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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: martinkendallwong2014

Co-founder of Giant Robot magazine (RIP) and Save Music in Chinatown (since 2013)

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