Posts Tagged ‘contemporary music’


Monday, April 4th, 2011
Art City

Art City

I have a lot of friends who are into music. They all range in experience, depth, scope, and level of monetization.

Music is one of the High Arts of course.

How a person begins in any Art germinates in a fascination with it. I remember mine. Getting to play my Hawaiian Grandfathers Zither. I must have been about 6 or 7.  Guitar lessons at 8. Then on to the Arts in school, where I took choir, learned to sing in church, band practice, learning to read and write music. It was part of the education process in America at the time.

I have been aware that my family has always been involved in several things. They were warriors, musicians, artists, or dancers. As I grew up, in touch with the various facets of selection available by virtue of my heritage, I selected my areas of interest, and followed those in my life path. It is how I wound up where I am today, for what that is worth.

But what I learned in doing so, is how pursuing an interest will open the windows of perception up to a person. That opening, in turn may shed a light upon a pathway which no one sees but the participant. As a photographer and film maker, and someone who understands and enjoys mentoring, I always appreciate getting to watch those folks find their way. It makes me smile and can make my heart sing. In a world that grows increasingly dark these days, I need that.

In any society that wants to develop a living, vital culture, we all need the Arts. “Art is life” as my friend Joe Cardella, the Publisher of Art Life magazine for over 20 years, always says.¬† It defines, encourages, prods and yes,¬† may often disturb one. I like being disturbed. The effect tends to force me examine why I feel and believe what I do.

My son Josh gets that. I think he has always enjoyed the process of surprising me, as well as disturbing the old man. Makes me laugh actually when I think about it. He is a prodigy. I became aware of it when he was quite young, seeing a charcoal he had drawn of the Mona Lisa from memory. I think he was 6 or 7 at the time. Then later, hearing him play classical music on an electric piano with no lessons, from memory. He can do things that I cannot. Different inherent tool set than I. God does that.

I enjoy seeing the tool set in each person, and how they learn to utilize it to pursue individual visions and dreams. I got to watch a little of that the other night at a local bar. It was a place which I had not visited in awhile. For a number of reasons. (another story)

“Hey Dad, Robin Ryder has gotten me a gig performing at Bombay, it is Thursday” Josh had said over the phone. “Oh cool, I am around. Donna and I will come. I can bring a camera. What are you going to do?” I had asked. “A stripped down set, maybe me and Nick, my drummer. I need to find someone to open”. ” Well, you could ask Mason (Mason Van Valin) but he may have a problem performing at a bar since he is 17″ “Yea, lemme talk to Robin and see”. And that was it.



Thursday rolled round and at 9 pm, Donna and I were seated towards the front stage, which is at the entrance to the bar-club. Josh was already there with Nick, and dressing the stage wearing workout shorts and a sleeveless tee. Robin Ryder, talented son of a friend of mine was at the mixing board.  People began to wander in that we knew.

It was sort of fascinating as different groups arrived. The back bar area was having an event for ladies only and women strode in, sort of arm in arm. Made us smile as we realized what that was about. Kind of cool actually, considering that we live in a cow and oil town which recently has been headed towards becoming a published center for the Arts.

At around 10:15 a thin and sort of striking looking guy came up on stage. Deftly pulling a guitar out, he launched into a smooth set of bluesy rock. Matt Zeltzer, a friend of Josh’s did his music up, dashed with a cover of a Stones song. It was pretty interesting watching the 24 year old perform. You could see where he might go with it. Jeans, denim shirt, old guitar, and an easy demeanor, he engaged us all. It seemed like only moments that Matt was on stage, and he was rapidly stuffing the old guitar back into a soft case.

Matt Zeltzer

Matt Zeltzer

Josh fronts a concept and group called Love’s Secret Domain. He has been writing and producing his own music for a few years. He has been a one man show, designing and building the electronics that synthesize his sound. He is an emerging artist. I get that. But what I was pleased to realize as his show began, is that my son’s work makes me sort of uncomfortable.

On stage, Josh becomes Josh Slavin. His demeanor changes. His look becomes different, with wardrobe and makeup, and sexy 6 inch pistol heeled boots, and he vamps. Heavily. In music you can communicate everything, anything or nothing of any real significance. Maybe just make people feel nice and warm. It all has a purpose. But Josh makes me think. I like that. And his strong musical hooks, not anchored in any sort of standard modus, can literally go anywhere he wants them to. I admire that in an artist. No matter what the medium. It can grab you, pull you in close and make you look in the mirror. That act, is an antidote for much, by the way.



