I've been lucky enough to get some great write-ups in local Bay Area newspapers and national blogs, including my work with Left Coast Live music festival and Balanced Breakfast. I especially wanted to thank the Metro Newspapers for all their support over the years and choosing my shows for their calendar picks!
By Keena Fry (August 27, 2015)
The Bay Area independent music scene has a new merge between a media company and a well-known San Jose music manager and local promoter.
Nemesis Media has taken on Barbara “Barb Rocks” Wahli as Vice President of Artists and Repertoire.
According to the official press release, “After years of partnering on project after project, and building an incredible mutual respect for one another, Nemesis Media knows this move couldn’t be better.”
The company began as a record label founded in Austin, Texas and later opened an office in San Jose, California. The exact parameters of its work varies, but at the company’s core, Nemesis Media produces, promotes, manages and records underground artists.
Nemesis has hosted shows in Bay Area venues such as the Santa Clara Avalon. It hosted the Bay Area Metal Festival there in 2010.
“Both Wahli and Nemesis Media couldn’t be more thrilled! This is the largest independent merger in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene in the last ten years,” the press release stated.
Barb is known as the founder of the San Jose chapter of Balanced Breakfast, a local social networking group for musicians of all genres.
Balanced Breakfast was founded in San Francisco in 2013 and has other local chapters in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and soon Santa Cruz. There are also chapters in Austin, Nashville, and Boston and Toronto.
Some events that “Barb Rocks” has worked on and partnered with are Santa Cruz Music Festival, West Valley Music Festival and Left Coast Live.
Wahli will still operate as “Barb Rocks” but under the Nemesis moniker.
This year’s Santa Cruz Music Festival is Saturday, Oct. 12 and tickets are $30.
By Christopher Millard (August 19, 2015)
News last week that made the South Bay music scene a bit bigger by making artist management a little smaller.
Barb Wahli, the owner and founder of South Bay music promotions company Barb Rocks, has joined forces with another presence in the Bay Area music promo world, Nemesis Media.
Wahli, who has promoted some of the South Bay’s most talented troupes (Fritz Montana, Pounders, Trash Pop Icons), will join Nemesis as the new Vice President of Artists and Repertoire. Wahli has also been the driving force behind a number of festivals in the bay (West Fest, Santa Cruz Music Festival, Left Coast Live), and her accolades don’t stop there. Barb Rocks has been among the most important promoter/managers in the whole of the Bay Area over the last decade.
If you’ve seen music in the South Bay, Wahli has most likely had a part in it. Her range goes beyond the bay, reaching to festivals like SXSW, while area media has proclaimed her the “South Bay Scene Queen.”
Wahli joins an already established Nemesis Media crew, that has been responsible for acts like Casket of Cassandra. In a statement released via their website, Nemesis relayed their excitement about the merger, stating, “[Wahli] brings her personal brand of energy and productivity to the Nemesis Media team. Both Wahli and Nemesis Media couldn’t be more thrilled! This is the largest independent merger in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene in the last ten years.”
Barb Rocks has also expressed excitement over the merger: “Joining Nemesis Media gives me the opportunity to better serve my management roster by providing them more team members with different strengths and value-adds. This leads to a more dynamic effort to support the bands needs, strive for bigger achievements, and hopefully attain goals faster.”
THE SANTA CLARA WEEKLY
By Melissa McKenzie (May 7, 2015)
Last month, when Nemesis Media, Inc. and Barb Rocks put together a bill of eight extremely diverse bands for a showcase of musical acts who participate in the pair’s networking event, Balanced Breakfast, on Saturday mornings, it could have been a disaster. Rarely do favorable results come from mixing metal with opera, but it worked better than anyone could have predicted.
The idea was simple. Musicians who wanted to participate in the show threw their names into a hat. Once stirred, four names were drawn at random and those four became a band. There was no rhyme or reason to the choices, as lead singers and drummers were all in the same pot. What’s interesting is how the bands came together. Since everyone was in one basket, it was quite possible that one band would consist of two vocalists and two guitarists, while another would have two trombonists and two bassists, but no singer. Everything about Rock Lotto came down to the luck of the draw.
Back on April 10, in the middle of the Balanced Breakfast showcase at the RockBar Theater, names were drawn, and seven new bands were formed. Each band was tasked with deciding on a name, creating a Facebook page and putting together 10 minutes of original music that would be performed at a show on Saturday, May 9.
