The Quick’s Mondo Deco reissue and reunion panel with Mark Hamill

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Photo by Stevo Rood/ARoodPhoto.com

Although I haven’t written for a magazine in almost a decade, sometimes I still receive packages in the mail with cool new music. Or in this case, cool old music. The Quick is a pre-punk LA band that I only found out about through Redd Kross and Dickies covers and then a Burger reissue. There’s no way I’ll ever get my hands on an affordable copy of the mind-blowing, slicker-than-snot-on-a-doorknob Sparks, Beatles, and Queen-informed Mondo Deco LP, but it has finally been reissued on CD. And guess what? It totally rules!

Sadly, I was out of town for the panels with the reunited band as well as fan club president Lisa Fancher (a.k.a. my friend, founder of Frontier Records, and writer of the copious liner notes) run by first-generation Quick listener Mark Hamill (yes, the actor from Star Wars). So I sent a few questions to Lisa and Quick drummer Danny Benair (fellow liner note contributor and also member of The Weirdos, Choir Invisible, and The Three O’Clock) for those of us who missed out.

MW: Listening to the reissue, my first thought was that for a band of teens The Quick was insanely realized and polished with stellar songs, musicianship, and melodies.
LF: They rehearsed like crazy so they were very tight, but they were also extremely silly people so they left a lot of room for chaos and mayhem. If they audience didn’t like them, which was a lot of the time, they had all sorts of methods for making the audience come unglued. As long as they got a reaction, it didn’t really matter which way it went! I saw The Quick with everyone from the Runaways to Starz to Van Halen (yuck!) to the Damned (who Danny and I became friendly with). They opened for absolutely everyone as they were one of the most well-known LA bands for a brief moment in time.

DB: We were professional garage musicians and we rehearsed much more than most bands. I love the band, and I am proud of what we did. Being signed at a young age with no knowledge of what it means is tough. Not sure I was ever really prepared.

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Photo courtesy of It’s Alive Media

MW: So much music has come and gone since that Quick record. How did Mondo Deco impress you when it came out and what about revisiting it now?
LF: Of course I could find no fault when it came out, but I was just out of high school. After many, many decades, it’s clear to see that speeding up the record was a massive mistake– it’s quite unpleasant to listen to. Danny remixed two tracks and at the correct speed, and they are super rockin’ and powerful, I hope someone will fund remixing the whole album someday!

DB: The fun part was when Brian Kehew and I spent 10 hours with the 2-inch tape. That was crazy! I recall those days quite well. I know the music too well: not many shocks other then the extended versions we found.

MW: Are those drumsticks the band is eating on the cover? Is that you tempting fate by wearing a white blouse while eating ice cream under lights? Were there other foods like chicken wings or pizza slices under consideration?
DB: The outtake photos, which I do not have, were funny. By the end we wiped it on our clothes. There was PLENTY of what you see: pastries, various ice creams, bananas, etc. No other foods.

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Instagram photo by Lisa Fancher, founder of Frontier Records, president of The Quick Fan Club, and contributor at the reunion panels

MW: How did the roundtable go at Beyond Baroque? The second show in the Valley? Were there more people in skinny ties or Star Wars gear?
DB: The roundtable was great, Nice experience, plenty of familiar faces. No topics were set, but each show was quite different. I think there were no skinny ties or Star Wars gear, but people did want to meet Mark Hamill.

LF: I want to add how generous it was of Mark to be the MC. He didn’t jump in a lot, and kind of let Hufsteter do all the talking. I thought Mark and Danny would do all the blabbing but Steve was stunningly effusive. He barely spoke at all back then, so that was certainly a big surprise. He obviously had decades to go over all of their mistakes, and he detailed them without being bitter. They were all 19 at the time, so who can blame them for letting Kim attempt to mentor them?

MW: When is the last time everyone in the band got together? Do you send each other holiday cards? Did everyone get to hang out and catch up when planning the reissue? 
DB: In 2009, four of us had dinner. Billy was there, but Ian was in NYC. So the last time the five of us were together was 1978, sadly.

LF: I see and talk to Danny all the time, as he lives about a mile from me. I lost touch with the rest, so it was really great to see them all again. Hufsteter brought his dog Monkey with him from Arizona, and he’s probably the cutest dog I’ve ever seen!

MW: “My Purgatory Years,” “Hillary,” “No No Girl,” and your version of “It Won’t Be Long”–so many great songs that have never sounded better. But why no “Pretty Please” bonus cut?
DB: Thank you. This records was about the Mercury demos and Mondo Deco. All of the Elektra demos were excluded for that reason.

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Photos courtesy of Danny Benair

MW: What are the chances of Frontier doing a reissue of the “Pretty Please” single, which the world needs just as much as the LP?
LF: Technically, that was the first record I ever record I ever released–many years before I ever thought up Frontier. I created that wonderfully crappy picture sleeve with Letraset and a few Xeroxes. Dionysus released “Pretty Please” in the 2000s, I think, but I don’t know if it needs reissuing. (Ya think I should? Hmmm.)

MW: Danny, I think you were involved in ETM, which brings music education to underserved elementary schools including my daughter’s. Can you talk about your lifelong relationship with music from The Quick to now? Thoughts on your bands as part of LA’s fabric of cool underground music?
DB: ETM was Louis from The Three O’Clock. Great cause. Well, I was and I still am a geeky record collector. It all started by listening to records and playing with friends, and The Quick and The Three O’Clock were my career bookends. Glad that I did it all–the good and bad.

