Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega (Part 3)

Day 12 on the Nico Vega national tour – we’re in Pomona, headed toward LA. If you missed my previous Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega posts, you can find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

I can hardly remember where we were last night, or the day before that, or what we did a week ago. All of the days and cities and hotel rooms blend together – being on the road is a total mind game. I do remember landing in Houston at some point…staying with guitar player Rich’s family, taking a salt water hot tub at night and drinking fresh coffee by the pool in the morning.

I also remember piling into a van at 2am after the Austin show with some of the guys from Soundtrack of our Lives (the band we’re touring with). We ended up on a random residential street with a big bouncy house – inside of which people were jumping around naked and drunk. I also remember braving a blizzard in the middle of the night on the drive from Dallas to El Paso. This all happened in the last 6 days, and do trust that I'm leaving out a lot of juiciness.

It’s amazing I even have enough brain power to put together a post. But as I recall, in Part 2 – The Greenroom - we left off with Nico Vega right before performance time. So it would only be appropriate that the next place we hit be The Stage. I could absolutely flood you with words right now about the Nico Vega live show. But instead, first, I’m going to urge you to watch this video.

Now that you have some sense of the live show, here goes my attempt to put it into words: electrifying, thunderous, transcendent, rhythmic, sweat, rise up, head banging, swaying, black eyeliner, chemistry, HitPunchStompSmack, sequins, hard, seductive, scream, tear, convulsing...get the gist? It’s a wild, all encompassing sensory experience. Want me to break it down by each sense? Fine here goes:

SEE: Everybody in this band is sexy and they’ve all got an impeccable sense of style.

  • Rich (guitar, right) is way too rock n roll for his own good – his skinny jeans might as well be leggings, he’s usually showing some kind of chest and/or nipple via a skimpy tanktop. He glides back and forth across the stage, but he mostly stays on the left side by his pedal board. He can sometimes be seen looking mellow and focused. Other times he becomes possessed - his eyes rolling back into his head, and his body convulsing uncontrollably.
  • Silhouette-wise, Dan (drums, left) trends toward the more hippie/western side of rock. With his hair hanging in his face, he is usually donning skinny jeans, some kind of loose/flowy shirt, and a worn-in pair of pointy toed boots (which he exchanges for sneakers when he plays). For a drummer, Dan is out of his seat a remarkable amount of the time. He alternates between standing and sitting, yelling and HitPunchStompSmacking. He's abusing and making love to the drums at the same time - it's a scary/beautiful thing.
  • Singer Aja’s stage gear has evolved into an affinity for robes and long ethereal dresses. Sequins, hanging sleeves, wrap arounds, layers…the more elaborate and unique the better. She always performs barefoot. Aja’s movement is never predictable – you can find her anywhere from jumping atop the drum set to laying flat on the floor. She is fluid yet jerky, rhythmic yet erratic. Kind of like the musical equivalent of one of those mechanical bulls.

HEAR: It’s rock, it’s blues, it’s country, metal, funk, and folk. It’s old and it’s innovative, it’s romantic and it’s political. Rich’s guitar riffs each carry a personality and soul guaranteed to appeal to a sense of pleasure and/or nostalgia in each person. Dan’s beats make standing still impossible. Even the stiffest stiffs are bound to do a little head-bobbing at the very least. Aja’s voice is as thunderous and screaming as it is husky and seductive.

SMELL: Each of these people smell fairly decent. But at the show you’ll probably smell a fair amount of crowd sweat. People get down at their shows - a lot of jumping results in quite a bit of BO.

TOUCH: Trust me, you’ll want to touch these people. Get in the front row and you just might.

TASTE: Nico Vega tastes like hot sauce…and mint chip ice cream…a piping hot dark triple espresso Americano.

Want more? Their new video just dropped for one of my favorite songs, Gravity. I had nothing to do with it, but I'd like to do a little visual bragging about it by posting it here:

Stay tuned for Part 4...coming soon! Rock n Roll.



Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega (Part 2)

Welcome back to Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega. If you missed the first installment you can find it HERE. In Part 1 I gave you a behind the scenes look at The Road – inside the van and amid the travels. For Part 2 we park the van, venture into the venue, and take a look at The Greenroom.