After less than a month of practice, the time has come. This Saturday is the much anticipated Rock Lotto show at the Homestead Bowl & The X-Bar in Cupertino where Slurring The Rhythms, B.C./A.C., Starting From Zero, Karaoke Knight, Anal5, The Asura and an unnamed group will have the opportunity to show their collaborative efforts while “competing for your love and all the rock glory.”
“My band has three songs that are all unique directions,” said Robert Austin of Nemesis Media and the Rock Lotto band, B.C./A.C. “I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say, there’s going to be a little something for everyone.”
In addition to the seven new bands, Vista Point will perform cover tunes, take song requests and allow all Rock Lotto bands to take part in their performance.
Rock Lotto begins at 8 p.m. at 20990 Homestead Road, Cupertino, Admission to the all-ages show is $5.
THE SANTA CLARA WEEKLY
By Melissa McKenzie (April 23, 2015)
In an stroke of genius, Nemesis Media, Inc. and Barb Rocks combined their booking powers to bring eight bands to the RockBar Theater – located just outside of Santa Clara, off Saratoga Avenue and Stevens Creek Boulevard – for a showcase of musical talent last Friday night.
The April 10 show, which featured bands that participate in Balanced Breakfast – a networking group for musicians, writers, promoters and artistic types on Saturday mornings – brought together an eclectic mix of music consisting of everything from beautiful operatic arias to mosh pit–fueled Viking metal, and that was just the start of what would become an epic six–hour, free event.
Opening with First Street Opera, who started the show with a rendition of “O Mio Babbino Caro” (“Oh My Beloved Father”), best known from the opera “Gianni Schicchi,” and – for the non–opera–loving generation – the video game Grand Theft Auto 3. Although the stunning arias were short–lived (a 30–minute set), the crazy kids at Nemesis and Barb Rocks backed it up with Viking metal from Valensorow. Yes, Viking metal. The thrashing and crashing had long–haired metalheads whipping their locks forward and backward while a mosh pit broke out in the middle of the dance floor – a far cry from the subdued, calming effect of First Street Opera’s performance.
Next up were a pair of rock groups, toning back down the chaos, but still keeping the energy elevated. Newly formed trio Black Cat Path, rocked it out with their alternative original tunes in a style similar to Audioslave – only louder and more bluesy. Female–fronted duo, Bad with People followed, reminding the audience that women might just do it a little better than men when it comes to being a rocker extraordinaire.
Amping up the sex appeal was Dr. Taco, whose dirty nurses (ala Bink 182’s pornstar cover of Enema of the State) gave the audience “shots” – literal syringes filled with liquor – during the performance while playing fake guitars and prancing around in sky–high heels. While the girls are a gimmick, they’re not needed, as Dr. Taco frontman Dan Schwaiger and crew brought the house down with a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” making them a tough act to follow.
After Dr. Taco performed, names were drawn for the absolute insanity that is rock lotto. Musicians – any musicians, not just the ones performing – placed their name into a hat and names were drawn, four at a time. According to Nemesis Media’s Robert Austin, Rock Lotto is just another way to keep bands networking. Any name drawn – it could be four lead singers or two drummers and two guitarists – becomes a band for a one–night only show that will be held Saturday, May 9 at The X Bar in Cupertino, resulting in either incredible musical feats or complete failures, but as Austin says, it’s about the creativity that flows between different groups and getting those groups to talk to each other with the intent of possibly combining bands in future collaborations.
With a bizarre mix of Halloween props clearly playing into the band’s vibe, Black Mast had the difficult task of setting up the final performances and riling up the crowd after the Rock Lotto break. Glowing–eyed crow and robot aside (although the props were programmed to move with the music), Black Mast’s metal set did the job, pumping up the crowd, during the waning moments of Friday night.
As Friday turned into Saturday, The Driftwood Sinn performed. Self–described as “heavy melodic riff–rock,” (a description that works, as The Driftwood Sinn straddles the line between hard rock and metalcore), lead singer Patrick Hopkins played to the crowd and infused a youthful energy that was surely needed as the night ticked into the wee hours of the morning.
