For the Benefit of the Victims of Las Vegas: Irie Roots Jam

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The month of October started on a very tragic note as 58 people lost their lives in yet another mass shooting. The Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festivals was, like all other music events, meant to be a night for music lovers to get together and experience a sense of community and bond through music. In the wake of this mass shooting, people are doing everything they can to support and aid the victims. On Saturday, October 7th, Irie Roots Extracts hosted the Irie Roots Jam at Gators 3 in Apple Valley. Originally intended to be a promotion for Irie Roots Extracts’ products as well as a show for reggae lovers and more, the event quickly turned into a charity event in response to the tragic shooting is Las Vegas.

Featuring Fortunate Youth along with local acts The Twenty Dollar Prophets, Dubious Distinction, Dubsiders, Swift Sonorous, Rain Brings WeatherThe Rezinators, and the Muppet Hunters, the show was a great mix of reggae, hip-hop, and hard rock. It was a solid lineup of bands that created a mellow (and smoky) atmosphere that was slightly tainted by the cause it was now promoting. Singer Chris Gonzales of the Twenty Dollar Prophets assured me that once cost were covered, all the proceeds would go to the victims of Las Vegas, “Events cost money to put on and you know, once we surpass our cost, then one hundred percent of the profits is gonna go to the victims of Las Vegas.”

Gonzales felt very somber when talking about the events in Las Vegas. Mass shootings are becoming more common place in the United States (if you look up “mass shooting” on Wikipedia, the U.S. has so many notable mass shootings that they are categorized by years dating back to 1929, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre). Needless to say, hearing someone was shot and killed isn’t that far out of the norm as Gonzales pointed out, “People get killed every day in the streets, you know what I mean. You come to the High Desert, man, I could tell you a friend of the friend lost somebody last night.”

His point, however, wasn’t to diminish to tragic event, but to put an emphasis on where it took place and how that affects him as a musician, “it’s not even just this tragedy, but the fact that, you know, that fact that it happened at a music concert hurts me because… it just goes against everything that music symbolizes, which is unity and people coming together for one reason, you know what I mean. They didn’t go there for that, so my heart is out to those families.”

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Josh Jordan of the Muppet Hunters called the whole thing “senseless” as he elaborated the shrewd politics that were becoming involved in the media rhetoric, “the media wants to tag it like they were Trump supporters, but who knows who voted for who in that crowd. They were innocent bystanders there for the love of music… … they came to an awesome concert and might have left scarred for life and that’s just not right.”

Certainly, if you were compare a concertgoer from Route 91 Harvest to one of the individuals that attended the Irie Roots Jam, you might encounter two people with radically different backgrounds, upbringings and political views, but what they have in common is a love for music. Yes, reggae and country music are two very different genres, but none of that mattered on Saturday night. The Irie Roots Jam ceased to be just a concert for fans of reggae and became a charity event to raise money for those who were affected by this tragedy. It also served as a message to anyone who has now developed a fear of public events like this.

“Music events are supposed to be positive and awesome,” Travis of Fortunate Youth said, “Every time I’ve been to an event, it’s like you’re just stoked to go and now it’s like, I was down in my hometown fair, down in Manhattan Beach, walking around with a bunch of- hundreds of people, very close quarters and I was like, ‘woo, you never know like who could be, or what could happen’ or anything like that.”

Fear of public, outdoor events that may turn into a spot for mass shooters was something that, 15 years ago, only the most paranoid would be afraid of, but it’s becoming a very real fear. Travis made sure to emphasize that we shouldn’t be afraid, though, “this is our lifestyle… …it’s sad, I just hope people can really realize that it’s gonna be a lot better to come together than fight each other.”

The profits of the night aren’t the only money that is going to the victims of Las Vegas. Adam, one of the owners of Irie Roots Extracts, stated that he is having his vendors, both local and outside the High Desert, keep track of the sales of their cartridges, “they’re gonna track sales through the month of October and for each cartridge sold, they’re gonna report back to us and we’re gonna donate some of the proceeds from the cartridges as well to the victims of Vegas.”

– b. d. ponce

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Why Does Music Matter?

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In the wake of recent tragedies and the passing of great musicians, the rest of us are left to take stock of the things that really matter to us. For many of us, music is that answer. On September 29th, before some of those tragedies took place, Tonight Shall Rise, Kings Trio, Twenty Dollar Prophets, Rain Brings Weather and Back on Our Feet all gathered at Frogees to show what mattered to them. The name of the event was simply “Music Matters”.

It seems a little extravagant to say, but in the age of declining album sales and the rise of novelty pop songs born out of viral marketing, it is easy to take music for granted. These five bands, however, know exactly what music means to them and want nothing more than to share it with everyone in the High Desert.

