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What San Diego Reader writers would shell out cash for

Some Kind of Nightmare, Jose Sinatra, Jordan Krimston, Rocket from the Crypt's John Reis, Rebecca Jade, Gilbert Castellanos, Joshua White, Steam Powered Giraffe

During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past.
During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a music writer isn’t going to get rich plying his trade, but at least he’ll get free stuff: albums, concert tickets, swag, perhaps even the occasional backstage pass. For this year’s music issue, we asked our writers what they’d be willing to pay for, their exalted status as scribblers notwithstanding.

It’s not a fashion statement

When I’m going to a show and there’s a band I’m not familiar with, I don’t ever look them up or listen to them in advance, because there’s no better introduction than a live set. And while my first encounter with Some Kind Of Nightmare didn’t make me forget about headliners T.S.O.L., they had enough of an impact that I not only stopped checking the clock to see when Jack Grisham and the boys would be hitting the stage, I was also one of the first to line up at the Nightmare merch booth to buy their then-current CD Driven Red and a T-shirt. The CD did not leave my disc player for six months, and the T-shirt immediately lost its sleeves so I could wear it without arm prisons.

That was pre-pandemic. During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare, became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past — or at least not part of the foreseeable future. I started to remonstrate with myself: how many times had I had the opportunity to see them and decided, for whatever reason, to let it pass? Would I ever have the chance again? Between people dropping from covid, venues closing, and the passage of time that often results in bands just stopping, our future was uncertain.

I’m beyond happy to report that they continued doing what they were doing, albeit sometimes virtually. So when they next play San Diego in May, I’ll be there, and I will be paying.

Yeah, I know, music writers get floated a lot of freebies. But I would never ask, never mind assume. I don’t do it with major label bands, and I sure as hell won’t do it with local bands that are living hand-to-mouth on self-financed tours. And when I go to shows, I don’t mention that I’m a writer. It’s not really pertinent to the experience or the conversations that happen there, and I don’t want it to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the receiving end of those expectations when people have asked me to write something for free. Maybe it’s because nothing shows support like cold hard cash or the digital equivalent. Maybe it’s because of my punk rock disdain for entitled dickheads who start feeling powerful just because they can string a few words together or are “in” with someone. I say it throws the balance off; the relationship between band and journalist goes from symbiotic to parasitic.

Jose Sinatra waxes loud, rude, crude, crass, insistent, and persuasive, embodying the worst in that too-friendly devil in your ear, the one well-met down the local pub, or out on a lawn for a neighborhood rager.

I think of paying my own way as putting my money where my mouth is. The music industry has figured out ways to screw bands even harder via streaming platforms than it did with physical album sales. So I buy the digital album or CD directly from the band whenever possible. And when I buy a T-shirt at a show, that’s my ultimate endorsement. It’s not a fashion statement. Anyone who meets me knows I don’t have the ability or the desire to make one. It means that I dig the band on my shirt, and will happily talk your ear off about them.

— Spike Steffenhagen

He takes down easy targets

Why do I cheerfully fork over to Jose Sinatra (occasionally known as Bill Richardson) the whole of my expendable shekels/moola/mad scrilla/penny jar scrapings, when he rises like a creature of the night to host “OB-oke” every Sunday at Winstons? Let me count the ways. Because you pay only two bucks up front, and two bucks (plus the same again for each drink special) proves a cheap token to any given rodeo. Because I believe in karaoke like Bonasera in The Godfather believed in America: it’s a landscape, a space where the host and guests join throats to create freedom in the form of a communal vortex. Because I once knew a “real” fake Frank Sinatra during my merry karaoke roamings in the ’90s, a man with a monk’s cap haircut and a cheap suit hanging one size too big off his skinny shoulders. His Frank flights lacked fancy, didn’t follow that bouncing ball at all. But you gave him space. After all, he was Frank, or some sample size of Frank.

