Thursday, August 19, 2010
A beer fest in Del Mar, a music festival along the 101, and Fitz and the Tantrums play the Casbah. There's a little something for everyone this weekend in San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Summer seems finally to have arrived in San Diego, and there are some great laid back summertime activities on our Weekend Preview. But for the energetic among us there are also intense events, like a scavanger hunt and scientific experimentation. And as usual, lots of tasty bands and restaurants. Joining me for the Weekend Preview are my guests. Erin Chamber Smith, senior editor at San Diego Magazine. Erin, welcome back.
ERIN CHAMBERS SMITH (Senior Editor, San Diego Magazine): Thank you. Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: And Liz Bradshaw is the curator at The Loft at UCSD. She’s worked in the music industry for many years. Liz, good morning.
LIZ BRADSHAW (Curator, The Loft, University of California San Diego): Good morning, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: We’re going to start out with a restaurant, Craft & Commerce, that’s just opened in Little Italy. And, Erin, tell us about it.
SMITH: Well, I love that this restaurant is open in Little Italy, very selfishly, because it’s about two blocks down from the magazine offices, so it’s fun to have a new spot to try. And Little Italy’s kind of been all wine all the time for the last few years, lots of wine bars, lots of Italian restaurants with good wine lists. Craft & Commerce brings a really neat cocktail program and a really great beer list as well as a food menu to Little Italy. And the owners and the proprietors behind it are the folks that brought us Neighborhood down in the East Village, a really popular burger and beer joint, as well as the Noble Experiment, sort of that, you know, secret text message the thing to get in behind Neighborhood and then also the gentleman behind El Dorado, a cocktail bar downtown. So a really neat sort of duo teamed up for Craft & Commerce.
CAVANAUGH: Now have you sampled this enough to have a favorite thing to eat at Craft & Commerce?
SMITH: Oh, yes. I’ve already been in a couple of times and actually they’ve done a good job with Craft & Commerce of kind of explaining themselves. I think with Noble Experiment, when that came out it was a little ethereal and people didn’t quite know what it was or how to find it and then everyone found out about it and it was crazy. This place, they’ve toured media through it several times. They’ve been really clear about their concept. They really want to sort of bring in the craft behind really upscale cocktails and really use high end ingredients but then they also want to, you know, make money and, you know, sell really good food and have a really packed house. So I was in for a tour where I got a special tour with Arsalun and he explained the whole philosophy’s kind of a – He’s a thinker, the owner behind this restaurant. But then as I said, it’s two blocks away from my office, so I’ve been in twice since then as well, and I love the snacks. I actually brought the menu in with me. I like the menu, too. It’s a one-page menu.
SMITH: The whole menu fits on one page, including sweets. But they have this Applewood Bacon Crackerjacks that they’ll give you, and if you go in and have a beer, this is the yummiest thing. It’s equal parts sweet and smoky and salty.
SMITH: It’s like popcorn drizzled with like a caramelly kind of a sweet, sticky, Crackerjack-y sauce, and then applewood smoked bacon dotted in and stuck to everything. It’s just divine.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I know. I’m going to get hungry during this. You know, well, tell us a little bit about the ambiance. I heard that there are audio books playing in the bathroom?
SMITH: Yeah, I’ve heard that, too, and when I’ve been I haven’t heard them. So I don’t know. I mean, it’s definitely a new place.
CAVANAUGH: It’s a mix.
SMITH: Well, it’s a new place. It hasn’t been open that long so I’m sure that they’re still sort of, you know, fixing small things like that but it’s a really neat place. Arsalun, the owner, when he was walking me through, he was explaining that he’s sort of right now into this idea of social engineering, bringing people back to the conversation and, you know, creating a space where people actually come and hang out and talk about ideas, and it’s a very sort of idealistic kind of a neat thing. But he doesn’t take himself too seriously either at this place. I mean, there is a whole wall of books and there’s like quotes from famous authors written, like literally painted on the booths in this place, but then there’s also a big mirror right in the center. It’s a really teeny-tiny restaurant. I love small restaurants, too. It’s really teeny-tiny and he had all these design consultants tell him well, you’ve got to put mirrors in your space because it gives people the illusion that it’s bigger. So he puts the mirror and then right on the mirror it’s written on there, it says, this mirror’s supposed to make my restaurant look bigger. Like he’s, you know, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. So it’s definitely kind of a casual atmosphere. It’s not a fancy restaurant at all.
