Archive for July, 2013

Punk rock fans around the world have something to look forward to the rest of this year, as legendary punk rock band Black Flag returns to the stage for a worldwide tour, which started last Friday night in Orange County, that will coincide with the release of a new album. As the lineup for Black Flag has altered numerous times over history, fans will still see guitarist Greg Ginn, but fans will also remember vocalist Ron Reyes returning to the stage. For this tour, the bassist from Screeching Weasel and a new drummer will play in Black Flag. When they announced the tour back in January, many punk rock fans creamed their pants at the thought of seeing this legend perform once more, and tickets to most of the scheduled tour dates sold out within a few months of the announcement. For some locations, the venue added a second night for Black Flag fans to get their shot at rocking out to Black Flag. With the long wait to see Black Flag over, we now head on in to the pit.

Any show could not immediately go under way without openers, and this show had the time to overkill the crowd with openers. With the doors opening at 7pm, naturally the crowd assumed the first opener would go on at 8pm. Unfortunately, nothing happened until 8:45pm, when an unnamed band walked onto the stage and started playing metal-ish music. No one appeared to understand what transpired, but the crowd went with it, aware that Black Flag would come on soon enough. This first band did not play punk rock as the crowd expected, but played some kind of slow metal music, as opposed to death metal that we as a society stereotype metal as. The crowd did not reciprocate that well to this band, but they only played for 25 minutes.

Following a 35-minute intermission, the crowd ripped and roared as they saw Greg Ginn, the bassist, and drummer for Black Flag appear on stage. As we all anticipated Black Flag to start performing, another high-profile man appeared to take the lead vocals. Unfortunately this man had nothing to do with the history of Black Flag, but he has influenced the punk rock world enough to merit a spot on this stage. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mike Vallely, A.K.A. Mike V, and his (and Ginn’s) band Good For You. Although refreshing to see another prominent figure in the punk rock and skateboarding worlds, the crowd did not appear to receive their 75-minute metal-ish set too well. True, they did sound quite similar to the previous band, albeit they did have some faster songs to get the pit going. After about 45 minutes of music, random members of the crowd blurted out “BLACK FLAG!!” which escalated the next 30 minutes to more and more people shouting it out. As one of The Observatory’s more pricey shows as opposed to $10-$15 for most of their other shows, the crowd should have enjoyed all the music they could. Unfortunately, the handful that attended only for Black Flag tried to ruin it for the rest that wanted to enjoy Mike V’s presence.

Once Good For You ended, after another 35-minute intermission, the band returned to the stage, sans a vocalist. After playing some chords to rev up the crowd, Ron Reyes appeared through the fog to bright sparkling lights and a raging pit. It did not take long for the pit to reciprocate the energy, especially since Black Flag had not even started their first song, Revenge, yet. Once the music got going, people started spilling out of the pit due to the sheer physicality of everything going on; in fact, a fist fight broke out just a few feet behind me right after the band’s third song, Nervous Breakdown. Following that, the energy seemed to gradually subside, as the pit had expended all of their energy during the first few songs. Black Flag continued their 75-minute set with hits such as Fix Me, Depression, Six Pack, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Rise Above, and more. They even played Down In The Dirt, a song from their upcoming album. Once the madness had cooled down, the Gen X fans could finally just enjoy Black Flag as they want to without all the unnecessary pushing and shoving. Sure a punk rock show deserves pushing and shoving, but that belongs in the pit area, not in the upper areas.

Missed out on the Black Flag tour? They return to Southern California next week in Ventura, so stop by that show, which still has tickets available. Otherwise, check their website for more tour dates, which include some international shows. Punk rock shows happen all the time in Southern California, with at least THREE taking place this Saturday night. Always remember to follow your favorite bands on Twitter and like their pages on Facebook to receive those updates – you never know when a band will announce a secret show!

After a minor mishap at an East LA backyard show, street punk band Destruction Made Simple decided to take a short break to allow guitarist Andy’s ankle to heal. After playing one more show following that night, Destruction Made Simple returned to the studio to work on their new material, set to release any week now. As they have finished recording and worked on finishing the album up, Destruction Made Simple returns to the stage this Saturday night at Los Globos Nightclub in Silverlake near Los Angeles. As one of the bands playing this LA Summer Skate Punk Fest, expect tons of energy and intensity for an all-ages show with nine bands already on the lineup, including a small skate park set up in the back of the venue. This show runs from 4pm to 10pm this Saturday, and costs $15 to enter.

Love Destruction Made Simple? Then show it! I have two (2) Destruction Made Simple patches to give away at any of their shows. To qualify, you must possess your own Facebook and Twitter account, and a smartphone with the respective apps that you can log on to. On both social networks, you must like/follow both Destruction Made Simple and me. See the links below for easy access:
Facebook: Destruction Made Simple, One Punk Army
Twitter: @DMSROGUE, @OnePunkArmy
Once you have liked both Facebook pages and followed both Twitter accounts, use your smartphone to show me that you have done so by finding me at any upcoming Destruction Made Simple show. I may not make it to every show, so feel free to tweet me to inquire, but I can tell you right now to expect me at this Saturday’s show. In the meantime, click here to listen to a new track from their upcoming album!

LA Restaurant Week
July 15-26
Greater Los Angeles Area

Hundreds of restaurants in the Greater Los Angeles Area will participate in this 12-day feast. All participating restaurants will offer either discounts on select items, or prix-fixe menus.

Belmont Shore Stroll & Savor
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm, July 17-18
Along 2nd Street, Belmont Shore

This “Taste of Belmont Shore” occurs during the summer months annually from May through August on the third Wednesday and the Thursday immediately after. Attendees may purchase booklets of 12 tickets for $10, and redeem these tickets for food & drink samples from various restaurants along 2nd Street. Buy tickets presale now at Olives Gourmet, La Strada, We Olive, Mail Boxes etc. & Sweet Jill’s, or purchase tickets in front of CHASE BANK during the event.

Beachwood Fried Chicken Night
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, July 18
Beachwood BBQ, Seal Beach

Beachwood BBQ continues their run of special monthly dinner nights with fried chicken this Thursday night. Choose from two kinds of fried chicken, which comes with mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, and a biscuit. No reservations required, so show up whenever you like.

The Aquabats @ House of Blues San Diego
8:00 pm – 12:00 am, July 18
House of Blues, San Diego

Have a ball with The Aquabats at this all-ages show this Thursday night. Tickets cost $18 presale and $20 at the door.

2013 Nudestock
July 19-21
Glen Eden Nudist Resort, Corona

As a members-only event, they have released very limited information about this even. However, I have included the link for those interested in attending next year.