Jose Sinatra hosts OB-oke

Getting back to Jose, though: this guy eschews suits in favor of some ’70s finery, eye-gouging ice cream hues you could’ve caught on Up With People were you white, or the Fifth Dimension (don’t laugh, they got down with the authentic Sinatra) if you owned a TV. He waxes loud, rude, crude, crass, insistent, and persuasive, embodying the worst in that too-friendly devil in your ear, the one well-met down the local pub, or out on a lawn for a neighborhood rager. Such fetid roots gave us Tony Clifton and Andrew Dice Clay. (Excepting, of course, that you’re supposed to dig how Andy Kaufman eventually took off the Tony Clifton persona and hung him up in the closet, whereas the Diceman keeps up the stink 24/7.)

Who is Jose/Richardson in his off hours? We know he used to run midnight movies out of the old Guild Theatre; insomniac mindbending no doubt multicolored his mind. We know he saves his own shekels so that OB-oke hits hard in the hood, employing and enjoying stage fog, a full array of stage lights, and that mighty signifier, the disco ball. We know he lovingly tends his private obsession with Wayne Newton, pondering how such a freaky creature can be born, mature, and grow finally to dominance in the murky I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-camp culture of lounge music, which begat karaoke culture — in America, anyway. Because of the lounge, even before you could grab the mic and take matters into your own mouth, you could hide away in the dark and behold your dreams, or what were supposed to be your dreams, coming alive. Our man here comes out of that same dark.

Jordan Krimston’s debut LP, Bushwhacking, is a nominee for Best Local Recording at this year’s San Diego Music Awards.

And this Sinatra — like Newton, like Clay, like that guy in the cheap suit — proves a creature adapted perfectly to this environment. Bill Richardson the man has ideas about music and creative stuff and life in the light. But that’s all gone the moment the fog machine fooms into life and Jose takes the stage. He puffs himself up. He takes down easy targets. He mock-bows to the regulars and he marshals the newbies, at least the ones not shit-scared to death of his whole essence.

And, of course, there’s the crux of the mission: throwing in dirty lyrics every chance he gets. And if he doesn’t get a chance, he’ll make one. And he’ll make you do the same. Any given song is only a series of cartoon word balloons waiting for you to make with eraser, then pen. You have the chance to crack people up, including yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you’re good enough to subvert, so that somebody pays deep attention. That’s freedom. Or some sample size of freedom.

— Andrew Hamlin

Unlikely to land a product endorsement deal

Jordan Krimston recorded his debut full-length, Bushwhacking, on the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic: February 2020. It was released on digital platforms one year later. Songs such as the relentlessly catchy “Betty” showcase pop smarts delivered with just enough experimentalism to make a lasting impression. But it might be the little flourishes of math-rock sprinkled all over Bushwhacking that give it a truly unique feel. The nine songs breeze by the first time you hear the record, but repeated listens reveal the little audio oddities that make it so special. The album is a nominee for Best Local Recording at this year’s San Diego Music Awards, so it’s comforting to know that others are taking notice.

If streaming or owning a digital copy of Bushwhacking just doesn’t feel like enough, and the need for a physical artifact containing these nine songs tugs at the frayed edges of your soul on a daily basis, well then, the good folks at Portland, Oregon’s Oranj Discs have come to your rescue. They recently released a CD version of the album in the long-revered “digipack” format, a packaging concept that eliminated the unsightly cracked plastic jewel cases from the massive CD collections found in the coolest dorm rooms of the ’90s. The Bushwhacking CD is only seven bucks on Bandcamp, so snag one quick, because only 100 were produced.

John Reis’s Ride the Wild Night seems anchored by the energy of a tight garage band firing on all cylinders, but it’s the rampant hooks all over the place that make it such a fun listen.

Speaking of CDs: I think I was transitioning from buying tapes to discs around the time I first heard Rocket from the Crypt. I’m quite certain it was the video for “Sturdy Wrists” on MTV’s 120 Minutes that provided my first exposure to the band. I was instantly sold on the group and purchased the full-length LP Circa: Now! circa quick. I was a high school senior in suburban Philadelphia, and RFTC was the first San Diego band onto which I properly latched. I continued to follow them through college, and finally got to see them live when I moved to their home turf in the late ’90s.

