3rd Annual One Love Cali Reggae Fest

ONE LOVE REGGAE FEST 2018 Feb 10 & 11 Queen Mary

ONE LOVE REGGAE FEST 2018 Feb 10 & 11 Queen Mary

The 2018 One Love Cali Reggae Fest at the Queen Mary in Long Beach Feb. 10 and 11, will be featuring some of the biggest reggae acts in the world, including Grammy-nominated artist Matisyahu, Grammy-nominated artist Common Kings, Landon Mcnamara, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, and more!

– (Sunday 4:30pm)

Isle Empire/Mensch House Records is thrilled to announce that Common Kings has been nominated for their acclaimed debut album Lost In Paradise in the “Best Reggae Album” category at the 60th GRAMMYS®. The band continues to receive press accolades and win over fans nationwide with the San Antonio Current hailing “I can say confidently that Common Kings might be in my top five performances.”

– (Sunday 5:15pm)

Born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Landon’s cutting out his own path outside of surfing and cultivating his love of music: singing, songwriting and playing guitar. Landon’s music is inspired by reggae, alternative and acoustic music. In 2016, Landon teamed up with Sea Major Seven Studio & Producer Noah Cronin (Sammy J, The Late Ones and Hirie) on a debut album titled A Dollar Short & A Minute Late which reached #1 on the iTunes and Billboard Reggae Album charts. Landon is one that will always be making waves – in and out of the water.

MATISYAHU – (Saturday 2:30pm and Sunday 12:50pm)


MATISYAHU; photo Reuben Martinez

The GRAMMY-nominated, King without a Crown Matisyahu has announced his 2018 Forest of Faith Tour. Matisyahu has created his own space in reggae music, developing a loyal following that has driven singles such as “One Day” and “King Without a Crown” to international recognition. His newest album, Undercurrent, embodies a collaborative and freeform spirit as Matisyahu and his band seamlessly merge instrumental improvisation sessions with lyrics and vocals.

– (Sunday 8:00pm)

Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh met in childhood (in 1979) and later started their first garage punk band, consisting of drums, bass and vocals. They later formed Sublime with Bradley Nowell. The Long Beach Dub Allstars (LBDAS for short) were founded after Nowell died in 1996 of a heroin overdose (frequent contributors to Sublime including Michael “Miguel” Happoldt, Todd Forman, and “Field” Marshall Goodman are also members of the band).

Eric Wilson says, “We will never replace the greatness that Sublime did or what Bradley has done.” The band was originally a 10-piece and they recorded their debut recording called Right Back, which shortly after completion in 1999 saw the departure of three members. Their second album, Wonders of the World was recorded and released in 2001. It featured “Sunny Hours” featuring will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas. “Sunny Hours” was also used as the theme song for the Friends spin-off Joey.

– (Saturday 4:30pm)

Tomorrows Bad Seeds, “leaders of the new school” is a five piece American band from The South Bay of Los Angeles California, formed in 2004. Their Southern California influences helped yield their unparalleled sound; A perfect mix of reggae, rock & pop. From Hood B-Boy Street to Surf/Skate Beach Culture these boys emerged into a multi-cultural musical phenomenon with a cause. Meet The Seeds: Moises Juarez (lead-vocals), Sean Chapman(vocals/guitar), Matthew McEwan (vocals/guitar), Patrick Salmon (drums), and Andre Davis (bass).

Fu Manchu Kickoff World Tour


FU MANCHU play Troubadour Feb. 9 and The Casbah Feb. 10; photo James Christopher

Clone Of The Universe marks a new chapter for the “fuzz rock” pioneers as they mix the straight ahead blistering rock with unexpected time shifts, featuring tracks like the roaring cuts “Don’t Panic” and “(I’ve Been) Hexed” and the dynamically complex “Clone of the Universe” and “Slower Than Light.” The centerpiece of the album is “IL Mostro Atomico,” an 18 minute 8 second, side long epic featuring a special guest performance by Alex Lifeson, guitarist and songwriter of the legendary band RUSH. Heavier than anything they’ve ever done and broken into 4 distinct sections, it’s new ground for a band that’s been pushing the boundaries of “fuzz and wah” since its formation in 1990.

