Back to profile

Stories by Ken Leighton

It's a rap shop, not a thug thing

“Being unaffiliated, people feel safer here," says Jay Wat

Singer/songwriter Justin Watson, known to most local rappers as producer Jay Wat, says the fact he didn’t grow up around San Diego was a good thing. “I’m from Detroit, so I have a neutral presence,” ...

Rock en español? Naw, Rock en ingles.

"I was really inspired by Tijuana No!" says Latinized Hawk Auburn guitarman

When XETV Channel 6 went off the air last month, guitarist Raul Gonzales was one of some 60 employees who lost their jobs; he was a programming engineer in the station’s master control studio in ...

Rob Stone — the guy with the glasses? — did it?

No, he says, on XXXtentacion assault, but "I knew it was gonna happen."

Rappers beefing in real life may be good for lyrics but it can cost you gigs. Consider local rapper Rob Stone, best known for his breakout 2015 hit “Chill Bill.” He tells how Florida rapper ...

Mariachi man

“I was just starting high school when my parents got a letter of deportation."

Southwestern College professor Jeff Nevin has been teaching Mariachi music for 20 years. Proceeds from concerts he organizes fund $20,000 in annual scholarships for music students. His teaching clinics help keep Mariachi alive. But Nevin ...

At UCSD William Morris discovers the smallest band they've dealt with

Lightning Cola — via an obscure Vietnamese music blog

As major record labels decline in relevance, getting well-connected managers and agents on your side has become more important for so-called “baby bands” that are struggling to get a national foothold. Consider the plight of ...

San Luis Rey Downs turns hotel over to renters

But is it legal?

In 2014, the San Luis Rey Downs golf resort in Bonsall closed. Some 118 acres was purchased by the County to augment a public riverpark, and another 71 acres is in the process of being ...

Chris Cornell didn't forget Soundgarden's TJ show

"The lawlessness didn’t seem to benefit any of us or our fans."

All four Seattle grunge frontmen (Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley) played Iguana’s, the three-story Tijuana rock mecca that hosted major headliners during its 1989–’94 run. ...

Sportscasting now the "real" alternative radio?

Padres don't deliver ratings for FM-94/9

Does Linkin Park mix with Petco Park? Not really, according to newly released Nielsen ratings showing the results of the first full month Padres play-by-play aired on alt-rocker FM-94/9 — the station took a ratings ...

Belly Up County

Tavern's talent-buying blokes expand territory

Having Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffett, and the Rolling Stones drop by for a show may be the Belly Up Tavern’s most visible triumphs. But behind the scenes the booking staff of the Solana Beach venue ...

Jason Hanna, brassman to the bone

After Herb, it's on to schmaltz-free Mendes, Bowie, Ellington...

Jason Hanna can walk from his home in I.B. to the beach where, on a clear day, he can see the bullring where Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass made one of the first music ...

Jennie's Cafe in Oceanside closed — drug overdose

Owner leaves behind three children

Jennie Duffin was not able to open her Oceanside café on Sunday. But some of her friends staged their own Mother’s Day tribute to her on the Jennie’s Café patio that runs along Coast Highway. ...

From one hot Oceanside neighborhood to another

Dad sells Anita's building, son moves south

A plaque says the Oceanside Historical Society deems the building on Coast Highway near downtown historically significant. It was built as a house in 1908 and first used as a restaurant by George Pernicano, one ...

Blind guitarman's blues

Cory Wilkins: "Don’t invest in music if you are risk-averse."

Cory Wilkins was playing eight gigs a week in Sarasota, Florida, before he moved to San Diego 13 years ago. He can sing, play guitar, and write songs. But he can’t see. “I had some ...

Gypsyfest: a party of magnitude

"Nudists were there but it was not overwhelming."

About 20 miles east and a week after In-Koh-Pah 4, on June 10 San Diego Gypsyfest returns, to be held again at the nudist De Anza Springs Resort. Like last year, there will be 35 ...

Random DNA created the Oxen of rock

“I was gung ho to find a band but nothing shook out."

Drummer Matt Nelson says his band the Oxen (which has been likened to the Breeders, Love and Rockets, or “a less drugged-out Spiritualized”) has quite the random DNA. “I was a pop-punk drummer from Cleveland, ...

Lemon Grove a sweet spot for punk

"The cops were standing there, chilling, just watching us."

The 15 or so active Lemon Grove punk bands make it hard to ignore the town’s thriving hardcore scene. “One time they had [Lemon Grove band] PSO play for the opening of a new library,” ...

Black Cat Bar to live up to its name

On with the shows: tweakers out, liquor's in

“When I came to San Diego in ’89, I played at the old Casbah with my punk band Big Tension,” says Matt Parker, who now plays guitar in the five-piece Americana band Bartenders Bible. “The ...

