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Weekend Preview: Music And Bartender Portraits

The preparations at Block No. 16.
Block No. 16
The preparations at Block No. 16.
Weekend Preview: Music And Bartender Portraits
GUESTS: Seth Combs, freelance arts writer Maya Kroth, editor of "Where San Diego" and "Performances Magazine"

CAVANAUGH: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Alison St. John. Here we are, it's Thursday, and time for weekend preview! To tell us what are some of the coolest things going on in it town this fine summer weekend, we have Seth Coombs, who is a free-lance writer here in San Diego. Thanks for coming in. COOMBS: Thanks for having me. CAVANAUGH: And Maya Kroth, who is the editor of where San Diego, and performances magazine. KROTH: Hi, Alison. CAVANAUGH: So we say it all is presenting open road at the whistle stop tonight. What's -- what is this performance event? My Ais it you that knows more about this one? COOMBS: I think we both know. KROTH: We run in the same circles, so we probably have a lot of opinions on some of the same stuff. So say we all is the organization that's putting this on, and open road is the theme of this month's vamp showcase, that's what they call this series. It happens on the last Thursday of the month, and they get a lineup of really great writers and story tellers to present essays written around a given theme. And it's different every month. Past ones have been about anything from altered states of consciousness to money matters, and this one is all about travel. So a nod to jack Kerouac and the open road. So there's going to be all travel related stories. That's going to be about seven presents, Peter Holslin is going to be reading a semiautobiographical story of unrequited love in war-torn northern Uganda, which I had no idea he had ever been there. Another tale explores how the author wound up in a New Orleans prison. And a third story about someone who travelled from LA to San Diego on foot. CAVANAUGH: On foot, okay. The mind boggles! That sounds great. This is a neighborhood bar, right? What kind of event? Is this typical of the events they put on? KROTH: Well, they do the vamp showcase once a month on the last Thursday, but yeah, they have been known for doing unusual things that you wouldn't expect to find in a bar, line movie screenings and game nights and things like that. This is their performance. CAVANAUGH: Seth, what's your take on the whistle stop? COOMBS: Oh, it's definitely my favorite bar in San Diego. CAVANAUGH: Your favorite! COOMBS: Yeah, it's right up the street from my house, so I haven't gone in there as much as I would like recently because I went through a breakup, and she sort of inherited it. CAVANAUGH: Oh, dear! Do you think you might make one exception and go back to this one? COOMBS: Yeah, I definitely -- KROTH: You better renegotiate those terms. You can't lose the whistle stop! CAVANAUGH: Jack kerback, that story is just so epic. That is so say we all, and they're presenting open road tonight at 8:30 at the whistle stop. Seth, this is neat at bar studio and gallery on Friday night. What is Neat? COOMBS: It's a new art show at the boss studio and gallery in Barrio Logan that will feature Mike Bashar and his new series of portraits of San Diego bartenders. I feel like we're on a topic now. It started when he asked a bartender if he could do his portrait, and that bartender recommended a few more, and now there's 18 of them. CAVANAUGH: So are these bartenders becoming like celebrities? COOMBS: It's hard to say, really. I only speak for myself in that I've always related to that line in Casablanca, when the Nazis is asking bogey what his egnist is, and he says oh, I'm a drunkard. [ LAUGHTER ] COOMBS: So I recognize a lot of them, and I don't know what that says about me so much. But if people go to this art show, they will recognize at least one of them. CAVANAUGH: Do you think it'll bring a different kind of crowd then? COOMBS: Yeah, it's not too far from downtown, and it's more of like a studio gallery for this gentleman. And it should bring out an interesting crowd. I was looking at the RSVP list, and it was a lot of names that I don't usually see. It was more downtown party people. CAVANAUGH: You can see who's going to go ahead of time? That's neat. COOMBS: Yeah, that's the cool thing about social media. CAVANAUGH: And you can see that from the studio website? COOMBS: Yeah, you can find it on Facebook or go on his website, or on the gallery's website as well. CAVANAUGH: This is about bartending. Who is providing the beverage support, shall we say? [ LAUGHTER ] COOMBS: Tin can ale house will be providing beverages. I would hope they'd have some crafty cocktails on hand. CAVANAUGH: All right. So that's Neat which opens at the Bosch studio in gallery Logan tomorrow at 7:00. Now, block No. 16, which I've never heard of before, is having this -- they're calling it a soft opening tomorrow night downtown. What is this? KROTH: You've never heard of it before because it's brand-new! And speaking of the downtown party people, this is going to be on their radar for sure. It's the new nightlife venue in the east village by the ball park. And as long as I've lived in San Diego, the cully warehouse has always been this great party space that everybody seems to be waiting for it to become something. And it's been a private event space. But it's a great place to have a party if you've ever had a chance to attend an event there. Of it's this really raw warehouse kind of vibe with open beamed ceilings and concrete everywhere. CAVANAUGH: How are the acoustics? KROTH: Well, now they're good because they just revamped it all, and they're opening this Block No. 16 is like a bar, club, they're going to have occasional live music, and DJs, and just kind of trying to put a little bit of a more up-to-date spin on the downtown nightlife scene. COOMBS: It's a huge space. KROTH: Enormous 789 CAVANAUGH: I saw 20,000 square feet on their website. Have you had a chance to see anything about the