FU MANCHU; photo James Christopher

FU MANCHU; photo James Christopher

The album was recorded and produced by FU MANCHU and Jim Monroe at The Racket Room in Santa Ana, CA, as well as additional recording with Andrew Giacumakis at SUSSTUDIO in Simi Valley, CA, and will be released worldwide for streaming and on vinyl and CD on the band’s own AT THE DOJO label via Cargo Distribution. FU MANCHU is Scott Hill (vocals, guitar), Bob Balch (Guitars), Brad Davis (Bass) and Scott Reeder (Drums and Percussion).

FU MANCHU; photo James Christopher

FU MANCHU; photo James Christopher

Speaking with Billboard.com, founding guitarist Scott Hill says, “Our song ‘Clone Of The Universe’ was the last song written for the new record. We had about 13 songs ready to choose from, and about 3 weeks before we were to go into the studio we wrote that song.

“We record all of our songs on cassette 4-track and we had the first part of the song arranged/recorded but we still needed an ending to the song. On one of the final days of practice before going into the studio at the end of practice as we were packing up our gear, our drummer, Scott Reeder, was doing these fast drum beats/rolls and I thought it sounded great and as soon as I got home I still had his drumming in my head and I wrote the ending riffs to his drum beat.”

FU MANCHU will kick off their world tour in support of Clone of the Universe with two album release shows next month at Troubadour in Los Angeles Feb 9 and at The Casbah in San Diego Feb 10, which will be followed by a European and U.S. headline tour.

A Lot Can Happen In Twenty Years, Especially When It Comes To Music


THE CRYSTAL METHOD play The Glass House Feb. 2; photo James Christopher

Throughout the past two decades, the musical landscape has continually merged, morphed, and matrixed, fractured in countless directions while intersecting at the most unexpected points. Electronic music underwent a renaissance in the aughts, rising out of the warehouses and blank spaces and overtaking the biggest festival fields in the world. The Crystal Method followed a similar trajectory since their formation in 1993. The Grammy Award®-nominated, platinum-certified trailblazing duo—Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland—set the stage for the genre-mashing electronic sounds that fuel the current zeitgeist.

Now, their exclusive, limited edition 20th Anniversary Signature Box Set houses this sonic story. Including vinyl of their five full-length studio albums—Vegas [1997], Tweekend [2001], Legion of Boom [2004], Divided By Night [2009], and The Crystal Method [2014]—and an unreleased Rarities collection, it provides a comprehensive glance at their legacy thus far. Most importantly, the process nodded to the group’s diehard audience from the beginning.

“Our fans couldn’t get a lot of our old vinyl,” Jordan explains. “We would see copies of Vegas going for hundreds of dollars because they were out-of-print. In the last year, we thought, ‘Why don’t we do a complete box set of all our studio albums?’ Up until Tweekend, we did all of our mixes on digital audio tapes or DATs. We have a big collection of these that are numbered chronologically. While searching for the final “Rarities,” we combed through all of our old DATs. We had forgotten about so many cool tracks and alternate mixes, it was really cool to go back in time.”

“People kept asking us for that early vinyl,” adds Kirkland. “There’s something romantic about taking a record out of a sleeve, putting the needle down, walking away, and listening to an album. We love the process of writing an entire album. That’s something we want to preserve.”

The Crystal Method limited the box set to just 1,000 copies in order to provide an unrivaled experience for listeners. They remastered each album and printed on high quality vinyl. Vegas and Tweekend boast their iconic and original out-of-production cover design while the album art for Legion of Boom, Divided By Night, and The Crystal Method are limited editions exclusive to this box set. Each box is numbered and autographed and includes original tour stickers and laminated, autographed All Access passes from the Vegas tour.

“Anytime we did a new record, we didn’t want to repeat ourselves,” says Kirkland. “We wanted to shift things up a little bit. The goal was to sound like us but try different things. We weren’t afraid of working with people who were out of our comfort zone and in other genres. We loved the idea of evolving.”

