Save Music in Chinatown 10 is here

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You’d think organizing benefit concerts for the music program at our daughter’s elementary school would be be easy after three years. Not really. However, arranging for bands from Beijing whose records you can’t even buy at Amoeba probably isn’t the most sensible choice.

But how cool is it to have Carsick Cars, one of China’s most excellent and influential post-punk bands, playing to help underserved kids in Chinatown?

Or have Chui Wan return after blowing our minds at last school year’s sold-out show with Dengue Fever and Birdstriking?

Alpine Decline will be extra noisy and amazing, too. How have I missed them every time they’ve come through town before? Or even when they lived here?

My pals in SISU are coming out of hiatus to round out the bill. They were initially going to play a special set as a duo but have decided to bring out the entire band!

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We’re lucky to have so many friends that make the shows happen. Sandy and Jules from SISU came on to our usual KCHUNG show with Gabie and Daryl (listen HERE) and of course there was the traditional two-hour hoot and warmup that is the Molotov Cocktail Hour on KXLU, as well.

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And what about the flyer that Senon Williams from Dengue Fever volunteered to make? When the bands play in front of the poster-sized image on Sunday, they’ll be like The Clash in the “Complete Control” video!

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Plus supporters donating stuff for the raffle, families contributing to the bake sale, everyone spreading the word, and Nate behind the scenes… I hope Sunday’s show raises a decent amount of money for music education at Chinatown’s public school but no matter what happens (Is Ciclavia really happening  in Chinatown on the day we chose last spring?) I’ll be grateful for being part of such a rad community that makes it happen.

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See cool bands! Eat delicious cookies! Help kids in Chinatown! Get more info at the Facebook event page and save some dough by ordering tickets in advance at eventbrite.com.

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You can further support the Chinese bands that support us by seeing them in Long Beach on Saturday night and Cafe NELA on Sunday night:

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Save Music in Chinatown 10 preview with the art of Senon Williams from Dengue Fever

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I don’t remember what year I became a fan of Dengue Fever, but I was definitely driving from my home in Silver Lake to Sawtelle and listening to KXLU. I heard something that sounded like psychedelic garage rock with Cambodia vocals, and immediately called the station to get the scoop when I arrived at the GR office. The DJ informed me that it was a demo from a new local band called Dengue Fever, and then gave me Senon’s phone number saying he wouldn’t mind.

We became friends, and the band popped up in the magazine multiple times during its 16-year run. After the publication ran its course, I have remained a fan and we are still friends. I see the band as often as I can and, after starting benefit shows for the music program at my daughter’s school, they volunteered to play one for us. I’m still amazed that  a big band like that would perform on our tiny stage.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Senon, who has turned out to be an excellent, thought-provoking artist as well as a top-shelf bass player, told me that he would like to make a flyer for one of our shows. How could I not take him up on it? How could I not ask him about his flyer and his art?

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Where did you get the idea for the flyer?
The idea popped into my head when I was thinking how to simply convey the idea that music is a basic need for kids.

Have you always had this secret life as an artist while being in a band?
I have been making art since I was a kid, drawing great medieval battles and torture chambers.

For the past few years, the computer began to rob the time I would contemplate my own thoughts. It feels good to be more present with my own mind as well as the tactical world. I have been working with ink on paper a long time, but my intense focus has given me technique and skill to freely experiment and use color.

When did you arrive at your painterly style paired with sly verbiage?
Words have been a part of my art for 20-30 years. Most of my work has been in sketchbooks, filling my downtime with no thought to put it out into the world—just a means to question or amuse myself with humanities-fraught existence.

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Are you totally self-taught? Are there “real” artists or instructors that have influenced you along the way?
I never went to art school. But I have worked as an artist’s studio assistant and in galleries, and have visited the studios of many artists I admire. Life has been a good education; I keep my eyes and ears open. Recently, I visited artists Mel Kadel, Tyler Vlahovich, and Eddie Ruscha and came away with inspirations, ideas, and techniques to experiment with. I felt like I went to school right then.

Does it feel like you’re using totally different parts of your brain than when you make art or play music? Can you compare/contrast the feeling you have when doing either?
Music is a part of me and I will never stop… Musically, my highest heights have always been playing with others and our connection, at times it is as though my physicality on this earth is suspended.

Oddly, visual art is the opposite. I feel bonded with the materials I am using and have a physical connection to the paper or wood. It’s a very tactile experience. The ideas, though, come from a different place–very personal and introspective–until they are cast off and the rest of the world can do (or not do) what they want with it.

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Was it difficult to put your art (and yourself as an artist) out there?
I met Laura Howe years ago when we were both working for art galleries. Now she owns an amazing boutique called Matrushka Construction, which sells all handmade clothes in Silver Lake. Ages ago, a few of my drawings were part of a group show in her store. Then, about a year ago, she asked me to have a solo show. I started to make art for it and the floodgates just broke wide open. ­­­

To promote that show, I had this idea to post one drawing per day until it opened. That was last April and I am still posting new work almost every day. I am not slowing down, and I feel there is not enough time in a day for me to do all I want to do. I can’t stop working.

Is it true that you paint when you’re in the van on tour? What is your setup?
I do draw while on the road, though not in the van. Too bumpy. I set up my inks and brushes as soon as I get to the hotel so if I have time to paint it is laid out and ready to go. The main problem is coming back after a show at 2:00 a.m. then working on the drawing into the wee hours.

I bring paper, Inks, paint, brushes, pencils, erasers, rags, and a knife (for safety).

Art shows against gun violence, benefits for music education… Can you talk about not only being creative but using your energy and presence for causes?
I care about this world and have always helped where I can. Small, kind acts can change the world in a huge way if enough of us take the time to feel for others. And I put my energy towards love and compassion so my children learn from my actions.

But I do hope humanity will look at itself as a whole one day and say, “I am kind.” And the people who are sour and embittered will say, “Forget it. It it ain’t worth it.”

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Check out Senon’s work on Instagram and get Save Music in Chinatown 10 tickets at Eventbrite.

Save Music in Chinatown 8 preview/interview with Eloise

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Making sure students at an inner-city public school get music education is a worthy enough reason to put on shows, but my wife Wendy and I think it’s important that children are able to attend and participate as well. It’s awesome that our second-grade daughter sees bands carry their own gear into a small venue and play their hearts out for us.

Eloise is also exposed to DIY culture, and has made and distributed flyers and posters, gone on radio shows to promote the cause, and contributed to a zine as well. Lately, she’s been talking about forming a band with her cousins or friends and playing one of the shows. I told her that will require a lot of work before it can happen, but for now she can help out with a short Q&A…

Why should people go to Save Music in Chinatown 8?
Because it helps raise money for the music program at my school. And it has awesome bands and a yummy bake sale. But if you can’t handle loud music, stay home and chill.

Tell me more about the music.
It’s loud and rocking!

But can you dance to it?
Yes, it’s very easy to dance to. Don’t be afraid to pogo!

Isn’t that a Gears song?
Yeah!

They were so great at our sixth show. Who are some of your other favorite bands that have played for us?
Dengue Fever, California, Baja Bugs, Adolescents, Upset, Bob Forrest and the Bicycle Thief–I love them all. I could tell that even the calm ones were really feeling it. They’re all so cool and nice. I look forward to Bombón, The Crowd, FourEyedFour, and Bad Cop/Bad Cop.

Got any favorite Crowd songs that you want to hear at the upcoming show?
“Right Time” and “Hear it on the Radio.” I also hope Bombón plays “La Playa”!

 

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Tell me about the flyer you made for the show.
I love drawing and I love making posters for Save Music in Chinatown. I get to draw monster cats, cats playing guitar, or even Bruce Lee holding a guitar.

Where did you get the idea for the Bruce Lee artwork?
I know that a lot of people in Chinatown love him.

Do you like him?
I love him, too. He’s cool and there’s a statue of him outside the Grand Star. I want to take pictures with the bands there, but it will be after the show because I don’t want to miss any music!

Do you think that enough kids attend our shows?
No, because the only ones I see are my friends and cousins.

I kinda like how I see so many friends and family at the shows.
But other people should go, too!

But wouldn’t kids rather  be watching videos on YouTube or going to Disney on Ice or something instead of checking out a punk rock show?
No way! That’s lame. You should be listening to awesome music and dancing around with friends.

Any tips for young people who are going for the first time?
They should buy earplugs from us. They’re only a dollar and all of the money we make goes to our school.

What are some other bands you’d like to see play our show in the future?
The Go-Go’s, Shonen Knife, Dum Dum Girls, X, AC/DC, Redd Kross, and OFF!

Anything else you want to add?
See you in the pit, but don’t get run over!