vibe? KROTH: I think they really wanted to keep the warehouse feel to the place. So they have a lot of really industrial looking accents. And they've installed some staircases and cat walks that make you feel like you're in a nightclub. And they've installed this 35 by 25-foot LED wall screen that they're arguing is larger than the jumbotron at Petco Park. CAVANAUGH: Whoa! So this is not the real opening. This is a soft opening. What can people expect? KROTH: Exactly. That's not going to be the big flashy thing with performers and drink specials. They're just getting their feet wet. The ununveiling is happening on July 20th. But if you like to get there, you're going to want to go this weekend. CAVANAUGH: 344 Seventh Avenue in downtown San Diego. So right down there where it's all happening. Next we have and so I watch you from Afar. And vix marquiz? Is that how you pronounce this? COOMBS: Good job. Yeah, they are -- this is going to be a Prague math rock explosion at the Casbah on Sunday full of guitar 92edling, and crazy drum jamming that's going to be way better than the current season of true north. Oh, true blood! Why did I say true north? [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: The Casbah that's a very well established venue in San Diego. What about this show? Apparently you have a little brother to thank about your excitement. COOMBS: Yeah, are they kind of slipped under my radar, which is rare because I know everything about music, obviously. [ LAUGHTER ] COOMBS: It was surprising since most of the bands are brothers themselves of Omar Rodriguez Lopez who is most famous are being the guitarist in Mars volta and at the drive in. Some of the siblings are -- they all play in Mars volta as well, but hike I said, I love these bands, and they have a very similar style of playing. Some would say they're even more aggressive. But I'm just surprised a little brother to say, have you ever heard of these guys? CAVANAUGH: So are there other brothers in this band? COOMBS: Oh, yes, three brothers in this band, and they are the brothers of this other gentleman who plays in at the drive-in and Mars volta. CAVANAUGH: Is can you describe the music? COOMBS: Yeah, it's like I said a Praguey math rock for people who don't know that thing, like I guess some of the forbearers would be king crimson, Rush, those kind of bands, and it's a lot -- it can almost sound jazzy and improvised at times, but more often than not it's meticulously crafted and heavy on guitar solos, or what seem to be solos but they're not really. They're very, very -- they almost sound the same every time they play them. It's going to be a very interesting show, and I think anybody who appreciates guitar and drumming will be able to come in and enjoy it want CAVANAUGH: Okay, and the other one is so I watch you from Afar, which is a band from Belfast, what kind of music? COOMBS: They're very similar. It's mostly instrumental, people who are into bands like tortoise and Mogwai would be into this band, and I can't emphasize enough that when they're playing, they're playing. There's going to be a lot of sweat, and a lot of people rocking out and -- very high-energy. CAVANAUGH: Sort of the thing you might go to, Maya? KROTH: I don't know, I can't really get into that style. I might go see the brothers band though. It's tripe to see a band where siblings are in it, because they seem to be like they're tuned into a whole different frequency. It's like genetically, they're in synch. COOMBS: There's going to be a lot of guitar geeks at this show. A lot of guys that you recognize from guitar center. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Good, that summed it up for us. So I watch you from ah, far, and again the name of the other band? COOMBS: Zechs Marquise. CAVANAUGH: Okay. That's on Sunday night. Apparently we have a couple of release parties? Are these local bands? Go ahead and tell us. KROTH: A lot of amazing music coming out this summer from local bands. It's making me proud of our San Diego scene. On Saturday at the Casbah it's kind of a duel-CD release party for the Nervous Wreckords, which is just a band name that I love. And Maren Parusel? Am I saying that right? COOMBS: Yeah. KROTH: I love them both. So the Nervous Wreckords is putting out their second record, it's called let them all talk. This is a musician named Brian Karsig, who people might remember from bands like convey, Louis the 14th. And he has a pension for sounds from the 70s kind of glam rock era. So T-Rex, little whiffs of Prince and ACDC. So a retro-flavored pop. CAVANAUGH: And this is their first CD? KROTH: Their second. CAVANAUGH: Okay. And the second one, that's their first CD? KROTH: Do you know? COOMBS: This is I believe her second one. KROTH: It's so good! COOMBS: It is, it really is. It's a big leap for her. Her music is definitely more of a poppy variety, not like -- not like the nervous wreckards, in that they're more rock-based. She does rock out, but she's definitely much more in the pop-rock genre. KROTH: Her songs get stuck in your head, for sure. COOMBS: And she has a great voice. CAVANAUGH: I understand she used to be in a girl punk band. COOMBS: Yeah, yeah. She used to be in a mostly female punk band called wild weekend. The drummer was male. He was the outside man out. But I think merin had another sound in her head and wanted to explore that. And I guess she wanted to do something more mature, more adult, and I think more importantly, more accessible to a wider audience. Smile now, cry later, is having her debut record release. I say her because it's the name for a woman named Liz -- okay, I forgot her name. Liz Santos. And she has a very interesting story. She was an artist -- CAVANAUGH: Just a little time. COOMBS: Just an artist, a photographer, and she got into music because she's married to rafter Roberts who is a musician here in town, and she's having her release show, and you should go because it's going to be a huge dance party at the whistle stop. CAVANAUGH: Great. Thanks so much. COOMBS: Thank you.

