As I head into my 20th year captaining “Listen Local”, I had planned on writing a wonderful retrospective of the past few decades but as I sailed off down memory lane, I found myself rocking back and forth in the fetal position. *shudder* lol PTSD is a helluva thang. :/ While I’m super dang grateful for this job that has given me incalculable amazing musical moments, it hasn’t all been rock and roll and red wine these past 20 years. But, instead of dwelling on those unpleasant, unfair, unfortunate or unsavory moments in my career, I’m going to focus on all of the amazing folks who helped me through those times and who continue to make this job such a dream come true. Won’t you join me on my self-indulgent journey back in time?
I produced my first concert when I was living in Cleveland, OH in 1997ish. My band JunkQueen had been playing all the cool clubs and I forget how it happened but Courtney Baker, Sergio T. Ruiz, Pepper McGowan, Jennifer Tress, Rina Dabramo, Lisa Egizii and my family at 2100 Realty were hugely important in inspiring and encouraging me and all of a sudden, I was smack dab in the middle of helping produce an all-female festival, the proceeds of which would benefit breast cancer research. It was the 90s so when we landed on “Breast Fest” as the name, we all giggled and went with it. I learned last year that the show is still in production, which sure made me smile. Anyway, producing a concert ticked all of my tocks so when I returned to my home state of California in 1999 (after a 3 month busking trek across the US with my bestie Heath Lawrence, hi Heath!) I decided to use my organizational skillset and new love of producing and promoting to connect the mind-blowing musicians with the supportive and eager music lovers in San Diego.
My first band in San Diego was 8ball Rack and our bassist (and Chef!) Drew Duff asked me to host an open mic at The Coaster Saloon in 2002ish. It was wildly successful and the gateway drug to a schedule that included me lugging my PA (which was gifted to me by Tim Flack and Matt Silvia!) to venues from Imperial Beach (Salty Frog!) to San Marcos (The Jumping Turtle!) and places in between 7 days a week. I started calling the events “Listen Local” and in 2003 Hotrod Harris gifted me $500 to purchase a website and boom! ListenLocalSD.com was born. From that site you could sign up ahead of time for “audition showcases” at various venues each week in exchange for a free drink and (when I could make it happen) a free meal, adoring new fans and your own paid gigs at that venue.
I was excited about this new job I had created, and I was able to downgrade to part–time at my real estate day job, which was really a big deal. Then, out of the blue I got canned from The Coaster. It was for something as ridiculous and as innocuous as what our legendary local music hero Tim Pyles was recently fired for. Don’t get me started. Anyway, that really took the wind out of my sails. Building a successful music night is hard and it takes love and energy and sacrifice so when you build it and someone takes it away from you once it’s thriving, well dang it, it’s very difficult. Very. Difficult.
I carried on. I was out looking for a new PB venue one day and I popped into some off the beaten path hole in the wall in Pacific Beach to inquire about live music and Kyle Lynn Steele followed me out saying he had the perfect venue and I should follow him a few miles down the road so he could show me. So, I did. We pulled into The San Diego Mission Bay Boat and Ski Club and boom! An era began. We had “The Patriot Party” on 9/11/04 with non-stop music and camping which became a bi-yearly event we called Band Camp which hosted San Diego legends like Superunloader, Transfer, Earl Thomas, Deadline Friday, SweetTooth, Christopher Dale, Steph Johnson and SOOOO many more. I met Erica Mantone at Band Camp and she became my first “intern” although she was SO much more. She even helped me score my first corporate sponsorship. Around this time I started getting support from some of the local media like George Varga, Jay Allan Sanford, Jim Trageser, Tim Pyles and I had the honor of being on the cover of The Troubadour Magazine! It was the shot I needed to keep putting energy and love into Listen Local.
