Something Odd In Those Hills: ODDFEST 2017

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June 14th, 2017
by Brian Donald Ponce

 

Oddfest 2017 hit the stages of the Hilltop Tavern and Inn Saturday, June 10th for its second annual music festival promoting and celebrating the best music the High Desert can offer. Put on my Michael Eberhardt with the rest of the guys at Odd Bridges, the festival featured nineteen bands and artist from genres ranging from punk, alternative, hard rock, reggae and hip-hop. It was an eclectic representation of the state of music in the High Desert, which is far cry from the state of the scene five years ago, where the closure of several established venues and the failure of others cast a shadow over the talent in this region. Oddfest 2017 is a strong indication that those days are behind us.

The line-up of bands featured Manifest Illusion, At Your Six, Anti-Socialite, Hoodlife Hippiez, Mondo Silicone, Delta Shade, Rain Brings Weather, Odd Bridges, Twenty Dollar Prophets and Mirk Beniah on the main stage with Atomik:Kangaroo, Just SayN, The Modern Three, ZODRHI (or Zombie Dress Hipsters), The Companies, Jade, The Lillies, Dead Rekoning and Kryptic Moons on the second stage. We had a good blend of seasoned veterans like The Lillies, Rain Brings Weather and The Companies joined by rising acts like Anti-Socialize and Mondo Silicone, the latter of whom celebrated the one year anniversary of their first show at the Oddfest 2016.

Like last year, Oddfest was held at the Hilltop Tavern and Inn, which offered a good selection of beer and a stunning view of the High Desert. Unlike last year, this year’s Oddfest came with a $12 cover charge that included two free drinks. The only downside was that you had to get both drinks at the same time, which may not seem like much of a problem for most people. However, when you’re trying to conduct interviews while double fisting a couple of beers, it can be somewhat cumbersome (I persevered nonetheless).

 

The day started off well with bands like Atomik:Kangaroo, Manifest Illusion, Just SayN, The Modern Three, Anti-Socialite and At Your Six bringing their own brand of punk and alternative to the Hilltop. Every band brought their “A” game, but allowed themselves to be relaxed in a friendly environment of local musicians and music lovers. “We’re gonna mess up a little bit, but its okay,” said Kylie Sloncik of The Modern Three.

Jorge Arias of Just SayN appreciated the geniality of the crowd. “We like how open people are to our music. They’re not like, ‘naw, I’m not into that’,” said Arias. Arias and the rest of Just SayN stuck around for the rest of the day to show support for the rest of the bands, as did many other groups. This is just a small example of the level of camaraderie this community of musicians shares for one another. It may not be unique, but it is significant.

As the day progressed, bands like Hoodlife Hippiez and Mondo Silicone tore up main stage while The Companies and ZODRHI got people dancing over on the second stage. The Companies, who are based outside the High Desert in the greater Inland Empire, commented on the growth of the scene. “Years ago, I came here looking for some punk bands to join, but there were pretty much only metal bands for a while,” said Dustin Strandvery of the Companies. When I asked Hoodlife Hippiez the same question, the general consensus among its members was that it was “Awesome” with one of the group’s three front-men, RSIN, adding “it’s all for the music. We love it.”

Early in this decade, we saw the closure of venues such as the Karma and Angel’s Roadhouse 2, as well as the briefly lived Victorville Events Center. It seemed like stages for bands to play on were disappearing left and right, leaving some bands to move out of the high desert, dissolve or make their own stage. That last option is exactly what Mike Eberhardt has been doing for the past two years with his group, Odd Bridges. It started in 2015 with the first Cold Turkey Fest at Gators in Apple Valley and since then, Eberhardt has put on four festivals featuring local talent.

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Photo by Paul McDonald

Odd Bridges, as well as the entire festival, is credited by Eberhardt’s band mates Jason Trevino and Brandon Jones as being his brainchild. “I put a lot of credit to Mike for helping revive the scene,” said Brandon Jones of Odd Bridges, “He lugged the gear in, played the shows and lugged it out. He was making the calls, making the contacts and when they couldn’t pull through, he did it himself.”

