What a night, what a beautiful night. People came together at the Balboa Theater to celebrate the sounds of freedom and the seventies in a way that warmed the hearts of all present. Billed as a “Yes on 62” rally, there was no way I was going to miss this show.
Quintessential Californian, Jackson Browne, gathered us all together to rally the base of the intellectuals, the religious and the celebrators of the sanctity of life, to address this ancient practice that all civilized nations in the Western world have denounced as inhumane. What a beautiful way for like-minded people to get together to celebrate humanism.
The music was soulful, intimate and meaningful. The words were powerful, connected and thoughtful. The mood was buoyant, hopeful and ecstatic. The crowd was attentive, united and together.
The issue brought all the people in the room to a finite point. We’re not gonna take it, this murdering of souls and spirits. It was the way rock and roll was meant to be presented. It called for change, it called for action, it roused the essence and people left feeling like they had the power and that we are on a cusp of making a huge difference. Not just for the individuals tortured on death row, but as a message to the world.
I’ve always wanted my music icons to use their platform to bring about meaningful change in our systems. Jackson Browne knows how to do this. Steve Earle embraces this responsibility. The concert was a great success. We all got the message.
Of course the music by Jackson and Steve was amazing and relative to the theme of the night. Of course almost everyone there agreed with “Yes on 62” (there was only one person I could ascertain that had problems with the night’s agenda, and she would have blown a 0.16). Of course as a nation made up primarily of Christians, one of whose main tenants is not to kill, America has been slowly coming to it’s senses in regards to the death penalty.
The infatuation with an eye for an eye, gun rights and the way violence is such a part of our daily lives (on tv, in the news, in our country’s frustrated anger and the way we often speak about others) is growing old and tiresome. The way other counties look at America and it’s killing of each other and prisoners must come to an end. It’s difficult to live in a country that willfully participates in killing its citizens, while at the same time knowing that uncertainty is a possibility in many of the cases of capital punishment. The gross injustices the state perpetuates makes us no better than someone who does actually kill.
Repealing the death penalty has been critical to our country for years and we finally seem to have reached a tipping point. Ending this barbaric and medieval practice has been a goal/challenge of mine since growing up in Texas as a youth. Texas seems to be the United States version of Saudi Arabia in the way that they kill inmates and it has always struck me as a sickening and terrible aspect of our nation state. As a child, I could’t believe that the state would punish a person for murder by murdering someone! As an adult, this belief grew into outrage. Following the Innocence Project and watching as DNA exonerates supposed killers, the public has been pushed to accept the reality that the state has killed incorrectly in the name of justice.
Border X Brewing is hosting a free event to celebrate the forthcoming documentary about Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez on Friday, September 9th. Chunky is a Chicano musician and San Diego activist whose music has been a force for social justice over the last 35 years. Running from 6:00-11:00 pm at Border X (2181 Logan Ave just a block from Chicano Park), the event is open to the public and will feature live music from local artists, clips from the film and behind-the-scenes stories from filmmaker Paul Espinosa and others.
The documentary, Singing My Way to Freedom, chronicles Chunky’s life from his humble beginnings as a farmworker in Blythe, California to his student days at San Diego State University as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement was transforming the community; from his involvement with the takeover of Chicano Park to his performing on Joan Baez’s first Spanish language album; from the formation of his band, Los Alacranes, a local favorite at San Diego demonstrations and rallies for over a quarter of a century, to receiving the National Heritage Fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
“Our film examines how Chunky’s personal development as a musician is interwoven with the broader history of the U.S.-Mexican border, from the 1960s right through to immigrant rights’ protests happening today,” says Producer Paul Espinosa. “His story proves that, when you stand up for your rights, you can truly make a difference.”
Chunky’s music was included in a classic Smithsonian Folkways CD that highlights songs of the Chicano movement. A reviewer described the collection as “an original and necessary document of essential American musical history.
Acid Mothers returns to San Diego at the Soda Bar on April 17th with their new lineup! Acid Mothers Temple The Next Generation.
Thundering bassist Tsuyama Atsushi has retired from the band after 17 years and is being replaced by S/T, who is also responsible for Space and Time. This tour is called Wake to a New Dawn of Another Astro Era Tour 2016. See the complete dates below. Don’t miss it!
