Metro Presents: Môfo bringing Brazilian dance music to Union Station

Mark your calendars: Metro Presents Môfo, the only band in Los Angeles that plays in the traditional “pé de serra” style of forró. (Forró–pronounced fo-HAW–is accordion-driven, hip-swiveling dance music originating from the northeast of Brazil.) Check out the video above for a sample of forró sound from a flash mob in Germany.

The band will play in the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station from 8 to 10 p.m. on Friday, August 22. There will be dance instruction offered at 8 and 9 p.m. and Môfo will play two 45-minute sets beginning at 8:15 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. The performance is free and dancing is welcome!

Let us know you’re going to the event by RSVP-ing on Facebook. You can get to Union Station via Metro Bus, Rail and several municipal buses. Find routes and connections with Trip Planner. Directions and parking info are also available at metro.net/unionstation.

Metro Presents: the California Feetwarmers perform at Union Station on August 8

Next up in Metro Presents: The California Feetwarmers bring their unique blend of New Orleans jazz, swing and ragtime to Union Station on Friday, August 8. Make sure to mark your calendars so you don’t miss them!

The Feetwarmers will perform two 45-minute sets in the Union Station waiting room at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The performance is free to the public and dancing will be welcome.

Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use the Trip Planner for routes and connections.

Metro Presents is one year old!

Metro Presents—Metro’s program of free arts and cultural events at the iconic Union Station—turns one year old this month! Everyone is invited to experience this stunningly beautiful LA landmark through art, architecture, music, dance and more.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll bring you some tremendous talent, including contemporary jazz by Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH TONIGHT (7-9pm, Fred Harvey Room), and swing and ragtime by The California Feetwarmers on Friday 8/8 (4-6pm, Waiting Room). And hey, why not come via train, bus or bike? You can even pick up a commemorative Union Station 75th anniversary TAP card!

From music and dance to film screenings and beyond, Metro Presents programs were conceived as a way to creatively activate the station for existing customers, and also as a way to encourage people to try out transit.

We’re so thankful to all the awesome artists, musicians and organizations we’ve had the pleasure of working with* (scroll down for full list). See photos below for a sampling of events we hosted with them over the past year……..

Our very first event took place in the historic ticketing hall—a screening of the neo-noir “Chinatown,” a partnership with the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles.  Photo: LA Observed

Our very first event took place in the historic ticketing hall—a screening of the neo-noir “Chinatown,” a partnership with the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. Photo: LA Observed

G.G. NineNet filled the grand waiting room space with jazz

G.G. NineNet filled the grand waiting room space with jazz

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Reminder: Metro Presents Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH at Union Station July 31

Don’t forget, critically acclaimed pianist, composer, producer, DJ and live re-mixer Mark de Clive-Lowe will be celebrating his new album CHURCH with a free performance at the Fred Harvey Room in Union Station this Thursday, July 31. Admission is free and will be on a first come, first served basis. Dancing will be encouraged.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m. There will be a DJ set at 7 p.m. and Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH begins at 8 p.m.

The event is being presented with Mercado La Paloma.

Metro Presents: contemporary jazz by Mark de Clive-Lowe at Union Station July 31

Don’t miss the next Metro Presents event: jazz and dancing with Mark De Clive-Lowe and his musicians at Los Angeles Union Station on Thursday, July 31. The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. inside the Fred Harvey Room and will be free to the public. Make sure to bring your dancing shoes!

The performance is part of Metro Presents, the agency’s ongoing program of arts and cultural events at the iconic station. It is presented in partnership with Mercado La Paloma. Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use Trip Planner for routes and connections. Car and bicycle parking are also available on site.

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Reflections on Union Station: an essay by D. J. Waldie

waldie_ceiling
On the occasion of Union Station’s 75th anniversary, Metro created a special commemorative publication, Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA, featuring eight written and five photographic essays that celebrate the station by authors John C. Arroyo, William D. Estrada, Stephen Fried, Rafer Guzman, David Kipen, Marisela Norte, D. J. Waldie, and Alissa Walker. The book is on sale now at the online Metro Store. All essays are posted on The Source. The series was edited by Linda Theung, an editor and writer based in Los Angeles.

