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Reader Music Issue short takes

Obervatory's mosh pit, frenetic Rafael Payare, Lemonhead chaos, bleedforthescene, Coronado Tasting Room

Payare – I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.
Payare – I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.

Island civilization

Within the Coronado Ferry Landing, you will find Coronado Tasting Room. Purveyors of Craft Spirits, Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Balsamic Vinegars, Spices and Gourmet Foods. Every other Wednesday evening, Michael Gonzales (aka Gonzo) and Keven Ford’s duet group Busted Spurs play there. Those are the evenings I like to attend. Gonzo and Kevin serve up country-themed tunes — and an occasional Grateful Dead song for me.

There’s always a lovely crowd of people: Gonzo followers, local townsfolk, friends and tourists, all drinking wine and champagne, and eating bread, oils, and charcuterie. Not a single dull expression. Smiles served up by owners Jay and Colleen and crew. You can tell that the people at the bar and tables are happy to see and catch up with each other. I enjoy mingling with such a group.

There’s a warmth provided by Gonzo’s wife Frances, who serves as our hostess; every now and then, she’ll motion to me to sit in the empty seat next to her. The conversations hush when Gonzo and Keven start hitting their groove. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” is hot. Thank you for “Friend of the Devil.” “Tennessee Whisky” appears to always be a crowd favorite. There’s a strong sense of appreciation for the establishment and performers. In all my music escapades, I have not found a more civilized bunch.

— Gabriel Garcia

Dando: still dandy

The Lemonheads are probably best remembered for their grunge-era singles “It’s a Shame About Ray,” “Into Your Arms,” and their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” For years now, the band has been singer/guitarist Evan Dando’s project, with a revolving door of musicians supporting him on tours. As such, Evan Dando’s solo gig at the Casbah in late-February was an acoustic Lemonheads gig — and, similar to most Lemonheads gigs from the last 20 or so years, it delivered its moments of chaos, sloppiness and brilliance to a room full of enamored fans.

Sporting scraggly hair, requesting the occasional double-vodka-cranberry, and rocking a wardrobe that screamed “permanent houseboat guest,” Dando delivered Lemonheads staples such as “The Outdoor Type,” “Being Around” and “The Great Big No.” These all got the sing-along treatment, but, as with many Dando acoustic gigs, it was the delightfully diverse grab-bag of covers that likely ruled the evening. A mid-show highlight was his rendition of Metallica’s complex “Fade to Black” — a song that seems designed to fail as a campfire sing-along. Dando deepened his vocal delivery and delivered a metal cover that was simultaneously terrifying and hilarious to win over the alternative crowd.

— Dryw Keltz

The stick that never stops

When Rafael Payare conducts the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, it’s different. The conductor’s baton goes up at the start of the concert, and it doesn’t stop until the end. Payare is a non-stop ball of musical energy that grows and grows and grows as the concert rolls along. I saw him conduct Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 at The California Center for the Arts Escondido, and I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.

Besides his duties as the SDSO music director, Payare is also the music director of The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, also known as the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is one of the great orchestras of the world. And in addition to conducting in Montreal and San Diego, Payare makes frequent guest conducting appearances at orchestras such as The National Orchestra of France, The Berlin State Opera, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Truly he is the stick that never stops.

— Garrett Harris

Safer on this side of the screen

Creeping up on 9000 followers and amassing over a million views on TikTok, the channel @bleedforthescene is blowing up the local music video scene. The page’s bio reads: “Heavy music for cool people & cool music for heavy people.” The channel covers concerts in the San Diego area, mostly highlighting the punk/hardcore scene. When he started in 2022, creator Josh Bloodgood’s intent was to preserve memories of shows to which he had taken his oldest son. But after a video he posted of the hardcore band Stick To Your Guns cultivated over 5000 views in less than an hour, things began to rocket. Now, he has built one of the hottest places to catch clips of local shows. However, a large following doesn’t guarantee views: Bloodgood says there’s a code he’s still trying to crack. “I want to help increase the platform for some of our local talent, like Hereditary and Abstain. But I want to do it without gimmicks or following trends. It’s all about the music, or to steal a line from Jamey Jasta [of Hatebreed], ‘All pit, no shit.’”

Sponsored
Sponsored

— Jake Peterson

First time in the pit

“Do people still do the mosh pit thing?” the 15-year-old dude asks me while we wait in line at The Observatory North Park. It’s his first punk show, and he’s kicking off his live journey with a banger: The Circle Jerks are headlining over T.S.O.L. and Negative Approach. He gets excited when I assure him that a pit is likely — his girlfriend, not so much. She looks scared. I assure them both it’s fine, that they can not participate in the slamming bodies and occasional flying elbows if they so choose. It looks like chaos, but there is an honor system to the madness, and a pit is pretty easy to spot. Unless of course, a spontaneous one breaks out away from the floor.

The couple ignore me and have an animated conversation as we walk into the venue. Halfway through Negative Approach’s set, there is a flurry of motion: someone is suddenly onstage, then diving,  followed by what appears to be security and EMTs taking someone out on a stretcher. I wonder what the couple make of it, or if one of them was the injured party. I hope whoever it was will be OK. Then again, a broken bone is the ultimate souvenir — a worthy participation trophy.