Zapata on steroids

Rage and System of a Down passé to Steeltoe

Temo Uribe is the frontman/songwriter of Chula Vista–based thrash/punk band Steeltoe, possibly San Diego’s most politically driven band. He doesn’t mince words. Regarding local punk bands who rage and thrash without a point: “It’s just ...

Metal is alive and well at Brick by Brick

San Diego is secretly angsty.

Bar ownership Rule No. 1: You snooze, you lose. “We learned it's not real easy,” says Shannon Sgrosso, part of the rock-star contingent that swooped in to save the struggling Brick by Brick three years ...

Chris Cantore to replace Chargers insider Kevin Acee on Mighty 1090

Part of backlash against departing football team?

Insiders confirm longtime local rock jock Chris Cantore is replacing Kevin Acee as host of the weekday 6 to 9 p.m. time slot on Mighty 1090 beginning April 3. Kevin Acee, the U-T sports columnist ...

Strawberries from Rome

Burning of Rome sews Strawberry Moons — they play Friday at Casbah

While the value of winning a San Diego Music Award is unclear, some insiders joke that in 2014, SDMA love seemed like the kiss of death. Just after Burning of Rome won three awards (Song ...

Rest in peace, Boss Lady

Talent buyer, club owner Anilee Griffin passes away at 35

Anilee Griffin, known to many punk and metal musicians as the tattooed music lover who hired bands at Hensley’s Flying Elephant in Carlsbad, Brick by Brick in Bay Park, and who owned and operated the ...

Electric Fallbrook

Electric Elms' country roots

Ian Logue says he and his dad plan to attend the “Last Waltz 40 Tour,” a tribute to the Band (with Dr. John, Warren Haynes, and Don Was) next month at Harrah’s Casino. “When I ...

Bob Lights

"Underhero" of the San Diego music scene asks for help and gets it

“It started as a joke,” says veteran rock jock Mike Halloran about the fundraising concert he’s spearheading for a fellow veteran of the local music scene. “I announced on Facebook that Chris Cantore, Steven Woods, ...

Creature marinade

Super Groupies out, Creature Canyon in

Austin Steele learned the hard way that it’s hard to play pop music in San Diego. “There is no scene for our music at all,” the singer/songwriter told the Reader three years ago about his ...

Community vibe

Lou Niles hopes to see clubs go back to all kinds of music, like Haight Ashbury in the ’60s and ’70s, and L.A. in the ’80s.

Few locals have more music biz experience than Lou Niles. As the host of 91X’s all local Loudspeaker show when San Diego was considered the next Seattle (1988–1996), Niles was the first to play Jewel, ...

I was enthralled

Hilary Chambers' list of favorite SD bands matters

Next month will mark 20 years in San Diego radio for Hilary Chambers. Now holding down the midday DJ gig on 91X, she is also that station’s music director. Since you are responsible for what ...

That nice homey feel

Sam Chammas shares the nooks and crannies of East County

Sam Chammas, the co-owner (with Joe Austin) of the Live Wire and Whistle Stop is part of San Diego’s roots-rock era of the 1980s and ’90s led by the Beat Farmers and Mojo Nixon but ...

Talk about doing something with nothing

Cory Stier has come a long way from Pistola

Starting with his Granite Hills High band Pistola, Cory Stier went on to play drums in Weatherbox, Mrs. Magician, and the Cults. This month marks his seventh year booking the Soda Bar. Where’s the best ...

Rasta redemption

Local radio rediscovers reggae

The positive vibrations championed by Bob Marley are not exactly what’s driving the increase in reggae airtime on local airwaves. A few weeks ago, 91X brought back Brunch with Bob and Friends. The 10 a.m.-to-noon ...

Embracing our Asian-ness

T. Rexico revisits Southern California's suburban '60s

There is nothing Mexican about T. Rexico...and they don’t sound anything like T. Rex. “Yeah, I know who they are,” says guitarist Thomas Souvannaraph. “They’re that glam band. It’s just a name our bassist Bryce ...

Cardiff shreds

Camp Shred hits the beach on March 11 and 12

It was never this good in Beach Blanket Bingo. Kut U Up’s singer/bassist Chris Cote assembled the lineup for Camp Shred, a combination campout, beach party, music fest, and surf-industry demo held at the Cardiff ...

Whiskey practice with the Ass Pocket Fellas

These guys played Cameron Crowe's Ridgemont (Clairemont) High

The Clairemont High rock scene honored in Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High lives on, more or less, in the eight-piece rollicking Irish-rock band Ass Pocket Whiskey Fellas. “We’re all from Clairemont,” says guitarist ...

