Save Music in Chinatown <3 Xu Ziyi

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When we started our Save Music in Chinatown all-ages benefit matinee fund raisers five years ago, the idea was to build on the neighborhood’s punk rock past to support the local public elementary school’s music program. But a lot of other unintended stuff happened, too. Kids that can handle it have been exposed to underground culture and empowered by DIY. A real community of friends and supporters has grown around the shows. My family, which has roots in Chinatown, has been sucked into its culture and activism.

And a couple of months ago, we made a friend when Xu Ziyi sent a query asking if she could use our project as a subject for her graphic design class at ArtCenter. The fifth-term graduate student from Suzhou couldn’t have known that Wendy is an alum of the Pasadena art school or that both of us have a history of working with and supporting art school students and recent graduates. But, of course, we invited her to our home, opened up our archives, and suggested she draw with Eloise–and not just any kids in Chinatown.

A few weeks ago, we saw Zi present her final project and were blown away. The raw-but-powerful oversized two-color zines recalled vintage Search & Destroy and Slash mags and the mocked-up compilation LP was a perfect fit next to influential Dangerhouse’s Yes L.A. compilation and Flipside’s Rodney on the ROQ records. The posters, buttons, and patches further reinforced my feeling that while I was too young to catch the Germs, Dils, Weirdos, Bags, and Go-Go’s at the Hong Kong Cafe in the ’70s, we’re making our own golden age by bridging my favorite subcultures of L.A. punk and mostly blue-collar, English-learning immigrant kids.

How could I not ask our new friend about it?

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What did you expect when you approached us about using Save Music in Chinatown as the topic of your graphic design project? What were you hoping for?
My biggest fear was that I was a stranger, you would be busy, and that you would not be willing to do it. In my mind, there was only a 10 percent chance you guys would reply. Really! But it was such a surprise that L.A. punk bands had shows at the Hong Kong Cafe. The craziness combined with Chinese traditions is so cool and I wanted to make the project work. My biggest hope was that we could just meet and talk about it.

Growing up in Zhangjiagang, what was your impression of punk rock?
I did not really know punk music. In a traditional education or family environment, we are not exposed to it in China. So, for me, it meant rebellion: people yelling instead of singing and being against the norm. But then I listened to punk at your house and liked it! Especially young Chinese bands like Birdstriking and Chui Wan. They are pretty cool—the music, the design, the aesthetics. I want to know more about them.

Did the project develop and turn out as you expected?
In the beginning, I could not imagine what it would look like. All my design solutions came from drawing with Eloise. She is so talented and so sweet and always wears a smile on her face. I am a pretty shy person, actually, but Eloise made me feel comfortable and her energy is so powerful and positive. Such a lovely girl. For example, Eloise showed me her Chinese practice sheet when we decided to do collage. I immediately thought, “That’s it! Castelar is a school that not only teaches English but also Chinese.” The grid that primary school students use to practice Chinese became part of the identity system.

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Can you tell me more about how the project took shape?
Can you imagine every Saturday drawing with Eloise, listening to punk records, and being shown cool stuff? All of Eloise’s drawing are amazing, effortless, and so unique. She inspired me a lot. Also, you and Wendy showed me a lot of cool album covers, design books, and movie posters. Those inspired me, too. I hadn’t been home for more than a year, but it felt very warm–like family. For me, you guys have become like relatives and I really appreciate it! That was the best thing ever, and I don’t think it will ever happen again.

When did you start to have a vision of how the project would turn out?
The hardest part was the first couple weeks when I was not very clear what I wanted. It was hard to let Eloise to draw for me. I think it was around the sixth week that I felt a little stuck trying to connect punk rock and Chinatown. Then I thought about how I feel about Chinatown and what I like about it. Suddenly, I remembered our first assignment was to go around the neighborhood and look for inspiration. To get to know the place. At that time, I bought a lot of traditional stuff. This was really helpful. Then I knew what I wanted my project to feel like and what I wanted Eloise to draw for me. The beautiful drawings and designs were for Chinese New Year, but I was seeing those things differently. Although I grow up with them, I hadn’t been to China for a year and was seeing those things in terms of design. It was cool and different, and it inspired me a lot.