That certainly was the case for most of the day as I was only able to get five minutes with Eberhardt while he and the guys from Rain Brings Weather worked tirelessly on helpings bands set up and break down. Tyler Skelton of At Your Six mentioned the rigidness of the schedule, “Our set was a little rushed, but we were happy with what we played.”

Things certainly did run smoothly as bands got ample time to show off what’s going on in their side of the desert. Jade, Delta Shade and The Lillies kept the energy rolling into the night. Marty Calderon of Jade, another group that has been floating around the scene for the last five years, just said, “We just need to keep pushing [the music scene].” I approached Matthew Humphrey of the Lillies with the same question. “Man, why do you keep asking me questions? Just leave me alone,” said Humphrey

“Yeah, man. You’re the enemy,” added his band mate, Robert Pereda.

“Don’t take whatever we say out of context.”

“Yeah… …fuck… …Matthew Humphrey… …worst… …guitarist ever…”

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Photo by Paul A. McDonald

Dewey B. Weather of Rain Brings Weather commented further on the dissolution of the scene after the closure of so many venues. “I remember it, it was really discouraging. Now, we got promoters coming up from San Diego because they see potential, and we’re just a bunch of deserts rats killing it.” Dewey had been there since 9 o’clock in the morning, working hard along with Eberhardt keeping the festival running smoothly. The two of them finally got a break to perform with their bands, Rain Brings Weather and Odd Bridges, later in the night.

From there, Dead Rekoning and Kryptic Moons closed out the second stage while Twenty Dollar Prophets and Mirk Beniah mellowed out the night after a day of music, tacos and booze. Otis “Mutherfuckin” Jones of Twenty Dollar Prophets was there for most of the day and spoke highly of the event. “Every band did a great job. Each band out did that last band. Everyone from the sound guys, the organizers, even the bartenders did a great job.”

Oddfest 2017 was blast from start to finish. When I asked Mike what his plans were for the next festival, he just said, “Eventually, we want to get headliners. I think, for every year, we want to make it bigger.” Mike wants to thank his band mates, Dewey B. Weather, Art Guerra, Brandon Burgess, and Spot Fillmore for their hard work, Shaun from Erupt Designs for making their flyers, Hilltop Tavern and Inn for letting them play, and to all the bands for coming out and having a good time.

– b.d. ponce

All pictures used were provided by Paul McDonald and Paul A. McDonald of Just SayN and Shaun Michael of Erupt Design.

Atomik:Kangaroo’s Facebook

Manifest Illusion’s Facebook

Just SayN’s Facebook

At Your Six’s Facebook

The Modern Three’s Facebook

Anti-Socialite’s Facebook

Hoodlife Hippiez Facebook

ZODRHI’s Facebook

Mondo Silicone’s Facebook

The Companies’ Facebook

Delta Shade’s Facebook

Jade’s Facebook

Rain Brings Weather’s Facebook

The Lillies’ Facebook

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Dead Rekoning’s Facebook

Twenty Dollar Prophets’ Facebook

Kryptic Moons’ Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Erupt Design’s Facebook

Hilltop Tavern and Inn’s Facebook

Tacos and Thrash

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A common misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that its Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s actually the celebration of the Battle of Pueblo, where an outnumbered and outgunned Mexican Army fended off invading French forces on May 5, 1862. I read all about it on my phone (at least I admit to my own ignorance) while I sat in Frogee’s Cocktail Bar on Highway 18 and wondered how Thrasho de Mayo, an event hosted by Blaze featuring some of the sickest hardcore acts from all over the desert, could relate to this. The only conclusions I could draw were fraught with cultural appropriation and Americanization, until finally I had to listen to the voice in the back of my head that screamed, “QUIT OVERTHINKING IT, EAT YOUR TACOS AND ENJOY THE GODDAMN SHOW”.