For many, RFTC served as an entry-point into the wild world of bandleader John Reis’s numerous musical projects, projects such as Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers, and Drive Like Jehu. Funnily enough, he never released a solo album until this year’s Ride the Wild Night. I guess good things come to those who wait, because it’s a joyous, straight-up assault of THE ROCK. The album seems anchored by the energy of a tight garage band firing on all cylinders, but it’s the rampant hooks all over the place that make it such a fun listen. The guitar riffs in “Rip From the Bone” and “Vape in the Dark Alone,” the Eurythmics-esque synthesizer that opens “I Hate My Neighbors in The Yellow House,” the well-placed acoustic rhythm guitar in “Ride The Wild Night” — it’s just expert construction across the board. Be sure to check out the single “Do You Still Wannna Make Out?” for a hilarious Cheetos reference unlikely to land Reis a product endorsement deal with the snack company, or anybody else.

Unfortunately, the initial vinyl run of Ride the Wild Night has already sold out, but you can still purchase the digital album. Also unfortunately, but in a different way, the album may get overshadowed a bit this year by the release of the debut from PLOSIVS, Reis’s new band with Rob Crow, RFTC’s Atom Willard, and Jordan Clark. But be sure to seek it out if you tend to gravitate towards quality, timeless rock and roll.

Dryw Keltz

Three to look forward to

There are some fantastic singers in the world, but there are very few with the stylistic range of Ms. Rebecca Jade, by whom I’ve been knocked out ever since I discovered her about ten years back. She’s toured the world with Sheila E., done smooth jazz cruises with Dave Koz, lit up the mainstream jazz world with Peter Sprague, and tackled the R&B landscape with Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact. Along the way, she has collected multiple honors from the San Diego Music Awards (she’s nominated for another three this year.)

There are some fantastic singers in the world, but there are very few with the stylistic range of Ms. Rebecca Jade.

Jade has been working on her latest album for quite some time, and now almost done (she’s looking for a June or July release date). It’s going to be called A Shade of Jade, and she’s putting it out herself. The album will represent her take on the R&B Urban Contemporary genre, with ten originals. Of all the wonderful singers we’ve got in town, Rebecca’s gift is singular. In addition, I’ve seen her playing percussion and electric bass, so she’s got that whole “real musician” vibe happening at every level. But above all, she’s got that beautiful voice. I can’t wait to hear the new album.

Trumpet master and educator Gilbert Castellanos has come to personify the rich San Diego jazz community. He’s been leading his after-school program The Young Lions Jazz Conservatory since 2013. That year, coincidentally, was the last time he released an album as a leader: Federal Jazz Project.  Now Castellanos has a new record in the loop, with the working title La Puerta. For anyone who loves jazz, this is extremely exciting news. Castellanos is so effective as an educator that his monumental skills as an improvising instrumentalist can be overlooked. But anyone who has ever heard him play live knows the score. The new disc features the Castellanos quintet everyone knows from his Wednesday night jam session at Panama 66 in Balboa Park: Christopher Hollyday on saxophone, Joshua White on piano, Tyler Kreutel on drums, and the recording debut of 18-year-old bassist John Murray. The sessions were recorded in North Park at Rarefied Recording by Chris Hobson. (This album comes at a pivotal stage in Gilbert’s career: he’s just undergone yet another surgery to counteract the effects of bone loss in his jaw. Right now, he is unable to work, and unable to play the trumpet while he recovers).

Joshua White has secured a grant from the Shifting Foundation, which will allow him to produce three new albums for Orenda Records.
Trumpet master and educator Gilbert Castellanos playing a jam session with 18-year-old bassist John Murray.

