Giant Robot Store and GR2 News


Street Eater’s badass new album is relentlessly raw and heavy, and I was stoked to hear the East Bay duo’s latest rippers alongside favorites at The Redwood. Holy crap, they are one of my favorite bands ever, empowered by straight-up DIY punk via Gilman and pushed over the top by the two-way animalistic empowerment that happens between two human beings who dominate at their instruments. Did I mention that their lyrics are smarter than shit? So good.


There were two great openers, too. Nerve Beats are a somewhat jazz-infected, melodic punk trio in the tradition of the Minutemen and Nomeansno. Coming all the way from Honolulu, of course they were really nice dudes as well. I bought some hand-burned CD-Rs and really dig ‘em. I’d tell you which songs especially rule if the titles were listed somewhere.

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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).

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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...
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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.

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Back in the stone age/print era, we used to have a section of Giant Robot mag where we would invite friends and family to share My Perfect Day. Sometimes they were were artists, musicians, or filmmakers providing a glimpse into their awesome lives. More often they were regular dudes like you or me, simply enjoying and showing off their beloved hometowns.

I’ve been blogging a lot about the rad bands that are playing our next DIY punk matinee (The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, California) as well as how it’s going to benefit public schoolkids in Chinatown by paying for their music education. So you already know about it being a killer show for a great cause. But it’s also important to me is that people come to the neighborhood where my grandparents, in-laws, and now my daughter have spend time and have a rad day.

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