For Your Information: July Edition
This month we take a look at the 2020 San Diego Music Awards, ask five questions of guitarist and producer Christopher Hoffee, talk to Jim Ryan of punk legends The Cardiac Kidz, review albums from Enter the Blue Sky and Big Stir Records latest compilation, plus! Two new Strange Stage Stories from Ronnie Barnett (The Muffs) and Lannie Flowers.
SAN DIEGO MUSIC AWARDS
Large gatherings are still prohibited, so this year, the San Diego Music Awards will instead take place online, with two opportunities to watch. On July 6 at 7pm music fans can tune in at the SDMA Youtube or Facebook channels and watch live. Alternately, you can watch an edited version of the broadcast on July 11 at 8pm on Fox 5-TV. The 29th annual SDMA’s will feature performances from Gregory Page, MDRN HSTRY, Sully, Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact, David Maldonado, Evan Diamond, and the Sleepwalkers plus Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Richard Livoni with his band, the Blitz Brothers. In addition, look for a few very special guests as well as a host of your favorites from local radio and television. Funds raised by the event go to the San Diego Music Foundation and their Guitars for Schools program for San Diego County elementary, middle, and high schools. Launched in partnership with Taylor Guitars in 1990, to date over 57,200 K-12 students in more than 80 schools from San Ysidro to San Onofre have been served. This year the SDMAs has also established a grant program to help nominees during the current pandemic.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR CHRISTOPHER HOFFEE aka ATOM ORR
Acclaimed guitarist/producer/songwriter/etc Christopher Hoffee likes to move quick. Under the name Atom Orr, his new 11 song album project, As If Tomorrow, was started on March 22 and was in stores on June 20. “No covers, just songs I wrote during this Covid-19 shutdown,” he said. “I hadn’t planned on writing or recording, I was supposed to start a world tour with the White Buffalo, we just released a new album and we were going to Europe first,” Hoffee recalled. “Then Covid-19 hit, the whole tour was wiped away, and I am at home by myself and not supposed to leave the house. I have my studio here, Chaos Recorders, so I thought I had better do something, so I wrote and recorded this album from March 26th to May 30th.” Recorded remotely in San Diego, Los Angeles, Nashville, Alabama, New York, and Munich, the new album includes performances by Matt Lynott (drums), David J. Carpenter (stand-up bass), Molly Thomas (violin, viola, and cello), Martin Seiler (alto/tenor sax, flute, and recorder), Ben Moore (Wurlitzer electric piano), Ben Zinn (pedal steel guitar), Ashley Pond (backing vocals), Carissa Schroeder (backing vocals), and Jane Lui (backing vocals).
Who inspired you to play guitar?
Just touching my fingers on my uncle’s classical guitar, I knew I must do this. I do not have a favorite guitar. In fact, I like playing guitars that haven’t been touched for a while, it seems they have much more to say.
How old were you when you gave your first performance, what did you play, and how was it received?
At 16, I was hired to play a half-hour of solo acoustic music for an event at a Catholic church. I had memorized a few pieces. The first was Bourée by J. S. Bach. I played the first notes and forgot my entire repertoire. I thought I was going to die. I put my head down and just started to make-up some things until I could remember the pieces, but as I looked up I realized the people had no idea I was making all of this up and were having a good time. I relaxed and made up songs for the rest of the half-hour. It shaped my performances for the rest of my life.
Who is your favorite cartoon character?
I suppose it would be Racer X from the Speed Racer series. He was shrouded in mystery, he was the best race car driver, but sometimes he would purposely lose to help someone else and would disappear as quickly as he entered.
What is your favorite cover song to perform?
My favorite cover song to play is “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. Singing a song of hers taught me so much. The passion, feeling, and dynamics are beyond just technique.
What’s your favorite thing about being a musician?
My favorite thing about being a musician is to bring people together. I am a connector. If I do my job right, everyone will leave the show with a feeling of oneness. Sharing moments together without all the things that separate us during much of our lives.
Christopher Hoffee / Chaos Recorders www.inthechaos.com www.store.atomorr.com
STRANGE STAGE STORIES
For better or worse, not everything always goes according to plan on stage.
Ronnie Barnett/the Muffs: We’re headlining at the Roxy where the monitor guy is set up off to the side and up the stairs halfway to the dressing room. After trying to get his attention a few different times during the evening Kim suddenly, mid song, dropped her guitar, ran off the stage and up those stairs to a very shocked monitor guy who was canoodling in the booth with his girlfriend!
