Save Music in Chinatown 19 Recap with The Last, Zander Schloss, The Vulturas, PR Shake, and The Linda Lindas!

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I thought we’d be done with Save Music in Chinatown after our sixth year––after Eloise had gone from Kindergarten to fifth grade. Maybe Wendy and I would organize one all-ages benefit matinee for Castelar’s music program per year, because we still love the school and the neighborhood where my immigrant grand- parents and in-laws, and now our daughter, have hung out.

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And carrying on the punk rock tradition of the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Café has been an unexpected and awesome ride for a guy who thought his coolest years were behind him. But we’d likely dial back and redirect our efforts toward middle school.

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I actually came to grips with ending our journey. We started with no experience or expectations, and I would have been totally happy ending it with last year’s shows: Phranc played my fiftieth birthday party show, we hosted the first Dils show in 40 years, and my daughter formed a garage punk band with her cousins and their friend. Things can only go downhill––especially when our trusty sound guy Nate is about to move away.

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Then a funny thing happened: Principal Fung decided to add a sixth grade, which will be followed by a seventh and eighth grade. If everything goes according to plan, Eloise will be going to Castelar for three more years! Guess the Save Music in Chinatown shows will keep rolling along until we run out of bands that will play for us or they stop being fun.

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And so our seventh year began last weekend with a set of melancholy songs by Zander Schloss for Nate–a favor I asked just a week before the show. Nate had invited Zander to play for us twice before–once as half of Sean & Zander and then solo–and I thought it would be perfect to have him back. Not only because Nate loves Zander’s music (and Repo Man is one of my favorite movies of all time) but also because his gorgeously nuanced, acoustic style is pure hell for a sound guy to handle in a low-budget operation like ours and Zander and Nate are good enough friends that the former can give the latter the stink eye for the slightest bit of feedback! Amazing musicianship and soul-baring songs, as always, from the ex-member of Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster, Weirdos, Joe Strummer’s band… The cover of “Straight To Hell” that he’s been playing is great, too. Check out his page for announcements on new shows and songs…

