Notes From The Road : California Tales, Part 1

Some notes on my recent stop in California for a trio of gigs in a trio of cities, below the fold:

- My flight from Orlando to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA had a little bit of a delay. This was initially aggravating but led to a nice surprise in the air. I was aware that the space shuttle would be launching from Cape Canaveral this morning, but what I didn't realize was that the delayed flight put us in the air shortly before the launch. In the 15 years I've lived near the space center I've seen a multitude of shuttle launches from a variety of locations. But this was the first launch I ever saw from the window of an airplane. The pilot gave us a heads up and luckily I had a window seat on the side of the plane with the best view. It was still a bit distant, so it's not like we saw any details of the shuttle. What we did see was a shot of smoke with a bright light at the top (the engine's flame) shooting up through the clouds at an impressive speed, sort of like how a missile launch looks in a movie. It's interesting that when you see a somewhat distant launch from ground the shuttle doesn't look to be moving that fast. But, seeing it from the airplane, you had no illusions about the rate of velocity. Another interesting note: as the best view of the shuttle was on the right side of the airplane (where I was seated), people on the left side started getting out of their seats and moving over in hopes of getting a look. At this point, a flight attendant came on the intercom warning the passengers that if they moved to the right side then it would shift the weight in the plane, perhaps causing it to flip. Yikes!

- This proved to be an unusually eventful flight for sightseeing. My California trip happened to coincide with the awful wildfires of last month, and their presence was a part of my stay in the state before I even landed. On approach I could see the fires and huge coverage of the smoke from the airplane window. It was quite impressive, though obviously in a different way than the space shuttle launch. By spooky coincidence, 60 Minutes ran a story on how we are entering the age of the 'mega-fires' just the previous Sunday. The story was quite good and explained the possible causes of these terrible fires in California. If you haven't seen the 60 Minutes story then you really should ... you can watch it HERE.

- My first gig was at Focus in Newport Beach. I think I've played this rockin' Tuesday weekly at least four times and it never disappoints. In spite of the wildfires and the impending Halloween party weekend we got a tight crowd and fantastic dancefloor that kept boogying until the end of the last record. One cool thing about this night is that all of the DJ performances are recorded and put online at liveatfocus.com. This means that my set here should be online soon, including some video that resident Josh Billings took of me getting all freaky deaky on the decks. Be sure to check out the Live At Focus archives ... there are a lot of sets from great DJs on there. I would especially recommend the Garth and Jeno four hour tag team set that's downloadable in its entirety.

- I had a day off in in the Los Angeles area on the Wednesday so I fulfilled one of my goals for this trip: see Blade Runner : The Final Cut at the Landmark Theater in West L.A. This film is currently screening only in Los Angeles and New York and Blade Runner is something I've always wanted to see on the big screen. So I couldn't pass up the opportunity. To make things even better, in addition to a list of small tweaks and new inclusions the film was also painstakingly restored at an ultra-high digital resolution. The new Landmark theater is one of the only theaters in the country with the capabilities to accurately display such a digital work. In fact, my photographer friend Ray knows some of the people who worked on the restoration and apparently they sat in the initial showings, making suggestions on the volume, brightness, and so on to make sure the film was displayed at its best. So, I got a good seat in the center about 6 rows in and - let me tell you - I was not disappointed one bit. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. The visuals were indeed stunning ... some of the city 'flying car' scenes nearly had a 3D quality. But what I didn't expect is what was done to the sound design and the musical soundtrack. It was all apparently remixed in 5.1 surround in an unbelievable fidelity. Even Vangelis' soundtrack seems to swirl around the theater. I could have just as easily been there for two hours with my eyes closed ... but the combination of the visuals with this enveloping sound was close to what I imagine an out-of-body experience would be like. Yep, unapologetic fanboy gush in effect. Even though this version of the film is to be released on DVD in December (hey, Santa!) if you're a fan then you cannot miss the experience of seeing this in a theater. And here's the good news for you: though the New York and Los Angeles theaters were intended to be the only showings of The Final Cut it has just been announced that it will soon be opening in many other select theaters in the US. It's also still playing at the Landmark in Los Angeles if you want to see it in what is probably its best screening conditions. Oh, on another note, the Landmark owned Nuart Theater in L.A.'s Westside showed another of my must-see-on-the-big-screen films at midnight on November 17: Eraserhead. And in what is purported to be a 'new 35mm print' as well. Damn.

More road tales from my California trip to come ...