The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, an organization I've had the pleasure of working with for almost three years, is never short on spellbinding performing arts events. Within the grounds of the Center, located in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, is the James Irvine Japanese Garden. This special space would play host to the JACCC's Little Tokyo Garden Concert Series. 2018 would mark the 4th season of this event and showcase the musical talents of four very unique artists. Sunday nights through the month of July were fun to say the least.
The series' producer was Rani DeLeon, who I have worked with before: a great guy, the coolest of cool (spot him later on in an image with a dog). Friend, and the Vice President of Programs at the JACCC, Alison De La Cruz would serve as the event's emcee.
7.8 - Kelsey Lu
The series kicked off with the soulful sounds of cellist, guitarist and vocalist, Kelsey Lu. As Alison described it, the evening allowed guests to "pick their own sonic adventure," meaning they were free to sit where they pleased. It made for a very relaxed atmosphere and the Garden would shine as an intricate character in the evening's experience.
Each night of the Series would feature a DJ from Dublab, a non-profit radio station in LA. Said DJ would provide tunes as guests entered and during intermission. The first DJ of the Series was "Teebs", Mtendere Mandowa.
In addition to all this bliss, there was an appearance by singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, all around awesome musician, Skrillex. Great first night to start things off:
Week 2 would feature the indie-rock stylings of California native, Miya Folick. In accompaniment, eight modern interpretive dancers shaped the mood of the evening and performance. Before her first set, the dancers were stationed around the Garden and moved at will to repeating vocal chants on a small speaker box nearby. Guests would peruse the space as if looking at sculptures in a gallery. After that, they simply rocked the house.
DJ for the evening was Christina 'Lady C' G:
Two very sweet moments would conclude the evening. First, Miya and her band were celebrating their three year "bandiversary." From a little bit of Google and Wikipedia, I learned that Miya started the band via Tinder. In her profile she wrote, "looking for band." Classic.
Secondly, during the reception, a young man approached Miya with a piece of artwork. It was a print containing Japanese calligraphy or "shūji." The man was an artist with a studio nearby, just outside of the Garden. He said he heard the sound of her music and it inspired him. He stopped his work to create the print, and walked over to the JACCC to find Miya and present it to her as a gift. Are you kidding me?
The third night of series shifted the tone into "chill" with the performance of vocalist, guitarist, LA-native, Kadhja Bonet. Her performance contained one of my favorite moments from the Series. As an encore, she took a request from the audience for a song to cover. She obliged with an a cappella rendition of The Beatles classic, "Yesterday." So much soul.
Dublab's DJ for this night: Frosty:
The series ended with an evening of completely improvised sets by mixing artist and DJ, Moses Sumney or Faux Mo. Syncopation, looping tracks, claps, sound effects, swooning vocals, he did it all. At one point he made bird sounds. I had a moment thinking, "that legitimately sounds like a flock of seagulls right now."
In his 2nd act, he was accompanied by cellist, Keith Tutt II. Moses' work sends you adrift, so much so that even he didn't know how long his first set had gone. It wasn't until Alison had to signal him from off-stage to say the 45 minutes had completed. It was a testament to how he could keep creating sound and keep an audience engaged seemingly endlessly.
Last DJ for the Series was Daedelus, Alfred Darlington: