Weapons of Mass Creation’s song ‘Hard to Admit’ addresses sexual abuse in our own communities

by Tom Nguyen

In an era where we have a president who got elected despite boasting about “grabbing p*ssy”, it’s been heartening to see at least some powerful men in entertainment and politics finally having to answer for sexual violence as women bravely come forward. I hope the media attention, national dialogue, and women sharing their #MeToo stories results in real policy changes and legal protections in every workplace against people using their powerful positions to sexually exploit others.

Besides the rich and famous though, where is the much needed spotlight and attention on the sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and violence that is happening everyday in our own communities? Julia Franco, of Weapons of Mass Creation, sings poignantly about her own struggles against sexual harassment in their latest video “Hard to Admit”.

Weapons of Mass Creation are outspoken in their music and one of my top local bands to watch — they sing about police violence, racism, and gentrification happening in our marginalized communities. And in “Hard to Admit”, Julia says on top of all the issues she has to contend with as a woman of color, self-care doesn’t mean hugs and kisses in a safe space…it means carrying mace and always being on guard against men in her own communities.

So let’s address and challenge the sexual harassment, misogyny and toxic masculinity that happens everyday in all the spaces we occupy. Women have been doing the work and leading the charge. Men, we need to step up and be accountable for our actions as well as challenging men around us when we see abusive behavior, and not being complicit and silent. Get involved and support the work of these organizations in our communities: Peace Over Violence, Justice For My Sister Collective (Julia’s older sister Hilda Franco is involved with JFMSC), AF3IRM, and TheRealTalkProject, which currently offers a self-paced course on how to be a better male ally.

Weapons of Mass Creation performs tomorrow Saturday, November 11, at Tropicália Music and Taco Festival, and “Hard to Admit” is the first of a series of live performances shot at Sanctuary Sound, a grassroots DIY community and performance space in downtown Santa Ana. Amidst the rapid gentrification of the area, the space is so vital and essential: “Sound is a safe space for dangerous sound. In the state of our communities the main stream considers our arts of expression dangerous. But this is not the reality. Our working class communities find amazing creative and ingenious ways to create expression from our experiences using art, music, dance and the power of power of our words.  Our mission is to give our communities a space to create and build their skills so they may be prepared to benefit from then in the world that is consistently taking from them.” Continue Reading →

Tropicália Music and Taco Festival: Eclectic Global Music with Free Tacos November 11!


by Tom Nguyen

[UPDATE: Set times have been released and are posted at the bottom of this article.]

For a first time festival debuting this Saturday, November 11, Tropicália Music and Taco Festival at Queen Mary Park is as ambitious as they get in LA’s crowded music festival landscape. I mean who programs Norteño (Los Tigres del Norte) with 90s R&B (Ginuwine)…and throws in free tacos for everyone?!? That’s bold! Offering up such a bilingual and multi-generational lineup of music is a breath of fresh air for a music lover like me, who’s tired of bland, vanilla lineups catered for a white audience (lookin at you, Coachella) than for Brown, Black and immigrant folks with musical palettes that know no borders and yearn with nostalgia for our parents’ music.

True to its name, the festival features Latin alternative darlings Chicano Batman, heavily influenced by Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, as well as Os Mutantes, the esteemed psychedelic rock group from that very era. Cumbia fans will savor Sonora Dinamita, Celso Piña and Very Be Careful, and some of my favorite bands and DJ collectives will be representing LA’s eclectic music scenes I love so much: Buyepongo, Las Cafeteras, The Buttertones, Cuco, Chulita Vinyl Club, Funky Sole, Dub Club, Low End Theory, Scam and Jam. The late addition of Mexican rock legends, Cafe Tacvba, cements an already stellar lineup of Latin acts that includes reggaeton royalty Ivy Queen, and Colombian American pop princess Kali Uchis.

The festival is organized by the same folks who manage The Observatory Orange County, a venue that regularly features hip hop and other upcoming talents on its main stage and smaller stage, The Constellation Room. They’ve curated quite an eclectic lineup of hip hop acts: Goldlink, King Krule, Madlib, Sango, Smino, Phoney Ppl, Weapons of Mass Creation.

Swoon to the soulful voices of Jhené Aiko, Jorja Smith, Jessie Reyez as well as timeless songs by 60s soul and R&B legends The Delfonics and Brenton Wood. There are more venerable acts too: Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly still performing at 80, 70s Spanish singer Jeannette, and Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, whose 80s hit “Love Come Down” I’m going to be singing along at full force!

