Americans are renowned for having a sweet tooth. And for a certain portion of the population, an audio confection known as “ear candy” also provides an enticing treat.
San Diego music fans will have an opportunity to partake of the latter when the International Pop Overthrow music festival returns to the county on July 17 and 18 after a three-year hiatus. During that time, the festival has been staged in such diverse locations as Stockholm, Liverpool (at the Cavern Club), and at major metropolitan areas in North America. San Diego will be the seventh stop on this year’s itinerary.
The year 2009 marked the inaugural San Diego festival, held during a weekend at the former O’Connells Pub in Bay Park. After a successful three-year run at O’Connell’s, IPO relocated for a one-year staging at Club Eleven, a mid-town bar on El Cajon Blvd. Then, unexpectantly, the door closed. “In 2012 we did an IPO show at Club Eleven. I thought it went very well, and in fact the booking person asked me at the end of it to please come back the following year,” said IPO Founder/CEO David Bash. “So, the following year I contacted them to request dates, and they told me that “things have changed around here” and that we were “no longer a good fit.” I’m not sure what that meant as it didn’t appear that they had changed their music focus or anything of the sort, but the bottom line was we weren’t welcome back. I tried to find another suitable venue, but by that time it was too late as they were all booked up for the dates we wanted. For the next couple of years I concentrated on our other cities and put San Diego on the back burner.”
As with the prior establishments at 3519 El Cajon Boulevard, Club Eleven ran its course (the venue is now known as the Hideout). Bash and the festival are now back in San Diego County and El Cajon Boulevard at an historic tavern a few miles east. “In late 2014 I received an e-mail from Scott Samuels, main man of the (former) San Diego-based band Roxy Monoxide, who told me about the Chico Club, and that they would be amenable to hosting IPO,” said Bash. “He told me lots of good things about the owner, Larry Fox, and that Scott had done several fine gigs there. I spoke with Larry, who’s a very cool guy, and worked out the details, and here we are! I am certainly looking forward to doing IPO at the Chico Club, and I’m very happy with the lineup of 12 bands we’ve put together.”
The Chico Club (one legend has it that the tavern was named for comedian Chico Marx) has been one of Samuels’ favorite rooms to play. “I’ve been playing at the Chico Club ever since 2009 when my former bandmate, Kit Johnson, booked my band Roxy Monoxide there,” Samuels explained. “The club changed ownership not too many years after that, and Larry Fox took over. He and his staff have been big supporters of my cover project, Vinyl Pirates. We play there almost every month. David Bash was looking for a venue to host the return of the IPO to San Diego, so I told Larry about the event, and introduced the two of them, and now it’s back after a few years’ hiatus.” Samuels said. “Larry and the staff at the Chico Club have always been tremendously supportive of my music and my band, The Vinyl Pirates. It’s one of the friendliest neighborhood bars I’ve ever been in. I spend a lot of time on the road playing everywhere from the Midwest to New Jersey to New Orleans – and typically I’ll be playing at the Chico Club just a few days after returning from a tour – that’s by design. The Chico always feels like home.”
Samuels will be performing “a mix of power pop tunes from my four solo CDs. For the IPO set the entire Vinyl Pirates band will be in tow (Kevin Lydy, bass; Scott Spindler, keys; George Lewis, drums), along with Bernie Bernhoft, an outstanding guitar player from Milwaukee’s Flood Brothers band. I first met Bernie and his band when playing in Milwaukee in 2013, and Bernie accompanied me on my last tour from Chicago to New York. We’ll also throw in a few surprises on the uke – people always seem to get a kick out of that.” IPO will allow Samuels the opportunity to try out new material. “I’m really proud of Fabulous Reality!, the CD I released in March. It encompasses a wide range of sounds. I’ve got the acoustic power pop stuff on there: an electric four-on-the-floor rocker; a Gene Loves Jezebel cover; a love song on the ukulele and harmonica, and even a Frank and Nancy Sinatra cover, to which Marie Haddad contributed the “Nancy” vocal.
“Former Roxy Monoxide drummer Scott Southwood laid down all the beats and Kevin Lydy from Vinyl Pirates added some awesome bass lines. One of the tunes, “In the Moment,” has been getting some good play on the Internet – it’s helped me reach a bunch of new listeners all over the world.”
The staging of the IPO Festival at the Chico Club recalls an earlier time when the La Mesa neighborhood containing lengthy El Cajon Boulevard was host to a thriving music scene in the ’60s and ’70s. The Candy Company (7711 El Cajon Blvd.) boasted the top blues and folk acts of the day, including Big Mama Thornton, Bob Lind, Jackson Browne, the Dillards (with Doug Dillard and Gene Clark in a separate booking), Hedge & Donna, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tim Buckley, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Longbranch and Pennywhistle, Jim (of Jim and Jean), and Jack Tempchin. Down the street at 7578 El Cajon Blvd. was the La Mesa location for the Cinnamon Cinder, a teen dance mecca and part of a nightclub chain in Southern California created by Bob Eubanks, Los Angeles disc jockey, game show host (“The Newlywed Game”), and concert producer (the 1964 Beatles show at the Hollywood Bowl). Acts playing the Cinnamon Cinder included the Coasters, the Drifters, the Shirelles, and a Roman Empire-themed act known as Caesar and Cleo (they would eventually be billed as Sonny and Cher). Local bands the Roosters (featuring Jerry Raney) and the Contrasts (led by a pre-“Troy Dante” Jan Tonnesen) also performed on stage. The building was later the home of a recording studio called Straita Head Sound and a dinner theater called the Lyric.
IPO at the Chico Club could be providing a few musical memories of its own, with 11 of the 12 acts hailing from San Diego County. Singer-songwriter and San Diego Music Awards winner Gayle Skidmore (subject of the Troubadour’s March 2015 cover story) will start the festival on Friday night. Steve Rosenbaum will be bringing his catchy spin of power pop, the genre long identifiable with the International Pop Overthrow festival. Scott Samuels, instrumental in bringing the festival back to San Diego, is third on the billing for Friday evening. Super Buffet, led by local musician Pete Bayard, could provide the evening’s most eclectic moments. According to their website, “Super Buffet evokes a spirited pillow fight between King Kahn and Jonathan Richman while “96 Tears” plays in the background. Sounds like Super Buffet has their pop culture bases covered. The band following Super Buffet may be equally as intriguing: Mayfield should find favor with regular readers of this publication; folk-rock with old school country influences seeping in. True Stories, the latest group in Bart Mendoza’s curriculum vitae, will provide the nightcap.
Saturday night’s schedule features a Burbank-based group, the Armoires, whose harmonies provide a nice backdrop to a diverse repertoire. San Diego vets the Bigfellas will present their take on 2015 satire; fans of Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman will find the lyrics of their catchy songs loaded with ammo. The dreamy musical landscape of Bandalier will be followed by seasoned pros Suite 100, veterans of the IPO festivals in Los Angeles and San Diego. My Revenge, featuring Hector Penalosa of the Zeros and the Baja Bugs, will provide an opportunity for Penalosa to perform songs he has composed over the years. The evening’s party – or should we say “craic” – will conclude in high energy when Lexington Field’s punk take on the Celtic sounds arouses the little bit of Irish in us all.
A merchandise table will feature the latest CDs, t-shirts, and bling of the performing artists. Music, networking, and friendships to be made – that’s what the Interna-tional Pop Overthrow festival is all about.
IPO San Diego will be held July 17 and 18 at the Chico Club, 7366 El Cajon Blvd in La Mesa. For a complete schedule and times, visit internationalpopoverthrow.com
Thank you to Gary Ràchac and Jan Tonnesen for their assistance.