Belmont Shore Summer Sidewalk Sale
10:00 am – 6:00 pm, July 19-21
Along 2nd Street, Long Beach

Various shops in Belmont Shore will offer sales on their items. Many shops will also place their items out on the sidewalk for people to browse as they walk by.

US Open of Surfing
July 20-28
Huntington Beach, south of the pier

This week-long competition takes place on the shore south of Huntington Beach Pier. Come see professional and amateur surfers compete to take a spot for the ASP World Tour. Visitors will also find skateboarding demos and live music all week. Completely free to attend, this weekend will see thousands of spectators on the beach for the US Open. Expect heavy traffic all week. Try to find parking in the neighborhoods, but prepare to walk a long distance if choosing to park in neighborhoods, since the neighborhoods closer to the beach will remain full all week.

65th Annual Catalina Ski Race
8:00 am – 3:00 pm, July 20
The Queen Mary, Long Beach

Over 70 water ski teams from around the world will race from The Queen Mary to Avalon and back this Saturday morning. Spanning a total of 62 miles round trip, this open sea race takes approximately one to two hours for most teams to complete, but the nature of the unpredictable ocean draws in the large audience that attends every year from around the world. The deadline to participate has already passed, but spectators may visit for free, so if you like what you see, bookmark this event for next year!

35th Annual Ho’olaule’a Hawaiian Festival
9:00 am – 6:00 pm, July 20-21
Alondra Park, Gardena

This free and all-ages cultural fest at the park will feature various music and dance acts. Local vendors will sell food and merchandise too. Visitors must park in the parking structure facing Redondo Beach Blvd and enter the park’s back entrance.

Run or Dye – Los Angeles Empire
9:00 am – 12:00 pm, July 20
Fairplex, Pomona

Color runs have surged in popularity recently. This all-ages run takes place this Saturday morning at the Fairplex in Pomona. As with any color run, runners should wear all white to absorb the most color by the end of the run. Registration costs $50 per person in a team, or $55 for an individual, and the race starts at 9am. Take warning: thousands of runners all start at one time. Do not get caught in traffic & parking nightmare – arrive at least an hour early.

Renegade Craft Fair
11:00 am – 7:00 pm, July 20-21
LA State Historic Park, Los Angeles

This free and all-ages fair at LA State Historic Park will have arts, crafts, music, foodtrucks, drinks, and more. Come see the alternative side of arts & crafts this weekend. Read my first and second recap from last year for more info.

Rumble On Pine
11:00 am – 7:00 pm, July 20
Pine & 7th, Long Beach

This free and all-ages festival features a variety of things to do and see, such as a car show, BBQ, beer garden, full bar, pin-up pageants, arts & crafts, merchandise, children’s activities, and more. If you seek something to do with friends and/or family, check out this event in Long Beach.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery Craft Beer Fest
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, July 20
Taps Fish House, Corona

Taps Fish House in Corona will host a craft beer festival at their Corona location this Saturday afternoon. Following the same setup as their fest in Brea back in April, $50 gets guests all-access to several different international food stations and a set number of tickets to receive beer. Keep in mind that guests have a limit on beer, but no limits on food; as a result, I suggest getting obtaining some beers first before heading to the food stations.

LA Summer Skate Punk Fest 2013
4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, July 20
Los Globos, Los Angeles

Catch a mega punk rock show complete with a small skate park in the back of the venue. This all-ages show costs $15 to enter, and will feature some great punk rock bands such as Smut Peddlers, Angry Samoans, Evacuate, Destruction Made Simple, and more.

Chinatown Summer Nights
5:00 pm – 12:00 am, July 20
Chinatown, Downtown Los Angeles

Have a fun time this summer at Chinatownin Downtown Los Angeles. Free to attend for all ages, this nighttime festival brings together food, music, art, and beer in a multicultural setting. Expect to see food trucks, merchandise, arts & crafts, live music, live DJ’s, a dance floor, a beer garden hosted by Eagle Rock Brewery, and more. Guests can find free street parking on Spring St and the side streets connected to Spring, including College St.

The Haters 10 Year Anniversary Show
6:00 pm – 1:00 am, July 20
Tropics Lounge, Fullerton

Orange County punks will want to check out this show, complete with ten SoCal bands. Attendees can receive free tacos while present, but no one may reenter after leaving once. No one under 21 may enter.

Guttermouth @ Alex’s Bar
9:00 pm – 2:00 am, July 20
Alex’s Bar, Long Beach

Catch Guttermouth headlining this small show at Alex’s Bar this Saturday night. Tickets cost $10 presale and $12 at the door. No one under 21 may attend.

The Dirty Little Secrets – Girls On Film
9:30 pm – 11:00 pm, July 21
TRiP, Santa Monica

Catch a sexy burlesque show this Sunday night in Downtown Santa Monica, dedicated to women on film. Have cash available for parking and a potential cover charge. No one under 21 may attend.

What would civilization do without music? Music fundamentally drives people to live out their daily lives, and essentially carves out personalities, as well as mend broken personalities. All over the world, people generally have immediate access to music and can listen at their leisure. However, nothing makes for a true experience than attending a show or concert. Multiple aspects contribute towards the greater picture of a show or concert to make the music more surreal than simply listening to it through your speakers or earphones. In addition to actually viewing the artist or band, you can feel the music reverberate throughout your body, generating certain sensations only felt at a live show, such as the urge to move to the music, or the crowd if you find yourself close to the stage. By attending a show or concert, you also meet other people with similar music interests, and can usually make new friends, exchange information, and discover more music in the area. When the weather starts to warm up, more and more outdoor concerts crop up, such as Coachella in April every year. With summer now here, the weather makes it much more convenient to get out and explore the world, as well as check out some great music in the area. Southern California provides a home for numerous great music venues and spaces for concerts, so Southern California will see an endless summer of music. Looking for great concerts to attend? Take a look at these five concerts occurring in the Greater Los Angeles Area this summer, ranging from tonight through mid-September, and hit up what appeals to you while you discover new music.

5. Hard Summer Music Festival

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has always remained a popular genre in our recent history. Since the early 1990’s, people have jammed and danced to EDM through various forms, such as rave, techno, trance, dubstep, and more. Due to this genre’s lack of lyrics, EDM sounds the same to everyone around the world. This international appeal reaches every corner in the world, especially at Electric Daisy Carnival. This August, Los Angeles will see its own EDM concert with Hard Summer, a two-day outdoor concert taking place at LA State Historic Park in Downtown Los Angeles. Complete with some of the more recognizable EDM artists, such as Flux Pavilion, Justice, and Bassnectar, Hard Summer will also feature some rappers, like 2 Chainz. Hard Summer runs from 12pm to 12am on August 3rd and 4th. Tickets start at $85 for one-day general admission, and go up as high as $270 for a two-day VIP pass. No one under 18 may attend.