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Next up was PR Shake, a band with Giuliano Scarfo who has played for us twice with Ford Madox Ford and again with The Dils. I love having regulars come back with different projects; it feels like family. He rules on the drums, and I think it’s cool that his dad Chip and Louie Perez III’s dad (LP2?) were both on Slash records, with Rank & File and Los Lobos, respectively. More family, and the underlying connections from band to band are kind of like a good mix tape. But back to the badass power trio, they have added bass now, and might even have a 7″ single coming out soon. Pure garage punk magic, and you know it is guaranteed to totally rock out if Giuliano is involved in any way. They aren’t online a lot, but they share flyers and photos on Instagram.
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Louie Perez III’s new band Vulturas has his buddy Eric Fuller, who played with him in LP3 & The Tragedy and Evil Hearted You for us before, and big-time OC punkers Rob Milucky and Shane Strange. To me, they sound more like The Stooges than the roots punk or slam pit stuff that their other bands the individuals are associated with. Maybe he put on the dinosaur suit to make sure the kids in the crowd could hang! Or to provide padding when he makes himself comfortable in that awkward zone between the stage and front row? Explosive front guy action with killer riffs to back it up. The the re-press of their sold-out debut on Hostage Records while you can and look for an EP soon!
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What can we say about The Last? It was a real honor to have the pre-punk, power-pop legends from the South Bay play for our cause, probably made possible because one of them is a fan of The Linda Lindas. They played the Hong Kong Cafe with Black Flag 40 years ago, and Joe Nolte said it was good to be back in Chinatown. I have more than a few Last LPs and 7″ singles but I don’t think any of them capture the power of The Last in concert. (The closest might be the latest–the 2013 Danger release with Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez of The Descendents providing rhythm.) Incredible power and musicianship and cool memories about the first wave of punk. I especially loved The Go-Go’s story he shared after finding out that The Linda Lindas had met Belinda Carlisle a couple days before. He and Jane Drano formed a mutual appreciate society until The Go-Go’s blew it by becoming big! Read more cool stories and dig into their library of excellent music at laexplosion.com!
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Due to homework commitments, the youngest band played last. They wore T-shirts looking back at bands that have played previous Save Music in Chinatown shows (Upset, Bombon, Hurry Up, Dangerhouse Records like Alley Cats, Alice Bag, Dils…) and played a Muffs cover as a tribute to recently lost L.A. punk legend Kim Shattuck! A real nice follow-up to the previous night’s Dia de los Muertos gig at Self Help Graphics and a real cool return to Chinatown after a busy summer opening for Bleached and Alice Bag, playing the Hurley Studios and Viva! Fest… All four girls are busy with different combinations of school, sports, dance, travel, and just being kids, so I don’t take any appearance for granted. In fact, they’ll probably be taking a break when the January show comes around, so follow them on Instagram for more news and surprises.
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Our 19th show was a real blast, full of all the stuff that makes our show feel special to me: multiple generations of L.A. punkers, family everywhere, friends sprinkled throughout the crowd, and my favorite espresso brownies at the bakesale. Joe from The Last was excited to learn that Castelar alum, parent, aunt, volunteer and bakesale chief Mamie used to work the door at her dad’s old restaurant and the legendary L.A. punk club, the Hong Kong Cafe, which sat right across the plaza from the Grand Star!
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And, of course, everything comes together to help out Chinatown’s public elementary school’s music program. When Eloise started Kindergarten at Castelar, we loved that it felt like a safe, warm, small town community that welcomed Engish-learning immigrants and blue-collar families–a lot like my grandparents or in-laws. After finding out the music program was underfunded, we immediately thought of the neighborhood’s punk rock past and decided to try throwing these all-ages matinee fund raisers with no experience but a lot of help from friends. Who knew we would make it to our 19th show and seventh year? That a community would grow around the shows or that Eloise, her cousins, and their pal would form a band and play shows in that space?
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Thanks again to everyone who plays for us, helps out at the shows, donates to the bake sale and raffle, spreads the word, attends the gigs, or just says nice things. Who wants to join us on Sunday, January 26th? We’re not totally sure who is going to play, do sound, or show up, but we would love to see you in Chinatown that day! For the kids! For the arts and public education! For delicious cookies! Be there and follow the Save Music in Chinatown page on Facebook or my Instagram feed for the latest news and propaganda!
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* Some parts of this post have been repurposed from the intro to the Save Music in Chinatown: The Sixth Year zine. Get it at our shows!

The Making of Meet The Linda Lindas

A couple of days after The Linda Lindas played the Hollywood Palladium, my phone rang. At the time, Erik Caruso and I were planning mural painting at my daughter’s school, Castelar, which was timed to go with a Save Music in Chinatown fund-raising concert as well as the upcoming art show and noise jam at Harry Wirtz Elementary in Paramount, where my friend is a fifth-grade teacher.

“I would love it if The Linda Lindas could play the art show,” said Erik. “But I know the girls are students, too, and will be at school. So I’m wondering, did you happen to shoot video at the Palladium?” He thought it would be cool for his students to learn about the band, who are aged 8, 11, 12, and 14.

Funny he should ask. Ever since the concert, Wendy and I had been obsessing over three videos from different angles, smartphone footage from a handful of sources, and a bootleg audio recording from our friend Nate. We figured that all the pieces would sit in a box and collect dust like vacation or wedding photos that never get turned into an album.

So we opened up our hard drive to Erik and his filmmaker friend Mike Panganiban. They also dropped in on the next Linda Lindas practice to shoot some extra footage and conduct a casual interview, and then got even more footage a few weeks later at the Save Music in Chinatown matinee–less than 24 hours before the piece was shown at Wirtz Elementary!

Wendy took Eloise to the screening and said that the students were captivated by the video, cheered when each song ended, and had a bunch of questions afterward. We parents thought that a bigger audience would enjoy it, too, and maybe even get inspired by the story of kids, sisters, cousins, and friends making noise, having fun, practicing a lot, and being heard. Mike kindly added credits and made some tweaks, and that was it.

Like the band itself, the video just sort of happened naturally and then turned out to be really cool. Thanks to Erik for envisioning it, our new friend Mike and his crew for all their work, Nate for the audio, Daniel Wu for the cameras, and everyone who shared their videos and supports the band! Catch The Linda Lindas on Thursday, July 11, at the Moroccan opening for Bleached and Saturday, August 10, at the Hi-Hat opening for Alice Bag!

