Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Mod's Shopping Guide To Las Vegas - Part I

If you're a Mod visiting Las Vegas on vacation, that Lady Luck has smiled at you at the craps table, that you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket and that you have a day to spare, then this is the guide for you! Forget about the Lonely Planet, Parka Avenue will reveal all the Mod friendly places you must visit. You'll find out where you can stretch your dollar and pack your suitcase full of goodies. You will also learn about the places you should avoid like the plague.

Rarely do I visit an American city without leaving with a record or two. Well, this will be the exception. It's still hard to believe that I didn't manage to put my hands on a single 45. In this desert oasis, you basically have two options: Record City and Wax Trax.

I didn't even bother visiting Wax Trax. The place has such a bad reputation for having a crazy owner, that will charge you 5 times the going price for a record, that I didn't waste my time. I was thinking of going just to have a good story for this blog but I had more important ground to cover. All you need to do is check the Yelp reviews and you'll understand why he has the lowest possible score of 1 out of 5 stars.

So that left me with Record City. The place is central and easily accessible. It's clean, well organised and has a decent selection of LPs and 45s.

Like most record shops I visit, the more interesting records are behind the counter. After a quick search through the $1 to $20 rows, I asked if I could have a look at the more valuable records. 

As soon as the owner saw me with my portable Sound Burger record player, he quickly stated:

- You can't use that here.
- Oh... I see. I'm usually extremely careful...
- It doesn't matter. Those are expensive records.
- I understand. I'm here to buy. If I'm going to spend good money for a record, I would like hear it before I purchase it. Do you have a turntable?
- No. I had one but it's broken.

Well, that started on a chilly note. One of the first singles I pulled out was Darrell Banks - Open The Door To You Heart, with the B side - Our Love (Is In The Pocket) - being my favorite track. I gasped when I saw $100 on it with a grading of G+ on the paper sleeve.

I noticed that the owner had seen my reaction.

- I'm sorry. I'm just taken aback by the prices.
- These are rare records, you know.
- Well then I must have been lucky because I paid no more then $20 for this Darrell Banks record.
- No, that's what it goes for. Most of these records came from Wax Trax.

That explains a lot! While I was going through the rest of the boxes, he actually went on the net to verify if what I was saying was true. He later confirmed that there was a copy on eBay for $30. When I stumbled on The Whatusi by The Orlons for $20, I had enough. I see copies at $2 on a regular basis. What a disapointment.

Fortunately, there are bargains to be found in Vegas. Every cloud has a silver lining and that place is Glam Factory Vintage. Owner and Vespa rider Stephanie is the sweetest gal you'll come accross in Vegas. Her husband is a Lambretta rider himself so they make it hard not to want to spend your casino earnings there. And you won't leave broke because her prices are the best odds in town and the selection is second to none.

What I like about the shop, aside from the onwer's charming personnality, is that every piece of clothing has been sourced locally. Who knows, you might just leave with a cardigan that was owned by Frank or Sammy at one point.

Eric, proudly wearing his vintage threads, welcoming you with a smile.
She confided in me that a good portion of her clientele are burlesque dancers. Maybe if I hang around long enough...

A vintage 60s black and white dress that I bought as a gift for my wife.
Stephanie had set up a booth at the High Rollers rally site and although I arrived Friday night, I still managed to put my hands on some great pieces for less then a few turns at the black jack table. I got a light weight navy mac, made by Boston Harbor, will be perfect for scooter outings on chilly summer nights. And so will this Lee early 70s polyester burgundy jacket.

Another similar 70s light blue jacket had my name on it. I must be the jacket wisperer because I swear I could hear it say: "Take me... Take me..." What about this 60s v-neck sweater? If this doesn't scream Mod then I don't know what will.

Yes Mr. President...

Not to far from Glam Factory Vintage is Electric Lemonade. This other vintage clothing shop might hide a few treasures but as hard as I looked, I didn't find anything that met Parka Avenue standards. The clothes were not as prestine and the prices were a bit higher. Like any vintage shop, it pays to go on a regular basis. But if you're an out of town visitor with a limited amount of time, go directly to Glam Factory Vintage.

