Some say it was inevitable, others ask how many “Okes” will there be, but most are letting out a resounding and collective“Yes (biting lip and clenching fist)!” Eastside Luv presents MorrisseyOke™. For one night, patrons of the Boyle Heights bar will be given the chance to try out their rush hour traffic and shower song renditions of Smiths and Morrissey classics in front of a live drinking audience. In the same tradition of MariachiOke™, there will be no bouncy balls or highlighted words for your lyrical comfort; ESL adheres to the “Sink or Swim” policy. Although, I believe most of the attendees and participants are bilingual or trilingual: speaking English, maybe Spanish, but certainly fluent in Moz lyrics. So you won’t be entirely alone on the stage. But when singing along with Morrissey, are you ever really?
A Four Legged Painting
If you are strolling through Chinatown this weekend after a day’s search of bulk size amounts of fortune cookies and hole in the wall dim sum, it would be a welcomed relief to walk into the many air conditioned art spaces hidden around the freeway and metro-rail enclosed portion of the city. Galleries are popping up in the area with hoorahs and a few boos. Chinatown is in the process of redevelopment/revitalization and there are some concerns about keeping the historical and cultural heritage intact. But nevertheless, amongst the debate of gentrification, good artwork is being made and exhibited for your eyes to feast on…if they are not already full on “Wok Kok”, (I know, cultural difference but still a little alarming) off the corner of Alpine and New High St.
ESL patron channeling his inner Linda Rondstadt
Mariachi Plaza has been home to many troubadours, seeking to serenade the ears of passersby with their songs for sale. Across the way, this tradition has held true in the local neighborhood bar, Eastside Luv, a familiar and favorite spot of mine and many, away from the “Los Angeles” of late but with an added interactive twist to los Canciones de su Padre. For several months now, the barra monument to many things Mexican and Mexican American culture has been hosting “Mariachi-Oke!” Yes, it is what it sounds like, and it is the first and third Sunday of every month. Patrons step on to the stage and attempt to belt out the ballads of Beltran, Negrete, Gabriel, and Fernandez without fear and hopefully, without forgetting the lyrics. There are no bouncing balls highlighting the sing along words; it’s a sink or swim policy that ESL holds, which has filtered out the amateurs, but not always the hard of hearing. Not to worry, though, you are in more than good hands with the Trio Ellas, the live mariachi music accompaniment who will toss you a lifesaver from time to time when you feel, and when the audience lets you know, that you’re drowning.
The three very talented young ladies Natalie Cortez (Guitarron), Suemy Gonzalez (Violin), and Stephanie Amaro (Guitar) make up this trio. Every other Sunday night, they explore the range of mariachi music, from somber love songs to ballads of brokenhearted lovers scorned by cheating spouses. Emotional catharsis is music, and very much mariachi. The group took some pre show time on the ESL patio to chat with us about life, prison, and the love of music.
Zoning out at Mariachi Plaza, I look around the newly built Eastside Gold Line Extension while waiting patiently for Tejano turned Angelino, Vincent Valdez, who last year exhibited in LACMA’s “Chicano Visions”, a collection of Cheech Marin’s amassed Chicano artwork. Behind me, the sun collides with downtown skyline, and in front me, appears the modest Valdez, in plaid with portfolio walking up First Street. We meet at the venue for his latest solo show “An Evening with Vincent Valdez”, hosted by Boyle Height’s own Eastside Luv. Shaking hands for the first time, two things strike me: the artist is incredibly friendly, having a warm and welcoming disposition (I had always heard myths of San Antonian hospitality, now I know them to be true), and that he vaguely resembles a Chicano Edward Norton.
We step into the space; the red of overhead lights bleed onto the bar, stage, and cinémex posters. Valdez moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and has since been integrating LA themes and lifestyles into his artwork. He sits ready to talk about developing projects, and his new city muse. “Right now, I am really excited about making this LA series,” Valdez explains enthusiastically. He is currently working on a new show entitled Burn, where the artist sets city landmarks a blaze, from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica Pier.
G: You have been in LA for quite sometime, would you consider yourself an Angelino?
V: You know, I think that I sort of claim myself as both a San Antonio native always and as an Angelino. I think I have put in a major amount of time and work here in Los Angeles, and most importantly, than anything else, I really sort of seen a significant influence in my work as far as the city and the neighborhoods have in my work. I have seen it start to enrich a lot of the imagery I have been working with in my most recent work while being here.