host of cocktails made with Spanish sherry, many of them served in cute little Marie Antoinette glasses: coupes modeled, legend has it, on the shape of the queen’s breasts—possibly giving rise to the adage, “anything more than a cupful or a handful is wasted.” We lament the loss of the Spanish-themed drinks menu but they still move a lot of this stuff out on their raked sand patio in the long afternoons of air light they’re enjoying now. If circumstances prevent an in-person visit, Bow and Truss’ sangria is a cinch to make at home.


Red Sangria 

1 750ml bottle malbec

1/2 cup Spanish brandy

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup simple syrup

sliced apples, oranges, and lemons (vary with season e.g. stone fruits add nicely in late summer)

Mix all ingredients. While the sliced fruits look best freshly sliced, they TASTE best after they’d infused the mixture for a while.


White Sangria

1 750ml bottle Chardonnay

1/2 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup orange liqueur

3oz fresh lemon juice

3oz fresh orange juice

1/4 cup simple syrup

Mix all ingredients and add fruits and let stand for an hour.

Fruits change with seasons but this batch was made with lemons, apples and oranges; throw in a few strawberries for color contrast!

Each makes one big pitcher. Serves from 2 to 6 people.

Have at it! Summer Friday!

PS and if you can, and happen to have a lot of money, check out our friend Ian Blackburn’s Laftite Wine Dinner at Josie Santa Monica in July 17.

We can’t make it because a) we can’t afford it and b) we will be downtown watching Chop and Quench at Grand Performances…it’s FREE.

Tequila’s a Top Tipple for Celebs at SXSW

So the tabloids say, “Celebrities; they’re just like us!” as they bag groceries, push strollers, talk to the pool man, etc. We just watched an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap where Jermaine Jackson showed Alex Baldwin’s wife how to call for a servant to pick up a dog poop in his back garden because he couldn’t possibly do it. It might be too germy. Just like us.


Paul Wesley Signs Dobel Bottle for Charity

Paul Wesley Signs Dobel Bottle for Charity

And just like us, they enjoy a drink now and then. Of course they can go large, like Diddy with his entourage in the spectacular “Luck be a Lady” Ciroc ad, which features models Eva Marcille, Jessica White, John Legend’s girlfriend (as if this is a professional sobriquet) Chrissy Teigen, Lisa Seiffert, Jerica Lamens, Jing Ma, and actress Dania Ramirez (Entourage); and actors Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy), Michael K. Williams (The Wire; ” Boardwalk Empire), Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Frank Vincent (The Sopranos) and singer Chris Jones. Sammy Hagar has Cabo Wabo. We think we saw Fergie had a vodka. At one time, The Jersey Shore’s The Situation had a vodka. Now there’s a guy we’d take a cocktail recommendation from, or made under his skilled hand and watchful eye, right?

Emmy Rossum: I hope you didn't think I drank all these myself!

Emmy Rossum: I hope you didn’t think I drank all these myself!

But lots of times, they’re here, the product is there, and once simply put together, it’s Kismet; the talent does the rest. A few years ago Skyy founder Maurice Kanbar lent his Blue Angel vodka to a Playboy TV show hosted by LMFAO. RedFoo poured Blue Angel into the willing mouths of topless poolside Playmates. Then LMFAO came to us to ask about starting their OWN vodka brand (they didn’t).   We once scoured Park City for High West Whiskey, a favorite of Jessica Biel’s (luckily it’s made just down the hill in Salt Lake) for a dinner party. She wasn’t hustling it; she was a huge fan and wanted to drink it and that was as far as it went.

So lots of brands are working to connect with talent. Years ago we took part in a “speed tasting” for Tasting Panel with our Koloa Rum from Kauai’i and “The Kraken” debuted alongside us. We won’t lie: there was a little snicker as we exclaimed, “release the Kraken!” Today, now a part of burgeoning boutique group Proximo Spirits, there’s no snickering. The Kraken has a solid foothold in the market and Maestro Dobel Tequila is first-rate and blowing up, with a new TV ad featuring Perry Farrell and showing up on cocktail menus as diverse as super fancy Claremont bistro Bardot, whose Orange Noir is made with Maestro Dobel, Cointreau Noir, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, mint and cucumber, and mass-market El Torito , where they make a very credible cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro Spicy Pepino Margarita.

