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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Save Music in Chinatown 16 recap with Phranc, Ford Madox Ford, LP3 & The Tragedy, The Horseheads, and The Linda Lindas plus Gabba Gabba Cake

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After five years and 15 shows, you’d think organizing Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows wouldn’t be a big deal anymore. Yet another matinee with old music and young kids–don’t they all blend together and are there even show-goers who like either? Maybe they would come for cookies. Or cake!

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My wife Wendy and friend Nate, who also obsess over our series of all-ages matinees year-round, were right on board when I decided to made our 16th show my 50th birthday party, hoping that  maybe a couple more people would come out to help raise money for music education at Castelar, Chinatown’s public elementary school, by carrying on the punk rock tradition of the historic neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe.

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As usual, the lineup came together perfectly but from totally different directions. Phranc has been playing at punk rock shows and benefit gigs for decades, and we had been in touch with the All-American Jewish Lesbian folk singer since she and our mutual friend Alice Bag teamed up to play our 14th show as PHAG. I loved the Smothers Brothers-inspired duo’s topical songs, which were as progressive as they were current, and two-of-a-kind banter, but wanted our audience to get a rare taste of Phranc as a solo artist as well. Is there anyone cooler or more calming, more sensible or funny, in a state of chaos? She was doing it way before “Life’s a Beach” and the Reagan and Bush years and she’ll be around long after 45 and “YOLO.” Phranc was and will always be the original Life Lover that reassures all of us underdogs to not give in or give up.

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We’ve been shocked a few times when a friend, whose cool band had no business playing a rinky dink show like ours to begin with, has asked to play for our cause a second time. Mike from Channel Three and Tony Adolescent approached us about a record-release show and secret gig last year, and this time it was Chip from Ford Madox Ford. What an honor to have lifers and veterans of the first wave of punk in Chinatown come back to play for the kids who go to school there now. What a relief not to grovel to potential headliners and co-headliners! And I don’t even know what the blues are, but I love the combo’s rock-solid groove mixed with Chip’s original punk energy and nonstop layer of noise provided by his guitar shredding son Dewey.

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I lined up LP3 & The Tragedy and The Horseheads during a bittersweet afternoon at Alex’s Bar in way back in July. Nate and I were commiserating with Louie Perez III and Mike Martt at Steve Soto’s memorial, and one of the beloved bass player’s last shows with the Adolescents in SoCal was actually at our May benefit. Louie had been working closely with Steve and was devastated. He only came to the gathering because Mike asked him to bring some gear so CJ Ramone and a few Adolescents could play a short set (which they joked Steve would have hated, but made everyone feel better). Somehow, I built up the courage to ask them if their bands would be interested in playing our show and, perhaps partly in tribute to Steve’s memory and the legacy of his great music and big heart, they said yes.

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Having LP3 & The Tragedy and The Horseheads was a very cool pairing of cowpunk legends, lifers, and torch carriers–perfect since Chip and his brother Tony formed the genre’s instigators Rank & File–and how about Chip coming up to sing “Class War,” a Dangerhouse single released by the brother’s previous band, The Dils, with LP3? The famously unruly Horseheads covering “What’s so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?” for a crowd with as many children in the audience as survivors of the Hong Kong Cafe days? “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” provided a gritty balance that pleased the blues purists and fans of Mike’s other old band Thelonious Monster

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Bolstered by a kickass bake sale and cool raffle as usual, the show would have been amazing enough right there–way above and beyond what we should expect from our humble project, cause, and efforts. But it gets better and I actually get emotional when I look back at it, largely because The Linda Lindas played. Eloise has gone from mascot to flyer artist to member of a band with her cousins and their friend. While we hoped to raise money for our daughter’s school all along, having a scene grow around it was a total surprise, and who knew that it would be a place where kids that can handle it could thrive? They play covers now (Go-Go’s, X-Ray Spex, Ramones, Bikini Kill, Joy Division) but who knows how far they will take it?

