I don’t fully remember how or when we met Kirk from Filth Mart. I’m quite certain it happened over email and it revolved around him wanting to make shirts for Ivory Deville, a band Dave Bell (DBell) and myself manage. We went and met with him and checked out the Filth Mart and its adjoining parking lot and discussed possibly filming a Jam Van session there. Then we went our separate ways and it seemed like the interaction would go the way that so many similar introductions for potential collaborations that play out in Hollywood often go, which is no way at all. However, this ended up going somewhere, because there came a time when we needed a location and DBell and I were going back and forth as we tend to do, trying to spark an idea, and it came to us, Filth Mart! So we sent Kirk an email and they did some measuring of their lot, and some calendar checking, and all things were a go, so we moved forward with the plan.
Kirk had kind of indicated to us that we’d be filming in their front lot, which seemed like it might be a tight squeeze. Upon arrival we found out that we would be in the back where the lot opened up and was a perfect fenced in area for Jamming in a Van. Perfect is good. Especially given that we were scheduled to shoot back to back days at Filth Mart. We had ten bands coming through. Day one was pretty ideal. The Van showed up on time. The crew showed up on time. The bands showed up on time. Like I said, pretty ideal.
When I arrived Spud was in his usual lawn chair mode sharing a basket of ribs with Jack and talking with his brother James and one of their friends who happens to live across the street from me, he goes by the name Hams, and given that he’s an old school Venice Shoreline guy it was strange seeing him away from his element and out and about in Hollywood. I don’t know if I could prepare myself for watching and talking music with Hams, but I would have liked to try. Unfortunately he and James split before our first performance kicked off.
I won’t blame Jake McMullen for that. He showed up on schedule with his guitar and a friend to back him up on vocals, a pretty simple set-up to ease us into the weekend. It being the weekend and all, it wasn’t inappropriate for us to start cracking open the Lagunitas in the early afternoon. Then again, it’s never too early for that.
Jake was followed by Austin McCutchen, who brought a full band. We had been hosting a concert series at a local venue, The Echo, and Austin was one of the performers on our line-up. His band followed Jake McMullen’s lead and worked out the early Lagunitas. Luckily our buddy Norm from Lagunitas had stopped by with a fresh car load of brews for us. He brought some new stuff that Spud had apparently never tried. It was called Hairy Eyeball Ale, soon to be misnomer’ed by Spud as “that Hairy Ball Beer.”
Austin McCutchen’s brand of southern-ish rock and roll was an ideal sound for the Filth Mart. If you’re familiar with the t-shirts they make and sell there, you get that it’s a back-of-a-pick-up-truck kind of store. For the most part, our secluded location in the back kept our crowd limited to the Filth Mart employees, friends, and family, our friends and the bands and their crews, but as has been the norm over the last few shoots, some random Jam in the Van fans popped up to show their appreciation. It’s starting to become a really consistent occurrence and we’re still in the stage where it’s pretty mind blowing for us to have this happen. So we’re going to bask in it while we can.
The first time we filmed a session with Ryan Bingham we had engine troubles. We were supposed to film him at The Roxy Theater, but due to a bunk engine situation we had to have him meet us in Venice. This go-around the van was where it needed to be prior to Ryan Bingham’s arrival. So from the start it was a less stressfull session than the first. My dog RZA didn’t seem to get the memo about less stress this time, because when Ryan started shaking my hand RZA went into protect dad mode and gave Ryan a little love-nip on his wrist. RZA’s got some weird thing about handshakes, he doesn’t like them. It’s been his thing since I adopted him. So I guess I have to blame the evil people that left him at the pound for it. Whatever its cause, it’s pretty annoying when he jumps up at a person I’m meeting and makes the introduction very awkward for me. Luckily Ryan Bingham is a dog person and he simply told RZA to watch out “because I bite back!” They were buddies about five minutes later.
Ryan’s also a former rodeo cowboy, so it would have been shocking if he’d turned down our offer of a beer. He did not, and so at around 3 PM we were having beers outside with Ryan Bingham, which I must say is a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. He’s a pretty easy going guy to chat with. We talked about the now defunct Topanga Road House, which was the venue where I first became familiar with Ryan’s music. According to him, the Road House is still owned by the same guy and there is a chance that it might be coming back. I told him not to tease me about that sort of thing.
