David Bowie Tribute in Ontario: We Can Be Heroes Just for One Day.

Bowie is dead. Long live David Bowie.

Bowie is dead. Long live David Bowie.

David Bowie once gave some sage advice about stepping out of your comfort zone: “Confront a corpse at least once. The absolute absence of life is the most disturbing and challenging confrontation you will ever have.”

Mr. Bowie’s life took a leave of absence from this world on January 10 of this year. His death seemed to herald the beginning of the musical version of the rapture, as a whole slew of musical icons started shedding the mortal coil right after. Just goes to show that he was always a trend setter.

And, as so obviously noted by every pundit worth their weight in punditry, Mr. Bowie’s influence was far flung. This was evidenced by the show “TVC16—A Celebration of David Bowie," held in a large room at the back of an Eagles Lodge in downtown Ontario, on April 30, 2016.

37 musicians, mostly from the Inland Empire, gathered together to confront the body of work left behind by The Thin White Duke. The show had an impromptu feel, yet proved to be an entertaining, belated wake. Like a good memorial, it mostly celebrated the early days, with the vast majority of songs coming from the seventies and eighties.

Opening band Casey Jones & The Railsplitters got the show off to a good start, getting all hunky dory with “Changes” and “Life on Mars?” Dennis LeBlanc, of The Shadow Ridge Conspiracy, came on to do that old glam standard “Queen Bitch.” The band Kermit followed with a short set, highlighted by a very funky version of "Young Americans.”

Vintage City Rockers: Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!

Vintage City Rockers: Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!

Freak out in a moonage daydream with Jaime St. James.

Freak out in a moonage daydream with Jaime St. James.

Most Valuable Player goes to Tony Snow, who did a lion’s share of the work that night, lending his talents on drums, percussion, and harmonica to the various bands performing. Snow, the drummer for 80's band Dramarama, is also the lead singer and keyboard player of the Vintage City Rockers. Their too-short set was all swagger and rock star bravado, culminating in a raucous version of “Suffragette City.”

Snow got behind the drums for the final performance of the evening by All The Old Dudes, a group that came together especially for the show. They did a nice Bowie retrospective with songs ranging from “The Width of a Circle" to “I’m Afraid of Americans." They were joined by Jaime St. James (of Black ‘N Blue fame) who brought his glam metal gravitas to a couple of songs from Ziggy Stardust.

Here’s a video of the set. Definitely worth a gander:


The encore turned out to be “Purple Rain” for the recently departed Prince, another iconoclast turned to ashes. 

As we age, it’s going to happen more and more, this thinning of the herd. More tribute shows are coming down the pike. All our musical heroes will be gone, except for maybe Keith Richards, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis. My money's on Jerry Lee, but that's a topic for another time.


Hugo is a contributing writer to the ConceptuaLine blog and an accomplished copywriter in both English and Spanish. Catch him on Friday nights supporting Lancer football.



It was twenty years ago today...

So a man walks into bar and gets nostalgic about the future.

The location for this exercise in time travel is Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. He’s there to see John Surge & The Haymakers open for Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.

Haymakers and Peacemakers all in one place... that alone makes for an interesting night.

Clyne—dubbed the Springsteen of the Southwest—was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of his first album, The Refreshments' Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy, by playing it in its entirety.

Roger Clyne—Twenty years ago... Memories are made of this.

Watching an album played in concert recalls the Laurie Anderson refrain: “This is the time and this is the record of the time.” Clyne jokingly addressed this when he said the moment had come to "flip the record over."

The crowd certainly knows the album. They know the songs by heart. One woman is rocking to the music, arms raised over her head, singing along with her eyes closed, a big smile on her face. She might have been 16 when the record first came out. Is she being transported to her past? Is she recalling days of her youth, a first or lost love, times spent in her room listening to her favorite cassette? Is she back to a simpler time when life was just a party, before she discovered, as we all do, that parties weren’t meant to last? (Just ask Prince. His silence speaks volumes, doesn’t it?)

While watching this woman, the man gets a vision of the future. In twenty years, the man will be either:
a) A cover model for Today’s Seniors magazine
b) No more
c) A spirit of energy and light, free from all concept of time and space
d) None of the above

He pictures his music-loving daughter 20 years on. Maybe she’ll find herself in a club similar to Saint Rocke. Maybe it’s The Maine on stage, playing their album Pioneer in its entirety. She’ll be with her old friends, taking selfies with God knows what kind of new-fangled contraption, singing along with the band. She’ll remember the songs, the feelings invoked, the moments of her youth.  She’ll just never be 16 again.

Remember the Maine: Memories in the works. "Inside of You" live in LA from the Pioneer tour.

This is the record. And this is the record of the time.

Hugo is a contributing writer to the ConceptuaLine blog and an accomplished copywriter in both English and Spanish. Catch him on Friday nights supporting Lancer football.




God Bless Americana

Monica Vitti and peeling paint.

Monica Vitti and peeling paint.

So a man walks into a bar. The man is like that old song: he doesn’t get around much anymore. His original plan was to stay home and re-watch Il Deserto Roso but that could be like watching paint peel on a Thursday night. (That’s an inside joke for the Antonioni cognoscenti out there.)

He’s there at his friend’s behest: “Come listen to live music at the Cinema Bar.” Sounds too perfect. Now, what to wear to this bacchanal? Ah yes, comfortable shoes.

It turns out the Cinema Bar is the “world’s smallest honky-tonk” with a long history of being a watering hole and showcase for LA’s Americana roots music scene. There was no cover and there were three bands on the bill.


John Surge and The Haymakers.

John Surge and The Haymakers.

This Long Beach-based band is perfect for The Cinema Bar stage: John Surge has some strong songs of heartbreak to put a tear in your beer, and his Haymakers pack a wallop. Lead guitarist Randy Volin is one rockin’ cat with some of the cleanest guitar lines this side of James Burton. They are always playing around town. Definitely worth a gander and a listen.

The Sounds of Ghosts.

The Sounds of Ghosts.

Who would have ever thought that a trumpet would be providing the high lonesome sound for an American roots band? Well that’s The Sound of Ghosts. This wild bunch gives a nice aural twist to your expectations.

They’re young, they’re pretty, they’re a righteous dose of musical talent. There’s a first album in the works, but meanwhile here’s your homework assignment: Listen to The Sounds of Ghosts.

Last, but certainly not least, was Echo Sparks. Man came, saw, and was conquered by this trio. If you buy any music this year, buy “Torch Song” from their Ghost Town Girl album. It has a classic line that will send a shiver down the spine, it’s so good: “I’ll burn your house down if that woman is inside.”

They also paid homage to The Cinema Bar with a wicked cover of “Can’t Let Go”, the Lucinda Williams song penned by Randy Weeks, who used to play there quite a bit back in the day. And their version of Little Richard’s “Slippin’ and a Slidin'’” was Americana roots music at its essence.

So, anyway, a man walks into a bar, hits his knee, and says ouch. The pain comes from living. Moral of the story: it’s good to step out of the comfort zone, do some living and take in some good old glorious music.

Hugo is a contributing writer to the ConceptuaLine blog and an accomplished copywriter in both English and Spanish. Catch him on Friday nights supporting Lancer football.


Easter: The Rites Of Spring Keep Hope Alive


It’s a universal and ancient ritual, this celebration of Spring; the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Whether it's bunnies and eggs symbolizing the return of light and vitality after the desolation of winter, or the promise of eternal life witnessed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, human beings have been celebrating springtime for centuries.

This April 5, it was an invitation from my neighbor, Diane: “Come to our Easter service! Our choir and the children's choir will be singing, and we’re going to have a brass ensemble.”


It had been over a decade since I stepped foot in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church of Covina. My daughter belonged to Kingdom Kidz Club back then. And, attending the Easter service really brought home the idea of the circle of life for me. I saw a younger version of myself: the young mother adoring her "Cherub" as the child sang a simple and simply-beautiful song. And the future was staring at me: the "traditional service" (as opposed to the more casual, "contemporary service" held earlier that morning) was filled with older members of the church. 


A musician friend once told me that church is the last bastion to hear quality music being played live. I became a believer as I listened to the Chancel Choir sing joyfully to the accompaniment of a majestic organ and the San Dimas Brass Ensemble. Next, a gentleman stepped up to the podium and started singing. The voice that emerged was youthful and smooth, reminiscent of a young Rudy Vallee. Later, a silver haired soprano sang a solo that was heavenly in its clearness and power. 

Following the service, I was rejuvenated. The sun was warm. The air was clear. It was a glorious Spring day. 

Happy Easter!


Donna is a principal at ConceptuaLine, and enjoys being a contributing writer to the ConceptuaLine blog.