Like something straight out of the 1986 movie “Crossroads,” but with much less demonic Steve Vai — well, possibly — Temblor Brewing Company will be hosting the Kern County 6 String Showcase this Sunday. A statewide blues guitar competition now in its second year being held in Kern County for the first time.
“(It’s) much more than a blues guitar competition. It’s a celebration of blues guitar,” said Rick Snyder, the media director for the 6 String Showdown.
“It’s a bringing together of the blues tribes. Where we bring together musicians from as young as 11 or 12 years old, all the way up to their 70s, to play against one another, head-to-head, and be judged by a group of their peers who will determine who is going to walk away with the blues championship for the region.”
He’s not kidding. According to Snyder, this Sunday’s 16 competitors range from “13 to about 75” years old. The event will be hosted by Snyder’s longtime friend, local O’Hennings’ promoter and the promotion and marketing manager at Rip Cat Records, KayKay Jagger. The MC will be my fellow columnist for The Californian, Matt Muñoz.
At the time of this writing, one competitor was yet to be named, but those confirmed are Val Rael, Bob Townley, Gavin O’Malley, Owen Garrett, Tim Stonelake, Justin Walker, Brett Cox, Gary Wooten, Silo Ornelas, Randy Blair, Amanda McCaslin, Lenny “Fuzzy” Rankins, Brad Marsh, Jake Neuman and Brian Lee.
Audience response is worth one-third of the score, so if you know one of the contestants, show up and make every decibel count. The rest of the scoring will come from a panel of three judges: SoCal-based guitarists Mark Sells, Sam Meeks and local guitar wizard Kyle Appleton.
To keep the playing field as level as possible, the contestants can only bring amps of similar size and are allowed only two effects pedals.
Each of the 16 guitarists will compete against each other in groups of two until the winner is determined. Before each round, a mystery wheel, housing both an inner and outer wheel, will be spun. The outer portion of the wheel will determine which one of seven different styles of 12-bar blues they will play (jump blues, funky blues, slow blues, Chicago blues, etc.) and the inner portion will determine the musical key. The guitarists will not know in advance what style or key what they’ll be playing.
Once the style and key are determined, the Showdown’s house band will start playing and both guitarists will join in playing rhythm guitar.
The guitarists will then trade solos: one playing lead and the other playing rhythm for 24 bars, and then switching for another 24 bars, escalating to an intense back-and-forth every four bars until the song is finished.
Potential for awesome? Definitely! Potential for sabotage? Bwahaha! You betcha! We will also be seeing some of Bakersfield’s guitarists competing against some curious SoCal contenders. Hopefully they didn’t sign up here because they underestimated the level of talent, because, oh yes, there will be blood.
“The talent that’s coming to participate in this event in Bakersfield is incredible. Absolutely incredible,” Snyder said. “There are guitar players here who are going to leave a smoking hole in the floor on the stage when they’re done. And this isn’t about a shred-fest. This is about who can play the blues with feeling, with expression, with subtle nuance, with emotion.”
Along with winning a brand-new Tagima guitar, Sunday’s winner will compete against the three other regional winners at the semi-finals and — hopefully — finals both held at the New Blues Festival in Long Beach this September.
The grand winner will be crowned the “Best Overall Blues Guitarist in California,” and receive $5000 in cash and prizes including a Schecter guitar and a custom ring by jeweler Darren Simonian (Every regional winner will also receive a Simonian ring.) as well as a slot on the main stage at the festival. The Kern County regional winner will perform at the Kern River Rock N Blues Festival in Kernville, also this September.
To add some altruism into the mix, there will be an auction for a G&L guitar donated by Bakersfield Sound Co. All of the proceeds of the auction, and a portion of the ticket sales, will go to Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue.
“This is a great opportunity,” Snyder said, “to break down the walls and bring everybody together and express our love of the genre of music known as the blues in a way that is loving and exciting and totally unique and different from anything else.”
Kern County 6 String Showdown, 3 - 9 p.m. Sunday at Temblor Brewing Company 3200 Buck Owens Blvd, Ste. 200; $15 in advance, $20 at the door with a portion of ticket sales going to Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue; for more info and tickets go to 6stringshowdown.com
Adema: Bakersfield’s newest music ambassadors
The Bakersfield-based rock group Adema is a paradigm in tenacity. After releasing their gold-certified 2001 debut album on Arista records, the band went on to endure several line-up changes including a couple of on-again-off-again reunions with original vocalist Mark “Marky” Chavez. But regardless of who was, or wasn’t, in the band or singing, the band kept their focus on playing and never let any of the challenges that would have fractured lesser bands stop them. That they've retained their fan base through it all is a testimony to their likability and resolve.
After yet another on-again with Chavez last year — including a spectacular performance at the Whisky a Go Go — the band idled into inactivity, waiting for their next move.
Enter Taft-native Ryan Shuck, the frontman for electronic rock band Julien-K (who have a new album dropping soon) and the guitarist and vocalist for Orgy, who also found success with their 1998 debut album “Candyass,” and its singles “Stitches” and their cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday.”
Shuck was also the guitarist and backing vocalist in Dead by Sunrise, a beloved project he shared with the late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington.
It was announced on Adema’s Facebook page last week that Shuck would be taking over vocal duties for their upcoming fall tour that includes some shows with fellow early-aughts hard rock peers Powerman5000 and Hed PE on the “Days of Disorder” tour.
Most tellingly, it seems, with Chavez’s blessings.
When reached for comment, Chavez said he supported the change, but unfortunately wasn’t able to elaborate further due to time restraints.
The most fascinating angle to Shuck's involvement is in it’s circular symmetry. Both he and Adema's bassist, Dave DeRoo were in the early 1990s metal band Sex Art with Korn’s Jonathan Davis.
From there, the three endured the music business gauntlet and found global exposure and success with their own respective bands and careers. Shuck’s involvement with Adema is an interesting — and natural — reunion, as well as evolution, for both.
Plus, with every member being from Kern County they’re basically Bakersfield music ambassadors.
“That’s exactly the way that we were thinking,” Shuck said. “(That) we should just straight-up claim Bakersfield because everyone in the band is from Bakersfield. Literally, some of the original guys are now getting back together again and I think it’s a really cool thing.”
“It’s like being in a band again with my first band friends,” Shuck said. “My oldest friends, man, you know?”
Fatlip of The Pharcyde, with DJ Mikey, Alex Gee, Phantom Stranger along with special guests Truth Ali, Jonathan Afta Hunter, and 1K Watts, 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. Saturday at Temblor Brewing Company, 3200 Buck Owens Blvd., Ste. 200; free admission; 18 and over, listener discretion advised.
This Saturday, Fatlip from the influential 1990s rap group The Pharcyde will be performing at Temblor Brewing Company. The 51-year old rapper is a candid figure, as his 2003 Spike Jonez-directed video/ short documentary “What’s Up, Fatlip?” will attest to. His newest single, “It’s a Blur” featuring Redwood, is a short burst (just around two minutes) of cool flavor off of the soundtrack to the Netflix romantic comedy “Always Be My Baby.”
If Fatlip gets to his Pharcyde material like “Passin’ Me By” and “Runnin’” expect the audience to lose their collective mind.
Going Underground Records will have a special pop up shop where attendees can get their own vinyl to take home. This free show is 18-and-over but listener discretion is advised.