— Spike Steffenhagen


Savviest marketing hook for the nostalgic

“Hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die,” promised Neil Young and Crazy Horse on Rust Never Sleeps. That was 45 years ago, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse are coming to town next month, so it looks like there was something to it, never mind the same song’s declaration that “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” At least they’re not doing one of those “whole album from the glory days” shows — that would be...a bit much. But while I can criticize, I am in no way immune; I’ve seen three such shows. Peter Gabriel’s So at the Sports Arena was probably the finest performance; what he lost in not having Kate Bush there with him on “Don’t Give Up,” he gained by, well, not having given up. They Might Be Giants did the most to freshen things up with Flood at Humphreys, playing “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” completely backwards. But the one that hit hardest was U2 playing The Joshua Tree at Qualcomm: The World’s Biggest Rock Band 30 years on and sounding like it, never mind the improved lightshow. They were good and they were game, but that album was a moment, and the moment had passed.

— Matthew Lickona

 Backyard blows up

The easiest way to impress people when talking about San Diego theater is to mention the heavy hitters — the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, etc. — and their penchant for sending stuff to Broadway. But my favorite proof of the theater scene’s quality is its diversity: we’ve got all sorts of stuff all over town. Not all of it is great, but much of it is good, and even the smaller outfits — perhaps especially the smaller outfits — have something to offer. I haven’t loved everything I’ve seen from Backyard Renaissance, but I’ve never seen them put on a bad show. Last season, they got ambitious with Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, a show with a big rep, big feelings, a big cast, and a big set — and happily, their reach did not exceed their grasp. Over the course of three hours, Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Jessica John waged mother-daughter war in tragic, titanic fashion, and everyone else kept up. I know I’m no outlier here, no bearer of secret tidings of unheralded genius: The San Diego Theater Critics Circle already named it last year’s Outstanding Dramatic Performance. I’m just happy to confirm they got that one right.

— Matthew Lickona

Coolest concert swag

The coolest merch I’ve ever seen, I didn’t choose on purpose. It was at a Circle Jerks show, and the band was selling mystery bags for about the price of a T-shirt from the current tour. Retired shirt designs, vintage buttons, patches and other memorabilia were packed in sealed manilla envelopes and guaranteed to meet or exceed the sticker price. I was hoping for the Canadian tour shirt with their mascot as a hockey player, but instead, I pulled a hoodie that was selling for 50 clams or so. My buddy Steve Latham got the current tour shirt plus a vintage fanzine. I don’t wear hoodies, so we swapped.

— Spike Steffenhagen

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Payare – I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.
Payare – I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.

Island civilization

Within the Coronado Ferry Landing, you will find Coronado Tasting Room. Purveyors of Craft Spirits, Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Balsamic Vinegars, Spices and Gourmet Foods. Every other Wednesday evening, Michael Gonzales (aka Gonzo) and Keven Ford’s duet group Busted Spurs play there. Those are the evenings I like to attend. Gonzo and Kevin serve up country-themed tunes — and an occasional Grateful Dead song for me.

There’s always a lovely crowd of people: Gonzo followers, local townsfolk, friends and tourists, all drinking wine and champagne, and eating bread, oils, and charcuterie. Not a single dull expression. Smiles served up by owners Jay and Colleen and crew. You can tell that the people at the bar and tables are happy to see and catch up with each other. I enjoy mingling with such a group.

There’s a warmth provided by Gonzo’s wife Frances, who serves as our hostess; every now and then, she’ll motion to me to sit in the empty seat next to her. The conversations hush when Gonzo and Keven start hitting their groove. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” is hot. Thank you for “Friend of the Devil.” “Tennessee Whisky” appears to always be a crowd favorite. There’s a strong sense of appreciation for the establishment and performers. In all my music escapades, I have not found a more civilized bunch.

— Gabriel Garcia

Dando: still dandy

The Lemonheads are probably best remembered for their grunge-era singles “It’s a Shame About Ray,” “Into Your Arms,” and their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” For years now, the band has been singer/guitarist Evan Dando’s project, with a revolving door of musicians supporting him on tours. As such, Evan Dando’s solo gig at the Casbah in late-February was an acoustic Lemonheads gig — and, similar to most Lemonheads gigs from the last 20 or so years, it delivered its moments of chaos, sloppiness and brilliance to a room full of enamored fans.

Sporting scraggly hair, requesting the occasional double-vodka-cranberry, and rocking a wardrobe that screamed “permanent houseboat guest,” Dando delivered Lemonheads staples such as “The Outdoor Type,” “Being Around” and “The Great Big No.” These all got the sing-along treatment, but, as with many Dando acoustic gigs, it was the delightfully diverse grab-bag of covers that likely ruled the evening. A mid-show highlight was his rendition of Metallica’s complex “Fade to Black” — a song that seems designed to fail as a campfire sing-along. Dando deepened his vocal delivery and delivered a metal cover that was simultaneously terrifying and hilarious to win over the alternative crowd.