For the last ten years, Castellanos’ La Puerta guest Joshua White has been my favorite pianist, bar none. And in my opinion, he’s been the biggest music story in our town by a long shot. This year, the groundbreaking performer and composer has secured an important milestone in the form of a grant from the Shifting Foundation (reportedly in the mid five-figures) which will allow him to produce three new albums for Orenda Records, run by Los Angeles trumpeter Dan Rosenboom.

That’s joyous news, even if, for San Diego jazz fans, it comes with a bittersweet caveat: Mr. White is now officially an ex-San Diegan, having moved recently to set up shop 94 miles north in Long Beach. The first of White’s three documents will feature the pianist with UC San Diego professor and trumpet virtuoso Stephanie Richards alongside L.A. associates drummer Mark Ferber, bassist Karl McComas-Reichl, and saxophonist Josh Johnson. I will remember fondly the times when it was possible to catch Mr. White three or four times a week here in San Diego. I recently heard him on a new Mark Dresser album, recorded live at the Angel City Jazz Festival, and I was blown away by the exponential progress he has made artistically since the pandemic. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Robert Bush

An unlikely

transformation

The sixth studio album from costumed rockers Steam Powered Giraffe, 1896, should have been their Sgt. Pepper, or at least their Rubber Soul. Its title references the supposed year of their characters’ robotic creation by the fictional Colonel P. A. Walter I. The first single “Hot On the Trail” came with a theatrical mimed video, while “Bad Days on the Horizon” is a sincere cowboy crooner (SPG member “The Spine” often breaks into cowpoke mode). The video for “Olly & the Equinox Band” features a Saturday morning cartoon-style alter-ego version of the group.

Video:

Steam Powered Giraffe "Hot on the Trail" (Acoustic Version)

Of particular note: their acoustic rendition of “Hot On the Trail” received a jaw-dropping video treatment of its own. Already one of the strongest gospel-tinged tunes they’ve ever recorded, the acoustic arrangement showcases David Michael Bennett’s vocal chops right from the plaintive opening line, commanding attention and demanding an instant replay as soon as the final note fades. It’s that good. I’m not even sure THEY know just how good it is. It’s the kind of evergreen that could both make and define this band, possibly introducing and endearing them to the same supportive audience that favors likeminded theatrical rockers such as Lana Del Rey (who they recently covered with a video version of “Summertime Sadness”), Queen, Gogol Bordello, and Evanescence.

There’s essentially a whole separate album of acoustic 1896 arrangements, all of them individualized so the strength of the songwriting, paired with the shimmering vocal harmonies, shines forth. It isn’t so much unplugging as it is upgrading.

Steam Powered Giraffe have been posting elaborate new videos online, as well as sharing footage of themselves rehearsing with no costumes or makeup. Seeing the robots truly “unplugged” makes it even more clear that the trio really is ready for prime time.

Steam Powered Giraffe basically started out as performance artists portraying musical steampunk robots who almost accidentally evolved into a real band, a la Oingo Boingo, the Monkees, and Spinal Tap. But as unlikely as that transformation has been, they’re currently at their songwriting and performing peak. They’ve been posting their elaborate new videos online, as well as sharing footage of themselves rehearsing with no costumes or makeup. Seeing the robots truly “unplugged” makes it even more clear that the trio really is ready for prime time. It may even be time to go Kiss Unmasked, and maybe put out an album and some videos sans the robot gear; some people will never be able to take a band seriously when its members insist on melding their act with an old episode of the Shields and Yarnell variety show.

Video:

Steam Powered Giraffe "Fart Patrol"

It’s not like Steam Powered Giraffe’s already established fan base (which is huge enough to earn them millions of YouTube views) would drop them if they put away the robotics. Change is part and parcel of SPG fandom. Bunny/Rabbit shared her gender transition from Chris to Isabella online with fans, and with anyone else who might have been interested, through every step of the process. If their fans can roll with changes like that, they’re not gonna bail over a costume change. It is simply too good a band to keep hiding behind masks that could dissuade people from taking the time to discover what lies beneath. Besides, they could always adopt another makeup maneuver from the Kiss playbook, and wait to don the costumes again when the demand is great enough for a big full-costume “reunion” (and later “farewell”) tour.

