Chinatown Summer Nights

Where can you live music, food trucks, a dance floor, a beer garden AND a pillow fighting tournament?  You can find all of these things at the Los Angeles Chinatown Summer Nights.

The third annual Chinatown Summer Nights, hosted in the West and Central Plazas, kicked off on Saturday, July 28th.  The event is broken down into 3 installments, the second and third occurring on August 11th and August 25th from 5 P.M. until midnight.  Essentially, this event is one big party, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go, see, and participate in the festivities.

First off, the best way to get to the event is by public transportation, as parking in Downtown LA can be quite a hassle.  Take the Metro Gold Line to the Chinatown station, and the Plaza is only a short walk from there.  Since Metro has recently enacted late-night weekend hours, continuing operation until 2 A.M. on Fridays and Saturdays, getting to and fro should not be an issue.

Upon arriving at the plazas, the first thing you’ll notice will be the array of food trucks.  Food trucks have recently become very popular in Los Angeles, and will often be present at a variety of public cultural and recreational events, so it’s no surprise that the organizers of Summer Nights have also contracted the mobile eateries.  There is a great variety of culinary styles to choose from, including:

The Trailer Park Truck

DonChow Tacos

My personal favorite, Pigs Feet Under, which features an all pork menu.

Pork Belly Wrap

Also present at Summer Nights is an outdoor dance floor.  The dance floor is filled with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds ready to cut loose and have a great time.  I was only able to stay long enough to hear one of the three featured KCRW DJs, Anthony Valadez, but his music selection was amazing, and it even inspired me to go out and the dance floor and cut a few steps (well…almost).

Unfortunately, what seemed to make up a very large portion of the Summer Nights experience, the live music, was rather subpar.  While I admittedly only stayed long enough to see two bands perform, their musical prowess left me unimpressed, although one band did surprise me by including a french horn in their instrumentation.  It seems as if amateur rock bands (and audio technicians) cannot find the balance between how loud their instruments should be versus how loud they should be singing.  The balance always comes out poorly.

To provide entertainment between bands sets, a pillow fighting tournament was organized.  In this tournament, two opponents are pitted against each other on a ring made of 4 adjacent mattresses.  They are armed with one or two pillows, and have a certain amount of time (amount unknown) to knock their opponent from the ring or bring the opponent down to both knees (“One knee down, still around.  Two knees down, you’re out.”)

Right across from the stage is the beer garden, curated by the Eagle Rock Brewery.  The beer garden features Los Angeles area based brewing companies, each featuring two of their craft beers.  In general, if you are a beer fanatic, you should be able to find something here that will tickle your fancy (unless you’re into something like Natural Light…in which case, you may be out of luck).  There isn’t very much seating in the beer garden, so hopefully you don’t mind standing for a while.  There’s also a chance that you may also have to co-inhabit this space with someone who believes that the beer garden is also the de facto smoking section.  Hopefully this won’t deter you from beer tasting.

Summer Nights also features smaller scale cultural events, cooking demonstrations, and the bars, restaurants, and shops of the Plaza.  There’s a little bit of something for everyone, and it’s a great, family friendly way to spend a Saturday night.  I fully recommend checking it out.

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