by Steven Sanchez
I hope everybody had a great holiday season. I hope everybody got what they wanted for Christmas because I for sure did. This jolly time of year was a little bit different for me this time around. I really can’t say that I was super festive once the holidays rolled on because, to be quite honest, for all of 2019, based on the amount of shows and events I went to, almost every day felt like Christmas. On behalf of Kings River Life, it felt like we were Santa in a way, our gifts to our readers were the photos and reviews of all the events we were most privileged to be a part of. And the last months of the year were no different.
Not only are we ringing in a new year, but a new decade as well, and it’s been an honor to see the entertainment landscape evolve these last few years, and we’ve enjoyed covering it every step of the way. It looks like 2020 is shaping to be another great year for entertainment, and you bet we’ll be there. Here’s a recap of the events that took place in November and December as we approach the 20s.
Dirty Honey rocked its way through Strummer’s on November 14. My, oh my. What a show! A highlight of what LA rock is all about. Ain’t nothin’ dirty about them but a clean sound that’s as sweet as honey. They’re the first band to be unsigned but chart number 1 in the rock category on Billboard for the single, “When I’m Gone.” They just finished touring with Guns ‘n’ Roses and our readying to get their headline tour going along the way. Because of this buzz, they’ve made it onto iHeartRadio’s “On The Verge Artist” list. And to think they’ve only been around since 2017.
Singer Marc Labelle said that rock is alive and well in Fresno, and I second that motion. I felt like I was watching them on the sunset strip during the crazy days of the 70s and 80s. A throwback is an understatement, but they’re living proof that old school rock is making a comeback or just maybe it never went anywhere. Screaming vocals, loud guitars, booming drums, don’t expect anything less than that. By far one of the most exciting rock shows in the area. Better than witnessing them in their rock star roles on stage, was getting the chance to meet and photograph them. They were humble and down to earth, but once they entered the backstage parking lot, it was evident how they were shocked by the reception the Valley gave them. I think we did our job Fresno! These guys won’t be gone anytime soon, they showed that they’re here to stay, and they just might come back again.
Lindsey Stirling danced and fiddled her way into our hearts at Warnor’s Theatre on November 19, and oh my, it was holly jolly good time. This was the first stop of her Warmer in the Winter Christmas Tour. What an all-around great performer Lindsey is. Her stage production was like walking into a Winter Wonderland. The young lady plays the violin while dances; I don’t know how that’s possible, but she makes it happen. With her backup dancers, where the choreography was consistently in sync, it was a production that was filled pageantry.
It was a white Christmas as she was jingle bell rockin’ the whole time with her violin in her hand. She also added lighthearted humor throughout her set. She played the familiar holiday classics “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree” and “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” with a little help of audience participation. Even with some songs, there was no singing, but by the epic quality of her music you knew what she was playing. She and her band played some jingles on kids toy instruments, and it sounded pretty good. A video of her going undercover giving out money at Target was a hysterical bit. Then she got personal on how losing loved ones inspired her to believe in angels and feels they are around us which gave the show emotional depth.
It just wasn’t holiday themed, it was eclectic throughout. She took us on a space odyssey as the background projection screens took us through the stars and galaxies as she delivered a majestic performance. It made you smile, cry, it just gave you the feels. Being a pirate lover, she even did a pirate-themed fiddle shuffle that was energetic. The variety she brings to her show encapsulates the all-around uniqueness that makes Lindsey who she is. Success on the billboard charts in the dance, electronic, and classical genres; New York Times bestselling author of her memoir The Only Pirate at the Party; being a contestant on Dancing With The Stars; a YouTube sensation; motivational speaker; collaborating with John Legend, Amy Lee, Lizzy Hale. This woman can do it all.
This holiday season she’s going to be like a little Santa Claus, traveling all over spreading Christmas joy to all. If you didn’t believe that this is the most wonderful time of year, then attend a Lindsey Stirling show. And if she decided to set sail to these parts again, then Fresno would like to board that ship for another ride.
New Politics brought its musical campaign rally to Strummer’s on November 22. It didn’t matter if you’re on the far left or the far right, all can agree that you can give your allegiance to this band. The punk, pop, and electronically-induced dance rock band ensued so many different reactions from the audience. One moment they were jumping up and down, the other they were dancing, and in the next one they were feeling heartfelt. That’s the beauty of music is that it can make you feel all kinds of emotions and cause different reactions out of you, and that’s what they did.
The trio is from Denmark, but they had nothing but complimentary things to say about Fresno and were impressed by the energy we brought. They just celebrated their ten-year anniversary tour. Their lyrics are about positivity, take a look at a song like “Comeback Kid,” a song about finding the strength in hard times, “You can knock me out/You can hold me down/I’m a comeback kid.” This is the kind of music we need right now. Their newest album is titled “An Invitation to an Alternate Reality,” and after seeing their show, I can say they did that.
David Boyd was not limited to just a podium like a politician would be. He was holding onto the rafters, standing on top of the speakers, despite the Strummer’s stage being small, his performance was as mighty as him performing in a stadium. If they decide to roll on by again, this is one musical candidate that has my vote.
Jonny Lang pick slid his way to the Tower Theatre on December 10. We may live in an age where you can create music on your computer, but Jonny boy showed proof that the guitar is alive and well with his performance. I’ve followed this guy’s career since the beginning. Calling him a musical prodigy would be a slight understatement given his resume of accomplishments. I recall seeing this guy as a youth performing a live concert on the Disney channel in the late 90s and new he was destined to be a star. The man was signed to a major record label as a teenager. Through that he’s been able to jam with some of the greats such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and tour with The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.
The guitar aficionado was oozing blues and soul throughout the night. Some songs were fast and groovin’ while others were slow and melodic. He may be a blues man, but there was nothing painful about his playing, and don’t let the crazy facial expressions fool you. He and everybody there were having a good time. Crazy how he’s in his late 30s, but it was an older crowd that was in attendance. It makes sense since he reminds that generation of the legends that came before him. If he keeps playing the way he did, then soon enough he’ll be a blues legend of my generation.
THIRD EYE BLIND
Third Eye Blind came to town for a concert that was put on by New Rock 104.1 for their Ho Ho Christmas Show on December 12. It was a blast! Speaking on behalf of thirds, that is the amount of time I’ve seen them, and after last night’s show, the third time is a charm.
The actual holiday maybe weeks away, but this is the gift that all the rockers in attendance wanted, and they were the gift that kept on giving with each hit they played. Jagged Baptist Club and Dreamers opened the night and got the crowd fired up and ready for the festivities. The popular hitmakers of the 90s and 2000s with pop rock radio classics like “Semi Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” “How’s It Going To Be,” and “Never Let You Go,” consistently kept the crowd entertained. The audience members were moving about and shouting with the same passion they had when they first heard these songs.
The band was very popular during my formative years, so their music has a lot of sentimentality to me and going by the cheers that echoed through the theatre, there are thousands that feel the same. I had met the lead singer Stephan Jenkins before, and it was great catching up with him as I captured an image with the frontman. Thank you New Rock for putting on an awesome concert and for providing local music fans with great music entertainment this past year. Looking forward to next year.
THE BLACK MOODS
The Black Moods made their way to Strummer’s on December 17. The show was hosted by local rock station 105.1 The Blaze. It was really an entertaining night of rock, it may’ve been a Tuesday, but the vibe and feel felt like a weekend.
The appetizer for the evening was local Clovis rock and blues band The Dying Suns. Don’t let their baby faces fool you, they’ll amaze with their classic rock sound. Throw in aspects of Led Zeppelin and mix it with some 90s alternative, you get this band. This was their first Strummer’s gig, and something tells me by the crowd’s reaction this won’t be their last. Once they blasted into their rendition of Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the audience was hooked. Establishing themselves at places like 559 Beer, with that performance we might see them playing in bigger venues for years to come, now that the classic rock sound is making a resurgence on mainstream radio.
Then came the main cuisine, The Black Moods. The Arizona trio are making another valuable contribution to the sound of rock. Comprised of frontman/guitarist Josh Kennedy, drummer Chico Diaz, and bassist Jordan Hoffman, this band is the epitome of that traveling band that comes into your town, shakes you up, and by the end of the night you’ll remember their name. Their soaring reputation for crashing drum beats and soulful guitar solos opened the gates for them to tour with bands such as Shinedown, Jane’s Addiction, Eve 6, Cracker, and just recently with also Arizona-based 90s alternative staple Gin Blossoms. Listen to the tracks “Bella Donna” and “Bad News” to see what they’re about.
Ozomatli Tower Theatre. Ay dios mio, what an amazing performance it was! This band is a living Spotify playlist encompassing so many genres in just one group. With so many genres, there was a little something there for everybody. They play Latin, hip hop, rock, salsa, jazz, funk, reggae, rap, and ska. All that variety of flavor is the reason why everyone there was dancing, and there is no floor to dance, it’s just rows of seats, but that didn’t stop the crowd from making room in the aisles to shake their rumps.
This band has been around since the 90s and in that time, have racked up a resume of accomplishments along the way. The two-time Grammy award winners have opened up and have jammed with Carlos Santana and The Dave Matthews Band, made an appearance in the Drew Barrymore film, Never Been Kissed, and an episode of Sex and The City. They’ve played for former President Barack Obama, and the first band to have ever done a Ted Talk. They were the intro and house band for Gabriel Iglesias’ show Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution and just recently performed for a rally for presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. They were even the favorite band of late great frontman for The Clash, Joe Strummer.
I’ve never felt compelled to want to party or dance on a Wednesday night, but once the music started playing and I felt their energy, they gave me every reason to do that. The Hispanic audience that was there were already moving from the get go once the group took the stage. It was straight up energy, funk, and soul throughout the night. What was supposed to be a meet and greet at the merchandise table in the front lobby ending up being a continuation of the show. The band members brought their instruments and proceeded to jam away with the crowd surround them while they played with people dancing and recording them on their phones. I’ve never seen anything like that before. To see other people who look like me and represent me to succeed in the industry and for those in the crowd who are like me to see them and feel the way I did, not only was it a good time, but also an amazing experience.