Save Music in Chinatown 8, before and after

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Save Music in Chinatown 8 took place a couple of weeks ago at the Grand Star, but it feels like just happened.  Seeing The Crowd at Fitzgerald’s in Huntington Beach (above) and Bad Cop/Bad Cop in Pomona (below) last weekend might have something to do with that. Bands take note: If you thought I went to a lot of your shows before you played one of our benefits, you won’t be getting rid of me afterward.

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But back to Save Music in Chinatown 8. Placing flyers at record stores and on friends’ refrigerators all over town and posting about the shows incessantly on Facebook–you never know when one thing will actually lead to another. After writing about our gig with the Adolescents, Gears, and Watt, Dennis Walsh commented, “Why haven’t The Crowd played one of these shows?” I asked him to introduce me and he replied, “I’m the drummer!”

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I’d already been stalking The Crowd for years and started saying hi to Dennis whenever they’d play Alex’s Bar. But then last summer, I saw him hanging out with Channel Three (above) and BC/BC (blurry and below) who just played with the Adolescents and Weirdos at the Roxy. The right place, the right time, just like the song goes. We agreed that it would be rad if The Crowd, FourEyedFour (another one of Dennis’s bands), and BC/BC played for us.

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All the bands were as awesome as they were nice. Bombón (who I immediately contacted after seeing them play a RazorCake show at Pehrspace) pulled aside their last kid-sized cat shirt for Eloise and made everyone smile and dance with their DIY surf sounds. FourEyedFour sounded as amazing as their self-released CD, really smart and slightly psychedelic pop with a ton of punch.

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Bad Cop/Bad Cop are a dynamite live band with massive hooks, killer harmonies, and so much upside. It’s a good thing we got them right before they took off for Europe to tour with Snuff… (Aaron Brown, a member of the BC/BC gang as well as an old friend, made an animalistic rock ‘n’ roll flyer for us, too.)

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The Crowd’s set was raging and full of angst and slurred lyrics and banter, and could have taken place at a dive bar instead of an afternoon matinee. And I thought it was great. Our idea has always been to have all-ages shows that kids attend but never to have kiddie shows. How great were the legendary Beach Blvd. and ROTR Vol. 1 comp contributors and how cool was it to have Tony Cadena sing “Liberty” with them? Yet another great Tony moment at Save Music in Chinatown to file away…

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When Eloise started attending Castelar Elementary as a kindergartner, Wendy and I had no idea we would start organizing benefit concerts or that we would be doing it this long. But with help from parents who run the bake sale, friends who donate to the raffle, and all the selfless bands who volunteer to play for us, we can not only help keep the defunded music program going but start a scene. How cool is it to build on the legacy of the old Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s? How great it it for kids to be included?

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And now that Eloise is a big second grader, she has become more involved in our shows than ever. In addition to making a flyer, she introduced all the bands, danced in the front row for all of them, and even chose records to play on our friend Daryl’s KCHUNG radio program to promote the show.

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Sometimes I stress about our shows not getting enough attention (what part of punk matinees with a bake sale to help kids in Chinatown isn’t awesome?) or big enough crowds for the bands (the lineups are way too good for our humble venue). But in the end they’re always perfect: nothing but old and new friends and family. Hope to see you at the next one in the spring.

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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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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…

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!

Descendents and OFF! at the Fox Theater, ALL and friends at Los Globos

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When the Descendents opened for Rise Against and Bad Religion a few years ago, my brother and many of my friends gladly paid the 40 bucks and drove down to Long Beach to see them play an early, brief opening set. How could we miss it? It might have been a decade since they last played a live show for the SoCal scene that spawned them, and who knew if it would ever happen again? It was a huge, cathartic, and sweaty singalong for all of us hardcore nerds–and a little poetic for my brother and me since the first time we saw the band was at Fender’s Ballroom (R.I.P.) just a couple of blocks away on their farewell/finALL/Milo Goes Back to College M.D. tour in 1987.

Of course, the band that couldn’t sell out a telephone booth have come back many times since the Long Beach Arena show and I’ve caught each of the sold-out shows: GV30, FYF, Musink… So how could I miss a gig in a non-festival venue perfectly matched with OFF! or a special follow-up gig with ALL (featuring 3/4 of the Descendents) to celebrate the release of the Descendents/ALL documentary, Filmage?

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As much as I love the Descendents and know every song inside out, I am just as versed in the first three or four ALL releases. In the early ’90s, I used to see the band practically every weekend at the Anti-Club with either the Chemical People or Big Drill Car opening. They’d attract 20 or 30 people, which was a real shame considering how catchy, polished, and perfect ALL songs could be. I wasn’t shocked that they’d leave town to be somewhere more central for cheaper rent and easier cross-country touring.

But on Monday night Los Globos was packed for the band’s homecoming: a special two-part set with Scott Reynolds and Chad Price each singing half of the set. I’ve only seen Chad a few times but he’s a great front man with an effortlessly gravelly smooth voice and demeanor. Songs like “Fairweather Friend,” “Million Bucks,” and “Original Sin” came back fast after decades of not hearing them. Seeing Bill Stevenson play drums way up close in a tiny club was a real treat, too. He’s a machine.

