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Turning down an offer to join the Grateful Dead

Jeff Berkley, Carnifex, Earthless, Julia Sage, Anthony Davis

Jeff Berkley
Jeff Berkley

As one half of the folk duo Berkley Hart, Jeff Berkley has toured the world and performed countless concerts with Calman Hart, including a continuing series of themed shows paying tribute to pop culture touchstones like the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Berkley got his first co-producer credit at age 22 by working on a Joel Raphael record. Now the owner of Berkley Sound, he’s since recorded with hundreds of performers, including a growing roster of local talents such as Gregory Page, Lisa Sanders, Stevie & the Hi-Stax, and Tim Flannery. As a solo performer, he’s toured the UK opening for Eve Selis and turned up occasionally at local venues, but never did any solo recording until a 2017 album celebrating the music of New Orleans. He’s been livestreaming performances on Facebook, but Berkley’s first in-person post-pandemic concert happens May 1 at the Grand Ole BBQ. He’ll be joined by a local all-star lineup featuring bassist Rick Nash (Soul Persuaders, Back to the Garden), guitarist Dylan Ankney (of Sweetwater Sound and the band Brax), drummer Josh Hermsmeier (Crash & the Burns, Jason Lee & the R.I.P. Tides), guitarist and fiddler Ted Stern (Country Rockin’ Rebels, City Limits Band), and Jason Cox.

Carnifex

The heavy metal heroes of Carnifex came together in Fallbrook, with their 2010 album Hell Chose Me scoring the number four slot on Billboard’s Top New Artist Albums (Heatseekers) chart. 2014’s Die Without Hope reached number 98 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200, and the band has persevered through several lineup changes, releasing their seventh studio album, World War X, in August 2019. The pandemic shutdown of early 2020 cost the band over $250,000 in lost tour revenue and costs, according to frontman Scott Ian Lewis. The group recently debuted a video for their newly released cover of Korn’s 1998 track “Dead Bodies Everywhere.” According to Lewis, “Korn was one of our original influences and inspired us greatly as young musicians. Each time we do a cover, it’s our way of saying thank you to the musicians that came before us, and just maybe we added our touch of brutality.” The song was tracked earlier this year at local Back Lounge Studios, produced by the band and Mick Kenney (Anaal Nathrakh, Bleeding Through). The “visualizer,” as the video is referenced in its title, mainly features creepy quick-flashing black-and-white still images, text, and partly animated skeletons, creating a sort of flip-book backdrop to the pounding track.

Earthless

Psychedelic jam band Earthless first earned national notice when both of their LPs Acid Crusher/Mount Swan and From the Ages scored slots on Mxdwn’s Best Albums of 2013 list, which also cited their Black Heaven full-length as one of the Top 50 Best Albums of 2018. Since their last big in-person show in January 2020 at the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, they’ve kept busy during the pandemic by livestreaming five concert performances from the natural amphitheater of California’s Mojave Desert, covering Black Sabbath’s “Never Say Die” for the Best of Black Sabbath (Redux) tribute album, and livestreaming multiple shows from the stage at an otherwise unoccupied Casbah. “We just wanna say that we have finished all the tracking, overdubs and seasonings for what will be our fifth studio album,” says the band of their current sessions with Ben Moore and Dean Reis at local Singing Serpent Studios. “[Thanks to] Thaddeus Robles for gear loanage. It was nice to do all of this in our hometown of San Diego.” The album will be released this fall on the Nuclear Blast label, who also put out their most recent LP.

Julia Sage

A songwriter since early childhood, Julia Sage plays Chilean-flavored folk, blues, and Americana. She performs as a solo artist, as part of Grampadrew’s Flim Flam Revue, and with her band the Bad Hombres. Their debut album Desnuda was recorded in 2018, and Sage was nominated Best New Artist at the following year’s San Diego Music Awards. Last October, she and her band played a livestream “farewell” performance for the closing of Bar Pink in North Park, and her most recent solo album, Midnight Songs in the Time of Corona Volume 1, dropped in February. The Sleepwalkers have been playing authentic Americana roots rock since 1992, specializing in blues, country, Tex-Mex, Cumbia, and their own brand of roots rock. Their debut full-length Can’t Stop Rockin’ earned them a nomination for Best Americana album at the San Diego Music Awards. Julia Sage & the Bad Hombres will be appearing in-person at Grand Ole BBQ on April 24, and they’ll share a bill with Los Sleepwalkers when downtown’s Quartyard presents an outdoor evening of Latin influenced rock on May 29. The latter event offers two complete shows, with a matinee performance at 5:30 and an evening show at 7:30.

Anthony Davis

Pianist Anthony Davis once turned down an offer to join the Grateful Dead and has led prestigious ensembles such as Episteme. As a composer, he’s known for operatic works such as the free jazz staple “Of Blues and Dreams,” recorded with Leroy Jenkins and Pheeroan ak Laff, and “Episteme,” which featured electronic performer and trombonist George Lewis. He made his Broadway debut in 1993, composing music for Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and for Kushner’s companion piece, Perestroika. Davis, who joined the faculty of the UCSD Music Department in January 1998, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X. His collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers, was nominated for a 2013 Pulitzer Prize in music, making the final cut of three. A 2016 opera called Five, which documents the infamous case of the Central Park Five, won the Pulitzer Prize in early 2020. Davis will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 19.

