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A Play By Play Account of Trying to Busk at Abbot Kinney’s First Friday Event

9 Aug

By Thu Tran of Ampersand

(Note: All times are approximate)

8:00pm – We arrive at Abbot Kinney’s First Friday.  The street is crowded with cars, tourists, drunks, food trucks, etc…  We pull the car off to the side and unload our equipment in front of The Place LA.  Melissa and I set up while Rachel goes to find parking.

8:10pm – It is loud.  The sidewalk is so crowded that it is hard to walk.  I am carrying a guitar, a microphone stand, an amplifier, and a suitcase; trying to join the flow of pedestrian traffic feels like jumping in on a game of double dutch.

8:13pm – I see Will Forte (SNL, MacGruber) walk by singing Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind”

8:15pm – Our set-up is modest: a two channel amp, one microphone on a boom-stand, and one guitar.  There is so much foot traffic, though, that it’s difficult to find any place to set up without blocking the sidewalk.  So one of the gracious guys from The Place LA goes into a neighboring shop and asks if we can set up right under their overhang and play a little music.  The lady in the store says, “yes.”

8:30pm – Melissa is setting out the usual promotional material for Stop & Listen LA and Rachel is still looking for parking.  I play a few warm-up songs to test the sound.  Throngs of people rush by.  Some people give an occasional glance and smile.  I finish my first song and Dave from The Place LA turns to me and says “That was great!”

8:35pm – Midway through my second song, a man comes out of the store and says, “Hey you can’t play here, we’re going to get a ticket!”  I tell him that a woman in the store said it was okay for us to play here, but we would be more than willing to stop playing and leave.  I believe I made this very clear to him.  He says, in a less than cordial tone, “The cops are going to give us a ticket if you don’t leave right now!”  I tell him to calm down and that we are leaving.  He says “Good, then get out!” The man was almost a caricature of himself: a burly shop-keep angrily shooing away those pesky hippie-kids who are always strumming their damned Indigo Girls songs in front of his store!  Anyway, I obliged and said politely, “No need to freak out, man, I just told you that we are leaving.  Sorry to cause any inconvenience.”  He repeats himself, “Well get out, then!”

8:45pm – Rachel is still looking for parking.

9:00pm – Melissa eats a pastrami sandwich while we try to decide if it was worth the 40 minute cross-town drive to play music for 5 minutes.

9:10pm – Ah ha!  Melissa sees another one of SaLLA’s affiliated food trucks, WorldFare BusTaurant, and runs across the street to ask if we can play at their truck.

9:25pm – Rachel comes back from looking for parking.  She is, understandably, frazzled.  We proceed to lug all of our equipment across the street, weaving through traffic, a la Frogger.

9:35pm – World Fare is a double-decker food truck that is hoping to one day operate the top level of their bus as a sit down patio.  They are figuring out some logistics to making that happen, and, though they can’t have customers on top of their bus yet, they allow us to play music on the top level.  The owner lowers the stairs down, and people start to crowd around, demanding to go up to the second level.  He calmly explains that he can’t have customers on the bus yet, but that musicians will be going up there to entertain them as they eat.  The crowd parts as someone in the crowd yells, “Move! The musicians are coming through!”  For a brief moment I feel special.  Not paparazzi-celebrity-special.  Just the kind of special you feel when you are driving by in the carpool lane while everyone else is stuck in traffic.

9:50pm – We are on top of a double-decker bus looking down at Abbot Kinney.  There are crowds of people as far as the eye can see.  There is a gridlock of cars beneath us.  From up here, the commotion becomes a distant buzz.

10:00pm – We set up the amp and start to play from atop the World Fare Bus.  People look up and point.  They take pictures.  A few people dance.  Our 45-watt, acoustic amplifier is cranked up to compete with the live DJ pumping dance tunes from the club across the street.  We are mostly drowned out by the noise of the crowds and the music from the DJ and the honking car horns, but we reach a few people, and that is satisfying.  I think people mostly liked the sight of someone playing guitar on top of a bus.  It was very U2 (but not), you know?

10:30pm – Someone from the World Fare Bus comes up and tells us that the cops are shutting the bus down for having a live band without a permit.

10:45pm – We are in the car, all of our equipment re-packed in the trunk, and we are driving home.  We are slightly confused, slightly annoyed, and slightly defeated.  We roll the window down as a shirtless man runs down the street, brandishing a skateboard, and screaming profanities at the top of his lungs.  Nobody stops him.

The whole evening was frustrating, to say the least.  According to, First Fridays is a chance for “The neighborhood merchants [to] come together to feature the best artists, gifts, products and music. […] It’s a way to experience what Abbot Kinney Boulevard is all about.” And according to Mike Newhouse, the Community Officer for the Venice Neighborhood Council, they “created this walkable community event as a way to support the businesses and strengthen the feel of Abbot Kinney (via DiscoverLosAngeles).”

First Fridays were created to promote the community and what it has to offer.  At heart, its values are completely in line with that of SaLLA.  Both entities want people to slow down and look at what is around them.  To look, listen, taste, and experience the unique, independent personality of Los Angeles. And yet, it was a supremely difficult, obstacle-filled ordeal to even provide free music for an uninterrupted hour.

One might think that SaLLA’s mission of providing music and art to the community is a simple one.  But my experience this evening showed me that it is anything but; it is an uphill battle. People in Los Angeles are running at a brisk, sometimes frantic, pace.  Even when they are trying to HAVE FUN (i.e. going to Abbot Kinney’s First Fridays), they are fighting for parking, running to the front of the food truck line, honking at pedestrians… The mood of recreation in Los Angeles is, often times, anything BUT recreational.  “I am going to have fun and be relaxed, but only if I have the MOST fun and am the MOST relaxed BEFORE everyone else!” is kind of the mentality.

This is not anyone’s fault.  I am not angry at the Venice Police for doing their jobs.  I am not angry at Abbot Kinney for providing a popular community event.  I am not angry at Los Angeles for being the breeding ground of innovative dining, music, and art.  I am, altogether, not angry.  I am simply renewed in my conviction that Stop & Listen LA is an essential part of making Los Angeles a city we can actually be proud to live in.

Edge Magazine Launches & features Stop & Listen LA

2 Aug

August 1st marked the Launch of the new online magazine: Edge!   The magazine founded by Iman Milner & Ashley Nguyen highlights the achievements of minorities in Entertainment & Leadership.  I feel really fortunate to have been featured in this fantastic line up of talented artists in the community.  Thank you Edge Magazine for your support!!

Melissa Flavia is as unassuming a warrior as ever. She is calm, poised, ethereal and approachable, but not in a way in which one can assume that she is complacent or boring.  On this night she is gearing up to perform in front of a sort of “meals on wheels” operation. The venue is ‘Leo’s Taco Truck’, simply named for what it is, a food truck parked on a corner in Pasadena, CA that sells, well, tacos. Flavia gives a sweet hello to my partners and I, takes out her guitar and begins to play. Customers of Leo’s at first seem skeptical about Flavia’s presence but quickly become appreciative—she is by all means, captivating. One by one, the once reluctant passerbys fill Flavia’s version of the street performer’s hat: take out Chinese food boxes. It quickly becomes apparent that there is nothing to dislike about this girl. A cross between Adele and Corrine Bailey Rae, Flavia’s voice is mature and calm, comforting even. She keeps a steady pace rocking like a folk singer twice her age while maintaining a youthful grunt or two—a glimpse of soul in a gypsy.

So, why is she here? Performing on what is certainly not a street buzzing with A&Rs  waiting with contracts to sign the next alternative music superstar, Flavia’s passion says otherwise.  She is here for her organization, Stop and Listen, LA which she created less than a year ago.  “Discovering new music (or artist) should be natural and organic…music was never meant to be a competition it’s an expression of truth”, she says before going on to explain that Stop and Listen is her attempt to give the underdogs a chance. In a world consumed by talent competitions, audition tapes on the internet and ridiculously expensive venue costs for live performers; Flavia gives herself and the other artists she has joined with, freedom to have their voices heard by whoever happens to be standing around and willing to slow down, listen and be moved.  “After going to so many open mics and hearing so many amazing artists there, who you don’t even hear about…there was a lot of frustration for the underdogs, you didn’t create your art for the pockets of venues” Flavia says, in a tone nothing at all reminiscent of her sweet demeanor, in this part of her vision she is matter of fact, blunt even. When I ask her why she chose the name, her fairy-like ethereal-ness returns, “Stop and Listen, LA” she says, “was aligned with what I believe it takes to truly be happy—following your passion, gratitude and recognizing the subtle things that add to your happiness”. But Flavia adds a chuckle when she admits to first thinking that it would just be a social experiment (she majored in Sociology at UCLA), “I was gonna just stop by random places and see if people would actually stop”. Her intensity returns as she continues “ overall it’s all about being more mindful in your life and slowing down in order to appreciate what’s right in front of you”, the very thing she has demanded people to do on this chilly night in LA.