CAVANAUGH: And my last question about this restaurant has to be the cocktails. Are they any good?
SMITH: Yeah, they’re really good cocktails. They’re definitely sort of handcrafted. They make a lot of their own, you know, mixers and liqueurs and all that stuff in house. They also have a really neat punchbowl program there where they – They went on eBay and found these great old antique punchbowls, like pretty big, and you can order a punchbowl full of cocktails. It’s huge. It’ll – For like four people, and then you all – there’s like a ladle in it and they give you little punchbowl cups. It’s so cute.
CAVANAUGH: It’s good you can walk back to work, that’s all I have to say.
SMITH: Exactly. And I do like the beer cocktails, too. They do a really neat – They do beer and then they sort of mix it together like they would with cocktails and I had one with like raspberry beer and like fresh raspberries, and it was really good.
CAVANAUGH: This is Craft & Commerce. It’s on Beech Street between India and Sixth. Liz, Fitz and the Tantrums are playing at the Casbah tonight. Tell us about them.
BRADSHAW: Well, Fitz and the Tantrums are a five-piece LA band and they’re a super-duper buzz band right now. And they have – they’re very, very well dressed, I will tell you. And with an excellent female vocalist. Very classy, bluesy of Motown, northern soul, but, you know, with a now feel. So they’re not trying to recreate anything. They definitely have their own sound but it really kind of takes you back in time to that souful kind of groovy Motown era. It’s very, very cool. Fitz—and they have a really airtight ensemble. They have members of the band that have played with people like Macy Gray and bassist for De La Soul. And so they – they’re really proficient musicians who really know what they’re doing and super-duper tight. So…
CAVANAUGH: And it’s good timing for us because their new album is coming out this month, right?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, their new album, “Picking Up the Pieces,” comes out next Tuesday, August the 24th, and it’s their first full length album. The band Arifelli (sp), a recent band, started playing together, I think, in 2008. Since then we’ve seen one EP been released from them and then this’ll be their first full length next week.
CAVANAUGH: Well, we do have a sound byte from – let’s hear a track off the new album, the album called “Picking Up the Pieces.” This is “Winds of Change.”
(audio clip of Fitz and the Tantrums performing “Winds of Change” from their new album “Picking Up the Pieces”)
CAVANAUGH: That’s Fitz and the Tantrums, “Winds of Change.” That’s a big, full sound.
BRADSHAW: Yeah, they have this, you know, great, wonderful organ which is, you know, you can really hear it coming through as a centerpiece. And then, you know, they have this female singer who’s just so up there, right with the Fitz himself. He describes himself as Ike and Tina onstage. Which is great. And you just heard a slower song off the album, you know, and a lot of the album is actually quite a bit more upbeat than that and very, very groovy. So…
CAVANAUGH: And the band got their break through a Public Radio station in LA. Can you tell us about that?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, so Santa Monica-based KCRW and their show “Morning Becomes Eclectic” have been really championing this band for quite some time now, since the release of the EP, and they had them on for in-studio sessions and they’ve also – This week, you can listen to their whole album before it’s released on a preview on the website. So…
CAVANAUGH: Oh, fabulous.
BRADSHAW: …I definitely encourage people to check it out if you’re thinking about going to the concert this evening.
CAVANAUGH: And it’s tonight, Fitz and the Tantrums plays the Casbah tonight. Moving on to something, I don’t know, maybe it’s more energetic. It’s a scavenger hunt. Tell us about 3244 Urban Scavenger Hunt, Erin.
