Save Music in Chinatown 5 photo dump with Mike Watt & The Secondmen, The Gears, and Adolescents (surprise set)

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Save Music in Chinatown 5 happened on Sunday and I’ve finally unloaded the SD card… Everyone knew the show would be badass when the universally loved and respected Mike Watt went on first with the Secondmen. The heavy trio blew the minds of the kids and adults alike with their jazz-fueled punk (or is it the other way around?) and only true legends could follow.

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Clockwise from top left: Mike Watt with Secondmen Pete and Jerry, as well as Missingmen member Tom Watson; Adolescents crew digging Watt & The Secondmen; members of the Missingmen, Red Krayola, and HowardAmb; photographers Ben Clark and Krk Dominguez in the crowd with Una from Keep, Laurie from Track 16, and so many others…

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I like these photos of Mike Watt & The Secondmen because you can see Steve and Tony from the Adolescents and Axxel G. Reese hanging out in the background. In the second panel, the bassist for Minutemen, fIREHOSE, DOS, and so many other projects is encouraging the audience, “Start your own band!” at the end of the set. Perfect for a show raising funds for music education at Castelar Elementary.

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Clockwise from top left: Tony Adolescent and Krk from Flipside; Me with Chris from What? Records, Iloki Records, and Wondercap Records and Watt; Steve from Adolescents with Lisa from Frontier Records; thanks to KCHUNG’s Kings of Punk DJs and Gabie for lining them up. What would our city do without KCHUNG or KXLU?

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The Gears played next and their combination of first-wave punk energy (coming from The Controllers) and rockabilly swing makes for one badass live show. I already love all of their recordings from old to new but in concert they’re just plain unstoppable. Look for a documentary on the Masque-era favorites to make the rounds soon.

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Left to right: Tony Adolescent said that when you’re a singer who’s following a frontman like Axxel G. Reese, you just keep your feet planted and don’t even try; Ace has been doing sound for Adolescents shows for decades and kindly made ours sound better. That’s Save Music in Chinatown co-conspirator Nate the Man on the far right.

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Musical badasses. Too bad The Gears didn’t play “Don’t Be Afraid To Pogo” since I trained my six-year-old in the original punk dance move in advance. But omitting “I Smoke Dope” from the set was totally understandable. And did I mention Mike from CH3 came up with his crew? I totally blew it and didn’t take a picture with him, but what a rad guy. His band played our second benefit and I first saw The Gears with on a show they booked at Alex’s Bar years ago…

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Clockwise from top left: The Gears circa 2015; Me with Lisa from Frontier Records, Mr. David O. Jones, and Chris from What? Records, Iloki Records, and Wondercap Records; Adolescents playlist being scribbled; Save Music in Chinatown crew includes my wife Wendy and pal Nate.

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A solo acoustic set by Steve Soto was advertised as the top bill–and he was actually going to start off with a few songs–but the band decided to just dive into the unannounced Adolescents show with “Rip It Up”! Lots of songs off the Blue Album but also from the ripping new LP which is finally coming out domestically on Frontier next month.

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Left to right: Before the surprise set, Tony described his ties to Chinatown, including meeting his wife in the courtyard between the Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s during the neighborhood’s punk glory days and his in-laws attending the Italian-language church up the street; filmmaker and good friend Pryor, Wendy, and the family of Ben from Evil Hearted You, who had played a rare show at the previous benefit.

smic5-11 Tony has been very supportive of our DIY fund-raising matinees since we started last year, but I never dared to think that he and Steve would actually bring the Adolescents to one of our benefits. I’ve always loved the band because they are as political and funny as they are polished–a perfect balance of purpose, anger,  and tunes. How amazing is it that they made time to gather for our very humble benefit at an old kung-fu-movie-theater-turned-art-gallery.

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After wiping down and cleaning up Human Resources and then having dinner with my family and friends who stuck around, I had just enough time to hustle over to Cafe NELA and catch a secret set by The Gears, who played an all-requests set with the missing songs and more. Excellent.

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Thanks to three of my favorite bands who happen to be the best humans ever, friends like Grant and Eric at Human Resources who make the shows possible, contributors and helpers at the bake sale (and interTrend/Imprint for providing coffee), raffle donors (Keep Shoes, Donut Friend, Berndt Offerings, Scoops Chinatown, Tum Yeto/Toy Machine, Jawsey Bruce Records, Sticky Acres, The Beatle Years, and so many more), Gabie, Steve, and Max who promote the shows on KCHUNG and KXLU, and everyone who spreads the word and attends the show. How awesome is this for Castelar students and the Chinatown community, and how far can we take this scene that we’re growing?

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Our next benefit is on Sunday, May 31, and when the lineup comes together you’ll see it here first…

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Announcing Save Music in Chinatown 5: Mike Watt & The Secondmen, The Gears, Steve Soto (Solo, Acoustic)

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The lineup for our next Save Music in Chinatown show came together in about 48 hours. On Tuesday I had lunch with my old pal Chris Ashford, who happens to be making a documentary about The Gears. He hit them up, and the next day they generously agreed to play.

The Gears at Alex's Bar (May 14, 2013)

The Gears at Alex’s Bar (May 14, 2013)

Yesterday morning, Save Music in Chinatown’s secret weapon Nate Pottker received a response to a cold email that he had sent to Mike Watt about the show. The legendary bass player was down, adding that he and The Secondmen would love to open for The Gears.

Mike Watt & The Secondmen at Fun Lovers Unite! at The Echoplex (November 18, 2014)

Mike Watt & The Secondmen at Fun Lovers Unite! at The Echoplex (November 18, 2014)

Right away I shared the good news with Tony Adolescent, a supporter of SMIC from the beginning. He said that his bandmate Steve Soto was up for playing a solo acoustic set for us. In about 10 minutes, they checked the date and locked it in.

Steve Soto with The Adolescents at the tribute to Bill Bartell at  The Echoplex (December 19, 2013)

Steve Soto with The Adolescents at the tribute to Bill Bartell at The Echoplex (December 19, 2013)

And there we have it: another killer benefit gig to raise money for music education at Castelar Elementary, and another excellent punk show in Chinatown to boot. I’ll put up a Facebook event page and Eventbrite ticketing page after Thanksgiving, but until then keep an eye on the Save Music in Chinatown community page for updates and everything else.

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Check out the Facebook event page and ticketing at Eventbrite, and we’ll seeya at Human Resources in Chinatown on Sunday, January 11!

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!