Ah, Halloween in San Diego. Where else can you find musicians dressed like mad monks, a former NFL great in nothing but jeans and a bottle of fake blood, and sluts dressed like, well, sluts?
Such was the scene at Brick by Brick for the CD-release party for Unset, a hard-driving power-punk band with a metal edge. The release is the band's first for Gridiron Records, a small, independent label formed by former guitarist Mikey Doling (Snot, Soulfly) and NFL defensive end Kyle Turley (Saints, Rams, Chiefs).
Unset, who've been playing since 2004, took the stage dressed as Inquisition-era monks with vocalist Frank Torres emerging from a coffin to kick off a blistering set of radio-friendly songs that ran the gamut from screamo to melodic power ballads.
Turley, whose interest in the San Diego music scene dates back to when he was a bouncer at SOMA during his days as a football player for the Aztecs, is optimistic about Unset's chances. “I think they can make it. They're as good as any band I've ever seen, and they're hard-working.”
It's that last quality that appeals to Turley the most. In the NFL, he saw lots of athletes who had plenty of talent but lacked the work ethic to turn it into success on the field. Turley clearly had a good time hyping his band as he posed for pictures and bought tequila shots at the bar.
Unset seemed unfazed by all the attention. If anything, they upstaged their larger-than-life label owner and held nothing back during the show. If their performance on Halloween was any indication, Unset appears poised to succeed.—Jim Ruland
It's not often that San Diego trumps L.A., but Neil Young's show at Cox Arena last Wednesday marked his only SoCal show this year. He was scheduled to play The Forum (in L.A.) the next day, but canceled to show solidarity with striking employees. Sorry, Angelenos, but you missed a hell of a show.
After a surprisingly rocking set from Young protégés Everest and a by-the-emo-numbers set from Death Cab for Cutie, Young took the stage, naturally awash in feedback, and blasted into a smoking version of the Ragged Glory gem “Love and Only Love.” A sweaty mess by the third song, he didn't forget the hits, with solid, if not overly faithful, versions of “Cinnamon Girl,” “Heart of Gold” and a pre-election bust-up of “Rockin' in the Free World” to close the show.
But it was less-widely known gems like “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Cortez the Killer” and “Spirit Road” (with its pleas of “Peace again!”) that really got the hardcore fans excited. And an encore performance of The Beatles' “A Day in the Life,” in which Young jammed his guitar into the amps, broke the strings and fucked with the instrument's pickups, only proved that he's an artist who can still perform with acts that are less than half his age. The free world is still his; we're just living in it. —Seth Combs
CityBeat previously reported that local dive bar Chaser's was purchased by Bluefoot owners Cuong Nguyen and Adam Cook. After several months of renovation, the location at 3615 El Cajon Blvd. is finally reopening as Soda Bar, and the early live lineup holds true to the spirit of Chaser's, despite the makeover. Saturday, Nov. 8, brings in Texan garage kids The Strange Boys and support from local groups Crocodiles, Christmas Island and The Anasazis, with the venue continuing to book acts through the end of the year. Highlights include Virginia swamp-metal trio Pontiak and SoCal punkers Tiltwheel.
Local electronica artist The Album Leaf (aka Jimmy LaValle) is included on a 15th-anniversary covers album of the music from The Nightmare Before Christmas, titled Nightmare Revisited. LaValle performs the film's “End Title” song. Also, Yovee have released their first album in three years, Praying for Fire. Both albums were released on Tuesday, Oct. 28.—Todd Kroviak and Seth Combs
Acoustic music gets love
Aside from The San Diego Troubadour, local media pretty much ignore the acoustic-music scene in San Diego, CityBeat included, which is why I set out last weekend to mend or maybe even initiate our relationship with the gals and guys who travel around the city from open mic to open mic—or small stage to small stage if they're lucky enough to get gigs—with nothing but their guitars and voices.
On Saturday, I stopped by the Normal Heights Community Center for the 2008 HAT Awards. HAT stands for Honoring Acoustic Talent, a fact I learned when local comedian/ singer/songwriter Rob Deez, a past HAT Awards recipient, took the stage and performed a funny song he wrote about the awards show.
First, he unbuttoned his vest. “If I'm going to be up here,” said Deez, sticking out his chest and belly, revealing a T-shirt that read The Tad Bit Fats, “I'm going to advertise my rap group.”
For the HAT song, Deez half sang, half rapped, “If you've got acoustic skills / you should head to San Diego and seek out a man named Will / He'll tell you all you need to know about winning a HAT / and that is the reason I am currently where I'm at.”
Will Edwards, the daddy of the HAT Awards and a singer and songwriter himself, donned a top hat with a tuxedo jacket and Birkenstock sandals for the night and played the role of grand master of ceremonies, only once losing the slip of scrap paper with the night's program scrawled on it.
“This whole thing here is all about celebrating our local talent and all of the wonderful people who make a difference,” said Edwards, who put together the awards show in 2006, partly because he saw that the San Diego Music Awards wasn't really reaching acoustic musicians.
HAT winners included Matt Haeck as the “Best New Acoustic Artist” and The Wrong Trousers as the “Best Acoustic Band.”
Serendipitously, during the intermission, right before Happy Ron Hill's goofy, yet entertaining, performance of “Pitter Patter,” I took a stroll down the street and came across the Dave Alvin show put on by AcousticMusicSanDiego.com in the beautiful church at 4650 Mansfield St. in Normal Heights. The place was packed, and the traditional folk music sounded good in the godly space. The two minutes I got to see of the show reminded me to re-sign up for Acoustic Music San Diego's e-mail list and help CityBeat start spreading the ink a little more broadly.—Kinsee Morlan
The Enrique Experience
Strip-mall dive bars have a special place in heaven. All of the pretentiousness of their free-standing counterparts is thrown out the window (if they're lucky enough to have one), leaving a level of humbleness that can only come from sharing your walls with a 99-cent-and-up store or a random shoe-repair shop. What they lack in location, however, they usually make up with character and by serving up the stiffest drinks this side of a moonshiner's outhouse.
Such is the case with Cherry Bomb. Nestled between Papas & Tacos Mexican restaurant and the Sunshine Center Laundry in Bankers Hill, it's the dive par excellence.It's a “cool little locals-only bar,” says bartender Nick.
The walls are painted blood-red, and the bar area is decorated with lava lamps and flickering red tea-lights. The juke belts out the meanest, angst-ridden mix of cock rock heard since 1996's Ozzfest, and in a lonely corner rests Sarah Palin's wet dream, the Big Buck Pro Hunter arcade game, muskets and all.
The floor is concrete, but not because they're trying to be trendy; most likely the carpet wore out. A busy foosball table adds to the goth-kid rec-room feel, and a quarter-operated pool table keeps a steady flow of traffic to and from the Laundromat, which closes at 10 p.m., depending on if Adrian, the janitor in charge of shutting it down, is on a billiards winning streak or not. The men's room's tagged walls are almost as entertaining as the regulars' shit-faced stories. Up high in the bathroom stall, a Sharpie-scrawled message says, “Never in my life have I seen such bad-assness.” What else could you expect from a place named after a Runaways song?—Enrique LimónCorrectionIn last week's Nightgeist piece about Chase Morrin, Kinsee Morlan reported that Morrin started his band, Latin Connection, with drummer Daniel Feldman. That's not correct. Morrin and saxophone player Chris Burgess started the band. Sorry, Chris!