Jay Allen Sanford

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During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past.
During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a music writer isn’t going to get rich plying his trade, but at least he’ll get free stuff: albums, concert tickets, swag, perhaps even the occasional backstage pass. For this year’s music issue, we asked our writers what they’d be willing to pay for, their exalted status as scribblers notwithstanding.

It’s not a fashion statement

When I’m going to a show and there’s a band I’m not familiar with, I don’t ever look them up or listen to them in advance, because there’s no better introduction than a live set. And while my first encounter with Some Kind Of Nightmare didn’t make me forget about headliners T.S.O.L., they had enough of an impact that I not only stopped checking the clock to see when Jack Grisham and the boys would be hitting the stage, I was also one of the first to line up at the Nightmare merch booth to buy their then-current CD Driven Red and a T-shirt. The CD did not leave my disc player for six months, and the T-shirt immediately lost its sleeves so I could wear it without arm prisons.

That was pre-pandemic. During the shutdown Some Kind Of Nightmare, became one of those bands that haunted me when it felt like live shows might become a thing of the past — or at least not part of the foreseeable future. I started to remonstrate with myself: how many times had I had the opportunity to see them and decided, for whatever reason, to let it pass? Would I ever have the chance again? Between people dropping from covid, venues closing, and the passage of time that often results in bands just stopping, our future was uncertain.

I’m beyond happy to report that they continued doing what they were doing, albeit sometimes virtually. So when they next play San Diego in May, I’ll be there, and I will be paying.

Yeah, I know, music writers get floated a lot of freebies. But I would never ask, never mind assume. I don’t do it with major label bands, and I sure as hell won’t do it with local bands that are living hand-to-mouth on self-financed tours. And when I go to shows, I don’t mention that I’m a writer. It’s not really pertinent to the experience or the conversations that happen there, and I don’t want it to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the receiving end of those expectations when people have asked me to write something for free. Maybe it’s because nothing shows support like cold hard cash or the digital equivalent. Maybe it’s because of my punk rock disdain for entitled dickheads who start feeling powerful just because they can string a few words together or are “in” with someone. I say it throws the balance off; the relationship between band and journalist goes from symbiotic to parasitic.

Jose Sinatra waxes loud, rude, crude, crass, insistent, and persuasive, embodying the worst in that too-friendly devil in your ear, the one well-met down the local pub, or out on a lawn for a neighborhood rager.

I think of paying my own way as putting my money where my mouth is. The music industry has figured out ways to screw bands even harder via streaming platforms than it did with physical album sales. So I buy the digital album or CD directly from the band whenever possible. And when I buy a T-shirt at a show, that’s my ultimate endorsement. It’s not a fashion statement. Anyone who meets me knows I don’t have the ability or the desire to make one. It means that I dig the band on my shirt, and will happily talk your ear off about them.

— Spike Steffenhagen

He takes down easy targets

Why do I cheerfully fork over to Jose Sinatra (occasionally known as Bill Richardson) the whole of my expendable shekels/moola/mad scrilla/penny jar scrapings, when he rises like a creature of the night to host “OB-oke” every Sunday at Winstons? Let me count the ways. Because you pay only two bucks up front, and two bucks (plus the same again for each drink special) proves a cheap token to any given rodeo. Because I believe in karaoke like Bonasera in The Godfather believed in America: it’s a landscape, a space where the host and guests join throats to create freedom in the form of a communal vortex. Because I once knew a “real” fake Frank Sinatra during my merry karaoke roamings in the ’90s, a man with a monk’s cap haircut and a cheap suit hanging one size too big off his skinny shoulders. His Frank flights lacked fancy, didn’t follow that bouncing ball at all. But you gave him space. After all, he was Frank, or some sample size of Frank.