We rolled with Dobel to Austin for SXSW where tequila is king. A-List Communications produced a popup of NY-based STK steakhouse deep in BBQ country at a place called Swift’s Attic, who served heaping piles of helpless baby quail to advertising executives before STK took over the menu.

Lucy Owen Signs Dobel bottle for charity

Lucy Owen Signs Dobel bottle for charity

Who was there? A diverse collection of stars for three SXSW movies: THE MEND, starring Josh Lucas, Lucy Owen, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Plunkett and Sting’s daughter Mickey Sumner; BEFORE I DISAPPEAR, starring Emmy Rossum, Paul Wesley, Ron Perlman, Shawn Christensen and Richard Schiff; and Simon Helberg’s (Big Bang Theory) directorial debut WE’LL NEVER HAVE PARIS, starring Helberg, his pregnant wife Jocelyn Towne and cast mates Maggie Grace and Jason Ritter. Josh Lucas, Emmy Rossum, Simon Helberg. Paul Wesley, Mickey Sumner, Lucy Owen, and Maggie Grace all autographed a Dobel bottle for charity.

Josh Lucas signs Dobel bottle for charity

Josh Lucas signs Dobel bottle for charity

What did they drink? There were the signature drinks including the Sundance-inspired “Black Diamond Margarita” and the “South By Supper Suite,” and fellow sponsor Blue Moon Brewing Company served their signature wheat beer with a garnish of fresh orange. Dobel had celebrities sign a bottle for charity. But the eye-opener for us was how people order tequila in Texas: “Dressed and Chilled” is chilled with rock salt and lime; dressed and neat is, well, not chilled. Assembled local press people schooled us on this process so we wouldn’t look like rubes. But we put the white in white balance so who knows. Want to make these drinks at home? Go right ahead. Send pictures.

The Dobel Black Diamond Margarita 

2 oz. Maestro Dobel Tequila

1 part Fresh Lime Juice

1/2 part Agave Nectar

Combine ingredients, rim with black sea salt and serve in a rocks glass. 

The Dobel Black Diamond Margarita.  Reprinted without permission!

The Dobel Black Diamond Margarita. Reprinted without permission!

The Dobel South by Supper Suite

2 oz. Maestro Dobel Tequila

1 part Fresh Lime Juice

1/2 part Simple Syrup

Basil leaves

Muddle basil leaves, combine ingredients, shake.  Garnish with cucumber slice.

What did they eat?Talent and regular folks alike noshed on magnificent passed hors d ‘oeuvres, including: goat cheese tart with asparagus and oregano; maple, coffee, and bourbon pork belly skewers; crab bruschetta on artichoke and herb focaccia; whipped lardo (like Elvis, “lardo” (lard) is everywhere) toast with smoked dates and pistachio; beef tartare with taro chip and charred green onion; and marinated mussels with a romanesco (the fractal vegetable!) parsley pistou.

What did they say? Josh Lucas raved about the food and also wanted to fill his STK gift bag flask with Dobel and take it with him; security politely prevented the little “roadie.” Emmy Rossum, a first time visitor to Austin, wore an Andrew Gn dress; despite her affection for the outfit, she remarked “I can’t wait to get out of this dress and into some Texas barbeque!” Emmy didn’t get ‘cue but she DID get specially prepared gluten-free (cf Elvis above) versions of some STK items (steak tartare and crab and spinach on rice chips), and pork belly and lardo is already gluten free.   After someone took a photo late in the party with numerous cocktail glasses on the table before her, Rossum joked, “I hope they didn’t think I drank this all myself!”

Josh Lucas signs Dobel bottle for charity

Josh Lucas signs Dobel bottle for charity

As the last party drew to a close, Simon Helberg gave a speech thanking STK for the amazing “meat”, and wondered if the dessert might have meat in it, too.  Jason Ritter is an STK popup veteran, having visited the Supper Suite at Sundance, but had to leave the party early to go do a segment of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live with Brandi Glanville from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Inexplicably, the night before we left, we happened to catch this episode. You know what? Brandi Glanville wasn’t nearly as contemptible as we’d been led to believe.