Closing the show was another hard rock band, Maxx12. The duo of “Rooster Mongoose” and “The Samurai” (yes, seriously) used the show for some serious promotion, with a table where CDs were handed out to anyone liking what they heard and wanting to learn more – a smart move to help garner a wider fan base among the eclectic group of fans in attendance.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Austin. “We have some amazing things in store in the future, including more shows, more networking and some special surprises that I’m dying to disclose. I want to encourage all bands, performers, writers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists and anyone looking to network to check out the Saturday morning Balanced Breakfast events. Everyone is welcome.”
Balanced Breakfast is held every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., usually at the Rockbar Theater. Admission is free, although coffee and food is available for purchase. Check out the Balanced Breakfast Facebook page for more information.
THE UNBOUND SOUND SHOW
By Mr. Phil Toole (February 25, 2015)
Barb Rocks/Ugly Whale Fest
Stormy Strong - Holiday
Pounders - Scream & Let It Go
Fritz Montana - My Body Does it All
The Go Ahead - Checked Out
Beautiful Machines - Tragic
The Frail - Automatic
Eyes on the Shore - Three Alarm Fire
Eyes on the Shore - Kids on the Run
The Trims - Now You're Gone
The Trims - Around the Sun
The Frail - Run Life
Beautiful Machines - Electric Sunshine
The Go Ahead - Just Fine
Fritz Montana - Let You Down
Pounders - Chasing the Sun
Stormy Strong - Lye
Fritz Montana - Scaredy Cat
By Adriana Sanchez (February 23, 2015)
San Francisco Bay Area manager, promoter, and writer, Barb Rocks has started a Kickstarter to fund her showcase, the Ugly Whale Music Fest. The purpose of Ugly Whale is to bring attention to Bay Area bands at South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. So far, the showcase has secured a spot on March 19th at Darwin’s Pub where The Trims, Eyes on the Shore, The Frail, The Go Ahead, and Beautiful Machines will all be performing.
Barb Rocks is currently leading the campaign to raise funds for Ugly Whale. Supporters can donate here. Also, take a look at a video below to learn more about the event.
Fans can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets here.
By John Flynn (February 19, 2015)
The Trims are one of five local bands playing SXSW as part of the locally organized Ugly Wale showcase.
Encouraged by the success she had booking two local bands at last year’s South By South West, San Jose-based promoter Barbara Wahli—better known as Barb Rocks—is upping the ante this year, throwing her very own showcase at the yearly music, technology and film festival.
She’s calling her showcase Ugly Whale. The name is an homage to her recently passed father, Ueli Wahli, whose name was consistently autocorrected to “Ugly Whale” in Microsoft Word and other word processing programs—a phenomenon he good-naturedly embraced. She has already locked down Darwin’s Pub, a 300-seat venue in a prime location in downtown Austin, and she’s launched a Kickstarter to raise the $3,500 booking fee. All donations inch Barbara closer to giving five exceptional Bay Area bands the national exposure they deserve.
Wahli has long been a champion of the Bay Area scene (and the South Bay scene in particular). She’s been bustin’ down doors for local bands for years. In the last five, Wahli’s hand has guided the efforts of several festivals including the Santa Cruz Music Festival and Left Coast Live. And she recently started a local chapter of Balanced Breakfast—a weekly local music industry meeting aimed at bolstering the local scene.
Check out the video for her Kickstarter campaign and get acquainted with the delegation of Bay Area bands she plans to bring out to Texas next month: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/766902514/ugly-whale
The Trims are one of San Jose’s hottest bands at the moment. Sporting spacious guitar riffs, new wave/disco rhythm, and brain-burrowing hooks, their work has been featured on MTV’s The Real World, they’ve caught the ear of Live 105’s Aaron Axelsen, and they’re booked to play Bottlerock 2015.
Eyes on the Shore are an exceptionally stylish quartet that land somewhere between Motown, surf rock and post-modernist ambience. One moment, they power through heavy melodies, the next, they dive into a spectral, airy soundscape.
The Frail are an electro-pop group that found each on craigslist and incorporate elements of soulful lyrics, buzzy synth melodies, and soaring guitar to create a mature, and thoroughly modern identity.
The Go Ahead started out as Jesús and the Rabbis, an improvisational, funky jam band, but after adding lead singer Kyna Wise, a couchsurfing San Francisco roomate, their funk roots have grounded their growth into more of a classic rock band.
