All posts by Richard Tafoya

Richard Tafoya is a music journalist, photographer and web developer living in Los Angeles. This site is a mix of original posts and unedited versions of material created for other publications.

One clearfix to rule them all

The concept of a clearfix didn’t really ring a bell for me until a couple of years into dedicated web work. It felt like a hack, maybe even a shortcut, and my instinct was that good old properly-syntaxed HTML and CSS would win the day.

I didn’t know what I was really talking about. Today, as we await final spec approval for Flexbox and eventual browser compatibility, we’re still in a place were block elements need to align themselves in some way.

If one doesn’t need to displace other elements, absolute positioning is always an option. But if vertical alignment needs to happen, you’re generally going to need to float something.

And that’s where a dependable clearfix can make life a lot easier.


Pre-gaming the Make Music Pasadena Festival

Cults at Make Music Pasadena 2012. Photo credit: la-underground via Flickr
Cults at Make Music Pasadena 2012. Photo credit: la-underground via Flickr

Make Music Pasadena marks 6 years this year, holding to the same recipe that put it on the radar in 2008: Free music on a handful of stages with Old Town Pasadena as a backdrop. Of course, it’s gotten bigger, boasting upwards of 100 acts on around 30 stages largely sprinkled between Fair Oaks and Lake, the main stages outdoors and a large swath of more intimate showcases tucked into the area’s bars and other buildings, including the public library. But, as with any entertainment buffet, one needs a battle plan, or you just end up like so many overwhelmed SXSW attendees, unable to name the tiny handful of bands they accidentally saw snippets of while feverishly texting all their friends to find out what stage they’re at.

 Pre-fest tip #1: Listen to some music in advance and sketch out a grazing list.

Nothing sucks more than realizing after a festival that that one song stuck in your head from your local NPR music show is by a band that played 100 yards away from you while you chilled out at the snow-cone stand, bored and checking Facebook. Search up a few band names in SoundCloud or YouTube. You’ll begin working up a list of yays and nays pretty quickly.

Pre-fest tip #2: Avoid parking drama.

When 30,000 people converge on a small area, parking becomes a major hassle. In this case, there’s a built-in buffer: The Gold Line, the above-ground train that runs from the eastside (the real eastside, you Echo Park hipsters) up through downtown L.A. and into the eastern end of Pasadena . Check out the Metro site to scope the train stations, many of which provide easy, free parking. Pay the small fare, ride into the Memorial Park stop on Holly and you’ll exit that station to the sound of music coming from  a few directions if you arrive after noon.

Pre-fest tip #3: You’re gonna walk and it’s gonna be hot.

Dress accordingly. Get some sun-screen in that backpack. Granted, the forecast of 84 degrees isn’t breaking any records, but hustling around the city on foot (or on their handy ARTS shuttles when they’re not packed with people) will get your core temp up. Hydrate, too.

Pre-fest tip #4: Always have a plan B, and maybe a plan C.

Logistics, fatigue and temperamental companions (c’mon, we all turn into those Snickers commercials when we get hungry enough) will scuttle the best of plans. Map out your day with two, maybe three possible bands for each hour, in case the first one that sounded so good on SoundCloud just happens to suck on stage. Or maybe you just don’t want to make the five-block hike to catch the last 20 minutes of that other band. Worse yet, that place you suggested everyone meet at for dinner has an hour-long wait because fo the crowds. Have an alternate plan in your back pocket–literally, in digital or paper form, in case you go into any Snickers commercial mode and can’t think straight. That should just about cover the basics. Toss in a hat, camera or earplugs as needed and enjoy. And if you’re so inclined to make sure this fine fest circles around next year, toss a little donation their way.

Review: The Staves at the Bootleg Theatre

The Staves - photo by Rebecca Miller

Saw The Staves tonight (6/23/13). There’s nothing like the natural shimmer of three-part sibling harmonies. Perfect music to hear before taking a walk under the gorgeous “Super Moon.”

