Thursday, November 19, 2009
This weekend we explore what's happening south of the border, as well as some great music right here in San Diego. And, of course, we'll talk about the pop culture moment that is "New Moon."
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. It's usually a full moon that drives people a little crazy, but this weekend it's a "New Moon." We'll get some word on what this newest film in the "Twilight" saga is like. Plus, a chat about music shows in San Diego, a new wine bar in town, and we'll find out why it might be time to check out points of interest in Tijuana. It's time for the Weekend Preview. And joining us are my guests. Nina Garin, she’s a features and entertainment reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nina, welcome to These Days.
NINA GARIN (Entertainment Reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune): Hello.
CAVANAUGH: And Derrik Chin is content producer for Sign On San Diego where he writes about music and nightlife. Derrik, welcome.
DERRIK CHIN (Content Producer, Sign On San Diego): Hi, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Now let’s start out with the big movie, the big movie of the weekend. We talked about vampires yesterday on These Days—it was a first—and now we’re going to talk about them again. Of course, I’m talking about “New Moon.” It is the latest installment in the “Twilight” teenage vampire series. And, Nina, you have seen it already.
GARIN: I have.
CAVANAUGH: What did you think?
GARIN: I enjoyed it. You know, it’s not…
CAVANAUGH: You don’t have to feel bad about that.
GARIN: It’s not a masterpiece, it’s not a cinematic, you know, wonder. But it’s fun and it’s entertaining. It’s a great escape. And what I like is that it’s not too scary, not too kind of geeky. Like it’s a perfect amount of romance and vampires so…
CAVANAUGH: What is it – Compare it to the original “Twilight” movie. I know that this one has a bigger budget and a new director. Is it better?
GARIN: Yes, and no. So you can tell just by watching the trailers that the special effects are much better. The way they make the character Jacob pop into a werewolf is really fun to watch. But what stood out for me was how Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, she is very much improved. In “Twilight” she has a scene where she’s looking out her window and pining for Edward and it makes me laugh every time I see it. And, yes, I’ve seen it more than once.
CAVANAUGH: Giving yourself away there, Nina.
GARIN: Yes. But in “New Moon” she has to portray this incredible loss and I think she was believable this time. But saying that…
GARIN: …with all the extra money and they brought on bigger actors like Dakota Fanning, it still has moments of being overly dramatic and flowery in the way that the first movie was.
CAVANAUGH: And, as you say, there are werewolves in this one. You wrote about the actors playing the werewolf pack. What did you find out?
GARIN: Well, I met those guys a few weeks ago at a press junket and they were really great. All four of them, they have Native American backgrounds just like their characters. They know how important that is to their communities. They seemed really proud. Some of the guys used to live on reservations and they saw acting as a way out, you know, beyond construction or casinos. So there was one kid—I don’t know how to pronounce his name very well—Kiowa or…? Kiowa Gordon, he plays Embry. He was a high school kid and he went to church with Stephenie Meyer. She’s the author of…
GARIN: …the “Twilight” books.
GARIN: And she just said why don’t you go audition. He showed up, he auditioned, and he got the part.
GARIN: And then I also liked the older actors, Chaske Spencer and Alex Meraz. They – they’re very aware of what this means to them and to the Native American community.
GARIN: They know that they’re role models, and they’re really proud and they take that really seriously.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I guess, let me ask you the question that’s on a lot of young women’s minds. Is there less Edward in this movie?
GARIN: There’s less Edward.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, no.
GARIN: Yes, but I think people going to see “New Moon,” they’ve read the books and so they know. They know that going in. And for those who don’t know, I think they’re going to be too busy falling in love with Jacob to really notice.
GARIN: This is very much a team Jacob movie and so that’s going to help. But Edward is always, always in Bella’s head so he’s very much a part of it and, obviously, Robert Pattinson is this huge sex symbol so, I mean, they don’t hide him away, especially at the end.
CAVANAUGH: Good to know. Good to know. So “New Moon,” if you don’t know, opens everywhere tonight at midnight, although most of those shows are sold out. Let’s move on to music. La Ballena de Jonás, it’s a band from Tijuana playing in San Diego on Saturday night. Derrik, tell us about them.
