Nightranger: Bringing Sounds to the Sea

Jack Johnson brings it To the Sea.

Not many music fans will admit to (still) watching American Idol, but we do and we will — well, on DVR so we can fast-forward most of it. Yeah, it kinda sucked this season, but it was Simon Cowell's last, and Crystal Bowersox channeling Janis Joplin was worth listening to. When one of the show's sponsors, Ford Fiesta, offered tix to the final sing-off between the dreadheaded powerhouse and Lee DeWyze last week, we bit ... and bit (there was free food involved). We also got to drive the trendy retooled car brand geared toward "millennials," as the co's marketing peeps kept saying. With Knight Rider–like features (the car will tell ya your horoscope, seriously) these wheels are definitely forward-thinking, as was a visit with cast members of If I Can Dream, a Big Brother–esque web-TV series about making it created by Idol's other Simon (Fuller).

Before the big show at The Nokia Theatre, Dream-ers Alex Lambert and Justin Gaston (Miley Cyrus' ex) made for entertaining lunch companions, especially young Lambert (a former Idol contestant), whose cocky naivete and constant term-coinage were a hoot: He calls bands and singers such as Nickelback, Creed, Idol's own David Cook and Daughtry and even Pearl Jam, "butt rock," referring to their throaty warble ("it comes from the lower region"). We'd add Idol winner DeWyze to his list, too.

Take it from someone who was at Nokia and heard DeWyze sing live, his vox were downright puny compared to Bowersox's. We knew he'd win though, simply by tallying the glitter-lettered "Lee" signs waved by tween girls in the crowd. As with Adam Lambert's loss last year, America once again gets it wrong. No wonder Simon's jumping ship for X Factor.

Speaking of which, with everybody asking who'll fill Cowell's seat next year — Madonna and Bret Michels were thrown out last week, Howard Stern and Perez Hilton before that. The job isn't just about being an A-hole. Lyndsey Parker, our journo pal over at Yahoo, is on the right track, suggesting John Lydon, who after all, has a brutally wicked wit, but he's not pop enough. The bitch would definitely be back with Elton John, but he reportedly turned it down. So how about two other biting Brits we haven't heard mentioned yet: Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger? Music always comes down to the Beatles or the Stones (both were themes on Idol this season). If I Can Dream, indeed.

We generally refrain from touting brand names when covering sponsored events, but Ford's Idol presence (complete with videos featuring contestants' covering The Hives and Iggy Pop, and a commercial "driven" by an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song!) warrants mention. Sky Vodka throwing a bash and preview screening at the ArcLight for Sex and the City 2 deserves a shout-out, too, both for its signature drinks — Blonde Ambition and Glamour Gal were our faves — and the fete freebies designed by Patricia Field, including fedoras, scarves and blingeriffic rings proclaiming "Hello Lover." Probably the only time we ever got gussied up to see a flick and we weren't alone; ladies of all ages were dolled out in heels and fancy frocks for the latest misadventures of Carrie and "the girls."

Unfortunately, the film fell flat, even watched sloshed. The plot was as nonexistent as Kim Catrall's facial expressions these days. That said, so-so sex is still SEX, and the romp is worth having even without the climactic ending, or middle ... the beginning's pretty good. By the way, Sky's "cocktail couture" concoctions are available at spots like Rockwell in Los Feliz, Magnolia in Hollywood, the London Hotel and the ArcLight Bar for a limited time.

Jack Johnson's free concert on the Santa Monica Pier last week was as much about doing good deeds as it was about bringing sounds To The Sea (the title of his latest release). The event, put on with Heal the Bay, offered free tix to fans who volunteered time cleaning up the beach the weekend before. (And it needed it, too; HTB just released its list of beach bummers — dirtiest in Cali — and SM ranked No. 5.) Johnson attracted the expected mix of dread heads (lots of Bowersox lookalikes!), families and earthy seasiders — even "Scenester Jesus" (the robed nightlife roamer/Christ wannabe always seen at Downtown Artwalkand on Hollywood Boulevard) was there!

We joined the privileged on the pier, but the hundreds who watched the show wrapped up in blankets (it was freezing) amid the sand and surf seemed to be having the real beach ball. JJ's loose and lovely melodies — no radical departures on the new disc — may be too schmaltzy for some, but they're always heartfelt, and they couldn't have been enjoyed in a more appropriate setting. Johnson will be touring this summer, collaborating with local nonprofit groups around the world and donating profits to support environmental, art, and music education. Learn more at

We joined the masses a lot this week, but we did end it in a decidedly homier locale (as in "What up, homies?"). Scarlett Casanova's Hang the DJs always had an underground vibe, even when it was at The Echo, and more recently at the notorious Alvarado House, but its new space — a previously unknown warehouse in the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park area (the Ultra-Violet Social Club) — saw some of its most uninhibited raging ever. The dance-till-dawn Memorial weekend blowout debuted with DFA darling Hercules and Love Affair's Andy Butler on the decks, supported by fellow ginge-groover Aaron Castle, Daisy O'Dell and more. Late arrivals missed a psychedelic-hued dance-rock set from White Arrows, a band we've come to like more each time we see them. Their ballsy cover of The Boss' "I'm On Fire" is pretty hot, and it was especially smoldering thanks to a surprise sit-in from The Airborne Toxic Event's guitarist Steven Chen. Still, HTDJs is first and foremost about shaking ass, and the colorful crowd (a multicultured mesh of punk-cholitas, disco dudes/dykes/divas and fabulously f-d up fashion plates freakin' onstage and the floor) pretty much shattered the place. The real sex and the city? It's right here in El Lay, baby.

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The Echo

1822 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026


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