LP3 & The Tragedy are here

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There are members sprouted from the PanAmerican roots of Los Lobos and tweaked by the dark, swampy blues of The Gun Club. There are members who have refined their chops in punk, ska, and funk but inevitably turned their attention toward the roots of it all. United and propelled by a sense of family through blood, touring, and DIY culture, LP3 & the Tragedy posses a staggering combined mass of musical tastes, talent, and muscle memory. So how could I not ask my pal Louie Perez III about Southland Hum, the debut album from one of my favorite new bands, LP3 & The Tragedy?

When I hear the record, I think, “What if Elvis Costello was trapped in Straight To Hell?” Am I far off?
Hahaha! Dude, that’s hilarious! Didn’t Elvis Costello play Hives The Butler in Straight to Hell? I think The Pogues shot him in that movie. And although it was not my initial intent, I admire both comparisons. Any cinematic comparison to our band makes me really happy.

I know about Evil Hearted Eric Fuller and your cousin Ruby Rosas from Bongoloidz. How do you know the others in the Tragedy?
Well, our accordion player and organist Mike B. played in another band with Fuller. When I heard Fuller knew an accordion player I was like, “What! How do we convince this guy to jam with us?” Turns out, he required no convincing whatsoever and he’s also just about the most kind-natured, level-headed, and rad dude you would ever meet, and he always brings the best vibes with him. Carlos has been my road dog for just about forever. He’s been part of almost everything band-oriented I have ever done. He was even my guitar tech way back in Los Villains days, but that was just a great excuse to have a homey and accomplice to do hoodrat shit with in those days. He is a ready and steady mofo. He, too, is very level headed and if the Tragedy were a ball club he would be team manager.

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Besides having more of a country sound than Evil Hearted You, there’s more working-class politics–which I definitely approve of. Are you a political guy? Maybe it’s just an election year?
We definitely lean towards a cowpunk/singer songwriter vibe. I would not consider myself into politics as much as I am against injustice. It seems pretty obvious who the real puppet-masters are. Everywhere you look, someone is spewing some garbage that promotes keeping us culturally divided, but it’s not race war. That’s a diversion. It’s class war: the poor versus the rich with the working class in the  middle getting  robbed by both sides in different ways. And staying educated is almost a criminal activity in the eyes of  decision-makers, nowadays. We are living in an interesting time, and not using art to speak on it seems irresponsible to me.

Even the most epic songs on the new LP are still really trim. No filler. Do you try to pack it in or does it just happen that way?
A vinyl LP cuts best at about ten songs. We have about six more tracks in the can for 7″ singles, EPs, etc., that we will start releasing throughout the year.

I really dug all the covers you played at Alex’s and the Tatuaje benefit. Can you remind me what they were? Are there new ones in the rotation?
We have a ton of covers in our arsenal that we can play depending on the length of a set. One of my favorite things is curating our influences into a set. We frequently do a duet of “Dream” by the Everly Brothers and a gypsy stomp version of “Crying” by Buddy Holly. And there’s “Alone in the Crowd” by Johnny Thunders and the current audience favorite is “Search and Destroy” by The Stooges. We also learned about 17 of Alejandro Escovedo’s songs, and I really want to cover “San Antonio Rain” because  every time I hear him sing it I want to cry. Ruby wants to do “Deer Head on the Wall” and Fuller likes playing “Arizona” a lot. We could have a seriously epic covers record, and I think we’ve already recorded a bunch of the ones I listed.

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Will you be totally disappointed in the world if “Heart Locked in a Cell” isn’t a gigantic hit that people want to sing along in arenas? I would.
Well, I really appreciate the compliment, but I am more than content with watching our friends sing along. As far as gigantic hits and arenas go, we don’t posses the resources to make that a reality.

The SoCal tour with X, Lobos, and Blasters will be amazing, and then there’s more touring. After all those shows, will you be taking a sabbatical or plowing into more tours and more recording?
We are game for whatever the universe bids, but we may wait one hot minute before making another record considering since we are broke from making this one. Adding insult to injury, after being on the road for three or four weeks, we’ll return to the jobs we don’t have anymore, eviction notices, and a pile of overdue bills. But it wouldn’t be the first time.