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Photo by Stevo Rood/ARoodPhoto.com

Get The Quick’s Mondo Deco CD from a cool record store near you or straight from the source at realgonemusic.com and check out more amazing photos from the event by Stevo Rood at RoodPhoto.com. (And don’t forget Lisa Fancher’s Frontier Records for Three O’Clock, Weirdos, and more essential stuff like Adolescents, Rikk Agnew, Christian Death, Middle Class, Flyboys, and more!)

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Comic-Con 2018 Recap: 40th year of going edition

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The San Diego Comic-Con can become a blur after four days. Less than two weeks after this summer’s installment–the first time my wife Wendy, our daughter Eloise, and I were able to get passes for each and every day–I can only sort photos by looking old T-shirts that I took out of storage just for the occasion.

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But how about going through memories over 40 years? My brother Greg, our friend Mike, and I were 10 when we started attending the Con in 1979. Since then, Greg and I have missed one. Mike, zero. Our first trips were to the old convention center and then to the El Cortez, its original site, before the new convention center opened.

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There wasn’t nearly as much cosplay in the Bronze Age of Comics, and definitely way more Trekkies and swords and sandals wearers than superheroes. I think it’s safe to say that the modern age of cosplay was ushered in by anime otaku in the ’90s and then cemented by mainstream Star Wars fandom, the Harry Potter generation, and movie studios paying attractive models to wear capes, and not just nerds.

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Fancy pavilions erected by movie studios, video game companies, and publishers (comic books or not) weren’t present, either. Mostly it was shops setting up simple tables with back issues in cardboard boxes or original art arranged under plastic. There were also vendors that sold vintage lunchboxes and Big Little Books, genre movie posters and lobby cards, duped VHS tapes of horror flicks and kung fu movies, weapons for real life D&D players and Civil War re-enactors, and T-shirts for all types of fandom. There wasn’t a lot of glamour in the good old days–although I recall seeing the likes of Jack Kirby and Will Eisner walking the floor. Once, John Byrne decline to sign an L7 concert poster that ripped off his Dark Phoenix art for me.

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There have always been panels and spotlights, and some of the earliest events and panels that stand out for me include a Klingon Ascension Ritual, midnight reading by Neil Gaiman, and advance screening of Natural Born Killers. Sometime in the earlier ’90s I took a picture with Go Nagai at a spotlight panel. There is sort of a blackout between the mid ’90s and 2010 when I was sequestered in the GR booth–first in the Small Press area and then on the main floor–but now that am free to enjoy every aspect of the Con once more, I find myself transitioning from being one of the nerds in black T-shirts who gets excited about the most obscure, least popular panels to the AARP members who make up the balance.

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Not having a vendor pass anymore, Hall H getting absorbed by mainstream celebrity culture, entertainment conglomerates taking over the Gaslamp District, and difficulty of getting passes make it easy for us lowly fans to scoff at Comic-Con and stop caring about it. So do the other conventions that are popping up everywhere. But I attended it before all the hoopla and will continue after it passes.

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Where else can you buy new comics straight from the likes of Jason Lutes, Johnny Ryan, Charles Glaubitz, Lawrence “Raw Dog” Hubbard, and Debbie Huey, and have them signed and sketched in? Gush to comics book legends such as Bob Burden, Robert Williams, Geof Darrow, and Sergio Aragones? Hang out with old and new friends from all over the continent who make comics and other cool stuff including Eric Nakamura, Keenan Keller, Tom Devlin, Peggy Burns, Tracy Hurren, Brian Flynn, Gabe Soria, Louie Perez, and Henry Mortensen? And catch up with Sacto and San Diego pals Scott Bradley, McHank, and Rob Crow on top of everything else? (Shown in that order above, but unsorted.)

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Where else will I get to see panels with Nichelle Nichols, Bobcat Goldthwait, and underground comix legends or discover news about an unseen Harryhausen documentary and museum in the works? Eloise would be upset if I didn’t mention Supergirl and DC Superhero Girls. Same with Wendy regarding A Discovery of Witches.  There was so much more, and that wasn’t cosplay but the real Bootsy Collins with Peppermint Patty and DJ Lance Rock who we encountered and took a picture with. Wow!

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Beneath all the layers of showbiz and after all the difficulty of getting passes–and perhaps a little bit because of them–Comic-Con is still as awesome as you want it to be once you get in. And my love for the institution has only become deeper now that Eloise is as exactly as old as Mike, Greg, and I were when we first convinced our cool moms to take us. How lucky am I to see it reflected in her eyes? What will she and Mike and Greg’s kids say about it 40 years from now? With Crom’s blessings, we dorky parents will get to see that conversation unfold one year at a time.

One week in Berlin: Memorials and Museums, Maiden and Ramones

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I was already excited about Wendy, Eloise, and me jumping on Dad’s trip to Berlin. It’s a city with a lot of  history and we had never visited anyplace like it before. The last time we joined him on a trip to Mexico City, it was one of our best journeys ever. Plus Berlin has the Ramones Museum. It wasn’t until I discovered that the legendary punk band’s first manager, Danny Fields, would be giving a talk at the location that I got really amped about our week in Germany. I love the Ramones. And it turned out that like Paris (where we saw a Moebius retrospective and Murakami takeover of the Louvre), Venice (an exhibit of Kubrick’s early magazine photography), or Mexico City (the cradle of lucha libre), Berlin is one of the Great Cities of the world where something cool is happening all the time.