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The Linda Lindas, forming (February 2018)

 

Save Music in Chinatown 18 with The Gears, Gitane Demone Quartet, Marriage Material, The Castelalas, and The Linda Lindas, plus murals at Castelar!

At the tail end of six years and eighteen Save Music in Chinatown all-ages matinees to raise money for Castelar Elementary’s music program, you’d think we’d have it all figured out. Paying tribute to the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe, where The Bags, Weirdos, X, Black Flag, Germs, and Go-Go’s played during L.A.’s first wave of punk, check. Killer bake sale and cool raffle, check. Exposing kids who can handle it to DIY culture and seeing some of them even form a band, check. The project that Wendy and I started with inspiration from our daughter Eloise and help from our friend Nate has outlived our expectations, become a small but loyal community, and exceeded our dreams. Check out the insane list of L.A. punk legends who have become friends: Adolescents, Alice Bag, Phranc, The Dils, Channel Three, The Crowd, Mike Watt…

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Just two weekends ago, how lucky were we to have The Gears play for us a second time, lugging their gear up and down the long red stairway to help out the kids of Chinatown and bringing along their new guitarist and our old friend Rikk Agnew, too. And if you weren’t moved by seeing a mob of little kids knowing exactly what to do when the pride of Glassell Park played “Don’t Be Afraid To Pogo,” off their essential 7″ single that was released 40 years ago during the first wave of L.A. punk… Well, you were probably attending the wrong show.

I was reminded that we grownups are just as lucky as the youngsters by my friend Bert, who was from visiting from Scotland and remarked that he only dreamed of seeing The Gears when he was a punker growing up and playing in bands in Washington, DC.  The Gears are one of those legendary L.A. punk bands that never toured or gained as much attention as they deserved, and we gotta see them every chance we get! You never know when when they’ll play the last chord–I thought it was last year.

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Our co-headliner was The Gitane Demone Quartet, featuring members of Christian Death and Screamers. The all-star death rock combo didn’t lighten up their set one bit for a rare appearance in broad daylight and actually ended it by dedicating “Eva Braun” and “We Must Bleed” to the punks! I am super proud that the children at our shows don’t need cleaned-up Kidz Bop versions of rock songs, and can handle gnarly tributes by lifers from L.A.’s underground.

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Special thanks to Rikk Agnew, who plays in both The Gears and GDQ. He was into the idea of playing the double-header for the cause right from the beginning, and helped recruit both bands to volunteer their time and noise. Please don’t tell anyone that Rikk is not only a survivor and a legend of the L.A. punk scene but also a softie!

Marriage Material went on first, and I asked them to play because most of them would have attended as friends and supporters anyway. Also, I hadn’t seen them since Jenae began lending her vocals and holy crap! How did they get even more punk? And will we ever get to buy their awesome second EP on wax? Check them out! And subscribe to RazorCake!

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I would like to thank the grownup performers for allowing the bands featuring children go last. They really should have gone on first, but one member of The Linda Lindas had dance rehearsals that afternoon and another was in the middle of ninth grade finals! The Castelalas made a guest appearance right before them and, after raising money for Castelar’s music program for years, it was pretty awesome to have a band with third, fourth, and fifth graders from the school taught by their awesome music teacher, Matt Brundrett. Eloise formed the Castelalas to play a talent show and, after practicing for months, they were too much fun not to ask them to play again.

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As for The Linda Lindas, I have a feeling that when it’s all over our Save Music in Chinatown shows will be nothing but a trivia answer that only their hardest core fans know. Eloise went from being mascot to flyer artist to guest singer to member of the band with her cousins Lucia and Mila and their friend Bela. How cool is it these girls have not only had a blast playing super-fun garage rock covers of punk ‘n’ roll, but have shared our Chinatown stage with the  likes of Phranc, Channel 3, Alley Cats, and The Dils? And now The Gears and GDQ!

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Maybe some of you saw The Linda Lindas with Best Coast and Money Mark at the Jackie Rocks! benefit in February. Or open for Bikini Kill at the Palladium in April. Or have tickets to the sold-out show with Bleached in July or their date with Alice Bag in August. If we’re lucky, they’ll come back to play in Chinatown again. It’s been as amazing as it was unplanned and unexpected to see them grow in the space that we have carved out, forming a multigenerational underground with first wave punks.