I always wonder about your double life as tattoo artist and musician. Do you listen to the music that is inspiring you when you are inking a client? Or do you listen to whatever that person is into and hope it doesn’t suck? Maybe silence to concentrate or because you’re in a roomful of people with different tastes?
Music is very democratic at the shop. I tend to like everything, though, and find myself bobbing my head to even the worst shit. I don’t discriminate. We listen to a lot of good stuff from old Eastside Art Laboe oldies to straight wavy trap music. When I’m in my zone, I get down with the rootsy, bluesy stuff like Canned Heat or Jimmy Reed. And lately when I wanna amp up, I’ve been listening to high school faves like the first three Fugazi records or Jawbreaker. Those are mainstays. Silence is the deadliest of weapons and I avoid using it at all costs.

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Yes, Louie’s old band Evil Hearted You played alongside Bob Forrest and The Bicycle Thief at one of the Save Music in Chinatown benefit matinees shows that my wife and I organize. Can’t wait to have LP3 & The Tragedy play for us, too…

 

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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.

We Want The Airwaves: Save Music in Chinatown

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For more than a month, I’ve been submitting details about Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown benefit show to just about every calendar and music blog in town. And I have yet to see a listing or receive a reply.

That’s a bummer since I’m super proud of the lineup (the first hometown Bicycle Thief gig in 13 years, second show ever by Evil Hearted You, the return of Hector Penalosa from the legendary Zeros) and feel very strongly about the cause (music education at Castelar Elementary, the public school that my 6-year-old daughter attends). I thought the angles of bringing punk shows back to Chinatown and uniting the neighborhood’s subcultures of art and music for the local kids were strong, too. Oh well.

But just when I start to wonder if I’m delusional, in come my excellent friends contributing awesome goods for the raffle, volunteering at the bake sale, and promoting the gig via social media. And a few have even put me on the airwaves to help get the word out.

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Last night, I was a guest of Cyrano and Lotus on KXLU‘s Molotov Cocktail Hour. How cool was it to make the pilgrimage to L.A.’s main artery of underground and independent music–and for my pals to not only give me a lift to the station but provide snacks, as well. They’ll be DJing at Sunday’s event, and I’ll be too busy to enjoy their selections of Asian and Latin garage rock, psych, and punk, so it was extra cool to dig those jams in the studio while adding cuts from bands that have been supporting the cause and gushing about the upcoming show, as well.

On Thursday, my friend Gabie invited to the KCHUNG studios in Chinatown to be on her Crystalline Morphologies program. She invited me to bring a guest and Ben from Evil Hearted You was available to talk about his band and share why they jumped on a chance to play our next event. Gabie has been a supporter of our project since the beginning, and always invites me onto her show each time we have a benefit to play records and promote the cause. You can stream or even download the show at archive.kchung.org.

Thanks again to Cyrano, Lotus, Gabie, and everyone else who helps in whatever ways they can. There’s no way we will single-handedly raise enough dough with our little DIY shows to pay Castelar’s $50 thousand bill for music education. But raising awareness, building community, and engaging the scene matter, too. And we can have a blast doing it.

Rad band alert: Evil Hearted You

ehy4I’m super stoked that Evil Hearted You will be playing our fourth Save Music in Chinatown DIY punk matinee/benefit gig next weekend. I found out about them not much more than a month ago when I met the bass player Ben Solis through our mutual friend (and another badass musician) Fredo Ortiz at an art show. Our paths had crossed in the past, notably at a Red Aunts/J Church/Money Mark show that GR put together back in the day, and we chatted about being grown-ups informed by DIY punk values as well as being parents of young daughters, not to mention our latest projects. I was starting to plan our next fund-raiser, he was in a new band Louis Perez III. (Yes, the latter’s dad is in Los Lobos.)

Turns out the band is amazing. On the self-released CD and Burger/Weiner cassette, Evil Hearted You’s songs reflect Perez’s childhood soaking in the O.G. punk/L.A. roots sounds of Lobos and Gun Club but are filtered through modern sensibilities. The collection is as restrained as it is realized, and there’s an underlying darkness, vulnerability, and beauty that pulses through the songs. And then a few days ago, I was invited to see the live unit with Louis, Ben, and drummer Eric Fuller at the practice spot and holy crap! A totally different animal, kind of like the difference between Nick Cave crooning in the studio and being a possessed demon onstage. Badass and heavy as hell. They blew me away and, even better, are down to play for the kids of Chinatown.

To date the band has only performed at one show and have yet to do any press. So here’s a quick conversation to get everyone up to speed and ready for the afternoon of Sunday, October 19.