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And on top of all that, it was my birthday! What a cool present for so many friends, family, and supporters come out and eat a Ramones-themed cake for my twin brother Greg and me? Or hear Phranc sing “It’s Cool to Grow Old in L.A.” name-checking Save Music in Chinatown, The Linda Lindas, and The Hong Kong Cafe?

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I’m grateful not only that so many people come out to support public school and music education in the historic neighborhood for my immigrant grandparents and in-laws, and now my daughter, has found community, but also that they contribute to my most fun, amazing birthday ever. And I never make a big deal out of my birthday but this was a big deal.

 

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Thank you to everyone who played, contributed, attended, and had fun at #savemusicinchinatown 16 at @thegrandstarjazzclub this afternoon! It's unbelievable to me that our all-ages matinee fund raising concerts for Castelar's music program has not only survived into its sixth year but that we can get a lineup like @horseheadsmusic, @lp3andthetragedy, @fdmdxfd, and @phranc.la to play for our humble cause. Or that my daughter would go from being a kindergartener dancing around in front to flyer artist to guest singer to member of a band on the show, @the_linda_lindas! Why not make this show my 50th birthday party, celebrating not only a birthday but Eloise's awesome school and my favorite neighborhood's punk rock past at the Hong Kong Cafe. And cookies! Is there a cooler way to grow old in L.A. or anywhere else? If you were there and loved it, please share your pictures and spread the word! And if not but it sounds right up your alley, I'll be blabbing about our next show sooner than you think! Who wants in?

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Hugs, high fives, and thanks to everyone who played, worked the bake sale, contributed to the raffle, helped get the word out, and came and had fun. Reaching 50 could have been a somber event, but I’ve never felt more excited, engaged, joyful about uniting my favorite subcultures of punk rock and immigrant kids and trying to make a difference in my favorite neighborhood, Chinatown. And to do it with my family and so many old and new friends is simply the best. We hope to see you at our next shows in January and June… I wonder who we can get to play?

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Left to right, top to bottom: Artist Vicki Berndt; Dewey Peak from Ford Madox Ford and too many other bands to list; Phranc, Horseheads, and Bela from The Linda Lindas; Castelar alum and one of the flyer models, Tatawan; Alpine Decline; Gabba Gabba Cake from KG Bakery; Tsubasa from Rough Kids and family; Chip from Ford Madox Ford, Rank & File, Dils, etc. with Alice Bag and The Linda Lindas; Zen and Atomic Nancy; RazorCake crew; Chris from Scoops, who brought custom ice cream, and Mamie, whose family ran the Hong Kong Cafe; post-show birthday dinner crew at Golden Dragon.

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For news on the next shows, keep an eye on this blog or follow the Save Music in Chinatown page on Facebook!

Save Music in Chinatown: The Fifth Year zine and sixth year

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Five years ago, Save Music in Chinatown was just a crazy idea that Wendy came up with.

A couple of weeks after Eloise started Kindergarten at Castelar, we received a handout asking us families if we could donate money to the elementary school’s excellent but underfunded music program. We knew there was no way the mostly blue-collar neighborhood would cough up enough dough to make a dent in the amount. And we aren’t rich. But Wendy and I straddle Chinatown’s immigrant culture (her parents and my grandparents) and punk rock past (my favorite type of music), and have a background in DIY projects. Why not build a bridge between two of our favorite subcultures in one of our favorite places to raise money for kids who live in and around Chinatown today?

With no experience in organizing benefit shows but a lot of help from old and new friends, we set up our first all-ages matinee fund raiser inspired by the old Hong Kong Café, which hosted early shows by the Germs, Go-Go’s, Weirdos, Bags, Black Flag, and other legendary L.A. punk bands. Except we had cookies and coffee, little kids dancing in front, and a very cool raffle with autographed records and books, and gift certificates for donuts and pho!