As fun as it was to shoot the shit and throw some back with Ryan Bingham, he was there for other reasons. He was going to play us three tunes from his new album and take a seat in Cuz’s Corner to chat with Spud. In the Corner Spud made sure to delve into Ryan’s rodeo days, which was a pretty interesting topic. Not surprising that our journalistic ace would go there. Ryan said he was the cowboy in the back of the pick-up truck with the guitar making up songs to sing to the other fellas as they traveled between rodeo competitions. He also told us he “fucking loves” what we are doing, and coming from a guy with a fancy Oscar statue on his mantle, that was pretty cool.
The fourth band of the day was Valley Queen, another band, like Austin McCutchen, that was playing our concert series that month. They might have been the biggest surprise on the day, because we knew fairly little about them going in aside from having played a couple tracks on the internet. They gave us a booming performance that DBell properly compared to a “rootsy Florence and the Machine.” We’re hoping to see a bit more of this Los Angeles group throughout the year to come.
A few of my pals showed up around this time and they were curious if there was anywhere to find some funny cigarettes in the neighborhood. That’s a funny thing about Los Angeles, there generally is somewhere to find them just a stone’s throw away. So as it turned out, there was a medical marijuana dispensary around the corner and they went to make a small purchase. I asked them how the shop was and their main complaint was that it was a bit pricey and they had been fed a story about how the shop was owned by a woman whom the show “Weeds” was modeled after. I asked if they were told her name, and they were, and it turned out that she was Dr. Dina, the actual lady that Nancy Botwin in “Weeds” was modeled after. Los Angeles can be a pretty funny place when shit like that goes down. You can’t really get that type of story anywhere else. So you can gripe all you want about the traffic or vane Hollywood’s materiality, but you can’t write the shit that happens here, until it happens. Then you write it and it becomes a movie. Anyways, the reefers were apparently pretty solid, Spud certainly sniffed it out, proclaiming “aaah man, I knew it had to be some black dudes with that,” once he noticed the blunt in the back.
The last band was the largest on the day, both in members and perhaps personality and size of their sound. Jessica Childress was on Usher’s team when she was a contestant on The Voice, which must be a strong contrast to filming Jam in the Van in the back of a vintage t-shirt shop. She didn’t seem to mind the change of setting one bit, and perhaps our DIY-rootsy-vision fit her soulful voice a bit better than all of the over-production that must accompany a performance on The Voice. I’ve seen her perform on The Voice and I’ve seen her perform in The Van and although both performances were extremely different, the one constant, the girl can sing!
So that was day 1 at Filth Mart, it went off without any issues. We’d found a perfect place to film, met some great musicians, and caught up with some others. We went home that night looking forward to day two… oh what a difference a day makes.
It never even occurs to me to check the weather in LA. It’s more likely than not going to be jeans and a t-shirt weather, so I more often than not put on jeans and a t-shirt. On the morning of our second day at Filth Mart (January 10, 2015) I walked outside of my apartment and quickly did a double take, I needed a long sleeve shirt and a rain jacket. That was probably sign one that the day wasn’t going to go quite as smoothly as the one prior.
When I arrived the crew was in go-mode, readying The Van for the first act of the day, Crown and the Mob. We pride ourselves on our use of green energy via our solar panels that we use to power our studio gear. However, on an overcast day such as the one in question we don’t get the full force of the Sun’s rays. Yet our panels are so powerful that we generally should be able to pull a decent charge even through clouds. On this day however, we were pulling nothing and no amount of randomly pushing buttons on the inverter’s control panel was seeming to fix the situation. So while the band of ten musicians waited under our pop-up shelters to stay out of the rain we went to power option number two, the generator. Unfortunately power option number two was also for some reason a no-go. It was running, but we weren’t getting any power to any of the outlets that it supplied. We would later come to learn that this was the result of a faulty battery in the circuit screwing with the whole system. At the time we just thought it was shit luck. So we went to option number three, which was to run a chain of extension chords out of The Van to an outlet. I searched all over the outside of Filth Mart for an outlet. Almost knocked myself out walking into a sharp piece of metal that was around back of the van, and then almost got stung by a hive of bees that had taken up residence behind Filth Mart. Almost is generally not what you’re looking for, but in this case, almost was very good. However, I did not almost find an outlet, and so we had to ask and hope that the Filth Mart dudes and dudettes were cool enough to let us run an extension into their shop. Turns out they were way cool with it.