13th (sun) @ “Festival Nrmal 2016″ – Mexico City MEX
15th (tue) @ Echo – Los Angeles CA
16th (wed) @ Bottom Of The Hill – San Francisco CA
17th (thu) @ Studio On 4th – Reno NV
18th (fri) @ Mississippi Studios – Portland OR
19th (sat) @ The Cobalt – Vancouver BC
20th (sun) @ Logan’s Pub & Liquor Store – Victoria BC
21st (mon) @ The Shakedown – Bellingham WA
22nd (tue) @ The Sunset – Seattle WA
23rd (wed) @ Treefort Music Fest – Boise ID
24th (thu) @ Metro Bar – Salt Lake City UT
25th (fri) @ Hi Dive – Denver CO
26th (sat) @ Reverb Lounge – Omaha NE
27th (sun) @ 7th St Entry – Minneapolis MN
28th (mon) @ The Frequency – Madison WI
29th (tue) @ Empty Bottle – Chicago IL
30th (wed) @ Marble Bar – Detroit MI
31st (thu) @ Club Cafe – Pittsburgh PA
1st (fri) @ The Garrison – Toronto ON
2nd (sat) @ Mohawk Place – Buffalo NY
3rd (sun) @ Cafe Nine – New Haven CT
4th (mon) @ Great Scott – Allston MA
5th (tue) @ Mercury Lounge – New York NY
6th (wed) @ Knitting Factory – Brooklyn NY
7th (thu) @ Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia PA
8th (fri) @ Comet Ping Pong – Washington DC
9th (sat) @ Cat’s Cradle Backroom – Carrboro NC
10th (sun) t.b.c.
11th (mon) @ Gasa Gasa – New Orleans LA
12th (tue) @ Rudyards British Pub – Houston TX
13th (wed) @ Three Links – Dallas TX
14th (thu) @ The Sidewinder – Austin TX
15th (fri) @ Lowbrow Palace – El Paso TX
16th (sat) @ Valley Bar – Phoenix AZ
17th (sun) @ Soda Bar – San Diego CA
by Keith Boyd
Sometimes it pays to know a bit about a band you’re going to see. I could have avoided any number bruised body parts and ringing ear sessions by following that advice. That being said, what’s better or more thrilling than a happy accident? Such was the situation I found myself in last night at local dive bar outpost and SD treasure, The Whistle Stop. I hadn’t heard either band before but I had a vague notion that Cool Ghouls were a part of the amazing, 60’s inflected music scene in San Francisco. Well, they are and an utterly delightful accident seeing them it was indeed!
First up were San Diego band Bad Vibes. I dug their meaty, full throttle approach to things. There was a definite whiff of Doors wafting through their sound. Also what I would characterize as Biker bar Pink Floyd. I’m not saying that their sound was just derivative and lacked any originality though. Far from it! Their tunes were dynamic with sudden pivots in rhythm and tonality to keep the ear engaged. Great guitar playing from both of the players and special mention must be made of the relentlessly blissful stage presence and power of the bass player. He was a hair dervish! For nearly an hour while dancing, leaping and gyrating, his playing was completely solid. I like the band’s name and while I get where they’re coming from (a darkish, rocked up Nick Cave zone) I think they pump out just as many good vibes as “Bad” ones!
What can I say about headliners, Cool Ghouls? I was instantly won over by their sound. It was all chiming, jet plane guitars, limber yet grounded bass and their secret weapon? Beautiful 3 part harmonies. I for one, simply don’t hear vocals done like this in a “Rock” idiom very often. Pop music is replete with backup singers on stage and in studios. This wasn’t that. It was three equally adept singers taking the turns at the lead while the others blended seamlessly. At times recalling the soaring sound of The Byrds at their most heart-warming, Cool Ghouls made a beautiful noise.
I may be wrong about this but according to my observations and calculations the (contemporary) Grandaddies of the SF Psych soaked sound are Wooden Shijps. I’m sure there are others who were (according to whomever) first, different, more original or better but when I heard Wooden Shijps several years ago I thought to myself, “Finally the kids are getting weird again!”. And while many of these bands are excellent they tend to skew towards the noisier Punk infused side of the garage. Cool Ghouls plays it much smarter. They can rock for sure! However, they seem to have an instinctual grasp of dynamics and hence they paint with a very broad sonic brush. They have tunes from all over the spectrum and ply them all with equal skill. After the gig I bought their (excellent) newest album, A SWIRLING FIRE BURNING THROUGH THE RYE and having basically had it on locked repeat all day have recognized several of the selections they played. One song that, while not on the album, was an instant favorite was the Green Tambourine-esque, The Creature that I Am.
If you are looking for some of the echoes that flow through their sound think The (aforementioned) Byrds, early Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and a dash of Electric Prunes, Blues Magoos and Moby Grape. Please don’t mistake these signifiers as some sort of jumbled, grab bag of tropes and put ons. Cool Ghouls might be rooted in another era but they are flowering in this one.
A special thanks must be given to my fellow LAME OLD COP ON A NIGHT OUT-PMK. In heaven, instead of angel wings he will receive a Gold-Chain and Cheetah tunic!
by Keith Boyd
Last night I saw Los Dug Dug’s, The Pretty Things and The Standells at The Casbah! Or maybe it was Los Spiders, The Small Faces and Buffalo Springfield? Nah…Actually it was Los Sweepers, The Loons and Mystic Braves and it was ON FIRE! I’m a complete and utter devotee of the vast catalog of known and unknown mid-60’s bands who in one way or another defined the Beatles-inspired Garage Music scene. More likely than not these bands had no intention of staying in the confines of the garage, basement or bedroom. They probably had their sights set on The Avalon, Matrix or any number of 1960’s clubs and festivals but we all know how it goes with Rock bands…Between the Vietnam War, drugs, an indifferent industry and life in general countless numbers of these Freakbeat combos spawned, mushroomed and faded from the scene in a remarkably short period. Compilations such as the amazing Nuggets series brought many of these groups to broader attention in the 80’s and just as the 1st generation of groups grew seemingly overnight in places as wide-ranging as Spain, Australia, Indonesia and yes, the deserts of Southern California a new groundswell of incredible musicians picked up the mantle and ran with it. San Diego has long been a hub of bands in the key of Garage. The 80’s were a particularly fecund time for it and last night Mike Stax’s group The Loons showed everyone how it’s done.
