For all of the welcome reunited San Diego acts scheduled to play the Michael “Stimy” Steinman memorial at the Casbah on Wednesday, February 16, one artist was especially missed when the lineup was announced. A prominent player in SD’s interconnected alt-rock scene of the ’90s, aMiniature was a major local influence on singer-guitarist Stimy’s younger band Inch. aMiniature’s leader, songwriting vocalist-guitarist John Lee, became a good friend as well as an inspiration to the late Steinman.
“How I wish I could be there,” posted Lee last month after a Facebook page was established for the “benefit show to celebrate the life and music” of Stimy, with proceeds going to the Scripps McDonald Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment (helpful to Steinman in his teens) and DayJams (“America’s Original Rock Music Day Camp”). “Let’s pass the hat to get John a ticket out here,” suggested No Knife’s Mitch Wilson, quickly seconded by another old band mate of Stimy’s in Sub Society, Didier Suarez (who has just announced that S.S. will also play a longer memorial set at the Ken Club on Saturday, February 19).
However, money wasn’t the issue for Lee. Nor was distance — even though he lives 17 time zones away in Seoul, South Korea. (Lee was hoping to check in live to the Casbah by Skype — “from the future.”) “I would [go], but I’m tied down,” Lee explained by email. “I’m hosting a daily live radio show.” That would be the Soul of Asia arts and culture program on TBS e-FM 101.3, Seoul’s only English-language station.
Drummer Dave Hepler of Inch offered some older buddy-band perspective: “Stimy loved [Lee’s] guitar tones more than anything, and the way John put songs together, with much different structure than the punk rock that Stimy had focused on previously.... Stimy became friends with John, and [they] ended up living together...in University Heights . There was a garage that had two sides to it...we used...one side, and aMiniature...the other. It was a great time of mutual support.... We covered a couple aMiniature songs: ‘Hiker Atlas’ and ‘Skyline.’”