You have to admit that the blue dress on the mannequin is quite nice.

Hungry after all that shopping? Do I have a great local family owned restaurant for you! A stone's throw from Electric Lemonade is Simpo Sandwiches. You can't get more authentic then that and above all it's DELICIOUS! It's the best thing since sliced bread! Well... You get the picture.

Any place that has the XM radio set to 60s Soul is already OK in my book. Plus the small shrine dedicated to the first black President makes it all the more inviting.

But the mouth watering, fresh sandwiches is the icing on the cake. Well... You get the picture.
I had the Tuscan Italiano and it was heavenly. They make their own blend of spices that can be added to pretty much anything you fancy and with a name like Soul D'licious, I had to leave with a bottle.

Finally, if your shopping bag isn't full just yet, you might want to head over to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. A good 15 minutes walk from the Downtown Arts District, you'll find all your Mod approved brands like Brooks Brothers, G.H. Bass & Co., Clarks and Levi's. I'm not big on shopping malls but when you can get a pair genuine Bass Weejuns or Clarks desert boots at 50% off, it might be worth the walk over there.

If you plan a trip to Las Vesgas any time soon, don't forget to leave some room in your suitcase. You'll thank me later.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vespas, Lambrettas and more at the High Rollers Weekend in Las Vegas

Bringing my Vespa or Lambretta to the High Rollers Weekend in Las Vegas would have been hard to do. So all I got instead was major scooter envy. Even if I didn't get to tag along on any of the rides, I did get an eye full of gleaming scooters. You won't do much reading in the post! It's all about the scooters! So feast your eyes on these my friends! Welcome to the Mod Life!

What a beautiful sight from my hotel room at the Plaza when I woke up on Saturday morning.

Down 15 floors and out the door, here are some of the best looking Mod scooters on the West Coast. Tanks full, chrome polished and ready for the Saturday ride to the desert.

Lambretta Li150 Series II

Lambretta SX200

Vespa SS180
Vespa GS

The Sunday afternoon shenanigans were held at the Arts Factory Bar, accross from another cool watering hole called the Artifice.

It was the perfect venue with its large terrace. We had plenty of space to hold the gymkhana, have the raffle, set up a few top notch vendors and get a little dance floor going with DJ Kirk and myself.

This is what you look like when you drive around in a beer keg.
Want more of Vegas? Stay tuned! Next post: A Mod shopping guide to Las Vegas.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Mod On The Road: The Las Vegas Edition

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, the saying goes. Not this time! Parka Avenue is about to dish out the dirt on all that happened at the 15th edition of the High Rollers Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. No secret is safe here my friends! No names will be altered to protect the innocent. You won't see any black stripes over anybody's eyes on these photos! Warning: This post might not be suitable for a younger audience.

Some of the good folks from the Boston Stranglers Scooter Club have had a hand in organizing these shindigs since 2005. Las Vegas' Heat Seized Scooter Club also merit many accolades for organizing the rides for many years now. This should really be seen as a National Rally because of all the clubs/groups that are actively involved.  I can now understand why my friend Eric B. and hotel roommate for the weekend, has attended 10 of the 15 editions of one of the premier scooter rallies in North America. My scooter might not have fitted in my suitcase but there was at least enough space to fill it with suits, shoes and a few boxes of 45s.

I was very glad to have been part of a great line-up of DJs all throughout the weekend. Eric P., the head huncho for the event, had suggested that we play something different then the usual mix of Soul, Ska and Rocksteady for the outdoors events. Our mission for the afternoon gigs was to be “entertaining”. As for the evening festivities, our assignment was clear: make people dance. I can do that!

Spinning under the warm desert sun was fun for a change. Plus I shared the duties with some great Californian DJs like non other then The Selecter DJ Kirk, Celeste and Jesse. 