I had always been a fan of the Nashville style “in the round” performances so in 2004 we had the first “Acoustic Alliance” at The Brick by Brick featuring 4 sets of 4 songwriters playing 3 songs each. The show was made more amazing with help from Tim Flack, Adam Paul, Myrna Vasquez, Mic Kiner, and the cool peeps at the Brick. Shortly after that I began hosting The Game series thanks to Jeff Berkley’s inspiration, then thanks to Cliff Keller and the San Diego Meetup, The Game exploded mid 2000’s. There was Couch Sessions at Desi’s, Wednesday open mic at O’Connells, our Thursday showcases at The Tiki and then Tim Flack asked if I wanted to host his “podcast”. Like, wtf was a podcast?!?!
The early 2000’s taught me that even I could learn and use this new technology to make videos and record music. My amazing sister Lorrayne bought me a Tascam and Sven-Erik Seaholm taught me how to use it. The sky WAS the limit. Then? I met the man of my dreams (Hi Jonny!) and my bachelorette party campout weekend spawned another Listen Local event, Chick Camp. We eventually invited boys and called that The Songwriter Sleepover. During all of this time The Ordeal was busy making records with Jeff Berkley thanks to the generous support of Dennis Driscoll, Adam Paul, Sydney Nickell, Ben & Sue, Tim Flack, and a bunch of other great folks who contributed before Kickstarter was a thing. It’s kind of surreal and very humbling to have folks just give you money to make your dreams come true.
In 2009 there was a coup among the leaders and the Boat and Ski Club board ousted me as their musical liaison, for reasons unknown, banning me from returning to the private member’s only venue. I lost a bunch of sleep and a few friends over this one. *sigh* Fortunately, another door was about to open.
Ok, so, remember when I was busking across the country with my pal Heath? Well, it was The Troubadours of Divine Bliss who encouraged us to hit the road (Hi Blissters!), telling us to meet them in Boulder, CO. There they introduced us to Astra Kelly who was traveling the country busking and rocking faces. Once I returned to SD, I would play her CD all the time so I emailed her and told her to come to San Diego and play a show. Come she did and then she moved here and after just a few weeks at her new receptionist job at KPRi, she and Madison resurrected The Homegrown Hour local music show which she gifted me a few years later. I hosted the show for another 6 years, a few with Jeff Berkley as my producer (we ruled, bro!) which caught the attention of HOB GM Matt Parsons who had some ideas about pairing local music with the growing craft beer industry. Together we dreamed up Local Brews, Local Grooves which gave local musicians a chance to rock HOB’s impressive mainstage. Every quarter, the All Access Fest featured 14 bands rotating on 2 stages and many times it was sold out and folks stood in line to support local music. For over 6 years I spent every Tuesday hosting LBLG with some of the greatest people in the business. Mike Lockrem, Sean Ross, Dan Zurowski, Brock Widman, Robby Shelton, Clint Gish, Eileen Poston, Shervia Sana and so many more. It was around this time that Lloyd Pest Control began sponsoring Listen Local, thanks to the very amazing James R. Spring. That dough allowed me to expand to multiple showcases each night and I was able to employ my friends to host those shows. Lindsay White hosted a successful Listen Local showcase for a few years and Brandy Torrisi, Jessica Hull and even Roni Lee were all on team Listen Local at one time. Things were swingin’!
Then? KPRi got a new GM who thought The Homegrown Hour needed a new host and once I lost that gig, HOB was under new management and they were like “she’s not on the radio anymore and LBLG is a successful event, we don’t need her anymore! Byeeee!” That was a tough year. Besides the emotional stuff, I could have lost my brand if not for rockstar attorney Michael Hoisington, ESQ helping me navigate the BS and trademark by brand. I rebranded as ListenLocalRadio.com and with help from my amazing husband I set up a studio in our home and learned how to produce my own show and share it on the world wide web. I continued hosting the podcast and Lloyd Pest Control continued to sponsor me even though I was no longer on the FMs, beyond cool of them. I was still hosting The Game but I was too heartbroken to host showcases at venues anymore, so I turned my energy towards an old passion, flipping fashion.
