Heavy Metal with some Clippers

Published: May 22nd 2012
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The thought process was that this could be my last hostel experience ever because who knows what lies ahead. I enter the dorm and I am in a dorm full of woman. It’s happened before I’ve put down Drew in the booking and because of Drew Barrymore they think I’m a woman.

In Hindsight I should have gone out with the Canadian girls but I wanted a quiet night to catch up on the blog. I was miles behind again and ploughed through two stories. Unfortunately they were going to a music festival out in the sticks two nights later and weren’t coming back until after I left. I envisaged these girls could have created one last great drunken story but instead it wasn’t meant to be. Instead I went seeking out my own fun.

I walked along Sunset Boulevard and could relate a bit more compared to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood Boulevard. Sunset is more your music strip. Not that I can play an instrument but a musicians lifestyle seems more obtainable to the imaginary lifestyle of a movie star.

Prior to reaching the famous music venues of Sunset Strip there are some great music shops that pass the time easily. Amoeba Music covers multiple music genre’s in all types of music form prior to the ipod era, LP’s, tapes, books, CD’s and tapes.

The Guitar Centre is even better with a massive array of music concentrating mainly on the guitar. Out the front they have a music walk of fame with hand prints of some the greatest hands to ever use a pick or strum or pluck a sting ever.

For years I’ve seen backpackers spend hundreds of bucks for a guitar to travel around with. At this place they had mini guitars like the Martin Steal String Backpacker Acoustic made of Mahogany at $199.99 + tax. And the Traveller Guitar range of electric guitars, again made in mahogany. Had I seen this at any other time but the 3rd last day of my travels. I may have become a guitar playing wank that strums a guitar badly in order to, hopefully, enhance his chances on a girl that falls for wankers playing a guitar badly.

Anyhoo, the main attraction for this day was the night. If you want to know why you didn’t read many “pick up stories” as much as people think a backpacker should tell “pick up stories”? Well this hostel provided some reasons why.

Apart from saying no to this big girl “unwittingly…” grinding my knee at some ungodly hour I was given an option with these Canadians, like I’ve had many other times. One usually is to risk it and go out with them in hope to get the girl and miss part of the destination. The other option (which I’ve taken most of the time) is to do something you don’t get everyday like in LA’s case, seeing a mixture of Metal music live on Sunset strip. More specifically the famous Whisky A Go Go. With those options in front of me I chose music ahead of this pretty good looking Canadian girl.

Whiskey A Go Go is the venue where Jim Morrison created havoc early on with The Doors. There were so many other options close by to see live music like the Viper Room, House of Blues, the Roxy, Rainbow Bar and Grill. But Whiskey was the one I wanted.

I searched to see if a band I knew was playing at either venues and a band call Prong was playing second last on a 8 band line up for $15. With Prong on show and the headline called Crowbar it was clear that this was going to be a pretty heavy night for the eardrums. Could you ask for anything more?

LA is home to the outlandish outfits like Warrant, Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, Poison so this seemed an appropriate music adventure to go with the rest of my music trips. Acts weren’t all from LA but scaled the length of the nation. From Whitchburn in Seattle to Crowbar from New Orleans.

The first band I saw (Devils Beatdown) was a classic mismatch of players. When you think of heavy metal you think of scary men or outrageously dressed men. This band had a drummer suited to capoeira on a Brazilian beach, the base player was the biggest geek looking base player in heavy metal history, a keyboard player who for some reason decided to look harder by wearing a gas mask whilst playing. Meanwhile the guitar player looked like a little squirt. They didn’t really look that hard until the security guard built lead singer comes out, momentarily taking away my smirk.

When they were starting to play there was probably only one person in the venue who could get away with spitting over the lead singer. The man with sticks took that opportunity as the drummer hocked up some hug luigies of which the singers testosterone built up to start bouncing around.

The next band Whitchburn was a 4 piece band with 2 females and 2 males. The lead singer had stage presence and were okay songs but I was waiting for Prong to come out. My motivation to come here was built about 10 months earlier when during a shuffle run on my ipod I heard Prong’s song ‘Bad Fall’ which finishes with an aggressive expressed lyric, “Taking its toll!” Now at this point I didn’t even know what this song was and somehow guessed this end lyric and laughed my head off. So based on hoping to hear this song for memories I went.

Prong comes out with the flat nosed drummer, base player and the guitarist/singer with a massive moustache (Tommy Victor.) Bad Fall never came up but they were still good. Crowd was around 200 people in a small intimate venue and this was the band that got the crowd going. When you come here you want some outrageous guitar playing and Prongs guitarist provides it in droves. Every part of the neck is used to create amazing sound. They finished off with a song that Australian band Grinspoon covered which turned out to be a Prong original. Called ‘Snap your fingers, Snap your Neck’ Can you ask for any better song to finish? I don’t think so!