Jose Sinatra hosts OB-oke

Getting back to Jose, though: this guy eschews suits in favor of some ’70s finery, eye-gouging ice cream hues you could’ve caught on Up With People were you white, or the Fifth Dimension (don’t laugh, they got down with the authentic Sinatra) if you owned a TV. He waxes loud, rude, crude, crass, insistent, and persuasive, embodying the worst in that too-friendly devil in your ear, the one well-met down the local pub, or out on a lawn for a neighborhood rager. Such fetid roots gave us Tony Clifton and Andrew Dice Clay. (Excepting, of course, that you’re supposed to dig how Andy Kaufman eventually took off the Tony Clifton persona and hung him up in the closet, whereas the Diceman keeps up the stink 24/7.)

Who is Jose/Richardson in his off hours? We know he used to run midnight movies out of the old Guild Theatre; insomniac mindbending no doubt multicolored his mind. We know he saves his own shekels so that OB-oke hits hard in the hood, employing and enjoying stage fog, a full array of stage lights, and that mighty signifier, the disco ball. We know he lovingly tends his private obsession with Wayne Newton, pondering how such a freaky creature can be born, mature, and grow finally to dominance in the murky I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-camp culture of lounge music, which begat karaoke culture — in America, anyway. Because of the lounge, even before you could grab the mic and take matters into your own mouth, you could hide away in the dark and behold your dreams, or what were supposed to be your dreams, coming alive. Our man here comes out of that same dark.

Jordan Krimston’s debut LP, Bushwhacking, is a nominee for Best Local Recording at this year’s San Diego Music Awards.

And this Sinatra — like Newton, like Clay, like that guy in the cheap suit — proves a creature adapted perfectly to this environment. Bill Richardson the man has ideas about music and creative stuff and life in the light. But that’s all gone the moment the fog machine fooms into life and Jose takes the stage. He puffs himself up. He takes down easy targets. He mock-bows to the regulars and he marshals the newbies, at least the ones not shit-scared to death of his whole essence.

And, of course, there’s the crux of the mission: throwing in dirty lyrics every chance he gets. And if he doesn’t get a chance, he’ll make one. And he’ll make you do the same. Any given song is only a series of cartoon word balloons waiting for you to make with eraser, then pen. You have the chance to crack people up, including yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you’re good enough to subvert, so that somebody pays deep attention. That’s freedom. Or some sample size of freedom.

— Andrew Hamlin

Unlikely to land a product endorsement deal

Jordan Krimston recorded his debut full-length, Bushwhacking, on the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic: February 2020. It was released on digital platforms one year later. Songs such as the relentlessly catchy “Betty” showcase pop smarts delivered with just enough experimentalism to make a lasting impression. But it might be the little flourishes of math-rock sprinkled all over Bushwhacking that give it a truly unique feel. The nine songs breeze by the first time you hear the record, but repeated listens reveal the little audio oddities that make it so special. The album is a nominee for Best Local Recording at this year’s San Diego Music Awards, so it’s comforting to know that others are taking notice.

If streaming or owning a digital copy of Bushwhacking just doesn’t feel like enough, and the need for a physical artifact containing these nine songs tugs at the frayed edges of your soul on a daily basis, well then, the good folks at Portland, Oregon’s Oranj Discs have come to your rescue. They recently released a CD version of the album in the long-revered “digipack” format, a packaging concept that eliminated the unsightly cracked plastic jewel cases from the massive CD collections found in the coolest dorm rooms of the ’90s. The Bushwhacking CD is only seven bucks on Bandcamp, so snag one quick, because only 100 were produced.

John Reis’s Ride the Wild Night seems anchored by the energy of a tight garage band firing on all cylinders, but it’s the rampant hooks all over the place that make it such a fun listen.

Speaking of CDs: I think I was transitioning from buying tapes to discs around the time I first heard Rocket from the Crypt. I’m quite certain it was the video for “Sturdy Wrists” on MTV’s 120 Minutes that provided my first exposure to the band. I was instantly sold on the group and purchased the full-length LP Circa: Now! circa quick. I was a high school senior in suburban Philadelphia, and RFTC was the first San Diego band onto which I properly latched. I continued to follow them through college, and finally got to see them live when I moved to their home turf in the late ’90s.