CHIN: Well, Maureen, they’re a six-member band and the project started in 2005. And, like you said, they’re from Tijuana. And at first glance, they appear to be just a normal, you know, indy band. There’s, you know, a bunch of guys onstage with guitars and there’s a drummer. But when they start playing, it’s – it turns into this fiddle, accordion, crazy mesh of styles, so it’s pretty cool. Yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I was going to ask you, though, it’s a fiddle, accordion crazy mesh of styles but what kind of music is it?
CHIN: Well, they have a lot of influences and they cite several – they cite Astor—I’m going to say – I hope I say this right—Piazzolla…
CHIN: …Piazzolla. He was the guy who invented nuevo tango from Argentina.
CAVANAUGH: Ah, okay. You’re getting into something I know now.
CHIN: And I don’t know if you ever saw the movie “Amelie?”
CHIN: But the guy who did the music for that movie. They love him. They cite Danny Elfman, which it really does sound like it belongs in a Danny Elfman film or a Tim Burton film like, I don’t know, “PeeWee’s Big Adventure,” something like that. And I mean that in a good way.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I understand.
CHIN: In a very good way.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s hear a little of it, Derrik. This is Ballena de Jonás with the “Trecho de Parca.”
(audio of clip from “Trecho de Parca” by Ballena de Jonás)
CAVANAUGH: Now I get what you’re talking about. I understand what you mean.
CAVANAUGH: Now have you seen these guys live? What’s the live show like?
CHIN: I have. Well, more and more, they’re booking shows north of the border, which is cool, and in prominent indy venues like Soda Bar, which is where I saw them, and Tin Can Ale House, where they’re going to play on Saturday. But I really had no idea what to expect when I saw them but five minutes – no, sorry, thirty seconds into it, it’s amazing. It just – just the tempo speeds up and the accordion goes faster and faster and you’re just like what is this? And they’re from Tijuana?
CHIN: You know, you would expect it if you’re thinking stereotypically for that accordion to be used like as if it were Norteño music but it’s not.
CAVANAUGH: It’s interesting. And what is this venue like? The Tin Can Ale House?
CHIN: The Tin Can Ale House is on Fifth in Bankers Hill just north of downtown. It used to be a – it’s a little, little dive that reeked of old, stale fried food called Brothers on Fifth? And a family bought it out, the McDonald family, it’s been about a year, and they gutted the place, they prettied it up and they serve some 50 types of different beer but all in cans. And that’s the catch. They do have bottles as well but the thing is the cans.
CAVANAUGH: The cans.
CAVANAUGH: Well, La B – Okay…
CAVANAUGH: …Balleno de Jonás…
CHIN: …de Jonás.
CAVANAUGH: …plays the Tin Can Ale House on Saturday night. Yes.
CHIN: The cool thing is, it’s a free show, which…
CAVANAUGH: It’s a free show. Yeah, we should add that.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you.
CHIN: All shows at the Tin Can Ale House are free, which is the best part about the place.
CAVANAUGH: Great. Let’s move on to the XX, and, Nina, this is a band that’s been getting like huge buzz on the internet. You want to recommend them. They’re playing tomorrow night. Tell us about them.
GARIN: Well, the XX is a pretty young band out of London and I – they play what I like to call slow dance music. It’s very sexy and moody but it’s surprisingly sophisticated for how new they are. You can tell they were influenced a bit by both classic R&B and pop music because there’s a lot of bass and drumbeats. But my favorite thing about them is that when they sing they have these whispery voices and it feels like they’re telling you a secret. So that got to me.
CAVANAUGH: Is that why they’re getting all this buzz? Is it also because they are really inexperienced, aren’t they?
GARIN: They’re pretty inexperienced but they’re good, and they have more than one good song so that’s already more than a lot of buzz bands can say.
GARIN: A lot of them get successful just from one song. They also got a very high ranking on Pitchfork, the music website that’s very snobby. So once that happens, I think you’re in so that’s…
CAVANAUGH: Their debut album is called “XX” of course. What do you think of it?