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While The Linda Lindas and Castelalas represented a youth movement, there was also an art component added to our latest Save Music in Chinatown weekend. For the last several years, my friend Erik Caruso has been attending our benefit concerts for Castelar and Wendy and I have been attending the year-end art shows and noise jams that he has been organizing at Harry Wirtz Elementary in Paramount, where he teaches. This year, Erik set it up so our efforts would finally join forces.

Erik’s project entails optional contemporary art lessons and projects for fifth graders throughout the school year, capped off by an art show featuring student work and pieces by contemporary artists who participate via video or attend in person, and a noise jam with artists, many of whom are musicians, and guest players. This time around, Tim Kerr, Mike Watt, Randy Randall, Ray Barbee, Mark Waters, Hagop Najarian, and others played “Minor Threat,” and Ian MacKaye even sent a video message to Erik and the students.


For years, Erik had the artists paint murals at his school as well, but lately he has been bringing artists to other schools and Castelar was this year’s destination. It was cool getting to hang out with Erik and the artists, a lot of old friends and now some new ones. Many of the crew were able to attend the Save Music in Chinatown show and most returned to Castelar a couple of mornings later to field questions from students about the murals. That provided an occasion for one more performance by The Castelalas, and it was a thrilling revelation to see so many students having their minds blown by cool art and music. While I don’t foresee our punk rock matinees turning into kiddie shows, I hope more children in Chinatown will be open to enjoying loud music, forming bands, and getting into DIY culture in general.

Not more than half a year ago, we thought that this could have been our last show with Eloise completing fifth grade. But it turns out Castelar will be adding a sixth grade next year. And then a seventh and eight grade after that! So unless the shows stop being fun, we’ll keep organizing them–especially since it looks like education and the arts won’t stop being underfunded any time soon. Hope to see you in the fall.

Linda Lindas to the front! By Wendy Lau

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The Linda Lindas with Kathleen Hanna at the Hollywood Palladium (April 26, 2019) Photo: Alice Baxley

I started this blog to have an outlet for writing and sharing after Giant Robot ran its course. But what my wife wrote about our daughter, her cousins, and their friend needs to be here too. By Wendy Lau:

After The Linda Lindas opened for Bikini Kill at The Palladium, I’ve thought a lot about… parenting. Martin and I have always believed Eloise is an exceptional and charismatic individual. But did I really believe she could do anything?

Last November, after The Linda Lindas’ first show at Save Music in Chinatown, Eloise’s music composition teacher Carl Protho said, “You better watch out. She’s going to play The Forum! The Greek! STAPLES Center!” I laughed and thanked him. He looked at me sternly and continued, “I’m not kidding. You better prepare yourself.” Right before he saw her perform at The Palladium last Friday, Carl texted, “Hold onto your heart!”

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The Linda Lindas opening for Bikini Kill at the Hollywood Palladium (April 26, 2019) Photo: Alice Baxley

The day after The Linda Lindas’ previous show in February, Eloise and I ran into our friend Gabie Strong. We told her that Bethany from Best Coast sent a video of their cover of “Rebel Girl” to Kathleen Hanna because once Eloise yelled “Girls to the front!” she started crying. “Maybe they’ll open for Bikini Kill at The Palladium” was Gabie’s reaction. Again, I laughed.

Next thing you know, Kathleen Hanna tweeted the video, which has surpassed 55K views. And we all thought, that’s cool but it’s just Twitter. Then she invited them to open for one of the much-anticipated Bikini Kill reunion shows. Gabie was prophetic! First, I was shocked. Then super giddy. And then scared.

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The Linda Lindas and Bikini Kill at the Hollywood Palladium (April 26, 2019) Photo: Alice Baxley

Us parents even confided our insecurities with Kathleen. Would people who paid good money to see Bikini Kill be disappointed to see a kid cover band open the show? But she was confident The Linda Lindas would make longtime fans feel like the struggle was all worth it and inspire teen girls to start their own bands. During their incredible set, so many people screamed, laughed, and even cried tears of joy. These little girls won over thousands of people waiting to see Bikini Kill! Kathleen was right.

