If the local music scene had its Jon Taffer, the outspoken host of Spike TV’s show Bar Rescue, it might be Shane Culpeper, a studio owner/producer/promoter who also has a soft spot for misdirected venues that are losing business.
When they listen, Culpeper says, things work out. When they don’t, they fold.
First, some background. Culpeper was a ’99 grad of an Escondido continuation school. (“I shared a locker with someone who brought something bad to school. I shared the blame.”) He was heavily into poetry and hip-hop. (“I started when I was 15.”) Beginning in his senior year, Culpeper hosted house parties. He then started his label own L.I.E. (Learning Is Endless). “In 2001, I met my first producer. Then I signed Mario McCurley from Tacoma. Then D. Dove, who is one of the most prominent MCs in San Diego.” He benefited early on from the availability of a recording studio at the YMCA in Escondido.
The L.I.E. empire grew. “We did recording, promoting, tours, graphic design, websites, silk-screening.” He recorded and booked tours for local artists Social Green and Ric Scales.
“Then I started throwing shows and hosting touring acts at the Metaphor. They did primarily hip-hop and funk from 2005 to 2007.” Culpeper says he was happy to help the struggling coffeehouse for no money and brought them packed shows. “They were crazy-bananas busy. People would see me as the face of these shows but [the Metaphor] wouldn’t let me use my [L.I.E.] logo on the posters. They said they were afraid people would think it was my bar. So I walked away, respectfully.
“Then I was approached in 2008 by the Ups and Downs roller rink in Escondido. It was the last roller rink in North County. We threw a hip-hop show that had a car show outside, 20-by-26-foot murals that were painted live inside. It was amazing. There was no booze, and it had a huge turnout. There were no fights and no police drama, even though 500 people were there.”
Then, in 2011, Culpeper says the Metaphor came back around. “I saw the place was falling apart. I brought in a team of ten. We scrubbed the floors, painted the walls, took the kitchen apart. They were psyched. They wanted to continue talking. I said give me 6 a.m. to noon. We started doing breakfasts and we brought in nurses and doctors [from nearby Palomar Hospital].” The live shows flourished. “We had painters doing live painting every day. We brought them from being in debt with the landlord to back to zero. I got employees to volunteer to work for free until the rent was zeroed.”
Once that happened, Culpeper says he was prepared to bring in a quality sound system but that he wanted some consideration for packed shows he booked and promoted.
“There were too many chiefs. They wouldn’t work with us, so we walked.” Culpeper’s devoted-to-the-cause employees walked as well.
“They couldn’t do breakfasts anymore...they just wanted to do punk and metal. We thought the Metaphor should have more than that.”
The Metaphor closed last year.
Culpeper says he and his partner Erik Lumaye currently own and operate L.I.E., which includes a 1200-square-foot warehouse in San Marcos where they produce videos and silk-screen shirts. Their 27-foot RV and tour bus have been on at least five tours of the West Coast and Southwest featuring local artists.
“One day we will have a venue. We’re always looking.”