SMITH: It is just this sort of – I mean, it’s kind of random, if you think about it but it’s a couple of women that put together an urban scavenger hunt all throughout San Diego. It happens once a month. It’s real kind of mysterious. You have to like find the sign-up online. They have like a Google site set up but it’s, yeah, it’s a site where you just scavenger (sic) all around the city of San Diego looking for, you know, each little post and then at the end, whoever makes it back to the final point first gets a prize. Kind of a fun, something different to do.
CAVANAUGH: Who’s putting this on?
SMITH: It’s a group called 3244 and it’s just two independent women that put it on sort of just for fun, for kicks.
CAVANAUGH: Now there’s an environmental theme this week?
SMITH: Well, I don’t know if it’s so much environmental. It’s green but I think it’s more green having to do with money, so I think that’s sort of the general theme. Each clue is going to have something to do with money. And essentially what you do is you all meet at a starting point. Once you RSVP for this, you meet at a starting point and you do have to bring your own GPS device with you because it’s all about coordinates.
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
SMITH: That’s how you find your way around the city.
SMITH: And they – literally, you – you’ll get sort of a clue that’ll take you to a place somewhere. I looked at some pictures of their past ones and I could tell that some people were like down in some of the ravines in Balboa Park and all over the city and you’re looking for boxes that have something inside them. So essentially you have to get to find each box all over the city and take one of whatever’s inside and it totally varies depending on what it is. And then…
CAVANAUGH: I see.
SMITH: …in any order that you want, and whoever makes it back to the end point with all of one thing from each box wins.
CAVANAUGH: Now, so these things have been planted by the organizers.
CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. So you say there are prizes. What kind of prizes?
SMITH: They’re different every time.
SMITH: And – But the other thing to note is at the end the winner does get a prize, then everybody who participated, you can participate with groups of up to one to four people, everybody meets up at a restaurant. Again, which you don’t know until you start the scavenger hunt…
SMITH: …but everyone meets up at a restaurant or a bar afterwards for, you know, drinks and food and to sort of chit-chat about it after the end. So even if you don’t necessarily win the prize, you still get sort of, you know, drinks and food and – anyhow.
CAVANAUGH: Now how long has this been going on?
SMITH: It’s been going on for a while and they do it about every month but it’s so funny. I was like – I was hoping to say, yeah, if you can’t make it this weekend then check out the next few months. But even like the schedule for the next few months, like some of them, they’re like we don’t know what it’s going to be yet but it’s going to be on this day and if you have any ideas, e-mail us. So it’s like it’s kind of neat, it’s real grassroots and sort of organic the way it’s all happening.
CAVANAUGH: Do we have any idea how many people actually participate?
SMITH: I have no idea.
CAVANAUGH: It could be one, could be three.
SMITH: But – Yeah, but you can do it in a group, so it’s not like individual people competing against each other. It’s one to four people in your group.
CAVANAUGH: Is this a family friendly event?
SMITH: That’s one thing that they do note. There’s not very much information that they tell you about it but they do say it’s not for kids, which you can sort of understand. You’re, you know, going down in ravines in Balboa Park and maybe having a beer afterwards, not such a kid thing. And not a dog or a pet thing either. They say no lemurs, no dogs and cats to come. So pretty much just, you know, you and your friends or, you know, you and your family.
CAVANAUGH: Are there – is there any kind of equipment that you need to bring besides the GPS?
SMITH: Okay, how’s the – I told you this is a little bit random. But, yes, you have to bring your own GPS and, really, if you don’t have – and it can be your iPhone, it could be a, you know, those Garmin things you stick in your car, anything, but they won’t give it to you and if you don’t have that you won’t be able to find anything. So definitely GPS, definitely your ID. And for this one that happens on Saturday, they say bring $3.00 worth of quarters and three pennies. So, you know…
SMITH: …do with that what you will but also sunscreen and a hat because you will be running around outside.
CAVANAUGH: Mysterious to the end.
SMITH: I know.
CAVANAUGH: The Urban Scavenger Hunt takes place this Saturday. Liz, I talked in the very beginning about summer finally coming to San Diego and there’s a surf music festival going on Friday and Saturday called “Summer Fun on the 101.” Tell us about it.
