Drummer Chris Borbon has been performing for Bakersfield audiences for years. Lately, it’s been with his groups Vanity Ave, the Rhythm Ambassadors and the impossibly accurate traditional ska band Capsouls. The latter two fronted by his wife, singer Yadira Guerrero-Borbón.
When her 10-year-old niece, Giselle Guerrero, was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February, the entire family was understandably shaken by the diagnosis.
“It was devastating,” Borbon said. “It was a big hit for the family. It was something we didn’t really expect. I can only imagine for my wife, GG's parents and grandparents and her siblings. It’s much more of an impact when you’re related that close to them. No kid deserves to have such a thing as cancer.”
After his wife came up with the idea to do something to help her brother with his daughter’s rising medical bills, Borbon ran with the plan, which culminates in Sunday's “GG the Warrior Festival” with all the proceeds going to help Giselle’s medical expenses.
“GG has been her nickname since she was little,” Borbon said. “We got the name ‘GG the Warrior’ because her last name Guerrero means ‘warrior’ in Spanish. It just all kind of connections.”
The nickname is also a descriptive one for the tenacious, seemingly unflappable 10-year-old.
“She’s holding the family together,” Borbon said. “She’s super positive about the whole thing. Every situation, she somehow turns it around and wants to give back to someone else. When she was told that she was going to lose her hair because of treatment, she thought about donating it and that’s exactly what she did.”
Originally set to be held at The Well — the soon-to-be-open southwest venue in the former B Ryder’s building — the event will now be held at the Royal Palace venue on District Boulevard to accommodate the larger-than-expected headcount.
Borbon, 32, has been able to use his experience performing at festivals and other bigger gigs to establish a solid infrastructure for the ambitious undertaking. From apparel — orange “GG the Warrior” elastic bracelets and cute but fierce “Be GG Brave” T-shirts — made to commemorate the event to the raffle gift baskets donated by various local businesses, the event is a giant community effort brought together like family.
“We’ve been so fortunate,” Borbon said, “that people have been so open to the whole idea because it’s for such a good cause. It was a little difficult at first, but after we kind of got the ball rolling, it ran itself. People started donating and other people started seeing all these donations for the raffles and people started giving more and more.”
“It’s a little stressful. I would say me and my wife are doing most everything, but with the help of the community it’s been a lot easier than it should be.”
The event kicks off at noon with 10 musical acts scheduled throughout the day including Jake Neuman; Stephanie Soul; Suelo; Kenny Reeves; Ariel Dyer; Joey Kuntz; Easy In; Steady Vibe, which organized its own benefit concert for 8-year-old Gabriel Lopez in 2016; a mariachi set with GG’s grandfather Armando Guerrero “El Raramuri”; Los Angeles-based Scarlett and the Fever; Borbon’s aforementioned bands; and the Jay Smith Group (with which I will be performing).
Dancer Mimi Ramos will perform a “danza folklorico” set and DJs will perform in between the acts.
“GG, she’s one of a kind. Her charm,” Borbon said. “Ever since I’ve known her, we’ve always kind of connected even when I first started dating my wife. It always seemed like (GG) always stuck by my side. Every time I’d pick up a guitar, she’d come around and she’d sing along.”
“That’s just the kind of charm she’s always had on people — that she has on people. She keeps everything so positive. She’s always been the loving one holding the family together.”
For those who can't make the event, there is also a GoFundMe page for anyone who wishes to donate at gofundme.com/gg-the-warrior.
GG the Warrior Festival, noon Sunday, Royal Palace Venue, 6720 District Blvd. $10, $5 for kids under 18 purchased in advance at Corner-Shop Collectables, Bakersfield Sound Co., A Sign Factory & Wrap Shop, Meraki Room Salon Bakersfield, Carniceria El Amigazo, Shake ‘N Buns or Guapo's Tacos; at the door: $12, $7 for kids under 18; raffle tickets can be purchased at Meraki Room Salon Bakersfield, for $3 or 10 for $20.
Somehow Bakersfield became the intersection of some fantastic events this Mother’s Day weekend. It has to be some sort of cosmic anomaly, how else can one explain how the Lightning in a Bottle festival, Haggard Boxcar Music Festival, Big House playing the Fox, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus at 1933 Event Center and more all happening within a day of each other and only a reasonable ride-share trip away?
Even though the Big House concert this Saturday will undoubtedly get the most attention, frontman Monty Byrom and his drummer brother, Tanner, will play the 47th annual CSUB Spring BBQ at the Icardo Center Thursday with their other band, the Byrom Brothers. Consider this show a warmup for the two, who indulge their inner soul power a bit groovier with this band than they do with the House. Both bands are solid and both shows will be a blast. Thursday’s show, however, will include additional music from the Tex Pistols and a steak or chicken dinner with the $30 advance ticket ($35 at the gate) that helps fund scholarships.
It’s also a solid option for an early gift for Mom. Why not? The least you can do for the woman who fed you most of your life to a nice dinner with a funky soundtrack. And a big salute to all the moms out there who long-suffered their musician children, like my wonderful mama, Amiriam Garasa, who used to drive me to shows before I was 18 and stay outside, asleep in the car, waiting for me to finish my gig. Thank you.
47th annual CSUB Spring BBQ, 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Cal State Bakersfield, Icardo Center, 9001 Stockdale Highway. $30 advance, $35 at the door. 654-3472; gorunners.com.