Exmortus Specialize in Shock and Awe

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Karina Diane
Becoming a beastly metal guitar player takes years of dedicated, callus-forming practice. But if you're Jadran "Conan" Gonzalez from Exmortus, it takes just one freak childhood accident.

Drummer Mario Moreno recalls the dangerous prank he played on Gonzalez. When he was 5, Moreno convinced his cousin to stick a bobby pin in an electrical outlet, which shocked his hands. "His fingers went black," Moreno says. "I like to say that's why he shreds--because the electricity still flows through him. Every time he plugs in, he's charged."

Together with guitarist David Rivera and bassist Aldo Bibiano, Gonzalez and Moreno blend thrash riffs, fretboard-searing solos and neo-classical technique. Having played local shows at every available opportunity, Exmortus built a steady following over the past decade. Last year, they were signed to LA label Prosthetic Records, and in February, they released the stellar album Slave to the Sword. Tours through North America followed, supporting such metal heavyweights as Dark Tranquillity and Destruction. Exmortus will take the stage at Malone's Bar and Grill on Friday before embarking on a nationwide run with Virginia band Arsis (they'll perform at OC Music Hall on Sept. 20).

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Local B-boy Rion Competes For Red Bull World Domination

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Courtest Cashmere Agency
There have been times when professional breakdancer Ryan Nebreja thought he would literally break. Known professionally as Rion, Nebreja has had to balance a lot more than his body weight while trying to pull off a head spin on a piece of cardboard. School, work, sleep and a strict diet are all trappings of being a 25-year-old athlete. But when you add pressure from family to find a "real" career, plus a sprained ankle here and a strained oblique there, things can quickly get a little more complicated.

"I wouldn't consider [the stress] a burden," Nebreja says. He pauses to smirk, then corrects himself: "Yeah, I guess it's a burden."

Recently, the Orange resident won Red Bull's West Coast Regional finals in Seattle, which advanced him to the Red Bull BC One breakdancing championship in Las Vegas this weekend. A win at this North American competition would mean the chance for the Cal State Fullerton graduate to compete in the world finals in Paris this fall.


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Dano Forte's Bluesy, One-Man Freak Show

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Taylor Hamby
Costa Mesa's Dano Forte has found his musical niche. Being a one-man band who serves up rompin', stompin' roadhouse blues affords him opportunities that your traditional four-piece might not get.

"You never know where they're gonna put me," Forte says. "It's great to be able to set up anywhere and go. [There were] shows at the Detroit Bar [at which] I'd sit out in the smoking area, and it was just packed out there. People would be out there dancing. It was great--a show inside the show."

He may be out on a smoking patio instead of onstage, at the risk of spilled beers and smashed gear from the crowd, but his show is hardly an afterthought. Instead, he's the glue that holds the night together, entertaining the crowds as bands set up inside.


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Pecks Goes From Graffiti Emcee to A City Kid

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Nick Nuk'em
"I just wanna be painting and making music till I'm dead," Pecks says, stoked, as he walks away from the tagged canvas that had been replastered many times over. A summer breeze swirls through the Anaheim alley where the 19-year-old and his OG homie Kenos are making calculated strokes. A light, pink dust drifts through the 80-degree air, producing a synthetic odor that hits your nose every few moments.

But the board would undergo yet another revamping on this Tuesday. Before pulling out the wooden canvas from the garage (he calls it a "G") of another of his homies and putting his "baby Rustos" (cans of Rustoleum-brand spray paint) to work, Pecks and Kenos stroll to Remy's Liquor for a few 32-ounce Miller High Lifes and a pair of Swishers in a slim foil pack.
Pecks has recently become weary of frequently tagging in public. "I be gettin' up, but I don't wanna mess up what I got going right now," he says wearily.


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Pastel's Style of R&B Makes Him a One Man Scene

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Courtesy of Pastel
Gabe Brenner is fifteen minutes late to lunch and thirty years late to the music scene. This is not to say his ethereal take on smooth R&B is 80's rehash -- rather that we could've used him back then. He might have rescued the sax from Careless Whisper era George Michael. No matter. He's here now and he's quickly making up for lost time.

Very quickly, in fact. He uploaded his first batch of songs under the name Pastel a little over a year ago, just as he graduated from the Orange County School of the Arts. One of these songs, the deliriously minimal "Ode to a Toughened Woman" almost instantly caught the attention of music blog Crack in the Road. "It was just a birthday present for my mom. I honestly didn't think much would come of it," Gabe explains.

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Bedroom Jamming With Bent Jetty

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A few bedroom jam sessions, late-night drunken guitar strumming and hourlong GarageBand recording sessions between bong rips: What started as hazy hangouts while guitarists Wyatt Strassner and Matt Wiste and vocalist Greg Gamarra were students at Tesoro High School and continued during their college days in San Diego eventually formed into the wave of folk, pop, funk, indie and rock that are Bent Jetty in 2012. The juxtaposition of the band's limitless structural sound coincides with the idea of warped wooden beach-pier planks, or jetties, that influences the group's name.

"We wanted a name and sound that evoked imagination and provided a wide range of times to listen to our songs," Strassner says. "Our folk songs are perfect for a sunny afternoon chilling in your back yard or out in nature; our rock songs will get you amped up when you're driving, and some are random stories we created out of the ether of our consciousness."


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Karaoke Training With Mr. Mister Miyagi

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There's no pretension in the very existence of Mr. Mister Miyagi, a live '80s karaoke band that has been a mainstay at Alex's Bar in Long Beach for more than a decade. Jesse Wilder, the founder, guitar player and agent for the group, calls it as it is: "With Mr. Mister Miyagi, you get to be the lead singer of a real five-piece band that plays one-hit wonders from an era we're so fond of waxing nostalgic over. . . . You are Siouxie; we are the Banshees. You are Adam; we are the Ants. You are Madonna; we will touch you for the very first time."

The band's name--a portmanteau of the "Kyrie" hit-maker and the character from Karate Kid--is an obvious hat tip if you're older than 30. "We almost called ourselves the Xanadudes," Wilder says. "We also considered Boy George Michael Jackson Browne."

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Wake the Flok Up: OC's Newest Rogue Hip-Hop Radio Show

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Courtesy of Wake the Flock Up
On the back patio of Anaheim's Revolution Studios, the crew of the hip-hop podcast Wake the Flok Up eagerly awaits the arrival of Medusa. Landing the Gangsta Goddess of West Coast rap herself is a pretty major get for a show that's just starting to make noise. Guided by Koncept, the show's host, Wake the Flok Up is banking that long-form interviews with underground legends and local rappers will help put Orange County on the map for the genre.

Koncept (born George Martinez) enthusiastically explains the mission of Wake the Flok Up as producer Fluent Rhythm works to transform the recording booth of the show's new home into something ready to receive the evening's special guest. "We started the podcast out of Fluent Rhythm's garage," he says. "There was one condenser mic in the middle, and I would interview the artists I knew."

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DMF Are the OC Punk Version of 2 Live Crew

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In the 16 years that Johnny Rage has fronted the thrash-punk outfit DMF (which stands for, you guessed it, Dirty Motherfucker) he's never felt more competent than he does with this group of musicians he's playing with right now. But this isn't saying much.

Johnny formed DMF with the intent of being bad to the point of notoriety. "I had these horrible players with me," he recalls of the early days. "We would purposely try and drive people out of the clubs... but then people started to come just to see this band playing this outrageous shit that was offending everybody."

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GRN+ GLD Collective Keeps OC's Beat Scene on the Map

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Tristan Cruz
It's called the beat scene, and it's huge right now. Laptop music composed with software with names such as Logic, Reason and Ableton. It's not really EDM--it's too weird and undanceable. Think of it as rapless hip-hop, but more jazz in composition, more punk in ethos. It is the underground art-and-music movement that will define this generation. Up in LA, it's happening under the name Low End Theory, a weekly event that traces its roots back 10 years to a producer named Daddy Kev who has bred such artists as Nosaj Thing, Gaslamp Killer, Glitch Mob and Flying Lotus.

Here in Orange County, we have GRN+GLD Collective, a younger crop of beat producers making a similar push. Nine or 10 guys from all over OC--Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Diamond Bar--collaborating on tracks, mixing and mastering one another's EPs, pushing the envelope that's been licked, stamped and sealed by their LA counterparts, and adding some OC flavor by making it a little grimier, cruder, more garage-y.

See also: Examining Kalva Won's Bedroom Beats


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