DJ Kirk and Parka Pat spinning some tunes on Sunday at the Art Factory Bar.
So in order to fulfill my objective to “entertain”, I decided to offer the scooter enthusiasts in attendance something different. I gave them a good dose of French Soul covers, yé-yé and freakbeat “en français”. I was pleasantly surprised to how well the selection was received. I always get a kick when I play an obscure version of a Motown song performed by artists with a Quebec accent. I love it when people recognize the track and then come up to me with the strangest look on their face and ask me: “Who the hell is this?” You can have a listen to this brand new Parka Avenue Podcast with some of the best tracks from the afternoon sessions right here on Mixcloud.

How cool is this set-up?

Even if I didn't get the primo DJ spots during the evening events, I'm still grateful to have had the privilege to spin. The Saturday night event was held in our hotel's main shoowroom. The Plaza is situated in downtown Las Vegas and has all the charm of the “old Vegas”.

It is said, although I wasn't able to confirm it, that the Rat Pack once played the Copa room. If they didn't, it sure looks like they could have! Red velvet drapes cover the walls, large crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling and tiered levels of half-moon sofas surround the dance floor. This place would definitely fall under the category of "old school". What a welcomed sight to see a dance floor packed with men in sharp suits and women in their best 60s attire. It's certainly not what I see on a weekly basis at my local Mod Club.

No one is doing the Harlem Shake here!
My mates Eric, Elker and I were ready before the doors even opened, mainly because I was the first DJ behind the decks, so we decided to sit at the penny slots hoping to scam a few free cocktails from the casino. We figured that if we sat there long enough and only spent a dollar or two in the machines, the waitress would eventually come and offer us a complimentary drink. The sad story is that we never even saw the shadow of a waitress. The good news is that I managed to double my initial investment and walk away with a huge jackpot of 10$!

Ocean's Three
Some talented local lads, The Astaires, started us off with an energetic Power Pop infused set. They were followed by Boston's All Mod Cons. Can you guess what band they brilliantly covered? The singer even introduced the songs in a perfect Weller voice. I could have easily lost that 10$ I had just won by betting that this guy was from Woking, England.
The Sunday night "Soul Survivors" event at Triple B on Freemont ended up being my most enjoyable DJ set of the weekend. But it didn't start off that way! The new bar is situated at the opposite end of Freemont street and a 10 minute walk from the Plaza, through hordes of sandal wearing drunk college students on Spring Break and retired tacky t-shirt sporting tourists, will get you there.

Record boxes in tow, we crossed paths with a few rally goers that warned us of how terrible the music was and that the band made them nauseous. Sounds promising... And I was due to go up in a little over half an hour!

As soon as we walked in, we were greated by an eardrum shatering Heavy Metal band! A bunch of acquaintances, clearly overdressed for the situation, were sitting against the wall with a look of utter despair on their faces. I'm not making this up! It is NOT the start of a bad joke: "This Mod walks into a bar full of Rockers expecting to play some Soul records and..."
Just in case any of you thought that I was actually going to make up this story, I decided to immortalize it on film. I present to you Exhibit A. I also happened to memorialize the longest song of the show. The one where they all do their respective solos and each member is presented. If you don't want to torture yourself too much, you can skip directly to the 4:00 minute mark for the drum solo.

How was I going to follow that? It was time to regroup, summun the Mod Superpowers at our disposal and hit those turtables hard.

Mod Power Activate!
Well, contrary to popular wisdom, as soon as I jumped behind the turtables, the dancefloor instantly filled up and the party was on! And who was the most energetic dancers out there? The Heavy Metal band that is!

I don't remember having this much fun spinning in a long time. The sound was good, the people were carefree and enjoying themselves. The best part about this bar is that right behind the DJ booth, hidden in that wall of records is a secret trap door that gives you access to a large VIP lounge equiped with your own private bathroom, pool table and cosy sofas.

Guillermo whipping the crowd into a frenzy with some driving tunes.
A peak into the secret lair.
I have access to the VIP lounge! Guillermo taking over the turntables.

For the best of the weekend's evening selections, check out part 2 of the Parka Avenue in Vegas podcast. You can listen to it here.

Next post is all about is about the scooters! Don't miss it!