Los Sweepers opened the night and blew minds with their day at the races energy. I can’t say for certain but I think they might have played EVERY hit from 1966 AND sang them in Spanish! You could be forgiven of rethinking you’d stumbled into an El Centro High School gymnasium dance sponsored by Wolfman Jack. Despite playing such well-worn tunes as Wild Thing (Transfored into “LOCO”!!) and Hang on Sloopy (reworked as “Vamos Lupe”!!) they managed through the simple equation of bass, guitar, drums and ENERGY to win the crowd over and make a joyful noise.
The Loons are a San Diego treasure. Incredible playing by all members is channelled into a seriously punchy frenzy by lead singer, music historian and all around Rock Lifer Mike Stax. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Loons a few times over the years and while they’ve always been great, they continue to get better and better. Among their relentlessly powerful set were a few favorites, ‘My Desolation”, “Inside Out Your Mind” and “I Don’t Live There Anymore” but the whole show was fantastic. At one point Stax was bashing away on a tambourine with the phrase, ACID BLUES splashed across it. It was a fitting theme for this band’s music. Truly The Loons are a San Diego Treasure. Get out and see them whenever you can.
The headliners of the night were the LA-based Mystic Braves. They have their sound absolutely dialed in. Swirling organs, plucky, reverb soaked guitars and beautiful harmonies were in deep abundance. The band’s incredible albums were all represented in the set and the tightness that comes with frequent touring was powerfully evident. While Los Sweepers and The Loons generated Iggy levels of energy Mystic Braves vibe was much more chilled. I kept thinking that their music would fit nicely on the Easy Rider soundtrack.
Despite my numerous references to vintage bands, sounds and styles I simply must add that this wasn’t just a dress-up, look backwards retro type of deal. Yes, these musicians have all done a deep study of EVERYTHING from roughly 1965-1974 but…they all made these influences serve their own unique musical vision. It was just a euphoric, Cave-Stomping good time. The always excellent Casbah did it again.
Monday, March 14th, 2016
Conrad Prebys Concert Hall
UCSD Faculty, Staff, FOM, Alumni: $20.00
Students w/ID: Free
Department of Music Box Office: 858-534-3448
Noura Mint Seymali and her band lifted worldly spirits Thursday night at the Price Center Ballroom East. The dark ballroom was filled with some 150 chairs and the high-ceilinged room. Noura’s band entered first, tuned up and settled in.
Many of the songs were played in different modalities so the guitar player and Noura’s husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, was constantly tuning between songs. For Californians, his guitar playing was out of this world. For Western references, think Sir Richard Bishop for scales and attack or Richard Thompson for tones and textures.
The audience could tell right away that the music for the evening would gather forces from another hemisphere and transit over oceans and deserts to create a magical and unique musical sensation. All the hammer-ons and runs Jeiche was doing in warm-ups only heightened the anticipation.
The couple herald from an historic musical lineage in Mauritania, where the Sahara and the Magreb meet and what blooms is an honest explosion of the West African Arabic world. A couple of the songs they played in their 60 minute set were written by Noura’s father (himself a popular and famous Mauritanian musician).
The sounds of the guitar and Noura’s 9 string harp were textured and filled with the gritty sand they have touched from years of playing desert locales. It felt authentic and raw. The combination of traditional songs mixed with modern pop styles of blues and psychedelia fused places and times.
When Noura came out and began singing with the guitar and the rest of the band, it all came together. The semi-formal room took a little bit of time to warm up. Noura’s voice was full and loud, empty of the standard reverb that so many western pop acts employ. The long and lush vocal runs intertwined with the beautiful and unique guitar styling to set the foundation for the evening.
As the night gained momentum, the band, Noura’s voice and the crowd all warmed up. The audience let go a little bit, Jeiche started smiling more and the voice began to transport the listener. Her long Arabic runs imagined far away places, where cultures intertwine and complexities spice meaning. Her spiritual nods to Mohamed settled over the mixed crowd and opened eyes into smiles and brought people together in ways that only great music can.
Every time I see an Art Power event, I am transformed and transported. The unique selection of the avante guard artists across the multiple mediums is tricky and can be very powerful when done right. Bringing Noura Mint Seymali to San Diego was a great move that collected many different groups together for a night at UCSD. The normal Art Power crowd was infused with young Muslims and African Americans celebrating the authentic spirit of an honest joyful expression.