LPIII: Louis Perez III, vocals, guitars, accordion, synth strings, lyrics, songwriting
BS: Ben Solis, bass, keyboards, analog synth, glockenspiel, arrangements
LS: Lars Stalfors (not pictured), studio drummer, percussion, Mellotron, production, mixing
EF: Eric Fuller, live drums

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MW: Louis, you already have a very successful, satisfying, and busy career as a tattoo artist. What drives you to create music on top of that?
LPIII: The tattoo industry has kept me very busy for over a decade, and for that I am eternally grateful. Tattooing also has given me creative freedom and the discipline to raise the ceiling for myself both visually and musically. I had been playing in bands long before I ever picked up a tattoo machine, and music is a hard habit to shake. Also, I don’t sleep very much and I find myself strumming into the wee hours of the night/normal people’s mornings…

MW: What’s the pre-history of Evil Hearted You?
BS: Our history is too long, idiotic, and beautiful to go into here. Louis and I have shared the most amazing times together and, as kids, we did some really stupid things together. Louis is a poet; I am a critic. Louis is a musician; I am a logician. In these roles, we are able to make an otherwise incompatible relationship productive. He’s my brother and, aside from Lars, the only person who has ever taken me seriously as a musician. I don’t even take me seriously as a musician. I guess Evil Hearted You happened because Louis remembered my musicality from 15 years ago–more than a third of our lives. He is obviously a gifted songwriter. It’s possible that I am one of the few people who ever took the time to remind him of that. This is starting to read like a love letter, so I must conclude my answer here.

LS: I had worked with Ben on other projects, and he introduced me to Louis. After we all talked a few times, I think we worked on two songs together to see if it worked. Even though we did tracking separately, we had a great chemistry, The three of us share a really great musical dialogue.

MW: Can you describe the band’s music making dynamic?
BS: Lars’s relationship with Louis is different from mine, but I imagine dealing with Lars makes dealing with me more tolerable. Lars is a producer, and he is very adaptable. When he works with Louis, I stay out of the way, and they wait until I am done writing my parts before commenting. It’s a mature process that way.

Lars probably has the most difficult job, because he has to speak two languages to communicate with Louis and me, but when all three of us are in the studio, we speak the same language. Louis synopsized it best when he said, “We’re all playing something totally different, but it works.” I think it gives the listener a lot more to grab onto. One fact is inarguable: Evil Hearted You is the raddest thing I have produced musically, and that has everything to do with the others involved.

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LS: I usually work on project where the band is already in place but this was different: Ben showed me the first songs he worked on, and I had an instant vision of how the drums should be. The first track I heard was “Home.” It had a really interesting old drum loop in it, so I decided that the rest of the songs should feel like that. It really makes the record unique.

MW: Had you been drumming all along, or did you have to get your chops back?
LS: I probably play drums on a project once a year but, yeah, it always takes a few warm-up passes of a song to get back into the swing of it.

MW: Eric, Lars is a badass but are you given a lot of freedom to drum in your style?
EF: I had known about Lars’ work for years, and was really stoked to hear that we would be working with him. He laid down some really good drum tracks on the record, and I had the challenge of listening to the songs and trying to recreate what he did but also putting my own touch on it. It has been a real learning experience playing with these guys, and everyday I am trying to create the best sound for the band. As for freedom, I was given a great foundation to work on but they definitely do not restrict my playing.

MW: And how did you get involved in the band?
EF: I met Louie when I was 18. I walked into a tattoo parlor he was working at in Fullerton, he scratched on my first tattoo, and the rest is history. I would hang at the shop with him, just shooting the shit, and we started talking about jamming together. This talk went on for a year or two before we finally met up one night at a studio and played for hours. I met Ben when we started working on new songs for the band. Once he got involved, our very sloppy sound turned into something worth listening to.

MW: Louis, was it difficult for you, especially as a visual artist who is used to being in total control of his work, to see the songs change and have a more collaborative effort?
LPIII: I stopped playing in bands but never stopped writing, so I had a ton of old and new songs. It was definitely hard to let my little babies go and watch them get spray painted blue, but then I realized they needed to be painted that color or maybe they were that color all along. It was definitely a difficult yet rewarding process to write songs and see them morph into the awesomeness that Ben and Lars created. I think being willing to let things change was key.

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MW: Where do the lyrics come from? Do they stem from you own life? Stories around you? An overactive imagination?
LPIII: For the most part, they come from your typical “artist inner demons” scenario. Haha. Most everything I have written has roots in an experience, emotion,or even an opinion I have had on a person, place, or thing. I’ve spent most of my life moving around Southern California, and experiencing so many different, diverse landscapes has definitely had an effect on my views. I also tend to make big deals out of nothing, so my overactive imagination must definitely have a hand in it as well.