Here are some of the acts I’m looking forward to seeing for the first time and the set times for the festival: Continue Reading →

AFI FEST 2017 opens Nov. 9 with Mudbound. Here are my Top Picks!


by Tom Nguyen

AFI FEST 2017 is one of the largest annual film festivals in Los Angeles and the only one of its stature that is free to the public. This year’s festival opens on Thursday, November 9, with the film MUDBOUND, about two families, one black, one white, in post-World War II Jim Crow South. With the rise of white nationalism and supremacy emboldened by Trump’s presidency, I think it’s an important and timely statement to open the festival with a film directed by a woman of color, Dee Rees, and set during one of the most disgraceful chapters in this country’s history. Read the insightful Variety interview with Rees about the challenges she faced as a black filmmaker in finding a distributor and support the film when it’s released by Netflix on November 17.

The festival features upcoming filmmakers from all over the world with 11 films in its New Auteurs section, 9 of which are made by women directors, and 11 films by independent filmmakers in its American Independents section. The World Cinema section features 30 films from 39 countries, 13 of which are official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries.

AFI FEST 2017 will also screen 2 animated films for public middle and high school students as part of their Youth and Family Programming. The program expands this year with AFI FEST Storytelling Bootcamp to guide underserved high school students in screenwriting and storytelling.

And if that wasn’t enough, there are Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings and Short Films too! The festival closes on Thursday, November 16, with the world premiere of ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, directed by Ridley Scott. There is something for everyone in this immense festival of films, and it can be pretty overwhelming deciding what to see — Here are my top picks for AFI FEST 2017 with trailers. Be sure to secure your FREE tickets online starting on Wednesday, November 1! Tickets go FAST!

OPENING FILM:

MUDBOUND – Directed by Dee Rees and co-written by Virgil Williams and Rees, the historical period drama features cinematography by AFI Conservatory alumna Rachel Morrison (Class of 2006). The film stars Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan.

CENTERPIECE GALA:

Continue Reading →

Find of the Week: SEAM Sci-Fi Short Film

by Tom Nguyen

One of my guilty pleasures is searching YouTube for sci-fi shorts to watch in my spare time, and I did plenty of it this past week, while in bed with the flu. Most are pretty mediocre and familiar riffs on themes that have been done before; which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I randomly happened upon “Seam”, and was instantly pulled into its world for the next 20 minutes: “In the not-too-distant future, a tenuous peace between humans and remarkably human-like “machines”—some don’t even know they’re not real—is tested when synthetics begin spontaneously exploding. A military-led search for these unwitting suicide bombers begins, sending a terrified machine woman and her human partner on the run.”

It’s rare to see a sci-fi film with a good combination of an original and compelling story with amazing visual effects…even rarer still to see one by filmmakers of color (written and directed by brothers Rajeev and Elan Dassani), taking place in the Middle East (mostly shot in Jordan), and featuring protagonists speaking Arabic (Israeli actor Oded Fehr and Jordanian actor Rakeen Saad). The film puts a different twist on the meaning of ‘suicide bomber’ and at its heart, is a love story about a couple devoted to each other against all odds. I would love to see the Dassani brothers fulfill their vision of turning their short film into a feature length movie. Watch the film below and go to their site to support their efforts.

5th Annual Cambodia Town Film Festival this September 15-17!


by Tom Nguyen

When I lived in Long Beach, the Cambodia Town community was home to me. As fellow refugees & exiles from illegal US war & Communism, we’d suffered so much trauma…the Khmer worse than us Viets as they suffered genocide. Almost all their culture bearers were singled out for execution. Despite genocide, exile, racism, poverty, deportation & other obstacles, the largest Cambodian diaspora community outside Cambodia endures & thrives, still unseen and under-acknowledged in our immigrant LA tapestry.

This is why I always attend the annual Cambodia Town Film Festival (CTFF), which runs this Friday, September 15th through Sunday, September 17th, at the Art Theatre Long Beach. The festival is such a rare opportunity to see Khmer film and it’s a celebration of a people and community who exemplify the enduring human spirit against all odds. This 5th annual festival features a lot of special screenings, like the opening film “First They Killed My Father”, directed by Angelina Jolie, to the first ever all Cambodian-American stand-up comedy show, Khmers of Comedy.

The festival kicks off Friday night with a party at Sophy’s Restaurant and then the opening ceremony starts on Saturday morning at 11am, followed by “First They Killed My Father”, which is based on the book of the same name, written by author Loung Un about her experience as a child during the Khmer Rouge regime. She will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. Continue Reading →

What does being an Afro-Latino band mean? My favorite LA bands in their own words


by Tom Nguyen

Seems like folks really enjoyed my last blog on 6 upcoming Los Angeles Latin Alternative bands to watch, so I wanted to follow up with my favorite Afro Latino bands, heating up dance floors all over SoCal with their tropical rhythms (in alphabetical order): Buyepongo, Changui Majadero, El Santo Golpe, La Chamba, QUITAPENAS, Tropi Corillo and YANGA.

Now, I’m not an ethnomusicologist…I’m not qualified to give you an academic lecture on what makes each of these bands different, from which cultures and regions of Latin America they derive their music, and so on. What I do know is I’m a sucker for percussion and tropical beats, and music like this gets me into a non-stop frenzy on the dance floor!

But beyond that, I’d rather you hear from the musicians themselves, to let them tell you in their own words what their band and their music is all about. And let’s talk about labels again…”Afro Latino”…it seems like everyone wants to throw that term around these days. African descendants and roots in Latin America have been so historically unacknowledged, and in Los Angeles, there’s a tight knit community of bands reclaiming and honoring African contributions that bleed deeply through their music.

Because Afro-Latino heritage has been so suppressed and unacknowledged in home countries and communities here in LA, I wanted to know what drove each band’s interest in this music and why they think there are so few musicians of Afro-Latino descent in LA. I wanted to especially hear from some of the bands who’ve used their music and platform to highlight anti-blackness in Latino communities and to work towards more solidarity between Black and Brown communities. Folks in these bands are passionate about their music and its history, but also willing to talk frankly on heavy issues that go beyond the music. I want to thank each of them for their time and make sure you catch them at one of many upcoming shows: All of them are playing free shows, with 3 of them at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles starting this weekend and 2 of them at South LA Power Fest on September 2nd! Continue Reading →

‘Gook’: Q&A with Ava Duvernay and why Independent Filmmaking and Representation Matters

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by Tom Nguyen

The indie film ‘Gook’ by director/writer/actor Justin Chon (‘Twilight’) opens in LA theaters today, and has been highly talked about, not only for its provocative title. The story of two Korean-American siblings who own a store in a predominantly African American Los Angeles neighborhood, and the consequences of their friendship with a young black child during the first day of the LA riots, won the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Audience Award and was acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films for national release — a rarity for an independent film written, produced and directed by and starring folks from a minority community…but I’ll get into Hollywood’s diversity problem and Chon’s astute observations later.

The film shot in black and white follows one day in the life of a street-wise Eli (Justin Chon), intent on keeping his late father’s shoe store afloat, despite daily struggle in Paramount, a suburb next to Compton. His brother Daniel (a very funny David So of Youtube popularity) is more interested in aspirations of being a singer than helping Eli mind a store long past its better days. Kamilla (a brilliant 11-year-old Simone Baker making her debut), a young girl from the neighborhood, is the heart and soul of the movie, as an orphaned girl drawn to the store and the brothers, looking for more parental love and affection, than she receives at home from a sympathetic but absent older sister, Regina (Omono Okojie) and stern older brother, Keith (a very intense performance by Curtiss Cook Jr.).

The film is a humanizing, honest snapshot of complex race relations in a lower income Los Angeles neighborhood that isn’t often portrayed on screen. While the film starts out with what could have been tired cliches, like Eli’s multiple encounters with Latino gangsters or the racist Korean store owner across the street who pulls a gun on Kamilla, there’s a purpose to Chon’s depiction of the simmering racial tensions of this multi-ethnic community — the day happens to be the acquittal of white police officers in the Rodney King beating trial and as the riots start in nearby South Central, those tensions boil to the surface, with moral dilemmas and serious consequences for each character. Continue Reading →

So you love Chicano Batman. Here’s 6 more amazing LA indie bands to watch.


by Tom Nguyen

LA’s underground Latin indie and rock scene is the most vibrant and explosive I’ve seen in years. Sure, Chicano Batman put the scene on the map and kudos to them…Coachella twice and 3 back-to-back sold-out shows this September wow! They’re such the hip, in-demand darlings right now, eager fans chased them to their cars after their performance to an over-capacity crowd at One Colorado in Pasadena this summer. I see posts on Facebook like a 60-something white CSULA professor gushing about playing their music to her class and wondering why her Latino students hadn’t heard them yet…so I had to ask her besides the Johnnie Walker commercial she saw, can she name any of the many talented and unique bands with Latino musicians playing amazing music in LA right now? Nope.

