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

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

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

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!

Twenty $ Dollar Prophets new music video “Shadows”

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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