Show reviews: OFF! at Amoeba; howardAmb, Bobb Bruno, Sandy Yang, and DSS at The Smell; Ray Barbee and Paul Kwon at Pacific Standard 2; RFTC and Dan Sartain at The Echoplex


Whoa, the new OFF! album is a beast and Tuesday’s record release in-store at Amoeba Hollywood kicked ass. Not some lukewarm sampler but a full-on, raging 16-song set! Of course for this particular band that adds up to about 30 minutes but damn. Quality minutes of world-class hardcore punk from the originals, measured with Sabbathian darkness and riffs. (more…)

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New Music Reviews: RFTC, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Bongoloidz, California


New music. Not from publicists (although I appreciate their good looks) but friends! Mario, Fredo, and Adam are not only rad drummers but the raddest dudes. And my new pals in BC/BC are the best, too. But I actually bought all of the official releases because music is worth paying for–especially from homies.


Rocket From The Crypt – Hits 6 x 7″
While not as coveted as the “He’s a Chef” split-single with Wayne Coyne and Biz Markie, these one-sided city-specific 7″ singles are quite rad for any RFTC fan. And while the series of covers originally sold at European tourstops is called Hits, the songs aren’t exactly household names–except for maybe Venom’s “In League with Satan.” Somehow, RFTC’s version channels both a conga line and “Sympathy for the Devil”! Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” is probably the most-played song of the originals, although I know it better from the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa meets Bleeding Gums. Rocket’s version is unironic, epically long, and especially cool. The Buzzcocks are probably my favorite band to get the treatment, but “Love Is Lies” is not a single going steady but a cut from Love Bites. The way it starts off mellow and become epic reminds me of a Tom Jones or Neil Diamond anthem. Wow. The San Diego band’s take on Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s “Spinning Round” nicely contrasts a dark, plucky goth bassline with its trademark heavy horns sound. Covering the Boomtown Rats’ “My Blues Away” is definitely more interesting than taking on that other band from Dublin. More garage rockin’, for sure. Out of all of the bands from London, Status Quo is similarly bold choice but the take on “Shy Fly” cements the band’s links to the tradition of pub rock. The Casbah counts as a pub, right? Buy your set of singles from the merch table like I did at The Echoplex (pictured above) and help fill the Swami van’s tank on the road! [Swami Records]

Bongoloidz – S/T CD
Although Fredo Ortiz is best known for his percussion work for the Beastie Boys, his Kickstarter-funded solo project starts off more like Fluf or late Jawbreaker than the Atwater-based (at the time) rappers. Songs like “Subtle Breeze” and “Sompniphobia” are guitar-powered cruisers straight out of the early ’90s and totally rule, but other songs show other facets of the multi-instrumentalist’s abilities, sounds, and tastes. “Japon” has an electro groove complete with processed vocals, “Sk8 Dance” has a cool dark wave feel, and “Facky Freak” has a cumbia vibe (my favorite live song). There’s even some Taiko action! If it sounds like the songs are all over the place, that’s because they are. Yet they all sound great together because Fredo is no dabbler: The multitude of styles comes straight from Fredo’s huge heart and talented fingertips. Very cool cover art by Mackie Osborne, too. [El Bomber Records]

California – Live Recordings
Recently, I received a mysterious package of live recordings (not demos) of a new band featuring Adam from Jawbreaker and J Church, Dustin from The Insides, and Jason from Monsula, Pinhead Gunpowder, and Green Day. Who else is on the songs, where they were recorded, and how far the band will go is unclear but I’m digging the music. “More like Big Star than Big Drill Car,” I was warned and I have no problem with that. “Woodson Lateral” could be an allusion to the much-loved Oakland Raider but its patient groove goes better with driving down the I-5 than driving to the end zone. It’s rootsy but not dusty, with cool breakdowns. “Almost Home” has a little more twang and bashing and is mostly smooth with Tom Petty-like asides. Bitchin’. “Hate The Pilot” is the probably heaviest, punchiest song of the batch, and contemplates what happens after not killing the messenger. I swear there’s some Mick Jones-style riffing at the end. So good, so what’s next for this un-Googleable band? [Blackball, Adeline, or the highest bidder]

Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Boss Lady 7″
My pal Aaron told me that his girlfriend was in a punk band that just signed to Fat so I had to check them out. In only took a few seconds of listening to the band’s debut 7″ for Fat to realize that the title of this single doesn’t refer to The Man but the badass women of the band itself. They are bosses and their songs are as personal as they are tight as they are rocking–proof that aggro and melodic aren’t mutually exclusive. With killer drums that recall Bad Religion, buzzsaw guitars, and supremely confident gang vocals that are harmonized as they are pissed off, the San Pedro band attacks crappy exes, stupid dudes in the pit, squares on the street, and anyone else who might be uncomfortable with their unapologetic punk rockness circa the early ’90s. “Asshole” is a killer song that you’ll never get to hear on the radio, so you better catch ‘em live or buy the record. [Fat Wreck Chords]


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Show reviews: Vandals and Descendents at Musink, Channel Three at The Redwood


It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was having lunch with my friend Joe, telling him that I bought a ticket to his band’s upcoming show with the Descendents. He asked if I was bringing my daughter Eloise and I said no way! I’d want to be in front where it’s packed with all these big sweaty gross guys. And then he said something like, “No, I’ll get you onstage where all the families and friends of the bands hang out. Wendy can come, too! I’ll put them on the list.”

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An interview with Zhang Shouwang from Carsick Cars


Is Carsick Cars the biggest independent band in China? Possibly, and they’re probably the best-known Chinese band in the U.S. as well. With the gorgeous drone of the Velvet Underground, experimental edge of Sonic Youth, and a touch of Kraftwerk, the group has familiar (and impeachable) elements for Western ears. I saw them at Los Globos last week during their current North American tour promoting 3, the new LP engineered by Hamish Kilgour from The Clean and mixed by Sonic Boom from Spaceman 3. Afterward, I had a short conversation with the band’s founding member, guitar player, singer, and leader, Zhang Shouwang.

The new album sounds great and so did last week’s show. How has the new lineup’s sound developed since getting together?
We spent a long time to create the chemistry, learn, and record. I think because we spent so much time at it, we feel comfortable with each other. We’re very stable and the two new members bring a lot of fresh ideas.

You knew the guys before, right?
It’s a small music scene in Beijing, and everyone sees each other all the time. After the last Carsick Cars group broke up, I had already played for fun with He Fan from Birdstriking and it was very natural for him to play bass in the band. It took more than two drummers to find Houzi. The rhythm of Carsick Cars is simple, but it’s not like anyone can do it. The other drummers didn’t really know how and had their own style.

You always play with the coolest drummers.
Wang Xu in White+ is the best drummer in Beijing. Most drummers there just play rock but he pays everything, such as jazz. (more…)

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Show reviews: King Buzzo acoustic set at the Satellite plus A Minor Forest, Dum Dum Girls, Kevin Seconds, and SMIC2 with Baja Bugs, CH3, and Money Mark

King Buzzo played his first ever acoustic set at the Satellite last night and it was amazing. I really didn’t know what to expect when Scion announced the free show. Would it be Melvins Lite light? Were marshmallows going to be provided for “Kumbaya” moments? No way. It was heavy as shit, with Buzzo singing as if he heard the bone-crushing music of the Melvins in his fuzzy head while trying to break his acoustic axe’s unorthodox-tuned strings with every stroke. The badass set started with a super dark Alice Cooper cover and ended with my favorite Japanese psychedelic doom metal band’s namesake song, “Boris.” Somewhere in the middle of the show he previewed a cut off his upcoming album and surveyed a bunch of Melvins tunes. It was great. You had to be there–or not. There was a ton of SLR-wielding dudes filming the event so you should be able to check it out on the Scion AV site one of these days… Props to Tweak Bird for playing a far-out opening set. I arrived half-way through and was stuck in the back of the room, too far to take photos, but they ripped.


You might have noticed that the GR site went down a week or so ago. Here are some friends’ shows that were casualties but need to be on this blog…

Dum Dum Girls record release show at The Echo on January 28. I like the new LP but the new songs sound even better with the proper band propelled by my pal Sandy Vu’s killer chops and beats. Killer set of psychedelic pop goth with an extra dude added for bonus texture. I expect this lineup to be out of their collective minds by the time they hit Coachella.

A Minor Forest at The Satellite on February 8. Back in the day, drummer Andee Conners stayed at my house with J Church, P.E.E., and this band, A Minor Forest, which just got back together for some reunion shows. They were tighter, heavier, and more mathy than ever. Perhaps more fun, too. So great to seeing him and the dudes in action and hanging out on the sidewalk, as well as opener Rob Crow.