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Perhaps it was slightly cruel to drag my jet-lagged family to the cramped and crowded Ramones Museum on our first night in Berlin. But it was worth it to meet the namesake of “Danny Says” and hear him talk about not only managing the Ramones but taking pictures of them to supply the weekly papers. He knew Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy were important but didn’t expected that his photography would eventually be shown at art shows and be collected in a hardcover art book. We got to hear a lot of great stories from a humble and funny person who happened to know a lot of cool musicians. (He had previously worked with The Doors, MC5, and Stooges…) We also made friends with Flo, the guy who runs the Ramones Museum, and even had lunch with him later on. He told us that he opened the venue only because his collection was too big for his apartment!

Of course, Berlin is better known for its heavy-duty history, from the Nazis to the Cold War to the Wall falling in 1989. It made an impression on me that the city’s whole story–the good, the bad, and the ugly–is laid out in monuments and museums all over the place. It reminded me of the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which was constructed at the Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot, but spread out citywide.

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Not far from the Brandenburg Gate, where Nazis and then Allied troops marched before and after WWII, are a purposely disorienting Memorial to Murdered Jews and a more somber Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism. Not far away and running alongside a surviving section of the Berlin Wall is the Topographie des Terrors, an outdoor museum built at the site of the old SS headquarters that features a detailed timeline of Hitler’s rise and the country’s fall into fascism. Politicians building up power, breaking down unions, scapegoating minorities, and celebrating the master race–German kids who grew up post-unification probably get sick of hearing about it but every detail hit us American tourists like a ton of bricks, made in the U.S.A. Seems like the only shameful piece of history that isn’t carved in stone is the site of the Führerbunker, which is now covered by a dusty parking lot marked by just a few modest signs. (Appropriately not worth the walk.)

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Traveling easily, mostly by train and sometimes by bus, in a city where English is used almost everywhere, we packed in a lot of other touristy stuff. Checkpoint Charlie features actors pretending to be American G.I.s in front and has a McDonald’s in back (as well as a stand that offers vegan currywurst down the street) but is still something to see, and we went to a ton of museums as well. Museumsinsel (a.k.a. Museum Island) is UNESCO-approved beautiful and the various structures hold plenty of important Egyptian artifacts and European paintings. The post-unification Kulturforum complex is impressive, too. But I liked the Berlinishche Gallery the most. It reflected a century of German history through art–from formal to surreal to dark to experimental. I especially enjoyed the Kienholz: The Art Show 1963-1977, with its roomful of sculpted art lovers checking out the gallery scene circa hippie days complete with vintage commentary that can be heard via lo-fi transistor devices installed on each figure.

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We found David Bowie and Iggy Pop’s old apartment (where Lodger, Low, and Heroes were written) and also attended an Iron Maiden concert at Waldbühne (Legacy of the Beast!). It was pretty wild to hear Winston Churchill’s voice and Eddie’s fighter plane open up the show at an equally gigantic and gorgeous outdoor pavilion that once hosted Nazi rallies. Some of my other favorite places were the Schloss Charlottenburg’s super opulent, Orientalism-on-steroids room with carved caricatures of Chinese people and monkeys on the walls holding hundreds of imported tea sets as well as the truly psychedelic, Tiger Balm Gardens-esque Chinesisches Haus at Potdam. King Frederick was really into collecting Chinese things–gong!

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We got to hang out with some locals, too. My dad has an online pal that practices English with him while he brushes up on his German. On a river cruise, over lunch, and then while visiting her pad out in the country, she shared memories of growing up in East Germany and even played some old timey faves on her piano for us. In return, Eloise played Beatles and Beethoven. We met her daughter for dinner later on (Mediterranean food because locals go out for French, Italian, Tapas, etc. and German food reserved for street stands and biergartens) and she talked about being in the first graduating class after the Wall fell. Her older classmates were out of luck but she was able to reap the benefits of reunification. To her young teenage son, East Germany is ancient history just like Nazi Germany.

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We travelers reaped some benefits, too. Berlin is heavy and cool and we would go back in a second.

Save Music in Chinatown 15 recap with Adolescents, Midget Oddjob, Unhushables, Hurry Up, Cringeworthy, and DJ Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records

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Our fifteenth Save Music in Chinatown show was going to be amazing. I felt like the lineup was carved in stone before the fourteenth show (Lois, Dub Narcotic Sound System, PHAG featuring Phranc and Alice Bag, and Mike Watt & The Missingmen!) even happened. But timing didn’t work out and the deck got shuffled leaving us with only a super-secret headliner that we couldn’t promote because we didn’t want stage divers and slam dancers to crush little elementary school kids at our all-ages matinee. And what sort of lunatic would pay 12 or 15 bucks to see a show if they don’t even know who is playing? We can’t have that sort of weirdo around our children!

But like Tang Sanzang in his journey to the west or Tampopo in her ramen shop, we received help from the coolest collection of legends and oddballs. Each band really deserves its own story.

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Cringeworthy is the humblest type of group–a tribute band. But they play the songs of Cringer and J Church, two punk bands that I not only loved but was actually close to. The singer and guitarist Lance Hahn was a dear friend and J Church would not only stay with me when they toured but Lance would come over just to hang out. He was a songwriting and DIY animal, who had his own record label and zine, and we shared a lot of overlapping interests outside of punk rock: Hong Kong movies, vegetarian Chinese food, Hawaii. It meant a lot to me that he dug the magazine I helped make, and it was brutal when he died at the young age of 40–not long after he was supposed to play my Chinese wedding banquet (a precursor to our Save Music in Chinatown shows and a story for another time).

