So, Mitt Romney has regained the latest round of simulated momentum. As soon as the GOP race narrowed to 4 candidates, the assumption was that Mitt was the obvious nominee. Then he had that really bad day in Florida, where he not only lost to Newt Gingrich, but also found out that Rick Santorum had beaten him in Iowa. Then, all of the sudden it was a 2 horse race again. Newt was right in the thick of things. Santorum and Ron Paul were novelty candidates. Or so everyone thought. Next thing you know, Newt starts talking about colonizing the moon, and drops off the national radar. So, it's all about Mitt again. Everything is going according to plan. or so it seemed.
Then, things got weird again. Santorum swept the 3 caucuses in the midwest, and somehow we were back to a 2 man race, but with the wrong 2 men. Now it looked like Santorum was the only other republican capable of giving Mitt a run for his money. Newt's billionaire superpac donor announced he was thinking about heaping all that cash on Santorum if it looked like he had the best shot at defeating President Obama in November. So now Santorum is raising cash like crazy, and in a lot of states, polling ahead of Romney. So everything is coming up Rick Santorum, right? Well, actually not so much. The ridiculously low voter turnout in Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota means that voters there aren't too fired up about any of the candidates, and whomever the candidate is will need much bigger turnout to turn those states red this year. And the big-time fundraising people know this, and will spend accordingly. Speaking of spending, Santorum's other problem is simply that Romney's superpacs will focus their negative ads on Santorum instead of Newt. So, how is all this starchy unfolding? Very well, if you're Mitt Romney. He won Nevada and Maine easily, and most recently he won the straw poll at CPAC, the largest conservative get-together of the political season. Sure, those straw polls are unreliable, and generally all those votes are bought and paid for, but it is an indicator that conservatives are perhaps more comfortable with the idea of Romney as their nominee than previously thought. So, what happens now?
All the strategies in play now revolve around Super Tuesday, and they should. 10 states will pick their guy, and if any candidate should gain a big advantage at the end of the day, then we will have a clear idea of who's going to take on Obama. The fireworks in the meantime will be provided by Romney and Santorum, as they throw everything they have at each other going into Super Tuesday. And for Santorum, it's all about how much cash he can raise in the meantime to keep taking the fight to Romney. That's why I say Romney is the current holder of fake momentum. There are still tons of delegates yet to be decided, and until Super Tuesday, we can only speculate on how they'll go. Until then, people around the country will be able to enjoy as many negative ads as they can stand. And then some. Then we can all sit back and watch Santorum struggle to keep up with Romney in a huge spending contest. And we all know how that will turn out. Maybe he can run with Romney for a while, but I doubt he can do it for long. So unless Newt comes back (highly unlikely), or a new candidate gets into the race (even more unlikely), it looks like we can all look forward to Romney vs Obama in November. Oh boy.
There’s a beauty to Isaiah Navarro’s arrangement in “Juicio” from his debut EP “Ten en su Memoria,” taking me back to echoes of The Smiths’ 1987 album “Louder Than Bombs.” Eighties music didn’t always need lyrics or over-the-top synth sounds. And so, Navarro’s passion, reminiscent of yesteryear for me at least, carries through the EP’s passionate intro with a rolling piano riff, echoes of wailing guitars, a soft moaning as if in remembrance of grace and an expectation of eternal life, mixed with a heartbeat of drums and a few symbol crashes.
Navarro, 19, who is a double major at CSU Bakersfield, studying both business management and religious studies, took the title “Juicio” from words scratched in red above where a priest slept at a California mission: “Ten en su Memoria: Jucio, Infierno, y Gloria.” It means to have in your mind: Judgement, Hell, and Heaven. Heavy thoughts for an intro to an EP from such a young man, whose career began in Bakersfield indie band The Rozzes, rocking out at venues like The Gate.
Navarro’s EP doesn’t get sappy or cheesy after the intro as you might expect from many 19-year-old musician-singers. Acoustic at first, “Young,” is a simple voice-driven song about love, songs, thoughts—as expected from such a young man who is in the midst of exploring his own life. “After everything I’ve been through, I’d be a fool to think I was alone,” Navarro sings, letting us know that spirituality isn’t ever far from his core, and neither are the people in his life. It isn’t long before drums break out, paralleling the songs lyrics, taking a metaphysical path of youth and spirituality, both intertwined with young love.
“Rockbottom Girl” has a moodiness emanating from Navarro’s ability to arrange a rattlesnake-like tambourine sound with that of synth riffs, which has the effect of deep moody horns. Listen for them while Navarro tells a story of a girl who entered his life, but then escaped his arms, never to return.
“Ten en su Memoria” has a way of hooking the ear with Navarro’s sweet, innocent voice. There’s a feeling of sitting with him in a dim-lit room, sharing the wisdom of his old soul. In “Gary Cold, Man” Navarro’s words whisper, “We thought about this too much. These things we push always end up stuck in the air…” And later, “And we walked in silence too much.” The song’s electric guitar pops in from time to time, only long enough to make you want more.
“Holocene” is a cover of Bon Iver’s 2011 song. Having listened to both versions, I’m surprised I prefer Navarro’s take. Where Iver’s song has beautiful guitar and synth work, as well as haunting falsetto vocals, Navarro successfully transform’s Iver’s work into a haunting listen of his own. I almost prefer Navarro’s falsetto here than his voice-work the EP’s previous songs. With “Ten en su Memoria” as hauntingly good as it is, an entire album sung falsetto would surely be addictive.
I give the longest Bakersfield one-word band title to our very own Mikee of The Eye. Catastrophist. Can you say it slowly? It's the only way.
Chilling at his casa, watching the Denver Broncos get all Tebowtime on Big Ben last weekend, the game ended -- and surprisingly no tears were shed at all by Steelers-loving Mikee the bassman.
Then suddenly, Mikee says, "Hey, want to see my band's video?"
Does Tebow throw wobbly passes and still win? Heck yes! Mikee shared his band Catastrophist's new song mashup. Well, he calls it a Demo mashup, but either way, it's a sort of medley of up-and-coming full-blown songs from the former guys of late '90s band Mission Tonight.
The video is posted on THE EYE homepage currently. But since it's the New Year, and we plan on picking up the pace, you can expect to see all kinds of local video goodness.
Before there was a Riley's Tavern there was Chaos Coffee, ska dancing and Earl Grey tea in the early '90s. Writers lounged at the bar tops—old and young—looking for a prose verse and inspiration from the scene vibe. Years later, Bottom's Up took over, with its B-52 Bomber mural flying past bands and bar-goers.
In the 2000s, Riley’s entered the scene, and here in 2011, it has expanded from an original bar where bands played on its old wooden dance floor. With ghosts of Chaos Coffee in the air, Riley's Backstage is for the loungers, the writers, the music lovers who find themselves mingling with scenester friends, vagabond hipsters, indy musicians, tattooed gleaming-toothed DJs and the dark Bukowski-like bar worshippers sitting in the corners.
I entered with writer Jane Hawley. Tattoo artist Justin Foss said hello and Indie Mash-up organizer and filmmaker Joey Ruiz of Loiter Productions, camera in hand, was ready for a night of music.
"How's your baby?" I asked.
"Much better," the Boston University graduate said about his newborn. We talked baby monitors and film editing before band members drifted in, passing where I sat on a leather couch, soaking in the bass thumps from the dance floor next door, ready for some indie rock to shake my soul.
Excited for the music, Hawley said she was waiting for her friend, bassist Michael Aguilar from The Choirs to take the stage in a brief reunion show of some defunct band. In the meantime, Foss spun DJ mixes to the crowd through the smoky stage mist.
While technical difficulties affected the start (it was rumored someone stole the stage mics) I spoke with Kenny Reeves' drummer, Chris Bourbon, about the music scene, remembering his old ska band from 2005, the Fuzzy Pink Slip-Ons. "I miss ska," he said. We talked old school British Invasion—the '90s version—and had a laugh about suspenders, big shoes, swinging elbows and buzz cuts.
After the first unnamed band tore through some pop punk riffs, Kenny Reeves and the Clones stepped onto the stage. "I'm getting up for this one," Hawley said, sporting a red velvet jacket, grabbing her camera and readying herself for some tunes.
As the thumping din of hoochie dance music rattled the walls and nearly drowned the room, the Clones fired up their three-piece ensemble. Chris’s (the drummer) shirt declared "Good Old War" and was lit in red lights as Reeve's—all sideburns, a lanky acoustic crooner—grabbed the audience right away with his playful vocals. He jumped to the music, he riffed on the chords and ripped along through a set that had some great harmonizing.
I would have peeked into the dance scene next door if it weren't for Reeves' upbeat mood and the crescendo of percussion from the drummer and bassist tearing into the first song, and later, the drummer tossing music instruments into the crowd, including writer Hawley's hands, who boogied to the band. I slumped against a wall, as usual, and could feel the ungodly grinding of the techno thump next door.
If ever there was a rugged band bent on roaring through the music scene like a pack of wild hunters, it would be Buffalo Season. I shook their guitarist’s hand before the show. This guy looked like a mountain man—full beard—gritty stare and stern faced—like he’d stepped right out of a history book onto a weathered mountain and cut his way through snowpack, bramble and mad-eyed grizzlies to get to the scene. And it wasn’t just him. This was a band of blood hunters, buffalo killers and we the audience were the herd.
“The lead singer drives up from Costa Mesa, I think,” Hawley said. “And he usually takes his shirt off.”
So the guitarist wasn’t the only mountain man on this squad? I swear from their first song’s opening chords I was staring buffalo-like, wide-eyed, right into the barrel of an indy folk-rock gun. Their music was smokin’ hot with a bass player smiling like he’d just bagged a hundred buffalo pelts with his confident swagger. He clearly was one of the stars of Buffalo Season (one of the best band names I’ve heard in quite a while).
The lead singer’s gravely voice was a war cry, and the old wooden organ out in front (don’t know what kind) was all painted with a lone buffalo waiting on the last bit of frontier, making for a killer mood, in which all that was missed was a great pelt and head from a buffalo, hanging behind them as a backdrop.
What a night. Hated to leave. Hated to scoot out past the dance floor in the other room and leave all that music and vibe there. Chester Avenue, just up Wall Street Alley, was cold, biting. Cutting back up 19th Street, the music rung in my head, lasting quite a while.
DJ Justin Foss. Photo by Nick Belardes
Kenny Reeves and the Clones. Photo by Nick Belardes
No, I'm not talking about a Korn-sized band. I'm just saying, here in the city, I wonder who the next really popular band in the Bakersfield music scene is going to be? (let's hope they all are). I've read about The Nature, The Architecture, Buffalo Season, even listened to a podcast interview with Alex Mitts, and promoted my kid Landen Belardes. But who else is out there? I've heard a few band names. Maybe five or six indie groups that are old timers, new on the scene and/or fading away.
It's what's really cool about the music scene. You never know who, out of all the awesome musicians in town, will suddenly form a band and forge some new sound. Or who will really take an existing band to the next level. Will it be Velorio? Colin Cook's band The Volume, Isaiah Navarro, or something new and grand from Mento Buru, Whiskey Galore or 1916? Heck, I even heard Liars and Thieves were coming back. Could this be true, Mr. Galindo?
Stay tuned. This is the Eyes and Ears blog signing out...
I'm on vacation folks. Sorry about the slow updates. Been gone all week. Supposed to be out until Oct. 23. But I'm still taking time to post uploaded photos, flyers and the occasional article from our contributors.
I'm hoping for more articles everyday, and may start a public blog where you come and talk about the music scene. Could get scary though, so I'm not sure yet. Your thoughts? Would you like a public forum on The Eye?
Keep watching for more articles, beardcasts and more!
I texted Mikee last night because hey, I'm ready for more Beardcasts. His podcast Local Sound has a lot of potential, and I'm curious what the heck he's going to say next. Shoot, I could use a couple of podcasts each week. More beard. More happiness.
I spoke with writer Jane Hawley who said she's going to Sandrini's to see three local bands: Kenny Reeves and the Clones, Suffree and Buffalo Season. If you haven't been to Sandrini's, it's one of Bakersfield's few underground bars. It gets hot down there underground, but heck, I figure the place is going to become famous one day with scenes from The Lackey having been filmed there. Show starts at 9 p.m. on Friday.
On the local music release front, I heard Alex Mitts released a new EP titled "The Learning Curve" for free. I don't know why it's free. Why not iTunes? Anyway, I'm a fan of his music. Here's the link.
Also, 20-year local band favorites Mento Buru sent out their big "Ska-ktoberfest" email about all of their upcoming shows that includes playing at all those chalk drawings called "Via Arte" at the Marketplace. I hope no drool splashes out of Matt's sax over some crazy Michelangelo sketch. But then, that's rock and roll.
Well, as of around noon today we've launched. We're waiting on an article from Jane Hawley, videos from other scenesters and I believe Missy Wiggins is working on attending a local show that she's going to write up. Brandon Batson is working on something too. Not sure. Could be a mystery piece.
Mikee has turned in his first podcast. Episode One of Local Sound is about as raw you can get. I'm telling you -- every episode has beard. Is Mikee a hipster? A beardster? Who knows? Just go listen. He says he's working on an intro and outro with some cool music...
There's nothing better than trying to build community.
The Eye is a new Bakersfield community website that really couldn't get off the ground without a core group of people getting involved to help build the music scene. We met at a local Starbucks and said, "Yes. Let's do it!"
But how? For starters, with a website and a collective effort of support from musicians and writers supporting bands and venues. All of us together, we decided, can put out a positive vibe.
Negativity doesn't build a scene. But people coming together can.
Matt Munoz over at Bakotopia does a lot for the local music scene. Bakotopia Unplugged is a great local gig for amateurs. He's also written countless articles for web and print about local music. I called him when I had the idea for The Eye. People had been coming to me, asking how I could help the music scene. But I'm trying to build a literary scene, I thought. Didn't matter, the music scene is much bigger. I love music. And I have kids and friends in the scene. So why not help? I told Matt my idea and he said, "Just go do it."
So we did. Or at least we're at a starting point and have the backing of Kern Radio, which is awesome.
I can't write like I did with my old Paperback Writer blog from yesteryear: four blogs a day and attending tons of shows takes its toll. But I can help assemble a team of people who can cover the scene and help it grow. Otherwise, all of that music history gets lost. And I hate when history disappears.
So, stick around. Help The Eye grow. Upload photos. Upload flyers. Share. Write an article. Listen to the Local Sound podcast. And comment on the Eyes and Ears blog. Sound off, good or bad. The Bakersfield music scene isn't perfect. But it's filled with talent and passion.
Questions or comments? Post them in the comment section of this blog or email your thoughts or article and video ideas to email@example.com or find him on Facebook or Twitter.