That shared vision of evolution hatched in the most unlikely of places. Kirkland and Jordan had independently started making music on their own during the early nineties. However, a chance encounter in the break room of a supermarket where they both worked would set them on this course.

“I have no idea why, but Scott brought his drum machine to work,” laughs Jordan. “Who does that?”

“There was nothing else to do,” answers Kirkland. “Ken happened to walk into the room that day, and it was the strangest thing. Neither of us knew we were working on music. By chance, this fortuitous occasion changed everything.”

Ultimately, The Crystal Method stand as strong as ever after 20 years.

“Well, we like it when people get goosebumps listening to our records,” Jordan leaves off. “We try to make music that invokes not just feelings, but gives you a physical reaction. It’s like a good workout. It can be serious, and it can be uplifting. It’s the whole spectrum.”

“If our music helps listeners get through something, that’s the best thing,” concludes Kirkland. “Hopefully, this vinyl collection will bring some smiles, memories, and good times back to those who have found something in our music over the years.”

Catch The Crystal Method at The Glass House Feb. 2.

Banditos Visionland Visit SoCal


BANDITOS play Moroccan Lounge Jan. 31 and SPACE Feb. 1; photo Nicole Mago

Birmingham, AL-via-Nashville band Banditos recently released a new album Visionland and, in support, they’ll be playing Moroccan Lounge Jan. 31 and SPACE Feb. 1

After spending much of the last two years on the road, relentlessly showcasing their critically acclaimed 2015 self-titled debut album, the six bandmates of Banditos regrouped in late 2016 at Plum Creek Sound Studios and democratically poured out sonic influences and emotionally charged personal experiences for their new album Visionland.

Produced by Israel Nash and Ted Young, the Birmingham/Nashville-based group’s second full-length has one foot firmly planted in reality as the other tip-toes in and out of mental complexities, self-perception and altered-state illusions. The results are revealing, exhilarating and profound.

Banditos "Visionland" cover art

Banditos “Visionland” cover art

The album-titled track reveals these defining, cohesive thematic intricacies. Visionland is named after the defunct $60 million theme park that was built in the late ’90s near some of the band members’ childhood homes in Bessemer, Alabama. The park was shut down after only five years and the schizophrenic glimmer of hope it offered local residents connects to a greater overlying optimism for life present at the album’s core, an eerily relevant theme in contemporary complex times. Jeff Salter’s sweeping guitar strums swell at the song’s intro, lifting through the murky haze into the warm and sunny clarity of a duet between singer Mary Beth Richardson and singer/guitarist Corey Parsons.

The members of Banditos first met playing in various punk and rock ‘n’ roll projects around Birmingham at D.I.Y., all ages venues. In 2010, Parsons and Pierce began busking around town and were soon asked to perform at their favorite local bar. Without a full band, they invited friends Randy Wade (drums), Salter (guitar), and Richardson to join them. Danny Vines (bass) joined the band later.

Metal Allegiance 2018 Anaheim Assault

METAL ALLEGIANCE play HOB/Anaheim Jan. 25; photo Reuben Martinez

METAL ALLEGIANCE play HOB/Anaheim Jan. 25; photo Reuben Martinez

As NAMM 2018 approaches, the anticipated annual metal assault of Metal Allegiance is also returning to Anaheim, this time stopping at HOB Jan. 25.

The group has just revealed details for their upcoming concert which will include the introduction of Overkill’s Bobby Blitz and Armored Saint’s John Bush to their lineup.

The core four of David Ellefson, Alex Skolnick, Mark Menghi and Mike Portnoy have been working on their second full-length album and all four are expected to be part of the Anaheim show in January. Joining them, and the two newly announced guests, will Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda, Slayer and Exodus’ Gary Holt, Testament’s Chuck Billy and Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser will all be chipping in for the fun.

The night will also feature support from Nuclear Blast labelmates Wednesday 13 and the Musician’s Institute-formed band Superfix.