4. “Save Ferris”

Originally announced as a reunion show, the facts quickly surfaced that the original band members would NOT reunite, but instead vocalist Monique Powell would perform Save Ferris songs with unknown musicians providing instrumentals. Regardless of the controversy, fans of old school ska will not want to miss this rare opportunity to witness Monique Powell perform classic Save Ferris songs. This all-ages concert starts at 7pm on Saturday, July 27th at the Orange County Fair & Event Center’s Pacific Amphitheater with two other bands opening the show prior to Monique’s performance. Ticket prices range from $20 to $33 depending on the seat location, and comes with admission to the fair, so arrive early to enjoy the fair! Parking costs $10, so I highly advise carpooling.

3. Reel Big Fish @ OC Brew Ha Ha

Two headliners for the price of one! Attend the 4th Annual Orange County Brew Ha Ha Craft Beer Festival, enjoy unlimited beers, and dance to the beats of Reel Big Fish. You cannot go wrong with this event. Taking place at Oak Canyon Park on Saturday, September 7th, attendees will receive unlimited pours of local craft beers in a natural setting far from civilization, where no cell phone signals can reach. Once you have boozed up enough, Reel Big Fish will delight the crowd with their ska set so you can get your skanking on. General admission to OC Brew Ha Ha costs $45 and starts at 1pm, while VIP admission costs $60 and starts at 12pm. Remember to bring cash for parking and food, and apply sunscreen to prepare for this day in the sun. No one under 21 may attend.

2. Black Flag

The original members of legendary hardcore punk rock band Black Flag have reunited for a final worldwide tour, which caused many punk rock fans around the world to cream their pants when the band announced this tour. As one of the most influential bands in music history, you do not want to miss this chance to witness history come to life when Black Flag takes to the stage. Concert details vary depending on the venue, which sets their own ticket prices, age limits, parking, and other minor details. The tour kicks off TONIGHT starting at The Observatory in Santa Ana, which sold out months ago. However, you may still find some aftermarket tickets for sale for the upcoming shows, such as The Observatory again tomorrow night, and The Vex in Los Angeles on Sunday.

1. FYF Fest

Last year, FYF Fest raised the bar by including in the lineup Refused, one of the most revolutionary hardcore punk rock bands in history. This year, they have yet to announce something groundbreaking, but FYF Fest still remains a rock music lover’s ultimate fantasy. Featuring well-known bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flag (comprised of former member of Black Flag), MGMT, Touché Amoré, Title Fight, Joyce Manor, and more, rock music lovers will definitely find something that interests them, as well as discover new music, leading to potentially new tastes of music. In addition to the music, FYF Fest will also feature local comedians for those looking for something different other than music. FYF Fest takes place the weekend prior to Labor Day weekend at LA State Historic Park, opens at 2pm, and closes at 12am on both days. Open to all ages, weekend passes start at $99, since single-day passes sold out a while ago. FYF Fest does not allow reentries, so take note of that when arriving. For more information, check out their website, which lists a great amount of information.

Meat eaters around the world have this unexplainable fascination with bacon. This little strip of pork drives millions around the world crazy for that one special piece. If you ask random people why they like bacon, I assure you that the answers follow no sort of consistency. From portion size to the crisp texture to the salty goodness, everyone has a different reason for loving this thin strip of pork. Some producers and manufacturers have capitalized on this by selling bulk bacon with added ingredients. This results in cheap bacon circulating the markets, where the common package of bacon no longer only contains meat, but now contains other ingredients that 99% of bacon consumers cannot even pronounce. To alleviate this problem, consumers should purchase bacon not in bulk, since that comes pre-sliced and contains additives, but as a full slab of bacon. Many chefs and restaurant owners love slab bacon for the ability to control portion size, but many do not realize that pork belly also comes in this form. In America, nearly every form of bacon derives from pork belly, while in the rest of the world, people prepare pork belly as they would forms of pork, such as shredded, diced, or as one entire piece. Anyone who loves bacon should learn to also love pork belly, as you obtain more bacon goodness than just strips of it. Want to get into pork belly? Check out these five places in the Greater Los Angeles Area that serves pork belly in simple yet delicious forms.

5. Vizzi Truck‘s Pork Belly Taco

Since its inauguration in 2009, the gourmet food truck community has risen from one man’s ambition to the global empire as it stands now around the world. Thanks to numerous media outlets, especially Food Network, citizens worldwide now seek out these food trucks not only for novelty, but for the street food depicted in the media. As the hometown of gourmet food trucks, Los Angeles has provided a home to some of today’s top food trucks, and has proved a battleground for newer ones or others that simply could not keep up with the strenuous work of operating a food truck. Luckily, the bad ones fall out quick, while the good ones remain to serve. One can determine the quality of a food truck by its age – the longer a food truck has remained open, the more they know about the industry. Trust in Vizzi Truck, a gourmet food truck that opened back in 2009 as the first generation of gourmet food trucks. Their penchant for Coastal Cuisine appeals to a wide diversity of consumers by utilizing French cooking techniques and mixing different styles of cuisine. For example, take a look at their Pork Belly Taco. This taco takes a Vietnamese approach to pork belly and applies it to Mexican street food logic by grilling pork belly, inserting it in small street taco-size flour tortillas, then topping it off with cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikon, cilantro, and Gochujang sauce, a Korean sauce that tastes salty with a kick of spice. The veggies give the taco a tart taste to balance the savoriness of the pork belly, while the sauce helps to open up your palate to better absorb the pork belly’s flavor. Although it appears small, this taco can fill you up, not to mention that Vizzi Truck serves this taco on a bed of truck-made popcorn. If you track down Vizzi Truck, you can snag this taco for $4. Vizzi Truck employs a seasonal menu, so track them down quick before they remove the Pork Belly Taco!

