Posted by: martinworster | June 13, 2022

Surfing Scorpion Bay / San Juanico, BCS Mexico

Small but perfect – you see the potential

Two thirds of the way down Baja California, the surf spot of Scorpion Bay first came on my radar around ten years ago. Since then I’d be circling around it nervously like a coiled snake ready to make it’s move and pounce. Even the name – Scorpion Bay – had given it a kind of mythical, exotic and slightly dangerous status. I’d poured over YouTube videos of the wave itself – peeling right handers that seemed to go on forever. Some articles called it – when conditions prevailed – one of the longest waves in the world. Easy and forgiving, perfectly for a middle aged surfer like myself. I’d studied maps and forums of the best way to get there and any other tips for visitors. Do I need an SUV? How much water should I take? Is it dangerous? But I’d never quite managed to pull the trigger and visit. Until now.

2 ft so small but so much fun. Scorpion Bay

Loping below California, the Baja Peninsula – the biggest peninsula in the world – really is an adventure on our doorstep just waiting to happen. With it’s miles of coastline – longer than California – it’s vast wildness had always been a rite of passage for surfers. I’d made forays into Northern Baja and enjoyed a holiday at the tropical southern most tip of Cabo San Lucas – but I’d never been to the bit in the middle that housed Scorpion Bay.

Nose ride no problem. Point 3

We flew into the town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez side from LAX on Alaska Airlines. A short 90 minute flight and you are in another country. On the flight down I looked out the window at the endless miles of blank desert and coastline. No roads or population – just coves, beaches, cliffs, headlands, crescent bays and, I imagined, endless waves, surf and point breaks. I basically spent 90 minutes looking out the window mind surfing. Looking at the Sea of Cortez side as we lowered into Loreto I was amazed at how mountainous it was. I got a Canary Islands vibe with the deep azure of the ocean and the volcanic islands that littered the coast, like the opening credit to a Jurassic Lost World documentary. 

Ciudad Insurgentes

From Loreto we hired our car and started the 3.5 hour drive across the peninsula to the town of San Juanico, to the north of which Scorpion Bay is situated. The drive moves from the hot Sea of Cortez side rising over the mountains to the desert plateau and eventually across to San Juanico and the Pacific Ocean by way of dusty deserts and endless cowboy movie cacti. The landscape is big and empty. Big skies, sand, glimpses of the Pacific across the sand and no people. It feels like the end of the earth. Across the plains we came to the junction town of Ciudad Insurgentes and headed north, parallel to the Pacific, glimpse of which we would see on our left in the distance through the hazy, dusty sun. Brief sightings of the deep blue tantalizing us into the promise of what the Ocean might have in store for us over the next few days.

On and on and on and on…

We got there just in time for sunset – which was good as we’d been warned to not drive in the dark – and found our accommodation at the Cantina which is the only hotel on the headland nearest the waves. Excited, we drove our car around to look at the surf. The reports had said a solid 3 foot swell and from the cliff we watched long boarders take a perfect peeling right hander – probably waist high – which went on and on. We were looking at Point 3. Further around the headland is Point 4. I guess Points 1 and 2 are actually the bay itself and on bigger swell days you could catch a wave – where all Points join up – all the way in on a ride that’s reputed to be one of the longest in the world. Unfortunately we didn’t quite hit those type of conditions but we definitely weren’t disappointed. 

Perfect Baja nourishment..

The first day we surfed Point 4 and it was probably head height – I scored some of the longest waves of my life. They kept going on and on alongside being an easy take off that would morph into some steeper and more challenging sections. It was a very rocky break so you had to watch out for boils and rock outcrops but we never felt at risk. We were pleased to have bought neoprene bootys for the walk out across the sharp rocks infested with urchins. In the water everyone was very friendly and it wasn’t very busy – I guess it’s quite an effort to get to so it probably only attracts the adventurous type. I imagine on really good says it might get busier and a tad more competitive.

The beautiful Spanish colonial church in Loreto

The next day we surfed Point 3 near the lighthouse and this was a really fun wave. It was quite small but it still went on and on and again everyone – mostly long boarders – was very friendly. It really is the perfect wave with an easy take off and a long open face to play with. Most people at the Cantina were camping in their RVs, many of them driving down – a journey of 18 hours – from California. We even met people who’d driven down from Canada via mainland Mexico. With a 4 wheel drive you could spend months driving down scoring empty waves and perhaps bagging spots that had never been surfed before. The hotel had a palapa with a good restaurant and bar and again everyone was very welcoming and friendly. It had a backpacker vibe to the place and took me back to traveling in my late teens. 

The Greek Islands? No, the Sea of Cortez

On the last day we left after breakfast to spend the day and our last night in Loreto. After descending from the mountains to the Sea of Cortez you skirt magical coves and beaches. We stopped off for a swim and it felt like the Greek Islands – crystal clear water, hot and dusty, endless coves, white sands and a laidback and sleepy vibe. In fact the Sea of Cortez is famed for its world class snorkeling and diving sites so you could do a great holiday splitting your time between the Pacific side and here. It’s also famous for whale watching as humpback and grey whales migrate from California waters around the bottom of Baja and up the coast to give birth in the calm and warmer waters of the Sea of Cortez. Loreto itself was a lovely sleepy port town. I felt like I had been taken back to 1970s Spain or Portugal. Everything seemed a little – in a very good way – old fashioned. There’s a romantic malecon you can stroll alongside the pond-like sea. There’s a Main Street with restaurants and bars and a characterful Spanish colonial church. 

The harbour at Loreto (after strolling down the malecon)

I almost feel bad writing about the magical place of Scorpion Bay. It’s somewhere you’d like to keep a secret but weirdly and perversely want to tell everyone about. I don’t believe in God, but I imagine if he existed only He could have created the absolute perfection that makes this spot. It’s like it’s been specifically designed to tick all the surf boxes. Exposed headland that picks up south swells. Check. Good bathymetry to form long waves under the surface. Check. Cliffs that shelter the waves from winds so it can work on windy afternoons. Check. Ability to hold bigger swells and on the right conditions all the planets align and the different points join up to form one of the longest waves in the world. Check. It’s mythological place. I will be returning soon when conditions prevail so I can see this unique beast at it’s very best .

Point 3, Scorpion Bay, San Juanico, Baja California Sur
Posted by: martinworster | June 9, 2022

New Forms: Massive Attack 

I’ve just read a great book by Melissa Chemam : ‘Massive Attack Out Of The Comfort Zone. The Story Of A Sound, A City And A Group Of Revolutionary Artists’. I believe Massive Attack are probably the most influential British band of the last thirty years and this book is very good at putting them in the contexts – Britain, Bristol, sound system culture, hip hop and graffiti culture, the 80s and 90s – from which they emerged. I remember when their debut album Blue Lines came out circa 1990 – it was the chill out album that was on permanent rotation after every heavy night out. It also spearheaded – for a want of a better term and one that Massive Attack themselves don’t like – the whole trip hop genre. This sound – breaks, soulful vocals, clever samples, reggae flavors, rapping in regional accents, all fused by a yearning melancholia – could have only come out of Britain generally and Bristol specifically.  Like many, I posit that ‘Unfinished Symphony’ is one of the greatest – not just British, but globally – soul records there is.

Of course leading up to Blue Lines the 70s and 80s in Bristol were influenced by a strong Caribbean sound system culture of blues parties, MCing and reggae. The most influential sound system was the Wild Bunch that included a cast of influential characters – Nelle Hopper, 3D, Mushroom, Tricky, Daddy G – who would go on to form Massive Attack. The constantly revolving door of talent – Horace Andy, Elizabeth Frazer, Nicolette, Tracey Thorn etc – who would guest on numerous productions over the years borrowed from this sound system style of doing things. A non traditional band structure with an open door policy that allowed for creativity and flexibility. 

Given 3Ds long history with graffiti, pre-dating Massive Attack by many years, the band have always had a very strong visual identity. 3D produces much of the art work for the album covers and posters as well as the stage productions for their live shows which have always relied heavy on projections and films. For their last tour, the documentary film maker Adam Curtis produced the visuals for the video backdrops. There has also been a lot of speculation that Banksy – also a Bristolian – could indeed be 3D, but then how much talent and time could one man really have?

Of course, after reading the book you also get a strong sense of place and how Bristol and the environs influenced their sound and attitude. In the West of England, the town has always had an anti-establishment bent and a sense that it is removed from London and hence dances to it’s own drum. Things are a bit slower, more relaxed and less pretentious. An environment that lets creativity prosper away from the rush and media spotlight of London. It’s going to take 4 years to make the next album? So be it. Let’s not forget, Massive Attack aside the amount of unique talent – the Pop Group, Portishead, Roni Size, Martina Topley Bird, Beak, IDLES, to name a few who have come from the West. There’s clearly something in the water – or more likely in what they are all smoking.

