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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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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

Kickin’ it at Kennedy’s Pub with Mondo Silicone and Delta Shade

The heat has finally caught up with the desert, making the evening of June 14th a warm Saturday night. Perfect for a pub show and Kennedy’s pub served as an excellent stage for Mondo Silicone and Delta to rip up, despite there not being an actual stage. Hot off their performance at Oddfest, Mondo Silicone and Delta Shade teamed up for a night of some sweet hard rock.

First up for the evening was Mondo Silicone and the group is starting to make some notoriety for themselves with their stellar covers of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Breaking the Law”, but still busting out originals written in the vein of 70’s and 80’s metal.  “When we were younger, we were very obsessed with classic rock,” said drummer Jonathan Avina, “the image, the music, you know, just the subculture of everything involved, it was just a fantasy world for us. We realized a lot of that is still obtainable while still respecting the world [of classic rock] and, not to get all preachy, but fucking just have good fun.”

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The image of Mondo Silicone is not a gimmick.  It may seem that way with singer Chris Martell donning green fur leggings and ripping off one of his many green shirts during the performance, but what Mondo Silicone has constructed is a band that not only loves the music, but the era of youthful rebellion through hard rock. “We do play covers, you know. Like, I think that’s where we find our identities,” said Martell. “These are our influence and that’s what drove us all together, but together, we made Mondo Silicone.”

“We’re four Peter Pans,” Guitarist Tim Smith added. It was a nice sentiment that I actually wrote down in my notebook. The aspirations of the group seem more set echoing an era lost in time rather than haphazardly covering classic songs. Combined with the youthfulness of the group, it seemed like Mondo Silicone are intent on being the Lost Boys of the Classic Rock era, an idea that Smith immediately put into question, “Wait, where is our Wendy? Do we each get a Wendy, or do we have to share a Wendy?”

Truly hard hitting music journalism, only at Ticket2Ride Music blog.

As for the future, there is a lot on the plate for Mondo Silicone. Bassist Todd Fitzgerald Hines sets his expectations high, “you know, we’ve had the talk where it’s like; this guy said it and it all just kinda resonated. We don’t want to be a one hit wonder kinda deal; we want to be a two hit wonder… Of course we want to have fun, but I mean who’s to say we can’t have our own motion picture, you know.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m eagerly awaiting This Is Mondo Silicone.

Teaming up with Mondo Silicone is Delta Shade, a band that has been rising up in the scene over the last year with their brand of blues rock, but according to drummer Andy Laich, it didn’t start out that way, “Actually, when we very first started jamming out, they were Green Day cover songs”.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” added singer and bassist Chad Buchanan, “This was in the bedroom, it was never taken anywhere. Yeah, we met in little league, had him over at my house and I learned a couple of Green Day songs [on guitar].” Laich and Buchanan had actually played with the likes of Save Ferris, Backside and Face to Face back in their early career.

“Can I give a shout out to No Direction?” asked Laich.

Buchanan elaborated on the evolution of their sound and deviating away from punk rock, “[It came] with age. I mean, how long are you gonna play a bunch of power chords?”

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The story of Delta Shade begins more than a year ago according to Guitarist Travis Prine, “Yeah, [Chad and Andy] ran an open mic at the Yodeler, me and my brother went to check it out like a little over a year ago, so I went and jammed with them and we really hit it off. Yeah, we just decided to try and make something out of it, writing songs and stuff.”

At the end of the evening, I went around asking the bands what song made them fall in the love with music. Jonathan and Chris of Mondo Silicone shared “TNT” by AC/DC while Todd says “Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses was what did it for him. Tim confessed that “Bringing on the Heartbreak” by Def Leppard was what drove him to want to play guitar.

As for the guys at Delta Shade, Chad sang the chorus for “Here Comes the Rain Again” by The Eurythmics while Andy busted out “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam. Travis, however, took a little time thinking about his answer. “That’s hard, man. I was into so much stuff, young. Like, my first band obsession was Van Halen, so probably Eruption-“

“I thought it was Smash Mouth?” asked Laich.

