There is no person in San Diego that does more to bring cutting-edge, experimental music onto the stage than concert promoter/record label operator Bonnie Wright. Over the years she has worked tirelessly to bring a stunning array of the world's most creative musicians to town--first with the Spruce Street Forum series, and then with her Fresh Sound events.
Wright co-founded the New Music Society, runs her own record company, and sings in a gospel choir. Having grown up in Mission Hills during the 1940s and 1950s, she bleaches her hair, wears hipster glasses, and will not discuss her age. But her attachment to music goes back to high school. “You know what the title of my term paper was? The Development of Negro Jazz in America.”
Later, at the age of 50 and with grown children, she quit her job and went back to school, UCSD this time. “I got student loans and did T/A work. All the things kids do.”
After she obtained her B.A. degree, she became a road manager for trombonist/composer George Lewis, who she met at UCSD. Returning to San Diego, she founded the Spruce Street Forum new music co-op in Bankers Hill, which she ran for around ten years as a sort-of clubhouse where she could stage the blend of avant sounds she favored. The fire marshal shut her down.
Her Fresh Sounds experimental music series (“We avoid the mainstream”) debuted in 2009 at the Sushi performance space downtown. In 2011, it moved to the Loft at UCSD.
Wright has also been hosting occasional musical soirees in her Mission Hills home since 2009. “It’s an intellectual pursuit,” she says, “which I love.” Wright’s soirees are in essence themed musical show-and-tell discussion groups for UCSD grad students and people who have attended her concert series. Meaning, an audience that favors electronica, noise, modern classical, and the avant garde in general.
The soirees were the result of Wright having heard a collection titled Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music. “I bought it, listened, and was fascinated.” She bought more CDs and she read whatever books she could find on the art of noise, electronic music, or technology. “I read Crystal Fire. It’s about the history of the transistor, which changed everything.”
In September 2009, she invited known fans of such expression to her home to listen to her play samples and give a talk. “There were three or four more soirees on the history of electronic music that followed.” The next series, says Wright, was about the history of noise. “The people who came to the first series wanted to present this time.”
Sam Lopez, for example, hosted a program on the History of Doom, while Esteban Flores gave the group a taste of amplified Sludge with his down-tuned hock-shop guitar. If any of the neighbors in normally-sedate Mission Hills minded the caterwauling, no one came knocking on the door.
“I love to delve into topics that are related but that are unknown to me. The music doesn’t have to be a genre, but it has to be new, in good taste in my opinion, and it has to be full of surprises.”
For 2012, the Fresh Sound series moved to the Space for Art in the East Village, where it debuted on March 6. Late the following year, in Autumn 2013, Fresh Sounds moved next door to a bright pink Baptist church, to take up residence in the 40,000-square-foot Bread & Salt building in Barrio Logan, where the artist enclave hosts special events, art galleries, work studios, and more.