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Kicking off the evening was punk act Back on Our Feet, the relative newcomers of the night. The group is making waves with their polished brand of punk rock that is very tight and full of energy. When I asked guitarist and singer Daniel Deccio what drives them to preform, he said “we wanna make it musically sound for everyone, as well as ourselves. It’s something that we’re actually proud of and everybody can say, ‘damn, that was actually a good show’, you know?”

Following Back on Out Feet was Rain Brings Weather, a group that I have covered a few times on this blog before, but every time I see them, they deliver the same passionate performance they have become known for. I spoke with front man and guitarist Dewey B. Weather after his performance and asked him one simply question: How does music matter to you?

I wasn’t trying to be a troll, I genuinely wanted to know each person’s perspective on music and why it was important to them. I know asking a bunch of musicians why music matters to them is as redundant as asking a NFL player why football is important to them, but who better to ask than those who spend all their time thinking about and writing music. I caught up with Dewey and Chris Gonzalez of the Twenty Dollar Prophets to put forth this question.

“It means the world to me and it’s everything for me,” said Dewey, “It helps me escape, it helps me express and it just helps me turn my experiences into expression, which is sometimes the hardest thing to do is just express what’s inside of yourself and I’m not good at that. I like to have fun and be positive and be a happy go lucky guy, but when I get on stage and I play my music, that’s when the hate comes out and that’s the hardest to actually release and escape from, so music does that for me and that’s it.”

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Chris Gonzalez’s answer had a succinct message about the unity the music offers, “music matters to me because everybody in this world feels music and loves it and relates to it, so without music, life would be fucking boring. That’s why it matters. That’s it.”

Kings Trio kept the evening rolling with an extended drum solo from Matt Christensen while front man James Gonzalez stepped out for a bit. When I asked the two of them the question of the day, Christensen echoed Chris Gonzalez sentiment on bringing people together, “Music is the keystone to life. Every culture has songs and if every culture is doing the same thing in a different variation, it’s gotta mean something to a lot of people and what it means to me personally is that it’s a way to get close to people I would have never met in my life.”

James of King’s Trio followed up by saying, “Music is from the heart, so as soon as it hits everybody and they feel it, then it either shows everyone how the world is, or it just brings everybody together, dude, you know and that’s definitely from the heart. Music, to us, it just life.”

The main organizers of the event were Tonight Shall Rise, with the bulk of the effort falling on guitarist Randy Blount. When I asked why name the show “Music Matters”, Blount said, “Noticing how much music matters to people nowadays, it’s a release of anger, hate, love and all that kind of stuff and we’re noticing that the music scene is getting stronger and music matters to everybody nowadays. Doesn’t matter if its reggae, rock, metal, we all come together as one in ‘Music Matters’.”

Tonight Shall Rise Front woman TINK offered her own perspective about coming together as a group, “It really just kinda like pulls me out of the dumps for the most part and like just writing music and even just listening to different types of music affects me a lot, so it’s a really an emotional experience to be able to write music, get together and play music with good people”

No matter the reason, music will always play an important part in our lives. It is the manifestation of cultural identity that is able to cross language barriers and politics. Two people of radically different upbringings, lifestyles and political backgrounds are able to connect by simply liking one song together. That is the power of music and it is what drives these five bands, as well as all the other bands in the High Desert and beyond, to write and perform.  Moving forward, it is important to reflect on these simple pleasures and why they matter.

-b.d. ponce

Another Saturday, Another Round

EDITORIAL NOTE: Sorry for the absence, things have been… weird.

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In a tiny little bar off of Highway 18, an ode to classic sounds came roaring from the stage on Saturday, August 19th. Delta Shade, McComas & the Trust and The Time Bombs presented a night of blues rock, folk and classics not heard too often in modern classic rock radio. The night even came equipped with a drunken patron shouting “Free Bird” during the Time Bomb’s set. I suppose not even small bar shows are immune to all live show annoyances. Despite that, it was solid night of rock and roll.

Starting off the evening was Delta Shade. When we last spoke, Delta Shade had a video waiting in the wings for their song “Blue Sky Black”. Now, the trio is looking forward to putting out another album and video if possible. Their set list featured plenty of tracks from their self-titled album Delta Shade, but also new tracks that the group has been cooking up since the album’s release. When I asked how much the group writes, singer and bassist Chad Buchanan said, “It’s a constant. We’ll go back though the other stuff, mostly just live, but in practice and stuff, it’s all about just writing… …We have a bunch in our arsenal right now that we haven’t played. It’s gonna be our next album.”

