What's New in Local Music
March 7, 2012 1:10 p.m.
Peter Holslin is music editor for San Diego CityBeat.
Quan Vu writes about hip-hop and founded the blog SDRaps.com.
Related Story: What's New In Local Music
CAVANAUGH: In is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. If you're the kind of person who feels there's so much music but so little time, you'll be relieved to learn that the San Diego City beat music issue is out today. The self-admitted music geeks of CityBeat wade through the overflow of local music to come up with the best, more interesting groups playing San Diego today. I'd like to introduce my guest, Peter Holslin is the music editor of San Diego City beat. Good to see you.
HOLSLIN: Good to see you too, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Quon Vu writes about hip hop, and founded the blog, sdraps.com.
VU: Nice to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Why do you do a local music issue each year?
HOLSLIN: The thing that's really interesting about the music scene in San Diego, we've always had a thriving scene, but I think in recent years, it's just become much bigger and much better, and there's a lot more venues to play, and there's a lot more bands that are getting a lot more buzz, and artists that are getting a lot more buzz. And so this is kind of our opportunity to championship the local acts that -- not necessarily, you know, the ones that are always getting written about in CityBeat, but the ones who are, you know, on the up and coming, and the ones who don't necessarily get as much attention. But we also pay tribute to the ones that are blowing up too.
CAVANAUGH: One of highlights of the issue is the great demo review. Tell us about it.
HOLSLIN: Well, every year since 2004, we've put out a call, a countywide call for music, and just told musicians to send in what they have, and then basically our esteemed team of music nerds reviews everything.
CAVANAUGH: Everything! So how many submissions do you get?
HOLSLIN: This year, 173 submissions, and that includes just completely random demos from people we've never heard of before, and albums that are kind of more established local bands, just a wide array of stuff. We got two cassette tapes. Of
CAVANAUGH: Oh, wow!
HOLSLIN: Which is --
CAVANAUGH: I didn't send them in, I promise.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Let's get to the music. One local artist you're fond of is mystery cave. What's his story?
HOLSLIN: Well, mystery cave is the solo project of John Christopher Harris II. He's a local electronic music artist, a beat-maker, and his music reminds me of flying lotus and Teebs, it's kind of in the vain of instrumental hip hop, but it's also really sureal and really weird. And it kind of plays by its own rules. It's challenging but it's also very rewarding and quite beautiful.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear a little bit from mystery cave, a song called crane jam.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: What's his full name again?
HOLSLIN: John Christopher Harris II.
CAVANAUGH: I love it. Quan, you wrote about local hip hop for CityBeat and have a blog called SDraps.com. Tell us about San Diego's hip hop scene today. Is it thriving?
VU: To tell you the truth, I couldn't actually say it's thriving. So basically, there are, like -- probably 15, 20 really good artists. So there's a lot of talent in San Diego that you could legitimately just put on your iPod and go, oh, hey. But I'm not sure if the audience is quite there yet. One of the factors is that there might not be enough exposure for a lot of artists, and that's why I've been trying to cover them as much as I can, give them as much exposure and grow their audience however I can. Peter and I have made a concerted effort to do that.
CAVANAUGH: What would constitute a thriving hip sop scene? You say 15 artists that would really deserve to be listened to.
VU: Yeah, it's not just -- the talent needs to be there for sure.
VU: But if they don't have the outlets to display their talent, if there's not a huge audience for that talent, then I couldn't necessarily say it's thriving.
VU: So I go to shows, and they're like -- I was at this show at the tower bar last Friday, and there's this great group, they have an excellent live show, but there were -- maybe, like, a classroom of people in there. It's a small venue, but I believe someone like that deserves to be heard by a lot more people.
CAVANAUGH: What can you do as music editor of CityBeat to try to grow an audience for a group like that?