They first hit my radar via an NPR Music pre-SXSW sampler that Bob Boilen’s team put together. Logistics kept me from seeing them in Austin, but their album has been in rotation since then.

I’d actually made guest-list arrangements to see another band on the west side, but later learned of the Staves show at the Bootleg Bar, and spent some time calculating how much of that first set I’d need to miss to get to the other venue for the Staves. Alas, I was actually relieved to be told, “I don’t see your name, sir.” Didn’t press it, didn’t try to contact anyone to fix it, just thanks and hopped back in the car and told my wife, “Woo-hoo! We’ve got time for dinner and the Staves!”

She had no idea what I was talking about, but she’s a fan now, and I’m a bigger fan than I was at the start of the night.

The trio (backed at times by a bass player and drummer) were funny, terrifically talented and very British. But how best to describe their music? The best I can muster at the moment is that there’s a strain of contemporary folk/Americana that more than a few careers have blossomed around recently. Think acoustic instruments, a kick drum and tight harmonies.

In my head, that speaks to Shovels & Rope, Wild Child, Old Crow Medicine Show, Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons and very distinctly The Staves. Give ’em a listen.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Get it at Amazon

Balancing the height of divs without major CSS acrobatics

My day job is currently as a front-end developer, and a design requirement recently perplexed me for quite sometime before finding an almost embarrassingly simple solution that worked across all the browsers we’re targeting.

Here’s the scenario: There’s a narrow div on the left with menu-like listings and a main div in the center. The left div has a drop-shadow on its right edge, which we’re using a tiled, 1px high png to accomplish.

The challenge is that on some iterations of the page, the left div is taller than the right and on some it’s the other way around. As coded by default, if the right div ended up taller than the left, the drop-shadow would end where the left div naturally ended, leaving a gap at the bottom.

Now, there is a pure-CSS solution to this, but after messing with it for a couple of hours and not quite getting the delicate dance of percentages and lefts, rights and hard pixel widths to play nice, I happened upon a jQuery solution that took about 40 characters of code to implement.

$(“#side”).height( $(“#main”).height() );

Replace the ID names of side and main  to match your own div IDs or classes. Instant success. I swear, I’m developing a very big crush on jQuery as I ferret out more things it can do to make my life easier that weren’t obvious to me up to now.

Fixing RSA Host Key Changes on a Mac

If you use an FTP or SSH client to access files on your host servers and somewhere along the way, you migrate a domain from one server to another one, you’ll become familiar with a warning message like this:

Host Key Changed for

If this is the first time you’ve seen this, it can certainly put a crimp in your productivity, because it generally means you’re not getting past this point unless you remove the host key recorded on your computer for the remote host connection you’re trying to reach.

The reason this is happening is that when you initiate a remote connection for the first time, a host key record is saved as a point of reference and a security check for future connections to that same remote host.

But if you take that website you’ve worked on and move it to another server, whether you are changing hosting companies or simply moving to a different server with the same host, the fingerprint coming back from that new server won’t match the one saved from the previous server. And as a result, your FTP or SSH client won’t let you complete the connection.

But the solution is fairly simple: You just need to remove the saved host key record that’s been stored on your computer and you’ll be able to connect again.

To get to the saved host file on your Mac, you need to use the Terminal program. Once opened, you should start out and the root of your own user account on the Mac, but should you venture away from their into other parts of your file system, you can always get back to your account root with this:

cd ~

From there, we’ll want to go to the hidden directory /.ssh, or all as one command,

cd ~/.ssh

From there, you can look at the files tucked away with the SSH command ls, and should see a file called known_hosts. Use the nano edit command to open the file.

nano known_hosts

You’ll see a list of all the host records saved. If you work on a lot of sites, it could be a long list. Scroll down the list to the line representing the domain you’re having an issue with. Get your cursor to the beginning of the line below it and then backspace to clear the full line. Hit control and x and then y when prompted to confirm your changes and voila, you should be able to connect again.

