For anyone who’s been around our local skating and music scene, Ben Smith’s face is a familiar one. I’ve personally known Ben for many years and had no idea the impact he’s had in the global skateboarding community at large. None.
Over the last 20 years, Smith has been traveling across the globe, helping to build skate parks in countries as far as Egypt and Norway and as near as the remote Kernside skate park just east of the city limits. Recently, Smith was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma.
On Friday, an art and photo benefit, led by friends Joseph Ruiz and Thomas Campbell, will be held in Smith’s honor at Impact Skate Shop. It will feature a massive roster of art for sale and display by artists, local and otherwise, including renowned Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairey, who is responsible for the Andre the Giant “Obey” street art and clothing line.
There will also be skating product raffles and a screening of Campbell’s arthouse skateboard film, “Ye Olde Destruction.” Local duo Contranistas will perform a live score during the screening. Beverages will be provided by Tiki-Ko and DJ Chuck 1 will spin music throughout.
For those wanting to donate who can’t attend the event, a crowdfunding campaign has been started at www.gofundme.com/f/mq7eq9-financial-help. Additionally art will be auctioned on eBay with prints by Fairey, Tim Kerr, Thomas Campbell, Nathaniel Russel, Andy Jenkins, Russ Pope and Geoff McFetridg. All proceeds go to Smith. For more information, please visit instagram.com/altlab.
It’s a humble testimony to Smith’s influence that so many people have rallied to help someone who for so long has quietly and unassumingly been helping others. Courage, friend.
Ben Smith Benefit and Art Show, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Impact Skate Shop, 1809 Chester Ave. $5 donation.
Roman Lomtadze (pronounced lom-tad-zay) is a drummer whose formidable playing is as muscular as it is musical.
Lomtadze will be taking his 90-minute one-drummer show (he also sings!) on the road in December, embarking on a 14-date, monthlong Eastern European tour. He’ll be performing a couple of free warmup dates in the Central Valley, including Thursday's performance at The Well.
The 40-year-old drummer might be better known to U.S. audiences as the drummer for Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway, the solo project for the System of a Down guitarist. But as a member of the popular Czech band Cechomor (pronounced check-a-more), Lomtadze was a bona fide rock star in his 20s, enjoying all of the perks that came with that — platinum albums, sold-out tours, limousines, opening up for Sting and championed by Peter Gabriel, you name it.
“My parents’ concern was that I would be chasing gigs all of my life,” Lomtadze said via phone interview, “and until I got into Cechomor, they still would have those talks with me.”
“I’ll never forget, we played a show and I invited my parents. It was somewhere pretty far, but they drove and there were 15,000 people at the show. They said, ‘You won.’”
Born in the nation of Georgia, Lomtadze and his family immigrated to the Czech Republic when he was 12, where he was raised among classical musicians and educators.
In 2008, realizing the limitations of being a big fish in his particular pond, the drummer made the move to the United States. Within a year, he had depleted his savings, and started working construction jobs and in restaurants to make ends meet.
He was eventually recognized in a restaurant cleaning tables by a Czech family. It was a humbling, revelatory experience for the drummer who understandably admitted, “It was kind of weird.”
“Musicians, when they reach a certain amount of success, they naturally have an ego,” Lomtadze said. “It can be ego meant in a good way or a bad way, it doesn’t matter, but it’s still an ego. ... (The experiences) with losing money and working and being recognized from playing arenas to, ‘Oh, what is this guy doing here, waiting tables?’ it helped me very much. I’m very grateful for that experience because I learned about myself as a human being more than just a musician.”
Of all the material Lomtadze has chosen, arranged and recorded for the show, a personal favorite is his performance of the traditional Georgian choir piece “Tsangala Da Gogona.” On it, he nails every tempo shift and deepens his playing until the cathartic end. (He also unleashes his monster chops on Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire." Seriously, the guy is a beast.)
There’s an emotional resonance to this all-ages show that transcends it; it’s not just a bunch of chops or for fans of System of a Down or Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway. It’s a culmination of Lomtadze’s own musical and personal heritage. It’s a drummer at the peak of his powers taking on the world solo.
PB&D International Productions Presents Roman Lomtadze, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, The Well, 7401 White Lane, Suite 7. Free admission.