“OH, I TOTALLY FORGOT, DUDE. SMASH MOUTH! YES! My whole life changed the day I heard “All Star”, man. That’s when I knew; I’m like ‘selling my soul to the devil today for rock n roll.’”

“You can hear it in your playing,” added Buchanan

“Totally. So yeah, probably Van Halen, you know, ‘Eruption’, or something off of Van Halen I. Yeah, Eddie Van Halen, I worshipped him for like many years, mimicked him and stuff.”

“It’s actually Smash Mouth,” Laich asserted.

“Come on, I told you not to bring that up.”

-b.d. ponce

Have a show and/or drink at Kennedy’s Pub Today!

Mondo Silicone’s Facebook

Delta Shade’s Facebook

Check out Delta Shade’s first album!

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

Ghosts in Pocket, Banana Daiquiris, and the “Barberton” Mountains

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By Mark Simpson

Barberton is the name of a unique and small town located in South Africa. The town was a gold mining town in the 1800’s and is surrounded by some of the oldest exposed mountains in the world. This improbable town also provides the name for the newest album by local Inland Empire indie rock band Ghost in Pocket. “Barberton” is the five-track stroke of genius that, with the help of kick starter and their fans, Ghosts in Pocket gave birth to on October 9th, 2015.

” It was important to us that we try to make “Barberton” feel like progress, because that’s also what the songs strive to do musically and lyrically.” – Keith

The album was produced, mixed, and mastered with the help of up-and-comer John Kunkel, who is a Los Angeles Native who owns Division 87 Records and performs with the group New Division. With influences such as Burt Reynolds and Carrot Top laying heavy on the band’s mind, they could go into the studio and lay down what may be, in my opinion, the best sounding local album I have heard in the last 5 years. The first track on the album is the title track “Barberton” which has an amazing video that gives you a look at the band and the lengthy recording process that goes with releasing an album.

From bandannas, to Nick cutting a good rug, to empty Rolling Rock on the floor, you can get a sense of how much this album met to the group. As someone who has found myself in padded room for hours on end listening to the same song over and over, I can tell you that the studio process, though amazing, can be quite lengthy.

“I think I speak for the group in saying it took us a lot longer to finish this project than we would have hoped. I suppose it’s all a part of the learning process.” – Zach

The group’s song that is a personal favorite of mine is “Make it Break” which shows off Chris’ unique drumming style. As a fellow drummer, I love that the song consistently keeps it’s energy and drive while Keith sings moving lyrics that, by the end of the track, have us all saying “Lovers, Lovers, Lovers”. When asked about the track Keith gave us some interesting perspective on what makes it such a hit with fans:

“My music interest has always been guided by meaningful and intentional lyrics, regardless of genre or style, and so, especially with the EP, I wanted the songs to resonate with a theme. I think the song that does it best is “Make It Break,” which I also think is one of the more basic songs structurally.” – Keith

I pictured myself sitting with the group listening to “Make it Break” and sipping on a Banana Daiquiri a favorite of my main man Nick… you read that right, a Banana Daiquiri. As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder about the group that got its start from playing a pancake dinner for elementary children. As Keith put it, the song has a mood to it that is quite hypnotic and, as you can see from the video, the song may have a darker meaning than one might expect.

As I listened to moving songs like “Separated by Ice” I got a feeling that this album is much darker than their first album Shadowbox. I could see where a bit of studio magic had happened on the track; originally the track was slated to be electric but at the last-minute John Kunkel asked Keith if he might try it with the acoustic. As Nick put it, he is forever grateful for John’s quick decision and went on to say that, to this day, the track still gives him chills.

“Keep the Heat Coming” may be something of a dark horse on the album as it fits in perfect with the album but, on it’s own, shows a much different side of the group. It is a song that shows the most pressing of steady, high energy and ends with Zach playing a very powerful solo while the group seems to explode in different directions that work together simultaneously.

The album comes to close with what may be their most powerful song to date, “Statues Pulse,” which features a cool assortment of horns courtesy of Zach’s good friend Sean Portanova. The band, who gets their name from the haunting work of Dave Eggers, really shows their strengths in this song as singer Keith lays down one of my favorite lyrical lines:

” There’s nothing to prescribe I’ll trade my nerves to help you feel alive.”