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Clockwise from top left: Rachel Haden, Upset, Nimol from Dengue Fever and Tony from Adolescents

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.

Save Music in Chinatown 6 photo dump with Dengue Fever, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death at the Grand Star

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I’m fiinally clearing out the SD card after last Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown 6 benefit matinee at the Grand Star, so here are some of the better photos. Unfortunately, I’m going to stick you with some words as well

The bill was unbelievable; we had two bands from China, Birdstriking and Chui Wan (above), as well as Deadly Cradle Death (a noisy side project featuring members of each band) and headliners Dengue Fever. Our new location was unbelievable, too. It was a second story spot in the heart of Chinatown with just good enough sound, a small stage, low ceiling, and bar for those who choose to drink. Right outside we were able to take photos by the Bruce Lee statue!

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Deadly Cradle Death features Liu Xinyu from Chui Wan and Hefan from Birdstriking. The duo’s music super heavy and dark and has a little bit of hip hop tucked in there. At the tail end of a month-long tour of the U.S., having their friends in Birdstriking join for a few shows must have been a kick in the ass for Chui Wan, and this set was a real bonus for us.

Also note the poster showing a rough, black and white version of the show flyer featuring cool art by Miran Kim. How cool was my friend in France to let us use her painting to help kids in Chinatown?

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In case you haven’t been paying attention, this was our sixth show. The bands have ranged from arty to punk to psychedelic with the latest lineup, but the killer bake sale has been a constant.

The shows have also become a real community, with familiar faces of friends, family, and music lovers of all kinds. Above is filmmaker Dave Travis, who runs Cafe NELA, and artist Vicki Berndt. They are among the many very cool people who attend all the shows and donate awesome stuff to our raffle, and I should have taken a dozen more photos of pals who support the cause like that. They’re the best. smic6d-chuiwanback

Sometimes it takes seeing a band two nights in a row to really get them, and I’m really glad I went out to see Chui Wan at NELA the night before. Chui Wan has a complex music vibe with a rhythm section that has a real angular post punk edge like Public Image Limited or Gang of Four. They’re really dark and heavy but also fun and the live show is mind-blowing.

The band played songs off its just-released, self-titled LP that you should track down. If you missed the tour, look for it (and other rad music from Chinese bands) at faroutdistantsounds.com.

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Birdstriking were another ripping live band. I had been intrigued by the fact that the touring unit would feature two members of one of my favorite Beijing bands, Carsick Cars, but now I like Birdstriking even more! They have similar Velvet Underground riffs and Pavement melodies but angrier, political punk rock vocals. Awesome! Birdstriking is touring the U.S. all month and into July, so you should grab a chance to see them if you can before they had back to Beijing.

Tucked between the band and the Oriental windows in the photo below is Nate Pottker. He’s an audio producer, visual artist, musician himself, and good friend, and he has been a big part of Save Music in Chinatown since the very beginning. He does whatever he can to help, and at the Grand Star he helped to tame the room’s bare-bones sound.

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Did I mention that the Grand Star is a really cool location? It is not only one building over from Madame Wong’s and the Hong Kong Cafe, but the vibe of the upstairs room with a low ceiling and loud noise recalls the punk days of old, too. I couldn’t resist taking a photo in front of the old Hong Kong Cafe with Lisa from Frontier Records and Tony from Adolescents.

That’s DJ Loud Panda (Ricky Maymi from the Brain Jonestown Massacre) in the cowboy hat. He loves Chinese music to death and is responsible for getting so many up-and-coming, out-of-their-minds underground bands from Beijing to the U.S. We couldn’t have had Birdstriking, Chui Wan, or Deadly Cradle Death play our Chinatown show without his help.

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After Birdstriking played, Liu from Chui Wan approached me with a Dengue Fever cassette and asked me to introduce him to the band. It turns out he’s a huge fan of theirs, so I dragged him around the club and got all of the members to sign it. Yet as the Dengue Fever began their set, the Chinese bands were packing up their gear and rushing off to San Francisco. What a bummer, but Liu seemed stoked just to be there.

We’ve had some badass lineups at Save Music in Chinatown shows featuring legendary bands that played the Hong Kong Cafe in the ’70s and ’80s. Having underground musicians from China in Chinatown is totally cool for a completely different reason, but still perfectly fits the idea of underdogs coming together through a subculture and building a community.

