Friday, September 12, 2014

British Music Festivals That Are Infinitely Cooler Than U.S. Music Festivals

Maybe it's my infatuation with British culture. Maaaybe it's because I live in Southern California, so Coachella is the preverbial beaten dead horse. But I feel like music festivals in Britain are so much better.

Don't get me wrong — ACL is fantastic, and I've heard rave reviews of Lolla and Governors Ball, but whenever I see photos from across the pond, I get an overwhelming sense of "this is a magical music land!" and not "these people are all there to take selfies and wear flower crowns."

That being said, I know I'm not in the thick of these Brit fests (hopefully nexty year!), so I'm sure there's a whole slew of things people hate that happen at those festivals... but we're not here to talk about that.

If you're deciding to hit a festival, here are the major music weekends over in the UK.

Radio 1'S Big Weekend
If you're not familiar with Radio 1, it pity you. Besides being the home of two of my favorite DJ's, Nick "Grimmy" Grimshaw and Fearne Cotton (MAH GIRL), it's also the station responsible for giving us gems like these from their Live Lounge:

First things first: this is my dream job. Hosting a show and getting bands to do covers like this.

Can Sam Smith just stop already? He's making it hard for anyone else to compete with him. And this cover of "What Makes You Beautiful" by The 1975 — who I might actually be an offical groupie of at this point — makes the One Direction song tolerable for people who hate bubblegum pop.

This year, Radio 1's Big Weekend was held in Glasgow, and the headliners are enough to make a woman go mental:

Headlining was Coldplay, Tiesto and Katy Perry — but don't get it twisted, because they had major artists proceeding them: ONE DIRECTION (love), Ed, The 1975, Rita Ora, Kings of Leon, Bastille... Calvin Harris, and my girl Lily Allen.

By the way, if you haven't get Sheezus - one of my favorite albums this year. L8 COMMR is my top pick. I used it in my reel! And if you haven't had a chance to see her live, you'll be able to watch one of her shows online, tomorrow, September 13th. Lils really bring it out on stage... it's hard not to love her. I know she had some drama back in the day with the tabloids, but she's uber talented. (That's the end of my LA PSA.)

Back to Big Weekend: we should have seen the "In New Music We Trust" stage lineup. London Grammar, Clean Bandit, XO, Kasabian, The Kooks; Lorde. I wouldn't want to miss any of these acts. Phenomenal.

I know that Coachella and other U.S. fests are great because there's a wide array of music with hundreds of artists and bands, but it's rare that I see a lineup and start strategizing how to see every band that performs.

iTunes Festival
I'm shocked that iTunes Festival didn't make it's US debut until this year. Over in London, this is a month-long music festival. HELLO? One month for one festival. I would be exhausted, as I would be depraved of all sleep, and probably broke from taking off work and spending all my money tickets.

Held in Camden Town, the festival is this month — September. Each day, 2-3 artists or bands perform.

Here's a look at a few dates — this is an amazing lineup. David Guetta, Jessie J, Rudimental, PLACEBO — I'm getting flashbacks of high school just looking at the name. David Gray, Foy Vance and Lenny "Cinna" Kravitz.

Additionally, what's awesome about this festival is that you can watch it online, should you not be able to attend. (Might help with that bank account situation.) And because it's streaming through iTunes, you know it's going to be better than the bush league antics other stations have set up.

V Festival
V in V festival standards for Virgin Media, aka the mecca in terms of music and flying. This festival just went down in August and the one feature of this fest that separates it from most is that it's held in two different parks. So one bill plays one park on Saturday, when swaps with the other bill for Sunday.

The 18-year-old event has five stages, and Virgin Media has partnered with MTV on this one, giving them not only a stage but also the accessability to broadcast the lineup. This festival is known to be way more commercial than the others, but who cares! They can be. They've got Justin Timberlake and The Killers headlining.

Lily, Ed, Rudimental and Sam (the festival darlings) all performed as well.

I'd say Glastonbury is most on par with US festivals. Tons of tents and stages, so if you're not interested in seeing a band, you can head over for some DJ action. People camp out. It's a spectacle.

Originally a blues festival that launched the day after Jimi Hendrix died, this festival encompasses all kinds of music: EDM, pop, alternative, rap, etc. In addition to all of the music you can consume, the festival is chock full of art installations, too.

Which ones did I miss? Let me know!

