Carlos Eton isn’t one to sit around and wait in that all-too-familiar fugue state for life to happen to him. Or, at least, not anymore.
The 55-year-old musician, who was born in Puerto Rico and adopted at age 9 by an American family, once had a chance to answer some questions about his early life. Having located his biological father, he planned to make up for lost time.
"I set out plans to go see him and reconnect and something came up — I think it was a job thing or whatever — so I put it off for three months. Well, in those three months he died. So you can’t wait for life or an opportune time.”
Recently, Eton’s been practicing what he preaches, with a humanitarian fervor spurred on by the recent spate of hurricanes that have devastated the southeast coast and the Caribbean. And by volunteering to be part of the Red Cross recovery effort, it marks a return to his roots both figuratively and, potentially, quite literally.
“They make you do the training and then call you and assign you,” Eton said. “It may be Houston, or it may be Florida or even the Virgin Islands. St. John really got it bad, so I might be there.”
In addition to the sweat equity, Eton is finding a way to give through his music. He will donate 15 percent of all gross sales of his latest release, “Mi Boricua” — in this case, it’s slang for a woman of Puerto Rican decent — to the Life for Relief and Development charity (lifeusa.org). According to Eton, that contribution will be ongoing for the duration that “Mi Boricua” is sold. The release is available on CD Baby, iTunes and Eton's website, carloseton.com.
Eton hopes that his donation plan won't be seen as a calculated attempt to piggyback promotion on catastrophe and use tragedy as a marketing opportunity.
“It's great that people that have the means can do charity, but I don’t have to be the big guy to do what I can. Let’s say that I only generate $1,000 — it’s still better than nothing, you know what I mean? How would I be able to justify that I did nothing? It’s not guilt. I’ve got to at least try.”
As for the album itself, it’s basically a homemade Latin pop album. Eton did most of the programing and performing on his Motif Xf8.
The whole album is sung in Spanish, which Eton recently relearned. Some of its songs are fun, like the bouncy “Oe” and a reggaeton cover of the Ohio Players' “Love Rollercoaster,” which Eton insists he paid for the licensing rights to use. On “Tequila” (not the song by The Champs immortalized in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”), you can hear Eton’s former life as a stand-up comic bleed into the track as he combines music into the act. The whole release is almost charming in its limitations.
After our interview, news broke of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico, which was generally spared by Irma, is looking to be hit hard. His efforts have become an almost pre-emptive strike against another force of nature he had no idea was coming — and this time, one directly aimed at his birthplace.
This week, the hurricane is on course to plow into the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, expected to bring heavy rainfall, flooded coasts and destructive winds up to 160 mph.
As of press time, Eton had no idea where the Red Cross would send him.
“Win, lose or draw, at least I can say I didn’t sit on the sidelines of life and took a chance to do something. Say it happened here in Bakersfield? How would you be able to say to your neighbor, ‘I could have helped you, but I did nothing about it.’”
Rocking by the river
For the past seven years, Kernville transforms into a roaring blues music revival for one weekend in September.
The Kern River Rock 'N' Blues Fest kicks off Thursday night with a performance by Bleeding Harp at the Kernville Saloon, leading into a special Rip Kitty VIP backstage performance by the Alastair Greene Band on Friday afternoon and Warfield and 3 Sista Blues later that evening.
Saturday is an all-day event including Bakersfield’s own Orphan Jon and The Abandoned, which has been logging an impressive amount of gig mileage and have a new CD due later this fall. Crooked Eye Tommy — who were just named best blues band at the Ventura County Music Awards — Eric VonHerzen, New Blues Revolution, Black Market III, 60 Grit Band and Mojave Blue will round out the day on two stages.
Smaller shows will be held at venues around Kernville after the last notes are played on the Frandy Campground stage that night. For the true believers, there will be an all-star jam with Black Market III at Circle Park at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Friday’s headliner, 3 Sista Blues, is more of a three-woman music revue with each of the three female singers — Shari Puorto, Deb Ryder and Kelly Z— taking turns performing their material. Puorto, specifically, is a heck of a singer; her voice cascades out of her with incredible control and power.
Singer Michael “Pink” Arguello fronts Saturday headliner 2000 Lbs of Blues, which is backed by the acclaimed Los Angeles blues band The 44’s with Junior Watson on lead guitar. Arguello’s soulful voice comes straight from the church of Sam Cooke, and Watson’s smooth guitar playing is effortlessly deft in skill and expression. There’s a lot of water in that well. The 2016 album that Watson recorded with harmonica player Mitch Kashmar, “West Coast Toast,” is outstanding. Expect this supergroup of sorts to kick up a whole lotta mojo.