After reviewing their debut album and hearing the new material, Delta Shade is gaining a lot of traction among the local community. Following them was McComas & the Trust, another local group that has a folk/country vibe to their sound. Singer Jim McComas sat down to talk about the influences that go into this group, “There was a time when I was playing a lot of blues and one day I turned on a Dave Alvin record, it’s called King of California… … I went down [a different avenue]  musically and from there I just kinda found a lot of music that was similar folk-wise and started hanging out with people who turned me onto stuff like Uncle Topelo, of course Son Volt I love, but you know, I’ve always been sort of a Neil Young and rock and roll fan.”

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The group has an album, titled Death Valley Stereo, available on Spotify and other digital outlets. McComas gave me a brief summary of the origin of the group, “I met Dave and Robby, the bass player and the guitar player; they came to my studio to record with their band. They’re called Tango Kilo, a local band up here. I liked what they were doing, they liked what I was doing and they said, ‘When are you going to get your own band?’ I said, ‘oh you know, whenever, you know. I’m just writing songs right now’. They said, ‘well, we’ll play with you’, so I got my own drummer and that’s how it started.”

Ending out the evening were The Time Bombs, a group that functions as a cover group with a love for classic rock songs that don’t often make the cut of classic rock stations. At least that’s how singer Tim Elliot feels as he explained the direction of the band, “The main goal is to try and play songs that you don’t hear very much anymore that are classic rock and roll songs, but not the same old classic rock songs that have been ground into the ground… … There’s so many good songs that are out there that don’t ever get played. Songs by Traffic and the Kinks and things like this. So, we’re trying to pull up some of that stuff that we’ve always thought was really good.”

The group has original material, but they’re not stage ready according to Elliot. However, the group has a solid set of covers that are a great reminder of stuff you don’t often hear. Being 65 years of age, Elliot still feels a youthful joy when preforming these songs, “We have so much fun doing what we’re doing that all we really wanna do is more songs that make have so much fun.”

– b.d. ponce

Like Delta Shade and McComas & The Trust on Facebook.

Contact The Time Bombs at timebombsrock@gmail.com

Scream ’til You Feel Better: An Evening of Hardcore

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Stay Wild returned to Frogee’s Cocktail Bar this last Friday for an evening loaded with some of the best local Hardcore this scene has to offer. Hosted by Shrug City Sounds, Stay Wild along with Little Debbie and the Moonpies, Cel Damage and Post Nothing tore apart the stage with their brands of high quality hardcore. Each band played a devote passion for their craft and was invigorated by the crowd of equally passionate hardcore fans. Even small setbacks, such as Cel Damage having to play as a two piece with their guitarist dealing with an injury, did not deter the evening from being wildly fun.

Kicking off the evening was Little Debbie and the Moonpies, and it was a great start. The group brought their own entourage of air dancers and throw out MoonPies to the crowd during the set. It was a lighthearted juxtaposition to the group’s heavier brand of hardcore. The sound follows in the footstep of metalcore groups like Misery Signals, a comparison that singer and guitarist Arsenio Otero was very open about, “We take our influence strongly from Misery Signals… …they’re the band that took us from being a thrash metal band, you know, we were like hardcore stupid thrash metal, just annoying… …we heard them at the peak of our thrash metal and we we’re like, ‘that’s… that’s right’.”

Looking back on his roots, Otero has changed a lot in his direction of music. Coming from a background that includes influences like Metallica and Green Day, the birth of Little Debbie and Moonpies came actually as a resurrection of an old project Otero and friends had years ago, “We had our time in our first band, you know, it went its route. We got old, we got tired. On the drunken stupor of a friend who was supposed to be a part of Little Debbie, but ultimately didn’t, it was actually his drunken stupor that was like, ‘oh, we can do better than that. We can do- *hic*- we can do this’ and I was like, ‘I’m gonna hold you to that’. So like a week later, the four of us got together.” Though that friend did not tag along for the ride, Otero and company have kept the band rolling for three years and are looking to keep going strong.

Following Little Debbie and the Moonpies were Cel Damage, who actually joined Stay Wild at Thrasho De Mayo, another event hosted by Blaze (of Shrug City Sounds) that I also covered on this blog. At that event, Cel Damage were rolling as a four piece, but due to unforeseen circumstances, only Brothers Danny and Josh Mathews were able to perform. Guitarist Riley Tews’ presence was missed by his band mates, however.

“It’s a bummer that Riley couldn’t be here,” said Josh, “he just ripped open his finger today.”

“By pineapple” Danny added.

I did not ask any further questions.