METAL ALLEGIANCE play HOB/Anaheim Jan. 25; photo Reuben Martinez

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

Mark Menghi comments, “SoCal should prepare for a full thrash assault. We’ve assembled a band that includes some of the Bay area’s finest mixed in with the East Coast thrash attack while adding a sprinkle of L.A. and a dose of Brazil. This show is going to be a no-frills, no-bull shit throw down. With all that’s going on in the world, down to our personal lives, a statement needs to be made and thrash is in all of our hearts, so no better place to do it than with our friends in Southern California.”

“We’ve been doing Metal Allegiance shows in Anaheim at the end of January almost every year and it is always THE metal event of the year,” adds Mike Portnoy. “Each year the show gets bigger and better and I look forward to another metal extravaganza in January!”

“The January gathering of Metal Allegiance friends in Anaheim has become an annual tradition, with each concert promising a special lineup and set list that’s different from before,” comments Alex Skolnick. “This time around, we have an abundance of fresh original material to add to the mix, as well as familiar classics, and it’s always a fun time. Join us if you can!”

John Bush says, “Real excited that I’m jamming with the Metal Allegiance guys for the upcoming show at the House Of Blues. I’m breaking my cherry! See you all there.”

David Ellefson states, “It’s time for our annual Metal summit in Anaheim. With new songs and album in the works we’re looking forward to bringing the tribe back together to celebrate all things Metal in January!”

“I always look forward to playing with all my brothers and sisters involved in Metal Allegiance. But! The show that I look forward to playing with them the most every year is The Metal Allegiance show in January in Anaheim! Always an amazing set! Always special guests! And always a guaranteed unforgettable night for everyone on stage, and in the crowd! Once again, I am honored, and excited to once again be a part of it!” comments Mark Osegueda.

“I’m very happy to jam with MA again in January 2018,” adds Andreas Kisser. “Always great vibes with amazing musicians and playing the music that inspired all of us to be metal warriors today! A lot of fun! Long Live Metal Allegiance!”

“We are really excited and looking forward to being a part of this year’s Metal Allegiance show in January 2018,” says Wednesday 13. “This will be such a different audience for us, and we are excited to be included alongside such legendary musicians. It’s gonna be a great show.”

Expect The Unexpected When Cold Showers Comes To Town


COLD SHOWERS play SPACE Jan. 18 and The Echo Jan. 19; photo Robbie Simon

Hailing from Highland Park in Los Angeles, Cold Showers has been bringing their singular vision to the world for the last seven years. And remain steadfastly dedicated to that, in both their live shows as well as studio productions.

One of the driving forces behind this is their dedication to perfection. In the words of guitarist Chris King, “I want people to know that when they come to see us, they’re going to see a band that’s…. prepared, for lack of a better word. We put a lot of thought into our live set; we have now like a mix of live instrumentation, and sequenced electronics, and layers of samples.

“I guess the one thing I want people to come away with when they come to a show, is they can hear that thought and detail was put into everything. We aren’t a band that likes to roll out of bed and see how it goes. My personal philosophy is if we don’t think we are about to have the best show we’ve ever had, then we should just stay home.”

It’s also impossible to know what you’re going to hear from them next.

“We are a little more raw live than on the record,” King points out. “We add tons of parts to the songs live that aren’t on the record. ‘Only Human’ has been one of our favorites to play; that’s one where we added stuff, there’s a lot more like noisier guitars and stuff that we do live that isn’t on the record.”

That unpredictability is due to how Cold Showers approaches studio as well as live settings. According to King, “When we write all of our records, ever since the beginning, it’s never been…we never think about how are we going to pull this off live. It’s always writing a record is one process, and let’s make this record as good as possible, no compromises for every single part. When we finish the record, it’s a whole new thing to start figuring out how we are going to do it live…’cause different things work better in the live setting.”

Even those backstage never know what might happen when the band is around. King details one particular reason for that, “I don’t know about the other guys, but I really like to get adrenaline and blood flowing; so I will try to find a spot backstage to shadowbox. It’s a full body exercise and it loosens me up. It looks crazy, I mean I’ve been walked in on. I feel like backstage it’s random people, and it’s definitely embarrassing when it happens, but then I don’t care.”

Yet, even though there is a heavy dose of experimentalism running through their sound, King adamantly cites pop music as being a huge influence on the group.

“Pop music, actually, is what I would say is the most overarching widespread influence over all of us. We’ve always been trying to push I guess how far we could take songs and be experimental; but underneath it all, have pop songs. All of us grew up liking pop music, I grew up loving all the old Phil Spector girl group stuff. And a lot of our favorite bands that are in genres some people would say are closer to us, like postpunk or whatever categories; the best ones, the ones that I listen to that hold up, they wrote pop songs.

“As we have been working these last couple of years on the record, a lot of the things we have been listening to collectively are The Knife which has been a big influence. PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, those really pop up out of my head.”

Cold Showers gaze is firmly fixed on the future, gearing up to hit the road with some surprises in store.

“That’s really the reason for this tour,” King explained. “We wanna try out new songs; we have at least three, hopefully even more that we will have ready to play on the road and test them out. And then bear down in February and March and record a new record.”

See them for yourself, when they play SPACE in San Diego Jan. 18 or The Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 19.

The Subdudes Entusiastic Return to SoCal


THE SUBDUDES; press photo

The Subdudes and their well-seasoned New Orleans sound makes a return to Southern California playing The Coach House Jan. 11, The Rose Jan. 12, and Sweetwater Union High School Jan. 13.

Lead bass player Tim Cook says he’s especially looking forward to returning to California to effectively end the group’s belated leave of absence from the area.

“We haven’t played Southern California for several years so we’re really looking forward to coming back, especially to places like The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano because we had a lot of fun always playing at that venue.”

Founded in 1987 in New Orleans, The Subdudes still continue to play just as passionately as they did during their debut at the famous Louisiana music venue Tipitina’s. Cook though has been with the group since 2014 but has had no issue fitting in quickly.

“We’ve been having a lot of fun playing these last couple three years. Everybody’s getting along, you know, when you’re in a band, that’s always a good thing. So we’re having a good time playing.”

Ask Cook what his favorite places to play at are, Cook takes absolutely no sides. Wherever he and his still vibrant group of bandmates play is always fun.

“No matter where we’re playing, we’re real appreciative to the venue owners and the venues that have survived over the years to especially give us older guys, and our fans who are older, a place to go play and a place for our friends and fans to come and hear us.”

The Subdudes, a name play on the word “subdued,” are well-known for their unique take on roots rock. Blending the blues of both New Orleans and Louisiana, folk, country, soul and gospel, the group can best be described as an auditory sampler plate of all the best song stylings often associated with the Southern United States.

Having grown up listening to such genres, Cook says that it seems natural for him and his bandmates to not discriminate in finding a way to streamline such stylings into a deftly composed combination others can enjoy.

“When we write a song I don’t think we’re actually thinking about, ‘well, we’re going to make this one a country song’ or ‘we’re going to make this one a soul song or a rock song.’ Some of our songs rock out, some of them lean into country, and some have a gospel tinge to them just because of the singing.”

It’s an amalgamation remaining just as fresh with concertgoers as when first heard back when The Subdudes started playing it. Even today the group thrives off live concert events which remain just as lively, energetic and motivating as when the group started playing in 1987.

Such a good vibe doesn’t just go toward concertgoers but also reverts back towards the band as Cook points out.

“When I get off stage and somebody comes up and says ‘oh, thank you so much. You made me so happy tonight,’ I just feel like it’s such a blessing that we get to do this still. Even after all these years we can still go out and make people happy. That’s our job.”

It’s an occupation that never gets old to Cook and his fellow Subdudes who continually look forward to sharing their unique brand of music to concertgoers. Cook doesn’t discriminate in regards to the specialness of each of their live appearances.

“All the shows we do, from the smallest venue we play, like a little listening room, all the way up to something like Jazz Fest where there’s like 50,000, I just think there’s no one particular show or place. They’re all special to us.”