4. Flying Pig Café‘s Pork Belly Buns

As a food truck owner, you would not want to stay in that realm for too long. For the most part, entrepreneurs and/or chefs enter the food truck industry as a means to get their feet wet, learn the ropes of the industry, invest some capital, and then apply the acquired knowledge towards opening a brick & mortar business. In some cases, the entrepreneur can continue to operate the food truck, but due to the uncertainty of profit on a food truck, at least it will operate under the safety bubble of the brick & mortar business. While a few of today’s food trucks derived from a brick & mortar business, a great number of food truck owners have made the step up into establishing a brick & mortar business. Flying Pig Café, one such business that started from a food truck and still operates that food truck, now calls Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles their home. Flying Pig Café still serves many of the items from the truck that many fans will recognize, but they now also serve plated entrées, such as fried rice or Loco Moco, and alcoholic drinks such as wine and craft beer. Luckily, the fan favorite Pork Belly Buns still remains on this menu. They braise pork belly and place it on a steamed bao bun with red onion escabeche (similar to pickled red onions), pickled sesamé cucumbers, and death sauce, their signature spicy sauce. These ingredients work well to bring out the flavor of the pork belly, as the death sauce opens up your palate, while the tart veggies provide balance to the meat to support the savoriness. If, for some reason, you still have doubts about this, check out their Happy Hour that runs from 5pm to closing Monday through Thursday, where all customers can not only receive $4 beers (including Allagash Curieux!), but also order 2-for-1 buns, meaning TWO Pork Belly Buns for just $4! Come here much? Park in the Arts District a few blocks away, where the street meters only run until either 4pm or 6pm, depending on the street.

3. Hopscotch Tavern‘s Pork Belly Rillettes

As time marches on, things cannot remain the same forever. Over time, everything has to change as part of human nature. Our way to living has provided us with the necessary means to adapt to change and fit in to new lifestyles quickly, while those who take longer to adapt tend to suffer setbacks or misfortunes in some areas. Many people may swear by old standards and traditions, but eventually these traditions will meld with the present. This explains the need for some restaurants to change their menu every so often. While some simply employ a seasonal menu based on product availability, few others may completely overhaul their menu. Hopscotch Tavern in Downtown Fullerton recently completely redesigned their menu after roughly 7-8 months in business. With a half year’s worth of experience under the table, the crew at Hopscotch decided to carefully examine the menu and revamp everything. They did away with the previous Low & Slow moniker, and now serve up gastropub faire, such as fried duck, chilaquiles, blue crab tots, pig ears, and their new Pork Belly Rillettes. The Hopscotch crew concocts the rillettes with pulled pork belly, fills a mason jar with it, and tops it off with an apple & lemon salad. On the side, you receive toasted baguette slices and a scoop of Bacon Onion Jam. If you have never had rillettes before, you eat this like a spread – spread some of the jam on a baguette slice, then lather the pork belly on the slice. Pro Tip: spread everything on every slice prior to eating – this allows you to control how much each slice receives as well as attempt to balance the jam and the rillettes. If sharing this plate, inform your party of allocating the spread if you intend to do so, so they know that each slice will have similar amounts of the jam and rillettes. Looking for a craft beer pairing? Go for an IPA to cut through the saltiness of the rillettes. Personally, I usually order whatever they have on nitro. Truthfully, you cannot go wrong with whatever you order here. Despite a completely brand new menu, Hopscotch remains a true gem nestled in a town of club-goers.

2. Red Table Restaurant‘s Grilled Pork Belly

Thinking about marketing and public relations, who honestly uses it the most? What levels of business utilize strong marketing versus free marketing? Everybody can benefit from free marketing media, such as Facebook and Twitter – those only require time for research and generating content. Who would you say utilizes paid marketing? I can tell you right now that those at the top do not pay for marketing. Entities at the top already possess the best position, and thus do not need to market. Those at the bottom do not pay for marketing, as they cannot yet afford it. Those in the middle, or the second-best, will pay for marketing, as they already have a decent position in the industry, but need that extra boost to usurp the leading individual, group, or company. When you have a product or service so great that consumers constantly crave it, your consumers turn into your free marketing material, as they will market for you via word of mouth. Red Table Restaurant has come a long way with their worldly gastropub cuisine. Since their inception in 2011, Red Table has traveled a long way to get to the status that they sit at right now. Masked by a Trader Joe’s and tucked away behind the respective shopping center, Red Table needed something to get the word out about their strange location out to the general public. Needless to say, Chef Louie Jocson’s international epicurean experience has received international media attention, using just his unbelievable food to garner a solid following with the associated word of mouth that slips around from ear to ear. Although Red Table displays daily/weekly specials, their regular menu contains plenty of unforgettable dishes, such as their Grilled Pork Belly appetizer. This $9 plate comes with four thick slices of grilled pork belly with crispy skin, drenched in soy vinegar, and topped with pickled onions & herbs. A perfect portion for parties of two to four, each bite seems to get better than the last with the soy vinegar sauce building in intensity, not to mention the tartness from the pickled onions resetting the salty flavor from the combination of the pork belly and the sauce. For a craft beer pairing, you definitely want to go with an Imperial IPA if Red Table carries it; otherwise, go for a regular IPA. Feel daring about the pork belly? Red Table offers an entrée with pork belly – the Pork & Beans, which I will cover in a future post. Until then, get over to Red Table in West Huntington Beach, located behind Trader Joe’s once you find it. With its proximity to the beach, how can you not want to go to Red Table this summer?

1. Fickle Restaurant‘s Molasses Pork Belly

Three cheers for fresh faces, who we always welcome into the industry for bringing on new challenges and new ideas. Whenever faced with a new person, such as a new kid in school or a new co-worker, we welcome them for bringing on a new face to break monotony, plus any of their ideas and intellect that they can bring to the table. Although far from the hivemind concept, pooling together knowledge generally leads to improved outcomes for the setting, from the classroom to the workplace and further than that. New people will also face challenges adapting to the new setting, and will require time to acclimate with everything going on around. Sometimes, the new people will have to pair up and work together to solve problems and make progress. Other times, a sole new person will come up with multiple ideas, and will need to somehow combine them to work out for the greater good. So when building space opened up in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, the genius behind Fickle Restaurant swooped in to claim the space. However, Fickle only came out as one of the many concepts for this space. In the end, travelers can now find two different businesses in the same space. By day, this place operates as The Sandwich Smith, of which I will review one of their sandwiches in a future post. At night, this space transforms into Fickle, a restaurant with a menu that can unpredictably change at any given time based on the chef’s whim. Whereas many other restaurants change their menu based on season and availability of ingredients, the folks at Fickle simply change the menu whenever they want, in addition to the available supply of ingredients. As such, customers can only truly find an accurate menu by visiting the restaurant to read a menu in person, as opposed to looking up their website, which they have not updated since late June. Luckily, Fickle does keep some of the fan favorites on the menu for a longer duration, such as their Molasses Pork Belly. They sear a giant slab of pork belly, and place it on top of charred savoy cabbage and pumpkin purée. They then sprinkle lime pepitas around the plate before drizzling a balsamic sauce around the plate. Pork belly lovers rejoice – you now can have your pork fat and eat it too! Very few places will serve a slab of pork belly this large, let alone for the reasonable price of $18. Good luck getting through this dish, as most ordinary people cannot get through half of this pork belly due to the overwhelming pork fat presence. If you can stomach it, you will taste this pork in your mouth for days, on a similar degree to foie gras. Got a hankering for craft beer? If you feel the need to tone down the intensity of this dish, order an IPA, which they usually carry on tap. If you want to intensify the pork flavor, order any Belgian beer, which Fickle currently carries in bottles. If you find yourself visiting often, note that you can likely park in the Arts District, located just a few blocks southeast from here, on the street for free, as the street parking meters stop running after 4pm or 6pm, depending on the street. Parking meters also do not go into effect on Sundays all day. Who knows when Fickle will decide to take this off their menu? Just like the definition of the word, this menu changes on a whim, so if you go in one time, do not expect to observe the same menu on your next visit.

