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.

 

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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!

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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!

Let’s pretend we’re Marriage Material: Primo garage punk from three brothers behind RazorCake and Golden Beat

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In this modern age of Netflix and chilling, I’m proud to say that I know at least three humans who are committed to antiquated-yet-tangible entertainment such as the 7-inch EP (I took all the pics at the super-fun record release show at Cafe NELA last month) and ye olde art of being in a garage punk band. Andrew Material, Daryl Material, and Sean Material (bass, guitar, and drums, respectively, with all of them taking stabs of various sizes at vocals) are indeed Marriage Material, and their band is as raw as it is fun.

Side One of Making The Worry Worth It Pt. 1 sorta has the tag-team vocals of Dillinger Four and no-holds-barred energy of live Rocket From The Crypt, and perhaps resembles long-lost tapes of some of your other favorite bands before they were “good.” Don’t tell the guys that I think Side Two sounds a little like an early Rancid or Downfall demo. (A compliment!) I would look up the song titles but the sleeve is blank and you can’t read a record’s label when it is spinning.

In a tiny room steaming with pizza, comics, and cats, I met with the band of brothers that proudly carries on the musical tradition of the Everlys, Ramones, and Nomeansno but clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Martin: On the heels of a triumphant first year—being invited to Awesome Fest, receiving an honorary degree from Vince Lombardi High School, putting out a killer 7” single, and playing a jam-packed party at Cafe NELA—what can possibly be planned for Marriage Material’s second year?
Daryl: I’m looking forward to buying more Instagram followers. I mean, at $20 for 2,500 it seems kinda foolish not to.

Sean: I’m looking forward to learning how to drum. But I might put that off until 2020.

Andrew: A couple practices. And we are recording a song that my 5-year-old nephew, Joey, wrote. It’s called “Yeah Yeah I’m A Weirdo”

Martin: As contributors to a magazine and recording studio, all of you cross paths with so many amazing bands. Is that inspiring or humbling? Depressing?
Daryl: There’s nothing better than the three of getting together and making fun of all the bands we don’t like. Hey, the bands that I love might not always be good, but at least they aren’t boring.

Sean: Yeah, we usually sit around making fun of Marriage Material.

Andrew: As a studio owner I find it inspiring to work with lots of great local bands and to play music with two of my heroes: Jenae Material and Daryl Material. Who’s this Sean guy that keeps answering questions?

Martin: Have you found it handy that each of you can pretty much give fellow members lessons on their instruments? Or too ridiculous to think about?
Daryl: Not ridiculous at all, I actually taught Sean how to play the drums and Andrew how to play the bass.

Sean: Yeah, Daryl was like, “Just hit things really fast and hard with drumsticks.” That was an invaluable lesson because I thought you drummed with your hands and elbows.

Andrew: I can’t teach anyone shit, unless it’s about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or cats.


Martin: Which character in the Marvel Universe does each of you relate to? Which ones do you relate to your bandmates?

Daryl: [stares blankly at Martin]

Andrew: I relate to Cap and Black Widow. I think Sean is Thanos, and Daryl is Baby Groot.

Sean: Andrew is right; I am the most like Thanos because I like to wear colorful rings.

Martin: Would you rather have a reserved seat in Hall H or have a cabana at Coachella?
Daryl: All I want is $20 to buy more Instagram followers.

Andrew: What is Hall H? I’ve never been to a Coachella or been in a cabana, so I’d choose to let Daryl spend his $20 on Internet followers.

Sean: Wait. Daryl spent $20 on Instagram followers?

Martin: Back to the band, are you ready for your first long tour? How will this challenge your somewhat established and copacetic relationship? What will you do with your pets?
Sean: All my pets will be on tour with me. Their names are Andrew and Daryl

Andrew: I have seven cats so I’m not ready to leave them, but Daryl said I could bring home three cats from tour so I’m ready for that. And Sean said he’d brush me at least once a day. And Daryl said he can deal with my snoring because he farts and snores simultaneously. Also, I’m gonna be using Sean’s phone all tour to text Jenae since my phone doesn’t work.