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What sorts of comments and suggestions did you get from your instructor and peers as the project evolved?
Actually, before we met I did some posters just to get going and see if I could catch the feeling of punk rock. When I showed the class, my professor said it was too easy for me to do what I was doing. Then they saw Eloise’s drawings and said, “That’s cool. You should do workshops with kids and use their drawings.” I totally agreed and got excited about it. That week we met, and the second time we met was at your home when we starting doing it. It was so amazing!

How did the newspaper come to be?
I struggled with the newspaper. My professor said the titles for each show were confusing and unclear. I got some fun words from the shows, and some just had quotes or just images. I was thinking of how to include dates without being boring, and then the Chinese traditional calendar came to mind and then  I designed the dates like that to clarify the different shows. I am very glad my professor guided me on what wasn’t clear, because it can be hard for a someone that close to a project to see a problem!

We were so happy to attend the review, but I felt like I blabbed too much about my family’s experience and you didn’t get to say enough about your work! What were some of the things that you learned or got out of the project?
I am so happy you guys could come to my final and make it wonderful! It was a special project for me, because usually you do it on your own and most information comes from the internet. This was my first time to work with real people. It didn’t feel like client project, I was surrounded by super nice people, a super-talented artist, and music! You guys gave me inspiration and fed me, too. The design was all driven by all those experiences, which I think is much powerful and special than what I could have done on my own. I made good friends. I became more brave. I just loved it and I never want to give up!

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Above: Zi with the zine and Lois, who happens to be visiting from Olympia with Eric and will be playing at Save Music in Chinatown 14 on Sunday, January 28. Hope to seeya there!

 

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Save Music in Chinatown 11 and Ice Cream with Rikk Agnew

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I was on my way to meet Rikk Agnew at Scoops in Chinatown, when I got a text from him saying that he doesn’t do ice cream. Of course not, it suddenly occurred to me. How could the key member of Adolescents, Social Distortion, Christian Death, D.I., and so many other gnarly bands be seen in public eating something ridiculous like an ice cream cone? Oh man.

Then I replied, adding that Scoops has non-dairy options, and he was down. Whew! It turns out that Rikk, who has shaped the sounds of punk, hardcore, and goth, is a total sweetheart who doesn’t like dairy but loves nothing more than eating ice cream with families and is down for playing a benefit to help support for music education for elementary school kids in Chinatown.

Rikk has also just released a kickass new album called Learn.

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It seems like you’re genuinely having a blast singing and playing on Learn. After being an underground musician for 40 years, is it still just as much fun as it ever was?
Oh, yes. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s got to be fun first.

But after so many bands and all the ups and downs, it would be so easy to be jaded or bored or over it.
For most bands, it stops being fun when they get too concerned with being competitive, making it to the top, making money, and all that stuff. That doesn’t mix with art and music as far as I’m concerned, but it’s not like I’m going to turn down a million dollar check…

That would be a byproduct and not the purpose.
Thank you. Very well said. That’s not the reason at all.

So are you a machine who automatically cranks out song? Are you addicted to the process of working on them? Do you have a lot to say? How have you kept going for decades?
Well, it sounds strange but the only way I can describe it is that I have a connection to the cosmos, the muses, and the universe. The beats, the pulses–they come down to me. I can’t sit and write a song. It doesn’t work that way. It just hits me.

So does your brain catch hold of a melody? A lyric?
Actually, the whole thing just flows in.

The words, too?
Just the music. The words are a whole separate thing. Words are usually personal politics and everyday experiences that affect me emotionally. I’m a very emotional person.