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The Scott Reynolds era is my sentimental favorite, since I saw that lineup literally dozens of times. His set kicked off with “Crazy” and included “Dot,” “Mary,” “Scary Sad,” “She’s My Ex,” and so many other super catchy cuts that should have been hits. After playing “Frog,” even Scott had to admit what a dumb song that was. It was great seeing him jump, crawl, and work his way through the set like we were in a time machine.

The Dave Smalley era was represented by Chad singing “Paper Tiger,” and what I would have given to hear “Daveage” or “Just Perfect.” Seriously. I would have offered to personally pay for Smalley’s plane ticket from Virginia just so I could hear him sing “#10 (Wet)” with ALL but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was too late.

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Following ALL’s set, a succession of guests came out to for a Descendents karaoke session. London May from Samhain sang “Descendents” and Milo from The Last sang “I Don’t Want To Grow Up.” After the show Milo told me that he actually auditioned to sing for the Descendents when the other Milo went to college, so this was kind of like a peek into that parallel universe where it worked out. The Filmage creators got a chance to take on “Cheer” and then Scott returned for “My Dad Sucks” and “I Like Food.”  It was pretty cool to hear Jen from the Bombpops sing a dude-oriented song “I’m The One,” and it was also cool that Chad got to sing “Thank You” after the crowd got amped up.

I think Marko from Sugarcult was the only guy in the house that needed a lyric sheet for “Get The Time,” but maybe his pal from the Posies knew them better. It was awesome to see Dennis from Refused/International Noise conspiracy/INVSN singing “Hope” and then “Silly Girl.” Wow. I didn’t recognize Davey from AFI when he sang “Myage” and “Bikeage” but spotted Jim from Pennywise in his Dodgers cap earlier and was stoked when he cranked out “Suburban Home” and “I Wanna Be A Bear.” Matt from Blink-182 finished things off with “Clean Sheets.” I understand he handled the Q&A following the movie screening at the Downtown Independent earlier that evening… If this description sounds manic, that’s how it was. You shoulda been there, and props to Filmage and Vannen for making it happen.

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The night before was a dream bill with Descendents and OFF! and their histories overlap and intersect all over the storied landscape of L.A. punk and hardcore. No city on earth can top the musical past or present of Los Angeles, and this show at the lovely old Fox Theater in Pomona provided evidence.

Opening up was a transplant from San Diego, The Bombpops. Great to see a slightly younger band featuring some women in the veteran sausage party, and they cranked out a totally fun, tight, and compact set. Perfect!

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OFF! are always great, but this was my first time to see the combo with Dale Crover from the Melvins sitting in on drums while Mario is on tour with Rocket From The Crypt. No one can drum like Mario, who seems like he’s going to destroy his kit and leave the room as ruins whenever he whales. But with Dale you get the feeling that he is going to kill someone with his drumsticks. Heavy. Dark. Evil. A different and great fit.

Keith didn’t do too much editorializing during OFF!’s opening set. Maybe he had packing on his mind since the band was about to embark on a European tour. Maybe his spiel wasn’t flowing since the show was a one-off. But one can always expect 100 percent intensity from one of the raddest punk singers and thinkers of all time. He touted the new album but those songs don’t seem new any more; they’re just the latest part of a ripping catalog with O.G. hardcore anger, veteran chops, with DIY intensity that a zillion dollars of production can’t buy.

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Keith did joke that 99.9 percent of the venue was there to see the Descendents and couldn’t give a crap about OFF! Sadly, I think that might have been true. So weird. Maybe Pomona was just too far for the crusty L.A. punks to make the drive on a Sunday night.

By now in the Descendents’ reunited state, everyone knows what to expect yet always leaves blown away. They have the tightest lineup, the most likeable singer, and catchiest songs. Mixing up the best songs from Milo Goes to College all the way through Cool To Be You, their playlist is supreme. They can do no wrong. The biggest differences between this killer set and the others is that there were no kids helping out with the “All-o-gistics.”

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There was one surprise. I spotted my friend Tony from the Adolescents in the middle of the show and started catching up him after the set ended when he was suddenly grabbed by Stephen and whisked onstage to sing a version of “No Way.” Holy crap, that was awesome. The whole band but especially Bill had a huge smile on his face and during the entire song.

One weird thing I have to add is that I usually hate it when someone sings along at shows and acts like a fool. But at a Descendents show, everyone really should be shouting along every lyric, jumping around nonstop, and having the best time ever. The amps are cranked up so loud, no one can hear you sing along anyway. That’s how it was at Ramones shows, too…

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But the night was still young. Thanks to the magic of social media, I had begun corresponding with Chris Shary, who illustrates a lot of Descendents and ALL merch. Since he also did a lot of Chems merch back in the day and they had a song called “Donut Run,” I thought we might go to one of my favorite 24-hour eateries after the show. When he agreed and said that Milo might come along, I didn’t argue. And since Tony also a friend of theirs–and a fellow Donut Man fan, to boot–I invited him, too.

Some of my favorite bands. The last weekend of fresh strawberry donuts. Hanging out with Milo, Chris, and Tony at Donut Man. Can it get any better than that? (Without having my wife and daughter around, of course…)

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In your quest for ALL, I recommend you pre-order the Filmage DVD, check out the art of Chris Shary, and blast every record by the Descendents and Adolescents nonstop…