Beautiful Machines employ custom drum and keyboard kits infused with a bounty of sounds to create their harmonious, ethereal, and futuristic electro pop jams. They belong to a rare class of electronic groups whose prowess is most on display during live performances.
By Brandon Roos (January 21, 2015)
Two South Bay music promoters invite local music industry professionals to weekly morning focus group.
It’s 10am on a Saturday morning inside the recently opened RockBar Theater. While the mood is light, it’s clear that this crowd is not composed of morning people. As Barbara Wahli, better known as promoter and manager Barb Rocks, admits at the start of the meeting, she’s running on only five hours of sleep after a long night in San Francisco. However, she assures her attendees that the coffee is on its way. This is the second meeting for the brand-new San Jose chapter of Balanced Breakfast, a group that looks to connect and empower music industry professionals to create a more vibrant music scene.
Wahli, who’s been involved in promo and band management for eight years co-hosts the meeting every Saturday with Robert Austin of Nemesis Media. The second meeting has attracted roughly 30 attendees—same as the first—and the room is full.
San Francisco blogger Stefan Aronsen and engineer Andy Freeman founded Balanced Breakfast with the aim of “boosting the Bay Area music industry … one breakfast at a time.” The concept has proven highly successful, with chapters sprouting in Oakland, Portland and Boston.
Roughly three years ago, she created a monthly music industry networking event with the Pounders, who she manages. After a successful first meeting, they folded after four months. More recently, she attended meetings for Make a Scene San Jose, a venture helmed by promoter Eric Fanali to activate the local all-ages scene. Those efforts stalled as well.
“It just didn't really connect the right way with people,” Wahli says of both ventures. She was drawn to the the structure of Balanced Breakfast, which she feels is more organized than those previous endeavors.
Wahli is encouraged with the start thus far, adding that the feedback she’s received has been “overwhelmingly positive.” At this meeting, the group discussed topics for future meetings, which included social media, graphics and front-of-house sound.
Asked about her hopes for the group, Wahli mentions building a touring network with other Balanced Breakfast chapters. With added venue support locally, she believes these efforts can work to build a community spirit that will breed a better live music culture along the lines of a Seattle, Austin or Chicago.
“Why can’t it happen here?” she asks. “I think if we all work together to build that, in a few years it’ll happen. But it takes effort, so a group like this is a catalyst to make that happen.”
Balanced Breakfast is held every Saturday from 10am-noon at RockBar Theater.
AT THE END OF RADIO
By Estevan Herrera (June 14, 2013)
Hopefully you tuned into The Partycast last night and got to hear the great lineup that will be at the X Bar this Saturday. It's another solid bill by Barb Rocks with Belle Noire, Fossil Tree, Ghost Parade & Fever Charm, who are all kick ass bands and ATEOR will be there to enjoy the drinks and the great music. Come see these great bands and have a great time and don't forget to say hello to us.
By Steve Palopoli (June 30, 2012)
Barbara Wahli has a talent for turning her birthday into an event. A few years ago, the South Bay "Barb Rocks" promoter had the tables turned onher when one of the bands she had booked, Point Three, figured out she knew the words to Dramarama’s "Anything Anything," which they covered. They made her sing it when they played it on stage, and instantly a birthday tradition was born.
The next year, Death Valley High got her to sing a Joan-Jett-inspired cover of "Crimson and Clover" that went straight into "Bad Reputation." The next, Golden Hour convinced her to sing Pat Benatar’s "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
This year, her birthday show—tonight at Britannia Arms Cupertino—will take things one step further, however. This time one of the bands, the Trash Pop Icons, have actually written a song about her, "Barb on the Rocks," which they’ll debut at the show. As for her now-traditional performance, she had decided not to do it this year, but then Mike Duell of the Driftwood Sin (and formely of Undergone) asked her to do an acoustic number. She actually got as far as picking one out, but whether it happens or not will be a game-time decision as they have had a hard time finding a moment to practice it.
One of the things Wahli is most excited about is that this show will also double as the CD release show for local band Cadent.
"I’ve been waiting for that Tabula Rasa CD for over a year now!" says Wahli.
The band will also debut the video for their single "Like Tonight" at the show. Cadent’s bass player Nate Skelton is also in the band Manjo and the Bandolins, who will also perform, along with a reunited Far From You.