Kevin Seconds at Amoeba Hollywood on February 13. Okay, I don’t personally know the singer from 7 Seconds but Eloise is now part of the youth crew after attending the in-store commemorating his great new solo album. Accompanied by his wife Allyson and Kepi Ghoulie, the new songs aren’t meandering singer-songwriter stuff but brief, earnest bursts of energy that rip. Sound familiar?

Save Music in Chinatown 2 on February 9 at Human Resources. Our fundraising has now reached about $7,500 to put toward music education at Castelar Education in Chinatown. The lineup of our second benefit matinee was a dream for me:

DJ Adam Bomb from KXLU’s Bomb Shelter played first-generation L.A. punk and hardcore (Weirdos, Circle Jerks, X, Dils, Adolescents…) complemented by vintage 7″ singles from my friends from KCHUNG.

Hector Penalosa from The Zeros brought his Baja Bugs, the rippingest Beatles cover band ever–which channels the Plimsouls and Undertones as much as The Fab Four–then previewed  new solo work. Hector is a national treasure of O.G. punk rock, who has supported Save Music in Chinatown since the beginning.

Channel Three played an all-out, full-blast set of Posh Boy classics with guest stars Maria Montoya on “You Make Me Feel Cheap” and Tony Adolescent singing a rad cover of “California” by The Simpletones. Not only one of my favorite bands ever but some of the nicest dudes, who brought a huge crew to support the cause.

Money Mark was ditched by the guys that were supposed to play the matinee and instead brought a carload of vintage, junky, and discarded gear/treasures for a funky demo that got the little kids grooving and reminded adults how much fun music should be.

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Adam Bomb

I met Pat Hoed when he was playing bass for Down By Law. It was after the Chemical People moved on as Dave Smalley’s backing band, and I recall that lineup playing at Jabberjaw as well as releasing a pretty great double 7 inch. Actually, I interviewed them for Flipside, too, and I fondly recall having pato and chips with Pat and Jaime Piña at Jaime’s pad after a Chems show…

Since then, our paths have continued to cross. Way back when it would be at the Hollywood Book and Poster booth at Comic-Con and then at underground wrestling events (where Pat did commentary as Larry Rivera) in the alley behind Mondo Video A-Go-Go on Vermont. Afterward, it was at Brujeria gigs (the Satanic drug-dealing Mexican death metal band in which he donned the bandana and sang as Fantasma, whom I interviewed along with Pinche Pinch for Giant Robot) and punk movie premieres (We Jam Econo, Filmage).

But what came to mind as I was setting up the next Save Music in Chinatown show was him playing vintage punk and hardcore records as Adam Bomb, his alias for the famous KXLU hardcore show, The Final Countdown. I can’t believe that my old friend and L.A. punk mainstay (who was in Nip Drivers, Left Insane, and a ton of other bands) said yes.

Really stoked that you’re contributing to our benefit! Did you go to punk shows in Chinatown back in the day?
Hello, glad to be a part of this! When those Chinatown shows were happening, I wasn’t able to drive. The Hong Kong Cafe seemed so far away. And out here in Los Feliz, I was alone on punker island. None of my friends wanted anything to do with this strange music so I was confined to shows at Baces Hall and the Other Masque that was on Santa Monica and Vine. Good times, man!

Last time I saw Adam Bomb in action was the closing of Track 16 with Middle Class and Meat Puppets. You played a great set. Do people ask you to come out and play records very often?
That was a great show and I thank Jordan and Dave of We Got Power for the opportunity to have played that one. I don’t get too many invitations these days. I also still play bass in quite a few bands so I think it’s hard for people to distinguish my true aim: bass or DJ? It would be nice to pick up some more DJ action but with so many people doing it these days, it’s tough. Maybe I need some “representation.”

How many bands are you in currently, anyway?
Right now there is The Golden Rulers, Black Widows, The Probe, and The Rush Riddle Orchestra. I’ll let you know if anything else comes along. I’ll never get tired of bass!

Do most people on the street know you as Adam, Pat, or Fantasma?
All three! I don’t mind it–but don’t forget Larry Rivera!

Anything else to add?
Really looking forward to this event, man! I’m down for anything that helps to further the efforts of music education in this city. And cheers to you for putting this together, Martin. See you on February 9!

Save some dough by purchasing advance tickets at the Eventbrite page and then check out the archives of Adam Bomb’s greatest Final Countown shows on KXLU featuring Venom, Suicidal Tendencies, The Circle Jerks, C.O.C., The Mentors, The Beastie Boys, and more. 