Here is a video grab of a song from the evening at Bombay. It is called The Nightlife.

As I listened to Sam Shoemaker yesterday, belting out a song called “In The Forest” with the Shoemaker Brothers, he spied me hiding in the audience at Bernadette’s and grinned at me, between the words, which are heavily laced with strong sexual overtones. It had been a year since Sam and his brothers did their first Ventura performance at Bernie’s place. In that time we have become friends, and I have been incredibly blessed in watching this remarkable group of men grow and thrive.

But this is how it works. One step at a time, one brick at a time, you build your foundation, you invite people along to collaborate, you have fun, and a movement starts. That can change the world dramatically, or it can simply just make people feel a little bit better. But the reality is that Art (and Music) is Life.



This year, one of my favorite groups won a Grammy. Their song and this video, is sort of disturbing. Muse. Perfect name for the song: Uprising. “Green belts wrapped around our minds. Red tape to keep the truth confined.” Yea, our culture understands the why and what of that. We really need to. Or we lose. That is why Art Matters.

I have no idea how or why this occurs, but frequently Seth Godin and I wind up doing complementary subject blogs. Here is his on the same subject. But from a slightly different direction.

Seth matters. Thank God for people that determine the path, and embrace being an oracle.


Monday, March 14th, 2011
Love's Secret Domain

Love's Secret Domain

This is a little deviation from the Loves serialization. Though the subject does relate.

The other night, I got roped into doing something I rarely ever endeavor. My son invited me to a “dive bar” to see him play. He had been working on creating a band to perform his music, and the never visited “hole in the wall” on a section of Ventura’s Main St, was to be ground zero for a shake down performance.

Josh Slavin is the stage name for Joshua Pu’u by the way. (People keep asking me.) I usually sort of just smirk. Hyperbole is everything.

His rather complex interpretation of music and performance was pretty much nailed in Seth Godin’s blog today. Bring me stuff that’s dead please. Josh is doing this. I was impressed when I finally figured it out.

It had been a busy week for Josh. One of our local papers, the VC reporter had done a little story on him. That sort of adds a  subtle layer of pressure. Especially when one spends all of their time writing, designing, and recording, pretty much alone. Guitar lessons, vocal lessons, plying the music scene in LA. Josh had delved into most of that on his own, in pursuit of interpreting something pretty much dead.

His new band shows a lot of promise. The complexity of their music and level of performance requires the refinement of a hundred dive bar performances, but that is how a craft is honed, one swing of the axe at a time. It never was lost on me that term: “axe men” for guitarists.

The process was related to me by my friend Samuel Shoemaker, who fronts a band with his brothers, called of course, The Shoemaker Brothers. (Those lyrics say everything.) Sam told me the story of them leaving home in Washington, and playing their way across the US and back, one performance at a time, each night ending with loading their gear back into their van and moving along. Zuri Star has related similar dues paying, and craft building performance campaign tales. It is just how becoming good works, in anything: one must undergo a trial by fire. The grand test is whether it ever matters of course. That is the risk. Life is lived  in a handful of moments. A career is like a fuse. Artists know this.

Here is a great NPR piece on Neil Diamond finding his music and voice.

At the end of the night, it was Josh alone in the corner of the bar. That said a lot. Because I know that for any performer, when all is said and done, it all comes back to being willing and able, to stand and deliver.

Artists are brave Mofos.

Here is the Music Video our group did for Josh and Love’s Secret Domain, for the song, “No Substitute”.

Here is a gallery of Art based branding imagery that I produced for LSD. I do a lot of this for a variety of clients and artists. It is a bit of work, but as in all creativity, when passion and inspiration rises, the hours shooting and interpreting in post seem to slip by un noticed, till at the end of the day, eyes a little gritty feeling, one swings open the door to the outside, and wow, another day in a life just passed. Glad that it mattered. Hope that is does for someone besides me.

The images were shot as we filmed the music video. The performers are Josh Slavin and Gabe Witmer.

Click on any of them to toggle through as a slide show.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.