Summer has arrived, which means grilling season has landed upon us. As an American tradition, citizens officially start the grilling season on Memorial Day weekend, as that signifies many things. First off, on that weekend, Americans celebrate an important federal holiday to celebrate and honor the lives of those lost while serving for the United States Armed Forces. The weather starts to significantly heat up by this weekend, following the inconsistent weather of April and most of May. As a result of the warmer weather, Americans take advantage of a holiday weekend off of work until the next federal holiday, Independence Day, to gather some friends & family for a party involving grilling. When thinking about grilling for a group of people, what food exactly comes to mind? I guarantee that hot dogs and hamburgers top the list. The notion to purchase these items in bulk contributes to the misconception that these foods do not taste good. The phrase “You get what you pay for” has never applied as much as it does now, as most who purchase in bulk tend to pay low per individual unit. If you seek quality, you will have to drop extra money for it. Hot dogs tend to bear questionable ingredients, but true hamburgers still exist in this world. If you happen to find yourself in Southern California this summer, check out these five places to grab some of the best burgers you will ever have. One bite into these will change the way you look at hamburgers forever.

5. The Federal Bar‘s The Federal Burger

When a brand grows large in popularity and demand, one should expect that brand to expand the reach to a larger scope or audience. For example, Southern California’s own Slater’s 50/50 has recently opened their sixth overall location in the Inland Empire, while Eureka Burger has FINALLY concocted plans to expand into Los Angeles and Orange County. Not too long ago, when The Federal Bar in North Hollywood grew beyond their walls, they first opened up another restaurant right around the corner under the name Bow & Truss. Eventually the demand for Fed Bar grew so much that they had to expand past their little bubble in North Hollywood. As a result, they opened their second location in Downtown Long Beach this past April. Boasting nearly the same menu, The Federal Bar maintains the theme of a prohibition-era federal reserve bank while operating as a full-fledged gastropub. Along with a menu stocked with terrific craft beers, fine wines, and artisanal spirits, The Federal Bar serves up classic gastropub faire with a gourmet spin, which you can fully grasp in their namesake, The Federal Burger. Cooked to order, this burger comes with garlic chips, smoked cheddar, bibb lettuce, black peppercorn aioli, and balsamic onions on a brioche bun. For a manly meal, add some Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Tots, and order a Pale Ale. The combination of the garlic chips plus the balsamic onions creates a potent yet pleasing taste that unites tart with savory for a contrasting yet balanced finish. Remember that you can order this at both the North Hollywood and Downtown Long Beach locations, so you have no worries about distance, since one of them lies within your reach always!

4. The Bottle Room‘s Uptown Bacon Cheese Burger

More often than not, a hole-in-the-wall joint carries some of the best of the best. These places may not advertise much, but they focus on product quality and great service so that they get more business via repeat customers, but especially word of mouth. Other times, some great places lie way out away from urban sprawl in cities and/or neighborhoods no one would expect. Given today’s stereotype of the common hipster, one would expect trendy places to dine and shop at in cities like Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and a lot of other beaches. How often would someone tell you about a trendy place more inland, but not quite to the hills yet? Out in Uptown Whittier, many small-town business owners call Greenleaf Avenue their “Home Away From Home” because of how much the community strives to make it pedestrian-friendly to both locals and travelers. Regardless of the questionable level of safety of the outlying neighborhoods, one cannot deny the small-town charm of Uptown Whittier, especially in a little restaurant & pub known as The Bottle Room. This small and dark restaurant caters to a wide audience with their televisions behind the bar, their drink selection, and their food that they cook out of the smallest kitchen proportional to the dining area. In fact, the bartenders here have more space to move around in than the kitchen staff, which has to share their tiny space with the stewards. Do not allow the small stature of the kitchen fool you, as they can craft some unexpectedly delicious eats with their limited resources. Of particular note, they grill up an Uptown Bacon Cheese Burger with bacon marmalade, cheddar cheese, one big fried onion ring, and barbeque sauce. For best meal results, upgrade your side to their Sweet Potato Fries, which comes with a fried ginger seasoning and garlic aioli dipping sauce. Craft beer enthusiasts will want to pair this meal with an IPA. Skeptical about this place? They have all-day Happy Hour on Sundays, so head on in on Sundays, and bring friends and/or family and treat them to great eats with small-town charm.

3. Grill ‘Em All‘s The Berzerker

What happens when you unleash the fury of heavy metal guitarist & icon Zakk Wylde on the smash & grab heavy metal burgers of Grill ‘Em All? You get a face-smashing off-the-menu special that nobody can consume like any old burger, and this burger has nothing “any old” about it. As this year’s April 20th (4/20) special, the legendary guitarist teamed up with the boys from Grill ‘Em All to create the monsterpiece known as The Berzerker. This mammoth meal contains a half-pound burger over chipotlé ketchup and white truffle pomme frites, which gets topped with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, a giant fried onion ring battered with Eagle Rock Brewery‘s Solidarity, and Hellfire Chili. If Grill ‘Em All carries it, pair this brute with a red ale. On April 20th, 2013, any bloke brave enough to order The Berzerker received their burger with TWO beef patties. Grill ‘Em All still carries The Berzerker as a secret menu item, but only for a limited time, so act fast on it! If you feel bold enough to attempt to conquer The Berzerker in its original form, request it that way when you order. Do not forget to take pictures or video tape it to cement your heavy metal legacy.

2. The Morrison‘s Filet Burger

I curse Panera Bread for a cashier once asking me if I wanted more bread with my bread. How often do you get asked if you want to add more of almost the same thing? For example, what if you ordered a baked potato, then your server asked if you wanted to add some fries to that? Well everyone should limit their bread and carb intake, but that kind of talk belongs to fitness instructors. Needless to say, depending on the situation, sometimes adding more comes with greater benefits. In these cases, they call it an ‘upgrade’ of sorts. To make things different enough so that it does not feel like simply an upgrade, use two different lines of thoughts or products.  North of Los Angeles up near Atwater Village, The Morrison has taken traditional Scottish cuisine and added a dash of American insight to create a menu more appealing than just upgrades to the standard American gastropub faire. In addition to Happy Hour seven days a week, The Morrison employs a featured Burger Of The Month. However, they retain the more popular burgers on their standard menu, including their famous Filet Burger. Sitting between a sliced English muffin, port salut cheese gets sandwiched between filet mignon and a thick burger patty seared with marrow butter, which then sits on a bed of coleslaw and remoulade sauce. The menu says the burger comes with fries; however, I did not ever receive fries with my burger. Regardless, I did not come here just for some fries, and neither should you. You should come here for this epic burger with an explosion of meatiness and meat flavor. Words cannot accurately describe how the marrow butter affects the burger patty, but expect a sort of crisp texture from the outside of the patty full of meaty fatty flavor that holds the juice all inside the patty. To cut through all that savoriness, order an Imperial IPA to pair with this burger – if the Morrison does not carry an Imperial IPA, a standard IPA will suffice. The Morrison’s assertive servers will ensure you receive the best food & drinks they can offer. If you can get past the male servers’ Scottish gruffness, you will grow to love this place.

1. The Back Abbey‘s Back Abbey Burger

Any new business owner can dump a lot of money on marketing and public relations. Entrepreneurs need to discover all possible means of getting the brand out to the public, whether free or paid. Using the internet for social networking comes with no monetary cost other than time and research. Using other media may require a cost, such as a local publication, or through the use of a coupon, such as with Groupon or Living Social. However, the marketing and public relations will never matter if the brand does not deliver a product or service that the public crave. The public has to want what the brand has to offer – the marketing simply drives new customers to the brand. In the long run, a great product and/or service will get customers coming back for more, and eventually more customers will come in thanks to word of mouth. Despite a location off on the side of the beaten path, The Back Abbey has long established their legacy as the go-to gastropub for worldly drinks and worldly cuisine that employs international cooking techniques to deliver an unexpected spin on expected dishes. With an old English themed interior, The Back Abbey appeals to all ages with its quaint design, the dimly-lit dining area, the close interpersonal tables, and the unbelievable menu that everyone will want to share. Of course, you want to have your plate to yourself, especially after you take one bite into the Back Abbey Burger. Before I explain what sits on this burger, I have three words: double caramelized onions. Look at that bed of onions beneath the burger. Imagine how juicy, how soft, how sweet and how meaty those onions must feel and taste to hold that burger up. Aged gouda cheese, Niman Ranch bacon, mustard aioli, and micro greens top off this burger, all sandwiched between a sliced brioche bun. I have no idea who came up with this combination of ingredients, but I praise an upper deity for gifting a chef with the knowledge to produce one of the best burgers of all time. No set of words can describe how this all tastes other than the right balance. Each ingredient works harmoniously to contribute towards the big picture of constructing this gold standard of burgers. All burgers come with a side salad, which I suggest eating first since the burger may overwhelm your palate if you have not prepared your palate. As The Back Abbey serves mainly Belgian or European beers, you may not always find an IPA to pair with this burger. Instead, inquire from your server if they carry a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, or anything close to that. You may go as light as a Belgian Golden Ale, but I advise against any beer lighter than that. If you find yourself in the Claremont area, you may feel tempted to visit Eureka Burger or even Beer Belly Deli. Opt to try out The Back Abbey if you have not already gone there. Your friends will feel jealous that you ate from there first.

The 2013 Anime Expo wrapped up this year’s installment at the Los Angeles Convention Center this past Sunday. This annual 4-day expo for all things Anime & Manga attracts exhibitors and fans from across the globe for the largest gathering of its kind in the world. What started as a simple expo for those in the Anime industry has grown to encompass anything remotely related to the art of Japanese art & animation. Today, this large expo now hosts artists, designers, vendors, video game companies, technicians, actors/actresses, voice actors, models, musicians, singers, cosplayers, and much more to spread their work out to the public as well as interact with the fans. With so much to do, so many people to see, and so many people wanting to get in (tens of thousands of visitors on the first day!), naturally the organizers had to make this expo cover a span of four days every year.

As the current world’s largest expo of its kind, one can expect sheer overflow of people in the area for miles. Road traffic did not face as much of a problem, save for the exuberant parking prices that reached upwards of $40 per vehicle. Pedestrian traffic caused the most headaches, from the uncontrolled crosswalks to the endless line of jaywalkers. If anything definitely terrorized attendees, the line to enter the expo caused the most grief. From getting in line to getting into the building, the wait on Thursday morning took over three hours… in the hot summer sun. Strangely, very few attendees seemed to complain about this, as if they accept this year after year. For a first-time attendee like myself, I speak for many other first-time attendees when I say that this expo NEEDS an attendance limit. Comic Con follows an attendance limit, yet still sells out in under a minute every year. Upon questioning some returning attendees, they mentioned that at least a hundred attendees camped overnight, and that entering the line at 8am when the expo opened still took over an hour to get in. They also mentioned that the first day always sees the most amount of attendees, which sounds reasonable. Lesson learned: if attending Anime Expo, either attend extremely early on the first day, or attend on the second and/or third day.

The actual expo covered the entire span on the convention center, both the South Hall and the West Hall. The main expo occurred in the South Hall, while the West Hall housed the miscellaneous activities, such as workshops, video game competitions, cosplay contests, and more. The expo simply had too much going on, so I understand why most attendees purchased either the two or four day pass rather than just a single day. The expo contained different sections based on the content; for example, attendees could find the artist booths at the back, the autographs at the right, the merchandise in the middle, and celebrity/actor appearances at the front.

For any type of expo or convention of this nature, sure we may want to pay attention to the exhibitors, but at the heart of any gathering of this kind, our attention instantly turns to the cosplayers. Attendees love to dress up as their favorite character to show their pride and/or craftsmanship, while some simply slap together a lazy costume just to blend in somehow, such as the hundreds of attendees with a Teemo hat. For Anime Expo, the world’s largest expo of its kind, attendees either go all in or go nothing. Observe some of the fun costumes from Day 1 of the 2013 Anime Expo:

As an added bonus, my cousin also took a handful of photos, and you may now observe Anime Expo from his point of view too:

Missed out on Anime Expo this year? Fear not – the 2013 AM² Con returns to Orange County on the weekend of August 23-25, two months later than last year. Unlike last year, AM² Con now requires a minimal admission fee that starts at $5 compared to Anime Expo’s $40 per day – expect to see nearly the same things, but on a smaller scale. If you desire the massive crowds and content that Anime Expo offers, the 2014 Anime Expo takes place July 3-6 next year back at the Los Angeles Convention Center. On the bright side, this gives you plenty of time to work on that amazing costume that will wow everyone!