You can find out more about the man, the myth, my friend, at the links below:

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Money Mark

Of course, Money Mark was featured in the pages of Giant Robot mag many times and even played our big outdoor show in the streets of Little Tokyo with J Church and the Red Aunts. That must have been in 1995 or so. I still buy his records and go to his shows whenever I can, in recent years at JANM, The Troubadour, Amoeba, Spaceland (with the Mattson 2), and that HUF show with Tommy Guerrero, Ray Barbee, and Fredo Ortiz (where I shot the pics above and below). Mark’s bands and sets are always different but the music is as grooving as it is experimental and straight from the heart. His songs are impossible to dislike. He’s the reason why Check Your Head and Ill Communications are the heaviest Beastie Boys albums.

It was just a few weeks ago that I reconnected with Mark at the Troubadour, where Fredo’s Bongoloidz were playing a show. We caught up with each other regarding our gigs and our kids, and of course I mentioned that my wife and I started a series of DIY benefit concerts to raise money for music education at our daughter’s school. When he said that he’d play our show, I said no way. It’s too small. Then he said, “Really, I would.” (more…)

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Hector Penalosa from The Zeros

Of course, Hector Penalosa is best known as a member of The Zeros. The much-loved Chula Vista punk rock ‘n’ roll band played their first show on a bill with The Germs and Weirdos; was involved of the Elks Lodge riot show with The Go-Go’s, Plugz, and X; and opened for The Clash. But he’s also one of the nicest dudes ever. We began corresponding when he thanked me for reviewing a concert. Who does that? And then he began supporting the first Save Music in Chinatown show on his own. Not only did he encourage his friends to go, but he actually drove up from San Diego to attend it and brought some posters and a CD for the raffle. One of my musical heroes turned out to be one the coolest guys ever.

So how could I not ask him to take part in the second Save Music in Chinatown benefit? He’s going to play a set with his Beatles cover band, The Baja Bugs, which will be a blast, and then preview some new solo material. I’m super excited and honored that Hector is on the bill with Channel 3 and Money Mark, and hopefully this short Q&A will get you ready as well.

You headline some pretty big shows and just toured Japan. Why are you driving up to L.A. to play our little benefit?
To answer your question, it may seem like a little benefit but for the school children and the effect music can have on their lives, well, it’s a HUGE benefit in my eyes. I love to play and if I can help out with my musical capacities, why not?

Was the Zeros recent trip to Japan cool?
Tokyo was surreal! Sensory overload with the neon signs, gigantic video screens, loud audio, and lots and lots of people on the sidewalks. I was knocked out by it all.

Tomoko, the bass player of Supersnazz was our hostess after the Saturday night gig and we had so much fun. We went to a karaoke place and rented a room with three other musicians from the opening bands and had a blast for about an hour. I was in seventh heaven having the two brothers from Teengenerate on the bill.

The bands that played with the Zeros were really nice to us, and we all spent time together after the gigs at The Poor Cow Bar, owned by Fefe from Teengenerate. (more…)

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Channel Three’s Mike Magrann

Yes, it’s awesome to throw DIY benefit shows to raise money for music education my daughter’s elementary school and great to help the community where my grandparents and in-laws have hung out. But on a purely selfish level, it gives me an excuse to work with some of my favorite bands and people. So while I have Mike Magrann committed to playing our February 9 show at Human Resources, I figured I’d ask him the latest about Channel 3. They were OG punks on Posh Boy records, they were on not one but two Rodney on the ROQ compilations, and now they are playing Save Music in Chinatown. Rad!

CH3 seems to be playing more than ever. How did this run of shows begin?
As we grow more, ahem, mature it is a lot tougher to get us four guys together for a weekend jaunt or two-week tour but we do okay. And it seems that playing out a lot breeds more gigs, ya know? If we can make a point to hit certain cities or go to Europe each summer, then we can count on the shows being a little better next time through. A few more familiar faces and–most importantly–we know the good places to eat!

You’ve been touring with friends, playing festivals, and getting your portrait done by the dude who draws Allroy and Milo. Why are you playing our rinky dink benefit?
Ha! It’s all due to the persistent nagging of one Martin Wong! But it’s actually an honor to be able to put your music to a good use, and music education is something near and dear to our hearts. Kimm and I, who are famously friends since second grade, always shared a love of music growing up and we actually learned to play guitars together at an after-school program in seventh grade.

Besides, it’s always nice to play at venues out of the norm.  I mean, we’ve played enough 1 a.m. sets at mildewy dive bars to last a lifetime. Let us do a matinee with cookies and coffee once in a while, for God’s sake!