MW: Ben, after a career in the music industry, you dedicated yourself to academia and skateboarding. What is it about Evil Hearted You that brought you back to making music?
BS: I have always been dedicated to skateboarding, even during the periods of my life when I wasn’t skating. But when I heard Louis’s songs, I recognized them as a vehicle that allowed me to use my professional skill sets and my academic training. I wrote the arrangements and the accompaniment on the record, but I approached them as if I was writing a text. I realize now that I merely contextualized Louis’s work.

MW: What’s it like making music as an adult, a husband, and a dad? I know it’s harder to make time for it, but are there other ways that they affect or maybe even spur your creativity?
BS: Making music as an “adult” affects my creativity on a few levels. My professional background impels me to prefer anonymity. My age informs me to make age appropriate music without making Dad-rock. The husband in me wants to impress my spouse. As a father I am stoked every time my kid hears a song she likes and asks, “Is that you playing bass, Dad?” Beyond that, I could take it or leave it. I think we all could. I’m sure that inspires us all to take certain risks.

MW: As a parent, a musician, and a guy who know about L.A. Punk, can you give me some reasons to be psyched about playing the benefit?
BS: When I learned of Save Music in Chinatown, I immediately thought: Wow, this is rad: Adult D.I.Y. for a children’s benefit that simultaneously resuscitates Punk shows in Chinatown. I was very grateful when we were asked to play because we don’t have much of a live history as band, but the history we are authoring is pretty amazing according to our ethos. Save Music in Chinatown allows us to participate in the musical tradition that defines us while also providing the opportunity to productively engage the community. When I consider the historical arc of Louis’s dad’s band (Los Lobos), or my own identification with (and definition of) Punk, nothing could be more poetic.

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LPIII: I am so excited to be taking it right back to where it started for me. My first band, The Villains, literally played our first gigs during the second wave of the Hong Kong Cafe in the early ’90s when they use to have the gigs in the back room instead of the front room so that the checkered floor wouldn’t collapse. Haha!  We went on to play Club Impala, the Peace and Justice Center, etc., until we were old enough to play Al’s Bar (R.I.P.). I would love to see a resurgence of great music back in the Greater Downtown area. It’s a great thing to be part of, and I thank you for letting us contribute.

EF: Being from Fullerton, I love any chance I get to play outside the city. It’s crazy to me to think that just three years ago I had never played in front of anyone besides family and friends, and in less than a week I will be playing with guys like Bob Forrest and Josh Klinghoffer.

MW: X’s Make The Music Go Bang! festival was your band’s live gig. What was it like to have an onstage debut among such stellar company? Also,  it seems like most band play lout before recording but you guys did it the other way around. Was that a conscious choice?
LPIII: Our first gig was definitely trial by fire, and we rose to the occasion better than I could have imagined because of the limitless support we have received from everyone–including you–that hears the music and immediately identifies with what we are doing. The offer to do the gig came up so quickly; we blinked and there we were looking at room packed with people cheering us on. It was and continues to be very humbling.

EF: Playing that show was a very humbling experience. Being surrounded by other musicians that have been playing longer than I have been alive is a bit nerve-racking. We were all a little on edge that day since it was our first time performing live together, but I had a blast being there and it was nice getting the first show jitters out of the way.

MW: Lars, don’t you ever want to play live, just for kicks? What would it take to get you to tour?
LS: Ha. I think I have closed that chapter of my life. A special appearance could be fun here and there, but touring isn’t something I feel like doing anymore.

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Listen to Evil Hearted You on Soundcloud, follow them on Facebook, and catch their next gig at Save Music in Chinatown 4 with The Bicycle Thief and My Revenge on Sunday, October 19 at Human Resources. No other shows are planned so do yourself a favor (and save some dough) by getting advance tickets at Eventbrite.

Save Music in Chinatown 4

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One week from today, my wife Wendy and I will be throwing the fourth Save Music in Chinatown DIY punk matinee/fund raising gig at Human Resources gallery to pay for music education at Castelar Elementary, where our daughter goes to first grade. This an unplanned and awesome extension of my days of writing about music and hanging out with artists when I edited Giant Robot mag. Getting to share and push culture on the printed page was a real gift. But to do something that happens in real life and try to make a difference in the community where my immigrant grandparents and in-laws have spent time is a different type of radical. Especially since Eloise goes to school there now.

