Shrug City Sounds and Free Punk Rock

EDITORIAL NOTE: Okay, so I’ve been absent for a month. The story behind that: I originally had intended to have an article detailing a festival I attended late last month and… I passed out from heat exhaustion while there. Thanks to The Modern Three, it didn’t get any worse and I recovered just fine. However, I didn’t have much to write about the festival after that. Since then, I’ve taken a little break from the blog to focus on personal stuff, but now I’m back and hoping to do more stuff with the blog in the coming months.


Smoke Wagon Saloon on Palmdale road played host to a night of punk rock last Saturday, September 16th. The bands included local acts The Modern Three and Back On Our Feet along with Sqaurecrow from San Diego. My eye, however, was on acoustic solo talent Blazer Keene, who also works under Shrug City Sounds. Since I’ve started writing for this blog back in March, Blazer has been a consistent presence at shows at Frogees and elsewhere all over the desert. Blazer is a busy man, keeping himself occupied with his music as well as organizing and booking shows under Shrug City Sounds.


Blazer’s start as a musician begins where it starts for most musicians: high school. “I’ve been playing since I was fourteen or fifteen, in different bands. Playing like hardcore stuff and then I quit music for a couple years and went on the road as like a salesmen, then I came back like in 2013, I think, was the year I decided to fully dedicate myself to playing music. Started from there, I couldn’t find anybody to jam with, so I just did my solo thing. Kept writing songs and it just became this.”

The solo approach has worked out pretty fine for Keene as he’s going on four years of performing and making music that he is comfortable with. When I talked about the writing process, Keene admits it’s sporadic and it will take time to get one song done, “I have to really be in the mood. Sometimes it just doesn’t come to me. I’ll take a couple months to write a song and usually, like the chords will come first, then the lyrics. Sometimes, the other way around… … I think I’ve written four new songs in the past year, which isn’t that great.”

I’m not gonna fault quality over quantity as it has worked out so far for Keene. When Blazer approaches a song, he wants it, at the very least, to be catchy and he doesn’t like when people try to tell how to do things, “I have my friends to tell me that I should write a song with the song structure, verse chorus verse chorus, but I like my poetry-type songs where it’s just, there’s no hook to it… …you might hear a small chorus in there, but a lot of times it’s just flow.”

In Keene’s set list of the evening were also killer covers of “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. and “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. When we sat down to talk about influences (actually, more like stand out back behind the bar), Blazer was quick to site Against Me! as a big influence on his current state as a musician, “I found those guys, and girl, a couple years ago… …Their energy with their music, that’s exactly what I try to have.”

On the other side of this coin is Shrug City Sounds. Named after one of Keene’s own songs, Shrug City Sounds has only been around for a couple months despite Keene booking acts for local shows long before the name, “Yeah, it’s pretty new, I kinda fell into it. I was just trying to book myself more shows at Frogee’s and then Joy wanted me to start filling in sound on everybody else and I was like, “alright”. Then I started booking.”


Prior to Shrug City Sounds, Blazer just booked under ‘Blaze and Friends’. The idea started from a conversation Keene had with another local act, “I was talking with the guys at Rain Brings Weather, I think, and we were saying, ‘Instead of booking a whole four hours for myself’- nobody wants to listen to me play a four hour set- ‘bring some friends with me.’ So, every time I started booking, like I’d get the Desert Barn Brewery or Oak Hills Brewery or Frogees or Rock’s Place, out in Lucerne and I would bring people instead. That would eventually bring more crowds, so I just kept doing it.”

With the rest of the year looking packed with show after show after show, Blazer is demonstrating no signs of fatigue. Keene has turned himself into a consistent presence within the High Desert music scene, and he’s looking to branch out, “I’m trying to book out the rest of the year through [Frogees] and then, hopefully with the extra time, fill in the spots for myself, try to get down the hill.” Keene certainly has the talent and drive to take himself anywhere he wants to.

-b.d. ponce

Shrug City Sounds on Facebook

Photo taken from Blazer Keene’s Facebook


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