My buddy and fifth-grade teacher invited me to a mural painting at his school in Paramount, CA, last weekend and it was rad. Visiting artists for this second annual outing included Dustin Klein and Rich Jacobs from Oakland, Tim Kerr from Austin, and Koji and Kota Toyoda, Yosuke Hanai, and Hi Dutch from Japan.
What a killer collection of artists and how cool did the completed mural look. The school faculty and parent volunteers that I met on Sunday were thrilled. On Monday, it was the kids’ turn to be blown away.
Building up to the weekend, 130 or so fifth graders were invited to submit art inspired by the visiting artists as well as Shepard Fairy, Albert Reyes, Mel Kadel, Keji Ito, and Thomas Campbell. The pieces were displayed in the cafeteria, and on Monday there was not only a viewing but an old-time music concert by Tim Kerr with his pal David Bragger followed by video presentations from the artists. In each clip, the artists applauded the students’ creativity, shared some favorite pieces, and then gave away artwork as motivation for the lucky ones to develop their art.
Of course, Erik is very happy with the sense of community, campus beautification, and excitement among students that his brainchild has spawned. But even better, he says that the students who are put in the spotlight aren’t always the most academically or socially successful kids. Being recognized for their unique thinking and creativity gives them a reason to be interested in school–and stoked on life in general.
Unhappy with the defunding of the arts in his classroom, Erik started the program about five years ago by asking some of his favorite artists to participate. To see it grow, inspire kids, and create a partnership with other teachers, the principal, local businesses, and the PTA is as inspiring as it is cool.
I love that my generation of peers who grew up on punk rock, skateboarding, outsider art, and other DIY ways of thinking are changing the world like Erik is. Congrats to Erik, the artists, and the sponsors, and bravo to the supporters in the PTA, faculty, and district. Can’t wait to see next year’s event as well as the ripples of awesomeness to come.
I would go to this anyway. Daedulus seems to perform more often in Europe and Asia than in his hometown of L.A. (DJ sets or otherwise) and Starry Kitchen’s tofu balls are always welcome in my mouth (usually on Friday afternoons in banh mi form). But even better, Monday night’s event at The Well (which also features contributions from Doseone, Daniel Rehn, The Future Crew…) is a fundraiser with proceeds going toward LA Game Space, our city’s very own experimental, open source, and very cool epicenter of video games supporting innovation, education, and exhibitions.
Sounds rad, right? On top of that, Devolver Digital will have four playable games projected as well as on HDTVs. Attract Mode co-founder/LA Game Space director Adam Robezzoli carved out a little time to answer some of my questions about this excellent event, which was planned in conjunction with Unwinnable.
This will be a super fun evening on its own, but can you talk about its purpose and why you’re doing it on Monday?
People from all over the world are in town for E3, so it’s a great opportunity to come together as a community and help raise funds for LA Game Space.
Why it will be awesome?
The music! We have a ton of great musicians performing and DJing including Daedelus, Doseone, Chrome Canyon, Grimecraft, and Arcane Kids. Daedelus and Doseone actually composed two of the best soundtracks to two of the best games released in the last year (Nidhogg and Samurai Gunn).
Add to that live video synthesis from Sam Newell and Evan Shamoon with more videos by Johnny Woods and Daniel Rehn. Plus, there will be official screenings of demoscene productions by The Future Crew between sets.
And everyone’s favorite underground restaurant gone legit, Starry Kitchen, will be slinging tofu balls and more house specialties all night.
What’s one aspect of the event that you are particularly excited about?
Many people at the event will be experiencing the demos by The Future Crew for the first time. These 10-minute A/V experiments were made in the computer underground of the early 1990s and still look incredible, which is even more amazing when you realize they are only the size of an iPhone photo!
Like a lot of guys, I’m guilty of mostly listening to all the old bands I grew up on, but holy crap I love The Shrine. The young power trio from Venice plays unironic, razor sharp, and totally fun metal in the tradition of Motörhead with cosmic riffs from outer space like Thin Lizzy and the good times of Van Halen. Yet they are also informed by the stony heaviness of Sabbath and aggro DIY spirit of Black Flag–which is why they have a bitchin’ split 7″ covering songs by both of the bands. But even better is their amazing new LP, Bless Off, which takes off like a rocket straight into your nearest earhole and flies out your ass. The quality of songs, chops, and riffs blew me away.