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We didn’t expect our humble shows to last more than five years, couldn’t have expected that so many amazing bands would play on our behalf, or never even dreamed that we’d be part of a small community that has raised about $10,000 for Castelar’s music program every school year. Amazing and totally unexpected.

And, personally, Wendy and I have become fixtures in Castelar’s booster club, recognized advocates of the teachers union, and regular contributors to the historic neighborhood’s resistance to gentrification.

Eloise is now a fifth grader, and several of her teachers have told Wendy and me that they will miss her when she moves on from Castelar next year. But I think we have grown and learned at least as much as our daughter—and are savoring everything that is going on and grateful to everyone who has helped in any way. Thank you for being a part of it.

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In advance of our sixth year and sixteenth show, we made a Save Music in Chinatown: The Fifth Year zine. This essay was written for it, and we hope to see you at Save Music in Chinatown 16 on Sunday, November 4 with Phranc, Ford Madox Ford, LP3 & The Tragedy, The Horseheads, and The Linda Lindas.

Public education’s not dead–yet

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It’s safe to say that each of us who protested our 45th president’s appointment of an unqualified, inexperienced, and pro-privatization billionaire to Secretary of Education was horrified (if not surprised) when the Senate and Second in Command confirmed her place in the White House Cabinet this week.

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The Secretary of Education’s lack of knowledge was displayed for all to see in public hearings and disapproval by authorities on education was overwhelming. That hefty donations from her family to conservative causes–not to mention every single Senator that voted for her–might be sufficient to secure her place in the Cabinet is outrageous and should be embarrassing to all Americans. Our children are up for sale, just like the environment.

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DeVos’s vision for education is not clear–perhaps not even to her–but we can expect a push for vouchers directing more public money to private, virtual, religious and for-profit schools. We can expect less regulation when it comes to assisting and protecting  English learning, special needs, and low-income students. Her family donating millions to anti-LGBT groups should strike fear in yet another group of at-risk kids.

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I’m hoping that this moment will not sink but galvanize supporters of public schooling for everyone. The day before the current regime took office, teachers and families across Los Angeles woke up early and stood outside in the rain to show support for their public schools. At least 30 of us met outside my daughter’s school in Chinatown, Castelar, and family and friends passed along photos of like-minded gatherings at Eagle Rock, Dalia, and Glenfeliz elementary schools.

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The awareness and activism of parents has been swelling. Last year, the Castelar community fought off  co-location by a charter school, and we families shared information and strategies with peers at others’ schools who faced similar threats. This year and moving forward we will  continue to work together to protect and improve our public schools in spite of federal leadership or lack thereof.

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Public education is not perfect, but many of us are willing to work on it and fight for it.

Thank you for Save Music in Chinatown 11: Rikk Agnew Band, Ford Madox Ford, Rough Kids, Florida Mistakes

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My friend Daryl said that our eleventh Save Music in Chinatown show might have been his favorite one so far. And who am I to argue with a guy who holds down the fort at RazorCake magazine and KCHUNG?

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Of course Daryl and Gabie at KCHUNG are two friends who always carve out time from their radio shows to help us get the word out. I think it’s really cool that Gabie’s Crystalline Morphologies program is not only scheduled early enough that Eloise can go on the air, but is also archived for streaming and downloading.

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We get help from so many friends. There’s also Cyrano and Lotus (a.k.a. Steve and Max) at KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. On their show, we had Rikk Agnew on the air to pick songs from the great new Rikk Agnew Band LP, and vintage solo stuff, Adolescents, and Christian Death, and share Hong Kong Cafe anecdotes from his storied punk rock life, too. Super cool!

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At the show it itself, we saw a lot of old friends coming out to support the cause. There was LP3 and Carrie. Louie played for us with Evil Hearted You way back when and will return with LP3 & The Tragedy sooner than later.

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Bob Forrest has played for us twice, solo at our first show ever and then with The Bicycle Thief. Holy cow, I can’t believe that reunion happened at one of our little shows. Were you there?

