by Steven Sanchez
As it is the New Year, it’s time to put 2018 in perspective. When approaching the last couple of months of the year and the holidays ringing, it made me realize I had one heck of a year. Filled with concerts, sporting events, and personal triumphs. I didn’t need a “what do I want for Christmas” list as I got more than what one person could ask for. Starting from November and getting the chance to attend the functions I did and the people I got to meet, I made note on what I was thankful for on several occasions besides at the Thanksgiving table. With 2019, there’s nothing that I need to resolve, I just want to keep doing what it is that I’m already doing. Here’s a list of reviews of the shows I attended in November and December. Happy Holidays!
The story behind this indie rock band is that, days after they got together, they snuck into a studio and recorded their debut EP in just three days. The Thousand Oaks, rising stars didn’t need to sneak onto the Strummer’s stage on November 7 because they were embraced as if they owned it. The fivesome are creating a buzz in the indie world as they passed through town on their first ever headlining tour to support their latest EP “Panic Vertigo.” They had the crowd jumping up and down with songs like “Panic Vertigo,” “Revolution,” and the crowd pleaser “James Dean.”
Their music harkens back to a time of 2000s era pop rock anthem bands like The All-American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, and Jimmy Eat World. Not too serious but really fun. The openers Sharks of Dance, and Ufo Ufo complimented the main act by each of them delivering their own brand of upbeat music. Unlike the famous but gone to soon actor that inspired the song “James Dean,” this band won’t be fading away anytime soon, they’re just getting started.
Phil Anselmo and The Illegals
Philip H. Anselmo, the legendary and former frontman of the famous heavy metal juggernaut, Pantera, brought his current band, The Illegals, to Strummer’s on November 10 for the Choosing Mental Illness US Tour Part 2 on the west coast. This tour is to support their second album “Choosing Mental Illness As a Virtue,” but for Phil, this is just another entry into the discography of what is a storied career for the metal idol.
According to lead guitarist, Mike DeLeon, Phil’s taste for unabashed, thrashing music has never wavered. “It’s just super heavy, lots of groove, and some black metal, and it’s definitely Philip’s outlet for anything he wants to do he’s got us,” says Mike. This band is a concoction of members coming together from different bands to form a unit that has an eclectic sound. “It definitely is good for what it is that we’re trying to do and it makes it stand out and you can hear it in the playing of each individual on the album,” elaborates Mike.
Phil is no stranger to various crowds. He’s played in some of the biggest arenas and stadiums and has toured with some of the best metal acts of all time. So, it makes one wonder as to why he’d bring his already familiar brash and unrelenting, shall I say “vulgar display of power” (pun intended to the name of a classic Pantera album) to such a small venue. Mike believes that, “Being in front of the fans faces, it’s cool playing these smaller shows…when you’re here in some of these smaller spots you get to jam in front of the fans, and you give them your energy and they give it back, so it makes it intimate and personal.”
Child Bite, Amenthes, and Sinew were the introductory bands, and they did a good job of stirring up the mosh pits early in the night, priming them up for when Phil and The Illegals would take it to another level. They blasted their original material from both albums, and made some room for Pantera covers like “I’m Broken.” Even at age 50 he is still growling and screaming, and he will continue to do so.
The Brevet and The Jacks
For the Tacos, Brews, and Jams night at Tioga Sequioa Brewing Co. on November 15 and in association with New Rock 104.1, it was the alternative rock bands, The Brevet and The Jacks, that brought the jams. It was a night filled with tacos, beer, and good time rock.
The Jacks were the warm up band, but they brought the heat during the cold November night since the show took place outside. They’re bringing back the classic rock sound with loud beating drums and fast, groovin’ guitars that oozes sex appeal. A mixture of Led Zeppelin riffs, upbeat tempos of The Who, and throw in a little Deep Purple in there, and this is the result of that. They’re reminiscent of contemporary bands that made the nostalgic sound relevant like Jet, The White Stripes, and Lenny Kravitz.
“There’s rock bands out there, but we are a rock ‘n’ roll band,” lead guitarist Thomas Hunter claims. “There was a spark in the 60s and 70s of this freedom of people going for a rock and psychedelic sound where they were experimenting with music in the studio and in life and that unpredictability is a little lost now,” Thomas says. “We are influenced by bands from that era, but we have a lot of modern influences as well and you put that together is what creates The Jacks sound.”
Alternative rock band, The Brevet, have already built up an audience in the Valley since they played here early in the year when they opened for Magic Giant in March. They personally told me they love our Mexican food. The highlight of their show when they came before was when they played the song “So Long” months before it’s official release, I felt this song could be their magnum opus. It’s upbeat, inspirational, and has the ingredients of being an anthem.
They’ve been touring for most of the year, and it has generated a lot of positive attention to where they’ve received great exposure with the song “Locked and Loaded” as it was played on the popular Los Angeles radio station, KROQ, which has earned a reputation for artists bursting into popularity as soon as they’re played on their rotation. And because of that support their music has been featured in films and television shows along with nine million streams on Spotify and earning festival spots like Bottlerock. With the pop rock sensibilities of Train and Maroon 5, they certainly have what it takes to be a mainstream act.