Our first band of the evening, Dead Rekoning, was a first-rate start to the show. Armed with tracks like the self-titled “Dead Rekoning” (available here on their soundcloud) and “Fire in the Sky”, Dead Rekoning’s blend of punk and metal made for a solid opening to an evening promising to get faster and heavier. I managed to catch up with singer/bassist Anthony G and drummer Danny Vega after the show and reminisced with Vega over a show I saw at a mutual friend’s house back in his Against Faction days, where he was a high school senior at the start of his drumming career and I was a naive sophomore tripping over my own two feet after one beer.

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Left to Right: Danny Vega, Anthony G and Angel G

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Derek McEntire and Anthony G

Next in line were In Decline, a band that bolsters some killer screaming vocals from singer Charlie Warr (Yes, that is his real name) and a great mix of hardcore and metal akin to bands like Cancer Bats and This Is Hell. My only complaint, and the same complaint can apply to Dead Rekoning, was the briefness of the sets. Granted, organizing an event and getting it to run on schedule is no easy feat and when things go smoothly, it should be a good thing, but I really did want to hear more from Dead Rekoning and In Decline. These were two really strong local acts and I can’t wait to see more of them.

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Left to Right: Joe Small, Brennan Mann and Charlie Warr

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Left to Right: David Fajardo, Charlie Warr and Brennan Mann

David Fajardo, drummer of In Decline, stuck around to perform with his other band, Stay Wild. Joined by Nick Riggs and Jehiah Tonnesen, Stay Wild lived up to their namesake, delivering intense hardcore charged with political topics ranging from the current presidential administration to sexual assault (both of which go hand in hand). I caught a few words with Tonneson after the set. The band is getting ready to take off on the 18th of May for a two week west coast tour, which has the boys at Stay Wild anxious. With their new E.P. titled “livelovelearn”, Stay Wild look like their ready to hit those tour dates with the same vigor they brought to Frogee’s stage.

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Left to Right: Nick Riggs, David Fajardo, and Jehiah Tonnesen

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Left to Right: Nick Riggs and Jehiah Tonneson

During Stay Wild’s set, we had a couple of guest vocalists hop on the stage. These were brothers Josh and Danny Mathews of the next group, Cel Damage. Cel Damage was a bit of a departure from the type of hardcore we saw prior in the evening with a more experimental approach. They take on a very Locust-esque approach to songwriting, using a vocal effects pedal to build atmosphere with singer Danny Mathews grunts and screams before breaking it with pure immaculate fury. Not even broken guitar strings could deter this band from playing the set THEY wanted to play.

Now, let me take a minute to tell that I’ve heard a lot of band names over the years. Some pretty cool, some really lame and others just confusing. A band name is important because it’s the first thing you hear when you ask, “Who’s playing?” and a weak name can make or break a band. So, when I heard “Thrashquatch”, I knew right away that was something I had to see. A name like “Thrashquatch” caused me to envision Bigfoot, wearing a Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt, rampaging through a camp site, stepping on tents and knocking over coolers looking for beer. This would be his favorite band.

Of course, with a name like Thrashquatch, the music had better deliver and it did. With influences ranging from Slayer to Municipal Waste, Thrashquatch is music for thrashers by thrashers. Guitarist Jacob Crozier and Gio Trujillo shared the soloing duties, taking turns shredding while Don Barber hyped up the crowd with songs about Yeti’s, booze and moshing. The frantic energy put forth by the band was a perfect capstone to an event such as Thrasho de Mayo.

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Links to the facebooks/bandcamps for all the bands are posted below. If you’re someone starved for some strong local hardcore, I highly recommend each one of these bands.

Blaze (Host)

Dead Rekoning’s Facebook and Soundcloud

In Decline’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Stay Wild’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Cel Damage’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Thrashquatch’s Facebook and Bandcamp

A Tribute to Cover Bands

Cover bands. Artist dedicated to the careers of others. These are two words that can either illicit feelings of excitement over the potential of hearing a good live performance of “Immigrant Song”, or dread after your co-worker’s third Facebook invitation to see his Insane Clown Posse tribute band. Whenever you see “cover band” on a marquee, you take a gamble and hope for the best. This is the unfortunate stigma for tribute acts, but it doesn’t stop bands like Circle of Black, Crazy Diamond or newcomers Physical Graffiti from throwing a tribute show to the best of the 1970’s at Frogee’s Cocktail on April 21st.

