Youth of America

Sean Carlson: Fuck Yeah For The Kids

I see this kid Sean Carlson leaning against the 1980 Chevy hatchback ("Hatchback, that's a type of car, right?" he says) he just bought for $150—$80 down!—and I wonder: Is he the first of something new, or the last of something already obsolete? Because they used to make a lot of kids like Sean—go get me my FlexYourHeadcomp, sonny—and maybe they don't make so many anymore, probably because they need so much energy to run. Hanging out at the old PCH club in Wilmington when At The Drive-In would play for just a few dozens, publishing thousands of his own zine at 14, taking two buses through skid row to intern at Epitaph just to find out how music is really made—that's just Sean charging up. The Fuck Yeah Fest he booked last year (all by himself from a desk in his dad's basement) turned Echo Park into the hipster teenage Altamont, super-concentrating 2,000 kids into four clubs to see 25 bands from OC and LA, gallery shows by 40 artists, a standup comedy night, and then an afterparty that crash-landed at 5 a.m. at the Arts In Action space, where people were still laughing softly as they passed out into sleep.

So you can see why he feels he hasn't yet done enough: besides the bands and art and vaudeville villainy at this July's coming Fuck Yeah Two, Sean's printing a zine, to showcase the best writing of the under-21 set across the Southland, and besides the zine, Sean's taking $1 off each $6 admission to reopen a new and improved version of the long-shut-down and long-missed PCH club somewhere in Long Beach, with original PCH mastermind Alex Maciel to come back out of retirement to run it. That's huge news: like the freestyle nights at the old Koo's, the PCH was the in-the-know space that birthed lots of the best local music you love right now. So Sean's thinking farther ahead in the future than anybody twice his age—ah, youth!—and when you smile proudly as your own children show you beats they made or songs they wrote or photos they took or paintings they painted, well, that's probably not gonna be thanks to public school. That will be because of Sean, who by that time will probably be America's president. If he's old enough to run by then.


73! I feel like an old man who hangs out in the park and eats dinner at Denny's at 4! Look at my face, don't I look worn out?

Tough luck. You gotta deal with it—we're here, and what are we gonna do, just accommodate you? People say the '60s were better, the '70s were better, but they focus on the quality later, and focus on the negative when something is actually happening. That's what I think is sad.

Where else is a band that plays shoegazer rock gonna play with heavy metal? That idea—mixing music and art and writing, putting hip-hop with rock & roll bands—it could be a terrible idea and it could fail, or it could be something new and successful. I honestly like being optimistic.

Exactly, and if I don't drink too much whiskey, I'll make it through this one.

Because I saw a lot of kids weren't doing anything. When I was 14, and probably when you were 14, kids did zines, put on shows—kids were productive. Times have changed. Laziness is killing youth, bottom line. It's the mentality that someone else will do it. I grew up with a punk rock ethic—I do it for myself and think for myself. That's my main goal for Fuck Yeah Fest: to give kids confidence to get their work out. "If he's 19 and can do this, I'm 17 and I can do this, too!"

Exactly. I don't want someone coming in to have the bands I love play a moneymaking endeavor for someone else. This really is for the community—all of Los Angeles. Because art doesn't usually mix with music and youth doesn't mix with, like, "modern" culture—this brings all the different parties together.

When you're young, you're ignored. I've been through it a million times. For a band, it's a little easier, but for art? If you don't know someone in the quote/unquote "art scene," it's really hard. A lot of art in galleries is poor—but they know someone. It's sad. There is not support for the young art world—though people like Aaron Rose and Mariko Jones are all about the kids, and it makes me happy that people like that exist.

The reason I'm doing it is because I write myself, and I feel it's just as important as art and music, but the people who just write have no way to expose their work. So we're printing a full-size zine to go with the fest: 64 pages, 3,000 copies, given away to everyone in attendance. All the info for submission is on the website. I've got about a dozen stories so far—I'm hoping to get a good amount, and at the end, we'll publish 15.

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