My picks for 19th Annual Polish Film Festival (Oct. 17-25, 2018)


by Tom Nguyen

October is always teeming with great film festivals in Los Angeles! It’s as if all the cinephiles, like myself, suddenly needed a break from an overstimulating summer of competing activities, and cocoon ourselves inside a myriad of film screenings this month as a Fall transition. Next up: 19th Annual Polish Film Festival, which opened Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, with a gala screening of Squadron 303, based on the true history of Polish pilots who shot down three times more Luftwaffe planes during the Battle of Britain than other Allied pilots.

The film festival continues through Thursday, October 25, at two primary venues: Laemmle Noho 7 Theatre in North Hollywood and Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Santa Monica. There will also be free screenings at CSU Northridge and USC campuses and Hellada Gallery in Long Beach. Here are my picks (in order of appearance at the festival): 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 →

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 →

Our Cultural Picks for Los Angeles: June 7-13


by Tom Nguyen

With all that’s going on this week, I still consider it a “quiet” week before all the free summer concerts everywhere start to kick into full gear! Support the homies this week: one of my newest favorite bands Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Nancy Sanchez CD release party, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Quetzal, Sin Color and La Junta, and the Brazilian music community is joining forces to put on Choro and Afro-Roots and Funk + Forró Dance Party. Another Brazilian band Boogarins are here, plus we’re giving away tickets to Los Cafres and Locos por Juana with Tropico Modular, a Palenke Soultribe side project. Hola Mexico, one of my favorite film festivals, and Mixed Remixed, the largest celebration of interracial, mixed race experience in the nation, are happening in downtown, as well as many more great cultural and outdoor events all over SoCal, like Dia de San Juan Puerto Rican festival in Long Beach, CicLAvia from Glendale to Atwater Village, Playboy Jazz FestivalLA Pride, the many art walks & more!

MUSIC

Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Oscura Luna +dj Selvatica
The Offbeat (Highland Park)
Wed. June 7, 9pm, Free, 21+
One of my newest favorite bands, Earth Arrow…socially conscious and defiant, unabashed and fiery, watching them perform is what one friend described as “what it must have felt like being in radical Oakland in the 70s!” They describe themselves as “a Los Angeles Afro-cuban hip hop based band focusing on reviving ancient african and indigenous rhythms and dance .Earth Arrow is a reflection of the fire that burns in the hearts of all who live in colonized lands across the world. A pioneer of indigenous blues sounds, they set out to defy expectations and explore new realms of emotional intensity while incorporating modern hip hop and jazz sabor. Ancient and modern, the guitar licks, piano solos, and percussions hail from the ancestors and channels their visions for the future. Humbly playing to spread truth, justice, and light over the lands. The 6th sun is here.”

Boogarins w/ Jjuujjuu
Bootleg Theater
Thu. June 8, 8pm, $12-$14, 21+
Boogarins’ Fernando “Dino” Almeida and Benke Ferraz began playing music together as teenagers in the central Brazilian city of Goiânia– recording psychedelic pop in their parents’ gardens, filtering their country’s rich musical history through a very modern lens.

Nancy Sanchez: American Novio CD Release
Resident (Downtown)
Fri. June 9, 8pm, Free, 21+
Its finally here! I am so excited for this release of my new album American Novio. I am so grateful to all the musicians, Eugene Toale and Mares Entertainment for making this happen. Come celebrate this release along with our friends El Haru Kuroi and DJ Glenn Red.