Whether commenting on Kelly Thomas being beaten by cops in Fullerton or changing the world, I can tell the content matters to you.
It’s mostly experiences that I transform into poetry. I like to use a lot of tongue-in-cheek words and little excerpts from other peoples’ songs, like The Beatles and stuff. Usually, I put it together phonetically like a puzzle before trying to make a stream of a story.

There’s also a sense of playfulness with your spelling as well as your tone. I feel like you’re pushing people’s buttons as much as you’re getting on a soapbox.
Yes, and I like to create my own spelling of words. My brother Frank is the same way. We do it because it helps us to remember things.

Isn’t he connected to the cosmos in a different way? Isn’t he an astronomer or something?
Oh, that’s Alfie. He and a team of three other PhDs at Cal State Fullerton have been working quite a long time on the theory of gravitational waves that Einstein had set out to prove almost exactly 100 years ago. When they broke through recently, it made world news and I’m so proud of him.

Maybe there will be a star or something named after you!
Maybe!

Back to “I Can’t Change The World,” I was wondering who is the “we” that you’re singing to. People in bands? People in the crowd? Parents?
Basically everybody on the planet. I’ve belonged to this thing called Nichiren Shoshu of American and been a Buddhist since 1988 or 1989 and we believe in this thing called kosen-rufu. It’s a theory–well, I think it’s real–that if everyone in the world took one smile or be positive for just one second, the world world miraculously heal itself because Mother Earth is a living creature. We’re in a symbiotic relationship with her.

That’s a big audience, but you’re not going to reach everyone with that album cover! Where did you find those intense portraits?
Originally the album cover was just going to be a picture of my face in red and black, but the overseas booking agency said that the album needed something more intense. I thought, okay fine. That was five years ago and this picture will get people’s attention.

I was looking up Krokodil on the Internet, and was under the impression that the person was suffering from Krokodil abuse. But then I dug deeper and found out it was caused by a virus caused by manmade toxins in the environment. But whether it was drug induced or created by toxins, it is still a shocking statement to say “Learn.” If anyone wants to figure out why, they can read the lyrics or talk to me. I’ll explain it.

How did Lisa from Frontier react when you told her about the concept?
She backs me up on it and believes in me. It’s like what punk was originally. We weren’t out to be nice or pretty. We wanted to shock and get attention. And then give the message. My message is always positive, even if it sounds like I’m bitching or angry. My modus operandi is to get people to be positive or, as Bill and Ted would say, be excellent to each other.

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So you have the Rikk Agnew Band, which reminds me of early Adolescents and your All By Myself solo record, but you also play death rock with the Gitane Demone Quartet and what else?
I’m in five bands now! One of the others is called Ann B. Davis, with Casey Chaos from Amen who was also the bass player for Christian Death during the reunion. And then there’s the original bass player James McGearty from the Only Theatre of Pain lineup and we had George, but he’s a policeman in St. Louis and the commuting and work were just too much. We parted ways with him and now we have Hoss, the drummer who played with Mondo Generator. We’re recording an EP and then there’s going to be an album and then we’ll go out and blast it out there. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the band Amen but they were like Korn, Slipknot, and that sort of thing. I was in the band in the mid ’90s, but now we’re taking that sort of music and mixing it with Gothic deathrock. Good songs, amazing stuff.

The other two bands?
I’m in a band called The Only Theatre of Pain, which is kind of a tribute to the album with a singer called Steve Skeletal who’s a 6’5″ version of Rozz. We do the album and songs from back then so I’m in my own tribute band. They asked me to do it and I said, why not? And then I recently joined the Deadbeats. That’s a dream come true for me. I used to watch them in the ’70s at The Masque. The new double album is great. It’s a unique thing we’ve got going on with a unique stage show, too.

Playing in all those bands–your brain must on fire right now.
The nice things about being in multiple bands is you have multiple outlets.

