Show reviews: Save Music in Chinatown 3 with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California, more California, The Shrine, ARCTIC, Survival Knife…


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Holy crap, our third Save Music in Chinatown benefit concert for music education at Castelar Elementary came and went and it kicked ass! The co-headliners Chuck Dukowski Sextet (above, featuring the legendary bassist of Black Flag) and California (with members of Jawbreaker and Green Day) were stellar but first there was Bitter Party (below).

smic2-bitter Bitter Party take inspiration from traditional Vietnamese and Taiwanese songs and filters them through art school and community activism. But while the band’s mission is conceptual, the music is textured, lovely, and catchy. And the spirit is apparently intact, since workers from Pho 87 next door began drifting over to check out the set once it started. Very cool.

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KCHUNG DJ Keith Rocka is known for asking audience who wants to take home 7″ singles after he plays them. He played crowd-pleasers such as David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Run-DMC, and Eddie Murphy until The Bear and Little Nun played a short set that previewed their upcoming debut EP. This was especially cool because both members of the post-punk-meets-soul duo are parents of Castelar students.

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Holy crap, California is great. They have yet to release any music but they play expertly written and perfectly executed garage pop in the same spirit as The Replacements, Big Star, and maybe even Tom Petty. With members of Green Day and Jawbreaker, that shouldn’t be shocking, but Adam, Dustin, and Jason also happen to be the coolest guys. How rad was it for them to plan an L.A. tour around the benefit show? I was stoked that they drew a pretty big and very appreciative crowd. It was also cool that Jason’s 16-month-old son could be there for the matinee.

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How amazing are the Chuck Dukowski Sextet? How cool is it they would play our benefit? It didn’t hurt that Chuck has fond memories of playing the Hong Kong Cafe with Black Flag back in the day or that the entire family loves the current art scene as well as the dim sum. (They also love GR.) They blew away the audience with their hard jazz meets psychedelic jams, ending with a killer version of “My War” that prompted a standing ovation. Incredible.

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This was the final fundraising gig of the inaugural year of the fund-raising concerts that my wife Wendy and I have put together for our daughter’s school, and I’m pretty sure it pushed us over the $10,000 mark. Every cent of the money from tickets, the bake sales, and the raffles is being donated to Castelar’s music program and I really appreciate the bands, the raffle prize donors, and the audiences, as well as anyone who ever shared one of our posts, pictures, or rants. Thank you.

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Of course, I had to catch California’s other shows in L.A. Their SoCal debut was at Pehrspace, where the opener was a trio called Susan. They played amazing harmonized pop with big smiles on their faces and were impossible not to love. Next up was Upset with members of Best Coast and Hole. Wow, they were great, too, in a post-Riot Grrrl way.

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Yes, California ripped it up. This was the only stop of the mini-tour where they played a Tom Waits cover…

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The next night they played at Cafe NELA. Another cool bill, this time with some O.G. L.A. punks armed with serious concepts. Mecolodiacs featured members of Saccharine Trust and Clawhammer belting out Meters covers.

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Something Died in Memphis featured members of Wall of Voodoo and Downy Mildew playing non-ironic goth tunes. Sitting in on drums like a champ was California’s Adam Pfahler. Unbelievable.

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California played another killer set, this time featuring a surprise duet with Rachel Haden from That Dog!

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Great dive bar. Great show. When are California coming back? Three shows in three days was not enough…

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I do go to shows that don’t include California. ARCTIC ripped it up at Roxy a week or so ago.  The space/skate jams were as epic as they were tricky, and sounded amazing on the rebounding club’s fancy sound system. Almost as good as seeing them out in the woods…

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The Shrine played next, and they lived up to my super high expectations. Bless Off! is one of my favorite albums of the year, and I was stoked to find out that not only do the live versions crank even harder (the ripping title track, “Destroyers,” “Nothing Forever,” and The Duke”) but that the dudes are really cool, too. Look for an interview soon!

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And then there was the Survival Knife show at The Echo. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many friends at a show. Since the band features two members of Unwound, one of the Jabberjaw generation’s favorites, it makes sense that an opener would include a third one: Hungry Ghost. They sounded amazing and Sara Lund was a beast on drums.

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Of course Survival Knife will always be compared to Unwound, but their vibe also reminds me of Hot Snakes with the overlapping riffs, textures, and dynamics. Amazing. It isn’t easy to explain but such killer musicianship has never been so humble.

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I’ll let the singer/guitar do the talking. Another band interview on the way, this one with superior pics by Ben Clark…

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Bay Area friends, go see California this weekend with the Avengers! The CD6 will be up there with It’s OK soon, too. Local pals, what’s coming up down here?


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