The injury did not stop the brothers from putting on a show, having singer Danny Mathews trying his hand at guitar. The duo still managed to pull off their own brand of intense hardcore mixed with vocal modulations. When I asked about what the songwriting process was like for them, drummer Josh Mathews unveiled the hidden idiosyncrasies of their sound, “Usually our songs just go from like an idea. We don’t really sit down and be like ‘okay, this needs to be a verse, chorus, verse’. It’s like, ‘okay, this sounds cool. Woo, dude, you just did that? Do that again, like two times’ and that’s all of our songs.”

“Literally,” Danny said, “Every. Single. One.”

The set ended uniquely with Danny dismantling the drum set while Josh continued to play. He got all the way to just the snare, bass drum and hi-hat before Arsenio Otero of Little Debbie and Moonpies lifted Mathews out of the chair and carried him off the stage. Mathews continued to drum, regardless.

Following that act was Post Nothing, a group that has been active for six years now, but has only been preforming under their current name for the last three years. The original name of the group was Trap Her, Keep Her, but singer Jed Bookout gave me some insight on the name change and origin of the band, “We were all in a bunch of other bands… …and we wanted to start a hardcore band so we could play… so we could get into the hardcore shows we wanted to go to for free. True story. So actually we would tell people we wanted to open those shows just so that we could play those and we ended up getting to play with everybody.”

“It actually ended being, in some ways, more successful than any of our other bands,” he continued, “so we stopped kinda fucking around and we started writing more serious music… we got to a point where we started hearing what people were saying about our old band name… … it was coming off as… rapey, I guess, you could say. We heard it loud and clear and we decided the best thing to do to be a serious band is to change our name, so we became Post Nothing.”

The name change has not stopped the band’s output, which has a whole host of new material available under the new name such as 2016’s Misinformation and this year’s split with In Decline, all of which are available on bandcamp as well as the band’s older material under their old name. As for the direction moving forward, Jed feels the addition of drummer Matt Fullove has pushed the group further with their material, “we’re trying to be as experimental as possible while still kinda sticking to our roots. We listen now more to, I mean we always have, but throwing out more influences from bands like Every Time I Die, Poison the Well, like more metalcore type bands that we were into when we were younger then say the BraceWar and Terror-type stuff that we were writing before.”

Capping off the evening was Stay Wild, who have been keeping themselves busy with a two week tour across the west coast, a new video for The Killjoy Luck Club and an upcoming three week tour across the southern and eastern parts of the United States, but despite working hard to promote their material outside of the high desert, Stay Wild always remember their roots as bassist Jehiah Tonneson said, “every time we play here, it’s getting like- like I grew up here and just having that many friends almost made me cry, like singing along to my music. It almost made me cry.”

With an east coast tour coming up, things are looking bright for the hardcore trio. After their dates, they plan to write and record their first full length album for the remainder of the year and record next year, “so we leave on the 23rd,” said Tonneson, “and we’ll be gone til like the 18th or so and then we’re going to record pretty much all through the holiday season and then we’re hopefully gonna start recording January/February… … and hopefully have it out by April-ish.” I’m certainly looking forward to it.

I wish there was an edgier version of ‘delightful’, but that is really the only way I could describe the evening. Blaze and Shrug City Sounds put on a great show for all the hardcore fans of the high desert. Joy and her bar are turning into the bright spot of the high desert for bands looking to put on a good show and this show was no exception. I look forward to all the new material coming from these bands in the near future.

-b.d. ponce

All photos by Eduardo Degante (except where noted)

Shrug City Sounds on Facebook

Stay Wild on Facebook and Bandcamp

Cel Damage on Facebook and Bandcamp

Little Debbie and the MoonPies on Facebook

Post Nothing on Facebook and Bandcamp

An Evening Of Expression

 

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Odd Bridges returned to the Hilltop Tavern Saturday night, July 22nd, with special guest Mirk Beniah, Swift Sonorous, Kings Trio, Kryptic Moons and Just Say’N, as well as a special appearance from Dewey B. Weather of Rain Brings Weather. It’s been about a month and a half since Odd Bridges and the Hilltop played host to OddFest, a festival celebrating the growing talent and music scene in the High Desert. Odd Bridges and crew were all present at the festival, with Kings Trio being the exception, and returned this evening to continue tearing up stages left and right.

Kicking off the evening was Kryptic Moons, a group that reflects the attitude and style of hard rock from the 70’s and 80’s. With covers like “Strutter” from Kiss’s first album and originals like “Blue”, “To the Wire” and “Dirty Looks”, Kryptic Moons are still looking strong despite a recent lineup change. I spoke with singer and guitarist Melody Del Real about the direction of the band moving forward, “we’re trying to settle back, definitely more groove rather than speed and technicality, just more groove… …That’s my ultimate aim, is to create something that is approachable but is also interesting, but not technical, not trying to show off.”