Thanks to my friends at Yahoo! Live for sponsoring this post. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Things You've Got to Stop Doing on the Plane (Plane Etiquette)

"One reveals thy true self during air travel."

(I made that one up.)

But isn't it the truth? When it comes to finding "the one," many say to take trips that require flights so you can see if your significant other can really hack it. Nothing like high altitudes, screaming babies and delayed flights to prove if it's true love or not.

 I've gotten flying down to a science, so my experiences are relatively stress-free. However, that doesn't mean there aren't loads of imbeciles that plague the flying experience. And now, apparently "Air Rage" is a thing. I believe it. I've seen perfectly sane, tactful men and women turn into bona fide psychopaths on airplanes.

Perhaps we can eradicate random acts of insanity and keep the peace if we can we all agree that these things need to stop happening. Immediately.

1. Moving excessively.
I know this sounds a little strict, but all you should be doing is sitting in your seat. That's it. Novel concept, right? Pull out your computer, take a nap — whatever. Don't start aggressively pressing the touch-screen in front of you. Don't turn around and talk to your friends in the row behind you. Because regardless of if you're bothering the people immediately to the front of you or beside you, wiggling affects the rows around you, too. Just sit down already!

2. Not waiting your turn.
This peeves me more than anything else. There's a reason why there are numbered rows and aisles:
A) To stop the chaos when it comes to taking your seat and
B) To allow a safe, orderly exit from the plane.

If you are in the row behind me, do not try to squeeze in front of me once we land and the seat belt sign turns off. I am in front of you, therefore, you shall wait for me to gather my things and let exit the plane in peace. Just because you were in Group 1 onto the plane doesn't mean you're in Group 1 off. If you are in the back, sorry about it, but you get to wait until the rows ahead of you clear.

There are so many times that I'm on a flight and people from the back of the plane start stampeding towards the front. In one case, a family was going to miss a connection, so some people in front of us let them through as a courtesy and because they're human beings with beating hearts. But this caused the domino effect, and soon almost everyone from the back was trying to bypass us. I finally stood in the middle of the aisle to block the flow of traffic, let the people in front of me gather their belongings, and then exited myself. Is it that hard to wait your turn? Didn't wear learn these manners during our formative years?

Just stop.
3. Asking for the window seat.
Just don't, unless you're offering a better option. (Which, in this case, would be an aisle seat towards the front of the plane of something in first class.) Chances are, the person you're asking paid extra money for the window, or got lucky. They want to stay there. If you ask to switch seats because you have a small child, I would understand, but only if that small child was separated from you originally.

I watched a woman ask a passenger to take her middle seat across the row so she could sit next to her friend, taking the window seat. The woman obliged begrudgingly — and I would too.

4. Hot foods.
I don't want to smell Schlotzky's or pulled pork for the duration of my flight.

5. Taking over the row.
If you're in the middle seat, you have to be observant of those beside you. Just because you're stuck in the middle doesn't give you the freedom sprawl out...

And with all of these commandments followed, flying should be friendly as can be.

This post was sponsored by my friends at Yahoo! Travel. Thanks, guys!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Best Haunted Houses in Los Angeles

Sure, it's only September, but WHO CARES! I live for Halloween. Depending on when you read this, the blog is probably decked out with my Halloween banner. I looooove the eerie yet magical feeling Halloween brings with it.

That being said, whenever September rolls around, I starting plotting which haunted attractions to hit up. Here are a few favorites, and a few that I've heard great things about, but haven't attended (yet): 

House from PSYCHO - Halloween Horror Nights

1. Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Studios
One of the first things I did upon moving to LA? Hit up Halloween Horror Nights. For starters, having it take place at Universal Studios means they're going to get access to some of the best sets in the business. It's huge — depending on what type of pass you get, you may not be able to get through all of the houses. If you can, buy a VIP pass so you can hop the lines. (They get looooooong.)

The entire park is open, so if haunted houses aren't your thing, rides like The Simpsons, Transformers 3D, Jurassic Park and more are available. (Transformers is a ton of fun!) Beware, though. You don't need to hit up one of the mazes to experience some scares. Themed "Scare Zones" take over the streets of Universal, so you might might end up getting chased by clowns, a werewolf, or Jason. 