But Cringeworthy was formed to play an anniversary show at Epicenter Zone, where Lance volunteered, and features Bay Area and Sacto veterans of the punk and hardcore scenes including Kamala from Cringer and Kamala & The Carnivores, Frank from Star Fucking Hipsters and The Love Songs, and Lory and Anthony from RAD and Sick Burn. Anthony is also my cousin! How cool was it that he would get his Lance tribute band to come down to Los Angeles to play our benefit and even ask our daughter Eloise to sing one of my favorite songs by him: “Confession.” There is so much to love about that particular moment–J Church, Lance, Anthony, Eloise, Chinatown– it almost hurt to watch.

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I knew it was a long shot when I asked my old friend Maggie (ex-Bangs) if Hurry Up might be interested in playing our humble benefit show. Who would come all the way from Portland to play for free? But judging from her radio show, I knew that she was not only a fixture in the PacNW’s underground music scene but also an aficionado of all cool music including early L.A. punk. It turns out Maggie had been talking to Kathy and Westin about embarking on a short tour the day I contacted her, and it might not have hurt that her partners’ other band The Thermals had just announced a breakup. All that plus cheap airline tickets made the unlikely trip possible .

It was very cool to see our little benefit show from an out-of-town visitors’ point of view, especially because they were so stoked! Seeing little kids from Chinatown mixed with legends of L.A. punk bonding over music and cookies must have been a surreal experience, and the power trio played like they were out of their minds. Conversely, friends in the crowd were blown away by the power-pop infused, garage punk ‘n’ roll band’s musicianship but also their pure joy. After seeing Hurry UP play three ripping sets in two days (one with Save Music in Chinatown friends and LA punk legends Alley Cats) and getting to hang out with them so much, I was very sad to see them drive off to San Diego.

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The Unhushables didn’t even exist when we started planning the show. But not more than an hour after their Facebook page launched, which was a big deal to me because I was a huge fan of Franks’s old band Big Drill Car as well as Dave and Art’s Supernova, I asked my friend who managed them if they might be interested in playing our show. Just like that, they said yes and I had to try hard not to fan out. I probably saw Big Drill Car two or three dozen times in the early ’90s, and have fond memories of Supernova pulling up to Jabberjaw in their space van.

More or less, I kept my cool and even asked them if they’d be interested in making and selling a small run of CD-Rs with hand-printed sleeves (since their LP was only available digitally) and  invited them to KXLU they could introduce themselves over the airwaves while promoting the show and cause on the Molotov Cocktail Hour (they stayed for the entire show). The nicest humans! The most fun set! The music is entirely new but us old fans could clearly detect the weirdness of Supernova and exuberance of Big Drill Car. I hope they play again and often.

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I have been trying to get Midget Handjob to play our show for around a year now. Their name is PG-13 (possibly R) but the music is mind-expanding to all ages with an all-star cast of noise-making punkers who can also play hard jazz and noise and Keith Morris reading fever-dream stories on top of them. Yes, the original singer of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and OFF! It isn’t easy to wrangle seven schedules when every contributors plays in multiple bands but somehow the stars lined up for our show. And I didn’t find out until two weeks before the show, when Keith sent a message saying, “Weren’t we going to perform?” Okay!

We simply opened doors a little earlier and Keith was cool with us tweaking the combo’s name into Midget Oddjob, since flyers were going to be hung at our daughter’s elementary school. But nothing about the set was dumbed down, watered down, or made kid friendly. The band is a real jewel of L.A. punk that doesn’t play very often and they burned a searing impression into every single ear and brain cell with their supremely and equally trippy and psychotic jams. Freak out at the all-ages matinee!

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The Adolescents were our secret headliner–again. At our fifth show, founding member Steve Soto was announced to play a solo set and then the entire band played. I don’t think that either Mike Watt & The Secondmen or The Gears knew who was going to play after them! For Sunday’s matinee, our fifteenth, we did a better job of spreading the word to friends, family, and anyone who follows our updates and had a comfortably packed room full of curious kids, punk lifers, and supporters of the cause. Maybe having Lisa Fancher, who released their first and best-known Blue Album, be our deejay was a clue, too?

Before the set, singer and longime champion of our cause Tony Reflex talked about how the band has played Chinatown many times since 1979 and described his landmark moments in the historic neighborhood, including getting arrested for the first time and proposing to his wife. I would add their shows for us at the Human Resources gallery and now the Grand Star. For a band with that sort of legacy and imprint in L.A. punk to give our cause their seal of approval  not once but twice (and Steve did come through with a solo set on top of that) means the world to me. Their set was a full-on rager starting with “Brats in Battalions” and ending with “Amoeba,” peppered with more classics and brand-new faves in between (“Flat Earth Stomp,” “5150,” and the title track off their excellent upcoming Cropduster LP will blow you away). They don’t hate children and none were crushed.

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Of course, Save Music in Chinatown shows are more than concerts and not just because there was a kickass bake sale and little kids in dancing around in front. We raise money for music education in the inner city, where many students are immigrants, English learners, and underserved kids who don’t necessarily get opportunities for a thorough music education outside of school. We build on the punk rock tradition of the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe (where first-wave bands like X, Black Flag, Germs, Weirdos, Go-Go’s, Bags, and Dils played) by inviting artists who played there back in the day as well as newer members of the underground music tradition, both local and from as far away as China. We mix up immigrants and underground music, my favorite subcultures, that have crossed paths in the very same plaza as our shows at the Grand Star and unite them for the sake of kids, art, and the future.