Event promoters are taking an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” attitude to the proceedings but also adding new elements every year to keep things interesting for the 1,300-or so people attending. This year they’re adding a food component: the Some Like it Hot Sauce and Taco Fiesta.
The name's a mouthful but the premise is simple: taco trucks and hot sauces. Bring cash to grub since the fiesta isn’t included in the very affordable ticket price of $20 for Friday and Saturday. A $50 “Fan-Pack” ticket is available that’ll get you into every event — including the Rip Kitty VIP backstage show on Friday— as well as nab you a commemorative T-shirt and laminate. This is the best value to achieve maximum blues full-tilt boogie.
The campsite itself and many surrounding hotels are sold out, so those planning on staying the night better call and find reservations quick, lest you might have to drive the curvy road back to Bakersfield at night. But for the cheap admission price, you could afford the gas.
With an event this size, it practically takes a village of volunteers and workers to make it happen — the planning for next year’s festival starts before this one is even finished. But in doing the work, this little music festival-that-could has become one of our county’s most consistent genre music festivals. Also, it happens in autumn, which is perfect, because what can be more appropriate to the blues than a fall?
“I would love for people to see that there is good blues music all around them,” said event co-founder KayKay Jagger, “that they don’t have to be on the 'Today Show' concert series or Jimmy Fallon. Go to your clubs. Check out the opening bands for the touring A-list bands. Check out these guys that are working hard. There’s a lot of talent. A lot of talent.
“The blues genre isn’t dead, it’s just unrecognized.”
Bud Light Kern River Rock ’N’ Blues Fest, at the Frandy Campground, 11252 Kernville Road in Kernville, with Warfield and 3 Sista Blues, 5-9 p.m. Friday; 2000 Lbs of Blues, Orphan Jon and The Abandoned, Crooked Eye Tommy, New Blues Revolution, Black Market III, Eric VonHerzen, 60 Grit Band and Mojave Blue, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday ($20, good for both Friday and Saturday); Thursday night kick-off party with Bleeding Harp 8 p.m. at the Kernville Saloon, 20 Tobias St., Kernville ($10); Rip Kitty VIP party with the Alastair Greene Band 1-4 p.m. Friday at the Frandy Campground, $20 (includes barbecue lunch) or with a Fan-Pack ticket, $50 (includes weekend pass from Thursday through Sunday, T-shirt and laminate); all-star jam with Black Market III at Circle Park from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday is free to attend. kernriverrocknblues.com
Dream Sequence, Modern Wives, and Ex-Tomboys (special tribute to David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”), 9 p.m. Saturday at Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St. $5.
Plan 9 (Misfits tribute), The Cretin (Ramones tribute), and The Nimrods (Green Day tribute), 9 p.m. Saturday at Riley’s Tavern, 1523 19th St. $7.
This Saturday, two shows are bookending each other by paying tribute musically to bands and eras in both expected and unexpected ways.
Dream Sequence is a new side project by the Dandy siblings: James and Nicole from Crime Bison. Whereas the Bison plays sprightly, jazzy pop/rock, Dream Sequence continues their penchant for the groovy and the groove with a twist. The band plays a style of music described as vaporware, which consists of taking older songs — usually from the 1980s — slowing them down to almost ridiculous levels and performing them with panache. They’re accompanied by a video show that adds a visual layer to the performance that fills me with such immense joy at the prospect of more local shows starting to catering to more than one sense at a time.
Also on the bill will be indie-rock veteran supergroup Modern Wives and Ex-Tomboys, which will perform the seminal David Bowie album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” in its entirety. I am honestly curious to see them pull this off.
Just down the street and around the corner, Riley’s will be hosting a punk rock tribute night including two local acts: The Cretins (The Ramones) and The Nimrods (Green Day), but it’s the evening's headliner that's bringing the most firepower.
Oakland’s Misfits tribute band Plan 9 has their parts down. The look, the music, the sound — everything. Down to bassist Scarey Only’s devilock (if you’ve ever sculpted the front part of your hair into a downturned spike, that’s a devilock). Once lead singer Seven starts bellowing in Glenn Danzig’s familiar baritone, don’t be surprised if your brain does a double take.
The original lineup of the Misfits was only together for a short time (1977-1983) but its multi-generational influence and impact is still felt to this day. This led to a huge demand for a reunion, and after years of toying with the idea, a proper one happened in 2016 between Danzig and original bassist — and devilock pioneer — Jerry Only. They’ve played — and are set to play — some very highly anticipated shows, including one at the Forum in December, but for a cheap $7 you could have the next best thing to seeing them in their heyday. The cost for a rideshare will be minimal and you’ll be able to sing along to “We are 138” and “Hybrid Moments” without missing last call — or “Last Caress.”