Did your band play much in Chinatown back in the day? Got any stories?
We played at Wong’s Chinatown venue once but it was well after its prime. But we did play a lot at Esther’s Santa Monica venue, where she would always chase us out of the kitchen for making out with girls and trying to steal beer!

Our first-ever gig after making the Posh Boy EP was across town at the Brave Dog on 1st Street…

Whenever I Google Channel 3 or look up the hashtag on Instagram, I always see Thai TV starlets. Do you know anything about that scene?
I know, right? All I know is we get an awful lot of posts on our Facebook page in Lanna and Lao script! I don’t know what the hell they’re saying but a fan’s a fan, even if they do think they’re logging onto their fave soap opera page!

Looking back, pre-Interweb, it was a pretty bad idea naming the band CH3. You Google us and we always come up on page 2 after Methyl compounds of hydrogen and Thai television stations. Although we are able to get some pretty cool T-shirts from the local CH3 news teams throughout the Midwest, so there’s that…

Check out the very funny Channel Three blog HERE.

And get advance tickets to the show HERE.

Then watch some video below…

See ya at the show!

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Show reviews: X live at the Whisky a Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip, It’s Casual and Bongoloidz at The Troubadour, Chain and the Gang at The Smell’s 16th birthday celebration, International Swingers at Farmers Market

I’d forgotten what a great venue The Whisky is. Big stage but small room with decent sound and a balcony means that pretty much every spot is good. So it’s cool the once proud venue (I saw the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Descendents, Scratch Acid, SNFU, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and so many other awesome shows there in the ’80s and ’90s, but before that the likes of The Doors, Love, and Jimi Hendrix would play there) is booking some of its most loved bands to celebrate its 50th anniversary. With a storied headliner like X on the marquee, I don’t know why anyone would feel the need to hire tatted up go-go dancers to entertain us, though.

First up was The Crowd. Who knew that one of the earliest and best HB punk bands was opening? I had no idea but as soon as they started off their set with “Living in Madrid” (off the essential Beach Blvd. compilation) it all came back. Geography and perhaps a last-second booking meant the five-piece was cut to four but the band had no problems going for the gusto. Great set, and yes they played “Modern Machine.”

X is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve seen them a lot since their New World Tour stop at Magic Mountain. Over the last few years, I’ve seen them more than ever and it seems like they keep getting darker, from the extra combative vocals to the dueling axes. I was trying to figure out if Exene was struggling since she was nursing a plastic cup for the first few songs and rested on the stairs during the drum solo of “Hungry Wolf,” but she powered through the set as otherworldly and awesomely as always. John Doe did most of the rocking and the talking, saying that if it were a few years ago the band would invite everyone over for a house party. Later on, Exene said that she thinks of Johnny Rivers, and not X, when she thinks of the Whisky. (Of course, Billy Zoom just smiled.) Cool to have people talking about excellent shows at the Whisky (and playing them) instead of lame pay-to-play shows, and I hope it stays that way after the 50th anniversary run is over. (more…)

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Show reviews: The Muffs at The Satellite; Bill Bartell Tribute with Redd Kross, Adolescents, Germs; Weirdos and Middle Class at The Echoplex

We get to see some pretty rad shows here in Los Angeles. Of course, the thing is that you have to leave your house on cold (about 50 degrees, for us) winter nights and sometimes it even drizzles. Yeah, it’s rough. But how can I not see a rare show by The Muffs when they’re playing about two miles away just on the other end of the Silver Lake Reservoir? (more…)

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Celebrating 100 episodes of Los Angeles Nista

Congratulations to my friend Eddie Solis on his 100th episode of Los Angeles Nista. I was already a big fan of his heavy-as-hell skate rock band, It’s Casual, when he started the Internet radio show, Los Angeles Nista, in November 2012. Of course, the program is all about his hometown–the neighborhoods, the subcultures, the public transportation of L.A. I was honored to be an early guest, on the heels of local heavyweights such as Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, and Ed Colver. A couple of weeks ago I was on the show once more, with the mic still warm from Tony Alva and Lee Ving. How did I crack a rotation like that, anyway?

It’s a big deal that Eddie broadcast his 100th episode last week, with topics that include food, history, art, and tourism as well as punk rock and skateboarding. And on top of that, It’s Casual is headlining a free show at the Troubadour on Monday, January 6. Sounds like a good time to catch up with the man. (Photos courtesy of Adam Murray.)

