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Stories by Ken Leighton

Punk Yacht Club's silly sailors

"We wanted the goofball approach of the Bloodhound Gang or Blink-182.”

Punk Yacht Club happened after Connecticut-raised Jesse Goodwick and ex-Bostonian Greg Marsh moved out here from the East Coast. For a while, Goodwick had a real job that used his mechanical engineering degree. “Then I ...

Bad Kids on reverb

South Bay four-piece doesn't hesitate to respect the word of law

After four and a half years, two albums, and two EPs, Bad Kids are finally getting a buzz. The poppy surf punkers from Imperial Beach played to a standing-room-only audience at the House of Blues’ ...

Energy 103.7 gets cranked down-dial

New ownership gives Top 40 station a swift country kick

Listeners of Energy 103.7 were given a rude awakening Friday, November 17, when they discovered their favorite station wasn’t playing the hits by Pink, Kesha, and the Chainsmokers. Instead they were hit with some country ...

Pedal to the metal

"There are at least 1000 guitarists for every steel-guitar player."

When retired veterinarian Jim Palenscar opened the Steel Guitars of North County store 15 years ago, he knew his storefront was destined to be more about personal gratification than a business slam-dunk. “It’s such a ...

Youngblood blues

Casey Hensley's record deal avoids the sometimes messy

To help launch her career internationally, North County blues belter Casey Hensley turned to Vizztone Records’ more streamlined approach to market her first album, Casey Hensley Live, featuring Laura Chavez, released three weeks ago. “This ...

Goodnight, Irenic

North Park church rumored to be ending band appearances

The Irenic, the 70-year-old North Park church building that for the past six years doubled as a 450-capacity music venue, seemed to be the perfect place for headliners who wanted an all-ages venue but were ...

Spice Pistols aim to entertain

"What was missing was the visual aspect of a live show."

The point of the Spice Pistols — a bunch of middle-aged rocker dudes who sing Spice Girls songs as if they were played by the Sex Pistols — is not just about gender-bending camp. ”It’s ...

Finnegan Blue's conga line starts to move

"We finally clawed our way into the North Park Festival of the Arts.”

Anna Lee Fleming was born and raised in North Park. “I have definitely seen a transition,” says the founder/songwriter/lead singer of Finnegan Blue. “When I was first going to school my parents wouldn’t let me ...

Reggae-ready for 2018

Longtime President's Day concert rebranded "Boomshaka"

As noted in a September 6 “Blurt” article, the popularity of reggae was pointing to a resurrection of the all-day reggae festival that had been held at the Valley View Casino Center (Sports Arena) every ...

Boom — new music fest in I.B.

P.O.D. partners with Mike Halloran for summer concert pierside

P.O.D., the South Bay rap-metal band that broke out 25 years ago with radio hits such as “Alive” and “Youth of the Nation,” was on the radio recently to announce its Lower Left Fest, a ...

And the alt-rock-radio war raged on

Big shows, longtime DJs, and Art Laboe cram into the 94/9 vs. 91X picture frame

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Timothy Joseph never imagined his band playing the Sports Arena, which over 50 years has also hosted everyone from Bowie to Zeppelin. The Buckfast Superbee indie-rock quartet launched in 1997 and went dormant eight ...

Longtime busker in the house

Lena Evans isn’t done playing the street — she’s done living there

Homelessness tormented singer/songwriter Lena Evans for much of the past two decades. “I grew up in San Diego. I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 14 by simple choices and mistakes I made ...

Guitarman dealt a hand that will be played

Paul Hartley gigs just a few days after boating accident

Paul Hartley is a Point Loma real estate broker with a power boat moored at Shelter Island. “My grandfather taught me to sail before I was five,” he says. He’s also known as the singer/guitarist ...

Low-budget Beatles tribute keeps it real

Baja Bugs got together in '89 for a friend's wedding

For the 40th anniversary of the pioneering San Diego punk band the Zeros, cofounder Hector Penalosa has planned...not much. “There doesn’t seem to be a big brouhaha about it,” the singer/bassist says. “No one is ...

Jason Lee in orchestral ecstasy

"I wrote 11 different charts. It took me three months.”

“When Metallica [played with an orchestra], it blew me away,” says Jason Lee, a veteran rocker who has fronted the surf-guitar-inspired Riptides for 13 years. Lee took the orchestral plunge with his other band called ...

Vandals on the straight and narrow

“We’re playing a cruise ship with the Offspring and the Buzzcocks."

Orange County proto-punkers the Vandals haven’t had a new member since 1989. Joe Escalante joined shortly after the band formed in 1980. “If you told me back then I’d still be playing in my 50s ...

Virtual Strangers see bluer grass in Nashville

"All they can think of when they hear it is hillbillies and blacked-out teeth.”

Mike Tatar has been proudly playing bluegrass for 40 years, in spite of the hayseed prejudice. “I know a lot of [venue owners] who say, ‘I love your music in general,’” he says. “But they ...