After helping to start and edit an independent magazine for 16 years, where I met my graphic designer wife, I figured Wendy and I would never do anything that cool again. Who knew we would be able to embark on something like this with old and new friends, building a scene, supporting public education, and exposing kids who can handle it to underground and DIY culture? Who knew we would be able to do it and make a difference in the neighborhood where my immigrant grandparents and in-laws found community?

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My observations and gushing are mind-numbingly similar after each of our shows, and they must be a blur to anyone who actually checks in on my posts. But as our fifth school year draws to a close, I am more shocked than ever by the events we have shared, allies we have made, and how much our daughter has grown alongside the project. She has become our in-house artist, top spokesperson, and guest performer as well as lead inspiration. I didn’t get exposed to zines, DIY, or indie culture until I was a teenager and it blew me away. What can stop someone who is empowered by those sorts of things as a child?

With Eloise entering her final school year at Castelar, it’s hard not to anticipate the end of our project looming. That means we will have to make those three matinees especially great. (What bands want in? Do you dare miss a show?) It also means finding ways to make its impression go beyond 18 shows with 150 -200 people attending each afternoon. (An article for someone? A full-on book? The words may be dull, but we sure have some great photos.) Instead of taking a break this summer, I plan on doing a lot of digging into how these shows have reflected and affected the community, thinking about making the transition from school booster to activist, and considering where to go from here. Hopefully the posts won’t be too dull and we’ll still see you when school resumes in the fall. Have a great summer!

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If you don’t follow my feeds or blog, join the Save Music in Chinatown community on Facebook for updates on the next show.

 

Save Music in Chinatown 15 preview: Hurry Up (ex-The Bangs and The Thermals)

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I never expected our Save Music in Chinatown benefits to support Castelar Elementary’s music program to last this long. For five school years now, our all-ages matinees inspired by the neighborhood’s punk rock past at the old Hong Kong Café (but with cookies and little kids dancing around in front like the Peanuts Gang in a Target Video) have raised about $10,000 annually to help provide an extensive music education to largely immigrant, English-learning, and underserved students. We also have a lot of fun exposing kids that can handle it to DIY culture. All the while, we’ve made a lot of friends in LA’s storied punk community. Adolescents, Channel Three, Alice Bag, Mike Watt, Chuck Dukowski, Rikk Agnew, Phranc, Alley Cats, The Crowd, The Gears—our list is way too long to list and includes rad newer bands as well as some from China!

Our fifteenth show is the most shamelessly selfish lineup yet. Most of it is newer bands with members of older groups that never got very big or popular back in their days. But I loved them and want people to check out the current music, too. These are punk rock lifers who don’t play for fame but love and the scene.

I’ve been stalking Hurry Up for a long time now. I really dug Maggie Vail’s old band, The Bangs, and how cool is it that she is now in a possibly even more raging punk trio with Kathy Foster and Westin Glass from The Thermals? I sent Maggie a message via Instagram on a whim, and the stars must have been aligned because the three of them had just been talking about a West Coast tour. Guess what? Over the next week or two, we planned an incredible weekend tour so around our matinee fundraiser date. Hurry Up will be up to their armpits in punk legends on the trip, and I understand no less than the man, the myth, the legend O helped them set up a great show in his home town of San Diego, too.

Meet Hurry Up, and seeya at the shows.

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MW: Hurry Up has been around for eight years! What is the secret to lasting that long?
MV: It’ll be eight years in November, which is insane! Our secret is we are doing it purely out of love for each other and our music. This is by far the easiest band I’ve ever been in–whether that’s writing songs together, recording, playing shows, or touring.

MW: Can you remind us how you three got together?
MV: We started backstage at a Thermals show at Irving Plaza in New York City. I was working at Kill Rock Stars at the time and flew out for their Now We Can See show. We started talking about how we wanted to start a hardcore band because we were always seen as the “nice” ones and wanted an outlet for our darker sides. When Kathy and Westin returned from tour, we had our first practice and wrote at least four of the songs on our first record.

 

 

 

MW: Is your album still an accurate reflection of your band, or have you changed a lot since then?
MW: Yeah, it’s pretty accurate I think.

MW: Any new songs in the rotation or in the works?
MV: Yes! We have so many new songs and will be recording our next record in August. We just booked the studio time! Get ready for new hits like “What’s Your Name (I Already Forgot),” “Death Puberty,” “Dismal Nitch,” and “Oh Screw It.”