Crowbar came up and after a day walking along Hollywood and Sunset Blvd all day. Now standing for about 3 hours listening to music, my aging body was begging for mercy as my back was in absolute pain. Crowbar came out with a bass player looking like God with his long grey hair and equally long grey beard. Whilst the lead singer had the biggest beer gut a lead singer has ever had. They were heavy with words that were incomprehensible. I lasted about 5 songs as over 3 hours of heavy metal finally took its tole on my ears as well. I left the crowd with its whirlpool Thankful I came and seen Sunset Strips music scene.

From one crazy LA scene to another and with the last sunny day on the weather forecasted it was off to Venice Beach. Weekends are the better time to go but with no weekend available for me it was a Thursday. Venice Beach is the freak show beach you hear about.

In April it’s passable to lay in the sun, barely, so the people on the beach were only a handful but the action is along the Ocean Front Walk or Venice Boardwalk. Skateboarders of all ages skate around the ramps near the sand. Artists trying to flog off their work, buskers. They are all on the beach side. Across the footpath is the permanent shops where the main feature of interest is the $40 Medicinal Marijuana Evaluation on offer. The most common shops to get this is at the Green doctor who has people dressed in green doctors uniforms encouraging people to go in for the assessment. On this occasion I didn’t get it but if I return for curiosity I will go in.

Basketball courts only had one game going so there weren’t many opportunities to prove that white men can jump. Next to that is an outdoor gym and fitness area. This is the place to be on the weekend. Steroid infested men doing reps and sets but not on this day. If I ever return here I will have to come during a bodybuilding competition at the Joe Weider Stadium the father of body building.

I headed back after a hotdog on the beach and got myself dressed up for my chance to see the making of a Fox Studios Pilot. A company called Audience Unlimited – www.tvtickets.com allows you to pick up a free ticket to see TV shows being made. I grabbed public transport to the studios after putting my name down to see a TV show called ‘Table for 3.’

Pilots are a hit and miss prospect I heard so in my research I saw a name that was familiar. Nicky Whelan, the former Australian men’s magazine bikini model now trying to build an acting career in the US. Before she hit the US she was a character Pepper in Australia’s Neighbours. On this show she did the first lesbian kiss on the family 630pm TV drama. I never saw this I just remember someone telling me she did on my travels. So I youtube’d it and saw the horrific acting that newcomers to neighbours is renown for.

The Pepper character was also the character I involved in a game I use to play with UK travellers I’ve met around the world; The game being, “If you were a new character on Neighbours what would be your introduction, your first scene and then the type of character you would be?”

My introduction was set 6 years ago and naturally involved the hottest female to set foot on the Neighbours stage (Nicky Whelan) and on the back of her lesbian kiss it could easily involve me, her and another hot female character. The best response though was given to the original person I asked who completely forgot which characters were related and somehow put himself into an incest relationship.

Anyhow, I digress; I was unable to print off the ticket, which lead me to guess which way to enter the studio. I enter a car park area and go up to the security guard office. The guy takes my passport, scans it and gives me a ticket with barcodes and all. He directs me to Studio 20, “It has the Simpsons images on them.” So I walk past the set of New York City streets and get to Studio 20. I ask a few people including security where I go next and for some reason I was a second behind everything that was going on.

I’d ask people acting all important like the girl with a clip board in her hand, the guy with a coffee mug half full. The lady with a clipboard directs me to “follow those people that turned to the right there.” I join the small group and all of a sudden I’m on the set of the new pilot which read like it was bound to fail.

The plot is that a girl returns from a stint in Africa with the “Doctors without Borders” team. When she gets back she finds out her father is now dating the mean hot girl from her high school days. The mean hot girl being played by Nicky Whelan. So as I see people shaking hands with some of the actors I didn’t see Nicky or should I say Pepper from my fantasy Neighbours days.

It was at this point I decided to give myself in, “Ummm sorry I don’t think I am suppose to be here?” I show my ticket to some other important looking person, this time with a folder tucked under the arm and a coffee mug in hand and they say. “Oh no you are suppose to go up those stairs to the right.” I follow two people who are seconds ahead of me again and they are told to, “Wait just there.” So I wait with them. At least half an hour has passed when finally we are asked to forward to the seats.

