Fiercely independent artists continued making strides in 2018, with a series of digital and vinyl singles, EPs, music videos and live shows, each produced with complete creative control.

No one embodied that free-wheeling creative spirit more than Bakersfield singer-songwriter Andres Aparicio with his album "Heroes, Villains, And All That Jazz."

Released in November, the album had garnered buzz since late last year thanks to the music video for “Self Aware,” which helped boost Aparicio’s presence in the indie music scene and on YouTube as a songwriter with a sly sense of humor. Longtime fans who had followed Aparicio since his early work with bands Terra Alive and Garage Island should have seen this coming and they probably did.

Opening with “Andrespacito” an erratic, melodic, rhythmic, fun kick in the butt, things only get better.

Followup track “Lucille 2” is a mix of rapid fire lyrics and vocals. He’s young, a little cocky, but with his skills, there’s no time to be shy: “So next time you mention Merle, Buck and Korn, don't forget Andres, baby!” he proclaims.

True.

Aparicio knows his pop and it shines. On “Spanish Mami” and “Self Aware (remix)”, his ability to jump through styles while staying in control keeps listeners entertained even as the mood flips to bittersweet reflection on “Boys in the Van” with references to Bakersfield.

"Heroes, Villains, And All That Jazz" is easily my favorite local release of the year. Bravo. Stream and download the album at andresmusica.bandcamp.com, and check out his videos at YouTube.

Honorable mentions: Ariel Dyer, Arlington, Dub Seeds, Fawns of Love, Liberty Roche, The Soul Chance, Truxton Mile, Eddie Brock and Celeigh Chapman. Find these artists online and listen.

Best live shows

I tend to scroll through websites like Pollstar.com daily almost as closely as my bank account and with good reason. We music fans hold out hope for those special shows to quench our thirst. And the winner this year is Jack White, who played the Rabobank Theater on Aug. 18.

Backed by a killer group of musicians that included drummer Carla Azar (Autolux) and keyboardist Neal Evans (Soulive), White spared no expense treating the audience to a set list filled with songs pulled from his collective songbooks: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and solo works, plus a shoutout to Buck Owens. To ensure that attendees would stay focused on the art at hand, phones were locked into secured pouches upon entry. It’s kind of sad that we’ve come to this point, but I had no complaints. The audience was appreciative, loud, and giddy. Hands down, the best show we’ve had in years. I was so proud. Come back soon, Jack.

In addition to White, Latin music legends Los Angeles Azules performed to a soldout house at the Fox Theater in February on way to the main stage at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival. This was another of those random, surprise bookings that  you may have missed it. With decades under their belt, the group ran through a strong list of cumbia rhythm favorites ranging from love songs to the hypnotizing dance hits for which they’re known.

On a much smaller, but equally vital level was punk rock legends T.S.O.L. at Jerry’s Pizza this spring. Kudos to promoter Patrick Spurlock (Phantom Stranger Inc.) for booking the group’s tour kick-off show on March 20. The show was all ages, and at a very affordable punk rock price, and even attracted members of fellow punk icons The Offspring into town and down to the sweaty mosh of Jerry’s basement. Oi.

Also, with the sudden close of B Ryder’s in September, Rosedale nightclub 1933 came to the rescue of Numbskull Shows which had to relocate several previously scheduled shows, including Cali reggae rockers The Expendables and more. Word on the street is the location of B Ryder’s will be re-opening under new ownership and a new name next year. We’ll keep you posted.

One final shoutout belongs to Pat Evans, owner of World Records, for living up to his promise of supporting live music. From blues to jazz and pop, Evans did an outstanding job of offering quality shows from a mix of legends and contemporary artists. I took a tour of the venue and was so impressed by the setup and acoustics, I picked up my Los Lobos concert tickets for next April. Right on.

Honorable mentions: Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, Mavis Staples at World Records and Queendom at Sandrini’s Public House.

Gregory Porter

Not only did Grammy-winning homeboy and all-around good guy Gregory Porter do two fundraising concerts this year — January at CSUB's Dore Theatre for Habitat for Humanity, and this month at the Fox for the Agapeland Christian Academy — he also popped up to enjoy events like Village Fest at the Kern County Museum and “Jazz On The 12th Floor” at the Petroleum Club, where he also jumped onstage to do an impromptu number. That’s cool that he can pack out the Royal Albert Hall in London for a three-night gig (which he did in April), then hang out at a beer fest in Bako. Cheers, Gregory.

Kern music education

Hats off to the Mariachi Mestizo and Kern County Music Educators Association for enhancing the state of music education in Kern County.

In April, the KCMEA Jazz Day at Bakersfield College was a huge success, with area schools rolling onto the campus for a full day of performances and music clinics under the direction of Kris Tiner, director of jazz studies at Bakersfield College, and other area educators, plus special guest clinicians.

If jazz music wasn’t keeping the attention of young musicians, organizations like Mariachi Mestizo in Delano are a shining example of how to nurture talent away from their phones and video games. This year the group raised enough funds for a trip to Washington, D.C., where the musicians received a personal invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center in June. This was the group’s second long-distance trip; last year, it performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Where will they go next?

Enough reminiscing. This was a pretty good year. Let’s make next year bigger, better, stronger and always louder. We can do it, Bakersfield.

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