This weekend there's lots of music to choose from plus an art exhibit featuring portraits of local bartenders. Neat.

First up is something from the ever-busy So Say We All: "VAMP: The Open Road" tonight at 8:30pm at the Whistle Stop. San Diego's best and brightest writers read stories centering around the loose theme of the open road.

On Friday at 7:00pm at Bosh Studio and Gallery, you can get a different perspective on San Diego bartenders with "Neat," a new series of portraits of local bartenders by Michael Boshart. How many can you recognize? The subject matter may draw a different crowd to the Barrio Logan gallery to see an art show. Tin Can Ale House provides beverage support.

If you want a preview of what's to come at the new Block No. 16 venue, there's a soft opening this Friday so you can check out the space and see all the renovations that have been documented on their website.

The Casbah is a well-established venue with some exciting music this Sunday from And So I Watch You From Afar and Zechs Marquise. Seth Combs says, "I'm really excited about this show and I have my baby brother to thank. Zechs Marquis is particularly interesting. Fans of Mars Volta and At the Drive-In will want to check them out because most of the band is made up of the siblings of Drive-In/Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and in this case it seems talent runs in the family (they're also on his record label). And So I Watch You From Afar is from Belfast, Northern Island. Fans of King Crimson, Can and even Rush will want to check out this show."

And finally, let's check in on some local album release parties.

Smile Now Cry Later will make its debut at the Whistle Stop on Friday, and Nervous Wreckords/Maren Parusel will be at Casbah on Saturday. Combs wrote about Lizeth Santos and her music project Smile Now Cry Later early on and he says, "To watch her go from playing for three people to packing in dance-happy hipsters as well as middle-aged music lovers is really cool."

Nervous Wreckords is Brain Karcig's (music scene veteran, leader of Louis XIV and Convoy) new band while Maren Parusel used to play in the girl-punk band Wild Weekend, but left in order to pursue her own, more pop-friendly music in hopes that she might make it big.

So enjoy the weekend!