Brazilla presents: Choro and Afro-Roots
Zebulon LA (Frogtown)
Fri. June 9, 9pm, $15, 21+
Braziilla is a blessing to protect the musical legacy of the Brazilian diaspora into Los Angeles. Brazilla is a collective of musicians and artists involved with music. Most of us are Brazilian although not all. Our mission is to protect and expand the influential legacy of our mother culture in all its diversity and radically. Continue Reading →

Top Cultural Events in Los Angeles: March 15-21


by Tom Nguyen

Top shows this week: La Chamba‘s fundraiser show, Chico Mann & Captain Planet album release show, Ethio Cali‘s tribute to musicians who recently passed on: David Axelrod, Leon Ware, Doug Lunn, and hang player Manu Delago. Julieta Venegas, Gaby Moreno and Jungle Fire are playing in OC. Indigenous rapper ALAS & more are performing a benefit for Casa Solidaria del Sur and a very rare opportunity to see Shardé Thomas and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, playing fife & drum blues, a vanishing tradition directly descended from African slaves. Get your boogie on with Dinamita, Chulita Vinyl Club, Discostan, Chester Whitmore and The Floor Improv.

Last chance to see Confessions of an Arab Woman, and Chicanas, Cholas y Chisme’s Su Frida Calo at CASA 0101 and The Cruise at LATC open this week. March 16 is the anniversary of the killing of Latasha Harlins, and California African American Museum will have a discussion with Latasha’s aunt and original members of Black Lives Matter. Transgender activist and immigrant Bamby Salcedo will speak at CSULA followed by a screening of Raising Zoey. Mexika New Year at Mariachi Plaza, Native American Festival in Long Beach, A Week of French Language Cinema at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, Santa Monica Airport and Montebello art walks.

MUSIC

La Chamba Go Fund Me Launch Party
La Cita Bar (Downtown)
Wed. March 15, 9pm, $10, 21+
After all these years, we’re finally dropping our full length album. It has been a struggle and a long road- we are done tracking and mastering 13 songs. We’ve made this far, but need your help to get our album entitled “Ecos De La Selva” finallly replicated and packaged. Please spread the love by helping us raise funds for our first full-length album. La Chamba W/ Zapoteca Roots (Deeply Rooted Sonidero Cumbia) & Dj Fresko
Dj Glenn Red, GetDown Collective DJS
Continue Reading →

Our Picks for NYE 2017 in Los Angeles!


by Tom Nguyen

When I’m considering where to spend New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, I look for 3 things:

  • Great live bands and dance music we typically cover on this site.
  • It won’t break the bank (Some free, most under $30).
  • Whether big or small events, I’m looking for good vibes, not pretentiousness.

If you’re looking for the same, here are my recommendations (in order of cost): Continue Reading →

Racism rears its ugly head all across SoCal following the election of Donald Trump

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by Tom Nguyen

Following the election of Donald Trump, it didn’t take long for reports of blatant racism and hate crimes to start coming in from around the country. These incidents immediately took me back to my youth, as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in Orange County, historically the most conservative county in a blue state. Racism and prejudice were common and often blatant but becoming less of a worry as I entered college.

Then in 1996, my high school sweetheart’s cousin was viciously murdered by a white supremacist, a hate crime that drew widespread coverage and outrage. Looking back, the murder was an aberration at a time when white skinhead gangs once prevalent in OC were losing their foothold and hate crimes in OC by 2000 would drop to a 10 year low. Racism became less of a concern for me as white flight from many OC cities and growing Latino and Asian populations were changing OC into a more diverse place.

After moving to Long Beach, then Boyle Heights, I never looked back. Until this week. The last almost 10 years of covering LA’s diverse communities and cultural arts scene gave me hope and optimism that we had moved forward, past an era where I or anyone of a minority group would have to worry about violent extremists and hateful bigots.

The election of Donald Trump has quickly shattered that sense of progress, normalcy and security. His xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynist rhetoric has opened the floodgates on unabashed targeting of anyone he and his supporters deem foreign, or an outsider, or a perceived threat to the preeminence of straight white males. This is what Muslim communities have been contending with in a post-9/11 nation, with an increase in hate crimes specifically against Muslims or anyone mistaken as Muslim in just these recent years.