MW: You recently passed your 100th episode. Did you treat the milestone as something special or is just another show?
ES: I treated it as a milestone. I had to hit it out of the park. My in-studio guest was Hunter Burgan (bass player of AFI) and Ryan Seaman (drummer of Falling in Reverse and I Am Ghost). The co-host is Efrem Schulz (Death by Stereo).

MW: What are some things that you’ve learned or ways that you’ve grown as a host since the first episode?
ES: Don’t be so rigid. Be  intuitive. As Bruce Lee says, be like water. And research, share, and find commonalities that connect people.

MW: Now that you have this sizable body of work, do you recognize any categories or trends? 

ES: Good question. Yes, the categories of los Angeles nista are geography, destination and a curriculum on how to be car-free in Los Angeles, California. The trend being everything is connected.

MW: What’s your secret to cranking out this many episodes this quickly, without burning out or running out of ideas?
ES: This is my secret: I come from the world of skateboarding. It’s not a team sport. You draw inspiration from within. You get up every morning, create a vision, and then take the necessary steps to make that vision a living, breathing reality. You create your world. I apply these ideals to everything in life. A past in-studio guest, Salman Agah, professional skateboarder and owner of Pizzanista! and calls it the “skater’s advantage.” You don’t rely on others to motivate you. Everything you do is out of a passion and love for it. You cannot do things with such conviction, confidence, and authority unless you love it. The passion and love lead to endless motivation. The motivation leads to a full tank of gas. That’s how I keep it fresh and full of ideas!

MW: The topic of Los Angeles can go on and on. Can you share some dream stories that you’d like to address?
ES: Well put, Martin. There is an endless amount to talk about. Dream stories, yes indeed. I wanna highlight and tell Art Laboe’s story. Bobby Castillo and I wanna use Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and the late Johnny Ramone–three mega New Yorkers who came here and never went back–as examples why L.A. is better than New York City. It’s an ongoing debate, but to me they can provide testimonial as to why L.A. is a better place to live. If Gene and Paul can testify, that will end the debate. Everything goes back to KISS.

MW: Meanwhile, It’s Casual is going strong. Tell me about your new record label as well as the upcoming show at the Troubadour…. Bongoloidz is an inspired choice as an opener!
ES: Thanks. My label Stoked Records is inspired by the eclectic taste of Greg Ginn and SST, and all genres will be released. And It’s Casual is stronger than ever. Our last show was with Black Flag at The Vex back in July. We played in front of 1,000 people. Now we’re headlining the Troubadour for the second time and the show is free.

Check out Los Angeles Nista at, including my recent episode on Chinatown and Save Music in Chinatown.

It’s Casual plays the Troubadour on Monday, January 6. Get your free tickets (just three bucks if you’re under 21) at the venue site.

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Show Reviews: Save Music in Chinatown, Paisley Underground Reunion at the Fonda, Redd Kross at the El Rey, ASG at The Satellite, Channel 3 at Alex’s Bar

Photo: Ben Clark

I would have written about Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown matinee at Human Resources earlier but I’ve been busy writing thank-you letters to friends, helpers, and supporters. The first DIY benefit gig that my wife and I organized to raise funds to pay for music education at our daughter’s school, Castelar Elementary, was awesome and Bob Forrest was a perfect start. (more…)


Save Music in Chinatown on Sunday, December 8!

Remember when my daughter Eloise modeled infant clothing in Giant Robot ads? Now she’s the poster child for a series of benefit concerts that my wife (and GR mag graphic designer) Wendy Lau and I are starting. Our first show takes place this Sunday–a matinee that brings together Chinatown’s punk rock heritage and art gallery scene to benefit the mostly immigrant neighborhood’s kids and community.

Links to info and ticking:

Thanks for checking it out, sharing, and supporting however you can!



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Show reviews: Beck at the Disney Hall, Obits, Wire, Quasi at The Echo and Echoplex (plus CASH Music: LA Summit)

Just got back from the Walt Disney Hall. Wow. While most artists consider releasing new music on vinyl to be O.G., Beck schooled everyone by releasing his last batch of songs in sheet music form. Intended to be interpreted by any musician at any skill level, the Disney performance is only one of a handful of official performances. Most songs were played by the L.A. Philharmonic (conducted by his dad, David Campbell) with vocals from the likes of Jack Black, Jarvis Cocker, Jenny Lewis, and Childish Gambino. John C. Riley, Becky Stark, and Tom Brosseau played as a trio. Interspersed between the songs were brief readings on music from the likes of Jonathan Gold, Allison Anders, Tig Notaro, and Randall Poster. Wow. But ultimately, the point was not to show off big-time names in L.A.’s most elite venue but to communicate that music is meant to be performed, interpreted, and enjoyed by anyone. Only the humble genius of Beck pull it off. (more…)

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Save Music in Chinatown on Los Angeles Nista

Last Monday night I was a guest on one of my favorite Internet radio shows, Los Angeles Nista. In each episode host Eddie Solis (who is also the shredder/singer in It’s Casual) delves into a specific neighborhood of his hometown, and this time our focus was Chinatown. I talked about eating tomato beef chow mein and drinking Sunkist soda there as a kid, as well as the area’s unmatched punk past and current art scene. While the conversation always returned to the Save Music in Chinatown concert series that my wife and I are starting, there was also talk about Los Angeles sports teams, skateboarding, public transportation, and Giant Robot mag.

You can stream or download the entire episode for free at the Los Angeles Nista site, and it’s pretty funny. It’s also pretty rockin’. I made three short playlists of songs with bands that I associate with the neighborhood (X, Weirdos, Dils, No Age), groups with members that have been supportive of Save Music in Chinatown (The Zeroes, OFF!, Channel 3), and music by December 6 co-headliner Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster, The Bicycle Thief). I brought songs by The Go-Go’s and Plugz, too, but there just wasn’t enough time…

Since last week, there have been additions to the inaugural show’s lineup. Ex-Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian has just finished touring with Animal Collective and wants to participate. Also, DJs from KCHUNG radio will be pitching in between acts. Pretty cool.

Check out the updated flyer below and if you plan on going/supporting on December 6, you can buy tickets via Eventbrite. It’s cheaper that way and you can also get a deal on raffle tickets for some pretty rad items, as well. Prizes from the likes of Best Coast, Daniel Wu, Shizu Saldamando, Philippe The Original, and the Dodgers are listed on Eventbrite and the Facebook event page, too.

Give the episode a listen and hope to see you at the show!

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GR2: 11/24 7pm Goh Nakamura LIVE Music


Enjoy the sounds of Goh Nakamura Live at Giant Robot 2.

On November 24th, Sunday 7pm, Goh Nakamura will wield his axe to perform a set of songs at GR2. The type of set is undetermined, but most likely will be a mixture of his acoustic songs and perhaps some of his musical compositions. For any additional information: please contact us at: [email protected]

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Save Music in Chinatown 1: Bob Forrest, Lucky Dragons, LA Fog at Human Resources on Sunday, December 8

Editing Giant Robot mag was great. It gave me an excuse to fan out over all of my obsessions–music, art, film, and everything else–but be a journalist and not a stalker. And over 16 years of publication, I made a ton of friends who do interesting things. I’ve kept in touch with many of them.

When my wife and I discovered the music program had been defunded at our kindergartener daughter’s school and that parents were being called upon to help out, we thought crud. There’s no way the mostly immigrant families in inner-city Chinatown can come up with $50,000 to pay for this year’s music program, which is being taught on an I.O.U., as well as next year’s fee so it can be paid on time. Then we remembered who some of our friends are.

Chinatown has an unmatched music culture (punk rock) and ongoing thriving art scene (post punk). And although those folks don’t mix with the residents much, they would surely help out if they were given an opportunity. Hence, Save Music in Chinatown, an ongoing concert series at art galleries and other spots in the neighborhood to raise money for music education at Castelar Elementary School.

With guidance from my old friend Wendy Yao from Chinatown’s coolest shop, Ooga Booga, and my newer friend Eric Kim, who helps run the excellent Human Resources art installation space, the first benefit show will take place on Sunday, December 8.

The 2:00 matinee will feature co-headliners that reflect Chinatown’s punk heritage and its arty present. Bob Forrest plays with Thelonious Monster and The Bicycle Thief, who include members of storied bands like The Weirdos, Circle Jerks, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I fully expect him to talk about the bad old days at the Hong Kong Cafe between songs. Chinatown regulars Lucky Dragons are as experimental as they are participatory, and are perfect for an afternoon gig that is not intended for kids but is open to them. Rounding out the bill is LA Fog, a post punk jazz quartet that might as well be the house band at Human Resources.