I had a brick and mortar storefront in Ohio in the late 90s and some of the better inventory returned home with me so I opened a little thrift store in my studio in our home. A year later, with a sponsorship from Andy and his dad Steve Altman at Gigtown, I was able to buy a 1978 Chevy Grumman bread truck and take the store on the road. Around that same time I was getting into mixed media art, photography and making stop motion videos. My band, The Ordeal was slowing down but my long time bassist bestie Marcia Claire and I were starting another all girl band; this time with Nisha Catron, Sierra West, Kim Bishop and Mary Grasso who named us Calamity. It was 2013.
On Valentine’s Day 2017 Jonny and I purchased a 5th Wheel and remodeled it in our backyard while we contemplated our next journey. Renting was becoming so very expensive and we had this long time plan of living somewhere where we could host my songwriter sleepover and chick camp retreats. We started looking into camp hosts and caretaking positions and, thanks to a hot tip from #thatblondebassist’s mom Deborah, ended up moving to Encinitas in May where we parked behind a giant wall painted as a gas station façade at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum. We lived at The Heritage Ranch for a few years, hosting events, helping keep the grounds, taking minutes for the Board and enjoying all of the lovable characters that make that museum so special. In September of 2019 I felt my folks needed me so we carried our circus up to Lucerne Valley. My dad was waiting on us, it seems, we had 2.5 amazing months with them then dad left us on the night of the full moon on December 12, 2019.
We were still grieving, just beginning to think about what was next when the world shut down. With neither of us able to work we decided to stay and hang out with mom. Carole Beeks let us turn their 2.5 acres into a retreat space we called Hart Acres (after my dad, Hartley Beeks) and I began hosting Chick Camp and The Songwriter Sleepover as the world began to slowly open back up. We upgraded the 5th wheel to a vintage single wide (the Eagle!) and began to adjust to the insane heat, wind and distance to anything out there in the desert. Jonny was commuting to San Diego for work more and more so in late 2022 mom convinced us to return to our life in San Diego. We brought the 5th wheel down to Boulevard before finding a spot four our mobile home on a friend’s 30 acre horse ranch in Ramona, the place I had always longed to live. The Eagle had landed.
Ramona’s music community is unlike that of any place I’ve ever lived. Ashley E. Norton, Jon Hasz and the musicians who have been making music here for years along with the incredibly supportive wineries, breweries and live music fans who always show up, are why. This place and these people have lit a fire in me. I’m playing music with 4 different bands, performing solo, hosting showcases, open mics and our song circle is rounder than ever! The Listen Local Show still posts on the 1st of each month featuring an audio calendar of songs by artists playing that month along with a set of music from all over the globe introduced by the music maker. Listen Local Lounge at Berkley Sound has almost 20 episodes sharing stories and music with SD’s best, with new episodes coming this winter. The Game continues every other month and Chick Camp and The Songwriter Sleepover will return to a venue near you in 2024. The Green Room’s mobile boutique comes home soon so I’ll be popping up in Ramona, offering vintage clothing and a mobile photo booth. So many positive things on the horizon…
While I no longer have corporate sponsorship, these days I am 100% funded by the 67 people who support me on Patreon.com/listenlocalradio It is thanks to these folks (and people like Producer Chris, Lindsay White, Willie Roberson, Mark Torpey and those who randomly drop love into my venmo!) that Listen Local lives on. Some give $2 some give more. All are loved and get access to private and early release content as well as VIP seats, invitations, discounted services and much more!
Well, I think that’s it! Thank you for joining me on my journey back through time. For those folks out there endeavoring to make a living in this weird “business unusual“, I see you. But, for every bad experience there are so many amazing people who keep us all rocking in the free world. I wish I could personally thank every single person who made the last 20 years so beautiful, I hope you know that I remember and appreciate your contribution. What an amazing few decades it’s been, here’s to the next 20! xo Cathryn
TUNE IN TO THIS MONTH’S LISTEN LOCAL SHOW!
This month’s podcast features music by those performing in the San Diego area in September. After the audio calendar there are songs and messages from makers all over the globe. Please send me your original song and intro message so I can play you on October’s show. Get all the details at www.ListenLocalRadio.com/submitsongs Thanks for listening and thank you to our subscribers for making the show possible.
Here is my schedule this month, I hope you can join me out there!