Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

Proulx and Kollman Bring Jazz and Progressive Rock to San Pedro

John Proulx

When John Proulx arrives at the Grand Annex for his show on May 18, don’t be surprised if he’s carded. Although the jazz pianist and vocalist has been honing his craft for more than three decades and has performed with such luminaries as Natalie Cole, Michael Feinstein and Anita O’Day, the Michigan native is only 37 – and looks even younger.

“The older players in town often joke by saying things like, ‘I’ve got socks older than you,'” says Proulx, whose last name is pronounced “Proo.”

Still, he says he doesn’t mind being perceived as the new kid on the block. “I’m fortunate to play with a lot of veterans who have been in the business for years, and there’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from them,” he says.

One such veteran is jazz legend Nancy Wilson, for whom Proulx co-wrote a song called “These Golden Years” in 2006. The album on which it appears, Turned To Blue – which turned out to be Wilson’s final recording before her 2011 retirement – went on to win a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Proulx, who has performed live in San Pedro twice before, has recorded three albums of his own to date, and when he plays the Grand Annex with his trio, he says his set will feature originals from those recordings in addition to jazz standards. “There’ll be a mixture of swing, Latin, pop, funk and ballads that will truly have something for everyone, young and old,” he says.

The John Proulx Trio plays the Grand Annex (434 W. 6th St.) on Sat., May 18. A complimentary wine tasting begins at 6:45; the concert begins at 8 p.m. $20 advance tickets can be purchased at http://tinyurl.com/proulxtrio

To call Jeff Kollman busy would be an understatement. At press time, the “tour” section of his website listed gigs with eight different acts over an upcoming six-week period, including three with the instrumental progressive/fusion trio Cosmosquad, who will return to Alva’s Showroom on May 17.

This is standard practice for the Ohio-born guitarist, whose resume includes past stints with rock legends UFO, Michael Schenker and Glenn Hughes. Nowadays, Kollman multitasks as a member of prog-rock legends Asia Featuring John Payne, as well as the Bombastic Meatbats, an instrumental funk band anchored by drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot). He also currently dabbles in jazz (Tizer), classic rock (Chicago Transit Authority with ex-Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine) and blues (Bleeding Harp), in addition to leading his own Jeff Kollman Band and Jeff Kollman Trio.

“You don’t grow as a musician if you don’t constantly throw yourself into the fire and try new stuff with new people,” Kollman says of his many hats. “You never know when you’re going to meet that musical soul mate (who) can forever change the course of music history.”

When they take the stage at Alva’s, Cosmosquad – Kollman, drummer Shane Gaalaas and bassist Ric Fierabracci – will showcase material from the three studio albums they’ve released independently over the group’s 16-year career. Expect an invigorating “melting pot” of jazz harmony and modern heavy music, Kollman says.

“We’re influenced by just about everything,” he says. “Whether it be the funk of James Brown or epic power of (Austrian composer) Gustav Mahler, it’s something to draw from. The trick is to take something and make it your own.”

Cosmosquad plays Alva’s Showroom (1417 W. 8th St.) on Fri., May 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. spt

Clay Marshall is a San Pedro-based freelance music journalist whose work has appeared in Billboard, Guitar World and the L.A. Weekly, among others. He can be reached at portsounds@gmail.com.