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Friday, April 12, 2024

‘We do these shows for the community:’ Behind the Davis-based music organizers, Fallen Angels Collective

The founders discuss getting started, future goals and maintaining artistic integrity 

 

By MONICA ROBERTS — features@theaggie.org

 

Fallen Angels Collective’s first show, held during summer 2021, was just a backyard show organized by UC Davis alumnus Desmond Chu. As a former UC Davis KDVS events director and festival director, Chu’s connections with Davis students and community members helped him gather a crowd of almost 300 people at Fallen Angels’ (FA) first house show, which allowed their success to grow quickly, he said.

“I went to a house show before and met some bands, and they expressed interest and wanted to throw a show together for me,” Chu said.

After FA’s first show, Chu said requests from both performers and fans started to flood in. 

Chu partially attributes this quick success to the uniqueness of FA’s shows. He said that his style is heavily influenced by East Coast house concerts, since he participated in an internship in Washington D.C. during his time at UC Davis and attended a variety of house shows during his time there.

“I started to feel connected to the music scene in D.C. and the way they ran their house shows,” Chu said. “Their vibes inspired me to bring that same energy to Davis. All the house shows I have thrown through KDVS and Fallen Angels have been inspired by the template I got from D.C.”

Chu said he was astonished by the music diversity in the D.C. scene and how many bands had such unique performances, like one whose guitarist led their band like a maestro or a rapper who made smoothies on stage. 

Chu also admired how organized the D.C. scene’s house shows were, and has tried to bring that back to Davis with him.

“If I were to define Fallen Angels in one term I would say it is hyper-curated,” Chu said. “Everything is curated; the people that come, the venue, the sound, the vibes, even the bands. Before my house show organizing experience with KDVS, I had political campaign organization experience, which is where all the logistics came from.”

Brendan Carsel, the head of sales for Fallen Angels, reiterated that he believes part of the reason FA has gained so much success is because of Chu’s and Fallen Angels’ organization. 

“He thinks about these parties in depth, and his visions come to life,” Carsel said. “When [Chu] is organizing a show in advance, he will allocate certain positions and put it onto a spreadsheet. It’s pretty clear what you have to do, and it makes my job as a runner easy.”

Aramis Westfall, the sound coordinator for Fallen Angels, said that many of the positions Carsel referenced are filled by a volunteer system. 

“All of our shows have a revolving volunteer system,” Westfall said. “We set up the environment so nobody gets extremely rowdy. We have never had to clean up too much trash because when you have the right amount of volunteers, people feel like they shouldn’t destroy things.”

Chu said that FA always provides water at shows and strives to create an environment safe for attendees and non-disruptive for neighbors. Westfall said that a major requirement for FA shows is booking bands that play music that appeals to a broad audience. 

Breaking from its usual local in-home format, FA had their first venue show at The Scarlet Room at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento in March 2022.

Chu said when he began organizing shows less than a year ago, he didn’t expect to be able to host a venue show so soon. Each member of FA said that a big draw of branching out to Sacramento was because they were able to bring in a different audience to that show.

“For the Scarlet Room show, we sent out fliers around town so we could get people who usually don’t come to these shows to know that there’s something going on,” Westfall said. 

Although Chu said that the group is excited by their growth and success, he shared their plan to stay true to their roots in organizing small house shows. 

“When we get big to a certain point, we will be doing venue shows in the ‘front’ — promoting it publicly,” Chu said. “On the side, we would [continue] doing secret house shows just to make things more special. We want to avoid being overcrowded, for the fans and the neighbors.”

Chu said that each house show FA has planned takes about three months to orgorganize, while venue shows can be planned in about a month. He said that the time that goes into house shows is part of what makes them special.

“When you make it a full time gig it loses a lot of the luster, everything becomes a job,” Chu said. “A lot of our shows are special because we do them every three months or so. If I did them every week, it’s just like another show.”

Westfall said that the wait in between shows is also so that they can put more time and effort into them, since they want both fans and the bands to have the best possible experiences. 

“We want all the bands to know that we care about what’s going on,” Westfall said. “When it becomes work then the individual bands start to mold together and they’re not going to [feel like they] matter as much.” 

Fallen Angels Collective tries to emphasize the importance of community. Chu said that he sneaks a quote that can be read in both Mandarin and Cantonese and translates to “you will never know who you are going to see” into every advertisement poster because he wants to represent that FA’s shows are opportunities to connect with new people. 

“We do these shows for the community,” Westfall said.

The name Fallen Angels Collective comes from Chu’s personal connection with the director of the film Fallen Angels Wong Kar-wai. He explained that he is inspired by the themes Kar-wai writes about in his movies and wanted to pay tribute to Kar-wai in his own work. 

“Wong Kar-wai movies are about people being stuck in a routine, having their heart broken, dealing with depression, but they still find a way to get back up and live their life and find hope in the tiny things,” Chu said. “Even though they have been cast aside, they still have a second chance in life.”

 

Written by: Monica Roberts  — features@theaggie.org

 

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