This week L.A. proves yet again that it’s anything but ordinary. Don’t miss seeing indie-inspired electronic from a Vampire Weekend-er live at El Rey Theatre and L.A.’s better-than-ever ode to neon signs, learning the odd history of cats at sea, or tasting Venice’s newest lunch menu. In between, unplug this weekend in Death Valley National Park’s way-off-the-grid resort.
AFAR Local is our weekly insider guide to the best of what's happening in cities around the U.S.
February 4 | Weird history
Ship Cats: Adventure, Courage, Betrayal
Not every cat hates water. In fact, cats have been stowing out above and below deck on famous ships since the time of Ancient Egypt. Award-winning author Dr. Paul Koudounaris, a self-described expert on obscure feline history, takes you through the ages and around the world with the cats who fought sea battles, pillaged their enemies, and survived in freezing temperatures with a shipwrecked crew.
7:30–9 p.m | The Last Bookstore, 435 S. Spring St., Los Angeles | (213) 488-0599 | Free | website
February 4 | Music
Chris Baio (pronounced bay-o), formerly one third of the indie pop mega-group Vampire Weekend, is on tour following his independent, self-titled album release. Baio's indepedent stuff is more indie electronic than indie pop, so don't expect to hear the guitar riffs and drum beats of "A-Punk" or "Oxford Comma." Do expect the same level of musicality and attention to detail when it comes to samples, synths, and his layering of instruments. The vibe is still decidedly indie, and you'll sway-dance as happily to his new originals, like "Sister of Pearl" and "Zona," as you did to the songs on Contra.
9 p.m. | El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles | (323) 936-6400 | From $16 | website
February 6 | Museum grand re-opening
Museum of Neon Art
Neon signs dot our Los Angeles landscape and have done so for decades. The flickering “No Vacancy” signs on La Cienega Blvd. are equal parts art pieces and informational texts. Unfortunately, many signs are destined to the scrapyard when new developments make use of the space. The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) changes that fate, collecting old signs from around L.A. (like "The Brown Derby" from the old Brown Derby Restaurant on Hollywood and Vine) and commissioning artists to re-create others that have been lost. Now, MONA is finally re-opening in Glendale after closing its doors in 2011. The grand re-opening party will see all exhibits open, plus food, an open bar, and tunes from Neon Hunter Collective.
7–10 p.m. | 216 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale | (213) 489-9918 | $50 | website
February 6–7 | Escape the city
Death Valley National Park
Four hours out of L.A., Death Valley holds the record for hottest place on earth (the temperature once reached 134ºF), as well as the driest place in North America (so you won't have to worry about El Niño here). The winter months are the best time to visit: the weather hovers around a perfect 75 and sunny. Truly unplug at Panamint Springs Resort, where you won't find TVs in the rooms, or even much cell service. The place is so off the grid that you best not try to use GPS to find it, unless you're using their exact latitude and longitude coordinates. What it does have? An ideal location on the western edge of the National Park, access to the necessities, and peace and quiet for miles.
N 36-20.5, W 117-27 | (775) 482-7680 | website
Now open | Restaurant
The dinner-only spot, which opened last summer, just rolled out a new menu: lunch. The Venice restaurant is headed up by local chef Nyesha Arrington, who puts a California spin on everything from lamb chops to hamachi. Her tasty eats have gotten her noticed on shows like Top Chef and Chef Hunter, and she even served a stint as the personal chef to Stevie Wonder. On the lunch menu, try the bulgogi chicken wings and Le Burger, a burger inspired by French onion soup.
11 a.m.–2 p.m., Tuesday–Friday | 123 Washington Blvd., Venice | (310) 822-5379 | website
Eva Glettner is a writer and a native Angeleno. She loves art, travel, coffee, and skateboarding.