The harebrained idea was spawned last year when our daughter started attending kindergarten. Her inner-city campus looks like a prison but it’s an excellent school with passionate teachers, bright kids, and a kick-ass dual-language Mandarin program that Eloise is thriving in. Then, in the first week, we parents received a flyer stating that the music program had been defunded. Could the households help pay the $50 thousand bill? In that particular mostly immigrant and blue-collar neighborhood, probably not.

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Wendy wondered what we could do, since we’re not loaded and don’t do bake sales. It occurred to us that Chinatown has a punk rock heritage that can’t be beat (X, Zeros, Weirdos, Black Flag, Dils, Germs…) and a lively art gallery scene (post punk) as well. Although the scenes don’t overlap much with the locals outside of bars and restaurants, of course they’d help kids if they could. Especially for music. And since Wendy and I have ties to all three cultures, we decided to have punk matinees in art galleries to help the local kids. Wendy came up with the name: Save Music in Chinatown.

I was fortunate that my old friends Gabie from KCHUNG and Wendy from Ooga Booga Store introduced me to the crew at Human Resources right off the bat. The gallery’s vibe is perfect with its past lives as a kung fu movie theater, porno theater, and sweat shop before it was abandoned and was reborn as a gallery that specializes in difficult to show or sell art. Eric, Grant, Luke, and everyone else there have been nothing but super cool and supportive.

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Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Louis Perez III

And how awesome is it to have punk rock back in Chinatown. In the afternoon. I have a lot of friends who don’t get out as much as they used to because they don’t like staying up late or dealing with getting a babysitter. These all-ages matinees are a perfect way to get everyone out but also expose kids to cool music.

At six, Eloise has seen the likes of The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, California (with Jason from Green Day and Adam from Jawbreaker), Channel Three (with guest appearances by Maria Montoya and Tony Adolescent), Money Mark, Hector Penalosa from The Zeros playing with The Baja Bugs, and Bob Forrest from Thelonious Monster. Not to mention art rockers like Lucky Dragons, L.A. Fog, Deradoorian, Bitter Party… (Conversely, a lot of the artists who are used to playing late-night, sketchy venues dig being able to bring family and kids to our shows.)

While groveling for raffle goods is definitely the most awkward part of planning, I think it’s a key part of the fund raising. It allows us keep the door price low but raise some extra bucks. And it allows all sorts of friends and neighbors to contribute and build a scene. Regulars like Una from Keep, Mark from Donut Friend, Chris at Scoops Chinatown, and Vicki at Berndt Offerings, all the bands that sign records, artists who donate autographed books and prints, and everyone else–what would I do without them? And on the the bake sale end, gourmet goodies from so many parent/volunteers plus baked goods from Wendy’s pasty chef/cousin Linda, coffee courtesy of Julia and interTrend, and other treats add to the awesome experience (and funds raised) substantially.

And Sunday afternoons are ideal because there’s plenty of free street parking and everyone can leave early enough to grab some noodles in Chinatown before getting home at a decent hour and not being a wreck on Monday. A perfect day.

Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Eloise

Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Eloise

So please come to our next show. I still can’t believe Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster) and Josh Klinghoffer (Dot Hacker) are playing their first hometown show as The Bicycle Thief in 13 years for our little matinee. And I love Evil Hearted You’s carefully crafted post-punk roots sound on their debut album but their live show is going to kill you. I’m not even going to get into how great Hector Penalosa’s mini set of My Revenge was at the second show–a perfect mix of power pop, garage rock, and O.G. punk–and how much I want to see a full set. All that tied together by the garage rock tunes spun by KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour DJs? Damn.

I hope you can tell that although Save Music in Chinatown was born out of necessity, and there are worthwhile cultural angles that I’m interested in and proud of, this project is mostly just super fun for us. And I hope it’s that way for everyone who helps out by playing or promoting the gigs, donating raffle items, working the bake sale, or attending.

Save Music in Chinatown 3: with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California (May 18, 2014)

Save Music in Chinatown 3 with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California at Human Resources (May 18, 2014)

We can’t count on media, press, or calendar listings to get the word out, but friends with radio shows, blogs, and word of mouth all add up. If you can help spread the Facebook event page, Eventbrite ticketing site, or even this post, we would love it.

Have a blast. Build community. Help kids. Get advance tickets and save some dough on admission… See you there!