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Brian Witkin goes from failed security guard to successful label honcho

20th Anniversary Salute to Pacific Records January 7 at the Music Box

Brian Witkin: the music and the music business. - Image by Alan Hess
Brian Witkin: the music and the music business.

Slack, not slacking: He’s run a record label, a record store chain, a recording studio, a legal service for musicians, and one of San Diego’s most prominent Hawaiian music bands. But, admits native San Diego musician and attorney Brian Witkin, head of local label Pacific Records, his gig overseeing security didn’t work out so hot.

“Back when I worked for the now-defunct music venue The Epicentre in Mira Mesa, I accidently busted the headliners, The Fray, for sneaking into their own show,” recalls Witkin. “It was a sold-out show in a 525-capacity venue, and people were trying to sneak in the entire night. I saw a group of four or five guys hop over the outside fence backstage. I grabbed security and we pulled them out, but didn’t see their credentials underneath their clothing. We were in the process of escorting them out when we realized who they were. I was really embarrassed, but they were cool about it and complimented us for doing a good job with security.

“Apparently, the reason they were sneaking into their own show was they had gone out for burritos, and didn’t want to deal with the crowd coming back in. Even though [Epicentre] was a small all-ages venue, some amazing bands came through — including Maroon Five and Boxcar Racer.”

Witkin has co-led (with Kamaka Mullen) the Hawaiian-themed act Slack Key ‘Ohana for a few years now. He hails from a musical family; his father Joe Witkin was a keyboardist for Sha Na Na and performed at the Woodstock music festival in 1969 — the next-to-last act before Jimi Hendrix’s epochal ending set. Brian says he knew from an early age that his dad didn’t have a normal job. “He told me about his encounters with legends like Janis Joplin, who he met backstage after a gig at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. When they met, she introduced herself to my dad saying, ‘Hi, I’m Janis.’ My dad’s reply was, ‘Janis Who?’ She was offended — and quite intoxicated, apparently.”

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Witkin holds a degree from San Francisco Law School’s branch campus at Miramar’s Alliant University, and notes that he passed the “extremely difficult and nerve-wracking” California Bar Examination on his first try. But button-down job aside, he’s kept a strong affinity for the scene and its musicians. “One of the most unique experiences I’ve had the honor of being a part of was when I connected local artist Tim Lowman of the band Low Volts with ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons, to [have Gibbons] officiate Tim’s wedding last year. I’ve worked with Billy on numerous projects, and Tim Lowe had asked our mutual friend Tim Pyles to contact me to make the connection with Billy. It was an intimate wedding with just a few guests, with San Diego Bay as the backdrop. I was a witness, along with my wife Nicole. My son Jordan even had the privilege of being the ring bearer.”

Upcoming Event

Pacific Records Fest

  • Sunday, January 7, 2024, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Music Box, 1337 India Street, San Diego
  • Age Limit: Not available

More


On January 7, Witkin will officiate a 20th Anniversary Salute to Pacific Records at the Music Box. Confirmed performers include iTunes blues chart toppers Shane Hall, Seawall Prophet (debuted at number seven on the reggae charts), Slack Key ‘Ohana (San Diego Music Awards Best World Music Album 2022), reggae rockers Sandollar (SDMA Best World Music Album 2023), izzi delan (whose upcoming single “Back of my Mind” features Doors guitarist Robby Krieger), surf rockers The Tourmaliners (2023 SDMA Best Rock Album and 2023 Pipeline Instrumental Review Album of the Year), soulful R&B groove-master Jonny Tarr (2020 SDMA Best Pop Artist), rowdy rockers The Moonjacks (recently heard on Fox TV’s Welcome to Flatch), power pop band Manual Scan (promoting their first new music in 30 years), cartoon punk mashup The Spice Pistols (fresh from a tour with Agent Orange), rising singer-songwriter Kela Sako (rock to reggae and EDM); and Witkin’s brother Sean Witkin, a multi-instrumentalist who makes a unique style of electronic pop with a subtle hint of rock edge.

As for the Pacific label’s future plans, he says, “We have a lot of releases lined up for 2024. In the new year, we’ll have some great releases from Sandollar, studio albums from the Moonjacks, as well as from my band Slack Key ‘Ohana. Hopefully there will be lots more touring and live music in the works, locally and abroad.”