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I still can’t believe Dengue Fever played our little show. I mean, they play much bigger venues and seem to be on NPR every other week, but seeing the six-member band cram onto to our modest stage and playing without monitors was rad. It was like seeing them play a house party or basement show with a lot of feedback, sweat, and family vibe. Amazing.

Although the band had donated as signed record to raffle off at one of our previous shows, I never dared to ask if they would actually play for us. But my friend Josh, who manages Dengue Fever, brought up the idea and how could I say no? And then it actually happened.

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Before the set started, bassist Senon talked a little bit about the importance of music education and how playing music benefits people of all ages, and then added that I wrote the first piece and took the first photos of Dengue Fever when they started. How cool is it to have been friends since then, witness the band not only remain intact but evolve so far, and then see them play our show?

I also love how the Castelar kids who attend our shows not only benefit from the dough raised that goes toward music eduction, but also get to see awesome bands like Dengue Fever, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death carry their own gear up the stairs, set up their stuff, and play in small rooms. They see that music isn’t just played at the Hollywood Bowl or something that pop stars do. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by the DIY aspects too. And see that the lamest of parents can put together a cool show!

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Thanks to everyone who attended, played, donated raffle goodies, contributed to the bake sale, spread the word, and helped make the show happen in any way. Thanks to Tony Quon of the Grand Star for giving us a new home as well Human Resources for giving us a great start. We couldn’t do it without everyone’s help.

All money that came in went straight to the cause, with the venues, bands, bake sakes, raffle goods, and everything else being donated to the Friends and Alumni of Castelar Elementary School, and through this year’s shows, we have been able to pay more than $10,000 of Castelar’s annual bill of $50,000 for music education. On top of that, and just as important in my opinion, we are raising awareness, getting people together, and building a scene. It would be rad if you joined us when we start again next school year.

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Did I mention that the shows are totally fun, too? Or that you can bring your family if they can handle it? Kids under 12 are free. Follow this blog or join the Facebook group page for information on upcoming shows…

Save Music in Chinatown 6 recap with Dengue Fever, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death at the Grand Star

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Photo: Marc Walker, Not shown: Zac and Ethan

Let’s pause for a moment and consider how unlikely and awesome Sunday’s benefit was. We had Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death,  underground bands from Beijing playing our little show in Chinatown. Headlining was Dengue Fever, a hometown band with a huge following that typically plays way bigger stages than ours. And then we had a new venue, the Grand Star Jazz Club, located in Chinatown’s main plaza and in spitting distance of the The Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s, legendary dives that inspired and informed our series of DIY concerts. Walking up the stairs from the main bar to the top floor with its low ceilings, small stage, and Oriental windows was not unlike entering O.G. school punk shows back in the day…

http://www.imprintculturelab.com/save-music-in-chinatown-6-recap-with-dengue-fever-birdstriking-chui-wan-and-deadly-cradle-death/

Save Music in Chinatown 6 on KCHUNG’s Crystalline Morphologies

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Thanks to my longtime friend and Save Music in Chinatown supporter from the beginning Gabie Strong. She invited Nate Pottker and me onto her Crystalline Morphologies radio show on KCHUNG to talk about the cause, play some music related to the shows, and get the word out about our May 31 lineup.

For the first time, I actually tried to scribble down mini sets to play. Here’s how they went:

Anarchy Jerks – Oi! Oi! Oi!
Adolescents – Monolith of Mountlake Terrace, A Dish Best Served Cold
Mike Watt & The Black Gang – Rebel Girl
Brain Failure – Living in the City
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Dengue Fever – Glass of Wine (demo)
The Zeros – Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White
The Gears – Let’s Go To The Beach
Channel Three – Indian Summer
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Birdstriking – TV at 7PM
Carsick Cars – Ono
P.K. 14 – Voyagers (I think)
Dear Eloise – Castle
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The Bicycle Thief – Max, Jill Called (Live at Save Music In Chinatown 4)

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I tried to play a Chui Wan song after Dear Eloise, but the CDR didn’t work. Bummer. Maybe you heard them on NPR lately anyway? I’ll try again on KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour next week…

In the meantime, stream or even download the show at http://archive.kchungradio.org/2015-05-21/Save_Music_In_Chinatown_6-05.21.2015.mp3.

Thanks, Gabie! Thanks, KCHUNG! Seeya May 31!

The Clash, The Ramones, Save Music in Chinatown

showsAfter decades of going to shows, even the raddest ones can become a blur. But a few stand out for any number of reasons…

http://www.imprintculturelab.com/the-shows-that-matter/