GARIN: I – I like it. It is, you know, it’s very nice. It’s surprising because at first you think it’s very sparse and whispery and it’s kind of a late night, after-party record but I find I listen to it a lot on long drives because it’s also very introspective. There’s a lot of layers to the songs. You can hear bass and guitars that remind me kind of the early Cure, which is dark. But then they put kind of clubby dance beats on top of it and I think this combination is what makes them special.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s hear an album – a track from the album, that is. This is a song called “Crystalized” from XX.
(audio of clip from “Crystalized” by the band XX)
CAVANAUGH: That’s “Crystalized” from the band XX. And, Nina, I just want to ask you, I read that they don’t have a live drummer. Did that change? Did they get a new member of the band?
GARIN: They – Actually, their guitarist dropped out.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay.
GARIN: They had a band member drop out and they’re not replacing her, they’re going on as a three-piece.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, that’s interesting.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. XX plays to a soldout show at the Casbah on Friday night. Check out their debut album “XX” to find out what all the buzz is about.
GARIN: Oh, wait.
GARIN: It’s actually sold out.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, I did say…
GARIN: Oh, sorry.
CAVANAUGH: …it was sold out. Sold out show at the Casbah but you can hear them.
GARIN: And I think they’ll be coming back because there’s a lot of buzz about them.
CAVANAUGH: Counterpoint, Derrik. You wanted to recommend a new wine bar, and the name is Counterpoint. And it’s inspired – a new owner has been inspired by the travels to open this bar. Tell us about that.
CHIN: Yeah, well, it’s a wine public store. It’s on 25th in the heart of Golden Hill between F and E, I believe. Cameron Fromby is the guy’s name…
CAVANAUGH: Derrik? I have to tell you just one second.
CAVANAUGH: You’re turning your microphone off and only I can hear you. That’s not a good thing.
CHIN: All right, let’s start over then. Let’s start over. So it’s a wine public store. It’s on 25th in Golden Hill, the heart of Golden Hill. It’s been open for about two weeks. And the owner, his name is Cameron, he and his wife spent like a month last year bumming around New Zealand and he was telling me that they just came upon café after too-cute-for-words little café, one after another, and it really inspired him because he’s seen these localized, independent community gathering spaces that he kind of feels that here in the U.S. we’re losing that. So that was basically what inspired the place, and it’s in a really great building which was designed for that purpose, of a sort of residential café and commercial all together.
CAVANAUGH: Now, do you like the décor?
CHIN: The décor is rad. I think it’s the – after being in it for a few minutes, I don’t know – it’s sort of like modern, it’s very modern, but also rustic at the same time. So it’s very angular, very geometric. Polished concrete floors, you know, 30 foot walls of glass, and unfinished pine panels on the wall. And after a few minutes, maybe it was the wine, I thought this is kind of like the Jetson’s dream ski lodge.
CAVANAUGH: Great description. What about the food? What kind of menu do they have?
CHIN: The food, it’s – well, it’s a wine pub so it’s – I would say it’s kind of 60-40 wine to beer, and the food is really surprisingly affordable, which is to be said, you know, I mean, things are just getting a little more expensive, I feel. But for the kind of place it is, they range between four and ten. And it’s good, which is the best part. Two things that everyone should try are the, let’s see, the prosciutto pannino, which is low moisture mozzarella wrapped with Italian prosciutto and it comes with spicy mustard. Or also, I didn’t have this but it sounds really good, the fried beef bologna sandwich.
CHIN: It’s – it comes washed in beer on ciabatta bread.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, wow.
CAVANAUGH: That does sound good. Now, I went on Yelp and I saw a lot of people basically saying thank God there’s something in Golden Hill, thank God we have this place in Golden Hill. Is that location going to work for Counterpoint?
CHIN: I definitely think so because as Golden Hill is a very residential – there’s – I would say it’s large as far as the residential area’s concerned but there’s not – there’s not much to do in that neighborhood. So it is – it’s a good place to be. I think the people are really ready for it and like you read on Yelp, they’re really happy that the community is flourishing and growing.
CAVANAUGH: What is the price point? How much are we talking here?
CHIN: The food ranges from four to ten and the wine and beer is five to thirteen.
CAVANAUGH: And are wine bars still popping up everywhere? Are they still popular? Or is that – has it been replaced by brewpubs?
