music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Summer In The City

Boston has Tanglewood, Chicago has Ravinia and Los Angeles has the legendary Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Hollywood Bowl orchestras. A newly renovated shell and greatly improved sound system has been in place for the last few years along with new backstage areas (now with air-conditioning!) and a comfortable musician’s lounge.

A few weeks ago, the season opened with the HBO (Hollywood Bowl Orchestra) and the annual induction of famed musicians into the HB Hall of Fame. One of this year’s honorees was BB King, who is still out touring and playing over 300 concerts a year at age 80. (I get tired playing eight shows a week just staying in town.) He may be sitting down while he plays on stage these days but his energy and enthusiasm is boundless.

I was talking to drummer Brian Miller in the wings before the show when he motioned to look beside me. And there she was…Lucille! Sitting on a guitar stand waiting for her man…priceless!

The next week, Cheap Trick came to play a Beatles set that included the entire Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Evidently, this is something they’ve been doing here and there for the last few years along with an invited group of guests. This time they brought Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Ian Ball from Gomez, as well as Simone (Nina Simone’s daughter) and Rob Laufer. I played a little rhythm guitar on Magical Mystery Tour, lead on Strawberry Fields and electric sitar on Norwegian Wood. The Beatles’ engineer, Geoff Emerick was at the board and the original George Martin arrangements were on the music stands of the HBO. The orchestra sounded great, though I wished that CT had paid more attention to keeping good time, and it was tough to hear Blackbird (sung by Simone) played in such a high key with capos on the guitar accompaniment.

In the first week of July, the LA Phil took over and played a baseball-themed pops concert for three nights celebrating the LA Dodgers 50th anniversary and Independence Day. On the last night, after Tommy Lasorda finished his ever-expanding nightly monologue, Randy Newman was introduced as the “…Oscar Award-winning, Grammy Award-winning musician/composer whose family raised four award-winning Hollywood composers.” Randy walked out, sat at the piano and said, “Yeah, and my family raised a lot of substance abusers, too!”

I love LA…

July 21, 2008 | Link to this entry

Read It Again (and weep)

Banks are teetering, the credit crunch continues, gasoline and oil prices are at all-time highs, food prices have skyrocketed, unemployment is soaring and George Bush is clueless. His upbeat pep talk yesterday was as amazingly out of touch as was his February 2008 surprise reaction that gasoline was approaching $4 a gallon. Are you better off than you were eight years ago? How about just one year ago?

Here’s a piece I wrote in May 2007 that bears repeating:

From the archives | Why The Fed Is Wrong About Inflation

July 17, 2008 | Link to this entry

Beaming Pure Psychedelic Love

On the drive to her pre-school this morning, my nearly five year-old daughter sang along almost word for word, the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s Bold As Love. OK, it was John Mayer’s version, but still…

July 9, 2008 | Link to this entry


Sylvia Plachy, a photographer whom I admire, says that great photographs have ghosts in them; fleeting actions, blurs, ethereal shadows, rays of light that sometimes appear in photographs without our intentions that bring a presence and mystery to what otherwise may have been merely a good image.

In an online photography forum that I frequent, a member tossed out this question.


Has anyone here missed something in composing a shot only to process the film, produce a print then realize an uncanny resemblance to a ghostly figure? Or religious icon?

…and answered:

No apparitions, but in 2004, I got a pair of animal crackers stuck together at the buttocks; appropriately, one was an elephant, and one was a donkey. I should have put it up on EBay.

July 8, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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