Warpath follows ancestors, inspired by Pantera

“We’re in that dog-eat-dog industry. Everybody in rock has a gimmick."

If you’ve ever hiked in the woods near Julian, you’ve seen those holes in hillside boulders where the native Americans used to grind acorns for food. Dean Osuna, drummer of hard rockin’ Warpath, explains what ...

Vista councilman regrets leash-free vote

John Franklin aims to get Buena Vista Park ordinance rescinded

On August 22, the Vista City Council approved a one-year experiment to allow unleashed dogs at the “Trails” area of Buena Vista Park in Vista’s Shadowridge area. Its passage allowed dogs to legally run free ...

Cattle Decapitation rolls through Deathfest

“It’s a mellow community based on a brotherhood or sisterhood.”

It’s unusual that a local band can share stories about their latest tour to Europe. Cattle Decapitation, the extreme metal band that goes whole hog to support animal rights and other environmental issues, did its ...

Seems any band can work with Joe Troutman

"They had to remove their swastika belt buckles before we let them back in.”

Joe Troutman, one of the few local independent music promoters, has outlasted most the venues he’s booked over 16 years. North County’s Jumping Turtle, Royal Dive (formerly owned by this reporter), Metaphor Café, Del Dios ...

Click on this for Zex allegations

Pitchfork punked by Oceanside label's Canadian band?

A bizarre rift between Oceanside-based Magic Bullet Records and one of its bands, a Canadian four-piece punk band named Zex, makes one wonder if there was a real label-versus-band issue or if the beef was ...

Mex med-metal Thanatology gets the gig

"They come out wearing scrubs and then they bust out with ripping grindcore."

Although they’ve dressed up like doctors onstage during their 18 years as a band, don’t expect any messy Gwar-like antics from Thanatology. “We try and set ourselves apart from that cliché that many bands have ...

Oceanside council drama tomorrow

Stroke-stricken mayor to either get more time off or officiate meeting

Oceanside mayor Jim Wood, recovering from his fourth stroke, is wheelchair-bound and, according those close to him, not always completely understandable. While his council colleagues are careful to be publicly respectful of the popular mayor, ...

Hacksaw put to local radio once again

“I was the most visible. I was the most liked and most disliked."

After three years off the air, Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton is returning to the radio airwaves. “I still think I have the passion to do this,” Hamilton said in a interview shortly after he had been ...

How Mainsail got on the Warped Tour

Bassist did time as grunt for annual outing — three years in a row

Of the 50-some bands picked to play at the 23rd Van’s Warped Tour, Mainsail was the only local band to make this year’s lineup. The Oceanside pop-punk band played August 5 at their hometown show ...

Slacker Radio perseveres

Fourteen years in, company still an alternative to Pandora and Spotify

Slacker Radio, the Rancho Bernardo–based music-subscription service that has tried to compete with Pandora and Spotify but has yet to make a profit in its 14 years as a company, has been sold and its ...

Behind the ventriloquist heavy metal drummer

Little Italy marketing guy gets his act to the Brick

Although it’s not immediately clear to some, those “Funner, California” commercials are actually promoting Harrah’s Casino in Valley Center. “They actually changed the name of the property where the casino sits to ‘Funner,’” explains videographer/editor ...

Green Day severs local tie

“I have to admit, I did not see this coming."

When Oceanside’s double Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jason Mraz left manager Bill Silva after 18 years, the separation was proclaimed to be friendly and drama-free. But Green Day’s termination of San Diego’s highest profile resident rock manager, ...

Nerd-Con controversy

No cred given to co-creator of annual gathering of freaks and geeks

Bridal-show planner Joel Jones wanted to host an event for local geeks who didn’t make it to Comic-Con. His first one-day Nerd-Con mixed fantasy nerd culture with live bands and drew 3000 to the California ...

Jason Mraz breaks up with manager Bill Silva

They almost made it to two decades

Oceanside platinum-selling singer/songwriter-turned-farmer Jason Mraz has fired Bill Silva after 18 years, saying he would prefer to now manage himself. Silva got his break promoting shows as a UCSD student in the ’70s. His on-campus ...

Meat-eating metalheads the minority in Cave Bastard

"I got a little sick. I had to deal with some gut problems.”

The only known San Diego casualty caused by Hurricane Harvey was Cave Bastard’s August 26 show in San Antonio. The extreme metal band’s tour of nine southwestern cities intersected with the catastrophic storm. They learned ...

Reggae, in person

May not be much on the radio, but Synrgy finds an audience

This year’s Beer X fest August 12 at Waterfront Park had the same music/beer/food components as last year’s Beer X, but turnout was different. It drew a sell-out 8500, three times more attendees than last ...

Kissed Alive drummer well after heart attack

Tribute band to return to Campland stage September 15

For the past seven years, veteran local drummer Jason Lee has played in the Kiss tribute band Kissed Alive. “My first heart attack happened when I was in Target six years ago. I started having ...

Earl Thomas, back from Europe (again)

"He admitted to me later that they had trashed the room."

Earl Thomas, the soulful belter from Pikeville, Tennessee, who started singing the blues locally after getting kicked out of the Navy for being gay, has released 15 albums. He has recorded with the late BB ...

Oceanside's feelings ajumble over Animal Kingdom

"I do like it because if it makes us look bad."

The final, 13th episode of the second season of Animal Kingdom airs tonight (August 29) at 9 p.m. TNT announced on August 27 that the series has been renewed for a third season, claiming it ...

The politics and image of real punk

The Widows can't care about "likes"

Things were different when the Widows started playing punk rock 12 years ago. Singer/guitarist Aaron Pores liked it better when things were more DIY. “I love making physical flyers,” says Pores. “The visual art on ...

Heartbreaka: no gangsta he

“You won’t hear me rap about gold chains and Ferraris."

Rapper Heartbreaka got no support from his family. “They hated it,” says the 23-year-old hip-hop artist who grew up in Southeast San Diego as Brandon Nambounmy. “They thought it was something Asians just did not ...

Los Cruzadores invite all to ride and rock show

15-mile transnational bike ride ends at Moustache Bar

Subtropics bassist Dana Chavarria just got a master’s degree in Peace and Justice from USD after completing studies on both sides of the border. He knows what an American president who decries Mexican “rapists” and ...

No rap against Putin

“It’s not that I don’t want to get political, it's just not safe.”

Now seems like the time for a locally based Russian rapper to come up with some rhymes about Moscow election scams. But Anton Romashev, who performs locally as Tonik Slam, won’t be. “It’s not that ...

Chargers and Raiders — on our airwaves but not in our stadium

Rock radio station recasts hint at more changes afoot, says insider

For the first time, two key San Diego FM music stations are giving up part of their Sundays for out-of-town NFL teams. Radio insiders say there’s a master plan behind why KGB/101.5 carries the L.A. ...

Mohawked moshers and girls with tutus don’t mix

“People have a tendency to fear what they don’t understand."

Zak Prescott, drummer with Lemon Grove punk band P-S-O, suggests culture clash caused Industry, an all-ages music venue in Chula Vista’s Eastlake area, to close in January. The 250-capacity Industry hosted eight to ten shows ...

Ché Café okay to stay

“It was always lower-level administrators who had an axe to grind.”

Thanks to an intervention by UCSD chancellor Pradeep Kholsa, the Ché Café has been saved. A lease has been signed by members of the Ché Café Collective that will allow the all-ages venue to reopen ...

The Littlest Hurricane

“Hopefully we’ll find a place to live after the baby arrives.”

“I think it’s safe to say I’ll be the only pregnant drummer playing at Kaaboo,” says C.C. Spina of Little Hurricane. “I will be almost nine months pregnant. That will be our last show of ...

Blind Mountain Holler, like family

"‘Cheese Sandwich’ is about when Kelley and I were living in the back of a U-Haul."

Scotty Bones’s gritty, plaintive vocals and soul-bearing lyrics remind many of early Tom Waits. Scotty and Amanda Bones’ husband/wife harmonic wailings bring to mind Johnny Cash/June Carter or Southern Culture on the Skids. With cello ...

Shock jock Mikey Esparza finds way back to airwaves

"He will not be doing religious rants. He will be doing a compelling rock-and-roll radio show.”

After five years of radio silence, Mike Esparza, namesake of The Mikey Show, is set to return to the airwaves Thursday, July 27, where he will hold down an afternoon DJ shift on KFMB-FM. Esparza ...

Dead Man's Party still standing

Finite universe for Oingo Boingo tribute bands?

Dead Man’s Party doesn’t get many gigs outside of California because their tribute focus, the quirky, new-wave mini-orchestra Oingo Boingo, was mostly a West Coast phenomenon during their 1984–’95 glory years. Maybe because Oingo’s music ...

Topshelf label notes absence of DIY infrastructure

“We didn’t come to San Diego just to find our talent here."

“Since we moved here two years ago one of the biggest questions we always get is what San Diego bands have we signed,” says Topshelf Records co-founder Seth Decoteau. The label has a roster of ...

Thrift trader owner Jeff Clark hit by train in Little Italy

North Park and Pacific Beach stores cleaned out July 13

Media reports noted that a man was struck by an Amtrak train in Little Italy on June 24, but did not list his name. But his 20 part- and full-time employees soon knew. One of ...

Wanted Noise: second generation pop-punk spawn

"When I got here it seemed all I found was DJs and bands playing electronic music."

“It’s hard to be a band that has the punk-style influence and exist in Hawaii,” says Jin Salamack, singer/bassist of Wanted Noise. “I got island fever. I love it to death, but if you’re a ...

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