#    #     #

Happy New Year and a Cautionary Tale from Dick Cavett

Happy New Year.  Funny enough, I passed it pretty much sober as I was DJ’ing a New Year’s Eve Party at the Andaz Hotel in LA and did NOT want to be anything but fresh and clean for my 3AM drive home.   I know I joke about the rights vs. privileges of drinking (and am known to have had a drink myself), but am serious about looking at the other side of the coin.  I have known people and have had friends who over-imbibe and some with real problems, and some who have beaten them.  But today I’m just going to post a link (I don’t think I am allowed to embed it) of an op-ed by Dick Cavett about this subject, which expressed this concern more gently, gently humorously and pointedly than I can.  So, go read this, and we’ll see you back here after Sundance.

O Canada!

It’s no secret. I love Canada.

Canada is like a whole country full of Chicagoans: hearty, super friendly, polite people who always make visitors feel like they want them to move here. And like Chicagoans, Canadians are hiding a very dark secret: winter. Visitors to Toronto during, TIFF, the film Festival, are beguiled by generally balmy weather, significant architecture (though they seem to be racing to erase it), an international culture and outlook, and Tim Hortons coffee. But chat up a native for long and they reveal that for months of the year, Toronto is bitterly cold and inhospitable; my Serbian transplant colleague Sonja said she preferred the winters in Belgrade or even Sarajevo. Winters like that, you could use a drink!

Canada has had thirteen more years than the US to develop its drinks culture, having skipped the years we Americans devoted to the great social experiment of Prohibition. Whole some brands are ubiquitous the world over—like Absolut—some international brands do seem to invest in the Canadian market more than the US’s for one reason or another. For example, Grolsch beer, which is pretty rare in the US after being quite popular in the 70’s and 80’s, is huge here, with as much visibility as Heineken as the official beer of TIFF. It’s so handy too, with the re-closable ceramic “swing top” bottle. At bars and events bartenders put it in chilled flat two-case bins right on the bar, so that guests wanting a beer can just…take one, leaving the bartender to sling cocktails and wine. They wouldn’t dream of self-serve beer at a fancy drinks party in the States.

Another case in point is Scotch. As huge rye whiskey producers, you wouldn’t think Scotch would make huge inroads into the Canadian market. I figure Americans only developed a taste for rye during Prohibition, when it was what was available smuggled into New York and New Jersey, Boardwalk Empire style. My mother’s lifelong drink of choice—Seagram’s V.O.— (She’s since gone down-market to Windsor Canadian) was about as appealing to me as her cigarettes (Carltons). She could safely leave the kids at home knowing with confidence we wouldn’t ever dip into either of these.

But Johnny Walker Scotch Whisky, available in only red and black label varieties in 90% of US bars, does a brisk business in both gold and blue labels in Canada. And at AMC Storys, the gorgeous four story (er, storey)1810 post-and-beam building downtown we’re lucky enough to take over each TIFF, these two varieties were de rigeur and skillfully mixed.

Now I know when you think of a specialty cocktail, if you’re like me, the first ingredient that comes to mind is beets. Johnny Walker had mixed up a huge batch of this stuff to serve at Storys and one glass and I was hooked. Two glasses and I was flopping on the floor of the boat. Three glasses and I was gutted and filleted on the premises. I was getting up to thinking about putting beets in a Bloody Mary. But let’s stick to the matter at hand. Try this at home!


One bottle Johnny Walker Gold
8 liters beet juice
Juice of 10-12 lemons
Maybe 300-500 ml Bianco Vermouth
Simple syrup to taste

Serves 20. That’s it. If you want to go beet overboard, you can freeze beet juice for beet cubes. If not, freeze the biggest ice cubes you can make.

* * *

Then on to the “Holiday 2013 Buying Show” née New York Bar Show at the Javits Center ( They held their annual cocktail competition–yes the one I talk about all the time. This year, my friend Arthur Shapiro from Soyombo Mongolian Vodka hosted it Shapiro, as former boss of Seagram North America Marketing, knows what the heck he’s talking about, seeing as he was in charge of Absolut when it was under Seagram’s aegis. So if he says the next big thing is Mongolian vodka, we should put aside our natural skepticism and believe him. He’s also the publisher of the respected spirits blog Booze Business.

Voila! Here are the winners, their drinks and prize money.

Dimitrius Zahariadis, a Connecticut-based mixologist called The Cocktail Chemist, took first place and a whopping $2,000 prize for Alexander Meets Genghis.