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When talking about why she started the group and what it means to her, Melody emphasized her desire for self-expression, “I wanted my own thing. Seeing all these other people being recruited, like being drafted into those bands as a session musician and I didn’t [want that]. I was like, ‘I want to write my own stuff.’ ”

With a new bass player in tow, Kryptic Moons are looking to hit the studio later this year. “We’re recording this fall,” said Del Real, “Our drummer is gonna track in about two months and then the rest of the band will go in about October. We still need to arrange everything, see when everyone is free, but I already got the guy.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to hear some new and old tracks crisply recorded into an album soon, or EP; either way, I’m anxious to hear more.

Following them was Kings Trio, who recently played a set at the 12th Annual Battle for Warped Tour on July 16th. Whether they make it or not, it doesn’t seem to deter King’s Trio moving forward. However, when I sat down with them, I decided to take a look back at the history of Kings Trio. Guitarist James and bassist Jesse Gonzalez are brothers and actually share a lot of influences. “I would say, my biggest inspiration, what really got me playing a lot was Nirvana, “said James, “When that grunge scene came out, dude, I was all into that, dude. Before that, I was listening to a lot of N.W.A and stuff like that, so I was thinking ‘fuck the police’ and getting all crazy and then Nirvana came out and dude, that was it for me.”

Jesse continued with a little more of their background, “Us growing up together, we had the same inspiration. Even oldies, because our parents we’re in a band when they were kids and they passed it on to us. Like, our dad showed us how to play. Oldies, but goodies and the Beatles were their favorites. They showed us all that, so that’s what they had us playing first.”

Drummer Matt Christiensen adds some more diversity with his influences, “I wanted to be Joey Jordison, who is formerly of Slipknot. Started getting schooled in music and fell in love with Jazz… …Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Chad Smith and Nicko McBrain.”

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Indeed, like all the bands that were present, Kings Trio has a tremendous love for music and preforming, by in part because of the energy the crowd brings, “We love the crowd, man,” said Jesse, “so we actually try to get involved the crowd as much as possible.”

“That’s probably the best part,” added James, “Everyone is here and everyone is getting involved. It’s just we feed off of it and likewise, everyone that’s listening to our music and feeds off of it and everything is super fun.”

Following Kings Trio was the host of the evening, Odd Bridges, who brought their eclectic brand of alternative rock that the group has become known for. Tracks like “Medicate” and “Be My Friend” are loads of fun to listen too, especially when the latter features Dewey B. Weather, of Rain Brings Weather, jumping up on stage to sing along with singer Derek Beck and guitarist Michael Eberhardt. When they’re not preforming, Eberhardt and company are hard at work making sure everything is going well for the other bands during their sets. I didn’t hound them for an interview because I’ve already bugged them enough in the last month and there were other voices I needed to hear.

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One of those was a quick interview with Swift Sonorous, who performed that evening alongside Mirk Beniah after Odd Bridges’ set. The last time I spoke with Beniah, I got a little taste of the background of the Royal Dynasty and Swift was able to add to that with his and Beniah’s history together, “we’ve been artist for a while and I think in 2009 or 2010, we just linked up. He seen me at a show and ever since then we’ve been doing music together. That show, at Johnny Fingers, we were supposed to have our own separate performance, right? It just happens to be that when me and Mirk Beniah preform together, it’s just way better. So, instead of preforming separately, we’ve been just doing our own shows and performing together.”

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When talking what drives him as an artist and performer, Sonorous said, “I just want my fans to hear my growth in my music, to say, ‘oh, man I heard your first stuff and it was cool, but bro, your new stuff is dope. I can’t wait to hear what’s coming up next’. That what I’m all about, cuz I’ve been doing this for seven years now. I just want my fans to hear my growth, you know what I mean and I’m not going to let them down.”

Swift has a lot to look forward to next month, as he will be preforming at the Mega-Sesh festival at the NOS center in San Bernardino, “They say they want me to play on the main stage on August 19th, so I’m bringing my boy Mirk Beniah with me and you know, the royal dynasty is going down.”

Capping off our evening was Just Say’N, a group that has been working hard and playing as many shows that can come their way. Another trio of musicians, Just Say’N is a group of very likeminded and dedicated friends. Digging into their past, I found it was singer and guitarist Paul McDonald’s best friend from adolescence who showed him how to play guitar, “He was awesome, you know, we did everything together, he was my road dog. We got split up and [he] moved to Arizona and I started listening to lots of Blink 182 and Bullet for My Valentine. I know it’s an odd mix, but yeah, Tom DeLonge’s my man. My voice, my guitar playing, everything is based around him.”