Alternately, if you’ve moved many sites and zapping all those lines would prove a long and tedious task, you could choose to remove the known_hosts file completely, in which case your computer would simply regenerate it from scratch as you make new FTP connections. To do that, you’d use the ssh command rm, like this:

rm known_hosts

Either way, that should do it. Once the old host record is gone, you should be able to connect to the host on the new server without any problem.

U2 Shines In So. California Tour Farewell

Photo: Denise Chambers / SoundSpike

As they close in on the final stretch to logging the largest grossing tour of all time,U2 capped a two-night stay in Southern California on Saturday (6/18) with a show long on big-box revelry but blended with moments of intimacy and grace.

It also proved a far better show than the band’s 2009 Rose Bowl extravaganza in Pasadena, which made for terrific sight and sound on YouTube, but proved less than satisfying in that cavernous stadium’s many echo zones. By contrast, the sound was better at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, as was the setlist.

U2’s greatest strength as a band throughout its 30-odd years has been its voice. Not just Bono’s wail, but the band’s political and social voice — it’s ability to embrace causes and nurture communities, with its brotherhood among musical contemporaries and teachers fueling some of the band’s brightest moments (i.e. their collaborations with the likes of B.B. King and Mary J. Blige).

Along those lines, the band, joining with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were instrumental in introducing the work of Amnesty International to millions of fans with 1986’s Conspiracy of Hope tour (U2) and 1988’s Human Rights Now! tour (Springsteen), and happy and sad remnants of those travels punctuated Saturday’s show. First was the late-set celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s late 2010 release from Burmese prison with “Walk On,” underscored by footage of the peace activist as Amnesty International candle vases were marched out and mounted in a circle around the stage.

This was followed shortly by the show-ending “Moment of Surrender,” performed as a tribute to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died Saturday, succumbing to complications from a stroke suffered last Sunday (6/12). Bono began the song by asking the crowd to hold up their cell phones and intoned, “I want you to think about the beautiful, symphonic sound that came out of one man’s saxophone.” At the end of the song, he read the closing verses to Springsteen’s “Jungleland” as The Edge strummed his guitar.

Video: Bono honors Clarence Clemons in emotional concert finale

But this was a long show, clocking in at about 2 1/2 hours, and covered quite a bit of ground before the emotional finales.

From the outset, the band seemed intent on shaking things up, departing from some of the trappings of their fairly staid setlist on this leg of the tour, which Friday night’s (6/17) crowd got.

“The Fly” made its first appearance since 2006 in the #2 slot of the show, locking in a deep-dive into “Achtung Baby” material at the front-end of the set. Indeed, by the time the band launched into “Where The Streets Have No Name,” from the “Joshua Tree” album, they’d performed nearly half of the “Achtung Baby” album.

With that kind of setup and coming off of a great performance of “One,” “Streets” soared, but that’s really what the song does in any position — it’s a built-in emotional high-point. Which set in some concerns that perhaps the show had peaked early when, by contrast, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” came across feeling a little lackluster a few songs later.

Live Photos: U2’s 360 Tour

But they rallied with an acoustic “Stuck In A Moment” that connected and “Beautiful Day,” couched as a sweet love letter from U.S. Shuttle Endeavour’s commander Mark Kelly to his wife, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Kelly was recorded gamely reading the song’s lyrics while on the International Space Station during the shuttle’s final mission and adding, “Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows” — a wink at David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a space travel classic and the song U2 walks to the stage with each night.

“Beautiful Day” is a favorite of Giffords and was chosen by her as a wake-up song for the shuttle crew when she and Kelly were first dating back in 2006. Since her nearly-fatal shooting in Tucson in January, the song reportedly has been in regular rotation in her room during her recovery.