• Soyombo Vodka
• Honey fig syrup
• Mastiha tincture
• Fresh lemon
• Egg white
• Fee Brothers walnut bitters
James Menite the leading bartender at John DeLucie’s Crown in Manhattan, took second place and $750 with his Dynasty Digestif.
• 1.5.oz. Soyombo Mongolian vodka
• .75 oz. Galliano Ristretto liquor
• .25 oz. Fresh Meyer lemon juice
• 1 egg white
• Rinse of Auchentosen Three Wood single malt scotch
Glass: Chilled coupe/ coupette
Garnish: Shaved chocolate and 3 espresso beans
Vincenzo Cangemi, with Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea, Manhattan, got third place and $250 for the Ulaanbaatar Sling.


• 8-10 Arugula leaves
• ½ oz. lime juice
• 2 spoons of Bonne Maman fig preserve
• ½ oz. Saliza Venetian Almond Liqueur
• 1 ½ oz. Soyombo vodka

Prep: Shake well and top up with Prosecco in a tall glass
Garnish: Arugula

Here are the lucky winners here: L-R, second place winner  James Menite , first place winner  Dimitrius Zahariadis    and third place winner  Vincenzo Cangemi, (credit) Remember Forever – Photographer: Luke Ballard


Finally, if you want to know the best of what the judges were drinking at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, look no further because here, two months after the fact, we got your Best in Show results right here:

  • Herradura Selección Suprema Extra Anejo, Mexico (Double Gold Best Anejo Tequila, Best Tequila in Show)
  • Yellow Rose Blended Whiskey, USA (Double Gold Best Blended Whiskey)
  • Balcones Straight Bourbon Whisky Fifth Anniversary, Single Barrel Double Gold Best Bourbon, USA (Best In Show- Brown Spirits)
  • Balcones True Blue 100 Proof Corn Whisky, USA (Double Gold Best Corn Whiskey)
  • Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, USA (Double Gold Best Dark/Gold Rum)
  • Breckenridge Bitters USA (Double Gold Best In Show- Liqueur)
  • Palmetto White Lightning, USA (Double Gold Best Moonshine, Best in Show- White Spirits)
  • Pisco Estirpe Peruana Mosto Verde Peru Double Gold, Mexico (Best Pisco)
  • Tequila Agavales Reposado, Mexico (Double Gold Best Reposado Tequila)
  • Knob Creek Rye Whiskey Small Batch, USA (Double Gold Best Rye Whiskey)
  • Byeong Young Sedseong Sotto Republic of Korea, (Double Gold Best Soju)
  • Red Star Vodka, USA (Double Gold Best Vodka)

And here’s some of the winners on display:


I’m always as grateful as heck to take part in this event and wheeled some VERY precious leftovers down from the Javits on a broken office cart to my friend Ivy Brown’s gallery (Ivy Brown Gallery ) in the Meat District. The folks at her most recent opening, Zoobs ( were probably surprised to be drinking award-quality wine rather than the usual Yellow Tail or other gallery plonk. You know what she told me when I dropped it off? “Couldn’t you get more white?”

This is a total non sequitur but as I was walking back to my hotel the second night of the show, a group of motorcycles came across 42nd street.  Then another, and another, and another until bikes were stretched the length of the street for the width of the island.  An amazing procession…I realized the clock had ticked over and it was September 11….

photo-1 photo-2

PS: If you’ve read this far, and you’re in Los Angeles, support Ian Blackburn’s Learn About Wine’s Stars of Cabernet at the Peninsula Hotel Wednesday, November 13, 2013. A very grand tasting indeed!


Ghosts of Spirits Past–and a Spirited Look at the Future!


Every now and then we give over Killer Hooch to some shameless promotion and this is one of ‘em.  Get ready New York, we’re back! Connecticut’s RDP Group is presenting their 2013 Holiday Buying Show, the East Coast’s largest bar, restaurant and retail professional gathering.

The 2013 show takes over the Javits Convention Center in New York City September 9 (noon-6PM) and September 10 (noon-5PM), 2013.  If you remember properly, a few years ago I attended this show not as a publicist, but with a client sponsor, IS Vodka.  Then at the last minute, the CEO backed out of judging a cocktail contest and drafted me to take her place.  I of course honored my client relationship by agreeing, then accidentally saying to press afterwards, “I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I thought I’d be after sampling all those cocktails. “  Yikes.  Memories.

Amazingly, that Bush-era brand’s web site still stands.  It hasn’t been updated in a long time, but it’s still there: and has a new contact listed.

Because I am easily distracted, I thought about looking up some of the brands we’ve represented.  Some are still going strong—Koloa Rum from Kaua’i and Elixir Floral Infusions look great.  This amazing vodka/tequila hybrid we represented from the guy who invented Hpnotiq called “Everglo” it literally glowed in the dark—actually that was just the bottle—seems to be out there, run by a group in North Carolina—and our press materials and photos are still on their site: We made a drink from that called “The Fight Club”—it was Everglo and Monster mixed together. Others are long gone: Sake2me sparkling infused sake, El Grado Tequila, Lotus Vodka (but their unattended web sites limp along and ), Ecstasy Liqueur and the notorious Trago Tequila.  El Grado and Trago won awards after the brands disappeared.  Ecstasy seems to have carried along for a while after defaulting on us and a company site remains:  I can’t find a Trago web site but amazingly, leading distributor Southern Wine and Spirits still carries the brand long after its owner flew the coop (allegedly with a LOT of investor money and a few thousand dollars of mine). Today, I think he’s an international fugitive.  Every couple of months someone calls me looking for this guy.  Most of the time, they want to hurt him, but I don’t know where he is.  His wife did once try and pay for spa treatments with tequila, and sent the facialist to me to pay for them.  Driving home from Santa Cruz last July, we bought gas in a dusty, forgotten burg along the 101.  Up on top of the cooler were two bottles of Lotus Vodka.

Back to the upcoming 2013 Holiday Buying Show: “Timing and location are everything,” says RDP’s Steven Wesler. “We’re dedicated to providing a comprehensive experience at the leading edge of the holiday buying season: from exhibition to education, from tiny hand-craft to mass market, from competitions to charitable efforts.”

The 2013 show features over 400 exhibits with the newest products, services, technologies and ideas for exhibitors and delegates alike to take their businesses to the next level.  Show guests can network and learn from thousands of like-minded experts, brands and mixologists from every corner of the hospitality industry to energize their businesses.

Craft is where it’s at this year: over a hundred new craft and artisan brands will be on display for sampling. Their pronounced presence on the floor this year can be attributed in large part to newly relaxed regulations on distilleries in New York and New Jersey.  In New York, the state relaxed craft distilling regulations in the spring and New Jersey followed suit earlier this month when Gov. Chris Christie signed a law cutting license fees by 90% for craft distillers.

“A craft distillery license brings the manufacturing and distribution options available to New Jersey spirits makers on par with those enjoyed by New Jersey craft beer and wine makers,” said legislation co-sponsor Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton). “Hand-crafting and small batch production has helped New Jersey make a name for itself in the beer and wine markets; and it’s high time we did the same for distillers.”

The show boasts an outstanding seminar series with topics ranging from “Boutique Distilleries” to “Learning how to Make More Profits While Working Less.”  This season the show is proud to welcome The US Drinks Conference with its outstanding lineup of speakers and topics:

This year marks the ninth year of the show’s epic New York International Cocktail Competition and the debut of a number of brands, notably a new Mongolian Vodka: Soyombo. Competitors will create, demonstrate and sample their creations before a panel of distinguished judges in the hopes of winning not only the coveted title, but also cash prizes amounting to $3000.

The SIP Japan Pavilion will feature over sixty brands from Japan with tastings and demonstrations along with education to introduce sakes and shochus to the show attendees.  And this year craft is king, with sampling from the Emerging Brands Pavilion, MHW distributors’ craft and boutique brands Pavilion, the Crafts Spirits Pavilion and Craft Beer Pavilion.

“We’re providing fun along with the serious side of the business,” Wesler concludes.  “We’ve a great kickoff party on the eve of the show sponsored by Shadow Beverages.  We’re looking forward to welcoming the world to New York.”

Finally, the show is showcasing Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry, a national fundraising event that helps ensure no child in America grows up hungry.  During the show month, participating restaurants raise funds in a variety of ways to support the No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America. Founding Partner the National Restaurant Association sponsors the program, along with American Express, Ecolab, ONEHOPE Wine, SCA, Food Network, and Clear Channel. The show urges exhibitors and attendees alike to visit and participate.

Admission for show floor exhibits is $55. Admission for the World-Class Seminar Series, plus Show Floor Exhibits is $140 until August 30th, and $175 after the 30th and at the door. To purchase tickets, visit or call (800) 243-9774.  Use code 1951 for 24% off; press are free.