Daryl: Life hack: don’t get pets, just get roommates with pets so you can leave town and not have to think about what to do with them. As for our relationship on the road, as long as Sean doesn’t finish my Sudoku, and Andrew stops talking to me about the MCU, we’ll be fine.

Martin: Are you really marriage material?
Daryl: More than you’ll ever know, Martin. more than you’ll ever know.

Andrew: I’m barely “dating material.” But I do have a girlfriend I want to marry and I’m divorced, so… yes?

Sean: Doubt it. I’ve asked both Daryl and Andrew to marry me more than once and they turned me down.

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Check out Marriage Material on a West Coast Tour in May and look into their brand-new tour T-shirt pre-order action, too. I’ve owned a Redd Kross shirt featuring Linda Blair and Killing Joke shirt with a pope being sieg heiled by Nazis), but neither is as badass as a Howard Zinn getting busted design!

Strategic Offensive and the return of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, pro-workers, Pinoy-centric, grindcore thrash-masters Flattbush

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Music trends change with the seasons and protest music comes and goes with regimes, but  Flattbush has been playing vicious grindcore with lyrics that smash the Powers That Be and uplift the people since Day One. Nothing-to-lose-but-your-chains lyrics are spattered in English, Tagalog, and Kapampangan like blood against the wall in the opposite of a Rambo movie where the imperialist oppressors are mowed down by rapid-fire guitars and chopper-like drums.

Bracing myself for the band’s fourth album coming out on March 29, I caught the media-averse band in action at Lakewood’s world-famous Regal Inn and coaxed them to do a rare Q&A about it in their napalm-scented bunker.

Clockwise from top left: Bradley Walther – Guitar, Ramon Banda – Drums, Arman Maniago – Bass, Enrico Maniago – Vocals

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How long has Flattbush been together now?
Enrico: We formed the band 1993 back when we were in high school. 24 years!

Bradley: I became a fan in 1995 and I joined in 2002. My band in high school played a lot of shows with Flattbush, and we would often hang out together and get into all kinds of mischief.

What have you been up to since your last record?
Enrico: We do the usual routine like a typical lower-middle class worker. We work at our day jobs and take care of the family, but on the side we challenge ourselves to create art and music. I became busy with union organizing at my workplace… We also read a lot and do research about anything that keeps life interesting.

Bradley: I stepped away from Flattbush before they released Otomatik Atak. I did a couple tours and released an EP with another project, but I also did a lot of soul searching, met my wife, and focused on raising our son. I rejoined the band sometime around 2012 with just the idea of writing music and having fun.

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Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Ray and Dave Davis, Don and Phil Everly… Does having brothers in the band make it easier or harder to keep it going? 
Enrico: Or the Bee Gees. Making music and creating art is always fun. What kept us going is the purpose of the music. For whom? I think that’s the reason we lasted for 24 years. Finding a purpose in life. Quitting is not even an option. Whatever you do in life, if you get tired, just rest. Then get up and do it again.

Arman: Both hard and easy. It is hard to team up, because of family and work priorities. And once we hook up, it’s easy to create art. Easy.

Bradley: I don’t know about other bands, but for us it’s always been easier. We’ve been family for many years now. Even though I’m not related to these guys, we’ve been through a lot together and I think of them as brothers.

Has the band’s songwriting process or inspiration for making music changed at all over the years?
Arman: Nah, when we write fucked-up music, we are in the comfort zone. Our inspiration is to write fucked-up music.

Enrico: You would think that the vast amounts of musical references in the internet will help you produce faster. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite. You get overwhelmed with a lot of talented artists out there. You assess yourself to push it even harder or you get paralyzed with an overdose of information. You just have to keep on going with what’s natural and have fun creating.

Your songs take a lot of energy and can’t be easy to play. Do you guys do cross-fit or something to stay in shape between records and shows?
Enrico: We are pretty athletic. We jog, bike… Exercise our jaws (eat). We watch what we eat as much as possible to live longer in this planet and witness how our useless leaders turns our planet into a floating gas of shit… and witness how they get flushed down the toilet… someday.

