I’m stilling waiting. I’ve been waiting ever since I first heard Damon Castillo perform. Ever since that day more than a decade ago, when I first mentally voted Castillo “most likely to succeed,” I’ve been waiting for him to blow up—the major label record deal, the world tour, the overplayed radio mega-hits.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF DAMON CASTILLO
- THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN : After lots of touring and studio time in L.A. to record their new album, Damon Castillo and band present Laurel Lane to the public on Nov. 1 at Downtown Brew.
There’ve been plenty of near misses: opening gigs for major stars, publishing deals, major label A&R guys showing up in SLO Town in their BMWs to see Castillo perform in front of his hometown fans.
I’ve waited so long, in fact, that even Castillo admits that the music industry has changed so much that my dream for him is no longer even attainable: “The record label end of the business is really in the shitter,” he lamented.
Major labels are suffering huge losses and still fumbling around trying to figure out how to tap into the digital market, deal with rampant piracy, and regain their position as heartless colossus artist- and customer-rapists of their heyday. Now customers are screwing them by stealing their products via file sharing; unfortunately, major-label artists are getting screwed, too. That’s why so many performers are happily going it alone, offering their music for free online, hoping to build a loyal fan base.
Labels are simply having a much harder time exploiting increasingly tech-savvy and independent-minded artists like Castillo, who’ve figured out that what a major label used to offer—marketing and distribution—can be had elsewhere, and you don’t have to walk bow-legged afterwards.
Castillo’s last best home at making it big was his publishing deal with Warner-Chapell, but in an age old story, “My guy who brought me on at Warner-Chapell left the company shortly after I signed, and suddenly I found myself without an advocate.”
Some of the songs published by the company made it on Castillo’s new CD Laurel Lane, named after the street where his SLO town studio is located, while others haven’t been published. And just to prove he hasn’t given up on working the system altogether, he’s already licensed some music for use on MTV programming. But, rather than shopping the record around to labels, he plans to promote his album himself, using new technology (the Internet) and old (hitting the road for another major tour).
The last time Castillo and his band hit the road, they played all over the West Coast, in major urban centers like Chicago, East Coast locations, and lots of festivals in between.
Like all of his past endeavors, Laurel Lane is a highly polished effort, the result of nearly a year in the studio under the expert guidance of Grammy Award-winning producer Ross Hogarth. Castillo also went the extra mile in finding musical collaborators. Aside from his own hugely talented band, he tapped Sheila E., Rami Jaffe (of the Wallflowers and Foo Fighters fame), Lee Thornburg (Tower of Power, Supertramp) Lon Price (Elvis Presley, Allen Toussaint, Ziggy Marley), and Sean Hurley (Alicia Keys, John Mayer).
The album’s 13 tracks focus on one controlling idea: The band’s commitment to honoring music in the face of an over-commercialized industry, and their own autobiographical journey as they’ve traversed the ins and outs of what Castillo has described as a “rollercoaster ride.” Though the songs are positive, listen closely and you’ll hear a song eulogize Castillo’s former bassist Matt Taylor, who succumb to cancer in 2002, as well as a song chronicling the day they all almost died, when their van flipped five times on the freeway on the way to a gig.
They’re still with us, but I’m not waiting anymore. I finally figured out what Castillo seemed to learn long ago: By doing what he loves with the people he loves, he’s already made it.
“For me, it’s always been about writing that next song, playing the next gig. As I sing in ‘Claim to Fame,’ ‘Making music with my friends and my family—that’s my claim to fame.’”
Damon Castillo plays Downtown Brew on Saturday, Nov. 1, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and Joe Koenig and Ace McBride opening the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8 in advance (at Boo Boo Records or the venue) or $10 at the door. A limited number of $25 VIP tickets are also available; these include a copy of Laurel Lane and admittance to a 6 p.m. pre-show party with the band upstairs at the club. Appetizers will be provided and the band will sign autographs. The band will also perform an intimate acoustic set on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 5:30 p.m. during a free in-store show at Boo Boo Records.
Maybe Bob Marley will be there in spirit when The Original Wailers, featuring Junior Marvin, Way Lindo, and Al Anderson, play the Graduate on Monday, Nov. 3. Regardless, this will be a rare opportunity to see this historic group in an intimate nightclub setting. The band promises to deliver all Bob’s hits beginning at 8 p.m.
While helmed by Marley, the Wailers sold an amazing 400 million albums over the past four decades, and these three core members of his band reformed to do justice to Marley’s legacy.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ORIGINAL WAILERS
- THE OLD ORIGINALS : The Original Wailers, including three members who worked closely with Bob Marley up until the time of his death, play the Graduate on Nov. 3.
Keyboardist Earl “Way” Lindo joined Marley in 1973 for the band’s Island Records debut, Catch A Fire, along with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer; American-born guitarist Al Anderson joined the band a year later and played on No Woman No Cry—he’s also played with Peter Tosh, James Brown, Traffic, and Ben Harper; and Junior Marvin, lead vocalist/guitarist for The Original Wailers, often sang alongside Marley and as lead. Junior appeared in the ’70s and played on Exodus, which Time magazine voted “Best Album Of The 20th Century.” He also did stints with Ike and Tina Turner, Steve Winwood, Stevie Wonder, Toots and the Maytals, and recently with OAR. All three of the band members toured and recorded with Marley until his death.