In addition to the contributions from the Ooga Booga shop, the Human Resources gallery, and the bands, I have other friends who have been donating items for raffle. The quickly growing list includes signed items from artists (Shizu Saldamando, Stella Lai, Susie Ghahremani), musicians (Best Coast, Mike Vallely), and Hong Kong filmmaker Daniel Wu, as well as Dodger tickets, a Donut Friend gift certificate, and a Wanmock courtesy of Architecture for Dogs. More cool stuff is in the works.

It’s a real gift to be able to parlay my publishing background into something tangible that might help the kids and community in the neighborhood where my grandparents and my wife’s parents have spent a lot of time. And now that’s where our daughter is attending L.A’s second oldest public school.

For more information about the show and the cause, check out the event’s pages on Facebook and Eventbrite. Of course you can contact me directly if you want more information or would like to help. And if you can’t take part in our inaugural event, look out for the next ones in 2014…


An interview with Sam Coomes of Quasi

Sometimes the world seems to good to be true. How cool is it that Sam Coomes (who’s played with Elliott Smith and Heatmiser) and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, The Jicks) can come together and form a unique and excellent musical bond that sounds nothing like those other top-shelf bands. Like The Beatles on steroids with out-of-this world hooks, free-associating lyrics, and crazy dynamics, Quasi is never less than totally melodic while somehow never leaving the red zone of the Rock-O-Meter. And despite being in even more than the previously mentioned bands–as well as actually been previously married to each other–they are miraculously celebrating their second decade of kicking ass.

And then sometimes the world is lame. Why wasn’t last night’s show at The Echo totally packed? If the rock gods meted out any sort of justice, the Portland duo would be selling out fancy venues instead of playing comfortable dives that are not sold out. Sam wondered aloud at the show if it was a problem that he and Janet started off playing prettier music and may have become too rocking for their audience. The storied drummer responded that she can’t not rock. (more…)


Show reviews: Ronnie Spector at the El Rey, Indian Handcrafts and The Dirty Streets at The Satellite

On Tuesday, I saw Ronnie Spector‘s Behind The Beehive show at The El Rey. It wasn’t really a concert as much as it was the legendary singer recounting her life’s journey via anecdotes, personal photos, rare video, and song performances. From what I understand, this format is a way for the Original Bad Girl of Rock ‘n’ Noll to give a live performance without getting caught in the spiderweb of legalities spun her infamous ex-husband and producer.

Going to the show as a casual fan of Spector, it was mind-blowing to hear firsthand her tales of The Ronettes crashing the Peppermint Lounge, hanging out with Murray The K, playing with The Beatles in England, and touring with The Stones. Taking both of those bands to a BBQ joint in Harlem and recording a 7″ single for Apple. And it was also shocking to hear what a dick Phil Spector was to her as a manager and a husband. Even so, her tone always remained classy and positive and she  remained respectful toward his work with her.

As a big fan of the She Talks To Rainbows that was produced by Joey Ramone and released by Kill Rock Stars, I was stoked that she played so many songs off it. She said that Joey wrote the title track of that EP for her, and that Brain Wilson wrote “Don’t Worry Baby” for her as a follow-up to “Be My Baby” but that her husband wouldn’t record it because he wouldn’t get all of the royalties. She also played her version of Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” as the second-to-last song of the show before coming back for a short concert that featured “Baby, I Love You” (also great for a Ramones fans like me) and “Be My Baby.” So rad. If she ever makes it to your neighborhood, don’t miss her. Spector’s voice is a national treasure, her story is the history of cool music, and her perseverance is inspiring.

The next evening I dropped by the Satellite to catch the latest free #scionrockshow. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the lineup but the previous two installments of the series featured rippers Fu Manchu and Lecherous Gaze and you can’t go wrong with the LSDJs (featuring homie Don Ngueyn) spinning records. It would be lame not to go–especially since it’s right down the street and free!

Openers from Memphis The Dirty Streets were real cool, sounding a little bit like Rod Stewart singing for ZZ Top. Heavy-duty hooks and licks with zero ego and tons of soul on a sweaty little stage in front of practically no one–probably not the band’s dream show but I get to shows early precisely for moments like that.

Indian Handcrafts were amazing. The duo from Canada attack their instruments like hungry animals, albeit ones with chops for miles, snapping with massive riffs and the gnarliest of drums–not to mention back-and-forth vocals. I loved the “Bruce Lee” song and the fact that knob turner Toshi Kasai was there to support (and show their Melvins connection) is more proof of their badassery. They’re still on tour so see them now!

A legend and two bands that I’d never heard on back-to-back outings–both providing a musical education and rad night out. Seeya at the next shows, probably Quasi and then Wire



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