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Brian Witkin: the music and the music business. - Image by Alan Hess
Brian Witkin: the music and the music business.

Slack, not slacking: He’s run a record label, a record store chain, a recording studio, a legal service for musicians, and one of San Diego’s most prominent Hawaiian music bands. But, admits native San Diego musician and attorney Brian Witkin, head of local label Pacific Records, his gig overseeing security didn’t work out so hot.

“Back when I worked for the now-defunct music venue The Epicentre in Mira Mesa, I accidently busted the headliners, The Fray, for sneaking into their own show,” recalls Witkin. “It was a sold-out show in a 525-capacity venue, and people were trying to sneak in the entire night. I saw a group of four or five guys hop over the outside fence backstage. I grabbed security and we pulled them out, but didn’t see their credentials underneath their clothing. We were in the process of escorting them out when we realized who they were. I was really embarrassed, but they were cool about it and complimented us for doing a good job with security.

“Apparently, the reason they were sneaking into their own show was they had gone out for burritos, and didn’t want to deal with the crowd coming back in. Even though [Epicentre] was a small all-ages venue, some amazing bands came through — including Maroon Five and Boxcar Racer.”

Witkin has co-led (with Kamaka Mullen) the Hawaiian-themed act Slack Key ‘Ohana for a few years now. He hails from a musical family; his father Joe Witkin was a keyboardist for Sha Na Na and performed at the Woodstock music festival in 1969 — the next-to-last act before Jimi Hendrix’s epochal ending set. Brian says he knew from an early age that his dad didn’t have a normal job. “He told me about his encounters with legends like Janis Joplin, who he met backstage after a gig at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. When they met, she introduced herself to my dad saying, ‘Hi, I’m Janis.’ My dad’s reply was, ‘Janis Who?’ She was offended — and quite intoxicated, apparently.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Witkin holds a degree from San Francisco Law School’s branch campus at Miramar’s Alliant University, and notes that he passed the “extremely difficult and nerve-wracking” California Bar Examination on his first try. But button-down job aside, he’s kept a strong affinity for the scene and its musicians. “One of the most unique experiences I’ve had the honor of being a part of was when I connected local artist Tim Lowman of the band Low Volts with ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons, to [have Gibbons] officiate Tim’s wedding last year. I’ve worked with Billy on numerous projects, and Tim Lowe had asked our mutual friend Tim Pyles to contact me to make the connection with Billy. It was an intimate wedding with just a few guests, with San Diego Bay as the backdrop. I was a witness, along with my wife Nicole. My son Jordan even had the privilege of being the ring bearer.”

Upcoming Event

Pacific Records Fest

  • Sunday, January 7, 2024, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Music Box, 1337 India Street, San Diego
  • Age Limit: Not available

More


On January 7, Witkin will officiate a 20th Anniversary Salute to Pacific Records at the Music Box. Confirmed performers include iTunes blues chart toppers Shane Hall, Seawall Prophet (debuted at number seven on the reggae charts), Slack Key ‘Ohana (San Diego Music Awards Best World Music Album 2022), reggae rockers Sandollar (SDMA Best World Music Album 2023), izzi delan (whose upcoming single “Back of my Mind” features Doors guitarist Robby Krieger), surf rockers The Tourmaliners (2023 SDMA Best Rock Album and 2023 Pipeline Instrumental Review Album of the Year), soulful R&B groove-master Jonny Tarr (2020 SDMA Best Pop Artist), rowdy rockers The Moonjacks (recently heard on Fox TV’s Welcome to Flatch), power pop band Manual Scan (promoting their first new music in 30 years), cartoon punk mashup The Spice Pistols (fresh from a tour with Agent Orange), rising singer-songwriter Kela Sako (rock to reggae and EDM); and Witkin’s brother Sean Witkin, a multi-instrumentalist who makes a unique style of electronic pop with a subtle hint of rock edge.

As for the Pacific label’s future plans, he says, “We have a lot of releases lined up for 2024. In the new year, we’ll have some great releases from Sandollar, studio albums from the Moonjacks, as well as from my band Slack Key ‘Ohana. Hopefully there will be lots more touring and live music in the works, locally and abroad.”

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