MW: The Bangs and The Thermals had great taste in covers. Are there fave songs that Hurry Up takes on as well?
MV: We’ve done three Dead Moon covers so far with “Fire in the Western World” almost always making an appearance these days. We also do “Sex Beat” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog”

 

 

 

 

MW: Your deejay project Strange Babes has rad taste in punk, power pop, and rock, too. Since our benefit is going to be in Chinatown right by the old Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s, I’m wondering if you can share fave bands and cuts from L.A.’s first wave of punk?
MW: Well, I am always fond of “Let’s Get Rid of New York” by Randoms. I even played it the first time I deejayed records in New York last May at a Bash & Pop show (I couldn’t help myself). Other faves: “Kids of the Black Hole” by Adolescents, the Stiff single version of “How Much More”  by The Go-Go’s, “Manimal” by Germs…

MW: Kathy, you’re a Strange Babe, too.
KF: I don’t really have much to add, but here is some of my fave L.A. punk. Black Flag with Keith doing “Nervous Breakdown” and “Wasted.” (I also love OFF!) Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” and all of Fire Of Love. Suburban Lawns songs that Su sings: “Janitor,” “Unable,” “Green Eyes.” Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains,” “The Last Goodbye,” and the rest of Living In Darkness. Of course, X’s “Nausea,” “The World’s A Mess…”

MW: Westin?
WG: Maggie and Kathy’s track listings are really good already. I don’t have a lot to add. Well, maybe just a couple. “Black Thoughts” and “Panic Attack” by OFF! Descendents’ “Suburban Home.” Bad Religion’s Suffer— the whole record!

 

MW: With The Thermals’ running its course as a band, will Hurry Up get more time and action? Or is it in a comfortable groove with stuff like Strange Babes, Roseblood, CASH Music, Bikini Kill Records, The Thermals’ mail order, and life in general naturally filling the void? Am I forgetting anything?
WG: Hurry Up is definitely going to get more action! As Maggie said, we’ve booked studio time for our second record in August, and you can bet we’ll be touring for that one more than we’ve ever done before. We’re all stoked to really go for it with Hurry Up this year!

KF: I also work part-time selling vintage clothing and bar-tending. Never a dull moment! But I’m definitely into Hurry Up doing more touring and I’m excited to record our second album finally! We’ll see what happens.

MW: You play a lot of local shows but haven’t toured much lately. What do you look forward to most about getting together for the weekend trip to SoCal?
KF: Basically the same things I love about touring: getting out of town, playing for new/different cities and people, seeing friends and making new ones. And, of course, that special bonding that happens on the road with your bandmates/best friends.

WG: Tenacious D sums it up: “The road is fuckin’ hard, the road is fuckin’ tough.” We love road gigs! The best part is leaving behind your “normal” life to live your real life as a 24/7 rock & roll warrior. We’ll be playing a lot more road gigs in ‘18 and beyond. It’s so fun to spend time together and play music with your friends.

wukong-horizFollow Hurry Up at hurryup.cashmusic.org and Instagram and catch their SoCal tour from May 19-21!

Save Music in Chinatown 15 preview: Cringeworthy, a tribute to Cringer and J Church

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Cringeworthy at Awesome Fest 11 (Bar Pink, April 17, 2018) – Photo: Greg Wong

I never expected our Save Music in Chinatown benefits to support Castelar Elementary’s music program to last this long. For five school years now, our all-ages matinees inspired by the neighborhood’s punk rock past at the old Hong Kong Café (but with cookies and little kids dancing around in front like the Peanuts Gang in a Target Video) have raised about $10,000 annually to help provide an extensive music education to largely immigrant, English-learning, and underserved students. We also have a lot of fun exposing kids that can handle it to DIY culture. All the while, we’ve made a lot of friends in LA’s storied punk community. Adolescents, Channel Three, Alice Bag, Mike Watt, Chuck Dukowski, Rikk Agnew, Phranc, Alley Cats, The Crowd, The Gears—our list is way too long to list and includes rad newer bands as well as some from China!

Our fifteenth show is the most shamelessly selfish lineup yet. Most of it is newer bands with members of older groups that never got very big or popular back in their days. But I loved them and want people to check out the current music, too. These are punk rock lifers who don’t play for fame but love and the scene.

Cringeworthy is a tribute to Cringer and J Church, bands that Lance Hahn used to play in. It was a big deal to me when I found out that he dug GR, the magazine that I helped make, and it wasn’t long before we became friends and he would stay at my house with J Church when they toured through Los Angeles or even just to visit.

Lance was a DIY dynamo who would write a song every day, release singles and records nonstop, contribute to a bunch of compilations, and tour with bands that ranged from Subhumans to Seam. Our overlapping interests stemmed well beyond punk rock, and conversations spilled over into Asian cinema, vegetarian Chinese food, lefty politics, and baseball. He was supposed to play my wedding but came a week too late—perfect for a guy who not only had Charlie Brown on his record covers but who embodied that sort of relentless persistence in the face of doom, surrounded by oddballs. The miscommunication actually worked out for the best because we were able to hang out for a much longer time, and that turned out to be the last chance I’ve have to see him before he died from a variety of health-related issues.

Cringeworthy includes Cringer drummer Kamala (also of Kamala & The Karnivores), her husband Frank (Star Fucking Hipsters, The Love Songs, Degenerics), my cousin Anthony (RAD, Sick Burn), and Lory (also RAD and Sick Burn). They have played only a handful of shows and it means a lot to me that they are traveling all the way down from the Bay Area to play our humble benefit. I will try not to cry during their set, especially if my 10-year-old daughter Eloise happens to grab the mic during one of my favorite Cringer songs.

I asked Anthony and Kamala some questions on the cusp of this great occasion.

MW: Can you remind me why and how Cringeworthy started?
AL: George Chen contacted me about doing a one-off band to pay tribute to Lance for the Epicenter Zone Reunion weekend in July 2015– a series of shows celebrating the 25th anniversary of Epicenter Zone.

[Lance’s partner] Liberty was one of the event organizers, I recall.  Lance, of course, was such a central figure to Epicenter, being the record buyer and store manager at various points. You couldn’t really do this anniversary and not acknowledge Lance’s importance to Epicenter.