"In general, I’m just excited about celebrating my birthday with great friends, doing what I love most," says Wahli, "which is be around good live music."
The BARB ROCKS BIRTHDAY BASH will be held Saturday, June 30 at Britannia Arms Cupertino, 9pm; $5.
By Steve Palopoli (October 10, 2011)
Campbell duo rock revamped festival in downtown San Jose
Let's face it, the Limousines are the best headliner Left Coast Live has had in its three years. They're local, which is what I think this festival should be about, they've been enormously successful in a short time as a band, and I've never seen them do a bad show. Plus, they really threw themselves into this one, cranking the volume, blasting confetti and rocking incredibly hard. However long LCL lasts— and may it do so for many, many years—I suspect this headliner performance may not be topped by anything short of bringing the Limos back again.
They opened with anthems like "The Future," "Dancing at Her Funeral," and "Very Busy People," with lead singer Eric Victorino bringing screaming conviction to the former and Gio Giusti packing electroclash touches into the latter, while drummer Dino Campanella flat-out pulverized his drums to get an epic beat. While ripping through most of the tracks from their debut album and a few older songs, they also covered New Order's "Temptation" and, in a moment that had to be seen to be believed, Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." ("We just wrote that song this morning," joked Victorino.) By the ending, they had the audience jumping with "Internet Killed the Video Star."
This year was also the best set-up the festival has ever had. Simply and elegantly designed, those two odd little alleys running perpendicular between South First and Market turned out to be the ideal space for it. With tables out along the sidewalks between stages, it had a cool, urban vibe.
Not everything went perfectly; mostly, there weren't nearly as many people as there should have been. LCL founder Chris Esparza estimated a couple thousand over the course of the night, and he seemed happy enough with the festival's growth. It was a step, but this year's festival deserved more. Esparza and the people in the local scene who helped him put this together—former 92.3 program director Michael Solari, Barbara Wahli of Barb Rocks, Thomas Aguilar of Ungrammar, Michael Brilliot, Sheila Dowd, John Down and others—did a fantastic job.
I also think the number of non-local groups could be trimmed to make room for more of the South Bay-based stuff we saw Saturday from the Limos, Ben Henderson, the Trims and others. The popularity of the Good Karma showcase showed there is huge appeal for many of the local subscenes, and some of the different factions of the scene can be better integrated in the future. But this was a great start (or re-start, if you will) for a festival that's finally finding its place.
By Steve Palopoli (June 15, 2011)
The stories that make the South Bay's live-music masterminds ask, 'What just happened?'
There are artists who make music in the scene, and then there are artists who make the scene itself. Because make no mistake about it, bringing live music to the stage is an art. Behind the performances people see onstage is another world of VIP access—private shows, celebrity run-ins and other one-of-a-kind nights that most people never hear about.
But for the South Bay's club owners, bookers, promoters and producers, this exclusive access to what fans might consider a glamorous world of rock and rap stars has plenty of pitfalls, too. There are bizarre artists and their even more bizarre demands to deal with, and they never know when someone's drum set is going to go up in flames, or someone else might turn the tables and make them perform onstage, or even kick them out of their own club.
Several of the South Bay's live music masterminds, past and present, were willing to give a glimpse into the high highs and crazy lows of their world, and these are their best stories, long and short, glorious and humiliating, filthy and transcendent.
The Switcheroo -- Barbara Wahli, promoter, Barb Rocks
A little over three years ago, one of the bands made me go onstage with them to sing. They found out I knew the lyrics to the Dramarama song "Anything Anything" that they covered. So I went onstage terrified, and glued to one spot, and I sang with Point 3. I'd done the occasional karaoke, but I never thought of my voice as something people should be hearing in a song. It was kind of terrifying at first, then it was fun to do, so I don't mind so much anymore. The worst is watching the videos afterwards, where you see yourself and you're like "Oh God, why am I doing this?" I wouldn't say I get better. I look less terrified onstage. So since then, every year on my birthday I sing with a band.
By Metro Staff (September 22, 2010)
We can't take credit for calling Barbara Wahli the queen of the South Bay scene; it was actually a DJ on FCC Free Radio. We're not even sure it's a great title for her, as she's about the farthest thing from a diva we can imagine. But it is admittedly catchier and more glamorous than what we'd say, which is simply that Barbara Wahli is the hardest-working woman in South Bay rock. Not only does she promote Barb Rocks shows all around the South Bay, but she's also a real advocate for local bands. If she hears something she really likes, she will champion that band, and in a few cases (A Four Star Affair, Drop Dead Sixty, Letters Make Words) even manage them. Her energy is infectious, and her ear for local talent remarkable.
By Gary Singh (July 1, 2010)
Silicon Valley Music: Left Coast Live
Last weekend's Left Coast Live recalled the glory days of the SoFA Street Fair
Last week, the second incarnation of Left Coast Live erupted in downtown San Jose. Beginning with nightly panel sessions and culminating with more than 100 bands on South First Street, the event far surpassed its debut. Organizers toiled away for months, booking and scheduling bands on numerous stages and in local clubs. Corporate sponsors doled out the bucks. A variety of music fans congregated for hours and were even allowed to drink beer.
...the quality of Left Coast Live really did surpass its debut, and as a result, downtown San Jose is a more interesting place. I congratulate the organizers for taking the time away from all their other jobs to create a brand new annual festival for the city. I hope it comes back.
By Carla Selvin (June 3, 2010)
Last year, San Jose held its first annual Left Coast Live Music Festival, and no one really heard about it. It was headlined by Bay Area's soul man Booker T. and East Bay rapper Lyrics Born. Dubbed "a mini-SXSW", the Left Coast Live Music Festival was staged over the course of six days at 35 different venues in San Jose with more the 100 different bands playing.
For a city most known more for its sprawl through Silicon Valley, its vast number of business parks, industrial complexes, and new housing developments, Left Coast Live comes as a welcomed cultural oasis for the folks of the South Bay. The city of San Jose shut down streets from San Carlos to Reed Street to make way for the fest. The first four days of the festival (June 21st-24th) will be free and open to the public with panel discussions and film screenings that will run throughout the week. Starting on Friday June 25th, the musical acts take over with OK Go headlining. Other bands playing over the weekend include Neon Trees, Crash Kings, Free Energy, Big Jay McNeely, Lisa Dewey & the Lotus Life, Yo La Tengo, The Mumlers, and over 100 other bands.
Besides being a music festival, Left Coast Live will have other activities and events set up such as the Lifesize Mouse Trap, a replica of the beloved board game, surely a nod to the headliner's insanely viral Rube Goldberg video. The Silicon Valley Roller Girls will set up a demo track for visitors at the festival, and a new craze called Silent Disco where attendants out wandering the main drag will be given headphones tuned in to a dj nearby. The effect will be tons of people dancing in the streets to sounds passerby's won't be able to hear.
Admission to the Left Coast Live are available online, but you can also purchase them at the event. Twenty bucks at the door might just make the Left Coast Live Music Festival the most bang for your buck this entire summer.
By Barbara Wahli (November 4, 2009)
I was happy to see your feature "Rocktober" (Cover Story, Oct. 28) about the local music scene and the bands you chose to showcase.Though I was a little disappointed that the story lacked mention of the promoters that are working hard to keep the local scene alive, such as PinUp Productions, Man Down Productions, and myself (Barb Rocks Presents).
Instead Arsenic Productions, a promoter from Santa Cruz, are referred to as "reliable scenesters" because they are calling it quits? Don't get me wrong, Arsenic has done a lot in Santa Cruz for shows and aligned themselves strategically with PinUp here in San Jose, but where's the love for those that have been working hard for years to bring live music back to the South Bay?
In addition, as much as it's sad that some local music venues are closing, it would be more positive to mention that there's been an increase in venues that have switched to a live music format in 2009, such as The Venuez in Santa Clara, Mountain Charley's in Los Gatos and Zen Lounge in Mountain View. This proves that live music is getting stronger in the South Bay and venues are starting to see the benefits to this business model.
It would also be nice to see your staff writers out at local shows, getting first-hand information on the hardest working bands in the local scene. Sometimes I feel that these bands, as well as the promoters behind the shows, are overlooked.
Keep up the good work on writing about the scene; it would be great to keep seeing articles about who is making a difference in live local music!