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And how about longtime supporters Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records and David O. Jones from Alice Bag Band, Carnage Asada, Deadbeats, and a bunch of other cool projects coming out early enough to see Rough Kids?smic11-rough2

More old and new friends: Paul from Rough Kids with Paul and Nick from Escape Artist. Nick played for us in FourEyedFour and will come back with 16 Again one of these days!smic11-roughflyboys

There was an Alice Bag sighting, too. How rad was it for her to come out to Chinatown and say hi to Chip, who was co-headlining our show with Ford Madox Ford. Decades ago, they used to play in the Bags and Dils, respectively, right across the courtyard at the Hong Kong Cafe!

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I was especially happy to see my friend Jaime not only get time off from work to attend the show but jump on stage to sing with the Rikk Agnew Band. When I was in college, I used to go to the Anti-Club almost every weekend to see him play with the Chemical People on bills with ALL and Big Drill Car.

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After seeing him so often at shows and then Hollywood Book and Poster we became friends, breaking the barrier between stage (even ones a foot tall) and crowd. One small step on the way to putting on these benefit shows…

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Of course, there was my good friend Nate who helps behind the scenes of every single show. Although he’s elusive like Bigfoot, this time I got a blurry picture of him with Chip and Scott from Ford Madox Ford. But how did I miss photos of Vicki, Horace, and Clare–the latter two all the way from London?smic11-chipnatecrew

Besides being excited and grateful to the Florida Mistakes, Rough Kids, Ford Madox Ford, and Rikk Agnew Band and everyone who showed up, I don’t have a real story to tell except that a lot of people out there want to make a difference and help out in some way.

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I don’t have a radio show, play in a band, release records, or make awesome cookies. But if I can help those people get together to help kids in Chinatown receive music education at their public school, what can you do? What difference can you make?

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Thanks again to the Grand Star, the bands, the bake sale crew, raffle donors, everyone who came, and everyone who spread the word. We’ll do it again at the Grand Star on Sunday, May 7 and be ready for some top-shelf garage punk rock ‘n’ roll…

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Best blurry picture ^ v Gung hay fat choy!

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Save Music in Chinatown 10 recap with SISU, Carsick Cars, Chui Wan, and Alpine Decline

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I was even more stressed out than usual about our tenth Save Music in Chinatown show. Was the previous evening’s Long Beach gig, which I also helped set up, going to turn out alright for the bands that were coming all the way from Beijing? Wasn’t it going to be extra difficult for the musicians, helpers, and attendees to make it to the Grand Star with Ciclavia happening on the same date that we set way back in the spring?

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It was less convenient getting to the Grand Star and parking cost twice as much, but everything turned out fine. Actually, excellent.

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Really, how could those who made it to the show not be blown away by the raw chemistry of the Alpine Decline duo, soaring and psychedelic musicianship of Chui Wan, or buzzsaw riffs of the power trio Carsick Cars? The urgency and excitement of a new generation of artists who are out of their minds and inspired by the entire history of rock being unloaded on China all at once?

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I was first introduced to Carsick Cars along with P.K.14 way back in 2007 when I stalked them for a magazine article and have been obsessed with Beijing’s underground music scene ever since. How amazing to see them in Chinatown.

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And then there were the dark, swirling sounds of SISU. I became familiar with the band when I interviewed Sandy as one of the Dum Dum Girls and became a fan of her main musical outlet as well as a friend.

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At first, SISU agreed to come out of seclusion to play as a stripped-down version for the cause but it wound up being a full-on headlining set with all four members along with a projector and fog machine!

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And then they played a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Little Trouble Girl,” arranging for a handful of kids including Eloise and her cousins to go onstage and sing backup. Wow.

For my favorite bands to play all-ages matinee fund raisers to support the unfunded music program at my daughter’s public elementary school in Chinatown is surreal. And for us to be embarking on our fourth year of shows is really incredible. We had no experience when we started this project and have gotten by only with the help of so many supporters.