Even while the present keeps the Subdudes busy, Cook says he and his bandmates are already looking towards the future. 2018 he says will see an expanded set of songs played at each concert.

“We’ve got 10 CDs to pick from and a few handful of songs we haven’t been doing that we’re looking at bringing into our song list.”

But what Subdude fans can look forward to most of all is a brand new album: their latest one since 2009. Cook says that it will be much more unique than their previous releases however.

“We’re actually looking at recording a couple of covers. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do: make a 45 of a couple of songs from groups that influenced us that we can put our swing on.”

But for now, Cook simply says that concertgoers to their upcoming shows can look forward to one thing in particular.
“Just a lot of enthusiasm,” he says with a joyful laugh.

Tribute To Tributes: Queen Nation


QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); press photo

Although it’s no longer possible to go see the classic line-up of the British rock band Queen due to the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, tribute bands across the globe have stepped up to help others experience the influential musical group in its prime. One of these bands is Queen Nation.

Founded in 2004 in California by Dave Hewitt, the vice president of entertainment at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, Queen Nation has striven for 13 years done their utmost to capture the look, sound and style of Queen.

However, given the emphasis placed on giving great performances, Queen Nation’s tireless efforts to perfectly capture Queen’s unique music are not easy. Mike McManus, who plays the role of Queen’s legendary guitar player Brian May, admits that is quite task.

“I think because with the instrumentation, obviously Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, the harmonies and the song writing, it’s really difficult to pull off. I think, as a musician, it’s probably some of the most challenging music to perform.”
It’s even more herculean as McManus and his group do their utmost to emulate everything about Queen specifically during their iconic run during the 80’s.

“We wanted to make people who had seen Queen back in 1980 to kind of give them the feeling they were seeing that all over again. We try to do the same outfits they wore around the same time and the same mannerisms. We want people to kind of revisit the classic Queen concerts.”


QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); Big Time Photo

The group is so devoted to replicating Queen’s trademarks it even goes so far as to actively promote audience participation.

“We try to get them involved as much as possible. We encourage singing along. We tell them right at the beginning of the show that ‘we’re not going to do all the work. We want to hear you guys singing loud and clear,’ and it usually works.”
McManus says the effort is worth it. To him it is an honor to commemorate a group whose music and efforts were invaluable in helping him and his bandmates becoming musically active.

“I always said that if I was ever going to be in a tribute band that the only one that I would ever would be to Queen because they’re my favorite band. They’re the reason that I started playing guitar and making music in the first place.”

The group’s efforts for 13 years have not only become “second nature” but made the group of the most prolific Queen tribute bands in the United States. The group has this year enjoyed a very busy schedule for instance.”

“Our first year together we did five shows and now this year we’re ending the year off with I think like 97 or 98 shows,” reports McManus.

That is in fact the norm for the group. McManus says that he expects the group to attain more just as much, if not more, appearances next year.

“We’ve already got 45 shows lined up for 2018. It’ll probably be closer to a hundred shows again next year.”

It’s also helped the group play to great fanfare at local music venues and county fairs but high profile venues too such as Angels Stadium and Las Vegas Hilton. Yet no matter the locale, one thing McManus and his group love more than sharing their love of Queen at such venues is being able to meet fellow Queen fans.

”I could sit here all day and go over how lucky we’ve been as a touring band to meet some of the greatest people you’d ever want to meet.”

For example: McManus specifically recalls playing at the 5th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit Concert & Award Show in Los Angeles last year. Not only did the group headline along with legendary groups such as Foreigner and Whitesnake but equally iconic musicians who grew up with Queen.

“Nancy Wilson from Heart was there, Scotty Hill from Skid Row, Steven Adler from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains. It was a big star-studded charity benefit and they all loved Queen, just like we did.”

It’s that kind of love for the music of Queen that looks to keep the members of Queen Nation busy for some time McManus says.

“The beauty of this music is that it goes from generation to generation. We have families come to see us every year and we watch their kids grow. We’ve made some really good relationships over the years with our fans and we hope to continue that.”

Just as Queen Nation shows no sign of stopping in helping preserve the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, neither will their music which McManus states firmly will keep going on indefinitely.