Bradley: Arman and Rico are probably in the best shape of their lives. My lifestyle is pretty different since I mange a bar. My plan is to be in tip top shape by the album release date, but most of our music is conditioning our hands and fingers to do all the work. I couldn’t imagine playing drums on these tunes….

Ramon, when did you join the band?
Ramon: I knew the guys since middle school in ’95 or so, but I joined the band right out of high school in ’99. Right away we started writing heavier stuff, and they let me do whatever I wanted as far as drums go. In 2003, I went on a Jesus-fueled hiatus for about 15 years but got back together with them about three years ago. We wrote the new album and it feels great. We picked up where we left off. They still have the same spirit and let me do whatever I want. Just make it crazy, throw a fill on top of a fill!

Can you explain the title, Strategic Offensive?
Enrico: Strategic Offensive is based on Maoist theory and practice; it’s the last stage of guerrilla warfare. This is when the red fighters, led by the working class, march from the countryside and take over the city to win the final battles of the revolution. History has proven this type of warfare effective in third world countries that have a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society such as the Philippines. It’s erroneous to jump to this stage when people are just organizing themselves… But I am very optimistic that the Philippines will reach this stage because of the ever worsening crisis in the country.

But, to clarify, we are not actual guerrillas. Our weapon is our music to project the situation in the Philippines and other struggling countries to free themselves from foreign control.

“They Strike, We Fight” is a cool song but there are no lyrics. Who are us and them? At first I thought it was about warfare but now I’m thinking labor…
Enrico: It’s actually about the people fighting for self determination in an indigenous community called Talaingod, located in the southern mountain ranges of the Philippines. I participated in a medical mission there and that’s how the lyrics came about

THEY STRIKE  WE FIGHT

Hear crickets noise
But peaceful here
Bulldozers came
And cut all the trees

Our ancestral land
Was dug up for gold
And shut down our schools
Filled the water and soil

They strike with guns
We fight with spears
Destroy their goons
Destroy

The mountains now flat
When rain pours we drown
Stop raping the earth
For profit and greed

They strike with guns
We fight with spears
Destroy their goons
Destroy

We’ll defend our homes against your scheme
We’ll fight for our lives to the extreme
You don’t own the land, the land owns you
Until our last breath we’ll annihilate you

“Parusahan” is another cool new song… Who deserves the punishment?
Enrico: There’s a lot of extra judicial killings in the Philippines. This song is about hired assassins who kill activists. Sometimes they kill random people for money and implant evidence on the victim just to prove that they are doing their assignment. I mean, this is scary. Not many people write songs about these issues. So, we figured, why not.

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“Boots” is pretty wild and different. How did that wind up on the release?
Bradley: If you listen to the entire album, I think it’s a nice release at the end of all the chaos. We’ve always loved that song. If you think about how the lyrics can relate to U.S. imperialism, it made sense to record it Flattbush-style.

When is the band going to play an all-ages show so your kids can watch their parents in action?
Enrico: Good question. We need to look for a surviving all-ages venue that doesn’t have a pay-to-play deal.

Bradley: We need more all-ages venues and the band is always open to suggestions if anybody knows of a great place!

Arman: I know, huh. We should. Let’s set up something up.

Find Flattbush at facebook.com/flattbush.band, find their old music at koolarrow.com right now and the new record at bandcamp.com when it comes out, and catch the record release show with Detox, Fetus Eaters, and Bad Acid Trip at Alex’s Bar on March 29!

Hello, CHAI! Food, cats, and neo-kawaii jams from Japan – US Tour 2018

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CHAI is comprised of twin sisters, a high school friend, and college classmate who have released two super-fun EPs (1st EP, 2016 and 2nd EP, 2017) and two 7″ singles (“Sound and Stomach” b/w “ボーイズ・セコ・メン” and “N.E.O.” b/w “Sayonara Complex” in 2016 and 2017), made bunch of cool videos (too many to list), and even live in a house together. That alone would be living the dream as blueprinted by The Monkees, but now the Japanese band’s first full-length LP (Pink, 2017) has been released by Sony in Japan and Burger Records in the US. Bridging the big time and garage rock, their trajectory is a cool one.

