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Stories by Donovan Roche

Digital is ephemeral, print is permanent

“The ’80s was a nadir: hair metal, New Romantic synth-pop, Foreigner, Hall & Oates, Men at Work — it was horrible,” says Mike Stax about the inspiration behind launching his ’60s music mag Ugly Things ...

October 18, 2017
Heavy Guilt's declaration of disagreement with everything Donald

Co-founded by Redwoods Music impresario Al Howard and keyboardist Josh Rice in 2009, the Heavy Guilt hung things up after their third and arguably best album, Heavy Guilt, in 2014. So why come back now, ...

May 31, 2017
The Verigolds standard: mystique

Having formed in 2014, the Verigolds are fairly new to the San Diego music scene. But the Pacific Beach foursome, known for their pastiche of ‘60s psychedelic rock and spacey synths, have made an impact ...

April 19, 2017
Cindy Lee Berryhill powers up

“Some folks are easygoing, dependable ‘dogs’ and some are aloof, unavailable ‘cats,’” says singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, relaying the conversation she had with a friend returning to the dating scene that inspired her new song ...

April 12, 2017
Shins return to sound if not form

The Shins’ return to San Diego after a five-year hiatus — for two nights at the Observatory — was special for more reasons than just the long absence and mini residency. To start, for many ...

March 17, 2017
Slim Cessna's hillbilly hootenanny

How does one begin to describe Slim Cessna’s Auto Club? The band, forming 25 years ago in Denver, defies categorization, though many have tried. Some have labeled their sound — a wickedly enchanting mix of ...

February 24, 2017
Haunted bossanova

Even if you’ve seen the Creepy Creeps perform several times, you’d likely never recognize any of the bandmembers in public. The reason: onstage, their appearance ranges from dapperly dressed apes to skeleton faces with fezzes. ...

February 21, 2017
Schizophonic freak-out

The Schizophonics’ appreciation of different musical styles comes through in everything they do. Led by husband and wife Pat (guitar, vocals) and Lety (drums) Beers, the band offers a potent blend of punk, rock, and ...

January 25, 2017
Childish Gambino gets funked up

These days, Donald Glover is known more for his acting (in the critically-acclaimed FX series Atlanta, and before that, Community) than his musical endeavors as alter-ego Childish Gambino. But he’s about to even the score ...

January 6, 2017
Heartache at 100bpm

With roots music on the rise, it’s a prime time for Wish & the Well to be prepping their debut album for release. The Oceanside-based five-piece fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Corey Leal is finishing up mixing ...

November 30, 2016
Fourth-wave surf rock

Local surf rocker Jason Lee and his bandmates are putting the finishing touches on their sophomore release, Monsters and Mai Tais, due out in Spring, 2017. Featuring members from both of his bands — the ...

Was Guns 'N Roses worth the wait?

“Do you know where the fuck you are? You’re in the jungle, San Diego!” Axl Rose screamed as he and his Guns N’ Roses bandmates launched into “Welcome to the Jungle” at Qualcomm Stadium, the ...

September 2, 2016
The uncontrollable Dani Bell

Tarantism is “a psychological illness characterized by an extreme impulse to dance, prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th Century, and widely believed at the time to have been caused by the ...

July 27, 2016
George Clinton on the logistics of funk and the fight to get paid

Funk music pioneer George Clinton, who is bringing his 22-piece Parliament-Funkadelic band back to the Belly Up on June 23, says the small Solana Beach club is often considered a yardstick for other venues. “We’ve ...

June 22, 2016
Takin' It to the Fair with Michael McDonald

“Nothing says rock ’n’ roll like whipping up the crowd with a bingo game,” quipped Michael McDonald, referring to the pre-show entertainment at his San Diego County Fair appearance. Actually, one might argue that the ...

June 18, 2016
Bad branding aside, the 1975 deserve to be heard

The 1975 aren’t going to win any best band name contests. And the lengthy title of their sophomore release — I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of ...

May 20, 2016
Silly Rabbit

Try as you might, describing Jesika von Rabbit’s music/performance is not an easy task. She’s been referred to as everything from a “postmodern, intergalactic pop provocateur” to “part pop princess parody, part desert gypsy.” When ...