“They’ll be playing Queen when you and I are both long gone,” McManus said.

Cash’d Out: Live! Authentic! And in SoCal!


CASH’D OUT (Johnny Cash Tribute); press photo

Sadly, not too long ago we lost the great Johnny Cash. Fortunately, however, we have San Diego based Cash’d Out – a band who continues to bring us the sounds and styles of the legendary artist. Existing for eleven years now, they have traversed the country countless time and earned the praises of fans and critics alike for being “the next best thing to Johnny Cash.”

Currently, Cash’d Out is Douglas Benson on vocals, George Bernardo on drums, and Stephen Rey on bass. But what got this band started in the direction they have taken? “I just like the way he sounds, number one. I like the stories that he tells. I like the man that I’ve learned about and what kind of a man he was. Plus, I can kind of sound like him a little bit”, Benson explains with some humor. ” I put an ad in the San Diego reader, and a few people answered it. One guy I ended up hooking up was Kevin Manuel who became our guitar player. And we formed the band from there. Actually, now I’m the only original member who’s left. But my business partner/drummer/backing vocalist George Bernardo, him and I run it now. And he’s been with me for about ten years now, I guess.”

The first step was like nearly every band, i.e. how long should we play, what songs should we learn, etc. “The first song I learned was “Cry, Cry, Cry” or something like that, it was real simple. We had probably had about fifteen songs to play, maybe, the first time we played. I think it was about a half hour of music,” Benson recalled to the best of his ability. “I remember it was my cousins wedding reception. He got married the same day; we went to dinner, and after dinner he brought the wedding reception party over to the little venue we had booked already. Cuz I didn’t know, that was a last minute thing he did…So it worked out pretty good, we had a pretty good sold-out show.”

As they began to play show after show, Cash’d Out began homing in on exactly what it was they wanted to do. Johnny Cash has an extensive career thus it is not easy for a band to reference all his material in a single show. Thus, the band chose to primarily focus on and combine two areas of the Man in Black’s career: The Sun Records/early Columbia sound and the energetic performances showcased on the prison recordings done at Folsom as well as San Quentin. While these are the most popular eras of Johnny Cash’s music, this was not the reason Benson chose them, “Those are my favorite years. The Sun and Columbia years were my favorite years of Johnny Cash music. So, obviously, that’s where I wanted to start. Why not start from the beginning, as much as possible?”

To date, the oft-quoted number of songs in the bands repertoire is 150, but factors along the way point to a different number according to Benson, “Yea, I probably have learned closer to 300 songs out of the 3600 he wrote and stole. Probably due to, like, personnel changes, and the bass player and guitar player here and there. And the time allotment. Most clubs don’t want you to do a three-hour show anymore. When we first started out, that was what we were doing every time…We try to keep it to 90 minutes and if they want to hear an encore, we have plenty of songs we can do in the encore.”

It is this dedication and authenticity which has garnered them so much praise over the years. Cindy Cash saw Cash’d out and was so moved she gave her father’s locket to Benson; Lou Robin, a longtime Cash manager, stated that closing his eyes at their shows was like “going back in time.” It doesn’t even stop there, since Benson even received the honor of playing one of Cash’s guitars and the official Johnny Cash website endorses them.

One of the most fascinating examples of this was when longtime Cash drummer W.S. Holland sat in with the band for a session. “He was at a show, we did a thing for Bill Miller, owner of JohnnyCash.com…Before he moved to Nashville, he used to live up here in Corona. There was a Fender guitars education center and he used to live kinda close by. And they had room and asked him to do a kind of make-shift Johnny Cash musuem. He set that up in there for awhile, and having us come up and sing at shows, and events, and stuff. And one time, W.S. Holland just happened to be up there working, you know, doing drum classes for kids and stuff like that. And we asked him if he would mind sitting in on a couple songs. After drumming all day, I figured he was gonna be tired. But he sat in and did three hours straight with us after he had been working with the kids all day. He’s got alot of fire still left in his blood, and it was alot of fun. Real pleasure working with him.”