BRADSHAW: Yeah, so when I saw this, I was really excited. I mean, it might be a surprise to you but I’m not originally from California.
BRADSHAW: But the kind of spirit of this event is the kind of thing that drew me to the area in the first place just to go all hippie for one second, surf, fun and music all in once place. It’s based up in Encinitas in the Leucadia area. It’s a festival that’s been organized by Michael Schmitt as a celebration of the area, a celebration of the local surf, the sun, the music, culture of Southern California, the lifestyle and also a way of highlighting and promoting local businesses in the area that are centered around that kind of north coast, Highway 101 area. So super fun and exciting, there’s a lot going on, music, art, restaurants to go to.
CAVANAUGH: Well, we all know Beach Boys when we think surf music but what actually does qualify as surf music?
BRADSHAW: Right, well, I’m not sure I’m officially qualified to give you the official answer.
CAVANAUGH: I’m qualifying you.
BRADSHAW: Thank you very much. So, you know, you’ll recognize traditionally that surf sound came around in the late 1950s, the early, early part of the 1960s and was very popular in the music scene associated with the rapidly, rapidly growing surf scene at the time in LA and Orange County. You know, you can expect surf music traditionally to be kind of that instrumental with an electric guitar and a saxophone, think Dick Dale and the Deltones and that kind of thing. And if you do want a good rundown, it does say on their website to ask Paul Johnson of the Duotones. He’s been playing this kind of music since the 1960s. So you can go along this weekend and actually ask him the definition. But part of the idea of holding this festival by the organizers is to really explore like what’s surf music today? And what does surf music mean to people who enjoy the surf culture today? And so you’ll hear punk, jazz, traditional Hawaiian, reggae, folk, ukulele and they just really say that surf music, it’s what the surfers dig. So…
CAVANAUGH: And you’re also going to hear the featured band the Mattson 2. What is their sound like?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, so this great, great band, the Mattson 2, they are signed to the uber-stylish Santa Cruz-based Galaxia Records. and, you know, you can really, when you listen to their sound, it’s – there’s all sorts of things going on. They’ve got this kind of like vintage jazz sound but then you can really picture this beautiful kind of longboarding scene in a Thomas Campbell surf movie. They’ve collaborated with people like Thomas Campbell, Tommy Guerrero, keyboardist Money Mark who also worked with the Beastie Boys, and just a whole host of people, actually, around the world. And they’re – Actually, I’m not sure if they’re still going to UCSD but they were both – they’re two brothers.
BRADSHAW: Jonathan and Jared, and they are music students at UCSD or at least were the last time I heard. So…
CAVANAUGH: Let’s hear a little of the Mattson 2 with “Longing of the Leftist.”
(audio clip of the Mattson 2 performing “Longing of the Leftist”)
CAVANAUGH: That’s “Longing of the Leftist” performed by the Mattson 2, and they’re the featured band at “Summer Fun on the 101.” What venues will we be hearing music at this event?
BRADSHAW: The event kind of runs the whole weekend. The opening party kicks off at Lou’s Records in Leucadia this – sorry, Friday evening at 6:30. It’s a free show with the Mattson 2. Then on Saturday there’s music running simultaneously from noon until 7:00 p.m. on the Ray-In (sp) Stage at Surfy Surfy’s which, again, is on the 101 and it’s actually the space that the Longboard Grotto, a very, very well known longstanding surf shop used to be in. And then also there’s going to be the Green Decade Stage at the Revolution Bike Shop. So you can catch – there’s about 10 bands in total, I think, playing at this stage.
CAVANAUGH: And just about how much is it going to cost you?
BRADSHAW: Well, it’s actually a suggested donation for this and it’s $10.00 and then 50% of the proceeds go to the Paul Ecke School has a Garden program up in Encinitas. So just, you know, what a bargain for all that great music and fun and enjoyment.
CAVANAUGH: Our surf expert, Liz Bradshaw.
SMITH: Gotta love it.
BRADSHAW: Surf music as well.