For many, RFTC served as an entry-point into the wild world of bandleader John Reis’s numerous musical projects, projects such as Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers, and Drive Like Jehu. Funnily enough, he never released a solo album until this year’s Ride the Wild Night. I guess good things come to those who wait, because it’s a joyous, straight-up assault of THE ROCK. The album seems anchored by the energy of a tight garage band firing on all cylinders, but it’s the rampant hooks all over the place that make it such a fun listen. The guitar riffs in “Rip From the Bone” and “Vape in the Dark Alone,” the Eurythmics-esque synthesizer that opens “I Hate My Neighbors in The Yellow House,” the well-placed acoustic rhythm guitar in “Ride The Wild Night” — it’s just expert construction across the board. Be sure to check out the single “Do You Still Wannna Make Out?” for a hilarious Cheetos reference unlikely to land Reis a product endorsement deal with the snack company, or anybody else.

Unfortunately, the initial vinyl run of Ride the Wild Night has already sold out, but you can still purchase the digital album. Also unfortunately, but in a different way, the album may get overshadowed a bit this year by the release of the debut from PLOSIVS, Reis’s new band with Rob Crow, RFTC’s Atom Willard, and Jordan Clark. But be sure to seek it out if you tend to gravitate towards quality, timeless rock and roll.

Dryw Keltz

Three to look forward to

There are some fantastic singers in the world, but there are very few with the stylistic range of Ms. Rebecca Jade, by whom I’ve been knocked out ever since I discovered her about ten years back. She’s toured the world with Sheila E., done smooth jazz cruises with Dave Koz, lit up the mainstream jazz world with Peter Sprague, and tackled the R&B landscape with Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact. Along the way, she has collected multiple honors from the San Diego Music Awards (she’s nominated for another three this year.)

There are some fantastic singers in the world, but there are very few with the stylistic range of Ms. Rebecca Jade.

Jade has been working on her latest album for quite some time, and now almost done (she’s looking for a June or July release date). It’s going to be called A Shade of Jade, and she’s putting it out herself. The album will represent her take on the R&B Urban Contemporary genre, with ten originals. Of all the wonderful singers we’ve got in town, Rebecca’s gift is singular. In addition, I’ve seen her playing percussion and electric bass, so she’s got that whole “real musician” vibe happening at every level. But above all, she’s got that beautiful voice. I can’t wait to hear the new album.

Trumpet master and educator Gilbert Castellanos has come to personify the rich San Diego jazz community. He’s been leading his after-school program The Young Lions Jazz Conservatory since 2013. That year, coincidentally, was the last time he released an album as a leader: Federal Jazz Project.  Now Castellanos has a new record in the loop, with the working title La Puerta. For anyone who loves jazz, this is extremely exciting news. Castellanos is so effective as an educator that his monumental skills as an improvising instrumentalist can be overlooked. But anyone who has ever heard him play live knows the score. The new disc features the Castellanos quintet everyone knows from his Wednesday night jam session at Panama 66 in Balboa Park: Christopher Hollyday on saxophone, Joshua White on piano, Tyler Kreutel on drums, and the recording debut of 18-year-old bassist John Murray. The sessions were recorded in North Park at Rarefied Recording by Chris Hobson. (This album comes at a pivotal stage in Gilbert’s career: he’s just undergone yet another surgery to counteract the effects of bone loss in his jaw. Right now, he is unable to work, and unable to play the trumpet while he recovers).

Joshua White has secured a grant from the Shifting Foundation, which will allow him to produce three new albums for Orenda Records.
Trumpet master and educator Gilbert Castellanos playing a jam session with 18-year-old bassist John Murray.

For the last ten years, Castellanos’ La Puerta guest Joshua White has been my favorite pianist, bar none. And in my opinion, he’s been the biggest music story in our town by a long shot. This year, the groundbreaking performer and composer has secured an important milestone in the form of a grant from the Shifting Foundation (reportedly in the mid five-figures) which will allow him to produce three new albums for Orenda Records, run by Los Angeles trumpeter Dan Rosenboom.