I met the guys after their killer set at The Roxy a few weeks ago and they happened to be the coolest dudes ever. I went ahead and asked some questions to singer and axeman Josh Landau afterward…
MW: Can you hypothesize why Bless Off shreds so hard when many bands fall short in their second effort?
JL: We’re influenced by stuff with roots–ripping off guitar riffs from old stuff that’s withstood the test of time–and there’s an infinite well of inspiration in that shit. We’re not looking out for what wave is popular right now for 5 minutes.
MW: While you guys always seem to have fun, you are a super tight band. How did you guys meet and how long have you known each other? How would you describe each guy’s contributions to the combo?
JL: We’ve been a band a little over 5 years now. I met our drummer Jeff when he moved out here from Baltimore ’cause he couldn’t get a band together out there. Court and I had flipped out over Thin Lizzy at a party a month or two before that. When we all jammed together for the first time, I realized that just the three of us could make enough noise and decided to just get shit going. We had all been playing music for years, and liked the power of being tight and hitting the nail on the head all together at the same time. So we practiced, I started singing, and we worked at it until we could do it in our sleep.
MW: Is writing songs something that just happens when you’re hanging out and jamming? Or are you killing yourselves, fixing, refining, battling amongst each other?
JL: We used to jam a lot more, like 5 or 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. The first few years of the band we didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to do anything else. We didn’t tour yet, and had to work really hard to get on a show or to set up our own shows, so we just spent a lot of time jamming and tripping out. The songwriting usually comes out of riffs I make up while sitting on the toilet playing guitar. Nowadays, we’ve been learning new songs as we record them, trying to catch some of the good mistakes that come out and the energy that happens when ya play something new for the first time and are still fighting to get it right–before you totally wire it into your brain and get confident and lazy.
MW: The title cut is amazing. Kinda reminds me of C.O.C.’s “Holier” or Slayer’s “The Crooked Cross” but way more upbeat. Can you talk about being skeptical yet stoked at the same time?
JL: For sure. Around every corner and on every news headline you can’t help but feel in your gut that the human race is totally screwed and on its way out. When ya look at history, freedom seems to build–civil rights, womens rights, segregation, the church’s influence on people–for the last hundred years, all that stuff in this country seemed to really change for the better. But now it kinda seems like it’s all being removed secretly and no one talks about it. I’m not an informed person at all, but it just seems like police brutality and the people in power’s actions toward poor people, sick people, and unfortunate people are at an all-time fuck you. I’m totally skeptical of anyone with “answers” or conspiracy info, too. People and their Internet statistics are shit. Some 9/11 conspiracy site I saw once also had some bullshit about the recreational swimming pool for the guests at Auschwitz. What are you gonna do with that info anyway? I’m super thankful of where I grew up and where I live, and that people aren’t dropping bombs right here and I don’t have to steal to eat or get clean water. As fucked as things are, a lot of people I see complaining have got it so much better than most of the world and they don’t appreciate it. If you’re not gonna fight to try make some kinda positive difference that’s fine; you don’t have to. I don’t really do much. But at least be stoked on what you do have and fucking live. When the lady on the corner starts preaching to you about needing God in your life and a tie around your neck, you can tell her to bless off. (more…)
Zines push forward
I’ve spent 16 years of indie publishing Giant Robot and it continues in directions unknown but the beginnings are in the roughness of the GR zine – Issues 1 and 2. Oakland Museum of CA put together a zine bazaar featuring the likes of Deth P Sun, Hamburger Eyes and plenty of Bay Area zines. A few of them knew GR which is the reason why the event was happening, but most didn’t seem to care too much. It was a reason to bring their goods and publicize and perhaps earn a buck. Maybe GR is now the bad guy who is the zine that went glossy and is now the subject of a museum exhibition, and the zine punks are fighting the man by earning a buck at the spot and not giving a shit back. Or maybe most have no idea what GR is and that’s ok too. Or maybe, they’re expecting me to say hi first… I’m being cynical.