The shuffle of the setlist helped recapture some of the sense of spontaneity that drove any number of classic moments in U2 lore, which has probably been the sorest point in their extended outing. The band seems to function best when their safety net is minimized, because at that point the audience becomes the safety net and the classic U2/crowd bond is realized.

The stadium era of U2 has wreaked some havoc on that dynamic, though. They became, like any stadium act, very reliant on massive production to present themselves to massive crowds, and that level of presentation takes a toll on audience connection, which is the life-blood of the band.

Anaheim #2, while late in the game, showed they’re chipping away at that distance, and perhaps finding a way to make this stadium thing work after all.

Even Better Than The Real Thing
The Fly
Mysterious Ways
Until the End of the World
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Stuck In a Moment
Beautiful Day
Miss Sarajevo
City of Blinding Lights
I’ll Go Crazy (remix) / Discotheque / Please
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender / Jungleland (recited)

CD Review: Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust

“Devils & Dust” paints a stark portrait of survivors long past the crossroads visited on Bruce Springsteen’s seminal 70’s and 80’s albums.[twitter]

Bruce Springsteen’s 13th studio release steps away from the thematic focus of much of his studio work–the notion of a broad narrative woven around people in a very similar time and a place–to walk alongside a disparate mix of characters working through the way they’ve played the cards they were dealt.

In the title track, soldiers far from home feel themselves changing under the weight of war, thrust into a conflict that pits faith against fear. Early in his career, Springsteen would have likely given faith the winning hand, but here he sings, “tonight faith just ain’t enough, when I look inside my heart, there’s just devils and dust.”

As in much of Springsteen’s work, personal demons populate almost every room. But these demons, be they lust or ill-gotten cash, are no longer something to face down in the Badlands–they’re part of the cultural fabric, an occasional reward for making it this far.
Continue reading CD Review: Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust

U2’s Tour Launch in San Diego

U2 launched their much-awaited 2005 tour Monday night (3/28), treating an adoring opening-night crowd to a set that comfortably straddled their 25-year recording career and still managed to include some surprises.

When U2 released “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” in November of 2004, tour plans became an immediate topic of discussion, with a year-long routing sequence laid out by the band’s manager and a new, improved pre-sale system touted by the band’s revamped fan club. Then the whims of fate stepped in.

The tour’s original Miami launch was scuttled, owing to either illness affecting a band member’s family or tour routing issues, depending on the source. And the first round of fan club pre-sales were dogged by technological and logistics problems, which touched off a brief and rare period of tension between some longtime fans and the band. In the end, the tour plan was fixed, the ticketing problems were fixed and the band regained the goodwill of their long-loyal followers.

Against that backdrop, Monday’s opening-night show held a distinct sense of relief and celebration for both those holding instruments and those holding tickets in the arena.

Stepping to the microphone to the opening strains of “City of Blinding Lights,” with glitter confetti raining down on the general-admission crowd on the floor, Bono seized on the song’s chorus, “Oh, you look so beautiful tonight,” as a gracious welcome to the packed house. Perhaps more telling, though, was the tone set by the song’s first verse, the words of someone feeling their best days may be behind them:
Continue reading U2’s Tour Launch in San Diego

Kathleen Edwards at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood

In an intimate Hollywood performance Tuesday (3/22), Kathleen Edwards brought her band through a rotation of strong roots-rock numbers, but ultimately made her biggest impact with her quieter songs.

Taking the stage at the Knitting Factory, Edwards quietly eased into the disarming “Pink Emerson Radio,” a dream-like assessment of mementos and memories glimpsed in the moment before rushing from a burning house.

Loss is a major focus of Edwards’ current repertoire. Much of her latest release, “Back To Me,” deals with it, but never passively. Rather, the protagonists in her songs are fighting to keep from losing companions, realizing they’ve lost a fight and walking away to fight another day, or just digesting the fact that things have changed.
Continue reading Kathleen Edwards at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood