Eric Garcetti Becomes Eclectic: What Councilman's Guest DJ Set Says About the Race For L.A. Mayor

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Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Eric Garcetti, spinning
  • Eric Garcetti, spinning
Eric Garcetti knows how to spin. The still-undeclared candidate for mayor threw down some tracks yesterday during a guest DJ set at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic.

It was all in good fun, but Garcetti's playlist -- and his commentary on it -- says a lot about how he would run for mayor.

Not to be outdone, another not-quite mayoral candidate provided his own playlist exclusively to L.A. Weekly. (We won't give it away, but his initials are Z.Y.)

It's on! And the election is only two years away! Can we just decide now to dispense with the speeches and debates and pick our next mayor based on soundtracks alone?

Garcetti's up first. It takes an ethnic coalition to become mayor, and Garcetti figures to have a leg up because he's a walking ethnic coalition -- half-Jewish, half-Mexican, half-Italian. (And yet still very white. He's an e pluribus white guy.) Sure enough, his playlist is like that too.

click to enlarge Politics according to Mingus
  • Politics according to Mingus
He started off with Charles Mingus. Now maybe you thought Mingus was black. Garcetti will set you straight. He was "of mixed ancestry, like half of Los Angeles... He was part Chinese, part black, part Swedish, I think." (True.)

Garcetti also played some Los Lobos, which prompted this ethnographic observation:
You know most Mexicans are mestizos, mixed, so part Indian and part European. And Los Lobos are kind of mestizos dobles, they're like doubly mixed.
OK. You get the idea. But back to Mingus for a second, because Garcetti used him to illustrate another Garcetti theme: consensus-building.
I [tell young people] the most important thing is to learn how to listen and to learn how to follow.

A bassist is supposed to be somebody in the background and Mingus showed how, by listening to his band, by learning how to follow his band, he could actually lead it as a bassist.

This is almost too perfect a metaphor for Garcetti's political style. And this also illustrates the big knock on him as well -- that's he's so interested in consensus that he doesn't actually lead. (Or, borrowing from Obama, he leads from behind.)

There's a lot more there -- like Garcetti's synth phase and his Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt -- so check it out in full.

But first, check out the rival playlist provided by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Seriously. We asked Yaroslavsky for a "guest DJ" playlist and his office provided one. Here it is:
"Sweet Baby James," James Taylor

"When I'm Gone," Phil Ochs

"Wing on Wing," Esa-Pekka Salonen

"The In Crowd," Ramsey Lewis Trio

"Di Quella Pira" (from "Il Travatore", Act III), Giuseppe Verdi

Hm. Well, it's hard to imagine Jason Bentley allowing Yaroslavsky anywhere near his studio. That's not a bad thing, necessary. Clearly this is not a guy who is straining to be cool.

Unfortunately, Yaroslavsky did not provide a commentary, so we'll have to draw our own conclusions. The first thing that jumps out is the generational divide between Garcetti's punk-synth aesthetic and Yaroslavsky's Boomer soundtrack.

Is it PBS pledge week already?

The only composition written in the last 40 years is "Wing on Wing." This one requires little interpretation. It was composed for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Yaroslavsky helped to get built. In the program notes, Salonen said the composition "celebrates the efforts of every man and woman whose dedication, skill, and faith made a fantastic vision into reality." Next.

Setting Verdi aside, we're left with the stuff from Yaroslavsky's teen years. Most intriguing of all, there's Phil Ochs:

Well that's a downer. But note how it uses the prospect of death as motivation. The refrain is especially resonant: "I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here."

Does Zev realize that time is running out, and if he's ever going to be mayor, he has to do it now?

Let's just say yes.

It's official. He's running.

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