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

Friday Night Done Right

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

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

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

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

“And I’m the second worst.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REMEMBER KIDS, JUST SAY ‘NO’ TO BIASED JOURNALISM

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

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

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

-b.d. ponce

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

The Muppet Hunters’ Facebook

The Rezinators’ Facebook

Rain Brings Weather’s Facebook

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Swift Sonorous’ Facebook

Twenty Dollar Prophets’ Facebook

Something Odd In Those Hills: ODDFEST 2017

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June 14th, 2017
by Brian Donald Ponce

 

Oddfest 2017 hit the stages of the Hilltop Tavern and Inn Saturday, June 10th for its second annual music festival promoting and celebrating the best music the High Desert can offer. Put on my Michael Eberhardt with the rest of the guys at Odd Bridges, the festival featured nineteen bands and artist from genres ranging from punk, alternative, hard rock, reggae and hip-hop. It was an eclectic representation of the state of music in the High Desert, which is far cry from the state of the scene five years ago, where the closure of several established venues and the failure of others cast a shadow over the talent in this region. Oddfest 2017 is a strong indication that those days are behind us.

The line-up of bands featured Manifest Illusion, At Your Six, Anti-Socialite, Hoodlife Hippiez, Mondo Silicone, Delta Shade, Rain Brings Weather, Odd Bridges, Twenty Dollar Prophets and Mirk Beniah on the main stage with Atomik:Kangaroo, Just SayN, The Modern Three, ZODRHI (or Zombie Dress Hipsters), The Companies, Jade, The Lillies, Dead Rekoning and Kryptic Moons on the second stage. We had a good blend of seasoned veterans like The Lillies, Rain Brings Weather and The Companies joined by rising acts like Anti-Socialize and Mondo Silicone, the latter of whom celebrated the one year anniversary of their first show at the Oddfest 2016.

Like last year, Oddfest was held at the Hilltop Tavern and Inn, which offered a good selection of beer and a stunning view of the High Desert. Unlike last year, this year’s Oddfest came with a $12 cover charge that included two free drinks. The only downside was that you had to get both drinks at the same time, which may not seem like much of a problem for most people. However, when you’re trying to conduct interviews while double fisting a couple of beers, it can be somewhat cumbersome (I persevered nonetheless).

 

The day started off well with bands like Atomik:Kangaroo, Manifest Illusion, Just SayN, The Modern Three, Anti-Socialite and At Your Six bringing their own brand of punk and alternative to the Hilltop. Every band brought their “A” game, but allowed themselves to be relaxed in a friendly environment of local musicians and music lovers. “We’re gonna mess up a little bit, but its okay,” said Kylie Sloncik of The Modern Three.

Jorge Arias of Just SayN appreciated the geniality of the crowd. “We like how open people are to our music. They’re not like, ‘naw, I’m not into that’,” said Arias. Arias and the rest of Just SayN stuck around for the rest of the day to show support for the rest of the bands, as did many other groups. This is just a small example of the level of camaraderie this community of musicians shares for one another. It may not be unique, but it is significant.

As the day progressed, bands like Hoodlife Hippiez and Mondo Silicone tore up main stage while The Companies and ZODRHI got people dancing over on the second stage. The Companies, who are based outside the High Desert in the greater Inland Empire, commented on the growth of the scene. “Years ago, I came here looking for some punk bands to join, but there were pretty much only metal bands for a while,” said Dustin Strandvery of the Companies. When I asked Hoodlife Hippiez the same question, the general consensus among its members was that it was “Awesome” with one of the group’s three front-men, RSIN, adding “it’s all for the music. We love it.”

Early in this decade, we saw the closure of venues such as the Karma and Angel’s Roadhouse 2, as well as the briefly lived Victorville Events Center. It seemed like stages for bands to play on were disappearing left and right, leaving some bands to move out of the high desert, dissolve or make their own stage. That last option is exactly what Mike Eberhardt has been doing for the past two years with his group, Odd Bridges. It started in 2015 with the first Cold Turkey Fest at Gators in Apple Valley and since then, Eberhardt has put on four festivals featuring local talent.

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Photo by Paul McDonald

Odd Bridges, as well as the entire festival, is credited by Eberhardt’s band mates Jason Trevino and Brandon Jones as being his brainchild. “I put a lot of credit to Mike for helping revive the scene,” said Brandon Jones of Odd Bridges, “He lugged the gear in, played the shows and lugged it out. He was making the calls, making the contacts and when they couldn’t pull through, he did it himself.”

That certainly was the case for most of the day as I was only able to get five minutes with Eberhardt while he and the guys from Rain Brings Weather worked tirelessly on helpings bands set up and break down. Tyler Skelton of At Your Six mentioned the rigidness of the schedule, “Our set was a little rushed, but we were happy with what we played.”

Things certainly did run smoothly as bands got ample time to show off what’s going on in their side of the desert. Jade, Delta Shade and The Lillies kept the energy rolling into the night. Marty Calderon of Jade, another group that has been floating around the scene for the last five years, just said, “We just need to keep pushing [the music scene].” I approached Matthew Humphrey of the Lillies with the same question. “Man, why do you keep asking me questions? Just leave me alone,” said Humphrey

“Yeah, man. You’re the enemy,” added his band mate, Robert Pereda.

“Don’t take whatever we say out of context.”

“Yeah… …fuck… …Matthew Humphrey… …worst… …guitarist ever…”

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Photo by Paul A. McDonald

Dewey B. Weather of Rain Brings Weather commented further on the dissolution of the scene after the closure of so many venues. “I remember it, it was really discouraging. Now, we got promoters coming up from San Diego because they see potential, and we’re just a bunch of deserts rats killing it.” Dewey had been there since 9 o’clock in the morning, working hard along with Eberhardt keeping the festival running smoothly. The two of them finally got a break to perform with their bands, Rain Brings Weather and Odd Bridges, later in the night.

From there, Dead Rekoning and Kryptic Moons closed out the second stage while Twenty Dollar Prophets and Mirk Beniah mellowed out the night after a day of music, tacos and booze. Otis “Mutherfuckin” Jones of Twenty Dollar Prophets was there for most of the day and spoke highly of the event. “Every band did a great job. Each band out did that last band. Everyone from the sound guys, the organizers, even the bartenders did a great job.”

Oddfest 2017 was blast from start to finish. When I asked Mike what his plans were for the next festival, he just said, “Eventually, we want to get headliners. I think, for every year, we want to make it bigger.” Mike wants to thank his band mates, Dewey B. Weather, Art Guerra, Brandon Burgess, and Spot Fillmore for their hard work, Shaun from Erupt Designs for making their flyers, Hilltop Tavern and Inn for letting them play, and to all the bands for coming out and having a good time.

– b.d. ponce

All pictures used were provided by Paul McDonald and Paul A. McDonald of Just SayN and Shaun Michael of Erupt Design.

Atomik:Kangaroo’s Facebook

Manifest Illusion’s Facebook

Just SayN’s Facebook

At Your Six’s Facebook

The Modern Three’s Facebook

Anti-Socialite’s Facebook

Hoodlife Hippiez Facebook

ZODRHI’s Facebook

Mondo Silicone’s Facebook

The Companies’ Facebook

Delta Shade’s Facebook

Jade’s Facebook

Rain Brings Weather’s Facebook

The Lillies’ Facebook

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Dead Rekoning’s Facebook

Twenty Dollar Prophets’ Facebook

Kryptic Moons’ Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Erupt Design’s Facebook

Hilltop Tavern and Inn’s Facebook

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