Must see: The Terror Tram is, hands down, always my favorite. You board the trams to the backlot of Universal, where some of your favorite movies and shows have been filmed: Desperate Housewives, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, War of the Worlds; PSYCHO. On the way there, a short film plays that prepares you for what's to come — one year the attraction was Chucky themed, so they created a "Chucky: True Hollywood Story" to watch. Once you get to the sets, you're forced off the tram and better start running — because people are coming after you. The past few years, the theme has been The Walking Dead, as Universal teamed up with AMC. This year, it sounds like they're adding actual scenes from the show. 

TIP: If you hit the Terror Tram, try to go right when the park opens or right before the ride closes. (It usually closes earlier than the other attractions.) The lines won't be as long and it's better to experience this without hoards of people around you. 

Blumhouse Productions

2. Blumhouse House of Horrors
I won passes to this two years ago and I'm bummed that I never made it. Producer Jason Blum created this haunted house — he is responsible for "I couldn't sleep for days afterwards" films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister.

Most reviews of this house are solid. There were slated "arrival times" for patrons who bought tickets, which helped limitate long wait times and lines. It's 40 minutes long, rather theatrical and offers an interactive element. However, some reviews state that it's more of a "watch and go" experience and that you're not actively involved in the experience.

Last year's house was themed after The Purge. (No, Jason didn't produce that one.) And apparently this Summer they opened Blumhouse again to promote The Purge: The Awakening.  Right now, they don't have anything slated for Halloween. Let's hope they have something in store!

TIPS/CONS: We have no ideas if Blumhouse will resurrect for 2014!

Yelp user Paolo H. 

3. PanIQ Room
I'm going to this next week — can't wait to update this post with my personal experience!

PanIQ Room started over in Hungary and is considered a "live-action escape experience." Reading the site, this isn't meant to be a scare-filled attraction — great news for those of you with friends who won't step foot in a haunted house! It's an adrenaline-pumping event where you have to escape your assigned room within 60 minutes.

Yelp user Paolo H.
There are appointments everyday from 10AM to 12:00 midnight, for groups of six or smaller. You choose between two scenarios: The Bunker, where you are a part of terrorist group (I don't think this was the best decision on their part) or The Insane Asylum, where you're on a medical team trying to figure out the story of a past patient.

According to the site: "At this brand-new attraction, your party will be locked in a themed room where you'll rely solely on your wits and teammates to escape. You and your friends must solve a series of logic and skill puzzles using objects found throughout the room. After completing the final puzzle, you'll be free to go -- well, at least until next time."

I have a feeling I'm going to feel real dumb after this one. Ha. Sessions aren't longer than 60 minutes, but they finish as fast as you can solve the puzzle.

I don't know much about this. Questions I have: how do we get the information? Is it through actors or through letters left in the room? What's the live-action component?

Going to Yelp for answers: many have described the production value as "top notch" and said the atmosphere is "creepy." One Yelper concludes, "it's not so much about solving puzzles — it's about finding the right clues." Okay, good to know!

Right now there are only two experiences, but a few reviews mentioned they would be back to try the Mad Scientist room. Hmm...

TICKETS: Get a deal on Living Social! $79 for six people (regularly $159)
SHOWINGS: Daily from 10:00AM - 12:00 midnight

4. Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
I haven't been to the Haunted Hayride in years, and for a few reasons: I like to be scared, and I didn't find this scary at all. Back in 2009, there was a portion where you're dragged under a big top, and a bunch of psychotic heavy metal clowns come at you. Nothing to write home about.

However, this year there are a few new attractions: Purgatory (Haunted Village), The House of the Horsemen and Seven Sins Sideshow.

Purgatory: I don't believe Purgatory is new, but Theater Macabre (within Purgatory) is. This is where re-enactments of iconic horror movies take place. Additionally, there's the Scary Go-Round, Death Row Photo Room, Jack's Carving Shack and more.

The House of the Horsemen: the description of the site was pretty much nonsensical, so I believe this is an on-site haunted house.

Seven Sins Sideshow: Again, the description might as well not be there... but I'm guessing this is a live-action circus act!

If you have a group of teens or children, this might be your best bet.

I'm going at the beginning of October, so I will update accordingly.

TICKETS: $30 general admission; $42 all access (includes every attraction on site)
SHOWINGS: Starts October 3rd. 7:00 PM-12:00 midnight select dates; 7PM-10:30PM select dates.

