Every once in a while there comes a time that I have to sit back and think about where I have been and where I am going. No matter how much I sometimes would like things to stay put, things ultimately change. It’s the sad fact of life that everything changes. From the weather above us, to the ground below us and the gray hair on our heads, with the passing of time things just keep moving on and the world keeps turning. It’s kind of sad though when you think about it. It doesn’t always have to be a sad thing, but, when you are in a good spot, it’s hard to accept the fact that things don’t last forever. I remember a while back I was having a conversation about hamburgers with one of my friends. Yes, what can I say? I’m a fatty, and any cheap opportunity to talk about and profess my love for grilled meat and succulent cheese is something that I’ll never pass up. Whatever the case though, I remember talking to him about one of my favorite spots to grab a hamburger at (and one that, if you live on the west coast you definitely know about), In N Out. It’s a spot that is legendary in our parts, and for a great many of us, a way of life. Sounds extreme I know, but, you know it’s true. And if you don’t then, what the hell are you waiting for? But, I remember telling him that I loved it there. He of course nodded in agreement right after I said that. But, I did tell him that I have one problem with In N Out. Saying that turned his smile into anger, and within a second he was on the defensive and was mad that I had even said that. How could it be that this place was bad? I said that it wasn’t so much that it was bad (clearly it isn’t), but, it was the fact that I know, every time I eat In N Out, that eventually the experience will end. Needless to say he changed his tone very quickly. And just like that we sobbed uncontrollably and made a trip to eat a burger that brings us both joy and pain. Things change, and don’t last forever, and for the year of 2017 we were given another change in the long list of changes. Hot Import Nights would be back in LA and I knew this going into the new year. But, out of the blue, the one place where it had been for the last few years would not play host to one of my favorite shows of the year. Hot Import Nights, in all of its awesome glory would not be returning to the streets of San Pedro, and the world and I would weep. But, it wasn’t all lost however.
Yes, after a few years of partying it up in the middle of Downtown San Pedro the location of the HIN (Hot Import Nights) Show would change yet again. I remember in years past it had been at the LA Convention Center and a few other places as well. But, for all of those places there was something special about the location in San Pedro. As much as I love going to shows inside of convention centers, there is something special about going outside the box and taking the show to everyone. That is something that is hardly done, and when it is, it’s done with walls that keep it closed off to all but paying customers. It’s not necessarily a bad thing (I mean, that is how things work after all), but, there’s something to be said about the show in San Pedro. Unlike those other events, those were free and open to the public. So, in a lot of ways it was like giant block party. If you’ve read or seen any of our coverage from years past, then you know just how fun it was. I loved it, and with a new year I and the team were eagerly waiting for this next San Pedro event again. Alas, it was not to be. For reasons that escape me, HIN was moved from the streets of San Pedro to the streets of Downtown LA. It was a huge change and something that a lot of us weren’t expecting.
The fallout of the change was huge, and I know a lot of folks that were going to be going had some concerns. The low-key vibe and lovely atmosphere of San Pedro has now been replaced with the hustle and bustle of MacArthur Park. Admittedly, I and a lot of the folks that were going were a little skeptical when the change was announced. I had only driven past the area before in the past and I vaguely remember the area. I had never actually stopped there, but, the way some people were describing it to me you would think it was way worse. I had been to Afghanistan before during a deployment, so, after that, Downtown LA didn’t frighten me as much as one would think. But, it did make me wonder leading up to the show, how the whole thing would play out. For all of the worries that had been built up in the month going into HIN LA, I was relieved to see just how relaxed the atmosphere really was. In fact, it was a hell of a lot more chillax (is that even a word?) than I thought it would be. With tons of security everywhere and plenty of smiling faces, I think anyone that was scared to go originally would definitely be surprised at just how mellow the whole thing was.
