Hermosa’s two-fisted punch: “Jazz v. Punk”

Former Minuteman Mike Watt (center) with filmmakers Brendan Hirsch, Garrett Barghash, Michelle Crispin, and Julie Nunis

Hermosa’s Jazz, punk legacy to be featured at MB film fest

“Jazz v. Punk”—I think it’s a draw

by Bondo Wyszpolski

The Florana International Film Festival takes place Friday and Saturday atop the Manhattan Village Mall parking structure with the same 25-30 short films each evening. One of the highlights of the event was shot mainly in Hermosa Beach: “Jazz v. Punk.”

The nearly 40-minute film essentially asks one question, but it’s a big one: How is it that a 1.4 square mile town was home to two seemingly opposite styles of music?

Directed by Julie Nunis and working from a script and/or storyline by Michelle Crispin, “Jazz v. Punk” was originally to be focused on the Lighthouse, key to the West Coast jazz scene, which Howard Rumsey put on the map beginning in 1949. It also intended to put its high beams on Ozzie Cadena (who in the 1950s produced jazz artists on the East Coast) and his wife, Gloria. The two of them promoted jazz for decades at the Lighthouse and other South Bay venues. But their son, Dez, proved to be the fly in the ointment and the catalyst for a larger scope. Despite being raised in a jazz-filled household, Dez gravitated towards punk rock and became a key member of Black Flag, the group that burst out of Hermosa during the late 1970s.

Dez Cadena being interviewed for “Jazz v. Punk”

Suddenly the filmmakers had a whole new angle to explore, and they jumped on it, interviewing Lighthouse old timers, people who remember going to the Lighthouse to soak in the music, and members of the early punk bands such as Mike Watt (Minutemen), Robert Hecker (Redd Kross), Earl Liberty (Circle Jerks), and, yes, Dez Cadena (later of the Misfits). Fletcher Dragge is on hand to represent Pennywise, who’ve now carried the mantle of Black Flag and other groups far into the current century.

Local notables appearing on camera include former Hermosa Beach Councilman George Schmeltzer, Spyder surf founder Dennis Jarvis, music promoter Jani Lange, former Hermosa Historical Museum director Bradley Peacock, and photographer Chris Miller.

The film’s narrator, Spot, describes Black Flag’s riot during their Concerts in the Park performance at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach as a defining moment for him — and maybe for lots of city officials and young skateboarders as well.

“Jazz v. Punk” narrator SPOT (looking like Francis Ford Coppola) with the film crew. Back row: Brendan Hirsch, Michelle Crispin, Ryan Cartee, and Julie Nunis; front row: Austin Nunis, and Garrett Barghash

The verdict, as implied by the “Jazz v. Punk” title? Both genres of music (in their respective heydays) were rebellious, often spontaneous, and played music on their own terms. If that seems difficult to comprehend, just drop Thelonious Monk or John Coltrane on the turntable and crank up the volume.

“Jazz v. Punk” was originally the Mentor Project for the 2018 Sunscreen Film Festival West, an annual festival co-directed by Julie Nunis and Robert Enriquez. The film was shot over eight months, using local student filmmakers. It’s an impressive documentary that makes one realize that, despite its small size, in music Hermosa Beach has punched well above its weight. For more information, go to Instagram @floranafest or contact the promoters at nppfloranafestival@gmail.com. ER

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Written by: Bondo Wyszpolski

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