5. Disneyland Halloween
A family-friendly event! If you haven't been to Disneyland during Halloween, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's magical.
If you do anything, check out the Haunted Mansion for sure. They transform the mansion with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. And Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy a blast, too. Make sure you go see the goats who dress up for the occasion at Big Thunder Ranch as well.

TICKETS: $96 for Disneyland Park, $150 for Park Hopper ticket (Disneyland + California Adventure)
SHOWINGS: September 12th - October 31st

I have a complex about being alone. I think it has to do with the fact that Alice in Wonderland really freaked me out as a child — I hated that she was roaming around by herself with creepy characters harassing her! Leading her astray... and being a major pain in the ass. Nobody wants to help her and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, SHE'S A CHILD! Guide her! Damn. (The Cheshire Cat appears in my worst nightmares.) 

That being said, these next two houses are solo adventures, meaning you can go with a group, but you will go through the experience alone. I heard about both of these last year and considered going, but immediately put the kibosh on that idea after reading reviews. I do well in groups — I'll even lead the pack — but do not make me go alone! 

Blackout started in NYC and came to LA. Now it's available in Chicago. I became infatuated with this haunt and read probably every review possible... I had to know more if I were to entertain the idea of pissing myself in public. (Clearly the A+ reviews weren't enough to sway me.) 

SPOILERS: Don't read if you don't want to know some happenings that could occur during your time at Blackout.

More than being alone, I've heard revolting, crude things about this particular haunted house. In addition to waterboarding and picking a key out of vomit, I've heard people witnessing simulated rape, having to suck on bloody tampons and various other gag-worthy simulations. gave a full, detailed account of the haunt in 2012, so you can learn more about what happens at Blackout and whether or not it's worth subjecting yourself to demoralization and trauma.

... Yeah, after re-reading that, my "never going to Blackout" stance has been solidified. I like scaring myself, and part of me wants to prove I'm braver than all this hubbaloo, but I'm having anxiety just reading a few paragraphs on the internet with all the lights on. Also, I'm not going to support rape in any form.

TICKETS: Details coming soon. Probably around $50 if based on previous years.
SHOWINGS: Nothing on the site as of 9/4, except for an announcement that they're working with Queens of the Stone Age on a version of Blackout on Halloween night at The Forum. It's sold out, though.

Instagram user @aloneexperience

Hopefully the link works for you. As I type, it won't load, which is freaking me out. (Scaring myself.) I hopped on over to their Facebook page and 25 seconds before they pasted this weird photo of a bunch of numbers (a code?). Which is unsettling to say the least.

Update: Link is working now. Here's what Alone is, in their own words:
Alone is an immersive and artistic exploration of fear, loneliness and self preservation.
Considering I am most terrified to be alone (not by choice), I'm not going to fair well at this house. Reviews say it's about 30 minutes long and you'll be given a safe word and a flashlight. Oh yeah, and if you haven't figured it out by now, you're alone. Nobody to cling to. Many compare this to Blackout. Some say it's more horrifying; others claim it's not as intense.

They call you by your name, sometimes your photo is involved... patrons have claimed they were "traumatized," "baffled," and even "turned on." Hmm...

Last year's event was Downtown and one patron said they were told that one of the SAW movies was filmed at the location. So everything I'm sure was just peachy

As with any thrilling haunt, the actors are allowed to touch you, thus a release form is required. You will not find out the address of the experience until the day of your show.

TICKETS: Price for 2014 unannounced, but last year they were $
SHOWINGS: Only available information at this time is that general sale will be available on October 5th.

I had heard a lot about this play, but didn't have the balls to go. Actually, I take that back. I would have gone, but I can hardly find anyone that has the balls to go with me! 

This immediately attracted me because they weren't positioning it as a house. In fact, when asked if it's a haunted house? "Hell no!" was the response. They consider it an "interactive horror theater."

You are a part of the play, making it more interactive. (You're not just passing by and watching.) Neil Patrick Harris tweeted about how great it was, so that's how I found out about it. (I think he might produce it, or has once in the past.) I took to Yelp to read some of the patron's reviews, and knew I needed to go ASAP! (It didn't happen, though.)

The man who created it, Jon Braver, is a Hollywood stunt coordinator, so thrills are a package deal with this haunted drama. You're in a group, and many Yelpers who have reviewed say you will be 1) running, 2) crawling, 3) you'll be in the dark for some situations and 4) stairs may be involved. Additionally, the actors will be able to touch you. The part that freaked me out the most is that some people will be pulled away from the group to finish certain "tasks." Who knows what those are, but being alone is enough to give me the chills. I have read various times that you have to volunteer to be separated, but I can't confirm that. There's a psychological element to this play, as puzzles are involved. 