“If he could, he would marry him,” said Bassist Jorge Arias.

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Photo by Katherine Allen

Drummer Art Fernandez talked about the excitement of going from just one drum to a whole set, “You know, in high school, I tried to join the drum line over at Serrano High School and I ended up doing it for, like, a couple months or so, but I had to get out of it. But, as an inspiration, I was just on a snare drum and going onto a six… it’s pretty fun cause like when your rumbling on those things, you pick up different sounds. It’s inspiring what you can mix in.”

When I asked Arias what drove him as musician, his response was my favorite of all I heard that day, “it’s a form of expression because I’ve never been a good drawer or storywriter or anything like that, but I picked up the guitar after Paul right here showed me a couple of instructions on how to play the guitar the right way, and from there, man, it’s making music. I like it, you can express yourself and you don’t even need words in some songs, you can just pick and play. That’s why I love playing here at these free shows, because it’s just for having fun and expressing ourselves and everybody enjoys it.”

That seems to be the ultimate goal of many of the bands I’ve come across in the desert. Very few have grand dreams of rock star level success, so many settle for the joy of expression. While some of the music I’ve come across may not seem the most original or very good at all, but the level sincerity these artist are putting into their music is very refreshing. I’ll be honest, if I had a dime for every shitty demo I got back in my early twenties, I would have been able to pay for my college education a lot sooner. Exaggerations aside, these are musicians who play for the love of music, not for fame or money (although a little money wouldn’t hurt…) and to me, that seems worth a lot more.

-b.d. ponce

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Kryptic Moons’ Facebook

Soundcloud for Kryptic Moons

Kings Trio’s Facebook

Kings Trio’s Website

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Website

Swift Sonorous’ Facebook

Swift’s Website

Just Say’N’s facebook

(Don’t Fear) the Lillies

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Blue Oyster Cult rocked the Rose in Pasadena on Saturday, July 15th, but my focus of the evening, though very excited for B.O.C, was set on the openers, The Lillies, who have been one of the most enduring acts to come from the High Desert in the last decade. This show is significant to them for a lot of reasons; mainly that it is the biggest act this local quartet has ever opened for. In the seven years they’ve been active, the Lillies have managed to be a mainstay of the high desert scene and a show like is a result of a lot of perseverance and determination. Through it was only a thirty minute set, the Lillies still managed to bring their best to Pasadena.

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Thirty minutes may not seem like much, especially for a band with enough material to go a full hour if they wanted to (and they have). The set-list was crucial in order to appeal to crowd of ravenous Blue Oyster Cult fans while also giving them a taste of the variety The Lillies are known for. Singer Robert Pereda echoed this sentiment when I spoke with him backstage, “Well, we have a very diverse catalogue… … we’re opening for Blue Oyster Cult, so we kind of have to brainstorm that, but at the same time, you know, the audience, you know, they might be into other shit, too. So, we kind of mix that in and just tried to pick the stuff we had solid and fit together as a whole set.”

Old favorites like “Joany” and “Maria” made the cut with newer tracks like “The Shake”, “Hired Hearts” and “The Great Unknown”, the latter of which turned out to be the band’s closer. “Hired Hearts” has been the band’s go-to closer for a while because of the grandiose nature of the song, but instead they chose to change it up and end with this newer, mellower song. Pereda spoke about the process of ending a set list and the importance of changing it up as players, ’You know, it’s always weird picking an ender, because you’re like, ‘should it be a heavy, epic thing or should it be a cool winding-it-down kind of thing’?  So we always try to calculate that… …Also it’s refreshing for us as players… …You always want to keep it fresh, because if it gets too monotonous and you get used to like, ‘oh, this is what works so I’m just gonna keep doing this every time’. Sincerity kind of goes out the window and it seems more orchestrated and staged.”

Going on seven years working together, Pereda and guitarist Matthew Humphrey know what it takes to keep things fresh and light hearted in the band. When I asked what it was they liked about working together, I apparently caught the two off guard.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” was all Pereda could muster.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” followed Humphrey

“Uhhhhhhhh.”

“Uhhhhhhhh.”

“You wanna take this one?”

“Black Sabbath?”

Humphrey finally spoke honestly, “we’re both really good players and I really feel that both of our guitar styles, they’re not the same, but they complement each other. You know, we’ve learned to give each other room. If Robert does this here, I don’t want do something over here, I want to do something that makes that sound good, and it should be vice versa, you know what I mean. Plus, where else am I gonna find a guy with a voice like that?”