One of your best-known songs is about living in Orange County. So when did you come to L.A.?
About three and half years ago. I’ve wanted to since the ’70s. We’d come up here and hang out for weeks at a time at the Masque with Brendan Mullen and the Controllers, or hang with Gerber or Jane Drano, but I never had the confidence that I’d make enough money to stay. Hung out frequently at the Church in South Bay for a spell.

Do you think L.A. is still good for being in bands with all the gentrification going on?
Yeah, and it always will be. It isn’t the location as much as it is the spirit and the people. And for people like Gitane, myself, and others who’ve survived, we’re not above anything. We used to play the Santa Monica Civic or Palladium and now we play little places Cafe NELA, but it’s fun. If we didn’t do it, I don’t know what else I would do! There are so many punks who got into acting like Lee Ving or got PhDs like Milo or Greg Graffin, My Brother Alfie, but they’re still doing it. Why? Because there isn’t anything more fun to do and they feel the same way.

And you can make a difference, too.
Yes.

I’m glad you include lyrics because they’re really smart. It’s punk that an adult can listen to, but it’s still bratty.
I have an inner child that’s in me that never leaves.

Does your daughter listen to your music?
She was assistant engineer for the Learn LP. She joins me onstage to sing “Amoeba” sometimes and has a blast doing it! But I almost lost her this past August when she was in a bad car accident. She’s healing up pretty well, but you know how it feels to be a parent.

I’m really proud of my daughter. She’s a great artist and an amazing singer. She’s been working for Disney for a while and has other jobs on the side, but she’s a really, really good person, a heart of gold. I couldn’t ask for a better child.

If our children aren’t creative and rebellious, we’re all screwed!
Someone interviewed Tony about that song “I Hate Children” and he laughed and said, “I love children. Children are our future.” It was a personal politic thing about begin the oldest boy taking care of four rugrat siblings when his mom was an alcoholic and his dad was nowhere to be found back then.

Every few Adolescent shows, I’ll hear him tell the audience why they don’t play that song. I love it when he explains that.
And he should. I love interacting at shows. Whether I’m on a big stage or a little one, there is no dividing line and if someone says something, I’ll answer.

I think it’s great how you stay in touch with old bandmates and the new record is on Frontier. It’s amazing and cool and telling that there’s so much love from your past instead of burned bridges.
We all go through our periods, but if you ask any of the punks who’ve been around and they’ll tell you that it’s all about love. It’s like Johnny Rotten sang in “Fodderstompf”: “We only wanted to be loved.” Everyone took it like he was being a smartass but he meant it. I just finished reading his book, Anger Is An Energy, and it’s amazing. He’s one of my heroes.

Like him, you have explored different genres and defied fans when you easily could have kept making the same type of music.
You have to satisfy yourself first. If you don’t, you’ll become a slave to the people and you won’t be where you should be. Even if it makes a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder, “What happened?” As an artist you get bored doing the same thing, so you jump ahead not for competitive purposes but just for fun. It feels like you’re on a mission to keep things rolling and keep perpetuating.

So are you going to tour to support the Rikk Agnew Band album?
Oh yes. I want to do the world.

Is it hard getting all five members to take time off and commit to it?
They’re great and they’re faithful and I want to be on the road for most of 2017 to promote the album. And if they can’t take time off work to make it to Europe or wherever, I have people there who can and they’re all good with it and won’t feel insulted. I’m lucky.

Will you play stuff from all of your bands, as you’ve been doing, or will you just play the new stuff?
Well, more of the new stuff because we’re promoting the album but we’ll also play longer sets. I like to say that we’re like a wedding band because we play old songs, new songs, borrowed songs, and blue songs from the Blue Album.

What do you think about a playing matinee that is not only for music education at the public elementary school but one that will have little kids in the audience?
Well, of course! They can witness who and where the funding comes from firsthand (an education in itself–public relations, organization, hands-on assistance even!) as well as have the best experience of the whole process. The excitement and spirit of the music. The bands. The people. And the interaction between the performers and kids is such healthy and different dynamic. Lots of love, lots of fun.