While sitting in the dive bar on Highway 18, I thought about the prospect of cover bands. Most of them are born from boredom, but then most music is for that matter. Cover acts have served as a platform for many bands to preform and discover their own musical identities. Most original music is created from that approach, but many cover bands choose not to go that route. Many prefer the label “tribute” to cover band, as it does creates an important distinction. While many cover bands will reinterpret music in their own way, often with an underlying theme that ties into the persona of the band (think Me First and the Gimme Gimmes), tribute bands preform with little variation, sticking as closely to the original song, and identity of the band, as possible.

The first act of the evening was Crazy Diamond, a tribute to Pink Floyd. Wielding a set-list comprised of well-known songs like “Time”, “Money, and “Comfortably Numb”, the band started the evening off on a more somber note. Given that the two following bands were going to tributes to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, it was safe to assume this was probably the mellowest this evening would get as the crowd stubbornly refused to clap along with the band during a song, but “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” still managed to get the whole bar to sing, “We don’t need no education”. This is the power and influence of Pink Floyd, and the magic that bands like Crazy Diamond try to recreate.

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Following them was our Led Zeppelin tribute band, Physical Graffiti, making their debut. Zeppelin is a fun band to cover musically, but tricky when it comes to vocals. This is mostly due to Robert Plant’s wide range and crisp high-pitch singing, but singer Johnnie Garcia performed admirably, taking on tracks like “Immigrant Song” and “Communication Breakdown” with ease. Another highlight from the set is the band stepping off stage during “Moby Dick”, leaving drummer Ron Davis to channel his inner John Bonham. All of this ended on “Stairway to Heaven”, which I was a little disheartened to hear, not because I don’t like the song, but because I had a great Wayne’s World reference that I can’t use now. Oh well, another time.

Capping off the evening was Circle of Black, a Black Sabbath tribute band that, according to their Facebook, also will hammer out some of Ozzy’s and Dio’s solo work as a way to celebrate not just the music of Black Sabbath, but the careers that started in its wake. Honestly, any excuse to play “Crazy Train” and “Holy Diver” is good enough for me. While we didn’t hear either of those tracks, it was nice to hear the Dio era of Black Sabbath get some appreciation for once.

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Friday was not a night for originality, but for appreciation of an ear of rock now resting fifty years in the past. This year saw Black Sabbath bid farewell to their fans in March, so the prospect of seeing any of this music performed live is going to be through a tribute band. Some purist would look down on that idea, not willing to accept anyone else on the mic except Robert Plant or Ozzy Osbourne. While it is true that no one can ever suppress the talent or presence of bands like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, that is not the point of tribute bands. Tribute bands, if anything, serve to remind us why these songs are timeless and still need to be played, even if it’s not by the person who wrote it.

-b. ponce

Facebook pages

Crazy Diamond’s Facebook

Physical Graffiti’s Facebook

Circle of Black’s Facebook

Good Apollo, Still Burning After Twelve Years

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Sunset Boulevard played host for Coheed and Cambria to preform their third album, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear through the Eyes of Madness, in its entirety at the Hollywood Palladium Saturday night. The concert hall is just one stop on a tour to reinvigorate the passion felt for Coheed’s biggest selling record to date. Released in 2005, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One garnered them the most attention for their distinct mix of prog-rock, emo and post-hardcore. The album struck a great balance that dominated the ears of geeky emo kids of last decade, such as yours truly.

Twelve seems like an odd number to celebrate, but given that the band’s previous effort, The Color Before the Sun, was released in 2015, the timing was just unfortunate. Coheed and Cambria were intent on bringing this tour to fruition, regardless if it follows the ten year anniversary trend or not. This album was as significant to them as it was to fans like me, a blog writer with dreams of having an episodic saga of books that are as beloved as front-man Claudio Sanchez’s Amory Wars series. Having attended the ten year anniversary show for In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (missed the Second Stage Turbine Blade show, I was poor), I highly anticipated this performance as both records were significant to me at that age, and these kind of events are for celebrating the impact albums like these have on fans. Part of that celebration is a reflection of where we were when we first heard these albums. I was a bored teen writing poorly articulated album and show reviews on his Myspace blog. Now, its twelve years later and… well, it’s not Myspace anymore, at least.

Joining Coheed and Cambria on this tour is the Dear Hunter, who delivered a solid forty-five minutes of eclectic prog-rock that appropriately charged the crowd of anxious Coheed fans. Were I not so hyped for the main event, I could have gone for way more of The Dear Hunter. However, we could wait no longer.

Recounting the show, a lot of your typical concert annoyances were present, including: Guys over 6’ crowding the front, dudes getting heated over overzealous Moshers, drunk girls dancing sloppily into every asset of your personal space and, the Coup de grace, getting beer split all over me at the beginning of “Ten Speed”. Of all the concerts I’ve been too, you could argue this was one of my worst experiences, but none of that mattered once “Keeping the Blade” started.

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The visual presentation coinciding with the performance was particularly stunning for this evening, as is to be expected with a band like Coheed and Cambria. The image of a skull bleeding blackness from its eye sockets was one of the many reoccurring motifs that created a stark, surreal atmosphere that enhanced the fury that Claudio and crew were unleashing. Hearing tracks like “Welcome Home” and “Apollo I: The Writing Writer” along with this abstract, bleak imagery reminded me of hearing this album for the first time in 2005 and reading the graphic novel a year later (borrowed copy).

The Meta narrative of a writer becoming delusion and clashing with his own characters was a unique perspective that set Good Apollo apart from the narrative of its predecessors, and many other concept albums for that matter. Coupled with its graphic novel, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One was something special when it first came out and the energy felt in that ballroom on Saturday night meant that feeling was still there. Through many of their peers of that era have disbanded and moved on to other projects, Coheed and Cambria are still here and poised to remind you of what made them stand out to begin with.

-b. ponce

Fooling Around At Frogees

This was a strange April Fools we had this year. I don’t know if I’m getting too jaded for pranks or it was just a mild day where the greatest trick pulled on me was expecting to be tricked. Either way, my day ended at Frogee’s Cocktail Bar. On this night, the Lillies had a special show with friends Atomik:Kangaroo and Lotus Eater. I didn’t know whether to expect an evening of mild to extreme pranks and jokes or just another night of drinking. With a White Russian in hand (courtesy of owner and bartender Joy), I was all set for what the evening had in store for me.

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I chatted with Matthew Humphrey and Roberto Pereda of The Lillies while the stage was being set. The group has a series of shows lined up for the summer, all leading up to an opening set for Blue Oyster Cult at The Rose in Pasadena on July 15th. The band is anxious and ready, leading to some foolish tendencies among its members.
“Robert, you left your car door wide open. I closed it for you,” Said Javi Banuelos, the most recent addition to the lineup after longtime drummer Mark Simpson stepped down in November.

“Oh,” Said Robert.

“You’re such a dumbass,” Matthew adds.

“You can keep that in the article.” Roberto said to me over the table while Lotus Eater finished warming up.

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Our first band of the night set a strong precedent for the rest of the evening. A three-piece alternative rock outfit incorporating synth, Lotus Eater’s blend of rock and sci-fi certainly left an impression on the packed bar. This showed is marked as the first live performance with their new drummer and songs like “John Wayne” and “Love is a Hologram” were big highlights from the set. If you’re looking for fresh talent in the high desert, Lotus Eater is the band to follow.


Following them were the hosts of the evening, The Lillies. Going on 9 year with playing their fusion of rock, blues and funk, The Lillies are still going strong with crowd favorites like “The Shake” and “Maria”. Little hiccups like the bass amp cutting out during a song did not deter the band from putting on a commanding performance. The band looks set to take on the rest of dates for the summer and hit The Rose with a vengeance.