Cash’d Out is still going strong, with ambitious plans for the future. There are tentative plans on going in the studio with musician Jackson Taylor and doing some Smiths’ song, in the spirit of where Cash left off with songs such as his cover of “Hurt.” In addition, they have just recently released a live album of their own as well.

Dream Syndicate Still Got A Groove


THE DREAM SYNDICATE play the El Rey Theatre Dec. 15; photo Chris Sikich

The Dream Syndicate will wrap up 2017 on the west coast stopping at the El Rey Theatre Dec. 15 before heading up to San Francisco. They’ll be playing select songs from their history along with many from their current record How Did I Find Myself Here?

“We’re playing a lot of the new record because we’re really excited about it and also it fits in with the older stuff really well,” Steve Wynn said.

Of course, there will be long, spur-of-the-moment, psychedelic jams, too, something the band is known for, with the eleven-minute title track being Wynn’s current favorite song to play live.

“I think right now that’s my favorite one because I’m always surprised,” Wynn admitted. “I don’t know where it’s gonna go and it’s exciting. It’s thrilling to be on stage and really not know what’s going to happen next. Usually it works and when it does work it’s a rush. It’s an adrenaline feeling that’s fantastic.

“And the great thing is when you take chances in front of an audience you can feel the tension. And when it works I think everybody is relieved all together. I think audiences respond to that. That you were there for a moment that never happened before and will never happen again. It’s almost like the audience is in the band with you, “come on, you can do it,” and then you do and it’s great!”

Although The Dream Syndicate played live and released several records throughout the 80s, they eventually broke up until re-uniting in 2012. Yet over the years Wynn continued to play Dream Syndicate songs in his solo bands and now he’s having fun reinterpreting them.

“These days we’ll take an older song and find new ways of doing it,” Wynn mentioned. “That’s kind of fun.”

How Did I Find Myself Here?
is like finding a favorite shirt and it still fits perfectly. The new songs compliment the older tracks seamlessly although they were written recently and specifically for The Dream Syndicate. Wynn approached the songwriting in the same way as when the group first started out which meant “finding a groove and digging deep,” as he put it.

“I think the thing that we did when we started out, which we’re doing again now, is we’re using a lot of repetition and simplicity and grooves and just hypnotic approaches to music,” Wynn explained. “It’s something that we’re known for and it’s fun to write that way. It’s surprisingly hard to write a song where nothing much happens because you have to find ways to build the story without a lot of chord changes.

“In my solo work sometimes there’s a lot more verse, chorus, bridge, hooks, chord changes, all those kinds of things – pop songwriting. The thing about The Dream Syndicate, for everything that people say they were, a guitar band or a feedback band or this or that, we’re really a groove band. All the way from Days of Wine and Roses to the new album.”

Reaching fans in a more intimate or personal way has always been an important part of touring and being in a band for Wynn, starting long before the internet, up to and throughout the rise of social media.

“I’ve always tried to find a way to connect with fans beyond just “here’s our show, see ya later,” Wynn revealed. “In the 80s I used to write postcards to every fan that would write to us. It sounds crazy, but I did that. I meet people all the time at shows who will say, ‘you wrote me a postcard.’ That’s probably true.”

During the mid-90s when he first became aware of the internet, Wynn started a tour diary, writing about the tour every day on the road.

“I thought it was a fun way to kind of reach the fans and at the same time glorify the touring life and also demystify it,” Wynn recalled. “I would write about what we ate on road stops, who we met along the way and stories that happened. And this was before of course social media. Before Facebook and twitter, etc. It kind of trained me early on how to be finding ways to reach fans more directly.

“I appreciate the people that make the effort and stuck with us all these years. It’s the least I can do. The great thing now is it’s easier. Writing a postcard, you had to buy a postcard, put a stamp on it, and now you just type a few things and “click” you’re there.”

Psychic Temple, one of Wynn’s favorite “new” bands, will be the opener at the El Rey.

“They put out a record this year called Psychic Temple IV that’s probably my favorite record so we’re really excited to have them on the bill.”