California Rocker

Award-Winning Online Music Magazine

‘Gimme Shelter,’ Book of Celebs and Four-Legged Pals, Benefits Pet Orphans Charity at ChristmasTime

Pet Orphans Adorable Photos to Adopt Out Animals

By DONNA BALANCIA

Suzanne Allison Witkin, accomplished rock photographer, lives a double-life as animal advocate and president of the charity Pet Orphans. In time for the holidays, she produced a gorgeous hardbound book of photographs of animals and their human owners called Gimme Shelter. California Rocker asked Suzanne the important questions.

California Rocker: How did you get the idea to take photos of pets to help them get adopted?  

Suzanne Allison Witkin: Four years ago I started volunteering at Pet Orphans of Southern California. I brought my camera and took a few photos and shared them on social media and noticed that it helped the dog or cat look better, healthier and made adopters get a real sense of what the animal was like. After I noticed what an improvement it was, I began taking all the dogs and cats’ photos for the website and from there I just kept adding more. Besides, I get such pleasure from it. 

Gimme Shelter Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox and her daughter Coco – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: When did you decide to do ‘Gimme Shelter,’ your great book of these photos?

SAW: I wanted to do a book before I started taking photos of shelter animals. a few years before I volunteered I had an idea for a coffee table book with celebrities and their pets. But didn’t actually do the book until after I started to volunteer at Pet Orphans and decided to add the rescue pets as well.

Want to Adopt a Pet? Check out Pet Orphans 

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend - Photo for California Rocker

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend – Photo for California Rocker

CR: What are some of the challenges in photographing pets in a studio setting?

SAW: Getting them to stay still in the right lighting. Outdoor photos are easier but I like the portrait look of the studio photos better sometimes. It captures every bit of detail. I sometimes need an assistant to help. And they get bored quickly as well. Gotta be fast and make really silly noises to get their attention.

CR: What was the funniest thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: I got peed on. 

Marilyn Manson Gimme Shelter

Marilyn Manson and Lily White – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: What was the most amazing thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: A scared and aggressive dog bonded with me. She was shaking so bad and hid but finally came out and smiled and gave me kisses

Johnny Depp Pet Orphans Gimme Shelter

Johnny Depp and painting by Johnny of his Dog Moo – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: Do the photos of the pets actually help them get adopted from Pet Orphans?

SAW: Yes, in fact, more rescues and shelters are trying to get better photos and videos of the animals at the shelters. Lot’s of adopters are afraid of the animal if they look sick, dirty or scary. Or they can’t tell what the animal looks like.

Check Out Pet Orphans’ Facebook Page for Cute Animals

CR: Who are the people behind Pet Orphans, board members of course, but who is the person who started it and why?

SAW: There were three women back in 1973 and one of the women found a dog by the freeway. After that, they started to rescue more and made their homes into a small rescue. A short time later, they raised enough money and wound up getting a facility donated to them. They started a 501c3 charity and 46 years later, Pet Orphans is still around and saving many lives. Sadly the last remaining co founder past away a little over a year ago. She took me under her wing and made I became president 2 1/2 years ago. We have five board members, some new, and some have been with Pet Orphans many years.  The three founders were Diane A. Scripps (1928 – 2015) Virginia M. Haley, and Lorraine Neikirk (1927 – 2002)

Gimme Shelter the book

Gimme Shelter the book is available for the holidays – Photo for CaliforniaRocker.com

Pet Orphans is open Monday-Friday 12 PM to -4 PM and Saturday and Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM. The address for Pet Orphans is 7720 Gloria Avenue in Van Nuys. Call (818) 901-0190 or visit Pet Orphans online at PetOrphans.org or at Facebook.com/PetOrphansofSouthernCalifornia.  

To buy a copy of Gimme Shelter go to the Gimme Shelter Book website.

To support Pet Orphans or adopt a pet go here.

 

CaliforniaRocker.com Nabs Four Finalist Nods for Arts and Entertainment Awards by Los Angeles Press Club

By JOHN DALY, CaliforniaRocker.com

HOLLYWOOD – CaliforniaRocker.com, a music industry website and fanzine published by Donna Balancia, received four National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards finalist designations, it was announced by The Los Angeles Press Club.

