(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Sacramento

“There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories”*…

In the late 1970s, Asian restaurants in California’s cities started booking some unlikely dinner entertainment: punk bands…

Bill Hong was a Cantonese immigrant dad in his late 40s, running a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood with his sister Anna Hong and her husband Arthur, when two young promoters approached him with a business proposition: What did Hong think about renting out the restaurant’s upstairs banquet hall on the evenings when it wasn’t being used?

It was 1979, and LA was struggling. The entire country had plunged into a deep recession just a few years prior, and now Chinatown and the city’s downtown areas were falling into disrepair. More recent Chinese immigrants had started moving to suburban enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley, bypassing Chinatown and its businesses completely; the non-Chinese customers who used to flock to the neighborhood for exotic chow mein dinners were now avoiding downtown altogether.

When Bill Hong said yes to the promoters, he was trying to be practical. He knew the restaurant needed more customers; maybe letting a few young bands play could help bring them in. He never could’ve foreseen that his family’s establishment, the Hong Kong Low—located on a small street called Gin Ling Way—would become a focal point for a seminal music scene: West Coast punk.

Nor did he know how many times the restaurant’s toilet would get smashed in the process.

Hong’s restaurant—known as the Hong Kong Café to showgoers—was far from the only Asian restaurant to incubate the California punk scene. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, from Sacramento to San Francisco, some of the state’s most important punk venues were actually Chinese and Filipino restaurants. At eateries like Sacramento’s China Wagon and Kin’s Coloma, or San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, now-iconic bands such as X, the Germs, and Black Flag played some of their most memorable early gigs. The Hong Kong wasn’t even the first place in LA’s Chinatown to host gigs: the restaurant across the courtyard, Madame Wong’s, had already been doing the same for at least a year…

Su Tissue of the Suburban Lawns performing at the Hong Kong Café, 1979. Photograph by John Brian King.
Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys, performing at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens—otherwise known as the “Fab Mab”—in 1979 (the same year he ran for mayor of SF). Photograph by Mike Murphy.
Withdrawl, known as Sacramento’s best local punk band at the time, playing at Kin’s Coloma, 1981

Tour the venues: “How Chinese Food Fueled the Rise of California Punk,” from Madeline Leung Coleman (@madelesque)

* “Punk rock, when I was a part of it, was called ‘the underground.’ There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories.” – Mary Harron

###

As we muse on the mosh, we might recall that this date in 1979 was “Fleetwood Mac Day” in Los Angeles, as the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (about 6 miles northwest of the Hong Kong Café).

source

%d bloggers like this: