The local music program airs Sundays at 7:00 P.M. on KVHS 90.5 FM!

December 2021 •

The December column is now available at the Pioneer's website.

November 2021 •

The monthly column returns to print in The Pioneer!

• October 2021 •

"The Beat of Diablo" moves to the Pioneer!

• September 2021 •

"The Beat of Diablo" moves to FM Radio!

Coming soon to KVHS 90.5 Concord, "The Beat of Diablo" will be a weekly local music program produced and hosted by Dave Hughes that showcases music of all genres from in and around Concord Rock City!

The monthly column of the same name will no longer appear in the Diablo Gazette, but will likely appear elsewhere in the future.

• August 2021 •

Recent Releases

Periodically, this column will spotlight a handful of recent local music releases. All music mentioned can be found on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers. To find quick links to these recent releases and more, visit ConcordRockCity.com

Keep A Weather Eye
M Jones & the Melee
(July 2021)

It’s not common these days for local independent artists to release a full-on front-to-back album, but that’s exactly what Oakland-based M Jones and the Melee have done with Keep a Weather Eye.


The debut release carries the listener through over 40 minutes of rich songwriting from Margaret Jones, delivered both ferociously and tenderly through the no-frills rock band that she’s assembled. The band’s sound is largely driven by distorted guitar, bass guitar, and tom-heavy drums, though acoustic guitar, synthesizer, violin, and cello all play important roles.


Keep a Weather Eye is a gritty unapologetic rock record with notable range and gravity. There's a bold sense of urgency, anxious suspense, and sincere assuredness throughout the 10-song journey. Expect elements of Misfits, David Bowie, Fugazi, and Queen.

Keep a Weather Eye is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.


New Sense
New Sense
(June 2021)

Concord-based artist New Sense recently dropped a self-titled EP featuring guest appearances by Hear in Color, Uncle Eli, TJ McCarty, Valente McNamer, Faith Donithan, and Austin.


Appropriately released in late June, New Sense is rich with “summer jam” vibes. All five tracks will have you bobbing your head to the luscious funky beats, catchy hooks, and slick lyrical flow.


Several of these tracks would work well on the dance floor of a nightclub, but there’s something very shiny and bright about the overall sound that makes for a great soundtrack to a care-free time with friends on one of those memorable summer days you never forget. Or maybe it’s some of the elements from the opening track’s beat and guest vocals that conjure up the nostalgic feel of Banarama’s “Cruel Summer.” Who knows? To quote the song “Lavender” (track 3) “I don’t know how you do it, but you do it so gracefully.”

New Sense is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.


"Carried Me Away"
Spirit Drive (Feat. Deuce Eclipse)
(August 9, 2021)

The new single from Spirit Drive is a re-imagination of his own 2020 rock song from the album X, featuring Deuce Eclipse (of Bang Data).


Xavier Guerrero's new version of "Carried Me Away" is built upon a reggae beat. The more open landscape of this framework allows for some fun production, which Guerrero takes advantage of with some disciplined textural layering to help emulate some of the emotion and tension found in its original rock format.


Moreover, this beat-driven version sets the table perfectly for singer/emcee Deuce Eclipse to spit an exquisite guest verse. Deuce's faster-paced rapping momentarily snaps the listener out of the hypnotic trance set by Spirit Drive to further build on the theme of friendship abandonment.


The combination of Spirit Drive and Deuce Eclipse feels like a very natural complimentary fit, as if each artist knows the other inside and out, which makes sense considering these two Concord artists are literally brothers.

"Carried Me Away" will be is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers on August 9th.

"Resilience with a Touch of Resentment"
Accidents at Sundown
(August 7, 2021)

The new single from the fairly recently formed East Bay rock group Accidents at Sundown opens with a somewhat misleading sense of optimism and hope. The intro’s synthetic soundscape and electronic beat seem to be setting up a motivational power ballad. That all gets up-ended in just half a minute, slowing to a halt, not unlike pulling the plug on a turntable at a life-coaching seminar to announce that the building is on fire.


A melancholy piano and naked electric guitar emerge to give the listener some guidance. The epic nature of this “secondary intro” feels somewhat like the opening act of a rock opera that takes place in a haunted house. We, the audience, are figuratively led down the hall and eventually handed off to our host, singer Tyler McClellan, who urgently informs “What we need is to break out!”


From here on, “Resilience with a Touch of Resentment” takes consistent shape. A chugging distorted rhythm and driving drums support McClellan’s shouted declarations, which sound kinda like a really upset Joe Strummer in a good way. The haunty piano overlay adds a nice element of continuity to the earlier introduction. The new single fits well with Accidents at Sundown’s growing catalog.

Dave Hughes is a local music advocate who studied Music Theory, created Concord Couch Concerts, and produces the podcast Listen Up Concord.

Visit ConcordRockCity.com to sample, stream, or purchase any of the aforementioned releases.


• JULY 2021 •

Local Perspectives on The Vinyl Boom
by Dave Hughes

There’s no debate about it: vinyl records are back. While the “record boom” has been underway for a decade or longer - depending on who you talk to - it was just last year that the Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA) reported that vinyl outsold all other physical formats for the first time since the 1980s.


So what’s driving the vinyl boom? Is it happening everywhere, or just in hip areas near major metropolis areas? Why are some records so pricey and why is pressing a record so much more expensive for the artist than cutting a CD? Is record collecting a “rich man’s game”? Having recently taken to record collecting myself, I’ve pondered some of these questions and thought it’d be interesting to explore this with some local record authorities.


Nic Taylor opened Up the Creek Records in Walnut Creek four years ago. While he acknowledges there are a multitude of reasons vinyl has lived on as it has, Nic believes the boom is largely attributed to the consequence of the somewhat impersonal nature of the digital music age. “Yes, we now have access to every song ever, but when was the last time you asked a friend to scroll through their playlists on their phone? But if I walk into someone’s house and they have records on the shelf, I head straight over and flip through and all of a sudden we are connecting around music: ‘Cool, you have a Beastie Boys record! Oh man, I saw them live during the Licensed to Ill tour…’ It’s a beautiful way to connect both to the music and the people in your life.”


Local musician Stewart Patrick points to another compromise of the digital music age: “With streaming services today, the experience of listening to an entire album front-to-back with the song order being as the artist intended is somewhat lost.” His band Radiokeys ponied up the costs of releasing their debut record on vinyl during the pandemic, an ambitious endeavor for a DIY band during “normal times.”


When asked if the vinyl investment was worthwhile from a business standpoint, Stewart expressed optimism, “The few shows we have been able to play since the release of our vinyl we've sold quite a few! I think a full schedule of touring would tip the scales in our favor.” In the meantime, fans can purchase the album online or at a number of local record shops, usually for about $30.


Considering that thirty dollars is more than twice the cost of purchasing a new CD, what is it about records - both new and used - that leads to such a high price for the consumer?


Nic explains “...the average price in the shop for a new record is around $24. You have to pay the artist, the label, the folks who made the sleeves, the people running the presses, the recording studio, the person who mastered it, and the shop has to pay rent too, so it all adds up.” Nic added that record collecting is not a hobby exclusive to the wealthy, and encourages people to dig through a store’s used bins for some great records.

Concord resident Rob Ferrier agrees that the hobby can absolutely be an affordable one. Rob has amassed a mostly used record collection in the thousands. He believes anyone willing to spend the time can build a great collection without spending an unreasonable amount of money, especially here in the Bay Area.


“The available pool of records in local stores is dependent on what people were buying twenty or thirty years ago. Smart, curious people buy great records. There are a ton of colleges here and an ever-churning base of young people who will eventually move and will drop their heavier stuff off at Goodwill or Amoeba. The area has tremendous ethnic diversity as well. That leads to a lot of different genres selling well,” Rob explained.


Used records make up nearly the entire inventory at Tone Army Records, which opened in Concord at the end of 2019. Owner Michael Sessions (“Sesh”) explains that “So many groups and artists came from the Bay and those records are still circulating or waiting to be discovered in a box in grandma’s closet. Used vinyl records are a historical record of the culture here and I enjoy helping keep that spirit alive.”


“Overall, vinyl collecting is not exclusive to yacht-owning elitists; it’s meant for everyone. There are loads of inexpensive records and stereo gear to do the game justice,” Sesh stressed. He added that while you don’t need to buy the most expensive gear available to enjoy records, he recommends starting out with something decent that “makes you want to listen to your music on vinyl. Audio Technica LP 120 and U-turn Orbit are the two new [affordable] tables I recommend to people just starting out,” adding, “It’s no fun buying a new record that costs $30 and when you play it on your system it sounds like a turd.”


I can attest to Sesh’s advice. I purchased the Audio Technica LP 120 just before the pandemic, and have since amassed a modest collection of mostly used records, largely purchased locally at reasonable prices. Yes, I still listen to streaming services here and there, but having a record spinning on the turntable just adds one more enjoyable layer of comfort when relaxing at home. Sitting with an album “front-to-back” is indeed a richer listening experience than whatever it is we’ve become used to doing these last couple of decades. If you miss connecting with music in this more intimate way, sitting down and listening to an album front to back, or just thumbing through some crates looking for a good find, perhaps it’s time to start building your collection.