On December 8, comedian Jim Breuer, most famous for his character “Goat Boy” on Saturday Night Live and starring in the cult classic stoner comedy “Half Baked,” came to Fulton 55 for an intimate performance for his closest fans. It wasn’t a stand-up routine since he was mostly sitting down but it was a night of him telling stories, some funny, some personal, it felt more like a confessional, but the way he told it – being so relatable – made it so hilarious. He was the headlining feature of what was Art Silva’s Birthday Bash to celebrate the special day for the local entertainment promoter.
A night filled with comedy and music, comedians Ali O’Leary, Dana Turner, Chris Cruz, and Johnny Osburn provided the laughs, and then a string of bands came afterward to keep the energy flowing. In between sets special guest speakers like on air personality, Hammer, from New Rock 104.1, and Fresno Bee journalist, Joshua Tehee, and others would take the mic and share to the crowd their own interactions with the local promoter while personally wishing him a Happy Birthday.
Then Jim took the stage. He came a day before he opened for Metallica that Sunday at the Save Mart Center. Big stage, small stage, it didn’t matter, he held the crowd the whole time he was up there. Divulging about his career, how during the making of “Half Baked” he was never high but the one time he did when he thought they were done shooting he had to deliver a line of dialogue while being very stoned. Retraced back to his past about how as a teen he worked at Sears and jokingly called in a bomb threat as a goofy revenge plot showing displeasure for his place of employment, but instead had to answer to the police and the FBI.
And then he got very deep on how he was his father’s caregiver, the family members he’s lost, and trying to find humor even in the toughest of times. For a guy who’s been told he looks high all the time, the most memorable thing he said to end the night was how we as a society can get a lot done when we don’t give in to the brainwashing brought on by politics and the media and we can have a better world through that unity.
Local alternative rock station, New Rock 104.1, is known for its New Rock Soundhouse events, in collaboration with Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co. for their free shows as a token of appreciation for their listeners. For the last one of the year, on December 11, they brought rising English musician, Barns Courtney, to town. This young songwriter’s career is on fire, “pun intended” to describe his music trajectory all due to his 2015 breakout song “Fire.” The single has been featured in countless TV shows and movies such as the Bradley Cooper film Burnt, and series like Suits, Teen Wolf, and played it live on Conan.
His other songs have been featured in a string of other TV shows and sports and events commercials. He performed a one man unplugged show at the downtown brewery for a devoted crowd. It was a short set list, but he went through all his hits like the 2018 release “99” and of course saved “Fire” for the end. Even though it was a solo performance without a backing band, he gave us a taste of what’s to come for him. Charismatic and talented, he’s showing potential to be the next great pop/solo act, like a Bryan Adams for this generation.
The Las Vegas band once again has returned to Fresno to satisfy their loyal Central Valley fanbase. The hard rock group has built a strong following in due part to the fact they’ve made this area of the state a go to destination whenever they’ve gone on tour. In the last three years, they’ve satisfied crowds in Kingsburg, Strummer’s, and on December 14 they made their way to Fulton 55.
The opening bands Minor Assumption, Who Wants the Crown, and Helsik did a great job on firing up the crowd and paving the way for the headliners to grab the spotlight. Led by the always engaging Rick DeJesus, they didn’t play until late into the night, but it didn’t matter because those people would’ve stayed till the morning if they could. The independent act played their familiars like “Bad Reputation” and new songs from their latest album “Notorious” and current EP “Live Love Life.”
They walked off the stage, the crowd thinking it was over is what inspired them to chant “Encore,” and they returned to conclude the set with their seminal hit, “Invincible.” They are amongst the wave of rock bands in the new millennium to come out of Sin City with company like The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Panic At The Disco, Escape The Fate, Otherwise, and Five Finger Death Punch. What separates them is the fact they’ve been an independent touring act since 2016 free of any label control. They complimented those in attendance that it’s their support that keeps them going, but as long they are touring and they keep coming to this area, people will keep showing up.
The experimental rock band from Sacramento came to Strummer’s on December 20 for an acoustic performance to support their latest album, “Beautiful Death,” and as a precursor to their acoustic EP “Revision” that’ll be due out in January. They are known for their hard sound, but even though they were unplugged for this one, they brought the same energy as if they were in an arena and the fans showed their appreciation through shouts and screams. It was a short set list, but they played all their definitive songs much to the pleasure of their loyal admirers. To get into the holiday spirit they shocked everybody by doing their own rendition of the Mariah Carey Christmas Classic, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and in all honesty, they did a good job.
Their lead singer, Jonny Craig, has received praise for his baritenor voice, and their acoustic performance allowed for his range to shine that it became the highlight of the night. Dayseeker and Sunsleep began the night with their own acoustic sets, and each one of them had exemplary harmonies and tempos. Slaves have been in town before this year, and it wouldn’t matter whether it be plugged or unplugged, in reference to their song “I’d Rather See Your Star Explode,” if they come again, their Valley fans will want to do the same thing.