Why Does Music Matter?

22095844_2047811965236296_1017989535388573988_o

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.

20170929_201601

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.”

20170929_232750

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

Advertisements

Tacos and Thrash

18278241_701347933386050_6730925257240567695_o

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.

DSCN2536

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

DSCN2546

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.

DSCN2564

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

DSCN2598

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.

DSCN2617

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

DSCN2642

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.

DSCN2743

 

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.

DSCN2261DSCN2264

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.

DSCN2415DSCN2498

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

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.

DSCN2062

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.

DSCN2072
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.

DSCN2142

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.

DSCN2153
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

Twenty $ Dollar Prophets new music video “Shadows”

twntyprof

On March 25th 2017, SoCal Urban Reggae band Twenty $ Dollar Prophets hosted an event at Gators in Apple Valley to announced the release of their new music video “Shadows.”

It was a packed venue with Epic! Radio in the house to MC the event. Supporting bands who performed were Dubious Distinction, The Lillies, Muppet Hunters, Dubsiders and The Rezinators. The sounds were a good mixture of Reggae, rock and rap. Patrons danced, mingled and chilled as they sipped their drinks while one of high desert’s favorite bartenders, Skylar, served up the drinks. It was a puff of a good time.

Here’s a video clip from that night:

The “Shadows” music video is a contrast between night and day.  The daytime and exterior of a building appears to representing a current, brighter situation, while the dark interior of the building along with the haunting characters appear to represent a haunting past of one that is lurking in the “Shadows.”

Watch the video below and let us know your thoughts!

Like the Twenty $ Dollar Profits Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TwentyDollarProphets

And keep updated on what’s happening at Gators Apple Valley at https://www.facebook.com/gators.applevalley

Check out Epic! Radio http://epicradio2.wixsite.com/epic-radio

 

-Mo

Back on our Feet Live at Frogee’s Apple Valley “Melancholy March”

Back on our Feet played at Frogee’s Apple Valley on March 17th 2017.  Below is video footage of their song “Melancholy March” from that night.

“Melancholy March” is dedicated to the bands friend who passed away on March 20th 2012. May he R.I.P.

You may find more from Back on our Feet at the following links:

https://soundcloud.com/backonourfeet
https://www.facebook.com/backonourfeet
https://twitter.com/backonourfeet
https://www.instagram.com/backonourfeet

Frogee’s Apple Valley – https://www.facebook.com/FrogeesCocktail

 

Red Relic announcement and EP review

Red Relic is an alternative rock band residing in Victorville, CA that popped up in 2015. They quickly became a favorite among the high desert locals playing at popular venues in the area such as Frogees, Hilltop Tavern and the Desert Rocks Film and Music Event festival located in Hesperia, CA. We are sad, however, to announce we were recently notified of the bands departure. The band members have moved on to pursue their own life passions. We will update our readers as we are notified of new bands the members may join. Derek McEntire has joined the local Inland Empire punk metal band, Dead Reckoning.

With the departure comes Red Relic’s first EP release available for listening for free on SoundCloud. It brings you a mid-nineties alternative punk sound along with today’s alternative rock vibe. Their main single release, “Pump Up The Volume” makes you want to jump up and down while wearing your vans sneakers in a MTV Spring Break video in hopes they might be playing with Green Day. It’s a fun EP to get people moving at any event. I personally enjoy it and enjoyed watching them live. Their tunes will be missed. Please check their Red Relic SoundCloud profile to listen to their EP and past songs.
15774923_574209196117623_6758217000885336830_o