Is there anything cool about playing in Chinatown? Can you share any feelings or memories of the plaza where so many cool and key shows happened?
There’s everything cool about playing in Chinatown: It’s cultural, festive, and fun. Great feelings, too,

Too many memories and shows to remember but: The Plastics from Japan in 1980 at Madame Wong’s and sitting outside on the curb drinking beer and smoking weed across from Madame Wong’s when Robert Fripp did His Fripptronix thang.

And shows at the Hong Kong Cafe: The Germs – Didn’t get in, got arrested outside by an LAPD undercover sting sweep that nabbed Dez Cadena, Janet Housden, and other punks. I was on many hits of acid! Aaargh!

The Slashers – My band at that time was scheduled to play but we were frying way too hard to play with the Outsiders, The Humans, and an opener.

Adolescents – We played there a couple times, once on Halloween with the Stingers, Speed Queens, and others. Agent Orange and I forgot who else, it was the first time I saw anyone do a stage dive (1978-1979). The OG diver was a blonde waif of a boy that was barefoot and insane looking: Tony Bones a.k.a. Cadena a.k.a. Bee.

Nervous Gender – With Phranc and Don Bolles on board, they were strangest sounding band at that point–more so than the Screamers or DEVO.

El Duce- I first met him there, He was doing an impromptu manifesto post show behind a podium in the back room area, We all gathered, speechless.

I could go on, but wait and read that chapter in my book.

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Get more information at the Facebook event page and ticketing page on Eventbrite. Seeya there!

 

Save Music in Chinatown 8, before and after

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Save Music in Chinatown 8 took place a couple of weeks ago at the Grand Star, but it feels like just happened.  Seeing The Crowd at Fitzgerald’s in Huntington Beach (above) and Bad Cop/Bad Cop in Pomona (below) last weekend might have something to do with that. Bands take note: If you thought I went to a lot of your shows before you played one of our benefits, you won’t be getting rid of me afterward.

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But back to Save Music in Chinatown 8. Placing flyers at record stores and on friends’ refrigerators all over town and posting about the shows incessantly on Facebook–you never know when one thing will actually lead to another. After writing about our gig with the Adolescents, Gears, and Watt, Dennis Walsh commented, “Why haven’t The Crowd played one of these shows?” I asked him to introduce me and he replied, “I’m the drummer!”

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I’d already been stalking The Crowd for years and started saying hi to Dennis whenever they’d play Alex’s Bar. But then last summer, I saw him hanging out with Channel Three (above) and BC/BC (blurry and below) who just played with the Adolescents and Weirdos at the Roxy. The right place, the right time, just like the song goes. We agreed that it would be rad if The Crowd, FourEyedFour (another one of Dennis’s bands), and BC/BC played for us.

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All the bands were as awesome as they were nice. BombĂłn (who I immediately contacted after seeing them play a RazorCake show at Pehrspace) pulled aside their last kid-sized cat shirt for Eloise and made everyone smile and dance with their DIY surf sounds. FourEyedFour sounded as amazing as their self-released CD, really smart and slightly psychedelic pop with a ton of punch.

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Bad Cop/Bad Cop are a dynamite live band with massive hooks, killer harmonies, and so much upside. It’s a good thing we got them right before they took off for Europe to tour with Snuff… (Aaron Brown, a member of the BC/BC gang as well as an old friend, made an animalistic rock ‘n’ roll flyer for us, too.)

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The Crowd’s set was raging and full of angst and slurred lyrics and banter, and could have taken place at a dive bar instead of an afternoon matinee. And I thought it was great. Our idea has always been to have all-ages shows that kids attend but never to have kiddie shows. How great were the legendary Beach Blvd. and ROTR Vol. 1 comp contributors and how cool was it to have Tony Cadena sing “Liberty” with them? Yet another great Tony moment at Save Music in Chinatown to file away…

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When Eloise started attending Castelar Elementary as a kindergartner, Wendy and I had no idea we would start organizing benefit concerts or that we would be doing it this long. But with help from parents who run the bake sale, friends who donate to the raffle, and all the selfless bands who volunteer to play for us, we can not only help keep the defunded music program going but start a scene. How cool is it to build on the legacy of the old Hong Kong CafĂ© and Madame Wong’s? How great it it for kids to be included?

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And now that Eloise is a big second grader, she has become more involved in our shows than ever. In addition to making a flyer, she introduced all the bands, danced in the front row for all of them, and even chose records to play on our friend Daryl’s KCHUNG radio program to promote the show.

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Sometimes I stress about our shows not getting enough attention (what part of punk matinees with a bake sale to help kids in Chinatown isn’t awesome?) or big enough crowds for the bands (the lineups are way too good for our humble venue). But in the end they’re always perfect: nothing but old and new friends and family. Hope to see you at the next one in the spring.

Save Music in Chinatown 8 preview with Jennie from Bad Cop/Bad Cop

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BC/BC at the Redwood (January 23, 2015)

As soon as my pal Aaron told me his girlfriend was in a punk band called Bad Cop/Bad Cop, I became obsessed with them, tracked down their 7″ singles, went to most of their local shows, and tried to get them to play a bunch of our Save Music in Chinatown benefits. For one reason or another, it never worked out and I started to wonder if I missed the boat as they got signed to Fat, went on the road with NOFX, and planned a European tour with Snuff.

But in the meantime I discovered that I had all these mutual friends of the band. In fact, the guys in The Crowd actually had BC/BC play one of their songs on a tribute record! Talk about a perfect doubleheader waiting to happen–and it will happen on January 31 at the Grand Star. (It was a triple header with Channel Three at Alex’s a couple of months ago…)

I asked Jennie just a few questions as the all-ages matinee which will also feature FourEyedFour and BombĂłn draws nearer…

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Blurry night at the Roxy with Jennie and Aaron (July 25, 2015)

Bad Cop/Bad Cop had a great 2015, releasing a full-length LP, playing the coolest fests, and going on tour with bands like NOFX. Why are you playing a little benefit like ours?
The kids. All of us needed a creative outlet at one point and are very aware of the way music can change or save lives. The arts have so much to offer: giving nonacademic minds a chance to excel and focus, an opportunity to explore and control something (which can be rare for young people), a means of connecting and communicating with others, a vocabulary for personal expression…

From a public mental health standpoint, art and music therapy are super effective. Even limited exposure to the arts can be helpful, and nurturing those interests can have a huge positive impact on a person’s life. It’s hard to watch arts and music getting muscled out of school programming, and we want to help where we can.

Bad Cop/Bad Cop has played with The Crowd before and has even contributed a song to the recent tribute compilation. Can you tell me about your relationship with that band?
We met Dennis while filling in for somebody at Alex’s Bar. He was going to invite the band we were subbing for to be on his comp, and asked he us instead! Recording was a blast, and we really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that project. He’s so supportive and enthusiastic, and we’ve gotten to be very good friends.

Were you a fan of the band growing up?
The Beach Blvd. comp is something that I learned about later as a tourist. It didn’t make it to Detroit, or at least not into my hands. Plus, I was born in 1982. But as a fellow outsider its significance is impressive.

Have you played in Chinatown or gone to punk shows there before? I think it’s rad how the Grand Star is right next to the Hong Kong CafĂ© and Madame Wong’s, and wonder if you’ve had any experiences or takes on them as well.
Unfortunately, I grew up in the Midwest and came to this coast with a separate set of nostalgic experiences. But I am a forever a tourist, and am always excited to visit and play important places!

Get the latest info on Save Music in Chinatown 8 from the Facebook event page and save some dough by getting advance tickets via Eventbrite.

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Rad Band Alert: LP3 & The Tragedy

lp3aAlthough Louie Perez III has been in numerous cool bands, I didn’t get to know him until the freshly formed Evil Hearted You (R.I.P.) played a Save Music in Chinatown gig for us last year. I really loved how that group channeled roots punk from L.A. (from Los Lobos to Gun Club) without skimping on arrangement or production, but then totally ripped it up live. Now Louie and drummer Eric going further in that direction with LP3 & The Tragedy. The group has a rawer, expanded sound and also features his cousin Ruby from Bongoloidz. After catching LP3 & The Tragedy at Alex’s Bar, I had to ask him some questions about them.

MW: How did your new band’s lineup come together?
LP3: The Tragedy was a random occurrence with close friends and family. I was offered a private gig by my boss and dear friend, Mark Mahoney. It seemed like a great chance to put together something with my cousin Ruby, considering we had been talking about it for many years now. Rather than just adding her to a project ad hoc, we decided to start something that was entirely new.

MW: Have you been in a band with your cousin before? What’s that like?
LP3: Ruby and I had never even jammed before, which seems odd considering how supportive she was of not only me but every band I ever played in. It was crazy. We just plugged in, started harmonizing together, and everyone went, “Dude. Keep doing it. It works!” It also helps that she is mega talented. That was three gigs ago. Our fourth show ever will be our first time at SXSW!
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MW: I loved it when you played new versions of Evil Hearted You songs at Alex’s. That band was great but came and left so quickly that I’m glad there are echos…
LP3: Thanks so much. EHY was a cool project. It was a great experiment in my songwriting, and I definitely wanted to carry a couple of songs into this band. That live show and band was a lot of fun. It helped me decide the setting and direction I was going in with this band.

MW: How close are you to having the LP done? Are you gonna be playing out a lot to support it or what?
LP3: We are finishing a record with Andrew Schubert at Golden Beat Studios. All straight to analog tape on the same machine used by Death Row Records! Andrew is a great fit for this amazing group of scoundrels. The band includes Carlos, who has been my buddy for years. We played together in Red Exiles. Fuller is my “right hand lefty” on the drums all the time. The newest member of the fold is Mike B. who has been playing the circuit for a while now. He plays a variety of instruments, and for us plays accordion and organ. We are dropping our first 7″ next month. It is the first vinyl release for Wiener Records, the little brother label of Burger Records. We will be supporting that and a full length release.

MW: Is it hard to keep up a band with your full-time gig? Where do you find the energy?
LP3: I don’t think any of us anticipated LP3 & The Tragedy to take off this fast.  The amount of support and positivity has given all of us a super nitro boost.  It seems like when personalities and musicianship both click, that chemistry asks the universe to allow it. For that, we are super grateful. And I rarely sleep.

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Above: Louie with Bob Forrest, who used to hang out with Louie and Ruby’s dads in Los Lobos back in the day, at SMIC4. Check out the LP3 & The Tragedy’s page on Facebook for upcoming shows and keep an eye on Wiener Records for the upcoming releases.

Save Music in Chinatown 4: The Bicycle Thief, Evil Hearted You, and My Revenge with DJs from the Molotov Cocktail Hour recap

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On Sunday at Human Resources, we had our fourth Save Music in Chinatown DIY punk matinee/benefit gig to raise money for the defunded music program at Castelar Elementary. It was our first event to sell out thanks to the help and support of the bands, our friends, and pals with blogs and radio shows (Gabie at KCHUNG and Steve and Max from KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour).

Perhaps more than any of the previous shows, this one was set up like a mixtape with bands that were totally different but made sense and flowed next to each other. There was the undercurrent of O.G. L.A. punk that flowed through the bands: My Revenge (Hector Penalosa was in The Zeros), Evil Hearted You (Louis Perez III’s dad is in Los Lobos), The Bicycle Thief (Bob Forrest is a fixture in the scene and Josh Klinghoffer is in the Chili Peppers). But they’re also like family. The Zeros and Los Lobos have shared bloodlines and Thelonious Monster and Los Lobos have a share as sordid past as well as a musical one.