CAVANAUGH: “Summer Fun on the 101” takes place Friday and Saturday in Encinitas. For more information, you can go to their website, summerfunonthe101.com. Erin, tell us about the Beerfest at Del Mar.
SMITH: I know, I’m just picturing the lines of traffic on Highway 5 heading north, everyone going to the surf festival…
SMITH: …now it’s BeerFest at the Del Mar Racetrack, one of the most popular events of the summer at the track, is happening this Saturday, yeah. The infield is going to be one big brewing party all day Saturday.
CAVANAUGH: How many types of beers and only local breweries?
SMITH: Organizers say 75 different types of beer are going to be there and not all local, definitely, I mean, the majority local. We are sort of, you know, ‘the’ sort of beer capital of the United States nowadays. And lots of local beers, Ballast Point, Green Flash, Coronado will be there. But then also some non-local ones. Gordon Biersch will be there, Firestone, everyone and anyone.
CAVANAUGH: Now are there any specific breweries you’d like to recommend?
SMITH: Ballast Point is always a good one and then I like Pyramid. They make a nice sort of wheat, wheaty hefeweizen style that I always, if I see that on a beer list, I’m always, oh, I’ll have that. That’s sort of my go-to one. So that’s what I’ll seek out and find.
CAVANAUGH: Now it’s not just beer, it’s the band Weezer playing. For those who don’t know, tell us who they are.
SMITH: Yeah, Weezer is a band, we were actually just talking about this in the green room, that I don’t really listen to so much any more but it definitely reminds me of being in high school sort of back in the day, but they’re back and touring, I guess, this summer, stopping at cities or something?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, definitely. And I think Rivers Cuomo, he’s the lead singer of Weezer, they actually had a tour planned out and then I can’t remember now whether it was – I think it was earlier on in this year and, unfortunately, due to an injury, he was unable to play.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah.
BRADSHAW: Yeah. But, yeah, I totally agree. I was thinking back and I think the last time I went to see Weezer was actually in 2000 or 2001 when I was still at college, so I haven’t listened to them much in a while, but they were always that fun indie band with lots and lots of kind of singalong songs like Buddy Holly that you’re…
SMITH: Yeah, I was going to say, that’s all I remember.
BRADSHAW: And Undone My Sweater that…
SMITH: That’s the Buddy Holly song.
BRADSHAW: …you know, everyone’s going to know.
SMITH: Yeah, I remember that song. It kind of takes me back a little bit.
CAVANAUGH: Now is this going to be an expensive day out?
SMITH: No. You know, that’s – The Del Mar Racetrack, it really depends, you can buy, you know, a bunch of different kinds of tickets there. I think the cheapest tickets are set at $10 or $20 but you will have to pay extra to get into the infield for the BeerFest part. It’s a $15 charge but that does give you five free tastes of beer once you’re inside and then if you just want to hang out the whole day, you can keep buying more tastes as the day goes on. But it will be at least 15 bucks to get you in after you are in the track.
CAVANAUGH: The Del Mar BeerFest is this Saturday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Liz, your next recommendation is about a regular event in San Diego that you think we need to know about. Tell us about the National Comedy Theatre’s Improv Night.
BRADSHAW: Great, well, the National Comedy Theatre, they have the theatre here in San Diego, which is based on India Street and then they also have a New York location, too. They perform regular shows every Friday and Saturday night, 7:30 and then 9:45 p.m. showings, too. And the style of improvisation they do is the short form style of improvisation and very, very audience participatory. It’s “Think, Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
BRADSHAW: And so it’s kind of a series of games and scenes all based on audience selections and shout-out suggestions, etcetera, etcetera, and on top of having these regular shows, there’s a couple of different shows they do. They have a Sunday company who are kind of the up-and-coming improv artists. They run courses and classes on improv and they have a college team and then kind of a late-night, midnight show as well they do, so there’s a lot going on in that little place.
CAVANAUGH: Now can we expect clean comedy?