One thing that was noticeable however was just how small the event was. The show was a bit smaller than it had been in the past, and while it was sad to see less cars and other vendors there, it didn’t mean that we didn’t have a good time. Holy moly, that fact didn’t even hamper that in the slightest. When we were last at HIN, we were at the show up in the Bay Area. It was one of our most fun shows and a lot of that had to do with the people we were with at the time. One of those people was our friend Suzy. If you for some reason haven’t read the last article from that show, well then, what the hell are you waiting for? No, seriously, why are you still reading this? lol. But, for real this time, one of the highlights of that show was finally getting to bring out our friend Suzy and her wicked ride. That was so much fun seeing her do her thang that last time that we promptly invited her out to the LA show. And wouldn’t you know, Suzy is so freaking amazing that, not only did she make the drive down with to meet up with us, but, she drove out that very morning. Holy smokes! Yup, if being around my team isn’t a treat in itself already, we had Suzy come on down and rock the show with us. Man, that was awesome, and to think that is just how it started off.
Within minutes of Suzy arriving, Teresa (who had also come with us to the HIN San Jose show) showed up as well. That was followed up by the rest of our team for that day, Daynie, Brandon, Tyler, Gladys, Sam, Alexis and our newest member, Natalie. Holy smokes, it was a regular party up in there. I love the team and with firepower like that, it was sure to be a party like none other. The sun was still up, but, there was plenty of time to raise hell. That was just our booth, but, right across from where we were was the model lounge. And wouldn’t you know who we ran into there? Yup, it was none other than another one of our friends, Gabrielle Romanello. We met this beautiful model up in the Bay at the last show and we knew when we saw her that the energy level was gonna head through the atmosphere. If you’ve never met her before then you’re really missing out. I’ve met a lot of people in my life before, but, the level of energy that Gabrielle brings out is on par with an atomic bomb. I freaking love that girl and seeing her again really made our day. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday if you ask me.
While the team was arriving there was some music being sung in the background. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but, there were some talented individuals who took the stage that day (including a very young rapper and singer) whose names escape me. I remember a few times catching myself looking over and just listening in to the music coming from the stage. There were definitely some good jams being played, and when I had a moment to breathe, I thoroughly enjoyed the music. In a lot of ways, it’s one of the most underrated aspects of HIN and something that I wish there was a little more emphasis on. I think the separation of the main stage and the car staging area and food vendors left an awkward transition space in between. Maybe in the future the layout can be altered a little and there can be some room to put some more of the stuff together. Just a thought. Either way, I enjoyed the music and the crazy shenanigans by the main host of HIN, Jargon. If you’ve seen this guy before then you know that he’s a pretty witty guy. Any time the man takes there are some crazy things that go on. For better or for worse. I’ll let you decide.
But, I took notice when he was up on stage the moment the Miss HIN contest kicked off. We were pretty close to the stage, so, myself and two of our team members joined me on that little adventure. I was flanked on one side by our hostess with the mostest, Daynie and by little-miss-smarty-pants Sam. I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the contest itself or the funny commentary by those two during the show. Most of it had nothing to do with the show, but, you’d swear that two comedians were on either side of me. I could barely contain my laughter and hold the camera steady. Sheesh, why did I invite them to come with me? Maybe it’s because I love them, and it made an already awesome show that much better. What can I say, I had a blast watching the whole thing go down. It was especially interesting watching a lot of the locals come on over and get into the whole act. There’s nothing funnier and intriguing than seeing the younger and older crowd get down to the same music and the lovely ladies of the Miss HIN contest. Just like before, the models that hit the stage were the main attraction. To me, and I’m sure to a lot of folks, the contest is one of the highlights of the show. Sure, it’s always a treat to see beautiful women stroll across the stage, but, I actually find the interviews to be my favorite parts. It’s the one thing that you have to be there to experience. The women are always beautiful, but, I love the ‘getting to know you’ part of the whole selection process. You can never really tell what they’re gonna be like from a photo or even a short video clip, but, with them there it’s awesome getting to learn a little about their personalities. I knew some of the girls going up on stage (like Brenda from Al & Ed’s Autosound), and wouldn’t you know, she made the audience laugh just as much as she does to me when I’m around her. I love it. I also have to take a moment and give some kudos to the winner of the contest. Her name is Jacky, and while I have never seen her before, I’m sure she’s gonna go far in the biz. Well, assuming that she isn’t already. haha