The original plan was that George would play guitar, I would play bass, and Adam Pfahler would play drums. The songs we were considering were all J Church songs, since Adam used to drum for J Church.  I remember that Adam really wanted to play “Sound of Mariachi Bands,” in particular.  The vocalist position was never quite pinned down, because almost immediately Adam decided he couldn’t manage the time commitment.

We then got in touch with Kamala and found out she was interested in doing this project. At that point, it really became a Cringer tribute band, because Kamala played drums on so many classic Cringer songs, but of course not in J Church.  Since Cringer was a 4-piece, we needed another guitarist, and Kamala’s husband Frank was the perfect choice because he is an amazing guitar player and all-around great person.

Later, George moved to L.A. from the Bay Area, so it became necessary to replace him in order to play a few more shows. Lory from RAD stepped in and learned all the songs–some on bass, some which she plays guitar on.

The short answer to this is: to pay tribute to Lance Hahn, and have a lot of fun playing these songs that mean a lot to us over the years.

MW: Lance once told me that he tried to write one song a day. Wth so many Cringer and J Church songs to choose from, how did the band come up with a set list?
AL: We started from the set of songs that Cringer commonly incorporated into their live sets back when Kamala was their drummer, and just picked the ones we liked the best. Besides having Kamala’s lived experience and fantastic memory, I had a couple of old Cringer set lists I had hoarded away, plus the Live in Europe VHS tape, to provide guidance.

To humor me, everyone learned “Yellow Blue & Green,” which is one of my favorite J Church songs because of the bass line.  All the rest of our set is Cringer songs.

MW: Kamala, did the songs come back pretty fast? Has it been a weird trip back in time in any way?
KP: Yes, songs came back pretty quickly. I guess it was muscle memory!

I wouldn’t say it’s been weird–more like conflicted. On one hand, it’s great to have had enough distance from playing the music to realize they are special and it’s been great revisiting it. On the other hand, an endeavor like this can feel like ego-stroking nostalgia. And there was some reticence about doing J Church songs for me. There was never a conversation about Cringer breaking up. J Church just formed in its place while I was recovering from a broken finger gotten on the Cringer/Citizen Fish tour. However, J Church’s songs, in reflection, are very special and I’m happy to incorporate a song into the set. It turns out that “Yellow, Blue, and Green” is one of my favorite songs that we play.

MW: Can you talk about that first Cringeworthy show?
KP: As indicated above, it was the Epicenter Reunion show at San Francisco’s Verdi Club in July 2015 since Lance was a well-loved volunteer at Epicenter. The show was mayhem, in many ways, because they had so many acts (spoken word, bands) in such a short period of time and no equipment backline. So, I think we had 20 minutes to set up, play, and then get our equipment off-stage. It was strangely silent after we played our set of five songs. We thought that people didn’t really like what we did, but it turns out that most people were crying because they were moved by hearing Lance’s music again.

MW: Wait, I thought everyone got sick and it was a big disaster!
AL: That was the second show!  We were gonna play the Lookouting Fest in January 2017, but 3 out of 4 of us got the flu and were really sick the day of the show, and then had to cancel at the last minute. We got to play Gilman again in January 2018– sort of our triumphant makeup show.

MW: Did you expect other shows to happen?
AL: No.

KP: This will probably be the last show for the foreseeable future. We all have busy lives and other bands.

MW: What possessed you to come down and play our benefit?
KP: We have the great honor of being asked but also have an inside track since Anthony is your cousin. It’s a small but fantastic cause in this dystopian world and the billing is eclectic. As a life-long sober person, playing in the middle of the day at an event attended by people of all ages at a venue not focused on alcohol or meat markets is pretty much heaven.

MW: As punks from the Bay Area, do you feel connection to the Hong Kong Cafe or that thread of underground music and culture? Is it exciting at all to play in Chinatown?
AL: Not being from L.A., I mean I can’t claim to have any direct connection with the old Hong Kong Cafe. For me, that connection would be with old venues where I did see bands I loved back in the day, like J Church at Jabberjaw, Jawbreaker at Macondo, or any number of bands at the Smell.

Of course, I feel a connection with the DIY spirit and passion that makes Save Music in Chinatown so special– bringing bands, music fans, and non-music fans together for a righteous cause really appeals to me and makes me want to be a part of it. Having it hosted at a venue in Chinatown is just a bonus, moreso because as a Chinese person whose dad was born in L.A. Chinatown, I treasure the neighborhood and what it means to the longtime Chinese community–and less so because of the punk connection!

wukong-horiz

Follow Cringeworthy on Facebook and get tickets to Save Music in Chinatown 15 at eventbrite.com!

 

Save Music in Chinatown 15 preview: The Unhushables (w/ members of Big Drill Car and Supernova)

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I never expected our Save Music in Chinatown benefits to support Castelar Elementary’s music program to last this long. For five school years now, our all-ages matinees inspired by the neighborhood’s punk rock past at the old Hong Kong Café (but with cookies and little kids dancing around in front like the Peanuts Gang in a Target Video) have raised about $10,000 annually to help provide an extensive music education to largely immigrant, English-learning, and underserved students. We also have a lot of fun exposing kids that can handle it to DIY culture. All the while, we’ve made a lot of friends in LA’s storied punk community. Adolescents, Channel Three, Alice Bag, Mike Watt, Chuck Dukowski, Rikk Agnew, Phranc, Alley Cats, The Crowd, The Gears—our list is way too long to list and includes rad newer bands as well as some from China!