The tables were filled with zine makers, many who I’ve seen or heard of from past zine fests and the audience came through and voraciously consumed zines. It was a great sight once again. From LA Art Book Fair, LA Zine fest to OMCA Zine Bazaar, the high energy continues. I laid out the GR 1 and 2 reprints, artist’s zines and a few books and met with friends, new “fans” and “old fans”. The latter meaning fans who grew up with GR in other cities which might not have had the cultural variety that I had. They said thank you in various ways and one even said, “thanks for making culture cool.” I signed some SuperAwesome Catalogs, GR 1+2s, and the Big Boss Robot vinyl figure. The zine bazaar was a quick two fine hours. Wish it were three.
Ray Potes – Hamburger Eyes
Magic of Japan Week 2014 at The Magic Castle came and went and it was totally rad. And not just because I got to hang out with two kick-ass magicians from Japan and take some pictures inside a camera-free club. No, it was awesome because it was the same as it always is: a claustrophobic, creepy, and uncool members-only spot where you can see close-up, irony-free tricks and illusions performed by magicians for magicians. You need to know one to gain entry to the enigmatic mansion at the base of the Hollywood Hills. This time, the talent just happened to be from Japan. (more…)
In a small crowded area in downtown LA, Takashi Murakami said, “It’s like when I first saw Giant Robot magazine in New York.” It’s been years since I’ve spoken with Murakami who in between our last meetings, has gone from superstar to megastar, from world wide artist and now filmmaker. I’m not sure which is greater, but he’s the bigger one.
Takashi Murakami was the subject of a Q and A at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The brightly lit marquee spelled out his name as if he were a movie or a band. A line of many recognizable art fans formed outside an hour early. Over 1400 tickets were sold to see him speak with Pico Iyer, an author of ten books who has lived in Japan for decades. It’s part of the Broad series of talks which features interviews with artists and is a powerful set up for their own up-and-coming museum in downtown LA across from MOCA.
Pre-talk, I got to go to the upstairs vip area. Mark Ryden, Eli Broad, Murakami, Tim Blum and a crew of artists I’ve had the pleasure to work with, hang out.
Takashi appeared with his mini convoy. Translator, photographer, and perhaps assistant. It was nice to catch up with Takashi, and it went into a blur. It was a conversation about our lives. It was nice to see him continue his hustle and still be chill. He’s obviously hit that mark where he can be an otaku and a goofy guy wearing a plush pink hat. He can say what he feels, do what he wants, and still be part of art history. He’s wise enough to know that he doesn’t have to care so much. Do people need to love him, do people still think he’s a heel, does it matter? No. I don’t think so.
Joanne Heyler Curator of the Broad
Hug photos-don’t like them, but this one works, maybe because it’s blurry.
These days, he makes giant art pieces including one that’s 100 meters long. His studio is still gigantic, he still has tons of minions, and he’s still hard working. He’s splitting art time with cinema, which is obvious after seeing his short pieces like the Inochi interstitials and his Louis Vuitton animation. The talk spanned his personal history, his work with the art establishment in Japan, Fukushima and his own giving back to art. It barely scraped the surface on topics that can be extrapolated into hour long conversations. He mentions that his helpers basically say “fuck you” when a project is done and they’re disgruntled and leaving his “factory”. He mentions that his job is to say “no” and not be satisfied which is basically buying him time to perhaps say “yes” after everything is done and each possible avenue is explored. It’s that drive that makes him Murakami. Most won’t understand, and that’s for the better.
Talks like this often go too fast, and the fella who held up the 5 minutes and then 0 minutes signs was largely ignored. He held those signs for a while and then the show was complete. It lasted about an hour and could have gone two. Some questions from the audience came in and were largely useless, except for the one question about advice to a young artist. He mentioned how it’s easier to get into art these days, much like a band in the 90s, but your career might be quite short, so “be careful”.
After the talk, some wanted the hipster burger next door where handle-bar mustaches and pipes were being handed out. Mark Ryden wanted to go anywhere and that was closeby. We thought about it, then realized, it’s hipster burgers, it’s packed, and I know it’s not for me. I suggested that home would be better. We opted for a old and nearly forgotten place in Little Tokyo, where it would be easy to get a seat in a vinyl booth. They’ll make earnest food that’s been tested for decades. What’s wrong with places like this? Are hipster burgers really better? Are we fooled by the mixes of simple spices? They’re quickly disappearing and I’ll miss them all.
It turns out, when our food arrives, Murakami comes in with his staff. He looks at our food: simple ramen, gyoza, and fried rice, and says that’s what he’s about to eat. He sits with us for a photo and laughs. We shoot some and he shoots one and posts it quick. Some rumble quietly at the coincidence that he’d show up at the same place. I thought, “Is it?”
Andrew Hem, Rob Sato, Sean Chao, Nathan Ota, Takashi Murakami, Edwin Ushiro, Mari Inukai
giant robot time: 5.30.14 | art by: yoskay yamamoto
The new 7Seconds album is awesome. It’s one thing to hear kids singing exuberant, straight-from-the-heart punk songs about walking together and rocking together. It’s another to hear adults who not only cling to the idealism and activism but rip at the art of hardcore after 30 years. Songs like “Exceptional” and “Slogan on a Shirt” are at once tangible and humble yet experienced and intelligent. And while certain lyrics hint at being weary (“Who wants to be sequestered in Another State of Mind?” ), there are no signs of being jaded. I love the dream sequence in “Heads Are Bound To Roll” in which The Clash plays one last show and Kevin gets to sing “Death or Glory” with them. Meanwhile, the hyper melodic title song “Leave a Light On” can be as literal or poetic as you want–perhaps a side effect of Kevin Seconds’ acoustic gigs between 7Seconds releases and shows.
Needless to say, I was all over a chance to ask Kevin about the new 7Seconds LP, his most recent acoustic work, and just plain making passionate, powerful music for 34 years and counting. Maybe next time I’ll ask him about his painting… (more…)
K-pop has been establishing a New World Order for the past few years, infiltrating youth culture across the globe with easy to recreate group choreography, anorexia inspiration, fashion less freaky than Harajuku girls, and daring men’s hairstyles that capture 90s goth girl chic.
In Mongolia, boys get haircuts (and dye-jobs) to look like Korean stars, and girls memorize lyrics and dance moves to perform chart topping songs. Politicians and culture keepers here bemoan the proliferation of K-pop and all it brings with it. They say the dramas (there’s bound to be a show dubbed in Mongolian airing on at least three tv channels at any given time) have negative themes about family and the fashions are objectionable, but they’re probably just sick of hearing their grandkids play the same Girls Generation song on their Samsung Galaxy over and over and over.
Outside of the Asia-Pacific region, Brazil has taken to K-pop in a big way, fueled by the internet and international Korean television channels. Pre-dating PSY, K-pop has been a profitable South Korean export that’s helped keep the domestic music industry afloat. Massive concerts, fan conventions, and websites worhsipping K-pop and its ever-changing favorites are growing in number.
In your reconstructed FACE, Korean cosmetic surgery industry!!
When Survival Knife played at The Echo a couple of weeks ago, I was stoked to see so many friends coming out of the woodwork to check them out. People that hardly go to shows any more, and they not only stood by the stage but also lined up to buy merch afterward. Yet it was anything but shocking. The Olympia band’s debut LP is equally noisy and beautiful, with layers of texture and riffs that recall the patient geometry of Hot Snakes as much as the power of Unwound, the band that singer and guitarist Justin Trosper and guitarist Brandt Sandeno previously formed in 1991. (Need I mention that a certain demographic loves Unwound just like they do Fugazi or Shellac?) So their reuniting after 20 years and recharging with rhythm unit Meg and Kris Cunningham is a big deal. I couldn’t not corner Justin when the band blew through L.A.
MW: Survival Knife has a really tight, solid sound. The band is new to a lot of us but it seems like you four have been honing the songs and chemistry for a while…
JT: The band started in 2011 and practiced for about a year until playing a show–we weren’t in a hurry! The combination of people is an interesting dynamic with Brandt and myself having a musical history that goes back about 25 years, playing with Kris, who has a separate but equally lengthy musical experience of his own, and Meg, who is a relatively newcomer to being in bands. So the songs go through a variety of filters before becoming what they are. We all have preconceptions and habits that need to be questioned, but I think it works out for the most part. The editing table gets a lot of use, although people might not believe me since we have songs that are eight minutes long!
