Our local music scene has reached the end of a certain era without really knowing it. The Phantom Stranger is leaving town.
For years, Patrick Spurlock has been a force of nature when it comes to promoting shows, both his own and otherwise.
He and his Phantom Stranger Productions staff — usually his wife, Priscilla, and their 10-year-old daughter, Mary — would design, pass and paper the town with flyers for upcoming shows, blanket social media with event invites, and reach out to newspaper and radio outlets.
The Spurlocks are moving to Grover Beach for Priscilla’s work as a veterinary technician and with the move, he’s taking his tireless promotion machine and leaving a sizable hole for another ambitious entrepreneur to try to fill. That is, when local stages are able to host shows again safely.
“Ultimately, it might be simple and cheesy, I just want to say ‘Thank you,” said Patrick, 39. “I can definitely say that I’m lucky to have been doing this for as long as I have.
“I’m thankful for all the opportunities, whether it’s with venues, bands, everybody that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. It’s been a positive step forward."
Spurlock has been booking shows for more than 12 years — the last four of which were full-time — and during that span, there was rarely a weekend where a Phantom Stranger show wasn’t happening around town.
Spurlock even managed to start up his own Phantom Stranger Records label in 2017. Recently, the label dropped around a half-dozen releases online on Friday the 13th (there’s that promotion instinct in action, folks).
Those include three LPs (“Droppin’ a Deuce,” “Lars Attacks,” “The Shaft”) and one EP (“BarnStain”) by the punky, funky SoCal-based jam band JamStain, the single “Moving On” by melodic punk group Sans Hope and Kristen Falls' “Tiger Shark" (my favorite of the bunch), which is the theme song of the “Jaws”-themed podcast “Let’s Jaws for a Minute.”
The latest single by rap/hard rock crossover duo Verses & Bridges titled “At a Distance” just missed the party by being released four days prior.
The JamStain albums are rereleases of previous material that are available for the first time for streaming and feature the band’s original lineup of Ryan Golob and brothers Aisley and Aiden Hubbard. The Hubbards were killed in an auto accident in January 2017.
The releases by JamStain and Verses & Bridges can be found on all streaming platforms but the Sans Hope and Kristen Falls singles are only available on the Phantom Stranger Records Bandcamp page.
All that output illuminates one of Phantom Stranger’s greatest strengths: Whether it’s with its label roster or with its shows, there’s enough of a variety that even though they aren’t all for everybody, there’s something for somebody.
Besides being a promoter and producer, Spurlock has also been a DJ for events such as the CASA Superhero Run, the defunct KSVG radio station and in live performances with Verses & Bridges. He also fronts his own bands: Monkey’s Unkle and Ramones tribute act The Cretins.
He’s also been a prominent fixture at the First Fridays Art Walk downtown and the annual Bakersfield Comic-Con, selling his original Mind of the Boogeyman art and Phantom Stranger merchandise.
“My favorite events are the shows that were not only band-related but the ones where I was able to also include art,” Spurlock said. “Whether it be the actual art shows that I booked or the times where I was able to include live artists on display, also those with Project OH! Magazine and Hectic Films. Those definitely stand out.”
We’ve grown so accustomed to Spurlock’s presence that we’ve taken for granted not just how prevalent he is in our local music scene but in our community.
He and his wife have been active participants of the annual Relay for Life and he co-hosted events at the Beale Memorial Library including Cinema Macabre, the Dark Dial Radio Hour and the Haunted Library Tour with the aid of musician and Phantom Stranger artist Ariel Dyer, who worked there as a library associate. Not to mention becoming the go-to family that supplied a whole bunch of local musicians with Girl Scout cookies.
“I’m going to miss Pat and his myriad contributions — to the city of Bakersfield, to me as my mentor, confidant and friend — but he's not getting rid of me that easy,” said Dyer. “He’s still my go-to for scheming and dreaming up new and crazy events and that's not going to change with a move. His absence will be keenly felt."
When it comes to hustle and passion, Spurlock is in a league of his own. Even with his move, the person whom Dyer describes as “the mysterious man behind the Phantom Stranger mask” is looking ahead, planning to trade shows with acts and venues on the coast with his umbrella of allies here in Bakersfield. There’s also a Phantom Stranger Records compilation album in the works for next year.
“I hope that there’s a renewed urgency to get out there, when we can, and recognize that we really didn’t lose any opportunities, we just weren't taking advantage of them,” said Spurlock.