Christopher Hoffee/White Buffalo: My band (at the time) the Truckee Brothers were playing at the Adams Avenue Street Fair. I hadn’t eaten since the day prior…I was all caught up in the studio and eating never occurred to me. Anyway, we are doing the show and for the final song Mike Watt from the Minutemen came up to join us to do a Stooges song “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” At the very end my vision went black and white, then checkered blocks, then completely went blind. I proceeded to pass out during the last chord. I didn’t move from the floor Everyone thought I was doing a “rock ‘n’ roll” ending, but it wasn’t until packing up and that they realized it wasn’t and act, so they quickly gave me water and food.
Lannie Flowers: One of the coolest times. I was playing after hours at a bar in Dallas and looked out on the dance floor and there was Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. He was dancing to, I think, an Elvis Costello song.
Jim Ryan/The Cardiac Kidz, Young at Heart
The Cardiac Kidz return this month with their first single in 41 (!) years, “I Want” b/w “Baby.” Available on both clear and black vinyl, even better is the news that this is part of a new round of activity from the legendary punk band.
“The 45 release is from the 40 Years of Punk CD,” said frontman/guitarist Jim Ryan. “Then in the future the plan is to release another 45 single from the Empty Chairs CD, while the kidz work on our new stuff. We have another album’s worth if all new stuff that were are in the process of recording. Fans can also expect more solo recordings from Ryan as well. “I use home studio (Sony Acid Music Studio) software for my solo Jim Ryan Project but final tracks; for drums and vocals I go into a studio. Using Conroy Sound Studios and Augminished Studio here in Denver. I have two albums worth of JRP solo stuff recorded, which I plan to release intermittently between Kidz stuff.” www.facebook.com/CARDIACKIDZ
Enter the Blue Sky: Wanderlust (Edge of a Planet Music House)
The basics: 14 tracks, recorded by Mike Kamoo at Earthling Studios, from this folk / Americana trio, led by guitarist / songwriter Sande Lollis, with Karen Childress-Evans (cello) and Paul Tillery (bass). Split between heartfelt laments, such as “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and bluesy pop such as “Quintessential Rachel,” Wanderlust is a testament to what a wonderful tunesmith and arranger, Lollis is. As an acoustic trio, all the instruments in Enter the Blue Sky have to do a lot of heavy lifting, and everyone here is more than up to the task, with Childress-Evans work on the albums sole cover “No Soy De Aqui, Ni Soy De Alla,” which is particularly impressive. Penned by Facundo Cabral, though perhaps the best-known version worldwide is by his good friend Alberto Cortez; the take here is sung in Spanish by Lollis and is the albums highpoint. The delivery of the band’s performance and the tension in her voice makes it a standout. Fans of singer-songwriters or acoustic country will find much of interest here.
Various Artists/ Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave (Big Stir Records)
The basics: Another varied compilation of melodic rock tunes from Big Stir, 23 power pop tracks by 13 artists, split roughly into A and B sides on this sixth edition. As might be expected from such a collection, results are varied, but as with pretty much anything Big Stir touches, there are plenty of aural gems to be found.
A number of covers are included here, all uniformly good. However, the nod goes to Popdudes who contribute impressive versions of NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car” and Wings’ “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.” Also good/fun are Jim Basnight’s take of the Kinks “This Is Where I Belong,” and two XTC tunes. In addition, a faithful version of “Earn Enough for Us” by Glowbox and a tight rocking “I’m the Man Who Murdered Love,” by Tom Curless and the 46%. That said, my favorite track here is easily a folk tinged / indie rock original from the Corner Laughers, “The Accepted Time,” with Karla Kane’s ukulele perfectly matched to KC Bowman’s lead guitar, topping a great tune. Love their B-side here, “Queen of the Meadow,” as well. Also, really good, though on the other end of the sonic spectrum, “Living with Me” by Joe Normal and the Anytown’s is a terrific riff-rocker, complete with a stadium ready sing-a-long chorus and Jerry Lee Lewis-styled pounding piano in the outro. This needs to be a vinyl 7” single (big hole please) so we can keep it in rotation on the office jukebox.
If you are a pop music fan and looking for something fun to collect, this compilation series is a must. It’s rare that various artist’s discs are worth repeated listens, but Big Stir has done a great job of curating the songs and artists on the Big Stir Singles series, keeping things interesting with a wide range of sounds, all while keeping a laser focus on melodic songwriting. www.bigstirrecords.com