My name gets checked and I’m not on the list. Panic sets in because I need to be registered. I’m a bit like are you serious how did I get this ticket then and made it all the way on stage. I am directed to go to a car park, take a lift up 2 levels and walk along a ramp unescorted to the exit area where I’d met a guy who would then put me on a bus which will take me to another car park where I’d wait in line with the rest. Now one of the last people waiting.

They only had about a 130 person capacity so as it hit 6pm, the start of the show. The guy says we only have one seat left is anyone here on their own. My hand goes up and I am on the bus. Whilst in the line there are some regular TV audience buffs and they informed me that the filming of a half hour show can take around 4 hours for a pilot because they have to redo jokes if the audience didn’t find it funny. When they’ve tried enough jokes and had enough of trying they force the crowd to laugh.

So as I boarded the bus I had mixed feelings. I was expecting 2 hours but 4! Christ all mighty! We are a minute away from getting dropped off when a voice comes over the walkie talkie. “We have over booked, we are sending back 10 people. So with that my Hollywood experience was left with an unexpected visit on stage of a Fox Studio set to be spat out quite rapidly. Nicky’s twitter page is quoted as saying, “THAT’S A WRAP!!! On our NBC pilot Table for three !!! LIVE AUDIENCE ROCKS … Xxx” Thanks for rubbing it in.

It didn’t really bother me really I was ready for home now and whilst circumstance were still trying to create stories for me I just wanted one last one before my flight home. The LA Clippers, basketball, sporting’s most forgotten team.

For years I’ve been wanting to be a fan of theirs but how can you? It’s one of those feel sorry for teams in sport. Always playing second fiddle to its neighbor the LA Lakers. When I was a kid I was a Lakers fan, the likes of James Worthy, Kareem Abdul Jabber – I still do his hook shot. Magic Johnson. AC Green, Byron Scott. I still know the starting line up and I was only about 5 or 6 years old. But than Scottie Pippin came with that flat nose of his and I changed. Chicago Bulls were my team and it seemed I was being all American when it came to supporting sports teams. I support the winner.

But I’ve realised finally that I am not American. I am Australian and the Australians follow the underdog and there is no better team in American sport for that than the LA Clippers.

Lets look at my teams that as of 2012 I have seen live at their home ground and have picked up a piece of merchandise to claim long time fan status:

NHL - Minnesota Wild – won a divisional title back in 2007/08 season that is all.

NBA - LA Clippers – won nothing, never had a .500 or better record away from home. Won just its 3rd ever playoff series win (last week) in its 41 year franchise history against Memphis Grizzlies in first round playoff.

MLB - San Diego Padres – claim to fame is losing two World Series in 84 and 98. One of only two franchises to claim to never play a no hitter game (the only other franchise is the New York Mets) and only team to not have a cycle. This is not good - a cycle is when a batter hits a single, double, triple and a home run in a game.

Now this is the sad part because my gloating is left to:

NFL - Washington Redskins – 3 Super bowl titles in 1982, 1987 and 1991. But since 1992 they have virtually done nothing, reaching the playoffs 3 times in 20 seasons.

Minnesota and Washington are dear to my heart the other two I’ll have to wait and see. If not I will treat them like the league officials and the team owners. When I’ve had enough I’ll just relocate. LA Clippers were once the San Diego Clippers and the Buffalo Braves. Why does picking a team have to be so hard? But the clippers is growing on me.

You might be thinking oh come on you are being a bit over the top but its not. Following a team is the same as a drug addict trying to get that ultimate hit or the surfer holding out for that wave of a lifetime. I don’t want to just go to a game and say okay that was nice and move on. I want some connection with the team I’m going to give my time to. Okay from now on it will be only a few seconds to check on the net, see the latest results and table once a month but still when they make the playoffs I will feel at least a little apart of it.

Go back to my UK story where after 6 years I went back to Edinburgh and saw my beloved Hearts of Midlothian beat Dundee Utd 3-2 in an awful scrappy game with a dramatic finish. You can’t just say that’s my team and move on. I legitimately felt something during that win.

So LA Clippers are my team now, the forgotten team. I always wondered who would support this team? Why would you torture yourself on a team that produces such poor franchise statistics?

Mind you I have come on board during a stellar season for the Clippers 8-1 on Saturdays before this game and a 15-14 run on the road. That finished 16-17 at the end of the regular season. And it has been such an ordinary franchise, since moving to Los Angeles in the 1984/85 season. They have made the playoffs only 5 times. Losing in the first round the first 3 times. They have only outdone the Lakers a handful of times.

The game was played at Staple Centre in downtown LA. I got a 2nd tier seat for $30 and it makes a world of difference to the $16 3rd tier. After the warm ups the national anthem came on and the singer was not from the military. Interestingly basketball was the only sport that I went to that was not military dependent to fill in time during breaks.

Hearing the national anthem is like the crowd are players lining up before a sporting event (Take away Rugby, they passionately sing.) Because no-one sings they just stand there. In fact I should have asked around “Do you know the words to the American national anthem?” and they’d probably go “Oh yeah I know. Its just one word aint it? “WHOA!” because come the line “For the land of the FREEEEEE!” 30%!o(MISSING)f the crowd yell out “WHOA!!!” In patriotic pride.

In fact I’m not sure if it were the emotion of it all, being my last day of JP5, but I almost produced a tear as the anthem was getting belted out. It did get a roar of appreciation at the end. The best one I heard in my time in the states. It was no love for the states but I was only hours from the end of almost 2 years of travel.

The main player to watch is Blake Griffin who had done 192 dunks in 64 regular season games. The game was just a dunk and alley oop-athon. Nicknamed Lob City the Clippers went nuts as Guard Chris Paul dished up dunks for Griffin and centre DeAndre Jordan. Warriors were out of the game in the first minute down 11-0 before the first time out.

Happy with my choice of game the cheerleaders came out and it was at this point I realised, “Oh damn it! What have I done? Man should have chosen the Lakers girls to support who cares about the actual basketball team.”

But soon enough the Clippers big men were blocking shots for the hell of it and I was back on the Clipper bandwagon. Come the 3rd quarter and it must have been the longest 3rd quarter ever as the Golden State Warriors strategy was to foul as soon as the ball was in-bounded.

The reason for that was because of the Clippers poor free-throw shooting. The percentage was so bad it just ticked over 30%! (MISSING)With the game lulling a bit the big screen focused in on the fans and had the music pumping during stoppages and an insight into the Clipper nation was there to see.

A family fan base, which caters to the middleclass and sometimes whacky lower income earner. The fanbase seemed to be able to laugh at themselves and have a good time. I’m a bit concerned that most of the children on the TV found it worthy of taking their tops off all the time and the girls were grinding the air as well.

The Clippers won in the end so I had a pretty good record in seeing the teams I went for in the states. My only losing teams were the two teams I took dear to my heart. Minnesota Wild and the team I’ve barracked for since I was a child Washington Redskins.

After the game I did a quick walk toward the Philharmonic building, which is one of the great architectural buildings. Sun shinning off the silver lining it sails in and out like a waving flag. It added another element to LA, which could not be covered well in just 4 days – Art apart from Hollywood. It has taken this long for me to realise and accept you can’t see everything in this world.

As I picked my lopsided backpack one last time to hand it in for the Air Pacific flight home to Sydney it was time to farewell the USA and JP5 but I’ll save the for another time.

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23rd May 2012

I'm yet to spend more time in California. Besides LA, there are great many areas in the state worth exploring like Yosemite and San Francisco. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Great photos too.
25th May 2012

"But I’ve realised finally that I am not American.
I am Australian and..." - Good on ya, mate! So I'm assuming you're back in Australia now, working a job? Probably a good time to stop acting like a Yank, at home they'd probably glass the shit out of you, at least in Northbridge. :D Hard to imagine that this was your last blog for this seemingly never-ending trip, but I do have to say your ramblings got more and more outlandish towards the end. Maybe it's the US and A's bad influence. :) By the way, I've never thought of backpackers having to produce pick-up stories, maybe that's just me, but I'd file it under TMI anyway. Pretty cool that you saw Crowbar live ("heavy metal music" - lol), too bad you didn't enjoy it as much as I'd have. Well, cheers for the blogs, hope the transition went relatively smoothly, and sorry you've had to put up with my acerbic comments. I just don't have it in me to write generic shit like "Nice blog, great pictures, looks like you had fun!!1!11!" Cheers, Jens
25th May 2012

Thanks too for the comments you have always put me in my place haha
Heavy metal - its hard to put complex music into a simple genre that most readers understand. You should give Prong the time of day though. I've got two more blogs in me before my time is up. I never realised how 2 years away from home can subtly change your way of thinking of life but hopefully I will get to that in a couple of weeks in my last blog. Back at work now Jens. Life resumes as normal for the time being...
25th May 2012

Thanks too for the comments you have always put me in my place haha
Heavy metal - its hard to put complex music into a simple genre that most readers understand. You should give Prong the time of day though. I've got two more blogs in me before my time is up. I never realised how 2 years away from home can subtly change your way of thinking of life but hopefully I will get to that in a couple of weeks in my last blog. Back at work now Jens. Life resumes as normal for the time being...

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