OC's Country Musicians Are Sick of Being Ignored

Categories: Locals Only

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Jen Fedrizzi
Daniel Bonte
Igniting a music movement in Orange County is no easy feat, but according to frontman Daniel Bonte of Daniel Bonte and The Bona Fide, a movement is exactly what local country music needs. The Indiana-bred singer set to work finding a venue that would serve as a hub for Southern California country artists, and found a home in the stomping grounds of Cal State Fullerton. The singer snagged a Friday night slot at Big's Bar & Grill for his "California Country" series in hopes of exposing a country music scene.

When Bonte approached various Orange County club owners with the idea of billing original country music, he was met with opposition. Venues were communicating heavy interest in cover songs, but little attention was given to new material. Bonte says that in some cases, venue operators wanted complete control of set lists. "I don't mind playing other people's music every once in awhile, as long as we do it our way," Bonte says. "But I'm not gonna have anybody tell me what I can and can't play. That's bullshit and I'm not gonna do it."


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Rules of Attraction Aren't Afraid to Get Ugly

Categories: Locals Only

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Courtesy of Alex Vincent
A rattle comes from the glass back door of TK Burger in Costa Mesa. Outside, a few cute teenage girls in short shorts and snug tank tops pull on the handle and stare inside like lost puppy dogs. During the lunch rush, they're the third or fourth group to try to get in through the locked door; on the other side of the restaurant, the front door is wide open. All the unfortunate schlubs who tried the handle before them got cold shoulders and smirks from patrons inside. But not these ladies. Within a few seconds, some tan surfer dude wearing flip-flops and a toothy grin trots over and opens it for them.

Alex Vincent observes the scene from a nearby booth. Watching this cliché act of chivalry between chomps of a juicy cheeseburger, he sighs a little and shakes his head, which is sporting a black-and-white admiral's cap with gold trim.

"You see that?" he asks under his breath, his eyes motioning toward the door. "There's a good example for you: No one ever ignores pretty girls."

It's that kind of double standard regarding society's obsession with beauty that stokes Vincent's ire. Combining hardcore aggression, orchestral layers, dark imagery and creepy surf tone guitar, his band, appropriately named Rules of Attraction, create a platypus of sounds that's unattractive on paper. Some of it sounds borrowed from his previous band, horror punk outfit Something Horrible (also featured in Locals Only).

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Let's Drive to Alaska Take Us on a Long, Strange Post-Rock Trip

Categories: Locals Only

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Courtesty of Let's drive to Alaska
Let's Drive to Alaska compose the type of music you might hear soundtracking an indie documentary. It's well-suited to stimulate the right brain into creative mode, and about as post-rock as it comes. In their most frenetic moments--on songs such as "Past Lives" and "Setjaski," for instance--Alaska share space with the Benevento-Russo Duo. Mellower moments find them on Notwist's turf, with arpeggiated analog synth fluttering against syncopated snare rudiments, as heard on "Lower Moon."

The man behind these sounds is Chris Garcia, a 26-year-old, Whittier-bred artist who composes and records the tunes mostly by himself, save the drumming, which is provided by Fullerton's Patrick Haag (also of Mississippi Man), with whom Garcia has worked for about five years. The band have taken on several manifestations; up until the earlier part of this year, they were a quartet, with Chris Holguin of Mount Messiah playing gadget table and Marisa Kirtland adding violin and cello.

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The Simpkin Project Prove Their Staying Power in the OC Reggae Scene

Categories: Locals Only

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Josue Rivas
By: David Garcia

It's easy to be desensitized to SoCal reggae these days. But there's no substitute for staying power when you see a local band such as the Simpkin Project, whose commitment to the genre is more than a decade long and goes much deeper than a love of Sublime and Sour Diesel.

Long before the recent reggae explosion in Southern California, Phil Simpkin spent his high school days playing in the band Big Cat. At the time, Simpkin had been quietly working on his own music and shared his experimentations with longtime schoolmate, Shawn Taylor. The result was the birth of the Simpkin Project in 2003. The original recordings for what would become the band's first album, Walk On Tall, were mixed and mastered in Taylor's Huntington Beach home studio--with no intention of releasing it to the public.

"It was an experiment, if you will," says organist/keyboardist Taylor, "a recording experiment burned onto blank CDs and given to people in our immediate circles that quickly became a cult favorite among friends."

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Exmortus Specialize in Shock and Awe

Categories: Locals Only

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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

Categories: Locals Only

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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

Categories: Locals Only

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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

Categories: Locals Only

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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

Categories: Locals Only

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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

Categories: Locals Only

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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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