Wussification of music

Squinty-eyed Clint Westwood rides into town this week

Clint Sobolik’s latest project takes on the nickname he picked up in his last band, the Whiskey Avengers. “I squint a lot and I’m a man of few words, so I guess I just gravitated ...

Drummer's revenge

Caskitt kills the frontman, sings from behind the kit

There aren’t many bands with lead singers who drum. The list includes “Phil Collins, Don Henley, [the Band’s] Levon Helm, and the guy from the Romantics. I watched all the biographical documentaries on those guys. ...

Big wall realities

Mexican-American artist Cruz Radical on thumping Trump with punk

The October record-release show for Cruz Radical’s self-titled album at the Whistle Stop had one snafu: no vinyl. “We held out hope until the last minute they would show up. Part of it was our ...

Saturday night in San Diego

The chance for local musicians to get TV face time just got better

Tonight in San Diego, a Tonight Show-type variety show that has appeared on various cable outlets over its two-year history, has just been picked up by CW6, which will air it Saturdays at 11 p.m. ...

Numbers aren't lion at 91X

Alt-rock flagship station fires another program director in ratings woes

After “Shotgun” Tom Kelly, Mike Halloran may be San Diego’s best known rock-radio DJ. According to one friend, Halloran is doing now what he usually does when he loses a radio gig. “He’s out riding ...

Muslim no more

Former Muslims/Soft Packer Matt Lamkin celebrates a record-release this week

Ten years ago the Muslims were one San Diego’s most promising bands. Founders Matt Lamkin and Matty McLoughlin renamed themselves the Soft Pack and moved to L.A. The stripped-down indie-rock band put out two records ...

More changes at FM-94/9

Cantore + Woods morning show is off the air

It’s been a bad month for San Diego radio veterans. Mike Halloran, who started at 91X in 1986 and went on to work at four other local alt-rock stations, was dismissed as afternoon DJ and ...

Putting the new in Newport

O.B. bar Holding Company steps out of the neighborhood's stereotype

Keeping the O.B. vibe intact was a priority when Noodle House owner Steve Yeng bought the beach bar Gallagher’s and renamed it the Holding Company last May. After all, that was the name of the ...

Come on in, Daring Greatly, now go home

Canada band blocked from U.S. work visas forced to take the show on the road

For their Whisky a Go-Go show January 7, Daring Greatly brought along two busloads of fans. “They brought 100 people who each paid $50 to go up and see them play in Hollywood,” says promoter ...

Modern Me scores a direct hit

Fallbrook indie rockers toss their disc into the 91X ring and hit Halloran

Adam Lamah is the frontman for Modern Me, a six-piece indie-rock band from Fallbrook that’s been compared to the 1975. In an attempt to get radio play for Modern Me’s new single, “Waters,” Lamah called ...

Vinyl in the pink

Western Settings' Will Castro talks about his La Escalera Records and the good news for vinyl sellers

Will Castro lives and dies by the pressing plants that make the vinyl releases for his local label La Escalera Records. Demand for vinyl keeps increasing. But turnaround time is getting worse. Castro says it ...

San Diego music news year in review

The Reader's top music stories of 2016

Arriving in 2016: Local gypsy rockers Quel Bordel launched a 35-artist, four-stage Gypsy Fest at the Jacumba Hot Springs nudist colony in August. It returns June 10. Maybe the most unlikely of venues debuted when ...

Jefferson Jay, every day for 365 days straight

San Diego troubadour talks sports-song parodies and the parody-worthy Chargers

When South Bay rap/rockers P.O.D. played to thousands at a 2008 Chargers rally/concert before a post-season game outside Qualcomm, lead singer Sonny Sandoval proudly belted out the lyrics to “San Diego Chargers Anthem” with homer ...

Crash Worshipper John Goff talks Noise

San Diego's Goff and Shepard Fairey getting radio play with "Little Lions"

According to former Crash Worship member John Goff, everyone knew there was no future for his band after Great White’s 2003 Rhode Island nightclub gig that ended with 100 fans dead from a raging fire ...

Aquile — a son is born

Voice contestant talks life after reality TV

Carlsbad-based singer/songwriter Aquile watched last week’s season finale of The Voice. It was the first time he’s seen an episode since he appeared on the chair-spinning talent show in 2012. “It can get hard to ...

First one's free at Blowhole studio

Record-maker Scott Lehman's got plans for bands on a budget

Scott Lehman left Canada a year ago when his wife got a plum job as a cancer researcher at Salk Institute. The guitarist/keyboardist had spent three years in Acronycal, a Foo Fighter-ish band that had ...

Josh Kmak on the mend

Garage-rocker reaches out in depression, finds salient support on social media

Josh Kmak says his commitment to making music both helped and hurt him through a very dark time. The multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter sits in occasionally with the Schizophonics and has played with the New Kinetics. He ...

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!

Close