The Weighty Pursuit of Teenage Dreams and Other Encounters – Part 1
Pondering some recent comments by friends on social media and reading this blog had me thinking today about something much more important than spreadsheets and popular demographics. Just what have we all done to the “Classic”? The albums, the artists, the underdogs, the ones forgotten about through the sands of time and passing of years. Why must “Christian” music forget it’s important fundamental music roots in pursuit of that elusive passing of fame? This is my story, my passing through those youthful years and the hopeful yearning for a new passionate form of underground music with heart. I hope you’ll join with me in reminiscing about history and my somewhat minuscule involvement. This is Part 1 of a several part series. Mostly existing from the years 1996-1997 and before I quit it all to join that blissful matrimony between my loving girlfriend and I.
This article isn’t fact based or centered around research, it’s just merely me alone with my thoughts and passionate yearning for the “classic” in all of us. Don’t hold my words true for any industry or professional out there working their butts off for the common goal of entertainment. I just felt like airing my opinions on an issue near and dear to my heart.
Nostalgia isn’t something to take lightly nor chalk up to youthful yearning and a self obsessed cultural tradition. Youth and those growth years are but a memory yet so clear and part of our all important foundation. There are many memories I still have of a youth that is but a blip on the overall spectrum of life. What seemed like dust in the wind has turned out to be closely cherished memories, dreams of the yesteryear.
I was a part of this machine, part of this “industry” whatever little, insignificant role I may have played. I have seen, heard, read it all over the years. At once a hopeful dream has turned out to be matured outlook on a life (so far) well lived. Through all my dealings and interactions, I have survived and managed to keep everything from Faith and Family, together. I truly feel God has had his hands on my life and led me down this path. As I gear up to prepare for whatever future awaits Indie Vision Music, I reflect on nearly 20 years of working within this music industry. A forgotten traveler, a wise outsider, and an underdog by all accounts my life has become.
I started off my journey through teenage angst, unbridled frustration, and the pursuit of “dreams” by promoting local concerts, putting on local shows. At 17 years old, much too young by many standards (heck even a guy in Stavesacre scoffed when he found out “I” was the promoter of an ill fated show) yet old enough to know.
I was a lover of music, a passionate soul bent on sharing the good news of a Faith I held true to the heart. I began my journey going to one show after another during those impressionable teenage years. Seeing everyone from Bon Jovi to Focused, Strongarm, and Uashamed to The Prayer Chain, Blenderhead, Mxpx, Supertones, EDL, and the two bands that pushed me down this path I am now still a part of to this day – Plankeye and Value Pac. Two relatively insignificant bands yet held power in their personal interaction and stage performance that would influence me at that age.
I remember getting invited to this Plankeye show at a local Jr. High by a female friend who probably still doesn’t realize the significance of what she did 🙂 I was a fairweather believer, a shallow soul, someone who hadn’t realized his full potential and place in this life. Something about that first Plankeye show in 1994 that just blew me away in a literal sense. God took a hold of my heart at that first underground “Christian” concert experience and taught me to make some life altering decisions to live and love like Christ had taught us over 2000 years ago. I discovered the underground Christian music scene that night and after browsing band merch (of which I bought my first Plankeye shirt), I found this burning passion in my heart for entertainment of substance.
It wasn’t long after that 94′ show that I found a local Christian Music Store called “Sonshine” (of which I ended up working at from 96′-97′). This store was ripe full of albums and artists from a scene that was just beginning to take a hold. This underground Christian music scene was bubbling to the surface with youthful urgency and the passion to make things right in a world gone wrong. I found artists who shared my same Faith with much to say, words that resonated with me still to this day. What I found wasn’t mainstream appeal or commercially alluring tunes that would pop up on Top 40 radio and Music Television (MTV). These were independent artists striving to overcome barriers and reach a new generation of fickle unbelievers and those caught between worlds. What I found in those songs, those albums, was something of profound importance to me. A certain connection that I felt and an inspiration in such simple “classic” songs that has led me to be the man I am today.