The pre-show routine is somewhat of a ritual act. The Nico Vega rider (aka the hospitality stuff that they request – don’t worry, I’d never heard the term either) includes, among other items: a bottle of red wine, a bottle of Jack Daniels, fresh squeezed OJ, gingerale, organic fruit, toasted seaweed, rice cakes & almond butter, tortilla chips & salsa, and granola bars. Are all of the requests honored? Eh, not always. Do they sometimes get way more (like the brie and corn on the cob we got tonight)? Yes indeed.

After loading in all of the gear (which the boys handle, luckily for me and Aja), and after setting it up, the band dives into soundcheck. Dan pounds a hypnotic beat on the drums, Rich shreds a little somethin’ on the guitar, and Aja screams a few rounds of “WHAT?!!” into the microphone. The whole process takes roughly an hour. The Nico Vega tour manager, Derek Brener, is also their Front of House/Sound Engineer, so luckily for everybody involved it’s a pretty fluid process.

Next, ideally, comes a little chill time. The band retires to the greenroom to eat, get dressed, do hair/makeup, create a set list, and warm up. This part is exactly how you think it would be. It’s almost like getting ready for a first date on a Saturday night – you try to look your best, present your most amazing self, and hope for some great chemistry. Sometimes there are pre-show obstacles: there is no greenroom, there is no soundcheck…Aja can’t figure out a cute way to wrap the sparkly thing around her head. The band is a group of pro’s, though, so everything is pretty much taken in stride.

My personal favorite Nico Vega pre-show rituals?

Hairspray: Hairspray is a crucial part of getting ready for each band member. “Where is the hairspray?” is asked before every show...by each of them...at least once. It creates a deliberate windblown, disheveled, couldn’t-care-less look – very rock 'n' roll.

Banding Up: Wrists are stamped and bracelets are distributed to the band and crew so the people at the venue know who we are. It’s the closest thing I have to feeling Almost Famous and at this point I’ll take what I can get. “I’m with the band” is one of the most awesome things to say…ever.

Walking Out: The moment before the show, when “Nico Vega!” is called and the crew begins to march out of The Greenroom - I don’t know about them, but I feel a significant rush of adrenaline. I'm hit with the energy of the band, the enthusiasm of the audience, the anticipation of the set – it’s an electric sensation night after night.

Thus concludes Part 2 - The Greenroom. Part 3 is on the way…stay tuned! Rock n Roll.



Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega, Part 1

For the next ten days I'll be living a music lover's dream and going on tour with a rock band - one of my favorite rock bands - Nico Vega. You may remember them from a recent post I did HERE. If you don't know them yet, it would behoove you to check their MYSPACE right this second and get acquainted. I'll be driving with them, bunking with them, dancing, eating, hustling, and of course, partying with them. I will also be chronicling the whole thing and sharing it in installments.

Part 1 of my "Almost Famous" series documents
The Road.

It's not glamorous, it's not particularly comfortable - but it's rock n roll, and somehow that alone eases the pain. It's a confined space where musicians become one with their pillows, everybody is alone yet completely surrounded, and the waves of energy flow up and down as quickly as capacities of our bladders. On the road I have found myself more aware of my bladder than ever - because now my bladder isn't just
my bladder, my bladder is everybody's bladder - we're all in it together.
In case you're ever lucky enough to tour with a band (or even if you're just reading this to live vicariously through me for a few minutes), I'm going to fill you in on some insider must-haves for The Road:
Snacks: On-the-road meals only happen in the morning and at night (if you're lucky). If you're an eater (which I am) and that schedule just won't suffice (which it doesn't), you have to prepare ahead and supplement with some hearty snacks. My personal favorites: almonds, Greens+ Protein Bars, and organic beef/turkey jerky. None of them go bad, all have good proteins and fats, and they're all yummy. Also if you can get your hands on a water bottle or some juice, bring some protein powder in a ziploc and make yourself little protein shakes. Though you do run the risk of cops thinking it's cocaine if you get pulled over and get searched. Eh...
Warm socks: Feet can get surprisingly cold in those big vans. On top of that, shoes are generally off for the long halls, so it's important that your feet feel warm and cozy at all times. Guitarist Rich Koehler prioritizes socks as well, though he is particularly keen on the freshness factor - buying a brand new pack before every tour. There's just something really good about a solid pair of socks. Nobody can argue with that.
iPod: I say iPod and not book because a) I can't read in a car without wanting to vom, and b) van conversation can start at any moment. With music you can take out an earbud and jump into the flow without a hitch, but with a book you have to stop, hold your place, then pick up where you left off later. It's annoying and confusing. Save the books for the hotel rooms (that is, if you get time in between the sleeping/partying).
Chapstick: Touring involves a fair amount of climate change. Also, I've decided that I'm going to totally dehydrate myself so I don't have to be the one to make everybody stop for pee-breaks. Both of these things contribute to very dry lips.

Those are just my tips and I've only been on the road for three days, so I certainly don't fancy myself an expert. What do the professionals have to say?
Aja Volkman, Vocals: Almond butter and rice cakes, bead kit for her side hustle as a jewelry designer, down comforter for much needed snuggly time.
Rich Koehler, Guitar: El Yucateco
Extra Extra Extra Extra Hot Sauce, Sharpies/paint markers to unleash the creative beast on t-shirts, the tunes of Hank Williams.
Dan Epand, Drums:
Lawry's Seasoned Salt, Final Cut Pro (he kills it on the drums and edits Nico Vega live footage!), Bose headphones.

There you have it, music fans. There's more to come from my walk on the wild side with Nico Vega, stay tuned. Rock n Roll.


Wasson at the Tents

Yesterday I hit up the Maybelline booth at the Bryant Park tents to check out my girl Erin Wasson. She was doing a promotional signing/meet&greet - the main reason I went was because the one photo I got at the TOMS Shoes x Bergdorf event was so lame. I've seen homegirl in person a few times now and she looked more stunning this time than ever. We made eye contact a few times, I'm pretty sure it was her way of telling me she loves me too. Wuuuurdup...
Siiiiigh...sweet dreams folks.



Vivienne Tam and The Year of the Tiger

The glory of fashion week is the gift that keeps on giving. Saturday night was no exception when I pranced down to SoHo to see Vivienne Tam's Fall/Winter 2010 collection. I spent the first hour backstage where I not only got to interview Tam, but I took some behind the scenes photos (click HERE to view). The theme of her collection was inspired by Chinese zodiac animals and also incorporated a structural origami motif. Tam - stimulated by the holistic relationship between animals, the environment and humans - created a collection replete with animal print tights, fabrics that mimicked fur, feathers and scales, and stuck to mostly neutral colors while infusing provocative pops of red.

I'm not sure what came over me, but as she spoke to me about the relationship between her interest in the environment and its relationship to art, I thought of Avatar. When I asked her if she saw it she replied "I loved that movie!" her soft-spoken disposition lighting up, "It was so beeeeauuutiful, wasn't it?"

Photos via Style.com
For complete collection click HERE

Tam is a goddess and this collection is a youthful take on the high powered, glamorous, modern women. She has flair, she has funk, but she hobnobs at the Met and drinks really expensive wine that she never has to pay for. In other words, what every fashion-oriented New York girl in her 20's hopes to become.


Vivienne Tam Fall 2010 - BEHIND THE SCENE PHOTOS

I love Vivienne Tam. I love models. I love behind the scene photos. Since I was invited to the show and backstage, I thought I'd share the love with several of the photos I took. You're welcome :)
Stay tuned for a review of the collection!



Generra and the 7 Dwarfs

"We just want people to walk away from the show smiling and feeling happy," says Swaim Hutson, "it's gotten to the point that we really can't take things too seriously - we have to just relax and have fun with it all." The re-launch of Generra, by husband and wife Swaim and Christina Hutson does just that. The couple, formerly of Obedient Sons & Daughters, have recently come on board with Generra as creative directors, and are setting out to not only change the aesthetic of the brand, but the message behind it as well.

Inspired by the color combinations and blocking of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the A/W 2010 collection is youthful, casual and optimistic - similar to the brand's aesthetic in the 80's. Not only did some of the ensembles quite literally represent the dwarfs (with the little pointy knit caps), but theme was energetically fused into the bright colors, busy prints, and juxtaposition of heavier materials like alpaca and mohair, with lighter more ethereal fabrics like chiffon and silk. Though the designers can only remember 2 of the 7 dwarf's names (grumpy and sleepy), I think they were spot on in the execution of their vision.
Photos via Style.com
Click HERE for coverage of complete line.

Little piece of slightly irrelevant (but AWESOME trivia): Generra is the brand that released Hypercolor clothing in the 90's. Remember? The shirts that changed color with heat?! In case you're wondering, yes Generra still owns the rights to Hypercolor, and yes they do plan on re-releasing it at some point soon. The 90's kid in me is jumping up and down...I can't wait till it's once again acceptable to blow on other people's t-shirts.