MW: How did your time away from music after Unwound broke up in 2002 affect you as a musician? Do you see it or approach it differently now?
JT: From high school to about the age of 30, I was headlong into the music scene and bands. My identity was very much attached to all that. So walking away was actually pretty challenging but ultimately a better thing for me as an individual and citizen of the world, so to speak. Even though bands can be a special thing, in long-term situations they can turn people into grumpy old dads with misanthropic tendencies, who are a chore to be around.
MW: Was it easy to recover your groove? Did you have a ton of energy and ideas ready to unload on the world or was there some rust?
JT: It feels easy for me. I’m in better physical and mental shape than I was before and, yes, I had a bunch of creative energy bottled up. I don’t have enough time to get it all out there so I’m trying to figure out a way to manage that. Planning ahead is more important for me now so I don’t lose ideas and energy. It’s exciting to be doing Survival Knife but, like before, I need a separate outlet to work on other stuff. So I have another thing that doesn’t have a name or an overriding concept. It’s waiting to emerge… (more…)
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). (more…)
The Bear and Little Nun was a last-minute addition to the Save Music in Chinatown 3 lineup. But the experimental/soulful duo is a perfect fit for the benefit not only because Mark Baar and Noni Rigmaiden are Castelar parents but also because of roots in O.G. Chinatown punk rock and modern Shanghai club culture (with Atlanta and Bay Area jazz and R&B connections, to boot). Their special set on Sunday, May 18 and Human Resources will be their live debut.
Your duo seems pretty unlikely. Can you talk about your totally different backgrounds and how you got together?
In many ways I think we are a most likely duo. But I do admit that our chances of meeting were a kind of serendipitous event. I write experimental music and came out of L.A. punk rock in the late ’70s but quit that style of music when hardcore hit in the early ‘80s and got into noise and artsy music. Noni came from a musical home, sang in church, and had huge voice but was into punk rock up in Oakland as a teen. The she went to CalArts to broaden her already amazing vocal chops. We just did our searching in different decades.
I had been looking for a woman to sing on an electronic instrumental album and, of course, this being L.A., the more I looked around the more I was sure I was never going to meet her. Then, on the first day of this school year, there were Noni and Zara. They had just moved to Chinatown from Atlanta so her daughter could be in the Chinese immersion program at Castelar, which my son attends. I had no idea she was in the Atlanta or Bay Area jazz and R&B scenes with major players, and that she is this intensely trained yet profoundly original soulful singer who loves experimental and crazy instrumental music yet is very approachable.
So one day I said something about music and she said something about music, too. And from there she came over and listened and l was blessed. Noni gets music–all kinds of music—and loves it in the same way I do. So it works great. Noni always lets me be me; I am odd and play my stuff and she just blows it up with her voice. And we both write lyrics, too, and we get each other. Everything happens just as it is supposed to.
What’s it like to dive back into making music after taking a lengthy detour through food and business? Is there anything familiar about it or is everything brand new?
I am that nerd that has always played–no matter what instruments I have around in my life. When I opened restaurants and clubs in Shanghai for a few years, I took a Strat, an interface, and a computer, and my son. I worked seven days a week and still played and made music. For years I didn’t think it was possible to do anything with it. Between my own fears, my unwillingness to deal with my own crap ideas, and life in general, music was what it was: nerdy, noisy self-expression I did alone to kept sane.
But now that I have told the job to piss off (and my wife’s blessing was a huge thing for me) I can do what I have wanted to do for years now. I am not only making tons of music but have started a label that will release an album this year. I am also producing music and trying to be a real contributor to the music community in as many ways as I can.
Some stuff I think is just the same as when I was a younger. But it is a new era of laptop studios and sounds I could only dream of making at my fingertips. I really believe that with the new abilities we have in the tech and digital worlds, the next generation of music is going to be even more dynamic and amazing than anything that has happened in my lifetime. I want to be a part of it and really push for it.
Have you revisited your old music at all? How do you think it stands up?
