LOS ANGELES ASIAN PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! I have a personal connection with Akira Boch and Tadashi Nakamura’s short documentary, Atomic Café: The Noisiest Corner in J-Town. This connection appears in the first thirty seconds of the film. So don’t blink. In the late 70s, my grandparents ran a restaurant in L.A. Chinatown, and every Saturday night, it featured obscure punk rock bands like the Go-Gos and Black Flag. The pertinent question is, where did these bands go after the show to unwind?
The Atomic Café was a simple diner at the corner of 1st Street and Alameda in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, founded by Ito and Minoru Matoba and handed over to their daughter Nancy, aka “Atomic Nancy,” in the 70s. From 1977 forward, the café was a notable gathering spot for the L.A. Punk Rock scene, frequented by the likes of Black Flag and X. Nancy recounts her time as hostess and manager and how she embraced the punk rock landscape.
“…a historical essay of The Atomic Café for the sake of posterity because of its role in the West Coast punk movement.”
The documentary serves as a historical essay of The Atomic Café for the sake of posterity because of its role in the West Coast punk movement. It features interviews with now Nancy Sekizawa and her daughter, Zen, as they recount its musical legacy and its ultimate close in 1989 and demolition in 2015. Also, interviewed are several former patrons providing color commentary of the atmosphere of that time.
The ten-minute documentary is pretty straightforward in presentation with talking head interviews, photos, and music featuring bands like The Down Town Boogie Woogie Band, Johanna Went, The Screamers, and more. A must-see for music historians, old-school punk fans, and any Asian-American who grew up in Los Angeles at that time.
Atomic Café: The Noisiest Corner in J-Town screened at the 2020 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
"…must-see for music historians, old-school punk fans, and any Asian-American who grew up in Los Angeles..."