Sometimes cultural heritage months for minorities have a way of celebrating the past while inadvertently ignoring the present. Typically, something like Asian Pacific American Heritage Month focuses on a history lesson about a rich group of cultures but neglects to mention how the mainstream virtually ignores Asian Americans for the other 11 months of the year. A prime example of that continues to be our local music scene. Most of the time, being an Asian American musician in OC where most of your peers are white makes your presence on stage seem like a novelty. Even amongst other POC bands, Asians are often relegated to the role of a supporting cast member, hidden in the background.
This year, a local concert series is combating that stereotype. In honor of APAHM, local musician collectives moonroom and Redacted teamed up to present a full month of showcases starring Asian American fronted bands throughout OC, Long Beach and LA. Starting last week at The Continental Room in Fullerton and continuing tonight in LA at The Smell, this six show series including bands like Low Leaf, King Kang, Bones Like Snowflakes and Wasi was created to highlight Asian Americans not only contributing to local music, but taking center stage.
“Putting a showcase together that has Asian Americans very much in the forefront hopefully has a tangible effect for bookers and venues and people within the community to realize that there’s a lot of us out there who are doing this,” says moonroom’s founder— a Vietnamese-American, Tustin-bred artist who prefers only to be known as ETA.
You’d think that in a place as culturally diverse as Southern California, this type of show wouldn’t even be out of the ordinary. But ETA says when people really start to look at the same handful of all-white bands get picked to play the same local venues and appear on the same bills over and over again, it’s hard not to see the level of hipster cronyism that has plenty of minority musicians feeling left out.
“One specific incident that really frustrated me was a Lunar fest in Chinatown last year. There were two prominent LA publications showcasing one of the stages in Chinatown,” ETA says. “They put on a showcase with four bands in Chinatown for the Lunar Fest and they booked three and a half full white bands [and no Asians in any of the bands]...That pissed the hell outta me, man. Make an effort!”
After starting moonroom last year with the idea of curing a showcase that catered to minorities playing a variety of genres around the LA area, ETA says the biggest revelation was how many Asian-fronted bands came out of the woodwork when he started looking for them and bringing them together. Soon it was clear that showcase series needed to be expanded to more than just a couple shows. Even bands he booked on the first show at Continental—which featured Polartropica, Lions!, Past Hype and Phoebe’s Guitar—were shocked to see how many shows the moonroom and Redacted collectives were able to put on.
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“We were hanging out with some of the bands after the first show and a lot of them were also saying ‘woah I can’t believe there’s that many bands out there,’” ETA says. “It hopefully gives people inspiration that they could have their own project and not just be the background supporting member of a band.”
Tonight’s show features sets from Genevieve Artadi, Wasi, Sir. Kami, and DJ Argumus Prime. With two more shows to go at Los Globos in LA on May 26 (switched from old location at the Troubadour) and Que Sera in Long Beach on May 29, make sure to mark them on your calendar and see the talent you’ve been missing. And on June 21, moonroom returns to the Continental Room as part of Fullerton Day of Music for another awesome lineup of handpicked local bands.
Even though the showcases were launched during APAHM, moonroom’s goal is to do continue having more diverse showcases all year round to remind us that local music is a product of all cultures, not just one. “Hopefully there’s a strong turnout for these shows,” ETA says. “If they come for the showcase hopefully their perception of it transcends into ‘Woah this music is really good,’ regardless of who’s playing.”
Tonight's Asian Pacific American Showcase at The Smell features Genevieve Artadi, Wasi, Sir. Kami, and DJ Argumus Prime for full details, click here.