Living in a globally diverse Southern California region doesn’t make us any less immune to this type of deplorable and frightening behavior. Here are incidents I’ve gathered this week, mostly on social media. Most heartbreaking to me are young children being targeted by their fellow classmates and in one case, even a teacher. It is triggering to me on so many levels, back to memories of arriving in this country in the 70s as a 5-year-old child. Like any child, I had no concept of race and why certain kids taunted and bullied me and just remembering the innocence lost because of acts like these…it’s utterly heartbreaking and unacceptable!

I think it’s crucially important that we raise awareness whenever these are reported as a reminder for us be vigilant and watch out for one another. If you have heard of other incidents, please let us know. If you have been victimized, please report it to your local law enforcement as well as to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate crimes and hate groups. And lastly, if you witness acts of hate, please don’t be a bystander and intervene if it is safe to do so. Watch this video in response to a similar increase in hate crimes following Brexit in UK:

Los Angeles:
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West Hollywood:
story_weho Continue Reading →

Top Picks for NYE 2016 in Los Angeles!

15 Film Picks (5)
by Tom Nguyen

When I’m considering where to spend New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, I look for 3 things:

  • Great live bands or dance music we typically cover on this site.
  • It won’t break the bank (Some free, most under $40).
  • Whether big or small events, I’m looking for good vibes, not pretentiousness.

If you’re looking for the same, here are my recommendations (in order of cost) all across LA: Downtown, Silver Lake, Hollywood, Mid City, Santa Monica and Long Beach: Continue Reading →

Museum of Latin American Art: Summer Kick Off of Afro-Cuban Concert Series!

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by Linda Vanessa “Nuves” Tovar

(LONG BEACH) — Having a father who has played percussion instruments for a majority of his life and a lover of salsa dancing for a mother, I made sure I was at the Museum of Latin American Art for their Summer Music Series Kick Off Party! Founded in 1996 by philanthropist, Dr. Robert Gumbiner, the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California is the first and only museum in the United States that exclusively features modern and contemporary Latin American fine art. Only a 30 minute drive from Downtown Los Angeles, the MOLAA has featured exhibits including: Viva La Muxer by Las Fotos Project and “Frida Kahlo, Her Photos”. The MOLAA’s mission is to educate the American public about contemporary Latin American fine art through the establishment of a significant permanent collection and the presentation of dynamic exhibitions and related programs.

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Dedicated to preserving and sharing the Latino experience and culture, MOLAA curates special programs and events for all to enjoy. Currently on exhibit is, Miradas: Ancient Roots in Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art, Miradas is a temporary exhibition provided by Bank of America Art in our Communities program can be visited through September 27th.

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To kick off the Summer Series was, “Remembering the Palladium Days, Chapter 3: Mambo is Back and here to stay”, which featured six-time, Grammy Award-winning percussionist, Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez and Freddie Crespo’s Mambo Revue Orchestra. Many of these musicians have shared the stage with greats like Tito Puentes! The caliber and professional experience of these musicians is not to be missed or overlooked. I mean, watch this short clip if you don’t believe me! Continue Reading →

Cambodia Town Film Festival this Weekend Sep. 5-7!

ctff red carpet
by Tom Nguyen

I just attended the private filmmaker reception last night at Thunder Studios, an intimate pre-kickoff to the 2nd Annual Cambodia Town Film Festival, running this weekend at the Art Theatre Long Beach. In just its second year, the ambitious film festival returns with an eclectic lineup of films, celebrating Khmer cinema both here and abroad.

The reception was an opportunity to meet some of the filmmakers and the festival founders Caylee So and PraCh Ly took time to thank their team and sponsors, without whose support the film festival would not be possible. Many supporters, like singer Bochan, had flown from faraway to attend this weekend’s festival, featuring cinema you’re not likely to see anywhere else!

Tonight Friday, you can attend the official kickoff party at Sophy’s Restaurant, well known for its Cambodian cuisine. The organizers have transformed the interior of the restaurant into a jungle and members of Intradevi and others will be performing and spinning great music. Rumany and her electro-Khmer band, with their elaborate costuming and over-the-top stage presence, stole the show at the recent inaugural Cambodian Music Festival.

Continue Reading →