Why Save Music in Chinatown 7 is my next perfect day

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In a couple of weekends, we’ll be hosting our seventh Save Music in Chinatown show. Some things haven’t changed since Wendy and I came up with the harebrained idea to try organizing all-ages benefit matinee concerts to raise money for the defunded music education program at our daughter’s public elementary school.

• Castelar still must raise $50,000 annually to pay for music classes for the kids. Our shows can’t pay for all of it but we can make a difference, raise awareness, and foster a community.
• The lineups are stellar, our stash of raffle prizes is amazing, and the bake sale has achieved legend status.
• We still rely almost entirely on word of mouth and I still stress out and wonder when people will start buying tickets, but it always turns out great. (Doesn’t it?)

But some things have changed, too.

• We’ll always appreciate Human Resources for giving us a place to start and grow as well as a connection to the neighborhood’s awesome art scene, but finding a new home at the Grand Star is a step toward carrying on the punk rock heritage and adding to the tradition of the Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s.
• We’ve amassed a small-but-dedicated army of friends in awesome bands, rad venues, and DIY media outlets that love the history of punk rock in Chinatown and help us pay tribute to it while helping the local kids.
• Personally, Save Music in Chinatown has been a shift from making things on a printed page to making things happen in real life, but I’m in the process of making a Save Music in Chinatown zine in time for our next show!

I’ve stated this before and I still believe it so I’ll repeat it. When we have a Save Music in Chinatown gig, we’re really make my perfect day a reality (sorta like the ones we used to print in Giant Robot mag). Waking up late and rolling out on a Sunday afternoon when there’s free metered or cheap parking available, seeing a bunch of amazing bands for a bargain price with killer snacks and quality coffee, and being able to take kids if they can handle it. Seeing friends and family who don’t go to as many shows as they used to because of stinky, late night venues full of assholes and poseurs. Being done around 6:00 p.m. so you can grab some noodles for dinner before getting home at a decent hour and being ready to get up early on Monday.

And not only are we helping mostly immigrant kids at an inner city school receive music education, but we are exposing the handful that show up to DIY culture. They get that music isn’t just played by rock stars or rappers at Staples Center but by regular folks who lug their own stuff around and play on tiny stages for friends. And if even lame parents can be part of something cool, why can’t they?

Please check out and share the event page on Facebook and ticketing information at Eventbrite, and hope to see you in Chinatown on Sunday, September 27. Thanks for the support and hit me up if you have any questions!

Below, clockwise from top left: Elvis, Tony from The Adolescents, Donut Friend, Margaret Cho, Scoops Chinatown, and Dan from The Adolescents and Dennis from The Crowd are down with the cause.

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Adolescents and friends at the Observatory, Steve Soto and friends at the Slidebar

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Can there really be too much of a good thing? That’s what I pondered while driving down to the Adolescents show behind the Orange Curtain on Saturday night. Love the Adolescents, Weirdos, and Channel Three. Have been wanting to see The Stitches and The Widows. So how could I not go or not see them all?

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I didn’t know much about The Widows except that they are opening for the Adolescents at The Casbah after Christmas. Invited by the headliners to drive up from San Diego to join them in O.C., too? Good enough for me. Dug their garage punk melodies with a surf vibe mixed in, Beach Boulevard style, and they get bonus points because one of the members had his family including a bunch of kids right in front.

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I’m still not totally used to seeing Channel Three play bigger stages like this. More channeling of The Clash, less fucking around. They have a seriously great set list with “I Wanna Know Why,” “I Got a Gun,” and “Indian Summer,” mixing fun and riffs like no other band–and tighter from a lot of touring this year. They not only brought along Maria Montoya for “You Make Me Feel Cheap” but Santa Claus for “Blue Christmas.” Some of my favorite dudes ever and one of my favorite bands ever, too. And that was before they played a benefit for my daughter’s school last year…

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Can’t believe it took me this long to see The Stitches. The Spirit of ’77 punk band from Orange Country really brings it live, just like they do on 7″ singles, comps, EPs, and albums. Mike Lohrman and Johnny Witmer have a cool wild frontman/stoic axe player dialog that’s up there with Mick and Keef, Johansen and Thunders, and Iggy and anyone…

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It says a lot that the first-generation L.A. punks are still weird in comparison to any other band on the planet. The Weirdos’ extra bass-heavy set started off like Wilson Pickett but derailed into darkness right away. “Destroy All Music,” “Life of Crime,” “We Got The Neutron Bomb,” and all the hits never get old because their cool mix of art, noise, and fun will always be always be ahead of everyone else.

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Before the headliners went on, the punk’s greatest hits played over the house sound system shifted into songs about the law: Black Flag, NWA, The Clash, Junior Murvin, KRS-One. The playlist put the music of the Adolescents in a completely current political context instead of a hardcore oldies one. Perfect since the band’s most recent album was largely a reaction to the unpunished killing of homeless man Kelly Thomas by the Fullerton police. Singer Tony Adolescent dedicated “Kids of the Black Hole” to Utah cosplayer Darrien Hunt who was shot by cops for carrying a toy sword as a Samurai Champloo character. Awesome.

I found out a couple of days later that the band’s message of solidarity amongst underdogs was totally lost on a meathead between the barricade and stage who socked a fellow photographer that was shooting as a favor for the band. WTF? Now there are predatory jocks in the photo pit as well as the slam pit? What a sad statement about any sort of scene or humans in general.ssbw1-o

So it was a welcome change of atmosphere to catch an evening of acoustic and roots music by punks at the Slidebar arranged by Adolescents co-founder Steve Soto. First up was Otisserie, a.k.a. O., a.k.a. the beloved sound guy, principal member of Olive Lawn and fluf, legendary skateboard and music designer photographer, and namesake of an off-the-menu juice and soda drink at the World Famous Casbah. The San Diego institution played songs from his old bands as well as ultra sad, ultra heavy acoustic numbers that will be released one of these days.

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Johnny and Jay from Old Man Markley, played a fired-up set of bluegrass originals and covers that included loving takes on Descendents, Ronnie Spector, and even Sublime. These guys have chops that go on forever and their possibly drunken banter is next-level, too.

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Steve Soto and Allison June make a sick combination with his heartbreaking songs about the devil (an ex) and personal ones about his mom (who was present) and her killer pipes. Mitch Townsend provided otherworldly atmosphere with his slide guitar and gang of effects pedals. Lovely and bold, and a nice counterpoint to seeing Steve with the Adolescents just nights before. So different to be hanging on every word instead of singing along…

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I’ve seen Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss with their bands (Sean is from Throw Rag, Zander is associated with Joe Strummer, Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster, and, yes, The Weirdos) but never as a duo. They complement shamelessly raw emotion with ungodly talent and sound sort of like gospel arrived at through hard living and AA meetings. It’s at once heartfelt and sad and beautiful: a slow-motion train wreck gorgeously framed from a perfect angle.

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Afterward, I thanked Steve for arranging such a great evening of music and told him how much I look forward to seeing him play our next Save Music in Chinatown benefit. He’s as generous as he is talented as he is ripping, the show happens exactly one month from today, and I hope to see you there as well….