The finalist selections all came in the area of photography: Three images were in the Action Photography category and one finalist selection came in the Photo Essay category.

Suzanne Allison Witkin scored a Los Angeles Press Club nod with her photo essay, "On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires" - Photo courtesy Suzanne Witkin

Rock photographer Suzanne Allison Witkin scored an LA Press Club nod with her photo essay, “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires” – Photo courtesy Suzanne Witkin

“Our work reflects our commitment to the highest quality music journalism,” said publisher Donna Balancia. “Our independent website and fanzine strive to give up-and-coming as well as established musicians a voice amid the overwhelming coporate clatter.”

Winning Images: Hollywood Vampires, At The Drive-In

CaliforniaRocker.com, which first went live in 2014, dominated the photography categories, with photographer Suzanne Allison Witkin scoring for her Photo Essay called “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires.”  The project included a diary with exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and all of The Hollywood Vampires.

Los Angeles Press Club Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium: A winning image – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

 

California Rocker Dominates Action Photos

CaliforniaRocker.com also scored a record three finalist designations in the Action Photo category. The photos, taken by Donna, captured Fishbone’s “Flyin’ Jay” Armant launching himself into the audience at The Roxy Theatre; Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the band At The Drive-In leaping into the air at The Hollywood Palladium, and the 80-year-old Dick Dale, “King of the Surf Guitar,” revving the audience with his upbeat music.

Los Angeles Press Club Suzanne Allison Witkin captured images of The Hollywood Vampires on their historic tour - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison Witkin for CaliforniaRocker.com

Suzanne Allison Witkin captured images of The Hollywood Vampires on their historic tour – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison Witkin for CaliforniaRocker.com

 

Los Angeles Press Club Keeping Journalism Alive

“We are honored to be selected as finalists for the National Arts and Entertainment Awards,” Donna Balancia said. “The Los Angeles Press Club strives to keep journalism alive. We too not only support independent journalism, but through our stories and images we also help musicians at a time when the music business is extremely challenging.

“CaliforniaRocker.com has the best reviewers, writers and photographers in the music world working together with us, and we are delighted with the finalist designations.”

Los Angeles Press Club Fishbone image has been named a finalist in the action photo category of the National Arts and Entertainment Awards - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The remarkable ‘Flyin’ Fishbone’ image was captured by Donna Balancia at The Roxy Theatre – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Hundreds Turn Out for Music Showcase Featuring New Artists in Echo Park

Glam Skanks, Brothers Collective Take Part in High Quality, Low-Tech Show

Glam Skanks presented by Echo Box Music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for CaliforniaRocker.com

Glam Skanks presented by Echo Box Music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for CaliforniaRocker.com

By DONNA BALANCIA

It was hot, loud and physical at The MIME Saturday night.

In other words it was Rock N Roll at its finest, as four great young bands including The Glam Skanks and The Brothers Collective hit the stage before a crowd of about 200 fans in Echo Park.

Free admission, free beer and wine, and great new music drew hundreds to Echo Park gallery, The MIME.

The purpose?  Simply to hear some new bands play some new music.

Co-sponsors Echo Box Music and Unison Music want to bring live music from new artists to the masses and they’re willing to spend money to do it. The MIME was truly the place to be rub elbows with musicians, artists, producers, photographers and press and to even have a free beer on a Saturday night.

Glam Skanks - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Was the music hot?  Yes.  Was the place physically hot?  Definitely. There was no air conditioning. But it was OK.  That made it easy to imagine what the kids who paid $350-plus per ticket were enduring at that little festival in the desert this weekend.  Both sets of fans are thirsty for new music.

And if Echo Box and Unison had their way, no music fans would have to pay to quench their thirst.

But really, how often does anyone get free beer and free admission as encouragement to see great bands right in Echo Park?  Basically never. And that’s where Echo Box and Unison come in.

“We want to do this often,” said Nolan Jamora, owner of Echo Box Music. By day, he’s the director of operations for Isky Racing Cams of Gardena.  “This is really about getting the music out to the people. Why should the people listening to the music have to pay?  This is a new model.  We want the people coming to hear the music to buy a CD, buy merch.”

Jaxine Sparkles keeps the beat - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jaxine Sparkles keeps the beat – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nolan is an interesting cat who has had his share of victories, you might say, as he is a Formula 1 racing guy.

But his love of music has brought him to this place — and that place is where he can help spread the enthusiasm for new bands.

“It used to be that the record companies would sign talented young musicians to a deal, but that’s a thing of the past,” said Bruce Witkin, founder of Unison Music.

Bruce is a producer who works with well-known musicians as well as the up and comers. “We just want people to hear the music, buy the merch and if we can do that by spending on beer and wine and having a show that’s free to the public, we’ll do it.”

And the crowds approved.

“This is my first time here and I think it’s great,” said Travis, who relocated to LA from the state of Washington.  “The people are really supportive of one anothers’ music.  This is a great showcase and I’ve loved the bands I’ve seen already tonight.”

Travis was among the 200 or so music fans who attended the Echo Box presentation by invitation only, packing the house and cheering on the bands.

Fans support the music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Fans support the music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“I like the do-it-yourself style of this event,” said Christi. “It’s like the shows my mom used to go to, they would just say they’re having a show and tell their friends and people would have fun.”

Musicians today are familiar with DIY style in all aspects of music. Not only does a musician have to play, practice and perform, they also have to promote, most frequently through social media platforms.

But this night at The MIME was a throwback to low-tech Rock N Roll, where friends invited friends and spread the news of the event more by word of mouth than by social media.  Even our own CaliforniaRocker.com went low-tech, handing out a typewriter-printed fanzine specially designed for the event.

The Hypnotic Hyenas opened with some cool songs, this new band is an updated new millennium version of power pop and the guys have stage presence.  Their cool music led off a hot night inside the MIME.

The Brothers Collective - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Brothers Collective – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Brothers Collective are really brothers and while they have grown together, so has their music matured. They have been keeping audiences engaged for several years with cool vocals and great beats. Their music is remenicent of the good part of the 1990s.

Kid Bloom look good, play solid tunes and the lead vocals are succinct and exacting.  Their new tune “I Kissed a Girl,” is a new release and from the sounds of things, Kid Bloom has a good career ahead.

The Glam Skanks

Not because they’re all girls — sort of — but it’s hard not to notice that The Glam Skanks really took over on Saturday night. The Glam Skanks have been playing together for about three years. They kick it into high gear every time, only these days they’re showing a lot more stage presence and their act is tight.  They still have the exploding confetti bombs and glitter, but front and center here are brunette vocalist Ali Cat and her tireless lead guitarist Veronica Witkin.  Bassist Millie Chan and drummer Jaxine Sparkles round out this great group.

Glam Skanks leave audiences crawling from the wreckage - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks leave audiences crawling from the wreckage – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Glam Skanks music is wild fun, ranging from mic-hurling punk to faux melodic but it’s the method of delivery that wins.

It’s such a compelling act you can’t divert your eyes even if you try.

The Glam Skanks put on a whirlwind physical romp that captures the crowd, romances them, then spits them out, leaving observers star-dazed and hearing the birdies and yet wanting more.

In the crowd were lots of notables and music lovers alike. Photographers Suzanne Witkin and Heather Harris brought the star power to the event, telling the story through the lens. Suzanne has too many photo credits to mention in the celeb-rocker world, and is known for her work in helping the animals.

Harris said she was impressed with the efforts of the co-sponsors to bring the music to the people.

“The live music scene is so much healthier now,” said Harris, who has photographed up-and-coming bands as well as veteran musicians for many years. “This is a really great live event.”

Veronica the #GlamSkanks guitarist - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Veronica the Glam Skanks guitarist – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It was refreshing how many of the people on hand “heard about” the showcase from a friend. Because while the web has developed into a great way to spread information and distribute music, unfortunately, it’s also used by the record companies to measure the “success” of a band on a quantative basis.  If the record companies don’t see a certain magic number of hits or activity, well then the new kids just aren’t going to the head of the class.  So it’s refreshing that at a time when analytics play such an integral part of all commercial business decisions that the guys from Echo Box and Unison would front these live, “non-quantifiable” showcases and spread the word the old fashioned way — from human to human.

The music community needs more events like this. New artists want nothing more than to perform their work. And the fans want to hear that new music, but for an affordable price. And while the record companies may have forgotten this, those who have not forgotten were together enjoying a great Saturday night.

 

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