As I finished the album, I could see why the group has been so successful and able to open for groups like We are Scientists. It is, to me, the way that the group can write such moving music while staying objective about their art. The group is a tight-knit group who can be a lot of fun to hang out with. They are bit witty and comical, but when they take the stage, much like Shaq when he hits the court, they rise to the occasion. If you would like to see these guys rock the desert make sure to come out to their show at Frogee’s on April 14th. As a closing, for this album review Id like to leave you with some information on the group as well as Nick’s 3 things that will help you conquer the world. Cheers!

“First, chip clips are poor substitutes for nipple clamps. Second, a tri-tip should rest for at least 10 minutes after you pull it off the grill. And finally, if California marijuana farmers aren’t called “ganjapreneuers,” they should be.” – Nick

Buy an Album $5 right Here –> https://ghostsinpocket.bandcamp.com/album/barberton-ep

Website: https://www.ghostsinpocket.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ticket2ridepromotions

GhostinPocket

Catch their next show at Frogee’s Apple Valley with Rustic Wild and Heavy Door on Friday, April 14th 2017 at 8pm.

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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

Delta Shade, Mojito’s, and A Hell of A Journey

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“Our biggest goal is really just to sound like ourselves. We don’t strive to imitate another band or artist because we don’t see the point in that – it’s already been done.”

By Mark Simpson

Delta Shade is a group that you might have seen rocking in the desert and thought man these guys are great but I wanted to know what makes these guys tick. Turns out that Delta shade is a group, that much like their name may suggest, enjoys listening to the blues.

“We have a deep appreciation for the blues and that was something we bonded over from the beginning.” – Travis

With the band sighting influences like Gary Clark Jr. and Gillian Welch you can tell that these are not guys who will be listening to alternative radio anytime soon. This is a group that is looking to go against the grain and after releasing their new album they have people as far as England wearing Delta Shade T-Shirts and bumping their new self title album. After packing out the religious rock and roll hangout and local watering hole conveniently named Frogee’s I wanted to know what the group thought about their big release show.

“We were so happy to see so many friends and family out there supporting us. It was such a good vibe all-around. Definitely a night we won’t forget.”

I think the one thing that I immediately liked and noticed about this group in my time hanging out with them at various shows is the fact that considering the groups talent they haven’t turned into that group that we all hate in the desert. We all know the type, its the group that shows up late and leaves early while all the while plays the longest set of the night. The group is slowly branching out of the desert with plans to do a short tour soon and currently has a gig scheduled in West Hollywood at the State Social House on Thursday March 30th . As an old Los Angeles Native I can tell you that this gig is one to attend as its just steps outside the famous clubs of the Sunset Strip and offers the coolest small room to groove to your favorite band.

With the group being only a few short miles from where the old Tower Records use to sit I wanted to know if these guys had their own turntable and if so what records they might be playing late after a gig while sipping a beer.

“ Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled. I love the riffs and attitude on that album – Andy

I found this to be interesting choice as it explains why Andy plays with the drums with a sense of urgency and as a drummer myself I love the choice of album. Chad on the other hand is someone who loves to sit down and trance out with one of the greatest song writers of our generation in Conor Oberst who is best known for fronting the talented group Bright Eyes.

As I learned more about each member in this interview I could see how each member had their own unique flavor. This was not three guys working in perfect motion as it may seem but instead three musicians pushing each other to bring out the best in each member. As I closed my interview with this uniquely interesting group and said my usual Cheers sipping on a Mojito (The Groups Favorite Drink) I wondered what the future may hold for this group. I can tell you I have no clue and I don’t think they do right now either but the great thing about uncertainty is that it makes for a hell of a journey. As a closing for this article Id like to leave you with some information on the group as well as their message for all that have support their amazing talents. Cheers!

“We’d like to thank all our family and friends for their support. It’s been a really fun ride so far and it’s been amazing to see the response to our music. It really fills us with gratitude to know and play shows with so many great people.”

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