Now I know there is somewhat of an idol worship with some youth as they look at these perceived “rockstars” like otherworldly leaders who are filled with the spirit but I assure you, that thought only crossed my mind on few occasion. I have realized over years of watching friends and aacquaintancesfall away from a relationship with God and drift from the very Faith they preached, that the human element persuades me from judging. These men and women who spent their youth traveling the tour circuit, preaching to the lost, the cynical, and disenfranchised, lost a piece of themselves along the way. Don’t however hold that against them and overlook these classic albums. People make mistakes but the music, it lives on.
So somewhere along the way I got into concert promotions after my many show-going experiences and faith fueled encounters. I realized at one point that I could do it myself, I could put on my own shows and enjoy the music from the comfort of a small intimate venue. The venue hosting my first few concert promotions happened to be the basement of the Church I attended, Community Christian Church in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Our youth group was held in this said underground basement venue. The first band I connected with happened to be the boys in One by One (later One Bye One and then Value Pac). I had become an instant fan of Ryan Sheely, Ben, and Isaiah with their bouncy, poppy yet edgy and underground punk rock. It was rough and raw, their early diy shows showed a band with urgency on the cusp of something much bigger. So anyway here I was at 17 years old without a care in the world, thinking I had a handle on the intricacies of life and music industry politics. I “booked” the band through Ben (their drummer) and talked many times on the phone (remember how people once did that before the mass consumption of cell phones and social media absorption) about teenage stuff and the band. Fun times.
Something about those early encounters really stood out to me. It brought a real sense of the human element and took me beyond the pages of my favorite magazines, cds, and radio station dial twisting. I was there in the midst of a Christian music break though and didn’t even realize it. Some people immediately began pegging Green Day comparisons on the young high school aged band (we were all the same age minus Isaiah their bassist) mostly due to the hair coloring, snotty jeering looks of frontman Ryan and fast paced pop-punk this band was playing. This band, this group of guys had real spirit and we all identified with their brand of music. I think a lot of it was due to the band members’ age (two of them graduated the same year I did, 96′). I booked One by One (Value Pac) twice in 1996 at my youth group underground basement. Once that February before they signed with the mighty T&N Records and again after they signed in April of that same year. The shows were small, intimate and not exactly a huge draw mostly due to my relative ignorance of how to book a successful rock show. These were just for fun, meant to inspire and lead others to a Faith in God, all sung in unison through blissful punk rock aggression. It was a strange combo but as you look to the past and future, you’ll see that same aggressive song making has worked out quite well for a number of artists, some still leading the charge to this day.
So I booked a few rather insignificant shows at that same basement some of which included Value Pac, Starflyer 59, my buds in Incomplete, Rainy Days, Pax (before they dropped the “ska” and beefy singer, Frank), Blah, Not for the Crowd, Israelites, Upside Down Room, and others. At long last, I was living the life of a teenager embedded in the “industry” and hosting some enjoyable music. I remember trying to book other groups at my venue including Plankeye, Stavesacre, Supertones, etc. but at the time they had already begun big time management with Davdon (Dave Bahnsen) and had nightmare contracts, plus wouldn’t consider these “smaller” shows. Not only that, but the booking firm requested exorbitant (and bloated) pricing and stipulations. It was all rather ridiculous for “Christian” music (let alone any DIY industry). Heck, I probably could have booked local bands like Supernova or Reel Big Fish without the drama while maintaining a low end price deal. Where am I going with this?
One of my other “fun” memories with the band Value Pac went as far as booking a friend’s farewell party (Michelle) who was moving to another state. The band along with Tasty Snax, played this backyard good ole’ time shindig. I still remember hanging there with my then girlfriend (and future wife), Charis, along with the dudes in Value Pac. Just hanging out in that backyard talking about life and teenage spirit. We even had some party crashers showing up to ask where the booze was, haha. Of course this being a “Christian” party and all of us under age, there was no alcohol yet punch was in abundance. I have such great memories of days like this….let it never end.
Here are some pics of that backyard party with Value Pac and Tasty Snax
Value Pac 1996 Backyard Party Laguna Niguel, CA.
Tasty Snax 1996 Backyard Party Laguna Niguel, CA. (Hey that guy on the right looks like someone in Linkin Park 😉
From small time shows and moving on up.
