Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2018 in Los Angeles & Surrounding Areas

by Tom Nguyen

Here’s my roundup of Dia de los Muertos in and around Los Angeles. As I repeat every year like my first guide, please learn about and honor this respectful celebration of departed loved ones, an important tradition that goes back to indigenous roots, and not turn it into another culturally appropriated Cinco de Mayo.

By no means is this list complete — there are so many great Dia de los Muertos events all over Southern California, I couldn’t possibly list them all. Events below are ALL AGES and FREE, unless otherwise noted. 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 →

Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2016 in Los Angeles

by Tom Nguyen

Here’s our roundup of Dia de los Muertos in and around Los Angeles. As I repeat every year like last year, please learn about and honor this respectful celebration of departed loved ones, an important tradition that goes back to indigenous roots, and not turn it into another culturally appropriated Cinco de Mayo.

By no means is this list complete — there are so many great Dia de los Muertos events all over Southern California, I couldn’t possibly list them all. For a more complete list, check out this one. Events below are all ages and free, unless otherwise noted. Continue Reading →

East LA Interchange: Diversity of Boyle Heights is a History Lesson for the Nation


Xavi Moreno in East LA Interchange. © 2015 Photo by Chris Chew/Bluewater Media.

by Tom Nguyen

Boyle Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, is so much deeper than how the community has often been portrayed. In Hollywood films, it’s the Latino community with intractable gangs glorified by graffiti along the concrete of the Los Angeles river, massive freeway interchange and bridges connecting it to downtown. When Boyle Heights makes mainstream news nowadays, it’s either in reference to a gang shooting or impending gentrification. What has been largely forgotten and what the documentary “East LA Interchange” seeks to restore and rightly celebrate, is its rich history of being LA’s most racially integrated and welcoming of communities. The history is one of a poor community of color that has historically been ignored or pushed aside according to the whims of those in power but it has always fought back. From coalition building by its different minority residents to elect the first Latino to LA City Council to the student walkouts against unequal education, the community has a long history and pride in resistance and empowerment.

Narrated by Danny Trejo, the film is the 9 year culmination of extensive research by filmmaker Betsy Kalin, with archival footage and interviews with historians and current and former residents, including notable people like of Black Eyed Peas, LA Councilmember Jose Huizar and playwright Josefina López of CASA 0101 Theater. The film starts with the unprecedented global migration occurring in the early 20th century from upheaval and war, that resulted in immigrants from all over the globe finding their way to Los Angeles. Continue Reading →

‘Bad for the Community’ explores Gentrification in Boyle Heights Now and In The Future

by Tom Nguyen

Friday, April 15 was the opening night of “Bad for the Community”, a new play at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, written by Josefina Lopez and Oscar Arguello and includes “the voices for and against gentrification.” Many in this community, where I live, are in a state of active vigilance against anything resembling gentrification and the topic has even made the international news like The Guardian‘s recent coverage on the activist groups confronting outsiders.

The first act moves us through many familiar settings here in Boyle Heights: from 2 women (Rachel Gonzalez and Ronni Valentine) on the Gold Line discussing how they unintentionally contributed to gentrification as artists wanting to liven up the neighborhood, to a mariachi player (Ray Rios) lamenting that no one pays for songs anymore in Mariachi Plaza. We then meet a couple, Esteban (Gabriel Guillen) and Sol (Rachel Gonzalez), just trying to survive on their meager pay, long hours and sharing one car, in a neighborhood clearly changing faster than they can cope. Continue Reading →

Boyle Heights Urban Garden seeks Community Support in Dispute with Landowning Hospital

Story by Oscar Bautista and Tom Nguyen
Photos by Oscar Bautista

IMG_0061For the past 15 years the non-profit Proyecto Jardin has been serving the community by creating an urban oasis in what was an empty lot on Bridge St. in Boyle Heights. Over the years, Proyecto Jardin has transformed this plot of land into a community garden blossoming with fruit, herbs, and vegetables, all grown by volunteer community members. After this long stewardship, Proyecto Jardin is being removed from overseeing the garden after the landowner, neighboring White Memorial Medical Center (WMMC), has denied them the option to renew their lease and has ordered them to vacate the garden by January 31.

WMMC had initially offered Proyecto Jardin the option to stay for a final 6 months in 1/3rd of the lot (the other 1/3rd to be used by WMMC’s advertising and marketing department to re-brand the garden, and 1/3rd to be used by 2 unnamed non-profits) as well as instruction how to observe its Sabbath Policy in the garden (WMMC is a Seventh-day Adventist organization). 