Patrons of the taco truck already having received their meals stay mesmerized by Flavia’s beautiful tone and pleasant nature, a feat that shows one that she has far surpassed the realms of a more serious Sasha Baren Cohen movie. As I stand and watch, a looker-on says to me (noticing my pen fast at work), “it takes a lot of guts to do that”, I look up, “yeah” I say as the boy walks over to his father and later returns with a handful of dollars for Melissa. “She’s really good” he says. Flavia chuckles when I recount the story for her and exclaims “Really?”. With her eyes all lit up she says “I just hope that it lights up their day. There’s always something around you, you just have to see it” she continues, “I hope it adds to their happiness, it gives them an opportunity to think about how we live life so quickly, so blindly”. So why the taco trucks? Flavia again turns serious saying, “in LA we’re always following trends and there is so much happening underneath it all. I wanted to insert us in a trend of something that had been around longer and was in a way some people’s livelihood”. But why Leo’s specifically? The ethereal-ness returns as she simply answers “it’s my favorite”.  She continues, “at the end of the day all I wanted to do was sing, it was a part of my basic civil liberties to perform wherever I could be heard, and I thought other artist could do it too”.

To watch her speak of Stop and Listen, LA is to have a total experience of another human being, she is transparent and beautifully honest. She is quite simply that teacher who didn’t ever raise her voice but who you never thought to talk over. When I finally get her to just talk about herself she very articulately says, “ I’m a simple girl who likes to sing. I want to be free. I don’t want to be tied down to a venue or confined…so I sing on the street”.  As one would guess, Flavia names “life” as her biggest inspiration stating, “life itself. Everything is an art. People that I meet, the experiences I’ve had, knowing that my sensitivity and my emotions are a strength…all of it.” She smiles gently and finishes “my ultimate satisfaction comes in knowing that I’m continuing what I love to do”. And in that simple sentence lies Melissa Flavia, a girl living for what she loves and believes in…fighting for her creative license and singing for her happiness.

Check out:

Read the Original Article here:

Downtown LA Artwalk – Featured in ThePlaceLA

15 Jul

Check it! We got featured in ThePlaceLA!  Loved playing there! Awesome atmosphere & great food!

“Hey guys. Last Thursday, we participated in the Downtown LA Art Walk and it was a huge success! Our good friends Flavia and Matu from Stop & Listen LA gave the crowd an amazing performance. Please take the time to read what the project is all about and check out the wonderful performances they are doing in the Los Angeles area at We are very thankful for the turnout and all the good vibes we received. And now, we leave you with some photos from the event.”

The rest of our photos can be found on our Flickr page.

Blog Post from Vibra Optic ’73

2 Jun

Brain Jail

First of all I hope everyone had a great memorial day weekend, that it was relaxing and safe for everyone who owns a grill and an ice chest. And while we didn’t exactly get the chance to put either of these utensils to use, rest assured that our weekend was interesting and productive.
Lets start off with saturday, performing on the street in front of SLOW clothing store and the Vizzi Truck on Melrose Avenue. A special thanks to Melissa of Stop & Listen LA for setting everything up. We did run into couple of slight snags in the form of noise complaints during soundcheck. Nothing too major, though. And definately nothing that can’t be fixed, apparently by moving the piano about 4 feet in one direction. But seriously, who moves to Hollywood expecting peace and quiet? I know just the place for these people. Its got great scenery, a similarly moderate climate, more parking, and ofcourse, less noise. Its called Outside of LA. We were, however, fortunate enough to have a surprise cameo performance (that we didnt even know about) by a sweet old lady blowing bubbles onto our instruments as we attempted to play through our confusion. Overall we had a lot of fun and made a few new friends there and just may possibly play around those parts again, hopefully in the near future.
No sooner than we were off the street had we temporarily retired to watch Kobe rain on the parade that is the Steve Nash foundation with an onslaught of three’s, facing a vast variety of defensive challenges on the part of the Phoenix Suns. What a performance! Another special thanks to Melissa’s Dad for the San Miguel and the wonderful hospitality.
To read more check out:

Stop & Listen LA Video Series: Ray Argyle in Silverlake

24 May

Keep Playin’ Folks <3

23 May

Ray Argyle performed at Tacos Arizas!

7 May

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Stop & Listen LA @ The NELA Art Gallery Night

27 Apr

So…this was the first show that I had booked for Stop & Listen LA at The Cactus Gallery in Eagle Rock.  It was a lot of fun.  This video was created by Alter Eddie and featured Ken Christianson!  Check it out!

Photo Campaign

26 Apr

This past Saturday, I took test shots for a Photo Campaign I’d like to put together. 🙂  My dear friend, Michael Ngim took these –  there are many more to come. 😉

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Most times I find myself Singing to myself….

7 Apr