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I love getting favorite bands and people together and it’s even better when they didn’t even know they were meant to be friends. The leaders of My Revenge and Evil Hearted You, Hector and Louis, are different generations of Latino and roots-inspired SoCal punk. I always love seeing Tony Adolescent at our benefits, too. This time his brought his daughter and her best friend, which made it even better.

Evil Hearted You’s Ben Solis had some run-ins, too. He brought our mutual friend Emily Ryan, who I hadn’t seen in years. She used to be in Emily’s Sassy Lime! And then mid-set he spotted his old friend Spizz, who happened to have a big part in making the Bicycle Thief’s first, last, and only studio album happen.

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The garage rock sounds of Molotov Cocktail Hour warmed up the venue and kept the vibe going while I ranted off thanks and raffle prizes. My wife and co-host of the shows Wendy Lau created a huge poster out of the flyer that Louis Perez III made for the show. Fans actually offered money for the posters right off the wall, as well as the older ones that we had hanging. Gotta figure that into our merch next time…

My Revenge kicked off the show with a garage rock set that was a little darker and heavier than Hector’s more rockin’ Zeros or melodic Flying Color. The newest member Eric Olvier fit right in with longtime member David Arguello and fellow Baja Bugs drummer Nico Peters holding it down. I was stoked when they played my favorite Zeros song ever, “They Say That (Everything’s Alright)” and even happier when my daughter danced with me in the corner to it. Hector promises that My Revenge will release something eventually, so keep an ear out for that.

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Evil Hearted You were next, and I can’t believe that this was only their second live show. Their debut was at X’s Make The Music Go Bang! fest, so how honored was I when they said they’d follow it up with our gig. The new album is beautifully crafted with a lot of space and tension–and the Weiner cassette has been in my van for weeks now–but the trio really tear it up live. I was joking around by yelling “Gun Club!” between songs because I heard them try out a cover during rehearsal, but then they actually ended their set with it. Hot damn!

This was The Bicycle Thief’s first hometown show in 13 years and it was a big deal to me that they would get together for our little benefit. Bob had played an excellent, introspective set at our very first benefit but this time was totally different with Josh present. Not only did the Dot Hacker’s freakishly gifted guitar playing free Bob to stand up and really attack the mic but their rapport made him more comfortable to share stories about Chinatown, songwriting, rehab, and Oasis. So sad, so beautiful.

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The combined level of songwriting, musicianship, and unedited honesty is too good to be true, and many of us fans never got to see them play in the year or two before Josh was snatched up by the Chili Peppers. Some video from Sunday is leaking out, and I saw someone bootlegging the show, too. So although you really had to be there, maybe you can still get a taste on YouTube.

Thanks to the bands for playing and thanks to Human Resources for always sharing their space with us. Thanks to Grant for handling sound and Nate for bringing in Bob and Josh (and helping every time anyway). Thanks to everyone who donated to the already legendary bake sale and awesome raffle and worked the tables. My pal Sarvi doesn’t even have kids that go to our school but did some serious gourmet baking! Thanks to Chris at Scoops Chinatown for the ice cream, Julia at interTrend for donating coffee, and the kind folks at Purgatory Pizza for the slices.

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And of course thanks for everyone who bought tickets or told friends or family to buy tickets. Our three little shows a year won’t pay for the school’s annual $50,000 bill for music education. (Last year, we donated just over $10 grand.) But building community counts and so does raising awareness. And if we can bring punk rock back to Chinatown, that’s even better.

Please share our story with like-minded friends–not only so they can join us next time but hopefully try making a difference in their own way. We never had experience throwing shows or fund-raisers. We just went for it and with help from old friends and new ones, we’re doing some good and having blast. See you at the next show in February!

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Find out about our next show by following this blog or joining the Save Music in Chinatown group on Facebook.