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CESAREO GARASA: Kick off summer with new festival, local awards

As the door to live shows starts to open wider, there are two shows happening this weekend that merit attention. Please follow any safety precautions that you deem necessary to protect yourself and those around you.

Cafe Smitten will host a Summer Kickoff Festival this Saturday, describing it as a "parking lot party you don't want to miss."

They're not wrong. On the bill are the outstanding local outfit Hate Drugs (performing for the first time since its show at The Glass House in Pomona in December), Aly Youranday and Israeli-based-via-SoCal musician Joseph E-Shine.

"We're excited to see people and have them hear some songs we've been working on since we've been away," said Hate Drugs singer David Caploe. "It feels good to be doing something."

Along with that new music, the band will perform material from its last release, the excellent "Ponderosa" EP and its lovely, wistful, ethereally dreamy track "Night II (Divine Providence)," a song as divine as its title suggests and my favorite song of 2020.

Although there is no release date set for new projects, the band is planning to reissue a fifth anniversary remix and remaster of its 2016 "Beach Weekend" EP — which has previously only been available for online streaming and download — on vinyl and cassette at the end of June.

Caploe has also been involved in his own flurry of activity, having released his two debut solo singles (as David Samuel Caploe), the pensive and melancholy "Mother" and "Father," on all major streaming platforms on May 28, his 28th birthday.

"I'm going to just be banging out singles," said Caploe, "releasing new music every month or two pretty steady."

The other artists on the festival bill are equally impressive and worth catching.

Aly Youonday is a local musician who has quietly and consistently been creating sophisticated pop music over the last few years. Her powerful, emotive voice has a remarkably clear tone, and she has quite the knack for crafting a catchy melody (like on her singles "On My Own" and "Falling For You""). Her music can range from reflective ("Monster") to uplifting ("Don't Give Up The Fight") with that voice of hers convincing you of both her resilience and pain.

Her 2020 singles, "Liar" and "Ready or Not," display a clear evolution for the singer. With the former song's raw heartbreak and the latter's boldness reflecting a new sonic and emotional depth to Youanday's delivery and content.

Lastly, Joseph E-Shine is an Israeli-based musician who now resides in Los Angeles. His latest release, the mini-album "Grandpa's Tapes," released on May 21, has had quite the long, remarkable journey in its making.

After E-Shine lost his grandfather Yossi Mizrahi in 2018 to lung cancer, he experienced a personal epiphany and was moved to work on and release his own material after years of producing and supporting other musicians.

Using a small cassette collection of his grandfather's as a starting point, E-Shine began to find bits of them to sample and create a work that would honor Mizrahi's memory. The process was difficult, as much catharsis as it is a profound awakening, and resulted in more than a few turns back to the drawing board in the quest to find the core of each of the songs.

"Grandpa's Tapes" is a paradoxical work that exists between — and also bridges — old and new, joy and grief, inspiration and elevation, mystery and revelation in both sound and spirit via a musical conversation between the living and the dead. Sonically, for each old sample there is its polar opposite contemporary influence, all of it feeling like it was done organically and sympathetically. It's no wonder this album was so difficult to make.

Given the bleak and overwhelming violence and death that has been happening in the Middle East at the moment, songs like the uplifting "Everything Will Be Alright" and especially the soaring, powerful "Rise Above" hold a great resonance and an even greater, beautiful hope.

The Summer Kickoff Festival starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Cafe Smitten, 909 18th St. Tickets for the all-ages show are $20 and available through Food and beverages — including alcohol — will be allowed for purchase and allowed in the parking lot for the event. Get there early and bring your own seating.

Bakersfield Music Awards

The inaugural Bakersfield Music Awards will be held this Sunday at The Iron Lily Venue downtown.

Details for the event, such as a list of nominees and categories, event itineraries and performers, are not listed online at since the event's coordinators have cultivated an aura of mystery by design. The most pertinent information available on the website is for a link to the tickets, which range from $25 for general admission to $160 for the "Ultimate Experience." The rationale being that anyone that wants to know what the event is about will have to go to it to find out.

A note to potential attendees: Tickets will not be sold at the event. So if you're interested in going, purchase your ticket in advance at

The most important facet of this event is how it spotlights genres of music that are deeply relevant and active in our music community but that don't get as much attention as their rock and country contemporaries do. Genres such as rap (rap and hip hop — both male and female — are mostly separate categories at the awards), R&B, pop and gospel.

Country music is recognized as well but combined into one award for three different subgroups including country, country soul and country blues. The songs and nominees — Dre Haze's "Empty Bottles" and NineFingers' "Lilith" — might not be considered country in the traditional sense but are still worth consideration. The name of Dre Haze's song could be a country song by itself.

Some of the other nominated musicians might be familiar to local music fans, such as Crimson Skye (disclosure: I played drums on her nominated album, "The Window"), Jehdiah, Afta and Riddy K, but the night's greatest potential is the possibility of being exposed to new artists and names that might not be getting more mainstream exposure (the nominees were chosen by voters on social media) like R&B singer Malik Malo and his single "Make it with You" off of the album "Tribute to Ralph Pagan, Vol. 1."

One factor that reflects that potential is the attention to younger talent with the BMAs "Youth 'Super Nova' Award" (it's no surprise that the event's founder Rosalyn Stevens was a former teacher). The "Decennium 'deejay' award" will be awarded to local veteran DJ Ace and an honoree award will go to singer and musician Jim Ranger, the second place runner-up on the previous season of NBCs "The Voice." Comedian D'Maurier will host the event and Doz Muchoz will serve as the awards' resident DJ.

Whether or not the promotional strategies behind the event are a success remains to be seen but the passion and ambition behind the BMA is admirable. As is the welcome attention to styles of music and performers that have been historically well-represented in our music community without the acclaim they rightfully deserve.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for the awards at The Iron Lily Venue, 424 24th St. 

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