Union Station: Time and Again
by D. J. Waldie

If it’s possible for a place to have memories of its own, then Union Station in Los Angeles is such a place. It’s also the hub of Metro’s regional transit system and a railroad terminal—people hustle through Union Station for those reasons—but the patient sojourner who sits in one of the throne-like chairs in the waiting room or steps into the adjacent patios inevitably slips out of the everyday and into the station’s own time.

Time was when a giant sycamore shaded native Tongva elders debating village disputes a few hundred feet from where the station’s tracks would be laid. The arrival of Spanish colonists from Sonora and Sinaloa in 1781 swept aside the elders and the village. The sycamore lived on—more than sixty feet high, spreading nearly two hundred feet—until it was felled in 1892.

Later still, the neighborhood that grew up around the sycamore was so culturally diverse that Chinese herbalists dealt from clapboard shops next to tenements occupied by exiled pacifist Russian Molokans and refugees from Mexico’s revolutions. The shops and the tenements were razed by 1936 for the building of Union Station.

Some of the Mexican refugees had already become vendors on Olvera Street. Some of the Chinese moved to New Chinatown not far away. By design, the builders of Union Station reframed the image of Los Angeles for tourists. Some of their first sights would be fantasies of exoticism.

To arrive at the station most travelers would have passed through the San Fernando Valley, quartered into orchards and ranches in the 1940s and subdivided into suburban house lots in the 1950s. As they neared the station, their train would have followed the trace of the Los Angeles River, an open wash in 1939, but by 1945, already a concrete-lined channel in the making.

Arriving passengers in those years would have stepped down from their Pullman car, walked the echoing tunnel beneath the tracks, and entered the station—a space both monumental and deferential, designed to impress and reassure. Outside, Los Angeles sprawled and brawled and offered the traveler the option, if he was willing to pay the price, to endlessly reinvent himself.

Inside, in the minute or two it took to walk beneath the painted ceilings and past the waves of colored tile on the walls, Union Station would have had just enough time to say to the new arrivals, “You’ve come to Los Angeles where brilliant light is dominant, but see how it’s tempered by this space, these fountains, and these flowering trees.” The travelers’ first experience of Los Angeles would have been that transformed brightness.

North Patio

North Patio

South Patio

South Patio

Commuters arriving at Union Station today aboard the Metro Red and Purple Lines or Metrolink and Amtrak trains pass through that same light, unchanged in seventy-five years. Marble blocks in the floor are grooved from the tread of vacationers, aspiring starlets, and the unremarked mass of those embracing or abandoning Los Angeles—and, if you cannot put yourself in their shoes, you can put yourself in the light they encountered. It puts you outside of ordinary time. It’s still the light of nowhere else but Union Station.

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Reflections on Union Station: an essay by Rafer Guzman

guzman_5_attract_UnionStn_01_resize On the occasion of Union Station’s 75th anniversary, Metro created a special commemorative publication, Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA, featuring eight written and five photographic essays that celebrate the station by authors John C. Arroyo, William D. Estrada, Stephen Fried, Rafer Guzman, David Kipen, Marisela Norte, D. J. Waldie, and Alissa Walker. The book is on sale now at the online Metro Store. All essays will also be posted on The Source in the coming weeks. The series was edited by Linda Theung, an editor and writer based in Los Angeles.

Six Degrees of Union Station
by Rafer Guzman

Stick around Los Angeles long enough, and you’re bound to end up in a movie. It’s a rule that applies mostly to humans, but as any location scout can tell you, it’s also true about buildings.