Posted by: martinworster | March 2, 2022

Gary Numan @ OC Observatory Feb 27 2022

Gary Numan

In 1979 Gary Numan hit Number 1 in the UK charts with his synth pop anthem ‘Cars’. He looked and sounded like an alien from the future (whilst borrowing a tad vocally from Thin White Duke era Bowie). This era alongside releases like ‘Our Friends Electric’ cemented his status as a major influence on all synth and electronic music down the line. In 2022 he is still – at 63 years young – still making music and touring. I was amazed at his energy as he bounced around the stage like a man thirty years younger. An amazing show. He is an alien.

Posted by: martinworster | March 2, 2022

I Speak Machine @ OC Observatory, Feb 28 2022

I Speak Machine

Posted by: martinworster | March 2, 2022

Cate Le Bon @ The Terragram Ballroom, Feb 24 2022

Cate Le Bon
Cate Le Bon
Posted by: martinworster | March 2, 2022

Dinosaur Jr @ The Fonda Feb 20 2022

 J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr
Posted by: martinworster | December 27, 2021

Chvrches @ Hollywood Palladium, Dec 12 2021

Chvrches @ Hollywood Palladium
Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches
Posted by: martinworster | December 8, 2021

Squid at Substance 2021 @ The Belasco, Los Angeles, November 21 2021

Posted by: martinworster | November 18, 2021

Gustaf @ The Glass House, Pomona, California, November 1 2021

I love the energy and vibe of this funky art punk outfit from Brooklyn. NYC. Big tings a come for these girls..



Posted by: martinworster | November 17, 2021

IDLES – Glass House Pomona, California, November 1 2021

On paper I shouldn’t really like IDLES. I have a bit of hang up about white tattooed males in guitar bands playing angry and shouty music. But somehow IDLES – despite being exactly that – do it differently. The lyrics are good, there are songs in there and their performances are supercharged and heartfelt. At times at their show at the Glass House in Pomona, Southern California, I think lead signer Joe Talbot might have an aneurysm, his eyeballs almost popping out of his head. He prowls the stage, staring at the crowd with a raw intensity, jumping around like a pugnacious pugilist. Both guitarists – Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernen – jump around the stage pulling rock God poses, Pete Townsend meets Jack White with tongue firmly in cheek. I wonder how their fingers aren’t bloodied to the quick with the frantic playing style.

But mostly IDLES resonate with the direct honesty in their songs. There’s too much wishy washy music out there, over medicated Brooklyn indie schmindie outfits singing about broken hearts or lockdown blues are ten a penny. IDLES sing about the state of the UK – and world – today. Mental health, grief, immigration, the stress and inequality of capitalism and addiction all delivered with an overarching theme of compassion and inclusivity. They talk to me – and you. They mean something – and care. Deeply. I look at them and realize they are a gang band. Up there, having fun, saying important things, entertaining us and looking out for each other and us. We all want to be in the gang. Joe Talbot has that classic frontman quality of men wanting to be him whilst the women want to fuck him. Or maybe – in such gender fluid and mixed up times – the reverse is also true. Judging from the streams of fans at the merch stand buying everything they can grab, you can tell how they have a fervent, tribal, loyal and committed fan base. I SEE YOU in that IDLES t-shirt. YOUR ARE ONE OF US. We are we. Very important in a very divided world – we are joined to something. Others like me feel similar things. You are not alone.

That’s the secret cocktail. Anger and compassion. We’re angry at things going on but – most of us, hopefully – compassionate enough to engage with problems and fellow humans through empathy and a hope for a better future. We are earthlings – all of us immigrants. The sound is relentless, an onslaught of riffs and call to action chants from Joe Talbot, backed by the motorik spine of Adam Devonshire on bass. Even with ear plugs and headphone protectors – double bagged to protect my tinnitus – it still sounds loud. You can feel the music – physically and emotionally. I punch my arm in time to the drum break, my annoyance at the world slightly sated realising I am in a room of other beings who think the same. A song expressed something I thought. I float out the room at the end feeling inspired. I do believe I have just seen the best live band in the world.

All photos and text by Martin Worster

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