“And the mustache,” bassist Eduardo “Eddy” Romero added.

“And the mustache. And plus, he’s like a brother to me, so I couldn’t really think of playing music with anyone else.”

Indeed, dynamic is strong between Pereda and Humphrey and is the driving force behind the Lillies, but that is not to understate the contributions of Romero and drummer Javi Banuelos, who round out the lineup solidly. When talking about coming into the band last February, Eddy says he’s changed a lot as a musician, “I think what I like about the band is they have a lot of experience together, they know the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty… and that’s why I’m here, I’m the pretty… …it’s challenging playing with them, it is challenging. These are the guy that will tell you something straight and you get it, not in a bad way, but you get it and that makes you improve a lot. So, I kind of feel they’ve made me improve a lot as a musician”

Banuelos shared this attitude when talking about his time with the Lillies thus far, “It’s just like I expect from them and so far it’s been great. You know, they push me to do and work on things I’ve never worked on before. I kind of expect the same, to push them and expand their horizons, or you know, play stuff they’ve never thought of playing.”

It may seem like Pereda and Humphrey is a strict duo, but in the seven years they’ve been working together, the two have developed strong identities as musicians. That doesn’t mean they aren’t up for new things. “It’s refreshing,” said Humphrey, “just because, you know you get a new player who plays completely different and it’s just refreshing. Normally, someone else would do this, but a new person does this other thing so it makes you go, ‘oh, well maybe I won’t do this, I’ll try out a new thing’.”

Banuelos isn’t exactly a new player when it comes to the Lillies, however. His tenure with the group stretches way back to the early days. “He was drummer our very first live gig ever,” Humphrey shared with me, “without a drum machine. He was our first drummer at our first show ever. He was in another band and”-

“Well, that’s kind of disrespectful to our drum machine” said Pereda

“Blackie?”

“Yeah, it busted it’s ass for a lot of gigs.”

“He left. Blackie left.”

“Yeah, but hey, Blackie had perfect rhythm.”

“Pocket player,” Humphrey agreed while flicking his cigarette, “Blackie was a pocket player. In the pocket, all the time.”

“Oh yeah. Blackie just always showed up on time.”

“Wasn’t very diverse, but he was always on tempo.”

“He kinda did what we told him,” Pereda shrugged, “which was kinda nice.”

“It was really nice”

“It made me feel like a dictator.”

“Honestly, I wished he would have never left the band, but there was had some legal issues. Blackie, if you’re listening to this, we need you.”

As for the rest of the concert, it was as you would expect from a band of the caliber of Blue Oyster Cult. Despite both pushing 70, Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom still show no signs of slowing down. It’s honestly pointless to put into words how good the show was. It was clean, it was sexy, it was cosmic, and it was everything I wanted it to be. Okay, maybe that is overstating it a little bit, but it was still a great performance that featured big hits like “Godzilla”, “Burnin’ for You” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”. It was a tremendous pleasure to spend the evening bullshitting with the Lillies and watching Blue Oyster Cult. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.

As for the future of the Lillies, there is a lot on the horizon. Pereda assured me that their long overdue second album is the main focus of the band right now, but they remain open to whatever life will throw at them, “Well, we’ve got an album to finish up, so we’re really excited about that. We’re working hard on that and that’s kind of the end goal right now, get this album done, get it recorded and get it out there and market it, but at the same time, opportunities come and go, so we wanna take as many of them as we can.”

 

-b.d. ponce

The Lillies’ website

The Lillies’ Facebook

Friday Night Done Right

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Summer weather has taken over the high desert as the sweltering days give way to cool evenings that make for the best conditions for a night of cold beer, hot food and good music. Johnny Fingers, off of 7th avenue and Lorene drive, was this exact place to be on June 23rd, where the Twenty Dollar Prophets and company took over the bar for a night of rock, hip-hop and reggae. Featuring some of the best performing artist floating around the high desert scene (all of whom were present at Oddfest earlier this month, check out the article here), the show made for a smooth and pleasant evening of great live music. Unfortunately, it didn’t start out that way.

The original lineup of bands was set to feature Twenty Dollar Prophets, Odd Bridges, Mirk Beniah and Swift Sonorous,  The Muppet Hunters and The Rezinators, but unfortunately The Rezinators and Muppet Hunters were unable to make it (special shout-out to them anyways). In their place, Rain Brings Weather swung in at the last minute to serve as our evening’s opening band. Dewey and crew delivered a powerful set of alternative rock filled with emotion, which is the driving element of Rain Brings Weather’s sound. “I don’t even worry about the sound or what genre our songs are, I want the fucking emotion. I want the passion. I want to express what I have to say,” said Dewey B. Weather.