The car section is the bread and butter of any HIN show and this one was a bit.. emm…. underwhelming to say the least. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was stoked to see the cars that I did see. In fact, some of the cars that made it into the show were friends of ours, and I’ve loved their cars from even before I knew them. Our friends Armando (with this Deadpool themed Evo) and Joseph (with his multi-colored and lit Toyota Celica) are two cars that I always enjoy checking out. After all, it seems that every time I do check them out, there seems to be a few new additions to them, so, they never tend to get old at checking out. But, with all of that goodness, there comes a little bit of the bad, and that doesn’t come in the way that you may think. I mentioned it before, and it was even more noticeable when you saw the car section in person. I believe that the staging area was limited to fifty cars, and while it may not seem like a lot, they were able to get away with packing in a pretty good amount of them in a small area. While I don’t know the full reason for the small size of the car section, I am guessing that it had a lot to do with zoning permits, city codes and worst of all, the dreaded fire marshal rules. In fact, I think that it may have had a big hand in determining what HIN could and couldn’t do. In my normal line of work, I deal with cities and the rules that they have when it comes to construction. Believe me when I say that any time it comes doing anything within a city property, prepare to have your ass handed to you if you don’t follow their rules. And, since it’s their rules, they can change them on the fly. Hell, at this last show, I remember seeing someone move their car a mere 5(!) feet just to take a better picture of it. Without hesitation the city Fire Marshal jumped out of the woods like a ninja and gave the staff at HIN an earful and threatened to shut the whole thing down. Holy moly. It sucked, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that a lot of what went on wasn’t up to them. I remember at the last show we had a booth at, the marshal asked us if our booth was fire rated. Um… I didn’t know, nor did I know that we had to know. The only way to answer the question and to make them happy was to let the marshal cut a piece of our tent off and burn it. Yeah, seriously. It was pretty messed up.
I know they (the marshals and city officials) were doing their jobs and of course, didn’t want any of the show-goers to get hurt, but, it’s things like that, that happen in the background that a lot of us don’t really think too much about. Regardless of those small hiccups, I had a great time, and I know a lot of folks did as well. For all the drama that could have happened (and for the small amount that did), It was a rocking good time. I loved hanging out with our team again and with the folks from 360 Products. Any time we get together it’s a blast. Hell, if it was just us, it would have been good enough. But, thankfully there were a lot of great people that we met that day and a lot of friends that we were able to visit with. The music was great and the show moved on at a quick pace. And, probably best of all were the food vendors. Yeah, judge me all you want, but, as a self described fatty, there was a fine group of food vendors that I noticed the moment we got there. I just knew that I would be getting food, and when that moment came, our whole tent grubbed on everything we could get our hands on. One vendor in particular, was selling Indian food, and maaaaaaannn, everything they were selling was so good! Holy smokes. I can still taste that chicken tikka masala, jasmine rice and naan bread as if I’m eating it right now. It doesn’t help that I’m hungry as I write this, but, then again, I’m always in a constant state of hunger. The struggle is real folks. But yeah, all of us ate from that vendor, and having that combination of the food, people, cars and music really added to the overall show experience. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the 4th of July show in Anaheim a few years back. That was one huge party, and a lot of fun This one was just like that, but on a smaller scale, and for what it was, it was great. I know we had a fun time and a lot of the folks we met did too. Let’s hope that the next time around we’ll be able to have as much fun and the show will continue to grow in that location. I loved it and am hoping we can go back to LA. As it is I promised myself next go around I’ll get some of those spectacularly delicious elotes (Mexican street corn).
Man, oh man, I’m hungry again. Time to go rummage through my refrigerator 🙂
With that being said, it was sad to see this show end. I had a great time meeting up with our friends and enjoying the scene. That is what it’s all about after all. HIN LA may have had a change in venue, but, I think that the soul of the scene was still there. I can’t wait for the next one and see what it’ll bring. If they do go back to this location I’m sure it will still be a blast. And that is something that is truly needed to keep the scene moving forward. Let’s see what these remaining months of 2017 bring and what comes of this next year. If it’s half as good as it was this year, then it’s sure to be one to remember.
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on Hot Import Nights and any upcoming Shows check out their website at http://hotimportnights.com/
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.