CHIN: Well, you know, San Diego was recently dubbed or knighted by Men’s Journal as Beer Capital of the U.S.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I know.
CHIN: And so you’re right, there’s a lot of beer pubs that have opened recently.
CHIN: But wine’s still – still has a, you know, a run in it all. Jake’s on 6th just opened, Mosaic, Splash, Wet Stone. Another cool place is Syrah in the Gaslamp. It’s an underground sort of vino speakeasy of sorts and it kind of looks like, I don’t know, a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. It’s pretty cool.
CAVANAUGH: It’s very – sounds good.
CHIN: So wine is still around.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, well, the wine bar we’ve been talking about, Counterpoint is on 25th Street in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego. We are talking about the Weekend Preview here on These Days. And moving on to One and One. This is a fundraising event for the Museum School happening this weekend. First off, Nina, tell us what the Museum School is and why it needs a fundraiser.
GARIN: Okay. So I’m not an expert on the school systems but from what I understand, it’s a charter school, it’s the regular school but it incorporates the arts as part of its regular curriculum. And I’m talking about specifically the Museum School.
GARIN: So aside from basic math and reading, they study things like Balinese dance or how to sew. They even have something about how to publish a story. I kind of wish that was around when I was a kid. So I guess they do get public money but they still need to finance their programs, get computers, maintain the building. And so I think 15% of the sale that’s happening this weekend will go to that.
CAVANAUGH: Well, tell us about this fundraiser. It takes place on Sunday. It is – features art and fashion?
GARIN: Yes. This is a trunk show and holiday shopping extravaganza, so it will have items by some really great local artists who normally sell their stuff in boutiques or on Etsy, so it’s not like you can just go find them at the mall. I found out about this through a local botanical artist named Britton Neubacher. She makes these tiny little terrariums and glass bubbles that you can hang on your wall or from the ceiling. If you’ve ever been to Pigment in North Park, you know what I’m talking about. So she’ll be one of the vendors. It was organized by three female artists. Morgan Salisbury, she’s from Red Button Aprons. She makes really cute aprons. Rachel Crawford, she’s from Rachel Array Jewelry. And Athena Toner-Dahl (sp), I think that’s how you say her name. She is Dear Cora and she makes really cute clothes. So there’ll be all that to buy. You can buy photography, sculpture, ceramics.
CAVANAUGH: So it’s one of these things where you can buy one of a kind items for holiday gifts.
CAVANAUGH: Now there must be events for kids since this is a fundraiser for a school.
GARIN: Yeah, there’s going to be the typical face painting and balloon animals but being the Museum School it says they’re going to have button-making and yarn spinning. I don’t know what that means. They’re also going to have a pretty cool raffle where you can win a family portrait by – I don’t remember who. John Dahl, I think. But there’s going to be a lot for families.
CAVANAUGH: Well, this fundraiser, called One and One, takes place Sunday from ten to five at the Glasshouse on Main Street in San Diego. Derrik, now I know that you have a side project that I want you to talk about. It’s called Turista Libre. What are you up to with Turista Libre?
CHIN: Well, Turista Libre is a series of sort of atypical day tours that are geared toward Americans in Tijuana but certainly not limited to Americans. So it’s – we’re in search of the overlooked and the underrated. So no narco warfare, no walks through the red light district, no donkey shows, none of that. I’ve lived in Tijuana for two years now and I’ve known for a long time that the city is so much more than that. So I keep a blog about living in two countries and my life in Tijuana, a personal blog aside from work. And I could slather the web with as many, you know, cool photos and write, you know, the Encyclopedia Britannica tribute to Tijuana but it’s not the same as just taking people by the hand and taking them there and showing them how it is to live for a day as a local and not as a tourist.
CAVANAUGH: That’s fascinating. Now in the interest of full disclosure, is this a profit-making venture for you?
CHIN: No, I only ask that you fork over five bucks for the bus because we rent short buses, and just bring a camera and bring a friend, really.
CAVANAUGH: And where have you taken people in the past?
CHIN: Well, this is a new project that – it’s a month in the making so far.
CHIN: But last month we took a tour around town to see some graffiti billboard art. An artist had put photos up on 13 different billboards around the city I think, and then they invited 8 different artists, both American and Mexican, to paint graffiti on top of these. And it’s just – the photos were beautiful, and then on top of that the paint just added to it. So we took a convertible bus ride around to see those things and then after that we completely invaded a tiny Mariscos restaurant.
CHIN: I think we set the record for the, you know, most gringos to ever step foot in the place. What else did we do? We went to a market, to an open air market and, you know, browed piñatas and cheese and after that we – we just – a lot of it is, you know, the journey is the destination so we’re walking to a lot of these places and taking public transport.
CAVANAUGH: Where are you going this Sunday?
CHIN: This Sunday is the second. This is going to be a monthly thing. This Sunday we’re going to go to see one of the city’s most iconic pieces of public art. It’s a 55 foot, 18 ton concrete statue who is known as La Mona. And the architect who designed her and built her wanted to give it to the city as a 100th birthday present. And according to the story that I’ve dug out of people and the internet is that when he went to the city to ask for the funding and for the land, they kind of laughed in his face and thought it would just fall apart. So what did he do? He actually did the most American thing ever and he built it in his own yard.
CAVANAUGH: Now how do people sign up and get notified of upcoming tours?
CHIN: Well, you can go to my blog, which is derrikchin.blogspot.com and just look for Turista Libre. And also we have a Facebook page.
CHIN: And a Twitter account. So it’s Twitter.com/turistalibre.
CAVANAUGH: And people can also go on our website, KPBS.org/TheseDays later today and they’ll be able to find all that information there…
CHIN: Please do.
CAVANAUGH: …as well.
CHIN: The point is just to really bring curious people to Tijuana because I think that there are a lot of them out there but they just don’t know where to begin.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that. Now, Nina, I know that we’re coming up against the clock. This is probably the last thing we’re going to be able to speak with. One of your favorite bands, though, is playing Monday night. They’re called Black Mamba. Why are they a favorite?
GARIN: Well, I’m just in love with the singer’s voice. You know, there’s certain voices that touch you and you can’t explain why and Amy Sanchez of Black Mamba is one of those voices for me.
CAVANAUGH: And what kind of music is it?
GARIN: Black Mamba’s two people, Amy and her boyfriend Keith. They do bring members to play live. It’s very sparse. There’s keyboards and electronic effects. They have voice echoes. If I were to compare it to something, I would say Cat Power but only way, way, way less depressed.
CAVANAUGH: Well what are they like to see live though?
GARIN: To see live, the music’s not, you know, rock ‘n roll, it’s not loud so it’s not anything too outrageous but they do – they can bring anywhere from two to six people on the stage and the way they make their electronic music feel so full, I think, is pretty remarkable.
CAVANAUGH: Now they’re playing at a venue called the Soda Bar on Monday night. Tell us about the Soda Bar.
GARIN: The Soda Bar used to be called Chasers and it was, I guess, just a hole in the wall bar and they redid it, they remodeled it, though Derrik will tell you it’s way too brown.
CHIN: Can I say, it’s called Soda Bar, it should be like Fanta orange.
CAVANAUGH: But – And it’s way too brown.
GARIN: And it’s brown.
CAVANAUGH: Is this another one of the free shows? Or…?
GARIN: This is not free.
GARIN: I didn’t get the price on that but the shows there are never more than five or seven dollars.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. We are going to go out with a track from Black Mamba called “Autumn People.” But I do want to first thank you both so much for coming in and talking to us today. I want to thank Nina Garin and Derrik Chin. Thanks so much, such new information. It was great.
GARIN: Thank you very much. This was fun.
CHIN: Thanks, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And I want to let everyone know that These Days is produced by a number of different people: Angela Carone, Hank Crook, Pat Finn, Josette Herdell, Megan Burke, Sharon Heilbrunn and senior producer Natalie Walsh. Production Manager is Kurt Kohnen, with technical assistance from Tim Felten. Our production assistants are Jordan Wicht and Rachel Ferguson. The executive producer of These Days is John Decker. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh, hoping you’ll enjoy the rest of the week. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.
(audio of clip from “Autum People” performed by Black Mamba)