“And that’s a common ground in all of us, you know,” guitarist Bigs added, “If we weren’t great musicians, at least we put our heart into it.

“For sure, I’m probably the worst guitar player at most of the shows we play, you know what I mean.”

“And I’m the second worst.”

Following Rain Brings Weather was Odd Bridges, another band whose genre is difficult to define for similar reasons. Mike Eberhardt took some time to explain his process when it comes to writing music, “I don’t try to write songs. I’ll just sit down and I’ll just start strumming, I’ll get a chord pattern and we just kind of make up these songs on the fly… … I don’t try to say ‘I’m gonna make a song that sounds like Elton John’ or ‘a song that sounds like Prince’ or whatever, it just comes out like that.”

Listening to Odd Bridges, you can hear the roots of other bands and nuance that I’ve seen in other artist, but it’s hard to exactly say, ‘Odd Bridges sounds like ___’. This sentiment is shared by Mike, who is confused by some of the comparison’s he’s gotten, “A lot of people, like years ago, used to say my stuff sounded like Tom Petty. I never got that… … How can people say we sound like The Melvins or Mudvayne or whatever when I don’t hear any of that.”

Tom Petty and the Melvins is certainly an odd combination, but it’s the right kind of unusual that I would devour. Regardless of how you want to define them, Odd Bridges is an alt-rock delight. Following them was Mirk Beniah with Swift Sonorous. The two of them teamed up to bring fiery hot energy to Johnny Fingers. In my interview with Mirk, I found out that he has been active since 2009, but took a break for a little while. He is now back at it and ready to prove he is not going anywhere, “U.G.A. (UnderGround Anthems) is still here, we’re just revamping things. We got the Royal Dynasty, Sorry Not Sorry, Swift Sonorous, Royalhighnessz, Chris Effects, Malibu Sprinkles. Shout out to Karen Denise and Swift and The old dynasty, you know, much love.”

Mirk was one of two artists I was not able to get a one on one interview with at Oddfest, so when I asked about his feelings about the festival and the state of music in the high desert, he had nothing but positive things to say, “I’m loving the energy, man, you know what I mean. Michael, from Odd Bridges, you know, he was the one that made it possible, bringing me out… …It was a beautiful thing, man, being able to rock out there. We jammed out real good. It was dope.”

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When I asked what the future had in store for him, all he had to say was “Big things. We got big things going all the time, so any time we’re in the building, there’s gonna be something big. As you see, we brought out Malibu Sprinkles, we opening up for the Twenty Dollar Prophets; they’re the most popular band out here in the desert. Shout out to Rain Brings Weather, Odd Bridges, all the bands, man. Muppet Hunters, the Rezinators, and U.G.A!”

As for me, I had the host of the evening, the Twenty Dollar Prophets, to look forward to for my immediate future. The group, locally located right here in Victorville, is making big waves in the scene with their mix of hard rock and reggae. The group wanted to give a shout-out to their sponsors Vape Out and Irie Roots Extract, the latter of which had a free wax sample for me (which in no way affects the personal bias of this article or viewpoint of this blog).

That being said, Twenty Dollar Prophets was amazing. The best band in my life.

REMEMBER KIDS, JUST SAY ‘NO’ TO BIASED JOURNALISM

I spoke with front man Chris immediately after the set and got his feelings of his performance, “I feel love and energy from the crowd and I could never replace the feeling of entertaining people for as long as we did without them getting bored.”

Twenty Dollar Prophets has been active for two years and the guys have kept themselves busy in that time, “in that [two years] we’ve produced five music videos, two albums, and played hundreds, I’d say probably close to two hundred shows already. You know what I mean, because that’s all we do, every weekend. This weekend, for instance, we have three shows and next weekend, we have one show and the weekend after we have two shows.”

With another album and video on the way, Twenty Dollar Prophets don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. All the bands and artist share that same kind of passion and devotion for performing and making music, which is why these kinds of shows are popping up more and more. When two of the opening bands pulled out at the last minute, Chris and crew held the event together and still managed to pull off a successful evening by in part because of friendship these bands share. The growth of this musically community over the last two years in the high desert is a result of these musicians coming together and building camaraderie among one another.

-b.d. ponce

Book a show or grab a brew @ Johnny Fingers Bar and Grill

The Muppet Hunters’ Facebook

The Rezinators’ Facebook

Rain Brings Weather’s Facebook

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Swift Sonorous’ Facebook

Twenty Dollar Prophets’ Facebook

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