HOLSLIN: Well, when I started being the music editor, I really made a concerted effort to cover the hip hop scene more. And that's one of the reasons why I've been working with Quan and having him write a lot. And I think one of the challenges from what I see is that there aren't -- there isn't necessarily a unifying venue for the hip hop scene like there is for the indie rock scene. People have the Casbah that you can go, oh, the Casbah everybody knows the Casbah you can -- national touring bands always come through the Casbah and it's a place where you know you can see a good indie rock band on a Friday night. And I don't know if there's necessarily, like, a venue like that for the hip hop scene where it's, like, oh, San Diego hip hop! You need to go here, this is where it's happening. And I think that's kind of one of the challenges.
VU: Probably in the last or see, I think the venues have been starting to develop. We were just talking about cava lounge, which is a great space for artists like mystery cave, but a lot of the instrumental hip hop artists, and then UCSD's side's port are's pub is putting on a lot of great shows. It has probably the best of the local acts as well.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear one of the local acts. Parker and number man. Here's octagon chakra.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: That's fun!
HOLSLIN: Yeah, that's a good one.
CAVANAUGH: Parker and number man are going to be playing the Casbah night though as part of the CityBeat local issue party. What are they like live?
HOLSLIN: They're so down to earth and they're so, like, real and honest. And I just really like how when they go on stage, they just kind of go off. And I think Quan would agree too, they're just -- they just kind of go for broke when they play. And they have really good chemistry, and their DJ is calls, he's a really solid DJ.
CAVANAUGH: I want to talk about an artist that you wrote a feature about, Quan. A local rapper, like a grandfather of local rap, Orco Elohim.
VU: He's one of the first artists to emerge from San Diego back into the early 90s. He's so prolific, he's had, like, 16 solo albums plus all these collaborative albums. He found the and hosted this really influential legendary open mic night called the Improv that basically birthed the early careers of some of the best hip hop artists here, including Joas from Deep Rooted, Ganga Sufi, who's kind of huge nationally. He's been very influential in the scene.
CAVANAUGH: So you're not just showcasing new acts. It's people that are, like, essential to the San Diego music scene?
HOLSLIN: For sure. Of it's definitely a mix of people you've never heard before, people we've never heard before, and then also people who are just, you know, all established and have been around, and people who are about to blowup. It's a pretty broad range, I would say.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear a track by Orco Elohim, called kill your present future.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: Peter, let's talk just a minute or two about the cover art.
CAVANAUGH: It's designed by an artist called -- well, his artist's name is dusty dirt weed.
HOLSLIN: Dusty dirt weed is AKA Dustin Peterman, and he has been getting really good locally. He makes a lot of band posters and album art. And he just has this very distinct style that mixes DIY punk esthetics with, like, retro, hand-drawn graphic design. So everything is hand-drawn and hand-crafted, but there's also this, like, grimy, gritty punk element. And it's -- the thing I really like about it is, it's kind of subversive, and almost a little sinister.
CAVANAUGH: You look at it first, and it looks like some sort ever almost antique-y kind of hand-written bill for a music act. Then you read it, and it's whoa! What's going on here?
HOLSLIN: Yeah, yeah. And there's, like, he has intentional mistakes on the posters, and sometimes he'll use these dizzying patterns and these gnarly illustrations. And so it's kind of challenging you statement as asking to you go to the show.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Tell us about the release party tomorrow for CityBeat's music issue. We know it's going to be in the Casbah, and we know parker and the number man are playing. Anybody else?
HOLSLIN: Yeah, lo volts is playing, and I wrote about him in this week's issue. He's a 1-man band, 1-man wrecking crew, blues rock, pretty gnarly dude. And then mystery cave is also going to play. And then some people who we didn't write about in the local music issue who are also good local bands
CAVANAUGH: Why didn't you do that on Friday night?
HOLSLIN: I don't know!
[ LAUGHTER ]
HOLSLIN: I didn't book the show.
CAVANAUGH: I want to tell everyone the San Diego City beat local music issue is out on news stands and online today. Again that local music issue party happening tomorrow night at the Casbah on Ketner boulevard. Thank you both so much.
VU: Thanks for having us.
HOLSLIN: Thank you!