Gary Clark Jr.'s guitar speaks volumes

Austin-based guitarist Gary Clark Jr. is a man of few words. Rather than waste time with between-song banter, he lets his music do the talking for him, and on this night at House of Blues, ...

Down the rabbit hole with Birdy Bardot

Emily Reilly. It’s a name you might not naturally associate with San Diego’s music scene. And yet, she’s one of the busiest in the biz, lending her vocals to no less than three bands: Birdy ...

March 2, 2016
HITnRUN or HITSnMISSES

As a Prince devotee, I hold the diminutive artist up to colossal standards. While never losing respect for his creativity or willingness to take risks and push boundaries with each new album, I also recognize ...

February 5, 2016
Are you a Belieber?

He’s the bad boy you love to hate. Well, when Chris Brown isn’t around, anyway. And most of the time Justin Bieber easily earns that reputation. With Purpose, his fourth album, he wants to change ...

January 22, 2016
Nothing Cheap about these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers

Two days before learning they would join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2016, Cheap Trick brought their classic power pop to the Belly Up. The band opened the show with the ...

December 25, 2015
There would be no Nervous Wreckords without the Killers

It’s been a busy three months for Brian Karscig and his brainchild, the Nervous Wreckords. In that short time span, his band performed at the KAABOO festival, he joined friends the Killers at their North ...

December 9, 2015
Van Halen and Crazy Dave

“Halloween is around the corner. How many of you are going as me?” David Lee Roth asked the crowd at Van Halen’s Sleep Train Amphitheatre show. While the singer’s quip yielded the biggest chuckle of ...

October 9, 2015
"Wildheart" Miguel funks up the Observatory

One of the best concert experiences is when you catch an artist at that pivotal moment when your gut tells you he or she is on the cusp of going Big Time. That’s how I ...

September 7, 2015
Miguel's provocative Wildheart might make you blush

Warning: listening to Miguel’s Wildheart in mixed company might make you blush. On his third album, the R&B raconteur advances from 2012’s sultry, Grammy-winning “Adorn” to “the valley,” a triple-X homage to SoCal’s porn capital. ...

August 28, 2015
Gregg Allman rambles to the County Fair

Thanks to my older brothers, I developed an early appreciation for the Allman Brothers Band’s Southern rock as a child in the 1970s. Some 40-odd years later, hearing “Statesboro Blues” or “Ramblin’ Man” brings me ...

June 26, 2015
John Legend makes the ladies squeal

There’s nothing as entertaining as seeing an artist at the top of his game in an intimate venue. Such was the case when nine-time Grammy-winner John Legend made a stop in San Diego prior to ...

Mark Ronson's Uptown Special

Rocketed to the top of the charts by the Bruno Mars–piloted hit “Uptown Funk” — with its Princely synths, Towering horns, and sly James Brown-isms (“gotta kiss myself so pretty”) — Mark Ronson’s latest is ...

May 15, 2015
Hozier by Hozier

With a chorus reminiscent of classic Elton John and viral video amassing more than 100 million YouTube views, “Take Me to Church” quickly placed Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne (aka Hozier) on America’s musical pulpit. While ...

April 3, 2015
Strut, by Lenny Kravitz

As the first song on Lenny Kravitz’s latest suggests, Strut is unabashedly about “Sex.” The funky album-opener’s driving beat and jangly guitar is a full-throttle introduction that awakens the senses. Two songs later, the carnal ...

February 6, 2015
In the Lonely Hour, by Sam Smith

Arguably 2014’s best (and most talked about) new artist, Sam Smith proves on his debut album that the hype is justified. While many first discovered the British singer’s now-trademark falsetto on Disclosure’s house hit “Latch,” ...

January 2, 2015
Capital Cities' spirited retro sound

I got my introduction to the L.A.-based electro-pop band Capital Cities — beyond the megahit “Safe & Sound” — at Coachella this year. There I discovered their penchant for lazy hooks and lofty horns, which ...

December 12, 2014
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