Buy tickets are all Vallitix locations. You must be 18-and-older to attend.
Peter = Woody
A couple decades or so ago when Peter Case was in new wave acts The Nerves and The Plimsouls, everyone knew he was a folky at heart, but he hadn’t yet settled into the comfortable middle years of the amazing singer-songwriter he would become—he had too many wild oats to sow.
- PHOTO BY GREG ALLEN
- CASE LOGIC : Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Peter Case plays the Steynberg Gallery on Nov. 5 to promote his Grammy-nominated album, Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John.
When he finally found his songwriting voice in 1986 with Old Blue Car, which was nominated for a Grammy, it felt like he was finally home. His follow-up, The Man With the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar, though not a commercial success, made clear to those in the know that Peter Case was the new Woody Guthrie—immediately, accessibly, and blindingly acute at tapping the current zeitgeist.
Over the years he’s continued to release small but important albums, occasionally brushing up against success, like in 1992 when his song “Dream About You” became a radio hit and peaked at No. 16 on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart; or in 2002 when his Avalon Blues—a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt that he produced, organized, and performed on—was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.
On his most recent recording, Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John (also nominated for a Grammy!), Case taps his extensive experience as a musicologist (in the late 1990s he curated the musical program for The J. Paul Getty Museum) to pen nine songs that sound as if they were recently unearthed gems from America’s forgotten musical past.
See Peter Case with special guest Crosby Tyler on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Steynberg Gallery. Tickets cost $15, available in advance at the venue. Seating is very limited, so run buy a ticket right now. Go on! It’s Peter Case for heck’s sake!
Are you a secret artist beaten down by the monotony of small-town Central Coast life? There’s hope for you, and efft is your inspiration. Spawned in the Mills College music community, it’s an act fronted by former Morro Bay resident Sarah Palmer, who spent her formative years “speaking in tongues, being home-schooled, playing sacred music on the piano, and writing poetry with the tangible constraint of a sheltered life.” At 18, she “left the church, and went straight into the rave scene.” Her “psychedelic exploration” has influenced her musical tastes and she now considers singing to be “a vital step in switching between different strands of consciousness.” Indeed, listening to a few tracks on her Myspace account, it’s obvious she’s kind of awesome in that trippy, indie-delic way. Me likey! See efft this Thursday, Oct. 30, from 8 to 10 p.m. at Linnaea’s Cafe. Consider it a precursor to your own escape from SLO County purgatory.
- PHOTO BY JASON PREDOCK
- SING IT, SISTER : Sarah Palmer (center), formerly of Morro Bay but now of San Francisco, returns to the area with her band efft, playing Oct. 30 at Linnaea’s Cafe .
Azz High as the Sky Venue, in association with DannyBoyz Hip-Hop and Urban Apparel, proudly presents “The Bustin’ Out Showcase” featuring Underground Movement “805 Latino Hip-Hop Explosion #1” this Friday, Oct. 31 at the Morro Bay Community Center. Lighter Shade of Brown will headline the show, which also includes local contenders D’Serna of Atascadero, Crazy Boy of Oceano, Tru-Click Ent (Soldiers of Truth) featuring Naydine of Guadulupe, Southern Connection 805-213, and Dem Nice Boys of Santa Margarita. Can you feel it? Doors open at 8 p.m. Presale tickets cost $15, at Boo Boo Records and DannyBoyz Hip-Hop and Urban Apparel in Paso Robles.
Zongo All-Stars helps celebrate Halloween at Sweet Springs Saloon on Friday, Oct. 31, with some scary good Latin jazz and funk. Fish Out of Water, fresh off their Hawaii tour (or was it a vacation?) open the 9 p.m. show. There will be cash prizes for the best costumes, too.
Native American drummers Soldier Creek play the next Red Barn Community Music Series this Saturday, Nov. 1 at the Red Barn in the South Bay Community Park in Los Osos. “The drum is our tool to bring everyone around us,” said the trio of percussionist-vocalists. “We sing these ancient songs that were left to us to share.” The drumming begins at 7 p.m., but as always, there’s a 6 p.m. potluck. A $10 donation is requested at the door.
Singer-songwriters Lindsay Tomasic and Jill Knight, with a special opening set by instrumentalist Edo Castro from Berkeley, will present an evening of original music this Saturday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. in Painted Sky Studios. According to owner Steve Crimmel, “You’ll be in for some very cool musical surprises. L.A.-based composer Lindsay Tomasic creates incandescent music that glows with sensitivity and soulfulness” She penned the theme song to the Roseanne talk show, NBC’s Mysterious Ways, and a diverse range of dramas, comedies, and reality shows, including The L Word, Malcolm in the Middle, and Desperate Housewives. Jill Knight needs
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SOLDIER CREEK
- INDIAN GUIDES : Native American drummers Soldier Creek play the next Red Barn Community Music Series this Nov. 1 at the Red Barn in the South Bay Community Park in Los Osos.