— Dryw Keltz

The stick that never stops

When Rafael Payare conducts the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, it’s different. The conductor’s baton goes up at the start of the concert, and it doesn’t stop until the end. Payare is a non-stop ball of musical energy that grows and grows and grows as the concert rolls along. I saw him conduct Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 at The California Center for the Arts Escondido, and I could have sworn he started levitating at the end.

Besides his duties as the SDSO music director, Payare is also the music director of The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, also known as the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is one of the great orchestras of the world. And in addition to conducting in Montreal and San Diego, Payare makes frequent guest conducting appearances at orchestras such as The National Orchestra of France, The Berlin State Opera, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Truly he is the stick that never stops.

— Garrett Harris

Safer on this side of the screen

Creeping up on 9000 followers and amassing over a million views on TikTok, the channel @bleedforthescene is blowing up the local music video scene. The page’s bio reads: “Heavy music for cool people & cool music for heavy people.” The channel covers concerts in the San Diego area, mostly highlighting the punk/hardcore scene. When he started in 2022, creator Josh Bloodgood’s intent was to preserve memories of shows to which he had taken his oldest son. But after a video he posted of the hardcore band Stick To Your Guns cultivated over 5000 views in less than an hour, things began to rocket. Now, he has built one of the hottest places to catch clips of local shows. However, a large following doesn’t guarantee views: Bloodgood says there’s a code he’s still trying to crack. “I want to help increase the platform for some of our local talent, like Hereditary and Abstain. But I want to do it without gimmicks or following trends. It’s all about the music, or to steal a line from Jamey Jasta [of Hatebreed], ‘All pit, no shit.’”

Sponsored
Sponsored

— Jake Peterson

First time in the pit

“Do people still do the mosh pit thing?” the 15-year-old dude asks me while we wait in line at The Observatory North Park. It’s his first punk show, and he’s kicking off his live journey with a banger: The Circle Jerks are headlining over T.S.O.L. and Negative Approach. He gets excited when I assure him that a pit is likely — his girlfriend, not so much. She looks scared. I assure them both it’s fine, that they can not participate in the slamming bodies and occasional flying elbows if they so choose. It looks like chaos, but there is an honor system to the madness, and a pit is pretty easy to spot. Unless of course, a spontaneous one breaks out away from the floor.

The couple ignore me and have an animated conversation as we walk into the venue. Halfway through Negative Approach’s set, there is a flurry of motion: someone is suddenly onstage, then diving,  followed by what appears to be security and EMTs taking someone out on a stretcher. I wonder what the couple make of it, or if one of them was the injured party. I hope whoever it was will be OK. Then again, a broken bone is the ultimate souvenir — a worthy participation trophy.

— Spike Steffenhagen


Savviest marketing hook for the nostalgic

“Hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die,” promised Neil Young and Crazy Horse on Rust Never Sleeps. That was 45 years ago, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse are coming to town next month, so it looks like there was something to it, never mind the same song’s declaration that “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” At least they’re not doing one of those “whole album from the glory days” shows — that would be...a bit much. But while I can criticize, I am in no way immune; I’ve seen three such shows. Peter Gabriel’s So at the Sports Arena was probably the finest performance; what he lost in not having Kate Bush there with him on “Don’t Give Up,” he gained by, well, not having given up. They Might Be Giants did the most to freshen things up with Flood at Humphreys, playing “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” completely backwards. But the one that hit hardest was U2 playing The Joshua Tree at Qualcomm: The World’s Biggest Rock Band 30 years on and sounding like it, never mind the improved lightshow. They were good and they were game, but that album was a moment, and the moment had passed.

— Matthew Lickona

 Backyard blows up

The easiest way to impress people when talking about San Diego theater is to mention the heavy hitters — the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, etc. — and their penchant for sending stuff to Broadway. But my favorite proof of the theater scene’s quality is its diversity: we’ve got all sorts of stuff all over town. Not all of it is great, but much of it is good, and even the smaller outfits — perhaps especially the smaller outfits — have something to offer. I haven’t loved everything I’ve seen from Backyard Renaissance, but I’ve never seen them put on a bad show. Last season, they got ambitious with Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, a show with a big rep, big feelings, a big cast, and a big set — and happily, their reach did not exceed their grasp. Over the course of three hours, Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Jessica John waged mother-daughter war in tragic, titanic fashion, and everyone else kept up. I know I’m no outlier here, no bearer of secret tidings of unheralded genius: The San Diego Theater Critics Circle already named it last year’s Outstanding Dramatic Performance. I’m just happy to confirm they got that one right.

— Matthew Lickona

Coolest concert swag

The coolest merch I’ve ever seen, I didn’t choose on purpose. It was at a Circle Jerks show, and the band was selling mystery bags for about the price of a T-shirt from the current tour. Retired shirt designs, vintage buttons, patches and other memorabilia were packed in sealed manilla envelopes and guaranteed to meet or exceed the sticker price. I was hoping for the Canadian tour shirt with their mascot as a hockey player, but instead, I pulled a hoodie that was selling for 50 clams or so. My buddy Steve Latham got the current tour shirt plus a vintage fanzine. I don’t wear hoodies, so we swapped.

— Spike Steffenhagen

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