Good Neighbors Rock

3 mins read
A couple of people that are standing in front of a building

An honest mechanic gone bad!”
“Suspicious white van on our street!”
“Missing cat!”
“Found: air pods.”
“Dog-poop discovered on greenway!”
“Stolen catalytic converter!”
“Stray Shepherd mix (or maybe coyote?) spotted at the corner of Altadena and Queensberry!”

For most Pasadena area residents, these urgent messages are an everyday occurrence on But overblown suburban drama becomes a source of wry inspiration for the musical duo The Nextdoors, who named themselves after the listserv.

Pasadena residents Mika Larson and Russell Mark, The Nextdoors, are a married couple who compose, perform, and record original music with a sharp, sardonic lyrical edge and a hard-rocking attack, sweetened by Mika’s cello and turbo-charged with a Tom Petty-tinged snarl provided by Russell’s driving electric and acoustic guitars.

A year ago, their sold-out SRO gig at the Eastside’s Wild Parrot Brewing Company (WPBC, to insiders) caught the attention of Mayor Victor Gordo, who henceforth proclaimed January 15 “Pasadena Neighbor Day.” And the charismatic Michael Calderon, “Mr. Pasadena,” became a Nextdoors ally, helping to produce a charity gig with the band in April 2023.

The worldly-wise wit of The Nextdoors extends beyond their music. In addition to her cellist life, Mika is the creative force behind Tshirt Hell, a line of iconic cotton tops (including hoodies, long-sleeve tees and racerback tanks) guaranteed to offend and/or delight. Russell serves as the musical director of a Wisconsin kids’ camp when he’s not writing and rocking locally.

Since arriving in Pasadena in 2016, he and Mika have found their place in its quaint and quirky community. They transport their senior feline to vet visits in a vintage baby carriage and enjoy the company of the area’s much-maligned peacocks. An image of one showy male, called “Near Bird” by Russell and Mika, also known as “Lonesome Joe” by their landlord, even appears on the band’s current CD, entitled Linda Vista for Russell’s beloved late sister, Linda.

But in contrast to the daily stew of smoldering complaints, shrill warnings and straight-up xenophobia often found on, they have focused on building a community of musicians and think-local comrades. They filmed their music video for their song “Awaken” all over Pasadena, Arcadia, and the San Gabriel Valley.

Mika and Russell began playing music together “since the minute we met,” he says. They crafted their current playlist during COVID, busting out of isolation with their first public show at the WPBC slightly less than a year ago.

Regarding the planned reprise on January 14, 2024, Russell comments, “Other confirmed acts on the bill include Brad Colerick, a South Pasadena legend. He runs the annual South Pas Eclectic Fest, where we will perform in 2024. Eddie Rivera will be playing. He’s a Pasadena staple, a musician/singer/guitarist, and a journalist for Pasadena Now. Also on the bill is The Gasp, an indie rock band who are quite literally our neighbors. They live in the first house across the street.”

John and Kirsten Jackson opened the Wild Parrot Brewing Company in September 2022. The location shares the address with the Rosebud Coffee shop. In honor of the Year of the Wood Dragon, try the Golden Latte, a silky cup of turmeric-ginger coffee alternative. The space is fast becoming a coolhunter’s hang.

“Old Town gets all the glory,” chuckles Jackson, who brewed beer at home until the couple opened their business in the latter days of COVID. Today, the WPBC’s lagers and ales are brewed on-site in the Tap Room, complemented by wine, cider and pub-style eats.

“The beauty of breweries is that the good ones become places where people can meet casually and get together spontaneously,” he says. WPBC regulars, a new breed of Pasadena Parrotheads, have even started a Thursday-evening runner’s club. There is ample parking behind the brewery, making rolling up for a cold one the easiest “Yeah, sure, why not?” in town.

No reservations, no valet, no dress code, no cover. Just neighbors being neighborly.

2nd Annual Pasadena Neighbors Day

Sunday, January 14, 2024
Wild Parrot Brewing Company
2302 E. Colorado Blvd. @ Roosevelt Ave.
Live music starting 5:30ish
Free public admission

Pasadena Neighbor Day returns on Sunday, January 14, 2024. This newly proclaimed local holiday shares its place in history with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and that’s good since some of us will be enjoying a much-deserved Monday away from work. The perfect inflection point for 2024’s first three-day weekend: celebrating with a frosty, early-evening pint and live local music.

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Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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