On Behalf of the Defense
December 14, 2009, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Chicano, L.A., Latinos, Los Angeles, Photos | Tags: , , , ,

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, news came of Alice McGrath’s passing.  Luis Valdez dramatized her work as an activist in the Sleepy Lagoon defense in his play Zoot Suit. Her L.A. Times obiturary is here.

Information on the photo from Calisphere below:

Title: Alice Greenfield McGrath, portrait, Alice Greenfield McGrath, back in the Bradbury building, where her work on Sleepy Lagoon defense began

Creator/Contributor: Los Angeles Times (Firm), Publisher; Barnard, Tony, Photographer

Date: May 2, 1978

Contributing Institution: Dept of Special Collections/UCLA Library, A1713 Charles E. Young Research Library, 405 Hilgard Ave, Box 951575, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575


Tonight in L.A.: The Tyde
July 6, 2008, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Music, Rock | Tags: , , , ,

Getting a chance to see The Tyde play tonight is a pleasant way to end a 4th of July weekend in L.A. that started at the Hollywood Bowl with watching Randy Newman kick “I Love L.A.” solo on the piano and listening to Vin Scully narrate a version of “Casey at the Bat” (with a nod to Kirk Gibson’s memorable 1988 World Series homer).

Formed in late 1997 or thereabouts by Darren Rademaker after Further (a group with his brother Brent) disbanded, The Tyde have quietly plugged away to produce three solid and singular records. Ten years have seen Rademaker’s outfit take on a variety of inspirations, from Spiritualized, the Byrds, and Felt, and wash them in the dry sunlight of California’s desert sea.

They’re playing tonight at the Echo as part of the Part Time Punks series at 10:00, opening for Phil Wilson. Mike Shulman of the Slumberland and Dropbeat record labels will be spinning records. A video for Brock Landers, the first single off of their third album Three’s Company (Rough Trade), is below. Be prepared to be transported to the good times, surfing, and beach cookouts that are paradigmatic images of a Southern California summer.

Fuckin’ right on…

The Rain Parade
May 25, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: L.A., Latinos, Music, Rock | Tags: , , , ,

Sorry for the recent absence from blogging. I spent late April working on completing a class and early May preparing for an important event at work. Then there’s the bout of writer’s block that I’m in the process of shaking off.

This May is loaded with memories. Among the most fleeting yet memorable is that of seeing Ben Knight (of Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde) pull Rain Parade records out of his bag to spin on Mirrored Audio Parkways, a show he co-hosted with Brandt Larson from 1995(?) to 1999 at 7:00 p.m. on Fridays at KXLU in Los Angeles. What stood out were the covers: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip showed colored balloons set against a purple-and grey tinged scene from late-19th or early-20th century; Beyond the Sunset had three neon-colored parakeets perched against a brilliant orange and blue background. Beyond seeing those covers and remembering the band’s name, the Rain Parade didn’t get much of a fair chance with me. It took me years to pick up anything by the band. But lack of means, scarcity, and memory slowly combined to make me want to find out more about those incomplete traces I had come across earlier. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready to listen until a few years ago, when I came upon a live recording of the Rain Parade from 1984, Perfume River, and was promptly taken in by what they were doing.

Their live recordings match up (and sometimes surpass) what you would hear on the original albums. That’s the case with “This Can’t Be Today”, which is why it’s worthwhile to pick up one of their live albums. A video follows, replete with carnival rides (with that amazing rocket/bobsled ride at the beginning), photography, L.A., childhood, dreamscapes, and the band dressed up with fuzzy animal heads (a la Animal Collective, avant la letre).

Alan McGee also seems to have made a visit to the past in his blog at the Guardian, where he wrote of the manner in which The Rain Parade’s approach helped verify his instinct that punk could extend itself into broader musical territory. For McGee, that meant slicing psychedelic rock with a punk rock blade, the impetus for his founding Creation Records. What resulted with the Rain Parade and their Paisley Underground cohorts was a way of introducing psych rock sensibilities of ease and melody into tight, disciplined punk song structures.

If there was any strand of punk rock that The Rain Parade seemed to have had any affinity for, it was the one cast out by Television. It’s a debt the L.A.-based group acknowledges on Perfume River, when they cover “Ain’t That Nothin'” in the middle of their set. They treat Television by softening the abrasive surfaces of Verlaine and Lloyd’s arrangements and allowing the song to take on an ease that the original version lacks. In the end, the cover brings Television a little closer to their own stated influences (Buffalo Springfield, Love) with this cover than in the original version, while respecting the spare economy that Television gives its song. But while the Rain Parade was a major part of a post-punk movement taking root in Los Angeles in the early 80s, their songs hold up well twenty-five years later.

A side-note: A node in the Rain Parade’s extended family is one Hope Sandoval, a Mexican-American from the outskirts of L.A.’s east side who in 1986 made the acquaintance of David Roback (who founded Rain Parade with his brother Steven and guitarist Matt Piucci) through his bandmate Kendra Smith. At that point, Roback had been estranged from the Rain Parade for two years. He had been working on Opal, a project with Smith, who had previously played bass with Dream Syndicate. Roback produced an unreleased record for Sandoval’s band, Going Home. Shortly after, Going Home dissolved and Sandoval joined Opal in a backup role. Kendra Smith’s sudden departure from the band after the release of Happy Nightmare Baby launched Hope Sandoval to a more visible role as lead singer. Opal’s collapse in 1989 resulted in Roback and Sandoval becoming Mazzy Star, a band whose run met with an unforeseen success that McGee succinctly summarizes in his post. No history of Chicanas and Latinos in rock is complete without Hope Sandoval. Jimmy Mendiola, please take note.

Here’s footage of Hope Sandoval fronting Opal in 1988, where the music sounds like a cross between the Rain Parade’s more straightforward material, with hints of the ethereal and reverb-bathed guitar work that would become Mazzy Star’s trademark a few years later.