Concord record enthusiast Rob Ferrier

Walnut Creek Up the Creek Records owner Nic Taylor.

Michael "Sesh" Sessions (L), owner of Concord's Tone Army Records.

Radiokeys poses with their debut record. L-R: Allante Piazza, Tom Davis, Emily Helena, and Stewart Patrick

Up the Creek Records, Walnut Creek


Click
here to read the full interviews with Rob, Sesh, Nic, and Stewart.

• JUNE 2021 •

Raising Musical Kids
by Dave Hughes

When does a parent determine child's interest in music and how do you develop it? There's little doubt learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Science has shown that when children learn to play music, it can also aide in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

I spoke with 5 local musicians with a combined 60+ years of experience teaching music to children of varying ages, who offered some useful advice for parents who suspect their child might have an interest, desire, or talent to pursue music.

Confirm and assess the interest.

No one knows your child like you do. You’ll know if he or she is interested in learning or playing. If your child shows an interest, ask questions about their interest: what do they like about music; are they interested in playing an instrument? Be mindful to ensure you aren’t unconsciously imposing your desires upon them.


Are you signing your kid up for music lessons because you want him/her to explore his/her musicality, or because you are trying to check a box for college admissions?” asks guitar and vocal instructor Timothy Garry (Timmy G). “I am not interested in teaching the latter, and in fact you will crush your child's natural creativity and talent with such an approach,” he cautions. “Let your child explore music and develop their skill at their own pace.”


While that developmental journey may take your child down an unfamiliar road, proper professional guidance will ensure it is well-paved. Piano instructor Sin Silver explains, “If your child has a good teacher, they will keep the lines of communication open with you about how to help and what’s expected. You absolutely do not need to be musically inclined for your child to learn.”


Garry underscores that once the exploration begins, the guessing part on how to proceed usually comes to an end, saying ”if the talent and interest is there, the passion will take over.”


Don’t rush them.

Guitar instructor Nicholas Lyon-Wright urges not to start your kids too young. “Starting young is great if the inspiration is there because you get ahead of the game on some things, but I don't think it's great to force [music lessons] too much.”


“I don’t like to start kids too young because I want them to feel super empowered and confident,” says Silver. “I like to wait until 6 years old. Sometimes I will start at 5 if the maturity and concentration level is there.”


Vocal instructor Nancy Lake stresses the importance of that maturity, adding that the student “be interested and ready to pay attention. Sometimes this means the student is 8, and sometimes it means they are 48.”


Lyon-Wright elaborates that the right time is “when you're excited and inspired by what you're learning; that, to me, is the best time to start learning music.”


Ensure an outlet.

Performance adds another component in your young musician’s development. It builds self-confidence and can even strengthen socialization skills. The personal joy taken from performance is often shared in communal ways.


“It's always best when there's a real love and enjoyment of singing [or playing] on the students' part, while also having a way to perform or share the music, whether in theater, choir, church, band, etc,” says Lake.


Share the enthusiasm.

“Listen to your kids' music, play more music that you like, make music a part of daily life,” says Lake. “There is nothing more positive and beautiful than sharing music with other people, especially your kids!”


Talk to your kids about your relationship with music, memories you have of concerts you’ve been to, and - perhaps most invaluable - whatever music history you are familiar with.


“I've increasingly found that kids today know next to NOTHING about music history,” laments Garry. He went to explain that ”kids need inspiration and heroes” and that music history - even the somewhat recent - is loaded with iconic figures to keep your kids inspired.


They need to listen to more music,” says guitar instructor Vince Lay. “ All of my students who do better than the average listen to music regularly.”


Listening to music regularly - even if just in the background - isn’t very common these days in many households. If there isn't much music playing in your home, make efforts to change that. This doesn’t mean you need to invest in a state-of-the-art home stereo system; maybe you just play the radio more often or get in the habit of asking your smart speaker to play music (via streaming services) while doing household chores.


“The BEST thing you can do is listen to a lot of music at home and teach your child about the kinds of music you like! Inspire them - don't make music a chore!“ adds Garry.


To read these music teachers' full responses to various questions, click here.

MAY 2021 •

Recent Releases

During last year's drought of live music, many local bands and artists seized the opportunity to take to the recording studio. The result is an abundance of local offerings across a diverse range of genres. Visit ConcordRockCity.com to sample, stream, or purchase any of the below releases.

Renewal
Timmy G
(January 2021)

Known by many locals as the front-man to the cover group “The UnOriginals,” Walnut Creek native Timothy Patrick Garry, (Timmy G) is a man who is passionate about 2 things: music and travel. His first full length solo album, Renewal, encompasses both of these passions without saying a word.


The journey across this eclectic instrumental album features an array of instruments played mostly by Timmy G. He’s joined by some very talented musicians on violin, trumpet, trombone, accordion, keyboard, Tibetan chimes, and drums. While elements from around the world appear on Renewal, most on display is his classical guitar work; specifically Latin guitar.

Renewal is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.

Last Thoughts
Hear in Color
(February 2021)

In a recent interview Hear in Color described their sound as “Indie, Alternative, Shoe-gaze, Dream-pop, with hints of emo & post-rock.”


Their latest release, Last Thoughts, is a 5-song EP recorded and produced here in Concord. The tone of the EP is set by an ethereal atmosphere, made up largely by way of synthesizers, delay guitar, and other hypnotic effects. The reverb-soaked vocals by singer Faith Donithan might remind some of the 90s group Mazzy Star, while others might appreciate Donithan’s distinct texture and committed delivery. Hear in Color doesn’t stay in dreamworld throughout the album, with one song taking on a jazzier waltzy feel and a couple of other songs ratcheting up the intensity of the rock elements.


Last Thoughts is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.

The wee hours
Jubal Jake
(April 2021)

The debut offering from Jubal Jake - the melancholy outlet for Jeremey Swayne of Benicia’s psyche-rock group Sunfellow - is a 6-song EP with some light piano and string accompaniment.


“Plagued by insomnia, as well as stress and anxiety (both personal and financial) due to the pandemic this past year, I was able to find solace and escape in periodic bursts of creativity,” explains Swayne who wrote The wee hours during the very late evening or early morning. He continues, “These songs touch on this anxious longing, the mysterious spirit world, and nostalgic ambiguity.”


The wee hours is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.

"In Decline"
My Evergreen Soul
(April 2021)

Greg Fogg has been the driving force behind My Evergreen Soul for the better part of the last decade. Known as the local violin virtuoso, the Concord native is in fact a multi-instrumentalist, skilled singer-songwriter, and disciplined sound architect.


The new single, “In Decline”, is a storm of a rock song with dynamic bursts that quiet into calmer verses, carried by a hurried beat and driving Radiohead-esque guitar rhythm. New layers come with each verse. And yes, the listener is indeed treated to some of that much loved violin work by Fogg.


The release of “In Decline” is part of a GoFundMe campaign to help cover costs of professionally recording the next My Evergreen Soul album. It’s now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.

"Oh Brother"
Box of Matches
(April 2021)

“Oh Brother” is the most recent single from Martinez indie rock group, Box of Matches. The garage rock revival band delivers what any fan of the indie subgenre might expect: medium-paced rock drums, guitars with dry distortion, catchy melodies, and assertive vocals mixed in a semi-low-fi manner. While the overall sound is reminiscent of groups like the Strokes, the artistry of Box of Matches that’s easy to appreciate is in the subject matter of the lyrics.


In the song “Oh Brother,” Aaron Baker laments about the (perhaps undue?) guilt about whatever role he did or didn’t play in a tragedy that nearly robs him of a loved one.

Along with a few other singles by Box of Matches, “Oh Brother” is now available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers.



Sasscrotch
Sabertooth Unicorn
(May 2021)

In their 5th release this year (yes, you read that correctly) Concord’s Sabertooth Unicorn offers more strangely uplifting cynical tunes, this time in anthemic rock form.


Originally formed as a duo, Sabertooth Unicorn has taken full advantage of the group’s current 6-piece format on Sasscrotch. The fast-moving 5-song EP features typical rock band instrumentation, plus a horn section, and giant backing vocals that at times sound almost like an at-capacity stadium is singing along. As with the rest of the band’s catalog, you can expect lyrical elements of nihilism, child-like wonder/curiosity, depression, and love.


Sasscrotch is available on all major streaming platforms and online music retailers May 7th.

Dave Hughes is a local music advocate who studied Music Theory, created Concord Couch Concerts, and produces the podcast Listen Up Concord. All the aforementioned releases can be found in a Spotify playlist called “The Beat of Diablo (May 2021).”

Visit ConcordRockCity.com to sample, stream, or purchase any of the aforementioned releases.

As featured in the Diablo Gazette: