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Art Nightlife — on Wheels 

Wednesday, Jun 24 2009
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View more photos in the Nightranger slideshow.

WHEELS ON FIRE
A ’70s pop-culture vulture who can’t roller-skate? We shamefully admit. We’ve longed to don satin shorts and knee socks and join dance jams on wheels since we were a kid, but we could never quite get the balance right. We’ve always been more of a skateboarder type, you see. Last week, two (roll)icking events tempted us to the rinks, and though we only made it to one of them — and spent most of the party holding on to things and people — we’ve vowed to spin the wheels again soon. With the disco resurgence in full effect, it’s only a matter of time till everyone’s going Xanadu all over town. They’ve been doing it for years over at Glendale’s Moonlight Roller Rink, especially Wednesday’s gay night, or, as they euphemistically call it, “Rainbow Skate.” One of the club scene’s most scandalous drag performers, the masked queen of chaos known as Fade-dra Phey, celebrated her birthday along with singer/Skin.Graft co-designer Cassidy Haley there last week, and the photos we shot of both, especially of Phey flying about the floor in a white Dorothy Hamill ensemble, fuzzy pink wig and signature black facemask were definitely worth a few falls.

Last Friday, Down n’ Derby, a spin-dig party out of New York and Las Vegas, rolled into The Echoplex, transforming the club into a raucous retro-soundtracked wonderland. Still sore from the Moonlight mash, we didn’t make it, but pals such as Red Light Management’s music maven Laurel Stearns tell us it went off. We ran into Stearns (who’s been traipsing L.A.’s music scene longer than even yours truly) recently at the Redwood Bar during a particularly packed and potent rock night; the bill included sets by Jason Simon (Dead Meadow), Hopewell and Stearns’ client Imaad Wasif. A former member of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and erstwhile member of the Folk Implosion, Wasif just finished scoring for the film version of Where the Wild Things Are with Karen O and The Raconteurs’ “Little” Jack Lawrence, and he’s got a new Tee Pee Records release coming out Sept. 9. Catch him July 4 at the “New Weird America Festival” along with Weird Owl, Spindrift and more at Nomad Gallery. More info at www.nomadlosangeles.com.

click to enlarge LINA LECARO - Imaad Wasif makes heads shake at the Redwood Bar.
  • Lina Lecaro
  • Imaad Wasif makes heads shake at the Redwood Bar.

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ARRRRRRT MATEY
Redwood, by the way, has transcended its kitschy pirate motif to become one of L.A.’s most consistent hubs not only for live music, but for art as well. Last month, proprietor Christian Frizzell (and childhood pal Pete Galindo) dropped anchor next door with a brand-new gallery called Federal Art Project. Inspired by the visual-art arm of the WPA Federal One program (which employed and educated American artists from 1935 to ’43), FAP provides a space for artist-driven expression and events — and they throw one helluva party, too. The opening featured Chicano muralist Will Herron, mural tours and a panel discussion about famed East L.A. punk venue The Vex in conjunction with the exhibit. The current show, “Children of the Revolution,” curated by revered L.A. artist/educator Keith Boadwee, features a colorful collection of multimedia works from his students past and present, and each piece is as provocative as it is whimsical. Check it out before it comes down, July 4.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
For three years now, Billabong USA’s Design for Humanity event has meshed art, fashion and music for a good cause. This year’s event at Avalon, benefiting charity: water (a nonprofit organization that works to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations), saw a notably mixed bag of sun-kissed blondes and pale indie-nerd types thanks to its diverse live acts: shirtless surfer dudes Iglu & Hartly and recital-gone-wild local faves The Airborne Toxic Event. Though we’ve been hearing about A.T.E. for years (their Los Feliz roots, their seminal Spaceland gigs, the Pitchfork dispute, the dark and maybe derivative drama of tunes like “Sometime Around Midnight,” which is such a hit now, we could swear we heard it at the Albertsons on Hillhurst recently), we’d never seen them live. Maybe it was a backlash kinda thing, which, in retrospect, was unfair. Nightranger’s quickie review: We found them intense but not pretentious, charismatic and catchy, but atypically so, and all-around generous performers — and let’s face it, these corporate-sponsored paid-to-play gigs aren’t always the most inspiring showcases. Say what you will about the band, its Arcade-ish fire, and the scene from which it came, Airborne don’t seem capable of phoning it in. We got there pretty late, so we missed the swimsuit fashion show, but still saw lots of posing, thanks to New York’s most photogenic trio, The Misshapes, who spun upstairs at Bardot. IHeartComix’s Franki Chan joined them on the decks, and the result was one of the best sets we’ve heard from these self-consciously coifed cool kids yet. Despite Cali’s financial woes, DJ/band/club/sportswise, L.A. kicks NYC’s (and every other city’s) ass right now.

WHOLE LOTTA LOUD
The L.A. Film Festival is another example of L.A.’s thriving arts and nightlife. Under new directorship, it seems reinvigorated, and there’s been a general air of excitement about its offerings both big and small this year. The buzz has been particularly thunderous — at least from music fans — for Davis Guggenheim’s It Might Get Loud, which delves into the backgrounds of three guitar greats (Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge) and then puts ’em together in a room to learn from each other and jam. Nightranger had the opportunity to chat with Page and White last Friday before the premiere and, no surprise, we could’ve listened to these talents ramble on all day. Unfortunately, there was no interaction at the post-screening after-party at The Palomar Hotel later (the guys were practically quarantined in a VIP room the whole time). Check out LOL excerpts from our interview in the West Coast Sound blog and look for a feature on the film around its August 14 release.

Reach the writer at llecaro@laweekly.com

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