Proyecto Jardin replied with a counter-offer of sole use for another 5 years without religious restrictions that it believed better served its diverse community of various faiths. Expecting further negotiation from that point, Irene Peña, Proyecto Hardin’s Executive Director, was surprised that the counter-offer was flatly rejected and WMMC gave Proyecto Jardin a 30 day notice to vacate the community garden it has built and called home for the past 15 years.

According to Peña, WMMC will allow the garden to remain, but will take away the community leadership which has been vital to making the community garden what it is today. She is now asking the community’s support and help in getting the word out and mount public pressure on WMMC to change their stance and come to a win-win solution for all parties. On Saturday, January 30, Proyecto Jardin will hold a community gathering from 9am to 3pm.
Continue Reading →

Interview with Hayokaht: Defiant and Conscious Experimental Jazz in LA’s Eastside

Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

With belting horns and driving rhythms, Hayokaht is one act coming out of East LA that is bringing back jazz to the communities it calls home. Using the technical and chaotic styles of free jazz, while still venturing into new territories of sound, this group takes its audiences on a ride through the eclectic cultures of its members.

Playing as a quartet, Bryan Diaz (tenor sax), Angel Hernandez (alto sax from Buyepongo), Michael Ibarra (bass from El Haru Kuroi), and Harout Gulesserian (drums) form a powerhouse group of talented artists that tempt the edges of jazz to find their unique sound.

IMG_0047 With a residency at Eastside Luv, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a packed house every first Wednesday of the month as Hayokaht entertains a crowd of fans. It was especially packed this first Wednesday of December where people came out to support Hayokaht by donating to help them towards their first EP.

After seeing their performance first hand I quickly understood why the bar was bursting at the seams. Soul baring and never missing a beat, Hayokaht mixed the wild improvisation of free jazz and the dark setting of L.A. life into a great live set.

Glimpses of the jazz masters such as Sun Ra and Charles Mingus can be heard in their performance giving homage to the artists who molded free jazz. That’s not to take away attention from the amazing musicianship carried by all four member of the group – each providing their own flavor to the Hayokaht sound.

After their set, I got to speak with these new torches bearers of L.A. free jazz to find out more about how they came together, as well as how they connect to the community through music. Continue Reading →

5 Days to Support Los Jornaleros Del Norte 15th Anniversary Album Kickstarter!

by Tom Nguyen

(Los Angeles) — This is an urgent appeal to the community to help Los Jornaleros Del Norte complete their 4th album “Tumbando Muros/Chant Down the Walls” via their Kickstarter campaign! 15 years ago, an immigration raid at a corner of day laborers in City of Industry inspired Omar Sierra, a day laborer and musician, to pen a song that inspired others to share their struggles and their hopes through song and poetry. With the help of Pablo Alvarado, founding member and Director of NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network), Los Jornaleros have become the soundtrack for the day laborer and immigrant community’s struggle for visibility, inclusion and equality.

Continue Reading →

Chicano Batman: Pizza Party for Fans & New Single to celebrate their Aug. 28 Homecoming show!

Don’t worry if you missed out–I asked about their new single for you.

Chicano Batman. From right to left: Gabriel Villa, Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arevalo, and Bardo Martínez.

Chicano Batman. From right to left: Gabriel Villa, Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arevalo, and Bardo Martínez.

by Amanda Wang

(LOS ANGELES) — It’s August 18th, a bright Tuesday on the Westside. For SoCal band Chicano Batman, the year has had in store for them the spoils of Coachella and opening for Jack White. Next up is a grand homecoming on August 28th as headliners at the El Rey. Though they’ve just wrapped up their tour with Alabama Shakes, Chicano Batman celebrates by throwing a humble kickback with pizza for their loyal Angeleno fans.

Pictured with Jack White.

Pictured with Jack White. Photo: David James Swanson.

Continue Reading →

The Arcs, new project by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, plays first live show at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights (Full video)

by Tom Nguyen

I found out yesterday afternoon a new band The Arcs was going to have their first live performance at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights that very evening…and not just any new band…one formed by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Now disclaimer: I haven’t listened to The Black Keys since ohhh 2010 but hey I live a few blocks away from Espacio 1839, and I’m not above being a curiosity seeker, especially when a new hipster band decides to premiere at one of Boyle Heights’ bastions of anti-gentrification. How does that even happen? Well apparently El Oms, an artist and good friends with Espacio 1839, did the artwork for The Arcs’ upcoming music video for the song Put a Flower in Your Pocket. The night was a celebration of the completion of the video, which will be released next Friday August 14.

IMG_7642 Continue Reading →