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Jeff Berkley
Jeff Berkley

As one half of the folk duo Berkley Hart, Jeff Berkley has toured the world and performed countless concerts with Calman Hart, including a continuing series of themed shows paying tribute to pop culture touchstones like the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Berkley got his first co-producer credit at age 22 by working on a Joel Raphael record. Now the owner of Berkley Sound, he’s since recorded with hundreds of performers, including a growing roster of local talents such as Gregory Page, Lisa Sanders, Stevie & the Hi-Stax, and Tim Flannery. As a solo performer, he’s toured the UK opening for Eve Selis and turned up occasionally at local venues, but never did any solo recording until a 2017 album celebrating the music of New Orleans. He’s been livestreaming performances on Facebook, but Berkley’s first in-person post-pandemic concert happens May 1 at the Grand Ole BBQ. He’ll be joined by a local all-star lineup featuring bassist Rick Nash (Soul Persuaders, Back to the Garden), guitarist Dylan Ankney (of Sweetwater Sound and the band Brax), drummer Josh Hermsmeier (Crash & the Burns, Jason Lee & the R.I.P. Tides), guitarist and fiddler Ted Stern (Country Rockin’ Rebels, City Limits Band), and Jason Cox.

Carnifex

The heavy metal heroes of Carnifex came together in Fallbrook, with their 2010 album Hell Chose Me scoring the number four slot on Billboard’s Top New Artist Albums (Heatseekers) chart. 2014’s Die Without Hope reached number 98 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200, and the band has persevered through several lineup changes, releasing their seventh studio album, World War X, in August 2019. The pandemic shutdown of early 2020 cost the band over $250,000 in lost tour revenue and costs, according to frontman Scott Ian Lewis. The group recently debuted a video for their newly released cover of Korn’s 1998 track “Dead Bodies Everywhere.” According to Lewis, “Korn was one of our original influences and inspired us greatly as young musicians. Each time we do a cover, it’s our way of saying thank you to the musicians that came before us, and just maybe we added our touch of brutality.” The song was tracked earlier this year at local Back Lounge Studios, produced by the band and Mick Kenney (Anaal Nathrakh, Bleeding Through). The “visualizer,” as the video is referenced in its title, mainly features creepy quick-flashing black-and-white still images, text, and partly animated skeletons, creating a sort of flip-book backdrop to the pounding track.

Earthless

Psychedelic jam band Earthless first earned national notice when both of their LPs Acid Crusher/Mount Swan and From the Ages scored slots on Mxdwn’s Best Albums of 2013 list, which also cited their Black Heaven full-length as one of the Top 50 Best Albums of 2018. Since their last big in-person show in January 2020 at the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, they’ve kept busy during the pandemic by livestreaming five concert performances from the natural amphitheater of California’s Mojave Desert, covering Black Sabbath’s “Never Say Die” for the Best of Black Sabbath (Redux) tribute album, and livestreaming multiple shows from the stage at an otherwise unoccupied Casbah. “We just wanna say that we have finished all the tracking, overdubs and seasonings for what will be our fifth studio album,” says the band of their current sessions with Ben Moore and Dean Reis at local Singing Serpent Studios. “[Thanks to] Thaddeus Robles for gear loanage. It was nice to do all of this in our hometown of San Diego.” The album will be released this fall on the Nuclear Blast label, who also put out their most recent LP.

Julia Sage

A songwriter since early childhood, Julia Sage plays Chilean-flavored folk, blues, and Americana. She performs as a solo artist, as part of Grampadrew’s Flim Flam Revue, and with her band the Bad Hombres. Their debut album Desnuda was recorded in 2018, and Sage was nominated Best New Artist at the following year’s San Diego Music Awards. Last October, she and her band played a livestream “farewell” performance for the closing of Bar Pink in North Park, and her most recent solo album, Midnight Songs in the Time of Corona Volume 1, dropped in February. The Sleepwalkers have been playing authentic Americana roots rock since 1992, specializing in blues, country, Tex-Mex, Cumbia, and their own brand of roots rock. Their debut full-length Can’t Stop Rockin’ earned them a nomination for Best Americana album at the San Diego Music Awards. Julia Sage & the Bad Hombres will be appearing in-person at Grand Ole BBQ on April 24, and they’ll share a bill with Los Sleepwalkers when downtown’s Quartyard presents an outdoor evening of Latin influenced rock on May 29. The latter event offers two complete shows, with a matinee performance at 5:30 and an evening show at 7:30.

Anthony Davis

Pianist Anthony Davis once turned down an offer to join the Grateful Dead and has led prestigious ensembles such as Episteme. As a composer, he’s known for operatic works such as the free jazz staple “Of Blues and Dreams,” recorded with Leroy Jenkins and Pheeroan ak Laff, and “Episteme,” which featured electronic performer and trombonist George Lewis. He made his Broadway debut in 1993, composing music for Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and for Kushner’s companion piece, Perestroika. Davis, who joined the faculty of the UCSD Music Department in January 1998, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X. His collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers, was nominated for a 2013 Pulitzer Prize in music, making the final cut of three. A 2016 opera called Five, which documents the infamous case of the Central Park Five, won the Pulitzer Prize in early 2020. Davis will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 19.

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