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There are awesome bands, old friends and new friends, all of my family and so many community members, killer bake sale, and super cool raffle to make it a completely unique and excellent afternoon. But even better is the community that has grown over the years. To not only raise money and awareness to help kids but also create a scene in Chinatown is something we never anticipated and are always humbled by.

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Thanks to everyone who makes our shows possible, building on the punk rock tradition of the old Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s, and helping the largely underserved kids who live in Chinatown today. It not only gives them access to music education and a creative outlet, but empowers them with the DIY aesthetic.

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The next Save Music in Chinatown all-ages matinee will take place in January or February. Follow this blog or like facebook.com/SaveMusicInChinatown for news.

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See you there!

 

#savecastelar recap until next time

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Wendy and I were shocked when we received a memo from the LAUSD stating that Castelar Elementary had been identified as a possible site of co-location by Metro Charter School. What an insane idea to have a charter school occupy the “unused” classrooms at our daughter’s campus. Besides the fact that most of the space was utilized by Chinatown children for music, art, science, and P.E., two schools on one campus would be a logistical nightmare, as well as an unhealthy environment in which the school and students on either side would be in constant measurement and competition against each other. And how tragic would it be for Castelar to be drained of kids and resources by Metro–the pattern in co-location–weakening Chinatown’s historically excellent neighborhood public school and trusted resource for generations of immigrant families. What would be the social repercussions in the neighborhood where my grandparents, in-laws, and now daughter had found a community?

Neither Wendy nor I considered ourselves to be activists, possessing resumes that have mutated from indie publishing to organizing DIY punk rock matinee fundraisers, but our unique backgrounds turned out to be useful in Castelar’s fight against co-location. When a march to popularize our struggle didn’t receive media coverage, I wrote a blog about it that has garnered nearly 2,200 views. And then I posted a petition that has been passed around and received more than 1,800 signatures from family, alumni, community members, and other supporters–complementing 600 physical signatures gathered in front of the school and around the neighborhood. Wendy used her graphic design skills to create bold, wall-sized posters that communicated to parents exactly what our children would lose and what events they could attend in English, Spanish, and Chinese. And then every morning she used her limited Cantonese to get as many Chinese parents to sign the petition and attend the Metro board meeting as possible.

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Observing our efforts, a lot of my good friends pitched in even though they didn’t have kids at Castelar. Wendy, Eloise, and I collaborated with Save Music in Chinatown co-conspirator Gabie Strong to host a special #savecastelar radio program on KCHUNG to discuss saving public education in Chinatown, DIY activism, and punk rock. Artists Susie Ghahremani, Nate Pottker, and Martin Cendreda provided incredible #savecastelar pieces that we used for posters, flyers, and social media. Filmmaker and actor Daniel Wu posted a #savecastelar photo on his Instagram page, instantly giving our cause a boost to fans of his work and also the Chinese press. For them to put themselves out there means a lot to us, because charter schools are not only a divisive topic among parents but backed by people and groups with a lot of dough.

We made new friends, too. When we attended a TEAch meeting wearing Castelar T-shirts, a retired teacher walked up to Wendy and me in her vintage Castelar sweatshirt and said, “I know who you are and what you’ve been doing.” We became instant allies with Phyllis Chiu, who shared valuable information and forwarded letters to politicians for us. She introduced me to King Cheung, a member of the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, who could be our translator. He and his wife Diane Tan became our activist mentors. It was sort of like being like a kung-fu movie where we met different masters that would train us in their specialties and then accompany us in our journey.

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A handful of us parents joined forces and rallied 50 family members to get into cars and pack Metro Charter School’s tiny board meeting room. We had at least two dozen Cantonese speakers, and King translated for half of them. We had numerous Spanish speakers, as well, and spent about 30 minutes detailing why we  didn’t want our classrooms taken away and how important Castelar is to the Chinatown community. While our hosts were civil and repeatedly emphasized that they never chose Castelar, they never said they would not be coming at the meeting or when I followed up with a thank-you email.