Mana, Kana, Yuna, and Yuuki’s music about food, cats, and other neo-kawaii topics is fully DIY with raw punk energy filtered through mutant dance grooves that will please fans of Tom Tom Club, CSS, and Le Tigre, in addition to younger, fun-loving listeners who have never even heard of those ancient bands.

My household is pretty excited about checking out CHAI’s live show. Looking forward to the upcoming tour, I shot over some questions to find out more about their sound, their scene, and the mass quantities of gross American food they will be eating on their impending tour of California and Texas. My 10-year-old daughter made art to go with their collective answers.

This is a great time for CHAI to come to the US because women’s voices and international culture are more crucial here than ever! What can American audiences expect you to bring to the stage on the upcoming tour?
This will be our second time touring in the US, so we are super excited! We’re bringing you entertainment that you’ve never “seen before” or “felt before” so wait on it!

We’re super excited about your first US release, too. What songs should beginners check out first to understand the CHAI message and vibe?
“Complexes Are Art” is the concept we want to share and we use our music to do so. “N.E.O.” is one track that encompasses this theme. It’s a super cool, major explosive song! “Sayonara Complex” is a totally different, romantic song compared to “N.E.O.” This song is also based on the “Complexes Are Art” theme. Isn’t it great that there are so many different types of music?

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Why are you called “CHAI” instead of something more exciting or hectic like milkshake or soda?
It’s simple and we like the feel of the word. It sounds enticing!

Your videos are so fun and cool. Are they as effortless as they seem or do you spend a lot of time planning them out?
As a team, we brainstorm a lot and we’re even involved in choosing our outfits and makeup. We can do what we want to do. We like to do intriguing things, unique things!

It’s awesome that you started the band in high school and are now doing it as adults. Does being in a band keep you young or does getting older make being in a band different?
We felt as if we were going to be artists, then we would have to be CHAI because there are things that only CHAI can express. We will continue to express ourselves on our journey to a Grammy award.

Has your songwriting process or things that inspire you changed since you began?
Our inspirations come from music and artists we personally like: Tom Tom Club, CSS, Justice, The XX, Basement Jaxx, Passion Pit, and many more! We’re influenced by so many types of music that, at any given moment, when we feel like we want to do a certain type of sound or music, we do it. You can’t narrow us down into any one genre!

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What do you do when you aren’t making music? Do you all hang out together or do you have separate lives and come together like a giant robot or super hero team when duty calls?
All four of us live together in the CHAI house. On days off, we usually go to the onsen (hot spring) and relax.

The Hong Kong video is cool! What other Asian countries have you played in? Have you found a lot of cool indie friends and scenes out there?
We joined Sultan of the Disco onstage this past January in South Korea. We really want to go to other countries, too!

How did you wind up on Burger Records? Burger is a rad label, and they’re extra perfect because they’re named after food.
We’re so happy that we are able to release our music in the United States! Burger Records reached out to us via our contact forum and we were ultimately included in their Burger World: Japan cassette compilation.

What would you like to do during your second trip to the United States? Is there stuff you’d like to do again or different things you want to check out?
Last year we performed at SXSW as a part of the Japan Nite showcase, but this year we’re excited to be able to take on the challenge of crossing over the “Japan” border. Also, I want to eat something that makes me feel “America!” like steak. A big piece of steak or a large slice of pizza. Enjoy!

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Check out CHAI at chai-band.com and catch them on tour now!

Tuesday, March 6 – Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Wednesday, March 7 – Amoeba, San Francisco 
Thursday, March 8 – The Hi Hat, Los Angeles
Friday, March 9 – Amoeba, Hollywood
Saturday, March 10 – Burger Records, Fullerton
Sunday, March 11 – Alex’s Bar, Long Beach
Monday, March 12- The Casbah, San Diego
Thursday, March 15 – SXSW Showcase at Maggie Mae’s, Austin
Saturday, March 17 – Burgermania VII at Hotel Vegas, Austin

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