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CESAREO GARASA: Enjoy late-summer slate of fresh singles

It would be easy to discount Adema's latest single "Ready to Die" as simply a triumphant return to form, but the truth is the group never really went anywhere.

Throughout all the challenges the Bako band has endured over the last 20 years, the inclusion of new frontman Ryan Shuck (Orgy, Julien-K, Dead by Sunrise) granted the quintet a sense of newfound, earned stability. This enabled the group to evolve to the point where it's found itself in a sort of full-circle creative resurgence. Adema is past having something to prove. It's figured out what it has to say. Powerfully.

The song itself is one of Adema's best since "Giving In," off the band's self-titled 2001 debut album. Much like "Giving In," "Ready to Die '' is steeped in mood, deftly balances emotion and aggression with one heck of a bulletproof chorus. There, the one-two punch of Tim Fluckey and Mike Ransom's guitars hauntingly intertwine with Shuck's vocal melody. It's chilling, impressive and intoxicating. An affirmation of fighting for life after being ready to die.

The song is anchored by the muscular and musical rhythm section of bassist Dave DeRoo and drummer Kris Kohls with Kohl's bouncy snare drum work serving as accenting counterpoints to the music and vocals. It took the band two decades and fighting through one challenge after another to create what could possibly be its strongest song. Wow.

Speaking of drummers, Ted Williams has been a very busy one lately. His hard rock bands, Band of Family and BabyHateFood, have released singles for their songs "Habits" and "Shadows," respectively.

The former is a midtempo rocker that really takes off during the guitar solo by Canyon McCay and the latter is a bit more introspective. In both, Williams shows a deft touch, balancing power and finesse. He knows when to lay back and when to unleash some gnarly drum fills. The video for "Habits" was released around three months ago and the video for BabyHatesFood's other single, "Cold Within," was released a month ago.

Williams, a Soultone Cymbals endorser, released a solo video of him performing along with "Habits" for the cymbal company's website. The production values for all three videos, thanks to Kyle Chidgy and Blast Beat Visuals, are top-notch and fans of mid-aughts radio-friendly metal would appreciate all three songs and both bands.

Power trio Gadfly has released two singles, "Ghost Dance" and "The Situation," finding the group embracing its inner Mars Volta. Both songs take advantage of singer and bassist Dominic Demay's powerful and dramatic voice and delivery, supplying harmonies throughout both songs in a way that could only be replicated live with more Demays.

The songs are thrilling and the superb guitar solo by Brian Lee on "Ghost Dance" is a standout. Is it a coincidence that Lee's side project is also named Ghost Dance? Isaac Hedgemon's dynamic, sensitive drumming well complements and channels the fiery currents within.

The songs were recorded at B2 Studios, which I'm grateful is still up and running and putting out work of such rich caliber like this. Bravo.

Art and the Resistance has had quite the journey from its 2018 debut album "From the Shadows" to the release of its latest single, "The Fonk."

"From the Shadows" was a solid hard rock album whose secret weapon was Art Machuca's powerful, robust voice shooting straight through your speakers. Sonically, the band came across as some kind of mixture of prog and anthemic arena rock. Sort of like Chris Cornell singing for Coheed and Cambria.

On the genre-spanning "The Fonk," the quartet delivers a high-energy blast of funky rock complete with gang "HOO HA" vocals, a jazzy bridge and a metal coda with what appears to be a keytar solo by John Calanchini. Yes, a keytar. It's bonkers. When Machuca sings, "Don't care what you think of me," after singing about others' expectations of him and the band, the group yells "Whatever happened to music itself?!" 

The band is cannily using styles — ranging from hard rock to the ska-tinged rock en español of its previous single "Gusano (The Medicine Man)" — as a vessel to communicate wherever and whatever it is coming from.

From the looks of it, it's a solid strategy since the quartet seems to be having a blast. In the playful video for the song, the four members are seen walking on Hollywood Boulevard, dressing up in different costumes (disco! Vikings!) and high-kicking like a bunch of merry metal maniacs who had too much caffeine and came up with an epiphany at Denny's. They have, however, figured out how to balance the strengths of each band member as part of a whole instead of relying solely on Machuca's impressive tenor. It takes a lot of commitment to defy expectations this brazenly. More power to them.

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As I've mentioned before, the dark, intimate nature of The Well's interior works effectively with comedy shows that rely on immersion. It's hard for someone to sneakily check on their phones in the dark without incurring the wrath of a comedian who's just waiting to pounce and take a shark-sized bite out of you.

The last two comedy shows I saw there, Sam Tripoli and Lara Beitz, were superb and the comedy scene there appears to be thriving under the direction of comedian, promoter and host Daniel Betts. The Well's Comedy Night at The Well, its open mic every Thursday, has seen 18 comedians — the max — signing up every week.

This Friday's show will feature headliner PJ Walsh, who's been featured on Netflix, Comedy Central and a slate of podcasts. Besides being a stand-up comedy veteran for decades, Walsh is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy and is a veterans advocate who spent some time overseas with Betts (himself a Navy veteran as well) performing for the troops in Afghanistan in 2017.

"I performed at the Fox Theater years ago with Bill Engvall and I'm excited to be back in Bakersfield," Walsh said. "I believe laughter is the surprise recognition that we are not alone and it's really a time I feel we should not be alone."

Walsh's material isn't so much self-deprecating as it is self-aware. He mines his own life as a springboard for his observational humor. Also performing at the 21-and-over show will be Marc Duncan, David Wells and Warren Owens.

For anyone planning to attend this or any event, please observe and follow any safety recommendations and protocols concerning COVID. Use caution. Be safe and stay safe.

Comedy Night at the Well (open mic) is held every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. (sign-ups at 6:30 p.m. and are capped at 18 comedians); PJ Walsh with special guests Marc Duncan, David Wells and Warren Owens, hosted by Daniel Betts, 8 p.m. Friday at The Well, 7401 White Lane, Suite 7. Tickets ($15-$25, VIP is sold out) for Friday's show are only available through

Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa brings you The Lowdown on local music and entertainment every other Thursday.

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