That’s joyous news, even if, for San Diego jazz fans, it comes with a bittersweet caveat: Mr. White is now officially an ex-San Diegan, having moved recently to set up shop 94 miles north in Long Beach. The first of White’s three documents will feature the pianist with UC San Diego professor and trumpet virtuoso Stephanie Richards alongside L.A. associates drummer Mark Ferber, bassist Karl McComas-Reichl, and saxophonist Josh Johnson. I will remember fondly the times when it was possible to catch Mr. White three or four times a week here in San Diego. I recently heard him on a new Mark Dresser album, recorded live at the Angel City Jazz Festival, and I was blown away by the exponential progress he has made artistically since the pandemic. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Robert Bush

An unlikely

transformation

The sixth studio album from costumed rockers Steam Powered Giraffe, 1896, should have been their Sgt. Pepper, or at least their Rubber Soul. Its title references the supposed year of their characters’ robotic creation by the fictional Colonel P. A. Walter I. The first single “Hot On the Trail” came with a theatrical mimed video, while “Bad Days on the Horizon” is a sincere cowboy crooner (SPG member “The Spine” often breaks into cowpoke mode). The video for “Olly & the Equinox Band” features a Saturday morning cartoon-style alter-ego version of the group.

Video:

Steam Powered Giraffe "Hot on the Trail" (Acoustic Version)

Of particular note: their acoustic rendition of “Hot On the Trail” received a jaw-dropping video treatment of its own. Already one of the strongest gospel-tinged tunes they’ve ever recorded, the acoustic arrangement showcases David Michael Bennett’s vocal chops right from the plaintive opening line, commanding attention and demanding an instant replay as soon as the final note fades. It’s that good. I’m not even sure THEY know just how good it is. It’s the kind of evergreen that could both make and define this band, possibly introducing and endearing them to the same supportive audience that favors likeminded theatrical rockers such as Lana Del Rey (who they recently covered with a video version of “Summertime Sadness”), Queen, Gogol Bordello, and Evanescence.

There’s essentially a whole separate album of acoustic 1896 arrangements, all of them individualized so the strength of the songwriting, paired with the shimmering vocal harmonies, shines forth. It isn’t so much unplugging as it is upgrading.

Steam Powered Giraffe have been posting elaborate new videos online, as well as sharing footage of themselves rehearsing with no costumes or makeup. Seeing the robots truly “unplugged” makes it even more clear that the trio really is ready for prime time.

Steam Powered Giraffe basically started out as performance artists portraying musical steampunk robots who almost accidentally evolved into a real band, a la Oingo Boingo, the Monkees, and Spinal Tap. But as unlikely as that transformation has been, they’re currently at their songwriting and performing peak. They’ve been posting their elaborate new videos online, as well as sharing footage of themselves rehearsing with no costumes or makeup. Seeing the robots truly “unplugged” makes it even more clear that the trio really is ready for prime time. It may even be time to go Kiss Unmasked, and maybe put out an album and some videos sans the robot gear; some people will never be able to take a band seriously when its members insist on melding their act with an old episode of the Shields and Yarnell variety show.

Video:

Steam Powered Giraffe "Fart Patrol"

It’s not like Steam Powered Giraffe’s already established fan base (which is huge enough to earn them millions of YouTube views) would drop them if they put away the robotics. Change is part and parcel of SPG fandom. Bunny/Rabbit shared her gender transition from Chris to Isabella online with fans, and with anyone else who might have been interested, through every step of the process. If their fans can roll with changes like that, they’re not gonna bail over a costume change. It is simply too good a band to keep hiding behind masks that could dissuade people from taking the time to discover what lies beneath. Besides, they could always adopt another makeup maneuver from the Kiss playbook, and wait to don the costumes again when the demand is great enough for a big full-costume “reunion” (and later “farewell”) tour.

Jay Allen Sanford

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