Slow Children @ Chain Reaction
6:30 pm – 12:30 am, July 10
Chain Reaction, Anaheim

Catch a local punk rock show this Wednesday night at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, with six bands total playing that night. Tickets to this all-ages show cost $10. If you cannot find parking in their parking lot, park on S Loara St.

2013 Lightning In A Bottle
2:00 pm – 12:00 am, July 11
10:00 am – 11:00 pm, July 12
10:00 am – 10:00 pm, July 13
10:00 am – 8:00 pm, July 14
Lake Skinner, Temecula

If I could pick one word to describe Lightning In A Bottle, I would pick hippie. Lightning In A Bottle brings people together from all over the world to celebrate earth and life with music, art, dance, yoga, speakers, workshops, and more. Expect to encounter thousands of people with a hippie mindset, like Woodstock but more controlled. Ticket prices vary depending on the mode of attendance, and they offer a presale discount, so check the prices on their site, and if you like what you see, purchase a ticket online to save some green.

Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk (Second Thursdays)
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm, July 11
Downtown Los Angeles

This free monthly event takes place over many blocks in Downtown Los Angeles. Many galleries will open late, and some parking lots will contain more art, vendors, food trucks, entertainment, and more. Unless you know business owners, free parking does not exist in Downtown LA, although some meters only operate until 8pm. First-time visitors should attend with someone who has gone here before.

2013 Orange County Fair Opening Day
12:00 pm, July 12
OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa

The OC Fair this year runs Wednesday through Sunday each week starting July 12 with the final day on August 11. The fairgrounds open 12pm until 12am on weekdays, and 10am to 12 am on weekends. For opening day, all guests receive FREE parking and enter the fair for FREE. Click this link for special ticket promotions. Click this link for info on the Super Pass. Every year, a new fried food gets introduced, such as deep-fried Kool Aid or deep-fried butter. Last year, they allowed guests to bring their own foods to get fried, and they will continue that tradition this year.

2013 Body Art Expo
2:00 pm – 11:00 pm, July 12
11:00 am – 11:00 pm, July 13
11:00 am – 8:00 pm, July 14
Fairplex, Pomona

Check out this all-ages tattoo expo running all weekend at the Fairplex in Pomona. Hundreds of tattoo artists from across the nation will fly in this weekend to deliver their works of art onto willing bodies. The expo will also feature live tribute bands, freak shows, a beer garden, hot body contests, tattoo contests, plenty of merchandise vendors, and more. Attendees interested in receiving ink should book an appointment with an artist – walking up to the artist may result in nothing if the artist fills up his or her schedule early. One-day admission costs $20, while a 3-day admission costs $45. Children under 10 enter for free with a paid adult admission, but note that no vendor will provide a tattoo or piercing to children. Please bring cash for parking, which may range from $5 to $10.

Black Flag @ The Observatory
7:00 pm – 1:00 am, July 12-13
The Observatory, Santa Ana
July 12:
July 13:

Legendary punk rock band Black Flag has reunited with the original lineup to play a short tour that swings through Southern California this weekend. Do not miss this opportunity to catch Black Flag in all their glory this weekend. Tickets to these all-ages shows cost $25. Act fast on these tickets, as the first night has already sold out.

Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge Race 5K
7:00 am – 7:00 pm, July 13
Orange County Great Park, Irvine

If you have watched Wipeout and have always wanted to test your mettle on that course, you now have a chance with ROC Race this Saturday. This 5K course comes complete with obstacles from various similar TV shows to create a wacky race full of challenges and amusement. Anyone 13 and up can register to participate in this untimed obstacle race, and all registrants will receive a commemorative t-shirt. Following the race, stick around for food trucks, a beer garden, and live music from DJ’s and local bands. At this moment, all of the morning times have sold out, so if you would like to register for this race, you may only choose an afternoon start time. Registration costs $65 through Wednesday, and $70 on the day of the event. If entering as a team, the team with the more registrants receive a 25% refund on their registration. Parking costs $10 per vehicle (hint: carpool), so bring extra cash with you for parking, food & drinks, and other merchandise.

2013 Tomato Battle – SoCal
12:00 pm – 6:00 pm, July 13
Lakeview Park, Silverado

Prepare to get messy and release some pent up frustration as you hurl tomatoes at thousands of other people. As an old Spanish tradition, at the inaugural Tomato Battle, thousands of attendees will throw hundreds of thousands of tomatoes through the air in hopes of smacking someone, whether aimed or not. While the tomato zerg runs, local bands will play live music, while a costume contest will occur on the stage. Food trucks and a beer garden will fill up empty stomachs (at an additional cost). Registration for Tomato Battle costs $50. No one under 14 may participate. Bring cash for parking and food. Obviously, wear goggles and clothes you do not mind getting dirty, and bring clean clothes to change into when the event ends.

Agent Orange @ Stingers Bar
6:00 pm – 2:00 am, July 13
Stingers Bar & Night Club, San Bernardino

Catch Agent Orange, D.I., Whitekaps, and more at this punk rock show at Stingers Bar in San Bernardino, complete with a full bar and food menu. Tickets to this show cost $12. No one under 18 may attend.

Lace ‘Em Up!
6:00 pm – 2:00 am, July 13
American Legion Post 241, Baldwin Park

This all-ages show features a mixture of reggae, soul, punk, ska, hardcore, and oi bands all in one night. Tickets to this show cost $8. Attendees can park for free in the venue’s parking lot.

Beach Babe Bicycling Classic
7:00 am – 2:00 pm, July 14
Shoreline Aquatic Park, Long Beach

Join hundreds of women cyclists tour the SoCal coastline from Long Beach to Huntington Beach in this beautiful annual bike ride this Sunday morning. Go on a bike ride for 15 miles or 36 miles along beach trails and bike lanes with a handful of catered rest stops along the path. Following the ride, attendees can enjoy a mini women’s expo at the finish line complete with merchandise and accessories. Registration costs $80 for a solo rider, and $210 for a team of three. Have cash available for parking, as the nearest free parking location lies in the neighborhood east of Alamitos Avenue. The website does not specify if men can participate, but photos from previous years show absolutely no men.

2013 Concrete Hero – Los Angeles
8:00 am – 12:00 pm, July 14
Los Angeles State Historic Park, Downtown Los Angeles

If you think you have the toughness to survive anything, think again. Withstand five brutal miles of unforgiving strength and agility obstacles at the annual Concrete Hero this Sunday morning. Run, crawl, climb, and swing your way to the finish line, and prove to the world that you have conquered the Concrete Hero challenge. All those who wish to participate must raise at least $400 to participate, plus pay the registration fee of $35. Concrete Hero does not discriminate, so anyone of any shape, color, ethnicity, and even age can participate. Spectators may enter for free. If you arrive early enough, you can find free street parking on N Spring St and any connecting street from W College St and northward. Later arrivals should opt for public transportation, or simply paying for the parking lots.