Show takes place at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center-Hall 1A, at West 38th Street and 11th Avenues, New York, NY 10001. Visit:

Other show sponsors include The Tasting Panel Magazine, MHW, Ltd; Genesis Beverage Brands; SIP Japan; New York Lottery “Quick Draw”; Shadow Beverage Group, Ltd; Soyombo Vodka; Saharas Nuts; Park Street Imports; Bonfun; Royal Moscato Rose; Shiftgig; Prefunc;; Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association; Shakestir; Sociallybuzz; Modern Distillery Age and Smart Bar Products.

Also as an aside I joined this thing called thumbtack to promote my DK alter ego, DJ hoe.  We’ll see if it brings us any more gigs!

So look for me New York next week–drinking on the job!

No Further West

Way back when I moved to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to meet a few great people right off the bat.  One of those, Gordy Grundy, was, and is, an artist of great repute, but also an urbane, lanky, freckled and utterly preppy Newport Beach socialite who often balanced his artistic endeavors with bright, sunny marketing activity.  When Anne Crawford introduced me to him, he owned the coolest club—in Orange County—called Mocambo, whose motto was “walk in, dance out,” and he was winding down Pincentives, a company he founded that made pins for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. His demeanor—more straight Noel Coward than twisted, tortured artist, belied his work, although certainly a little disturbance, a little darkness, bubbled below the surface.

I attended his wedding, and he mine.  My wife Victoria and I made some good friends through him—among them Union Station’s Traxx proprietor Tara Thomas—and when he and his wife Karin divorced (amicably), they actually hosted a party…together.  We’ve managed to stay close to both of them through the years.

Gordy’s an artist of incredible range and versatility.  More so than other artists I’ve known, his art evolved significantly through the course of our friendship.  There are his horny little devils.  There are the gold paintings.  And there were “Gordy Recommends”—what he calls the Barnsdall Cocktail Series—drinks recipe paintings, which superimpose drink recipes over monumental, stalwart images of sailing and flight.  Each has a “kicker” at the end, like “Mix well.  Rape and Pillage.”  These are actual drinks you can make.

Image Image

Gordy hadn’t shown in a while, so when Mat Gleason’s Coagula Curatorial hosted a sprawling retrospective, “Burn,” featuring 200 of Gordy’s works, in Chinatown recently, we weren’t going to miss it.  Tara put together a Gordy-themed prix fixe dinner at Traxx for the evening.  Along with the Gordy-themed menu featuring Bloody Mary Cherries, Artist’s Brawl Soup, Beauty First Fennel Risotto and Kissin’ Fool Rosemary Bread Pudding, she commissioned her chief mixologist (this makes me wonder how many mixologists she HAS) Kurtis Wells to design a cocktail to accompany the exhibition.  Wells’ creation, “No Further West”—honoring Union Station’s westward terminus and the only painting that hangs in the restaurant—a tart, fruity, grown-up summer drink that is as good to look at as it is to drink.

Here’s what goes in it and how to make it:

1-1/2 oz. Blue Ice Organic Wheat Vodka

1/2 oz. Torres Orange Liqueur

1/2 oz. Senior Curacao

Four Mint Sprigs

Two Cucumber Wheels

Half an Orange Wheel

Splash of Fresh Orange Juice

Splash of Soda

Splash of Sprite

Top with Varichon & Cerc Champagne

In a highball glass, muddle the mint sprigs and the cucumber and orange wheels. Add ice. Add alcohol, soda, orange juice and Sprite. 
Stir ingredients and top with champagne. 
Garnish with cucumber and orange wheel.

And here’s what it looks like:


Tara paired some nice wines by the glass along with this menu and we sampled a few of THOSE before realizing we were late. She came out with five bottles of wine in a reusable shopping bag.  I asked, “Maybe we should take one of those in case we get separated,” so she threw us one.  We slung it into a bag and rushed over to the gallery, where out front, another old friend, Bryan Carter, was slinging cocktails of his own.  After aeons with me working on Absolut and numerous brands since, Bryan’s now working with Bombay Sapphire.  He had a very accurate display of all the actual botanicals used in the distillation of the gin, and well entertained the 300 or so guests.

Gordy’s art covered every conceivable wall space inside Coagula Curatorial.  I counted but didn’t think it added up to 200 pieces.   Then, in a box under the gallery guest book, Gordy had a box labeled, “4 pieces and a prize, guaranteed: $40.”  So we had to have one of those.  We also bought a watercolor, which, Gordy confided to us, has a period photo of a boat sealed inside the back.  “That’s actually WORTH something,” he confided.

Fact is, ALL of his art is worth something.  It seemed as if pieces were flying off the walls (and out of the box under the sign in sheet) to giddy, eager buyers but Gordy revealed he really WAS planning on parting with his entire personal collection, and planned a “fire sale” of the remaining works the next day.  We don’t know if this took place but the following Sunday, Gordy made some ominous Facebook posts, promising to give his art away at a local ARTillery debate and really burn what was left over.


Later, he thankfully went back on that promise.

Burn, Gordy, Burn.  But please don’t tell me you gave “Liberator” away.

Mushroom Beef


Q:        “Why did the mushroom buy everybody drinks at the bar?”

A:         “Because he’s a fungi to be with.”

Last winter, we stopped in at Francoise Koster’s La Poubelle, the historic French bistro in Franklin Village and a redoubt of creative cocktail culture.  There, self-taught mixologist and manager Amanda Chapman snuck an unmarked bottle out to us and proudly displayed the contents.  The umber-colored liquid was filled with rye whiskey and charred little mushrooms, some of which I recognized (from having worked for Japanese grower Hokto Kinoko) as brown beech, or hon shimeji.  It wasn’t ready to taste but before too long, Chapman debuted a cocktail on their menu called the Son of a Gun, named after the restaurant and made with the mushroom-infused rye she perfected in her drinks kitchen.

“I was at the restaurant Son of a Gun with [La Poubelle chef] Johnny Zone. “ Chapman recalls.  We had a crudo dish with tiny brown beech on it.  Johnny was drinking bourbon neat and he went to take a drink of it when he looked down and saw one of the tiny mushrooms in his whiskey. He asked me if I put it there and I said no, and we had a laugh about it…. Then suddenly it hit me and I said to him, ‘hey I bet mushrooms would be really good in whiskey… both really earthy and so on.’ So the next day we went to work and I put some of the mushrooms we had on stock for the gnocchi in a mason jar with some bourbon and left it for a day.  When I checked it out, it seemed that the mushrooms were infused more than the whiskey was, so we decided to char them and try again… That’s how it was created.”

Meanwhile, not more than a mile away at Matt Biancaniello and Christopher Hewes’ Library Bar at the Roosevelt (itself a bastion of bar omakase), they aver that La Poubelle knocked off their mushroom-infused cocktail, the umami Manhattan, which they’ve been making since at least last fall.

Turns out the two drinks are pretty distant cousins, riffing off the unique savory flavor of mushrooms but nothing alike.  Here’s how Chapman makes her Son of a Gun:

2 oz. charred chanterelle and hon shimeji-infused rye

1 oz. artichoke liqueur

2 bar spoons simple syrup

3 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters

We don’t have the exact recipe for the umami Manhattan but reviews characterize it as made with either candy cap or shiitake-infused bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and coffee-infused Cynar.

Turns out no one has the monopoly on mushroom-steeped cocktails.  In San Francisco, Ozumo’s Josh Haney makes the Jishin (“earthquake”) with boiled candy cap essence and garnishes it with salted almonds.  Gwen Sutherland Kaiser published a recipe for “The Magic Mushroom Cocktail,” in her blog The Intoxicated Zodiac, “where horoscopes meet alcohol,” way back in April 2009.  While Kaiser used portabella mushroom infused vodka for her recipe, we wouldn’t, as she suggests, try it with psilocybin.

A Big Convention, Bar None

I think I see the fun! Notice the notice for IS Vodka’s cocktail competition. This humble scribe was one of the judges.

A drinks convention seems like an awkward combination of work and play, as serious-minded bar and restaurant owners ply the aisles of vendors that feature copious wine and spirits along with food, drink, digital basketball and a host of other activities that people do…in bars. Come June 26 and 27, there’s the 13th Annual Bar and Restaurant Show at the Javits Center in New York City, billed as a showcase of 300 exhibits of all kinds relating to the industry, and I’m here to exhort you to check it out.