I truly believe my kid can do anything. Moving forward, I will always protect her but never stand in her way. This post has been about Eloise because I’m her mommy, but I could write a whole essay on each of The Linda Lindas: Lucia, Mila, and Bela. These unbelievably awesome girls just showed us all they’ll rule the world.

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Wendy and Eloise backstage at the Hollywood Palladium (April 26, 2019) Photo: Jessie Cowan

Catch The Linda Lindas this summer!
– Sunday, June 2 at Save Music in Chinatown 18 with The Gears and Gitane Demone Quartet (All-ages matinee)
– Thursday, July 11 at Bleached’s record release show with DJ Bethany from Best Coast at the Moroccan (18+) 

Into the Danlands: Eloise’s interview with Daniel Wu, Into The Badlands Season 3, Final Episodes edition

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While editing Giant Robot magazine, I got to interview a lot of cool filmmakers and actors. So I was pretty excited when Eloise told me she wanted to interview Daniel Wu for a school assignment to write about a famous Chinese person. Why not? He’s a longtime friend and I thought conducting the interview in Mandarin would be an outstanding project for her dual-language fourth grade classroom. I traded some texts and Eloise placed a phone call to Uncle Dan last May.

As Into The Badlands is about to conclude its third and final season, I asked Eloise to translate the interview into English to get us viewers ready for its long-awaited return. And if you are a fan of hardcore Hong Kong-style martial arts and choreography, dig the energy and production value of cable shows like The Walking Dead, and appreciate the humor of Nick Frost but haven’t checked out the AMC series yet, don’t miss the double premiere on Sunday, May 24, and Monday, May 25! Prepare to be entertained, addicted, and blown away every week.

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Eloise Wong, Happy Birthday, Uncle Dan (Detail), Liquid Paper on Cardboard, 2019

Eloise: Hi!
Daniel: Hi, how are you?

Eloise: Good, thank you for doing this.
Daniel: No worries. Are you ready to start?

Eloise: Yes. So my first question is, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Daniel: When I was 13, I wanted to be an architect.

Eloise: And when did you get into acting?
Daniel: In 1997, right when I graduated from college. I went to Hong Kong, and someone asked me to be in a TV commercial. Then the director of my first movie, Yonfan, saw the commercial and looked for me.

Eloise. Oh!
Daniel: It was just that easy.

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Eloise: Wow!  Since you weren’t experienced, was acting extra fun? More difficult?
Daniel: More difficult, because I had to work on two things: How to act and how to speak Chinese. Both at the same time!

Eloise: When you were filming in Hong Kong or China, what was the most fun movie you worked on?
Daniel: My most fun movie was One Nite in Mongkok. Of all my films, that is my favorite.

Eloise: What’s a difficult thing about acting that most people don’t know about?
Daniel: A lot people think that acting is really easy, and you just go to the location, go home, and that’s it. But you have to do a lot of homework. There’s more homework and preparation than actual work. And filming just one hour of a movie can mean four or five hours on the set.

Eloise: When you were in China, you were already a big star. Why did you come back to work in America?
Daniel: I didn’t give up on China, but I’m an American so I can do English films, too. Now I do both.

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Eloise: Is Into the Badlands the hardest thing you’ve ever worked on?
Daniel: Probably. I work really hard on it—more than in movies. For Into the Badlands, I have to do kung fu every day for 10 hours and it’s exhausting. It’s also easy to get hurt.

Eloise: Do you think your work has had a positive effect on the world?
Daniel: Um, I hope so! I’m not trying to change the world, but I hope at least a few kids who watch Into the Badlands will want to learn kung fu. When I was a kid, I watched movies and wanted to learn kung fu. I think that would be a good influence.

Eloise: Which of your movies should us 10-year-old kids to watch?
Daniel: The movie I just finished, Tomb Raider. I think it’s got a good message that girls can be heroes, too.

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Eloise: When are we going to El Cholo to eat green corn tamales with you again?
Daniel: I hope we can do it soon. Your dad introduced them to me and I really like them! Maybe next month I’ll come and we’ll have them.

Eloise: Yes!
Daniel: Are there any more questions?

Eloise: When did you meet Daddy?
Daniel: In 1995 or 1996, I really liked reading Giant Robot magazine. I wrote a letter to your daddy saying I really liked it, and if they needed help I would contribute. The first time we met was in New York City. I was visiting my sister and don’t know what he was doing there—probably Giant Robot stuff.

Eloise: That’s all. Thank you!
Daniel: Good luck. I hope you get an A on your report. If you don’t, I’ll come to your school with my sword!

 

Watch the final episodes of Into The Badlands Season 3 on AMC and stream the previous episodes on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. And, yes, Eloise got an A on her project and, no, Eloise is not allowed to watch the series yet!

Jackie Rocks! concert to get out the vote for Jackie Goldberg with Best Coast, Money Mark, The Linda Lindas with Justin Maurer, and The Phews

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Wendy, Eloise, and I have been putting on benefit shows for Castelar’s music program for six years now and it’s been great. Music education, kids, Chinatown, and punk rock–totally unplanned but perfect. And it has been a slippery slope from raising money for the school to becoming advocates for Chinatown and activists for public education, supporting community efforts to slow down the takeover of the historic neighborhood by developers and backing the teachers in their fighting back against the dismantling of public education by privatizers and union busters. After getting fired up by last month’s teacher strike, it made sense to help organize an event to support Jackie Goldberg’s bid for the seat of LAUSD school board 5 .

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Wendy and I met Jackie Goldberg in March 2016, shortly after Castelar Elementary was identified for co-location. We had no idea what that meant, so we went to a TEACh (Transparency, Equity, and Accountability in Charter Schools) meeting where we were introduced to Jackie and given information and encouragement. We went on to help stop the charter school from taking space and resources from the neighborhood school in Chinatown.

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So last weekend, we teamed up with my sister Angelyn and a bunch of friends (especially Euphronia and Lois) to organize a benefit show and rally for Jackie. To support the legendary activist and educator in a multigenerational, DIY setting with so many families and kids who are affected by the LAUSD school board election seemed like a perfect fit and Jackie’s campaign manager Zoë agreed. After confirming that Jackie would be able to drop in on our event, we started putting together our bill.

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We thought it would be really cool and important to have public school kids play the event and have a voice in an election that concerns them most. Of course, The Linda Lindas (Save Music in Chinatown faves featuring our daughter, nieces who attend a District 5 elementary school, and their friend) would play. And we had just become friends with Justin Maurer at our last Chinatown benefit although he was already a regular. The ex-Clorox Girl and member of Maniac had been in the spotlight providing ASL translation in the teachers strike, and how cool would it be for him to sign for the girls?

We got some other pals to support the cause and get on the bill, too. My old friend Money Mark was already a Jackie Goldberg fan and my brother-in-law Carlos had been working with Best Coast, who were already Linda Lindas fans. We wanted to have more kids from schools in District 5 and our friends’ son’s band, The Phews, were into it. Getting family and old and new friends behind a cause and having fun doing it is the best, and our show was exactly that.

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I love how Mark and Justin joined The Linda Lindas, Justin signed for Jackie, and Carlos played with Money Mark and Best Coast. The Linda Lindas played with Best Coast, too. The sold-out show had a real friendly feel to it, and afterward we were able to donate about $3,000 to Jackie’s campaign between ticket sales, a cool raffle and silent auction, and delicious bake sale. More importantly, we got a bunch of voters together who will spread the word about Jackie. Hopefully, we helped children feel involved in the process and empowered, too.

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Public education is at a crossroads in Los Angeles and our city needs Jackie to advocate for all children as well as the teachers, and protect schools from union-busting privatizers who aim to profit off children and our future at the expense of the public good. Jackie has decades of experience as an activist and educator, champion for underdogs, and progressive lawmaker.

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Jackie is endorsed by Tony Thurmond, Dolores Huerta, Betty Yee, and Hilda Solis, and and is UTLA’s choice to balance out the school board that has been being bought by privatizing interests and carry out progress started in last month’s teachers strike. It’s a real gift for Los Angeles that Jackie is coming out of retirement to fight for our public schools and we hope to spread that message.