BRADSHAW: You know, you can expect clean comedy. And I don’t know why I was surprised when I saw this on their website. But, yes, it’s a clean show. All ages are welcome. And it’s appropriate for all ages, too, apart from the midnight showing. I think that’s when they can get a little risqué but the regular Friday and Saturday, 7:30 and 9:45, it’s fun for all the family.
SMITH: That’s a rarity these days…
SMITH: …to have a family comedy show.
CAVANAUGH: Indeed it is. The National Comedy Theatre Improv perform every Friday and Saturday night at their theatre on India Street. I want to really race through two things that are happening this week that I really want to mention. The Reuben H. Fleet’s Bio Bonanza. Erin, tell us about that.
SMITH: Super fun event. The educational public program people at the Reuben H. Fleet, they do such a great job, you know, planning these events every year. This is one of those really hands-on, bring the kids down to the museum in Balboa Park and they’re going to have a special set-up. You – They’re going to have animal brains out and UCSD neuroscience experts there that are going to help you identify it. They’re going to have microscopes out and show you how to make a wet slide and how to view it. There’s going to be some kind of tarantula spider thing that you can pet. You can learn how to extract DNA. All kinds of really fun, cool science stuff for kids to do. Very, very hands-on.
CAVANAUGH: It’s Reuben H. Fleet’s Bio Bonanza, Saturday from 11:00 to 3:00. And the Chef’s Kitchen Experience is this Sunday. Liz, what’s that?
BRADSHAW: So it’s based out of Jsix Restaurant, which is on the corner of J and Sixth in the Hotel Solemar. Their executive chef, Christian Graves, has the ultimate Chef’s Table experience, that he does once a month on a Sunday. And so what it includes is you go along at ten o’clock in the morning, they take you up to the farmer’s market in Hillcrest, you get a guided tour of the farmer’s market, and then you come back and you have a discussion about food and you have a three-course meal with paired wines and it’s a, just a really fun day out.
CAVANAUGH: And is there a price point on this?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, it’s actually – you know, so it’s $120 for the whole experience. But I think what you get – I mean, there’s a huge emphasis on slow foods, sustainable food, where your food comes from, creating everything from scratch, and also the paired wines so really kind of when you take into consideration everything that this thing includes, you know, it’s a whole kind of like foodie experience rather than, you know, a fast food one. So…
SMITH: Worth every penny, I say.
BRADSHAW: Yeah, me, too.
SMITH: Yeah, worth every penny.
CAVANAUGH: That’s in Hillcrest this Sunday at Jsix Kitchen Experience and it’s at 6th and J Street in Hillcrest (sic). And really fast, if you can tell us, Erin, about your Best of San Diego Magazine Party this weekend.
SMITH: Yeah, San Diego magazine, we’re having our biggest party of the year, it’s we take over the entire NTC Promenade inside Liberty Station and we celebrate…
CAVANAUGH: Whoa, you are going fast. Slow down just a little bit.
SMITH: We take over the whole thing and we celebrate the best of everything in the city. We combine both our Best Restaurants issue and our Best Of issue where we highlight the best dogwalkers to bloggers to chefs. And actually there’s a KPBS presence there.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, there is. Our producer Angela Carone just won Best Blog in…
CAVANAUGH: …your magazine.
SMITH: And she’s on the cover of our August issue.
SMITH: So if anyone wonders what Angela Carone looks like, pick up the August issue.
CAVANAUGH: There she is. I didn’t know you could talk that fast, Erin.
SMITH: Oh, I can talk even faster. I talk fast and I walk fast. I used to live in New York and I felt very at home there because everybody talked fast and walked fast like me.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both, Erin Chambers Smith, senior editor at San Diego magazine, and Liz Bradshaw, curator at The Loft at UCSD and music industry expert and our surf music guide. Thank you so much.
BRADSHAW: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I want everyone to know These Days is produced by Angela Carone, Hank Crook, Megan Burke, Pat Finn and Julien Pearce. Senior producer is Natalie Walsh. Production Manager, Kurt Kohnen. Our production assistant is Hilary Andrews. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh, hoping you’ll enjoy the rest of the week. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.