Our sound engineer Ethan made it seem like we needed to make the ten piece band unload from the Van for a second time (we’d loaded them up once already before we knew that the solar was bunk) in order to switch to house power. I told Ethan that this was not an option, we weren’t going to run them out of there again because if we did that we would assuredly lose their good natured response to the whole ordeal and their patience. This was one of those “you’re going to find a way to make it happen” moments for Ethan, who is still relatively new to the Jam in the Van team, and I’ll say that he rose to the occasion and completed the task without the band having to move an inch. The result, possibly the best hip hop performance we’ve ever had. We’ve had rappers perform with violinists, we’ve had rappers perform with a childrens’ horn section, but never have we had rappers perform with a man playing a blue trumpet. Crown and the Mob took that crown… yup, I just went there.
It was most definitely still raining when Crown and the Mob hopped out. To give you an idea of what the weather was like, I’d been sharing a California cigarette with a member of the next band, Spurs, and he was wearing a scarf, and I didn’t find it to be completely unnecessary for him to be wearing it. Which is generally the case with scarves around these parts. He was of the opinion that it would be beneficial, given the gloominess of the day, that he have a toke of that California cigarette. Perhaps it was to spark the creative receptors, which most certainly could be reliable evidence that a California cigarette has a multitude of benefits. If one cared to argue that point I would merely direct you to Exhibit A, a video from their session, which I would recommend playing on a rainy day.
I’m sure Spurs the band is terrific on a sunny day, no doubt, but I must say, they were phenomenal on a rainy day. A statement like that needs explanation and so I justify it by making the assumption that rain is not as conducive to dancing and being upbeat as the sun is. Yes, you can dance in the rain, but no, you’re not usually looking to get your clothes all wet and muddy. Rain is a bit gloomy. It’s stay inside and read a book weather. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with a rainy day, unless it’s your wedding. A rainy day, especially in Los Angeles, can be a nice reprieve from activity. So why not have some good music playing whilst you’re being inactive? Having stood in the rain listening to Spurs live, it became very apaprent that they were the perfect band to be listening to in the rain. The music just felt right for that moment, under that grey Los Angeles sky.
Our third group on the day was perhaps the first group to ever coordinate their outfits before playing in The Van. Gavin Turek and her group were flawlessy styled in black and white attire that provided a flair befitting of their bold stage presence. Her outfit was layered with thousands of tassels that mesmerized as they swayed in rythm with her torso’s swerve, and swerve she did. I’m certain that if I put all of my mind to it I could not come close to recreating the shimmy in her shake. Her body moved as one, but yet each section of it seemed to move on its own, all the while maintaining a synch with the music. It was hypnotic. Spud stared too closely at the television and it caused his jaw to drop a bit too low, and he kind of lost his smooth when he sat down with Gavin in Cuz’s Corner. It wasn’t a terrible interview, but let’s just say that Spud’s at his best when he’s rested and his mind is clear and focused on being sharp and whitty, and on this occasion his mind was certainly not clear. So if you catch that segment on our channel and you’re expecting to learn some informative stuff about Gavin Turek and her music, well, perhaps you should re-Google it… if you want to hear Spud compliment Gavin Turek, like, a lot, then that’s your YouTube video!
Towards the end of Gavin Turek’s set I noticed a couple of girls in leather jackets and ACDC shirts sitting on our couch smoking regular cigarettes. They had that distinct look about them that said “we’re in a band.” So without remembering who the next band was at the time, I knew they were in it. Turns out the band was the Death Valley Girls, which, when I put my mind to it, made sense. So did their performance in The Van. I mean, if you’re going to wear an ACDC shirt, you better bring it like Beavis and Butthead used to bring it when a video came on that they liked. That means hump the couch with reckless abandon. Metaphorically speaking, that’s what Death Valley Girls did to The Van…
By 6PM the rain had certainly not relented. We’re ingenuitive, so we covered our Toshiba monitors with a tarp, but you can only leave the TV out in the rain for so long. FMLYBND showed up, they brought no vowels with them, and they loaded in for a very worn out and wet Jam in the Van crew. When the set started I figured let’s get this done and get out of there. However, the music was quality enough, that it caught me off guard. I enjoyed it much more than I should have, given the way I’d felt before it began. That’s a testament to the power of tunes. You can just hear some shit that sounds good and it will change your entire mindset. It will take you from down to up, and you don’t need to snort anything. It’s awesome.
That being said, getting into sweatpants after a long day of working in the rain is also awesome. So as good as FMLYBND was, we didn’t ask them for an encore. Three songs is all you get. Then it’s over and we said Filth Mart, til next time.