No, not at all. My old punk stuff was pre-hard core, and I could talk about this band or that band I played with or was on a tour with but, as I said, when ’82 rolled in and hardcore was what punk would become, I moved on and into the world of the Art Bears. Or The Birthday Party or Eno and Cale. Noisy eclectic stuff no one ever listened to except for my band and 50 people at some art gallery in San Fran or Portland. It was what it was. I mean, I got to play with Frith and some other really cool people in the mid and late ’80s but I have no romantic notions of the past of any kind. Some amazing stuff happened. Some of it made a impact or has relevance, for sure. But I was just a kid doing what kids do naturally, so why look back when the whole world is opening up today right in front of us?
You did witness the original Chinatown punk scene, though. Can you describe any shows or tell a story from back in the day?
I thought about this all day since Chuck is doing this gig. That’s so great of him and his family. And I am sure in those days that no one ever thought there would be any real connection between Chinatown and the punk scene or its legacy members. But it was an odd marriage that worked really well for a bit. I do have some heroes from those days that were driving forces for me to explore music. Black Flag, The Middle Class, X, and some others played shows down here for about two years and that meant something then.
So I thought I would remember one night and I wonder if Chuck recalls the story as I will tell it now. Keith was still in Flag, we were at the Hong Kong Café, and Dinah Cancer, Lorna Doom, and I were drunk. I can’t remember why I was with them or where their usual cohorts were (mine were downstairs in the plaza getting into trouble) but Bowie was at a side table with a date. Keith was doing the whole fall-off-the-tiny-stage thing, Greg was on the right, Chuck was on the left, and some tables went crash. Dinah or Lorna or both of them were screaming at me to get Bowie’s cigarette butts from the ashtray. I was a little drunk, confused, and unsure of everything but I was willing, so I leapt in to grab Bowie’s ashtray off the table when his totally tall, gorgeous date whose top was falling open said over all the noise, “Really? Why don’t you just sit down and ask?” So I did. Bowie sad something like, “Great band, eh?” I was maybe 17 or 18, and didn’t really know what to think or do, so I just sat there as the band and crowd went off. Keith finally ended up on the floor and Bowie got up, and some really huge guys walked him out. I think that was the summer of ’79 or so.
More really crazy stuff happened that evening, but at the end of the show we ended up at some rehearsal space in San Pedro or Long Beach, I think, and I had to take the bus back to Hollywood the next morning after Flag and others played all night. That was just another night in those days.
What are some of your favorite things about Chinatown today?
Chinatown for me is people. My son was born at Pacific, which is right across from Castelar Elementary. We live here, my wife is from Shanghai, and we walk a lot to visit galleries, eat out, and shop. I speak fourth-grade level Chinese and hang out with the old folks dancing in the morning or doing tai chi at Alpine Park where my kid hangs in the after-school program. We know all the parents and kids.
To me, Chinatown is a community that has real Angelinos in it. It is a huge immigrant neighborhood, but unlike the rest of the city they don’t come here from the Midwest to be actors or celebs or on TV. They raise families, fight, drink, eat, work, send their kids to school, shop, or do whatever but they become residents and don’t have a need for the faux life L.A. that so many fools are attracted to. They are living in and building a community that is crazy in its differences: 20 kinds of Chinese, Latinos from Mexico to Peru, some black folks, and some white guys like me. No one cares much about any of that stuff, but everyone cares about what you do and who you are as a person. It is by far my favorite hood in the city.
And what’s next for your band?
The Bear and Little Nun have our fist five-song EP coming out September 1. It’s going to be called James Bond’s Dream. We’re going to be on my label called Jawseybruce Records, and I hope that we can put together some kind of west coast tour dates to show it off. I am really hoping to do some college radio shows, too. Then there is the full-length LP, but for now Noni and I are just being playful. I look for a lot from her with regard to performing. She is a honed performer who simply glows and loves to play live, and I am really digging being allowed to show up with her and play some music we care about. I hope that others can get behind it, too.
Anything else you wan to add?
Thanks for your ability to bring such cool people here to help out. Getting instruments to the kids is a very important thing, and I am really thankful to everyone giving their time and energy to this event.