Our fifteenth show is the most shamelessly selfish lineup yet. Most of it it is newer bands with members of older groups that never got very big or popular back in their days. But I loved them and want people to check out the current music, too. These are punk rock lifers who don’t play for fame but love and the scene.

The Unhushables unleashed their first album digitally mere weeks ago, and the power trio from Costa Mesa includes Frank from Big Drill Car (who I used to see all the time at the Anti-Club) and Art and Dave from Supernova (Jabberjaw regulars). The bands would cross paths in other now-departed venues like Bogart’s and Our House, and I’m super excited that they are going to play for our cause at the Grand Star in Chinatown. (Frank actually played on a bill with our secret headliner on his birthday last year!)

Big Drill Car’s cover of Bowie’s “Black Country Rock” is probably a good starting point when describing the new power trio. “Finally Surrender” could provide the soundtrack for the pool sequence of a ’90s skateboard video while the twanging, riffing, and aching in One in a Million’s title track reminds me the song that Keef sings on vintage Stones records. What, no cowbell in “Get Up and Go!”?

I shot over some questions to their compound behind the Orange Curtain and Art, Dave, and Frank answered in unison. Check them out and see them at our show!

I’m super-excited that your first show will be at our humble benefit!
So are we!

Of all the shows and places out there, why did you say yes to ours?
Well, the show offer came in about two hours after the album went live on iTunes. We thought, “Geesh, this can’t just be a coincidence.” It’s like exactly what the band premise was/is about: giving back. So when the door opened for a benefit so fast, we were like, “Good grief, ready or not we need to accept that offer.” So we did!

Will you be flattered or freaked out if super fans like me show up in tin foil or Big Drill Car mechanic shirts? 
We’re just stoked to be on the bill and will be super-flattered to see old fans. But they ought to realize The Unhushables is different and with it being the first–and hopefully not the last–live show we have no idea what to expect. We’d be stoked to see fans flyin’ their colors but the tinfoil meteor showers are a special experience for ‘Nova shows and there’s nothing too “alien” about The Unhushables…

We’re all leery of first gig type things, and adding to that Art and Dave haven’t performed live without the protection of their spacesuits in decades. It’s kinda daunting. So, yeah, guess we’d be freaked out and flattered at the same time.

Supernova and Big Drill Car go pretty far back. Do you remember when the bands first crossed paths?
Hmm. The band members are all chums from the neighborhood. Frank and Dave first met around high school at Newport Harbor High. Art knew Frank just from around town even before that. We all knew each other and hung out long before the bands ever formed. The Costa Mesa music scene had a lot of suburban kids that all hung together, and we all played or jammed in different bands and mixed up members, and eventually some of those projects solidified into record-releasing touring bands. Who knew?

How is songwriting or music making different with this combo at this point of time versus back then with your old groups?
There are certain approaches to making the songs that haven’t changed: just messing around in the band room with ideas or a riff and making up some words to fit the spot. Other times, someone has a concept or thought for a song and sometimes they even have the lyrics figured out and they just need some ideas for a drumbeat or bridge or bass line. But it’s still pretty much collaboration with no control freaks.

The new record is amazing but it seems like a lot of songs are about meeting your maker. Is everything okay?
Everything’s great. Just God fearin’ punk rawkers tryin’ to walk the line so we know where we’re headed when it’s time for the dirt nap. The Unhushables want to give back and share the love, the band isn’t about money or seeking rawk stardom. Our other bands have had offers to play benefits, such as Supernova playing a benefit for a kid with cancer, and those types of opportunities to really stoke out some folks and help a good cause are tremendously fulfilling. We relish those opportunities and look forward to more.

I heard that another record is already halfway done! Are those songs totally different? Are you going to play any of those for us?
We actually had heated discussions about tossing a few of those songs on the first record, but since it was taking so darn long to get the first record finalized, we finally agreed we’d just do a follow up. Like the first group, the new songs are pretty eclectic: some crazy slow and hauntingly odd but in a good way, others more poppy, and some upbeat barn-burners. Hard to find the time to get ’em all dialed in, and it’s been an open question whether we play any at the show. Guess it depends on amount of time to play, etc.

The era of Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s in Chinatown were just before my time but any chance any of you went to shows there or had connections to it?
We missed those shows, but are so grateful for these forerunner venues because it helped foster an amazing scene and kept great bands going. They all influenced and motivated us to pick up our instruments and have a go at it.

Finally, our benefit is for music education and I’d like to ask when you started playing?
Art started playin’ bass and guitar in his high school years and inclined toward bass because the bands back then needed bass players. Frank also messed around with bass and guitar before starting high school but sings like a nightingale, so that became his foray in Big Drill Car. He’s going back to his punk rawk roots on guitar in The Unhushables and some of his licks have that old So Cal influence. Dave played drums in various bands before high school and it always been a good outlet for him.

Can you talk about its importance not even just to people in bands but humans?
It seems everyone enjoys music, whether playing or listening on car radios or phones. Whatever we’re doing seams to be more enjoyable if we can do it with music going. So it’s critically important that kids are supported in learning to play and appreciate music and because it simply makes life so much more fulfilling.

wukong-horizFollow The Unhushables’ on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp, and get tickets to Save Music in Chinatown 15 at eventbrite.com!