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And the local election is not only important to families with kids who attend LAUSD schools. Everyone who wants to stand up to the privatization of public education, stop the attacks on the teaching profession, and improve conditions for every single student should be paying attention. The city we love and its future are better off with excellent and equitable public schools.

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If you get junk mail for the special election, then you are in District 5 and can vote. Spread the word and get out the vote for Jackie on Tuesday, March 5!

Save Music in Chinatown 17 recap with Alley Cats, The Dils, Rhino 39, and Neko Neko with DJ Lisa Fancher


It got a pretty intense when The Dils played Save Music in Chinatown 17 last weekend. Over the years, our series of all-ages benefit matinees has maintained a fairly low profile and no show ever got so big that we’ve had to worry about children getting crushed. But of course the unexpected return of The Dils attracted wall-to-wall crowds and a line of punks of all shapes, sizes, and ages snaked down the stairs hoping to just hear, feel, and smell, the gig. I was seriously worried about us getting busted by the fire marshall, fights breaking out, or middle-aged skins or mohawks trampling kids for selfies with the band or to shoot it on their iPads.

But none of that happened, and the afternoon was as fun as it was exciting. I’m pretty sure none of us in the room (including singer, guitar player, and co-founder Chip Kinman) thought we’d ever see The Dils play their first show in 40 years right across the plaza from the old Hong Kong Cafe. And how many people can say The Dils played a benefit for the music program at their daughter’s elementary school? Or that their daughter sang “Class War” with them?  (The answer is two: me and my wife.)

I’m all for friends’ old bands getting back together to play festivals and big shows, receive the attention and love they deserve, and have a blast in front of huge audiences. And that made it even more unreal that this would happen at one of our humble benefit shows. The afternoon felt less like a star-studded, invite-only event that you read about in a magazine than a gathering of old friends who just happened to play together at the Vex, Masque, Starwood, or Hong Kong Cafe a lot back in the day. (Our friend, Save Music in Chinatown bake sale boss, and Castelar alum, parent, and volunteer Mamie actually used to work the Hong Kong Cafe door because her dad ran the venue!)

The Dils didn’t get together just to play our show. Chip and his rock ‘n’ roll animal son Giuliano had already played for us twice in their other band, Ford Madox Ford, and I simply asked if they wanted to play a warmup show after noticing that they announced a  Dils show in San Diego. We made it a doubleheader of Dangerhouse Records legends by asking the Alley Cats to come back and play for us again. With hits off the Yes L.A., compilation and URGH! A Music War, is there a more underrated, or unappreciated band from L.A. punk?

It was a perfect lineup to bring back Hector Penalosa (from Spirit of  ’77 garage punks  The Zeros) with his new power trio Neko Neko. He and his trusty drummer Nico had already played for us in various lineups of Baja Bugs and My Revenge. How could we say no when fellow Dangerhouse labelmates Rhino 39 came out of nowhere wanting to join the lineup and volunteer their back line to boot? And who else could DJ the show except our friend Lisa Fancher, the founder of Frontier Records and holder of the keys to Dangerhouse Records?

Sprinkled into the massive crowd, it was heartwarming to see so many friends, regulars, and longtime supporters including pals from KXLU, KCHUNG, and RazorCake, and members from Channel Three, Adolescents, and Midget Oddjob, as well as Bob Forrest, who have played for us or supported us since the beginning. Wendy and I have known some of the attendees since we worked together on Giant Robot. And college before that. Plus lots of family everywhere.

When Wendy and I started organizing Save Music in Chinatown shows, we hoped to raise some money for the music program at our daughter’s elementary school but had no idea it would last this long or that a scene would grow around it. We never dreamed that it would create a space where Eloise could make flyers, get to sing onstage, or form a band with her cousins and their friend. (The Linda Lindas made an appearance, too.)

We never expected to become activists for public education or advocates for the historic neighborhood where my immigrant grandparents or in-laws, and now daughter, found a place. All of that has been amazing and unexpected, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone who has attended our shows, helped out, and supported the cause along the way. Thank you.

Right now, Castelar Elementary only goes up to fifth grade and Eloise is a fifth grader. Any bands out there want to play what could be the final Save Music in Chinatown show on Sunday, June 2? Anyone out there want you join us?  Nothing lasts forever, so check it out while you can.