I’ve been to this show three times, twice as an exhibitor and once, unwittingly, as a judge, reported briefly way down below. Rather than rehash, I will, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, sum up: it was FUN. Now I am back as a publicist, so I am going to get to see the show from the inside out. I’ve already made as much of a fool of myself as is possible to document in previous visits, so I am coming to the show with a combination of humility and sobriety this time around I might not have had on somebody else’s dime.

Organizer Steven Wesler clued me into some recent changes in the show that could have applied to people just like me. He moved the show to midweek—at the risk of cutting his audience, as he explained—to raise the caliber of the crowd; in a nutshell, taking a day off from work to come to a drinks convention prevents just anyone from turning up, so they are seeing a lot more bar and restaurant owners, executives, buyers and basically, professionals than ever before. A mocktail competition hosted by Ocean Spray and dating site has replaced the cocktail contest I helped judge. Of course, the show still involves drinking at midday so there’s hope for some bonhomie among the delegates and possibly, even some unscheduled shenanigans.

Wesler had this to say about the mocktail competition. “One of the hardest things to do when you go out with friends and family is to be a teetotaler. Our mocktail competition is unique and the first of its kind. It allows customers to feel like they are drinking but with no alcoholic side effect. Is it trend? According to The Hero Campaign, designed drivers are looking for more than soda and fruit juice. The mocktail competition will feature many new recipes that quite tasty.” The judges rate the cocktails on taste, appearance, originality, aroma, and overall impression. Participants have only six minutes to make four drinks. I couldn’t drink four drinks in six minutes. The winner walks away with a $1000 prize.

On the other end of the spectrum, the show features a pretty stupendous wine and spirits competition. More than 400 entries are vying for titles, as well as Best in Show. In addition to bragging rights, 28 categories of spirits, and white, red, rose, sparkling, fortified and “miscellaneous” wines will gain increased exposure, greater recognition over their competitors and have an opportunity to use their prize in their marketing.

It’s run by Anthony Dias Blue of Tasting Panel, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on Koloa Rum, IS Vodka, Spectrum Wine Auctions and a bunch of other events. “It’s a peer review competition,” he says. “We’ve assembled a panel of judges that span all categories of the industry—buyers, producers, restaurateurs, salespeople and pundits—and between the members of this expansive, capable group we can ensure a balanced, reputable result.”

Anthony isn’t drinking alone, as it happens. He’s got eighteen other judges alongside him, including these people from some of the most prestigious establishments in the East:

• Michael Feil, GM/Wine Buyer, Westchester Country Club
• Orr Reches, Head Sommelier, Corton
• Zita Keeley, All I Do is Wine
• Tim Campbell, Founding & Managing Partner, New Vision Wine
• Olivier Defeu, Beverage Director, Junoon Restaurant
• Charles Mara, President, The Mara Wine Group
• Michael Schaefer, CWE, Director, Society of Wine Educators
• Jules Bianciardi, Wine & Beverage Manager, Landmarc Tribeca
• Philip Kampe, Wine Journalist, The Wine Hub
• Anthony Dias Blue, Wine & Spirits Editor, Blue Lifestyle & Tasting Panel Magazine
• Scott Rosenbaum, VP of Procurement, Vitis
• Jeffrey Pogash, The Cocktail Guru
• Brian Van Flandern, Owner, Creative Cocktail Consultants
• Frank Cisneros, Beverage Director & Co-Owner, Bourgeois Pig & Gin Palace
• Bill Marsano, Poured With Pleasure
• Max Messier, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
• Pamela Wiznitzer, Blogger/ Bartender, Liquid Encouragement Blog / L’oubli Gourmet Bar
• Stephanie Schneider, Co-Owner & Beverage Director, Huckleberry Bar
• Ivy Mix, Clover Club/ Speed Rack, Bartender/ Founder

Plus, there’s twenty seminars. Experts from across the city and across the world will share their knowledge on all things on-premise from fire safety to craft beers. Finally, the Brazilian Trade Bureau is showcasing all things Brazilian. with ten brands in the show and co-ownership of InBev, the world’s largest beer concern, Brazil has taken a prominent place in the spirits and beverage industry, and they’ve come to showcase their ascendancy.

So, there you go. Admission is $45 for show floor exhibits only before June 20 and $55 after June 20 and at the door. Admission for the seminars PLUS plus show floor exhibits is $150 before June 20 and $175 after June 20 and at the door. Visit or call (800)243-9774. You can also find a list of exhibitors, seminars and the whole kitchen sink on the web site.

See you there!