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As the clock drew closer to midnight, the crowd dwindled while the final act took the stage. I must admit, with a name like Atomik:Kangaroo, I really didn’t know what to expect. The information I found on their Facebook page couldn’t be taken seriously (Advant Blues and the Weather Channel) and when they began donning luchador mask, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

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The group does not follow the traditional formula of rock, instead creating a bass heavy blend of funk, rock and jazz that puts more emphasis on atmosphere. The sound combined with the mask created an almost avant-garde experience that made the show feel more like an event. The bizarre, yet intricate sound combined with the stage antics served as a fitting capstone to a day of fools and pranks.


During the set, two drunken women (mother and daughter) began whistling hysterically to the band, to other bar patrons, and even to each other. It was hard to tell if these were just two random drunk women or if they were a part of the performance. It was almost as if the band had summoned spirits to possess these women. Perhaps I was becoming possessed, too. What was happening at this bar on Highway 18? When one caught eyes with me, I knew for certain something was happening. She stumbled over to me, still whistling like a siren lost in the desert. Was I being invited to my death? Was I already dead? Was Atomik:Kangaroo the lounge band for this plane of limbo I found myself in?

“Let’s get this fucking party started,” She yelled in my face.

Alas, the only spirits that possessed us here came in a bottle. By the time the show had finished, April Fools had long ended, but the joy of pranksters and deception still permeated the bar at Frogees. The shenanigans of the holiday seemed subdued, as if we were taking a break from tricks, but we still allowed ourselves to be foolish for a little while.

-b. ponce

Saying Good Bye is Never Easy, R.I.P. YellowCard

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By Mark Simpson

On Saturday March 25th 2017 Yellowcard decided after 20 Years of playing the music they loved to retire the name Yellowcard once and for all. The group choose to do so at the House of Blues in Anaheim where Ryan Key stated that the groups first ever sold out show took place at the near by Chain Reaction in Anaheim. As Fans from all over the world lined up early in the morning to get as close to the stage as possible me and my wife made the trip to see the group one last time.

My wife Sara had been a fan for over 15 years and decided to dawn one of her oldest Yellowcard shirts as her memories with the group were so precious that she could barely grasp the idea that the group would never do another show again. When we arrived we decided to eat at the Cheesecake Factory where by complete luck we were seated directly in front of Ryan Key who was having his last meal of such before making his final sound check.

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As Ryan finished his meal he stood up stretched his arms into the sky and with a bit of nerves said to his dinning companion “Last sound check”. As a smirk went across his face me and my wife finished the last of our mojito and Daiquiri and headed to what would be known as maybe the most powerful performances to ever grace the House of Blues Anaheim.

The night was Started off by former Bass Player and fellow childhood friend of Ryan Key’s Sean O’ Donnell who played an awesome acoustic set that made many in the crowd nostalgic as they remembered how he helped the group putt together hits like “Hang you Up” when he was part of Yellowcard from 2010 to 2012.

Yellowcard started their set off on a clear mission to blow the roof of the House of Blues when they opened up with powerhouse song “Way Away” while continuing to not let up by following it with “For You, and Your Denial” and “Lights and Sounds”. The fans loved every moment and made sure to make the most of the moment by singing along threw out the whole set as if they were trying to help wheel Ryan and the rest of the group threw out their final Set. As the group rocked you could feel the floors rumble beneath your feet as parts of the ceiling fell like snow to the floor filled to capacity. Here is a clip to give you an idea:

There were so many moments that pulled at mine and others heart strings but seeing Sean Mackin do his back flip one more time and thank his mother for pushing him to keep playing the violin was my favorite moment. I once too played the Violin and personally could relate to his mother pushing him to stick with the instrument. Mackin who has been with the group since its start is a favorite of mine and as Yellowcard closed out their set with their final song “Ocean Avenue” you could see his daughter on the left of the stage dancing as she watched her dad rock the violin for the last time with his Rock and Roll group.

As the group made their final bow and waved to the crowd it felt as if it was an end of an era. The Pop- Punk groups of the 90’s are slowly disappearing but to me there will always be only one group who was able to connect at the highest level with their fans and make them feel like family. As I watched them leave the stage I looked at my wife who I married in October and smiled because at the end of the day your never ready to say good bye to those you love.

Thank you for the Memories Yellowcard!

marksarayello