Union Station clearly has a face and figure made for the movies. Its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and Art Deco ornamentation—a stylistic combination nicknamed Mission Moderne—has always made it a distinctive presence. Yet it hasn’t become as famous as, say, the ubiquitous Capitol Records building, the cylindrical tower at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street seen in too many movies to count, or the Griffith Observatory, immortalized as the site of James Dean’s existential freak out in Rebel Without a Cause. The station has been more like a character actor: dependable, versatile, but always recognizable. Its onscreen career has been marked by memorable appearances, big breaks, near misses, prolific stretches, lean periods, and, later in life, rediscovery. (It’s no secret that the seventy-five-year-old station has had some “work” done, including a facelift in 2013.)

You might call Union Station a supporting cast member, like a Karl Malden or Stanley Tucci, an actor who rarely takes the lead but nevertheless shines in the background. Over the years, the station has played a wide range of roles, from a bank in the 1960s (the 2002 period piece Catch Me if You Can) to a library in 1997 (Most Wanted). But it also tends to play itself, or some version of itself. Like a lot of great actors, Union Station is at its best when it finds a part that suits its persona—in this case, a grand, dramatic space with the unmistakable ambiance of the golden age of Hollywood.

It’s no accident that some of Union Station’s earliest roles were in film noir. There’s an inherent drama to a train station—a place of hellos and goodbyes, of thronging crowds and lonely anonymity—that suits the genre. You can see Union Station in a small but standout role in Criss Cross, a 1949 Robert Siodmak picture starring a baby-faced Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo (well before her career playing the matriarch in television’s The Munsters). The movie sticks mostly to generic backdrops—the dark alley, the dive bar—until Union Station shows up about halfway through. Suddenly, Criss Cross comes alive as the two stars zigzag through the station’s marble-lined spaces, each time missing each other by a narrow margin. Then, of course, comes the fateful moment.

Promotional poster for Criss Cross. Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

Promotional poster for Criss Cross. Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

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Reflections on Union Station: an essay by John C. Arroyo

arroyo_chandelier
On the occasion of Union Station’s 75th anniversary, Metro created a special commemorative publication, Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA, featuring eight written and five photographic essays that celebrate the station by authors John C. Arroyo, William D. Estrada, Stephen Fried, Rafer Guzman, David Kipen, Marisela Norte, D. J. Waldie, and Alissa Walker. The book is on sale now at the online Metro Store. All essays will also be posted on The Source in the coming weeks. The series was edited by Linda Theung, an editor and writer based in Los Angeles.

Union Station: Los Angeles’ Enduring Symbol of Civic Optimism
by John C. Arroyo

I grew up in unincorporated East Los Angeles, a few minutes east of Union Station and the Los Angeles River. I recall the Rapid Transit District—the predecessor of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)—and their white buses wrapped in 1970s retro-inspired red, orange, and yellow stripes. I remember taking the No. 68 bus from the corner of Gage Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue (present-day Avenida César E. Chávez) into downtown and exiting at Alameda Street, near the grand entrance to Union Station. I was in constant awe of the building and the city surrounding it.

My mother, a native Angeleno, appreciated local history and culture and instilled the same kind of fervor in me. I remember going to El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument to light candles at La Placita or to eat carnitas tacos with fresh, handmade tortillas at La Luz del Día, and then crossing the street to marvel at Union Station’s painted ceilings and large, ornate chandeliers. My mother always mentioned how she liked the beautiful leather seats inside the grand waiting room. Later, when I was in my 20s, I trained to be an official Union Station docent to guide the Los Angeles Conservancy’s monthly tour of the station. I found out that the leather seats were custom built by the Angelus Furniture Company, a now-defunct, but previously legendary and independent local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles. Coincidentally, the company also supplied much of the furniture in my childhood home.

Union Station's original brown leather seating from Angelus Furniture Company, the now-defunct, but previously legendary local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles.

Union Station’s original brown leather seating from Angelus Furniture Company, the now-defunct, but previously legendary local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles.

One thing that always struck me about my visits to Union Station was how quiet it was. As a child during the 1980s I vividly remember seeing pigeons flying around the station (especially in the former Ticket Concourse). Whenever my family took the bus from Union Station to Bakersfield, transferring to the Amtrak San Joaquin line to visit family in California’s Central Valley, the trains were nearly empty.

At the time I was too young to understand Union Station’s untapped potential, which changed after I embarked on a career in urban planning and design. In many ways my decision to be an urban planner allowed me to understand the forces that promote—and impede—successful public spaces. With time and subsequent experience I put my technical charts and graphs aside and learned how to interpret the relationship between physical form, social experience, and culture firsthand. I learned to read the city.

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Reflections on Union Station: an essay by Stephen Fried

The former Fred Harvey restaurant as it looks today.

The former Fred Harvey restaurant as it looks today. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

On the occasion of Union Station’s 75th anniversary, Metro created a special commemorative publication, Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA, featuring eight written and five photographic essays that celebrate the station by authors John C. Arroyo, William D. Estrada, Stephen Fried, Rafer Guzman, David Kipen, Marisela Norte, D. J. Waldie, and Alissa Walker. The book is on sale now at the online Metro Store. All essays will also be posted on The Source in the coming weeks. The series was edited by Linda Theung, an editor and writer based in Los Angeles.

The Comfort Foodists of Union Station
by Stephen Fried

When the Southwest Chief pulls into L.A. after our overnight trip from Winslow, Arizona, it’s pretty early to be waking up in a train station. My wife and I tumble out of our sleeper compartment and, faces still as wrinkled as our clothes, drag our bags in uncaffeinated silence off the platform and into the cavernous waiting room—taking in what Jonah’s view might have been like if swallowed by a Mission Moderne Style whale.

While our eyes aren’t yet completely open, and we’ve never been in this building before, we seem to just know where to go, as if American train passengers are just born with the ability to find their way to the front door of the Fred Harvey restaurant

Fred Harvey postcard. From Appetite for America, courtesy of the Michael McMillan Collection.

Fred Harvey postcard. From Appetite for America, courtesy of the Michael McMillan Collection.

This particular door is all glass, like the forty-foot-high wall it’s part of, and we put our noses up against panes to try and get a better view of America’s last great railroad restaurant—and the crowning achievement in the career of landmark architect and designer Mary Colter, one of the few woman architects of that era. While her quirky tables—which, along with the booths, created all kinds of intimate corners in what would otherwise feel like an Art Deco plane hangar—are now long gone, the room still glistens with nostalgia and production values and promise. And the most ingenious part of her design—a cement tile floor that resembles a football-field sized Navajo rug—looks like it was just installed and buffed yesterday.

Fred Harvey company architect Mary Colter. From Appetite for America, courtesy of the Mary Larkin Smith Collection, Grand Canyon National Park.

Fred Harvey company architect Mary Colter. From Appetite for America, courtesy of the Mary Larkin Smith Collection, Grand Canyon National Park.

Many people who grew up in or were transplanted to Los Angeles don’t know the significance of this old Fred Harvey restaurant space—and if they know about it at all, it’s because they’ve been at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah here, as it has been rented out for events and movie locations for years awaiting its second act. But I’ve been seeing it in my head for years, as I sit in an office in Philadelphia writing the saga of Fred Harvey and his Western hospitality empire on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (aka “the Santa Fe”). The Fred Harvey system linked eighty cities and towns between the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, but ultimately was famed for connecting Chicago and Los Angeles by rail in the decades before practical car and air travel.

Fred Harvey was a British immigrant who worked for Midwestern railroads as a freight agent and then, at forty, in the mid-1870s, had a midlife crisis that changed American dining and hospitality forever.

Trains west of Chicago did not have dining cars, and there were no “union stations”—every railroad had its own station in each town it serviced and, every hundred miles or so, the stations had “eating houses” for meal stops. These featured largely inedible food, because the local owners knew it was highly unlikely they’d be seeing most of their traveling patrons any time soon. (They also purposely served their fare minutes before the train departed, so patrons could barely eat—then they scraped the food onto new plates for the next customers. Yum.)

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