The intimate encounters with bands like Value Pac moved over to other venues in the area like Coast Hills Church (Aliso Viejo) where I put on a few shows. You see, I had connected with a friend’s (Tina Nadeau) father by the name of Kendall Nadeau. Kendall owned G-Rock TV and was on the verge of launching a record label (at my urging). He launched Slingshot Records as a direct call to So Cal. bands to try something different in the scene and be sort of a competition to the other (short lived) record labels in the area. We had passion, intrigue, and that undeniable thirst to do things our own way in a diy manner.
Kendall brought me on as intern/manager of this early label. I immediately scoured the music scene for “talent”, hitting up every show in town and trying to connect with bands/managers to try and lure them away from the bigger dogs. I loved bands like Bloodshed, Incomplete, Project 86, Dingees, All Day Long, Second Half, Rainy Days, Tasty Snax, and countless others. I brought in piles of demos and sent out a compilation letter requesting new talent to be a part of something much bigger. Although bands had to pay to be on this compilation (in exchange for free CDs), it was a worthwhile endeavor.
The compilation sort of fizzled out but our hearts were set on “signing” a couple bands to the label. I had seen this local band by the name of Officer Negative who I felt were a bit “rough” and not as commercial as I was aiming for but that didn’t matter to Kendall. The funny thing is that I saw their legitimacy and street level approach (all the guys were poor and striving to make ends meet on pennies. So that leaves us with the little band competition we put on at Coast Hills in 96′, looking for that next big talent to “sign”. We had a bunch of bands play that youth group room at Coast Hills including Bloodshed, Incomplete, Officer Negative, Rainy Days, Tasty Snax, and Second Half. I dug Second Half and absolutely adored Bloodshed. My mind is rather fuzzy so I am not sure if Incomplete actually made it down but I believe they did and if so, I do apologize. I loved Incomplete even if Mike N. was a bit nasally and “off” as a vocalist. It didn’t matter, their guitarist/bassist were mean sons of guns and carried that band into something I can’t quite describe. It was metallic, it was punk, we termed it new school punk but it was more of a punk-metal hybrid. Anyway, we hosted this Unsigned band showcase at Coast Hills and fell in love with a few bands. Kendall and I immediately agreed on Second Half (at my urging and heavy emphasis on “URGING”) although he’d probably remember it differently ha! Kendall fell in love with Officer Negative at that show and after hearing the demo I brought him. I pushed Bloodshed with all my heart but he just wasn’t feeling it (sorry guys). You see, Bloodshed were never “signed” to T&N and just did two one-off ep releases. Sean, Kevin Chen, and Jonathan Caro were one heck of an awesome team. Their brand of “emo-core” was something entirely different and undeniably unique for the music scene. They had a little bit Sunny Day Real Estate and a heavy vibe that truly separated them from the rest of the punk rock scene. So where I am going with this yet again (sorry folks my bi-polar mind often times wanders ;).
Kendall “signed” Second Half (and soon Officer Negative) after that show. I couldn’t sway him into the other bands (Rainy Days featuring Unashamed and Bloodshed members playing an a clean, no distortion, brand of pop-punk would later sign with Alarma and release their ill fated final debut release, Homecoming), but I sure tried. We soon found out upon launching “Slingshot Records” that there was another label by that name which according to Kendall, led to a name change. He loved the name Screaming Giant (which I don’t recall being that big of a fan of but settled on it, I was just an intern after all) and thus history was made.
I put on another show at Coast Hills before hooking up with my fellow employee and music department manager/purchasing at Sonshine Christian Store (I am sorry my mind is fuzzy on names and the sands of time has decayed what I remember of the time period). This gentlemen had a club in Santa Ana on Harbor Blvd (Near the old Galaxy Theater) in an industrial park that served as a weekly Dance party with DJs and Christian techno/dance music. It was an all ages, “safe” alternative for kids to get off the streets and do something entirely fun on the weekends. I got the wild idea to help him book some rock shows at his club which led to the next part of my story, the terrible Holy Palooza 97′ fiasco…..
Posted on January 17, 2015, in Articles and tagged 1996, 1997, Brandon Jones, Brett Clifford, Classics, Coast Hills Church, Community Christian Church, DIY, G-Rock TV, Screaming Giant Records, Slingshot Records, The 90's, Underground Christian Music. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.