Origami Festival
10:00 am – 4:00 pm, July 14
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, Long Beach

Come meet and watch many origami experts at this family-friendly event on the CSULB campus. Watch origami experts create works of art, and participate in lessons to learn the art of origami. Admission ranges from $7 to $10 and includes folding origami paper. Bring cash for parking. The venue does not allow reentries, so eat prior to arriving here.

2nd Annual Doggie Street Festival
11:00 am – 5:00 pm, July 14
Westfield Century City Mall, West Los Angeles

This event focuses on dog & cat adoptions, providing people an opportunity to add a pet to their lives. Free to attend for all ages, this event comes with food vendors, live music from local bands, speakers, pet merchandise & accessories, pet services, and more.

Black Flag @ The Vex
7:00 pm – 1:00 am, July 14
The Vex, Los Angeles

Legendary punk rock band Black Flag has reunited with the original lineup to play a short tour that swings through Southern California this weekend. Do not miss this opportunity to catch Black Flag in all their glory this Sunday night. Tickets to this all-ages show costs $30. You may park behind the building for free, but do not park too deep, or you risk getting blocked by other cars.

The city of Fountain Valley hosted the 2nd Annual Dog Day Afternoon at the Fountain Valley Recreation & Sports Park this past Sunday. This completely FREE and all-ages event brought together dog-lovers from all over to the park to witness all sorts of dogs doing dog things, and encouraged everyone to bring their prized pooch. All around the field, visitors could find booths set up for multiple purposes, such as merchandise sales, accessories sales, pet care services, athletic services, special events, competitive training, pet adoptions, and much more. The center of the field featured fenced off areas for agility courses, police K-9 demos, training corrals, frisbee games, and other acts requiring a large space. As part of the 5th Annual Fountain Valley Summerfest, all visitors could enter the Summerfest area for free, complete with food, a beer & wine garden, vendors, games, rides, and other forms of entertainment for the entire family.

Anyone who loves pets, especially dogs, would not want to miss this event. Visitors could see and interact with dogs of many breeds in a controlled setting. An event like this can easily quell any trace of cynophobia in any visitor, or at least ease any negative feelings towards dogs. As a child, I greatly feared dogs, but eventually grew to love them. At the Dog Day Afternoon, I witnessed many kids fearlessly approach many of the dogs to pet them, including extra large dogs like a great dane I saw. Even for those with no fear, any visitor without a dog would love to attend this, and this may convince them to adopt a dog as well. Luckily, with all the pet adoption services available, owning a dog does not require a wait, as you can have a pet as early as the next day. Believe me – having a dog in your household will complete your life.

This past Saturday, Packinghouse Brewing Company hosted their 1st Annual BrewGrass Craft Beer & Music Festival at their facility in Riverside. This beer fest combines the unlimited beer drinking nature of a typical beer fest and adds traditional American bluegrass music to entertain the attendees. Though unintended, this event landed on quite possibly the hottest day of the year in Southern California, as temperatures hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit at one point. Although the majority of this fest took place outdoors, Packinghouse opened their tasting room and brewing facility for the attendees to walk through and stay cool in the shade. Packinghouse not only invited a couple of cooling vendors (mist sprayers, etc), but also provided plenty of mist fans strewn throughout the fest area. Most of the attendees did not appear to mind the heat, as they all exhibited joy for all the beer and all the bluegrass.

The Packinghouse BrewGrass Fest lasted over five hours, an hour more than the standard beer fest, which gave Packinghouse plenty of time and space to pack a lot of content into this fest. Originally slotted for 1pm to 6pm, the gate staff allowed guests in as early as 12pm, albeit guests could not do anything at that time except sit or stand around. As a neat convenience, guests could bring their own outdoor furniture, such as chairs, tables, and stand umbrellas. Most of these attendees set up near the stage, while others set up randomly around the fest. The indoors area of the brewery served as a shaded haven for overheated guests, as no booths existed inside. Most of the action took place outside, where guests would find the stage, all the beer, and the three food trucks. Wait, three? As you may expect, the three food trucks maintained persistently long lines the entire festival. As a rule of thumb, invite one food truck for every 200 expected guests. This beer fest clearly oversold tickets (more on this later), so why only bring on three food trucks? I spent 20 minutes in line, then another 40 minutes waiting for the actual food. At a beer fest, nobody should accept this sort of wait. But enough about food – on to the beer!

Packinghouse proved they have many friends in the craft beer industry with this beer fest. The original lineup contained a massive 27 guest breweries in attendance, plus Packinghouse! I may not have seen the complete set of breweries while at the beer fest, because I had tasted every single beer present by 5pm. Either not all 27 breweries attended, or most breweries brought session-ish beers. Due to the extreme heat, most breweries decided not to bring anything strong to prevent dehydration via excess alcohol. As a result, I had difficulty selecting the strongest beer of the fest. After sifting through all the breweries, Valiant Brewing comes out on top with the strongest beer of Packinghouse’s 1st Annual BrewGrass Craft Beer & Music Festival.

For a beer fest that oversold tickets, things did not go as bad as overselling tickets would conspire. For Packinghouse’s first attempt at this type of fest, they fared rather well, yet still hit a couple of speed bumps. The overflow of guests caused parking problems for those that arrived after the start time of 1pm. Most of these late guests parked in a parking lot belonging to an industrial building around the corner from the brewery. Luckily, that building does not operate on weekends, so no automobile got ticketed or towed. They also did not invite enough food vendors to cover every guest. Whether food truck or food booth, for every 200 guests in attendance, an event organizer should invite one food vendor. Expecting a thousand guests? Invite five vendors in any combination, such as three trucks and two booths. Besides the three food trucks, guests could purchase desserts or sauces, but those hardly count as actual food when drinking mass quantities of beer. Other than that, everything ran smooth for a first run. The fest itself never felt crowded – just the parking lot and the wait for food felt like a crowd. Attendees not into bluegrass music simply tuned it out or did not pay attention to it. After the first ten minutes of music, I phased it out in my head, and never noticed the music again until I left. For a beer fest hosted by a brewery, I held high expectations, since as history taught us, beer fests held by a brewery tend to outperform beer fests from a non-brewery organizer. Suffice to say, this does not rule out non-brewery organized beer fests altogether, as some of the better beer fests also come from a non-brewery organizer. Always follow/like breweries in your area, as they may have special events from time to time. Some of these events can host hundreds of people like a beer fest, while most of the events will take place with a few dozen guests.