Bluegrass-and-beyond act Whiskey Chimp plays Monteleone’s Rock on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m., where they will be blowing listeners out of their socks and doing their best to refrain from throwing feces (Chimps! What are you going to do?). Supposedly there’s a new festival, “CLYDACUSTICO,” in Paso Robles during the daytime and Hot & Cool Orchestra and Creeksand will be playing, as well as the Chimp. “Basically the festival is during the afternoon, and people will then follow us over to Monteleone’s Rock for the evening time,” wrote the band, failing to mention where the festival is. Drive around Paso. You’ll find it.
The duo Mustard Seed will make its Central Coast debut to play a fundraiser on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m. at Coalesce Bookstore for the Poetic Justice Project. Tickets cost $15; call 772-2880. David Elsenbroich and Emily St. Amand-Poliakoff first met at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, which they attended as high school students in the Bay Area. Elsenbroich began playing the classical guitar at age nine and later embraced blues, folk, and jazz. Winner of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, Elsenbroich is studying for his master’s degree at the USC Thornton School of Music, where St. Amand-Poliakoff is finishing her undergraduate degree in jazz voice. She began playing saxophone in the fourth grade. She’s sung professionally for several years, including a stint as back-up singer for Blues Train. The Poetic Justice Project helps ex-offenders in SLO and Santa Barbara counties reintegrate into their communities through engagement in the arts.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF WHISKEY CHIMP
On Sunday, Nov. 2, NYC piano man Hod O’Brien and his trio will be the next attraction at the Famous Jazz Artist Series at the Hamlet. O’Brien, one of the masters of bebop-styled jazz piano, has appeared on many legendary cuts for the famous Prestige record label in the ’50s with such artists as Art Farmer and Donald Byrd. Bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibich will join series co-producers Charlie and Sandi Shoemake in support of O’Brien. There’s a $15, 4 p.m, show, a $12, 7:15 p.m. show, or see both for $20. Call 927-0567 for reservations.
Damion Wolfe is more than just another guy with an acoustic guitar. The Baltimore-based performer “fuses a wealth of musical styles with his songwriting, percussive guitar playing, and tasty use of effects,” according to press materials. His Cross Country Tour 2008 will bring him to Linnaea’s Cafe this Sunday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m.
By my reckoning, there are exactly two original members of The Damned remaining in the band: vocalist Dave Varian and guitarist Captain Sensible. That’s pretty good, considering the band’s tumultuous career over eight studio albums and 32 years. Sure, we miss Rat Scabies and Brian James, but we’ll just have to soldier on. Remember, this band’s first gig was opening for the Sex Pistols. It’s a miracle any of them survived the punk rock ‘70s. See The Damned with local dangerous rock’n’rollers Sexy Time Explosion on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. in Downtown Brew. Presale tickets cost $23 at Boo Boo Records and the venue.
Arriving on the same Young God label that introduced Devendra Banhart’s shaman-influenced folk into greater light, Larkin Grimm has a biography that travels a similar arc. Born in the Appalachians to a commune environment of multiple hippie parents, she eventually landed at Yale only to freak out at its homogeneity, and like Christopher
McCandless, she took off “into the wild.” After stops in Thailand and
Guatemala, an encounter with a Cherokee shaman in southern Alaska lit her spiritual wisdom and convinced her to return to Yale where she activated her music career. On Parplar, she convincingly produces an album that gorgeously entwines folk with otherworldly sounds. Like
Gillian Welch, she can sound quite traditional. “Ride That Cyclone,” with its rollicking ensemble of fiddles and horns, is part hillbilly hoedown, part New Orleans brass second line. But when she explores sound as on “My Justice,” with its cascade of a glockenspiel’s twinkling bells and pushing her voice to its upper register, she morphs “old timey” with her eccentric nature, assembling something truly her own. Recommended.
Lucinda Williams—Little Honey
There’s no confusing that Little Honey is a different Lucinda Williams. From the opening raucous love song “Real Love” and the equally full-throttled “Honey Bee,” there’s a twangy energy that explodes in aces when all cylinders are firing with her backing band, the Buick 6. She’s left the continuous heartbreak of the heartthrob bad boy and found a new love. “I didn’t know how fragile a kiss could seem,” she pleas on “Knowning,” a slow-dancing ballad, enriched with soulful horns. When the tempo dives to the pace of a slow shuffle, Williams’ wounded voice is the anchor, emotive as any instrument or wail, even in whisper. “Circle And X’s” is as classic as anything on her breakout album Car Wheels on A Gravel Road. Whether it’s the chain-gang spiritual of “Heaven Blues,” the honky-tonk strut of “Well Well Well,” or her AC/DC cover “It’s A Long Way To The Top",” Williams digs up all her treasured roots, even garnering a chuckle with her duet with Elvis Costello (“Jailhouse Tears”), as he plays the drugged out boyfriend she’s about to toss. Lucinda Williams sounds reinvigorated and the payoff is ours.
—Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and KCBX’s “Night Train.”
Glen Starkey had amnesia once—maybe twice. Remind him at email@example.com.