It’s time to say adios to another year in the Bakersfield music scene, but not before we take a quick look back at some major happenings of note.
Warning: Before you start doing a speed-reading eye scroll looking for buzzwords or your band’s name, stop now. There will be no ‘Best of…’ awards given. Those type of things are best left for retirement, and that’s no fun, especially if you’re a member of Hate Drugs and Los Devitos two of a small cadre of local bands setting DIY examples for the rest of the scene on how to get things done.
I’m not playing favorites, but it’s tough not to get that "hell yeah!" feeling when crossing paths with these particular groups. It’s an occurrence that happens mostly on the Web, rarely in person, but always within range of my online surfing senses. I guess that makes me a fan? Of course it does.
Let’s start with indie dream pop quintet Hate Drugs. The band released the video short produced for the song “She Called” with local filmmaker Keaton Punch in March and never stopped working. From all-new original music written and recorded for direct release to loyal fans via their website hatedrugsmusic.com, to live shows, more cool music videos, band merch, and regular fan outreach, Hate Drugs deserves a look and listen. The band’s latest single “Chinatown” and its accompanying music short, once again written and directed by Punch, can be found at YouTube.
Onto psychedelic garage surf combo Los Devitos, which hit another creative stride, and new levels of fun, with a seven-song collection titled “Selfish Lover.” If you follow their antics online — from the band’s online jump page losdevitos.net — you already know what I’m talking about. Posting homemade digital shorts, some of them in bizarre, cryptic form only loyal fans can decipher, they also perform regularly to some of the wildest local crowds around. No dates available on the local club’s booking calendar? No worries. Rather than wait for an opening, Los Devitos will book their own multi-band show at any available backyard or living room power outlet with a traveling cavalcade of homies along for the ride. A guaranteed DIY good time wherever they land. Be on the lookout for Bitter Glitter, the all-girl side project featuring Los Devitos bassist Jaqs Clark.
Going Underground Records
Over at Going Underground Records in downtown, local music fans were able to pick up not one but three new exclusive vinyl releases this year.
On the punk side, Peluqueria Canina’s “Jovenes Promesas” (Spain) and Generacion Suicida “Sombras” (Los Angeles) kept the punk rock sound of youth rebellion alive and stomping; both were released on the Going Underground Records imprint. On the classic reggae tip, Bakersfield’s The Capsouls released a soulful and groovin’ double A-sided, 7-inch single featuring the songs “Your Sweet Inspiration” with lead vocals by Bako’s own Jane Guerrero and “What You Wanted” by Jesse Ward.
Still one of only two fully independent record/music stores in town catering to the needs of the seriously rabid music fan, buyer and collector, Going Underground Records merits a weekly (or daily) browsing visit. Go in person — 1312 19th St. — or online at goingundergroundrecords.net. You can also call: 633-0111.
Getting interview subjects to open up about something other than their latest promotion isn’t always easy, but thankfully it was one of the best years for introductions and getting reacquainted with some favorites.
Leading the pack was Bakersfield artist Omar Juarez, who had a big score after getting handpicked by Black Keys’ vocalist Dan Auerbach to produce the art and look for his side project, The Arcs. In addition to designing the group’s logo, Juarez, who produces his works under the name El Oms, also provided art for the group’s animated music short “Put a Flower in Your Pocket,” which can be seen on YouTube. Mixing Chicano barrio art with classic horror monsters, the look is unique, hip, and obviously too good for Auerbach to ignore after the singer discovered Juarez’s work on Instagram. You can keep up with Juarez, and maybe add some of your own original El Oms pieces to your collection by visiting elomsart.com.
Not as upbeat but eye-opening nonetheless was getting insight about the slump in downtown nightlife that seemed to leave regulars scratching their heads this year. I explored the topic in August, when, granted, temperatures are very inhospitable, but downtown traffic remains slow at year’s end. Some blame the economy, the oil industry, while others point to nightlife options expanding to other growing areas such as Rosedale, where mega-club 1933 opened its doors this year. Whatever it is, downtown bands, artists, promoters and venues have their work cut out for them to bring crowds back, as the nightlife forecast for next year looks like more of the same.
Speaking with Angela Boatwright, director of “Los Punks: We Are All We Have,” the critically acclaimed punk rock documentary, was another highlight and a feature that a lot of young Bakersfield readers identified with as fans and supporters of the local underground punk rock scene. I even received a personal message from Ray Flores, bassist for the band Pleasure Wound, who appears performing in nothing but his birthday suit and a strip of photo tape in the film. Originally from Bakersfield, Flores now lives and works in LA. Check out the film on Netflix or visit lospunksfilm.com.
That’s all for now; see you in 2017.