The first impression one gathers from singer Art Machuca is size. With his intimidating 6-foot-3 frame and thick black chest-length beard, he looks like a heavy-metal lumberjack.
But once he starts speaking, you recognize the softer demeanor behind that big mountain of a man. He listens attentively and answers questions thoughtfully; the guy exudes an effortless soul.
All of that, however, is blasted into orbit once he steps onstage and lets that huge voice rip. Belting out notes like a cross between his idols Robert Plant and Chris Cornell, the reaction is, “Whoa! Who opened up the doors to Valhalla?!” Sensitivity mixes with brute strength to create a sort of warrior’s wail.
Cornell, especially, is top of mind for Machuca in the weeks since the singer's tragic death.
“When I was a kid … I was introduced to rock ’n’ roll and one of the few bands I was introduced to were Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Soundgarden. That was basically the biggest influences I had growing up and really got me into music. Chris Cornell was a huge influence as a singer, as a poet, and as a songwriter. When he formed Audioslave, it was a different form of songwriting, but I’ve always been a big fan in respect to everything he’s done. I definitely took his passing … it was very tragic to me. Some people’s heroes are Cliff Burton or Prince; mine was definitely Chris Cornell.”
Machuca, 28, fronts Art and the Resistance, which has a show Saturday at Sandrini’s Pub. But the gig isn't just a refresher, respite and release for the group and its audience — it's also a 28th birthday celebration for keyboardist John Calanchini.
Calanchini, a graduate of the esteemed Berklee College of Music, is a Bakersfield native with deep ties here. He moved back after graduating in 2012 for a variety of personal reasons.
“I’m the youngest child and my parents are aging and I wanted to be back here closer to them while my brothers are in other parts of the world," Calanchini said. "Two: I felt like I still had more I wanted to learn and get comfortable with, and Bakersfield being so close to L.A. was the perfect dojo, the perfect training ground for that.”
“Three: Boston is friggin cold! I hated it! I’d rather take the 105-degree heat here than the negative 5, negative 10 that Boston got plus the wind chill, plus the icy roads. Yeah I wanted to come back to Bakersfield. I’d rather live here than there.”
Calanchini's classical training gives Art and the Resistance a depth not found in the usual three-guitars-and-drums rock band format. Drummer Jeremy Bridgman, 36, uses his prog-rock influences to lock down the rhythm section with bassist Gilbert Machuca, Art’s brother.
“I think that it (reflects) people’s desire to listen to things that are not just the formula that you hear on the radio anymore and actually enjoy six- or seven-minute songs,” Bridgman said.
Their debut was at the Bakersfield Rocks the Fox show in April 2016, and in just a little over a year, the group has used that momentum to quietly make a name — retaining visibility as a brand while putting the work in with the minimum of hype. They’ve been playing steadily up down and around California and are recording their first record with a larger tour planned around it. Two songs from the upcoming release, “No Coming Back” and “Lost in Love,” are now available for sale online.
“I believe that the game plan is to get picked up,” Calanchini said. “We want to start off strong as an independent label so that we can set our own terms and conditions or at least approach certain conditions when the big fish does bite.”
They’ve also discovered the curse of the elusive Bakersfield guitarist after running through a rotating cast of six-stringers over the year. Logan Archer is the current guitarist in studio and Will Slikker, the spry lead guitarist formally of the Aviators, is splitting time between them and local cover band Warfield.
“Our main focus is to make music that we love and share what we love with everyone in the world,’ Machuca said. “Our main message in the music is always going to be positive.”
“I think one of our main things is not necessarily that we want to get popular right away,” Bridgman said. “But like Art said, we want to create the music that we love, so there are a lot of influences that we have in our backgrounds that we pull from. And I think a part of it is that we’re trying to define the Bakersfield Sound as not just nü-metal and not just country music. … I tend to describe our music as ‘feel-good indie rock’ that can harken back to the great 1990s grunge, alternative and modern rock that we love so much and that a lot of people around town are drawn to.”
Hannah DiMolfetto, joined by Bridgman on drums, will open the night, promoting her current release, “Skylove.”
Art and the Resistance with Hannah DiMolfetto, and DJ My Name is Carlos, 9 p.m. Saturday at Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St.; $5
Cities You Wish You Wish You Were From (Sacramento), The LessOffs (Southern California), Jerk (Las Vegas), and The Cretins, 9 p.m. Saturday at Riley’s Tavern, 1523 19th St.; $5
The LessOffs are SoCal punk rock to the core with pop melodies and blistering tempos. Their tour mates, Jerk, hail from Las Vegas and come from the same school as the the LessOffs with a bit more emphasis on guitar. You can use your imagination to figure out their tour name.
Also on the bill is guitar/drums duo with the long name, Cities You Wish You Were From. Even though the duo hails from Sacramento, guitarist/singer/multi-instrumentalist Eli Jenkins is originally from Bakersfield.
The 36-year-old cut his teeth here playing in such notable bands as Mission: Tonight and Catastrophist. After the latter band split up a little over a decade ago, Jenkins took a sabbatical from music and moved to Sacramento with his then-wife for work prospects.
His current band sees Jenkins and his drummer Tyler Downie employ some interesting technology to thicken the sound. They rely on special guitar pickups and pedals to make a “two-piece band that sounds like a four-piece band.”
“I run a pretty big guitar rig on stage,” Jenkins said.
Their sound is explosive and bluesy, especially evident on their song, “I’ll Be Coming Home,” which mixes Jenkins’ falsetto voice and Downie’s dark drum tones to make a cool sound that’s funky, driving and heavy.
“My family is originally from the South, from Arkansas and Oklahoma by way of Bakersfield, and I grew up in a very gospel and country influenced family,” Jenkins said. “When I pick up a guitar and play, just fiddling around, I play the blues. It’s the first thing that instinctually comes. We wanted to play blues-influenced rock ’n’ roll, and this is what happened.”
“I still have a lot of friends there and I’m excited to play for a crowd that tends to appreciate pretty straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll. Bakersfield has a lot of really good straight-ahead rock bands and I feel like we mesh with that.”
Local punk group The Cretins, who usually perform rock punk cover shows, will be debuting their new original single: the title track for Hectic Films’ upcoming release, “Machine Gun Baby.”