Friday, October 12, 2012

Best of 2012 - LA Weekly

Here are my contributions to the 2012 Best of LA Weekly...

Best Record Store in Long Beach since VIP Records closed 
Fingerprints Records

Where does one go in the LBC for a fix of vinyl, bobble-heads and copies of both LA and OC Weekly? Fingerprints Records has been a go-to spot for almost twenty years. With VIP succumbing to the tide of public record buying whims, Fingerprints has managed to stand tall in their recently expanded space in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District. Now they have enough space for people to browse records and watch a show without the two groups jockeying for elbow space by the “exotica” selection. Their carefully chosen selection of new and old music is enough to keep everyone satisfied, from  sullen teens to slightly less sullen OGs. 420 E. 4th Street. Long Beach. (562) 433 4996. 

Best place for cheap vinyl 
Last Bookstore
Downtown’s Last Bookstore is an oasis of all kinds of dusty culture. Their newly-opened sprawling second floor dollar book room can steal hours of your life. On the first floor, closer to the street, are just as many records. 10s of thousands of LPS and 45s are meticulously stacked by genre, alphabetically. It’s a stunning achievement that that space stays so consistently organized. In less than an hour you can build a massive collection of soul 45s for less than a hundred bucks. Need a few good small-print West Coast jazz LPs for five dollars apiece? Or some late 70s New York punk albums? Grab a basket cause you’ll need help carrying them. 453 South Spring Street, dwntwn.

Best Under-The-Radar Jazz Festival   
Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Los Angeles used to be a major jazz hub. From the 1920s until the 1950s a small strip of Central Avenue, around Vernon Avenue, played host to every major jazz figure passing through town: Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker. These days almost every building from that era is gone save for the Dunbar Hotel which housed many of those aforementioned musicians. Seventeen years ago, however, initiative was taken to preserve what little remained. A great oral history entitled Central Avenue Sounds was released, the Dunbar is under renovations and the Central Avenue Jazz Festival was born. The free, two-day festival now attracts a few thousand people each day and is a great annual reminder of this town’s once-vibrant jazz scene. 42ndStreet and Central Avenue, South Central.

Best Place to Hide From Your Editor   
Redwood Bar

Been avoiding that story about Miley Cyrus’ newest hairdo? Having trouble coming up with something nice to write about Dwight Howard? Turn off the Blackberry and climb aboard the Redwood Bar. A steep block from the LA Times, Redwood Bar is a cozy, nautical-themed bar that also happens to be a full of disgruntled Times writers. Have a good Sam Zell joke? This is your forum. It’ll probably even be better than the open mike comedy show offerings. For low-lighting, cheap drinks and a decent burger, this is a safe place to dodge those early morning, alt-weekly deadlines while feeling like you are in the bottom of ship. 316 West 2nd Street, dwntwn. 

Best Jazz Venue   
Blue Whale

There are few nice jazz rooms in Los Angeles but none are as accessible and forward-thinking as the Blue Whale. Joon Lee’s dark low-key room atop Little Tokyo’s Weller Court is consistently booking some of the most important young jazz musicians, not just locally but globally. People actually bring dates there! Sometimes there are more women than men. Ok, at least one time. The Blue Whale has done a lot to boost the city’s profile and give some really great musicians ample space to stretch out. An indispensible part of the scene. 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka Street, Little Tokyo.

Best Jazz Jam Session   
World Stage Jam Session

The best jam sessions are ones where musicians actually learn something. People who come to jam sessions looking to be comfortable and play the same tunes every week have lots of options around town. For amateur musicians looking to determine whether or not they’ve got the chops to make it, the World Stage is a great place to check because if you aren’t up to snuff, someone will tell you bluntly. The World Stage, a Leimert Park landmark since the early 90s, has been the home base for countless great local talent. If you get through ten choruses of “Cherokee” and people are still smiling, it isn’t time to quit yet. 4344 Degnan Boulevard, Leimert Park.

Best Hidden Mini-Golf Course   
Arroyo Seco Golf Course

Why is croquet so refined but mini-golf is not? Is it the windmills? Is it the bright orange golf balls? Located a 5 iron from the 110 in South Pasadena, nestled between the driving range and the par 3 course, is an adorable 9 hole mini-golf course that provides endless challenges. It doesn’t have any lakes or fire-breathing dragons but it has enough log cabins and castles to provide a half hour of entertainment in a sunken oasis that most South Pasadena residents don’t even realize is there. Plus they have a four stool bar! 1055 Lohman Ln, South Pasadena.

Best Public Library to Spoil You Rotten   
South Pasadena Library

Los Angeles has some great public libraries. With the ability to order any book from any branch, all of the libraries can be pretty great but South Pasadena, that tiny tree-lined enclave, has created the library we all wish we could have. Entirely self-contained, the budget for music and movies seems to be endless. New albums roll in everyday and the entire Criterion Collection hovers on the shelves waiting for someone to spend three weeks with Nanook of the North. Aside from the intrigue choices on the shelf, the lights are on seven days a week and they stay open until 9pm Monday through Wednesday making them practically a late-night spot by sleepy suburban standards. 1100 Oxley Street,  South Pasadena.

Best Bar Bathroom
HMS Bounty

The HMS Bounty, the beacon of light on an otherwise sleepy strip of Wilshire Boulevard, is a great bar and has a time-capsule restroom. The 3300 block of Wilshire wasn’t always sleepy. The Ambassador Hotel used to loom large across the street and the Bounty is one of the last witnesses to that faded glamour, the presence of ghosts felt in the old jazz jukebox, wood paneling and strong drinks. The spooky restroom is located through the lobby of the neighboring, 20s era apartment building, past the front-desk clerk, a wall of mailboxes and down a flight of stairs towards the sound of rumbling washers and dryers. Maybe that’s where all the ghosts wash their sheets. 3357 Wilshire Boulevard, Wilshire Center. 

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