The Save Music in Chinatown benefit will take place on Sunday, May 18 at the Human Resources gallery in Chinatown. For more information about the show, which raises money for music education at the mostly immigrant and working-class inner-city school, visit the Facebook event page or Eventbrite ticketing page.
The Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California have serious roots in L.A. punk rock. They come from Black Flag and Jawbreaker, respectively, and represent critical and cool moments in the DIY music scene in Chinatown and L.A. in general. But don’t show up late to Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown 3 matinee and miss Bitter Party. This quartet is also uniquely appropriate for the benefit concert, taking inspiration and energy from Taiwanese and Vietnamese immigrant culture as well as the contemporary art scene. Here’s what the members have to say:
Wendy Hsu (electronics, keys, guitar, vox)
Nathan Lam Vuong (violin, viola, vox)
Linda Wei (bass, vox)
Carey Sargent (drums, guitar, vox)
How did Bitter Party get together? Can you talk about the band’s academic and conceptual roots?
Wendy: We met through events at Concord (an arts space in Cypress Park) and bike repair at Flying Pigeon. Over time, we realized our mutual love for bitter melons and bitter drinks like IPAs and Chinese herbal tea. Our name Bitter Party actually came from the parties that we had with friends where we ate lots of bitter things to rejoice summer abundance and companionship. Beyond that, bitterness refers to the melancholy war-era and postwar music that fuels our musical energy. As a band, we come together, or “party,” to remember our past and to provoke a communion over of tribulations. (more…)
Myanmar has spent the last few years redefining itself, and reaching out to countries like Mongolia for neighborly advice on how to best weather a major economic and political transition. Last year’s host for the World Economic Forum on East Asia, Myanmar is on a fast-track to adapting to globalization, for better or for worse.
These kids are doing alright though, even if they’ve latched on to Hot Topic on trucker speed. They’ll mellow out and start broadening their punk horizons soon enough. Burmese emo is right around the corner…
Get the full scoop and see more great images here.
San Francisco State University – I went to school at SFSU in 1991 for a semester. It was nice to be asked to speak on campus at their art gallery. Of course it’s perfect timing that it happens at the same time as the Oakland Museum of CA exhibition (SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot). Just a few minutes before the 6pm start time, the group was small, but by the time to talk began, the space was filled. Granted it only takes 20+ people to pack the room, it was nice to see students, art fans, and a few “older” faces. The question and answer is always more fun, and the questions went for a while. It’s when I can tell stories I didn’t plan on telling and that makes the talk more random and hopefully interesting to hear. One wanted to know what he needed to do, since he wanted to follow in my footsteps. It was a great honor to be able to try and explain what wisdom I have accrued to a younger person who’s just getting started. Thanks to Jill Shiraki for setting this one up.
Oakland Museum of CA – I paid a visit on Friday for no official business except to meet up with friend Gordon Yamate, Bert Gatchalian, Tiffany Sun, and a few great staffers there. I gave a private tour which was as detailed as I cared to be at the moment. It lasted about an hour and now that I know what to talk about, I’d do it again. Want one? Just hit me up. The stories that you don’t get to read on the walls on the museum, could be among the best parts of the exhibition. I stayed to make some zines and color a page. I need to improve my skills with colored pencils. The exhibition is as exciting on friday as it was on the first day. Yes, I’m proud of it. I’ll be back up there May 30th and will probably do another tour.
Japanese American Museum San Jose – I don’t get to San Jose often, but it was nice to be able to visit a place that seems so close to home. The museum is filled with stories from Concentration Camps. I spoke upstairs in a meeting room that had a round table and chairs surrounding. As it was getting close to beginning, one of the first faces was an old neighborhood and childhood friend, Bill Chuan. He walked in and I practically started laughing. What the fuck? The surprise was funny and for some reason enlightening. I still can’t believe I saw his familiar face just 30 years or so later. Then family members. Practically long-lost came in. Diane, who’s wedding I attended as a young man came in with her sister, Elaine, and their father and my uncle Jim. The weird thing is that Jim has eyes that are cool grey. He looks like my father. It’s a strange feeling when you recognize someone because of their resemblance of someone else. I haven’t seen them perhaps in decades. Also the volunteers, many of whom I actually have met and know were there as well – welcoming me.