Metro Charter School might not have chosen Castelar, but if they invoked Prop 39 and asked to co-located in public classrooms they should have expected resistance from the targeted school and community.

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Attending the Chinese American Citizens Alliance lodge meeting with the hopes of getting a letter of support was both surreal and cinematic. While chatting beforehand, the president frankly told me that she would have to invite someone from Metro Charter School to hear their side of the story. Crap! But after I finally gave my spiel, several members stood up and said that the lodge had to support Castelar, their kids’ and grandkids’ alma mater. After my allotted time was up, I tuned out while the last of three politicians tried to curry support from the organization until the president asked me about the LAUSD’s timetable. Members unanimously voted to bypass the lodge’s protocol and promised a letter of support for Castelar on the spot! I felt like I was in a Jimmy Stewart movie, and that was a real cool moment that I will never forget.

Our efforts didn’t go perfectly. Not once but twice, I posted that organizations had supported our cause prematurely. How awkward to put potential supporters in a position like that. And then after weeks of pushing our case on social media, a Metro Charter School parent accused me of spreading rumors. I posted a photo of the February 22 memo and she turned out to be quite reasonable. Not like the other one who mocked me for being “so dramatic” without ever denying the possibility of co-location.

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One of the hardest-to-take moments stemmed from one of the most minor events. A Downtown-based online news site ran a puff piece about Metro Charter School having a tough time finding a new location, and described resistance from Castelar community as a “minor outcry.” Since when does more than 2,400 signatures on a petition and 50 Castelar family members and supporters traveling across town to voice disapproval to the Metro Charter School board meeting qualify as minor? I had actually provided the writer with the facts before the article posted, and then asked him to correct the piece but he has stuck by his verbiage. He considers it minor because Metro never chose to locate Castelar and had chosen not to take LAUSD’s offer and, in his opinion, the Castelar community was making a big deal out of nothing. He is entitled to that take–and his outlet doesn’t have the largest audience anyway–but calling the response minor is not only untrue but dismissive to an entire community. This misinformation also lives on in a dark corner of cyberspace and I’m still pissed off about it.

And that’s why, even as this particular struggle against co-location is wrapping up, it’s important to talk about and document what has happened. The LAUSD Facilities Services Division and and other charter schools that might be considering to occupy Castelar in the future need to know that the Chinatown community will not give up its neighborhood school without a fight. The families in Chinatown and kids who attend Castelar, as well as other schools that are fighting against co-location, need to know how families banded together and what steps we took to protect our community, and the Chinese newspapers and KPCC were the only media that responded to our outreach.

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Before Castelar’s Open House, a small group of parents attended an LAUSD committee meeting to present our case and personally invite board members to see the school were were trying to protect and attend the assembly afterward, with the intent of having a packed auditorium voice dissent with co-location. The lion dance opening the assembly was perfectly cathartic, totally powerful, and could only happen in Chinatown. And when Principal Shum was given permission to announce that Metro Charter would not be occupying our classrooms, everyone could really feel the room brighten, lighten, and practically elevate. Afterward, many of the Cantonese-speaking ladies that Wendy recruited thanked us for letting them know what was happening and how they could help stand up for Chinatown’s school–a nice ending to a steep learning curve and emotional roller coaster.

Thanks to everyone who signed and shared the petition and spread the word. Thanks to the parents who stood outside school with clipboards, joined community groups, and attended board meetings. Thanks to our new friends and allies who support public education in Chinatown. And thanks to the faculty and teachers who supported us and voiced their appreciation all the way. What everyone had in common was how much all of us love Castelar and Chinatown and, while these weeks have been scary and exhausting, our children and community are worth fighting for. With the Broad Plan for privately-run charter schools to take over half of all public education in L.A. over the next few years, we’ll likely be doing it all over again sooner than we think.

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And thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. Click and scroll through the  petition comments at change.org to read additional testimonials from alumni, family, and friends of Castelar.