Mostly, people brag about the actors, how long it was (about an hour) and the set design. They say the environment and atmosphere is what sets this attraction apart from the rest — I'm all about high production quality, which makes me even more eager to go this year.

Apparently there were some permit issues last year, so they were unable to serve alcohol. I'm always 50/50 on booze... I feel like I need to be 100% sober so I can navigate these houses at my best, but then again, maybe the booze will help take the edge off. 

This year, the theme is Delusion: Lies Within. The story follows the disappearance of an acclaimed author and takes place in a 108-year-old mansion.

TICKETS: $60 with fees. If buying six or more, enter "sixcount" and checkout and get 10% off your purchase.
SHOWINGS: Every half hour from 7:00PM-12:30 AM

TIP: Yelpers consensus - wear running shoes and avoid bringing a purse, if possible. If you're clausterphobic, you might want to sit this one out. Groups can be 10-12 people, so if yours is smaller, you might be paired with strangers. 

CONS: You may not enjoy other Halloween attractions after partaking in this adventure — so acknowledge it or save this as one of your last Halloween experiences! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams

It's safe to say that many of us grew up on Robin Williams movies. What I loved most about those movies was that he was able get those belly laughs – he was so quick and had the best execution — but would touch your heart at the same time. How many times did I watch Mrs. Doubtfire with my brother and my best friend? Countless. In fact, I remember watching it for the very first time. It's stuff like that you don't forget, you know? When an actor or a movie impacts you so much, it stays part of you forever.

Mrs. Doubtfire, while it's seemingly a lighthearted comedy about a man cross-dressing as a Nanny, also broke my heart. The scene where Robin doesn't get to have his kids, when the kids realize it's him... all of those moments made you feel something, because that's how good he was. He was able to impersonate a hot dog and then hit you right in the gut, too.

I know he won't be remembered for Jack, but I remember crying hysterically during that movie. I was nine, I think. I hated watching how mean they were to Jack. "He was just a kid!" And even though I knew it was a movie, the emotions that movie made me feel lingered long after the screen went black. 

I couldn't help but to feel somber today at work. I know it sounds nuts, but it shouldn't — I felt like crying. (I sit here in tears as I write this.) Many may scoff, but I don't think it's odd or bizarre to feel this type of attachment to people. In fact, the world would be a better place if we did! 

My emotions are all over the place. Molsty, poor Robin. A man with a great, special gift, who thrived off making others laugh, was dealing with his own personal demons. I think it's a blessing that God gave him tha talent. The ability to make someone else laugh is not a dime a dozen. And I think it was a coping mechanism, too. I hate that he felt that way on the inside. 

I hate that his family and friends have to go through this. I'm sure they wondered how they could have helped or stopped him. And all you can do for people who suffer from mental illness, especially depression, is just be there for them. Offer them love. Treat them like a human being. It's not your fault.

It makes me think about the people I know who deal with depression, and bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. I would absolutely lose my mind if any of them took their life. It's important to seek help if you feel suicidal — and I know that plenty of times, if you're depressed, it may not show outwardly — but it's also important for us, as the friends and family, to dig deeper, and to read the signs; to take note and do all we can to help. Don't be idle. Take action. That being said, pleae know I'm not referring to Robin's case when I say those things. They did all they could.

I felt this way when Michael Jackson died. When Whitney Houston died. I will feel this way when George Strait dies, when Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Oprah, Tim Allen, Steve Martin... Justin Timberlake... when these people pass, I will mourn. I will feel the loss in my heart, because they impacted me so profoundly as a child. These will be the people I tell my children about. 

This isn't the major emotion I have, but it's like a piece of my childhood died. And thus I'm getting older. I remember when I was little, I'd think about the days I would get to work with Robin Williams, or get to interview Michael Jackson. It's sad that I won't get to have those moments. Maybe that's selfish. 

And to top it all off, I live in LA. Business as usual, right? A premiere is happening right up the street. And I can't help but to think, "shouldn't have all that been cancelled?" It's that stunning. Maybe it's droll of me to believe this town should have shut down, but he was probably one of the top three most influential comedians of our time. 

Perhaps my friend Kevin said it best: