When one door closes, another door opens. That old saying comes to mind with the recent news about the sale of Tim Gardea Presents.
As a musician and music lover, I've known Tim Gardea personally for the better part of two decades. I've been playing shows for him since he was a promoter at John Bryant's in the early '90s and -- full disclosure -- I've had some run-ins with him that weren't always pleasant. But that doesn't obscure one infallible fact:
He brought a lot of good music to this town.
Tim Gardea has been at the top of the promoter food chain for the better part of 20 years, bringing bands like Social Distortion, Peter Murphy and Jello Biafra, just to name a very few, to our city. He had the connections and the passion to bring these shows to life. In doing so, he became one of the most prominent figures in the local music scene. He also was responsible for putting together the massive 100-plus band leviathan known as the Rockin' Roots Fest at Stramler Park every summer (the last Tim Gardea show was Iration at The Elements Lounge this in February).
What made him unique was the way his business grew and branched out. Other, smaller promoters have put their skin in the game -- and promptly pulled it back out again after a few failures to avoid going bankrupt. Gardea kept it going, stretching out to other cities and building up an impressive roster of working relationships with popular bands. One of his greatest strengths was being able to recognize what the youth market was attuned to and booking shows accordingly.
It's unclear what Gardea's next move will be; he didn't return our calls. But wherever his professional and personal journey takes him, the sale of Tim Gardea Presents to another local promoter, Mike Fowler, marks a big change for music in this town.
Fowler, 38, the driving force behind the successful gothic/fetish event Heresy, acquired ownership of Tim Gardea Presents. What exactly does that entail?
"With the purchase, we got his website, as well the social media accounts -- Facebook, Twitter as well as the thousands of subscribers to his website, along with some of his sound equipment."
In essence, Fowler bought Gardea's comic book collection.
Within the first few days of the purchase, the website and the social media accounts have already been rebranded "Heresy Entertainment," not to be confused with Club Heresy, which will remain, according to Fowler, "what it's always been."
Fowler doesn't foresee having to fix what isn't broken.
"Heresy Entertainment will be bringing basically the same types of shows that Tim was bringing in, like the ones you would hear on KRAB radio and on KLLY 95 -- at least the ones I can acquire and get --mainstream rock and alternative. Just branching out into becoming a general concert promoter. KSVG (radio) has been very good to us as well."
Fowler spends his days doing oilfield work and the rest of his time with his family, and this growing beast that is the start of what he hopes will be a successful franchise stretching from Lancaster to Fresno. He's already reached out to local venues about the change-up and the reaction, he said, has been positive.
But what is the main goal for this acquisition? What does Fowler plan on gaining from the purchase?
"I would like to continue Heresy on a monthly basis, and I would like to do shows here and there under the Heresy Entertainment banner -- just doing small concerts and continuing to grow. I'd also like to fan into Fresno -- both with the club and shows-- as well as Lancaster. Also eventually getting a festival up and running -- similar to, but not the same as Rockin' Roots, and probably in the fall to avoid the heat."
In trying to make Bakersfield a destination spot instead of just a stop over between Los Angeles and Fresno -- "I've reached out to bands to come here on the weekend and not just on some random Thursday" -- Fowler is in good company. Numbskull Productions has had success luring some of the bigger touring acts to Bakersfield.
Speaking of promoters, Patrick Spurlock, 32, takes the DIY aesthetic and puts it into action every week: plastering fliers and posters for his various shows around town under the business banner Phantom Stranger. Like Fowler, Spurlock is a family man whose loved ones help out with the work load. A full-time manager at the local f.y.e. store, he splits his time between that, promoting local shows and hosting his own program on KSVG, 89.7, from 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays. The relationship among all of his professional pursuits borders on symbiotic.
This Saturday at On the Rocks, Spurlock is holding his third benefit show on behalf of his wife, a captain on her Relay for Life team. Last year their team raised more than $2,500, and this year they're hoping to beat that.
Promoting the show isn't his only labor of love -- he's performing in it as well, as the frontman for the headliners of the night, The Cretins, a Ramones tribute band.
Playing the rest of the Ramones to his Johnny are Crooked Folk (Ricardo Pacheco, guitar; Scott McArdle, bass; Matt Hinson, drums). The guys will be moonlighting from their usual funky rock to punk it up with buzz-saw guitars and urgent, percolating drums.
Also on the bill are the energetic punk/hardcore trio Sans Hope (great name!), Leksure, who will bring his unique elevated hip-hop style to the OTR stage, and live art by Carlos Fierros.
Whereas Fowler is on the lookout to find acts, Spurlock's shows mainly deal with local acts punctuated by the occasional out-of-towner (like Year of the Dragon, Sinner Sinner and the upcoming Black Flag show at On the Rocks on May 19).
"There are a lot of local bands that laid the groundwork within the last year, and I think we're on the verge of something happening suddenly," Spurlock said. "And to show and prove to out-of-town bands that we're a viable stop -- a place to be -- and not just a drive-through on the way to another city. And the out-of-town bands that I've worked with are blown away by the audience reaction, the level of promotion and the fact that they actually got paid!
"That all ties in to what I'm looking to do. I'm very happy with what I did last year, and I'm very happy with the growth of the bands I've been working with, but there's still a bigger picture in my mind."
Phantom Stranger presents the third Annual Relay for Life Benefit with The Cretins (Ramones tribute band), Sans Hope, and Leksure; On the Rocks 1517 18th St.; 9 p.m. Saturday; $5; 21 and over
The Canaan McDuffie Quartet at the Padre 8:30 Thursday
You could say I'm a bit partial to drummers.
Being one myself, I can say from experience that we have a unique bond that ties us all together in a way that's different from other instrumentalists. Maybe it's the fact that we're generally more laid back because we are releasing stress by constantly hitting stuff -- I don't really know. Another thing that bonds us is the shared stigma we battle that we're not "real" musicians. That we aren't as sophisticated as a pianist or a guitarist or (shudder) a singer.
Well, that's patently untrue. Gene Krupa was not only a sideman but a bandleader in his own right -- and enough of a personality that Hollywood made a movie on his life. Phil Collins has sold millions of records around the world as a solo artist (his album "No Jacket Required" has sold 25 million copies). Stewart Copeland from the Police? He wrote an opera and five ballets. Five!
But drummers don't seem to get a fair shake. Yet tonight one Canaan McDuffie -- a go-to session musician and sideman who moved to Bakersfield from Tennessee in 1994 -- is ready to add "bandleader" to his resume after 21 years of playing the drums.
And he couldn't ask for a more accomplished set of musicians to support him: Doug Davis on keys, Glen Fong on bass guitar and, fresh from Boston's Berklee School of Music, Isaiah Morfin on saxophone. They'll mainly be performing selections from Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson due to the individual strengths of this particular lineup.
The show will be in the Prospect Lounge at the Padre Hotel. The room's sophisticated decor cooly compliments the jazz noise that will be created by this quartet. After all these years, how is the 32-year-old McDuffie handling the transition from hired gun/band member to actually being the main name on the marquee?
"It comes down to playing with people I respect and have a joy to work with," McDuffie said.
"It's not much different to me than being a side guy. I put the sets together, but it's pretty open. The main thing is that when I'm leading the group, the personnel will be what changes around me. The material will change with the band."
The sheer magnitude of musical skill that will be on display at the Padre will be staggering. When asked what makes this particular performance stand out, the drummer says:
"Have you ever heard Doug Davis play? Same with Isaiah Morfin. And if you're into drums, you can expect something a little less straight-ahead and a bit more adventurous."