So Chicano Batman bandwagoners, take note. It took them nearly a decade of playing before the white mainstream music industry noticed, and LA Weekly recently wrote a great piece about LA’s Latin alternative music continuing to break down barriers, thanks in large part to visionary promoters like Viva Presents and Qvolé Collective. The thriving multicultural scene can be summed up by Qvolé’s motto…The Future is Latin. So in addition to great acts promoted by Qvolé like Buyepongo, Brainstory, Cutty Flam, here are six upcoming independent bands I think you should check out: Earth Arrow, Sin Color, The Altons, Twin Seas, Weapons of Mass Creation, Welfair. Continue Reading →

This review, just like Sevdaliza, is better late than never

by Cindy Ly Rozas

Sevdaliza, the Iranian born Dutch musician, dancer and visual artist that’s mesmerizing the music world with her unique avante gard glitch pop, performed her first U.S. show to a sold-out crowd at the Echoplex in Los Angeles this past Monday night. Originally scheduled for an earlier March date, Sevdaliza’s imminent L.A. debut was delayed by the administration’s travel ban, which directly affected nationals of seven muslim majority countries, including Sevda Alizadeh’s native Iran. The travel ban, which went on to inspire the track Bevin, was one way for Sevdaliza to transform her frustrations and disappointments with our current state of affairs into art.

Sevdaliza is actually really great at transforming. She transformed from child refugee to star basketball player on the Dutch national team. From then, only 4 years ago, Sevdaliza transformed herself into a producer and musician, DIY’ing every aspect of her career so far. Just this past April, she transformed the release of her first full length album, into a surreal visual experience; “ISON” manifested in physical form.

It’s hard for any international artist to tour the U.S. without a full length album behind them, but Sevdaliza could have totally done it solely based on the strength of her singles and EPs she’s been steadily dropping since 2014. Industrial R&B with a futuristic aesthetic.

Continue Reading →

More than just a Free Summer Events List! 2017

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by Tom Nguyen

Let me be frank: I’m not a fan of these lists of free summer concerts all the big publications and cool kids come out with every year, for many reasons:

  1. Like how do you call yourself the “The Ultimate List” when you’re missing great free events like Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks in Leimert Park, Central Avenue Jazz Festival in South LA and Watts Towers Day of the Drum (that’s in its 136th year???) just to name a few. I’ll tell you why: These folks who deign to be authorities on Los Angeles either don’t step foot in communities of color or don’t care to include POC events.
  2. Then just because you have events in POC and immigrant communities doesn’t make it a culturally relevant and genuine event. Chinatown Summer Nights for example: seeing KCRW DJs spinning for a bunch of hipsters wearing Chinese coolie hats like a costume, while the neighborhood of mostly immigrant and poor folks is gentrifying, makes me want to puke.
  3. Yes there’s a lot of great free concerts bringing in great international acts as well as featuring local talent…Grand Performances, Skirball Cultural Center and Levitt Pavilion (kudos to Spaceland for their curation this summer!). But if you only focused on free free free, you’d miss out on other venues and nonprofit orgs like Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatres, JACCC, MOLAA putting on amazing shows.
  4. Not every worthy band gets selected to play these free summer concert platforms, so I think it’s important to support our local bands during the summer as well as amazing visiting acts coming through.
  5. Where are the cultural and community festivals? Where are the film festivals? Again with those free lists…it doesn’t take a genius to just look at a bunch of calendars and compile them into a list. But if you’re not interacting and participating in communities of color and immigrant diaspora, you’re going to miss events like Hollywood Carnival, Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Little Tokyo, Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach, 21st Annual Feria Agostina de Los Angeles in MacArthur Park, and so much deeper appreciation and awareness of the diversity of LA.

So if you only care about free concerts, read no further, and don’t even bother with those other lists…just go to socalsummerconcerts.com. I don’t know who puts that calendar together but it’s very convenient. Now if you do care about a wider range of summer events in LA, and you do care about supporting both local bands and venues who work hard to put on cultural relevant and important shows, then welcome. I spent a good week initially putting this list together and I will never call it a complete or ultimate list…I will continually add to the list as I hear of more events. And if you want a reminder of more awesome upcoming events as well as ticket giveaways to many of these shows, subscribe to our newsletter!