By Gary Singh (May 6, 2009)
Fed up and het up, music boosters joined forces to bring Left Coast Live festival to downtown San Jose
Two years ago, folks from different parts of the local music spectrum gathered to vent their frustrations with what seemed like the entire city of San Jose. They eventually went public with their complaints about how San Jose lost its live-music mojo—and their dream that it could get the beat back. Musicians, club owners, promoters, producers, people from arts groups, industry types, street intellectuals and DJs—pretty much anyone with any remote connection to what could be called a "music scene"—all attended those initial public meetings. What started as a peanut gallery offering a frenzied mishmash of concerns eventually morphed into a long process that has now led to Left Coast Live. The ambitious five-day extravaganza of gigs and panel sessions culminates with a blowout festival in downtown San Jose on Friday, May 15. On that final night, two outdoor stages will occupy South First Street, while 80-plus bands will perform at dozens of venues all over downtown. Many places that normally don't present live music will jump into the fray. Classic rock, jazz, R&B, punk, classical, world beat and all sorts of sounds in between will be performing. Legendary Hammond B3 alchemist Booker T. will headline the main stage. Throughout the week leading up to the shows, Left Coast Live will sponsor a variety of seminars. The topics will include the intersection of Web 2.0 tools and music, and ideas on how to make local music thrive in San Jose.
No one knows what exactly what Left Coast Live will turn into, but at the very least, everyone involved wants it to function as an adrenaline boost for San Jose. They want to give people of all shapes and sizes a feeling that they are welcome downtown. Someday, the organizers hope, live music will always be ingrained in everyone's consciousness and automatically on everyone's radar. Local producer and restaurateur Chris Esparza leads the Left Coast Live enterprise. "I'm not doing this to let people know I have some secret good-fairy plan for downtown," Esparza declares. "I'm doing it because, one, I want to get people turned on to live music, and, two, turned on to people who play live music. I want to see them, all at the end of this, feeling, like, 'Oh, wow, something just happened.' And maybe there's a glimmer of hope."
And it looks like many people are indeed catalyzed. Barbara Wahli, a local promoter, booked many of the rock acts for Left Coast Live. She says that the amount of venues volunteering to be included went way beyond anyone's expectations. She agrees that the entire event could boost a live-music mentality among local businesses and customers. "I think for one," Wahli tells me, "that it'll show a bunch of venues who don't normally do live music that live music is really successful." She adds, "And it'll make them realize that they could start doing it on a regular basis ... and that that would make more live venues exist in San Jose, and it'll let people know we have a vibrant downtown again." According to Wahli, "People have a misconception. They think of downtown and they think of club nights and all these people in the streets causing havoc, and it's totally not like that. And this event will show them it's not like that."
By Sean Thompson (April 21, 2009)
Over the past three or so years, Barbara Wahli – aka Barb Rocks – has become a recognized figure on the local South Bay Area live music scene, booking bands and setting up shows at most of the venues in the South Bay as well as managing several local bands. Additionally, she is also a core group member of the community outreach movement that created and hosts Left Coast Live, a premier downtown San Jose (and hopefully annual!) music event, as well as being on the West Fest committee, which organizes this annual all-ages show at West Valley College. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Barb is also a contributing writer to Santa Cruz-based Your Music Magazine and used to contribute CD reviews to San Jose-based Zero Magazine. Recently, I sat down for lunch with Barb to discuss the current state-of-affairs with regards to the South Bay live music scene. As a heads-up - given the sheer volume of information I got from Barb, this is a two-part interview.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
By John Woolfolk (June 5, 2008)
Budding Bill Grahams will have to shell out nearly $1,000 to City Hall by October if they want to promote concerts in San Jose.
Over the objection of numerous promoters, musicians and music fans, the city council Tuesday unanimously approved a new ordinance requiring a $986 permit every two years to promote music. Vice Mayor Dave Cortese was absent. City officials said San Jose is following the lead of other big cities in order to crack down on promoters whose concerts or dance parties turn into street brawls. Concerns arose here after a 2005 shooting near the former hip-hop Ambassador's Lounge injured three people. Police said efforts to curb such mayhem were frustrated by club owners blaming promoters they knew little about. "That finger-pointing has been going on for years," said Councilman Sam Liccardo, who represents the downtown entertainment district. "The real issue with this from day one has been accountability."
Promoters submitted a petition with more than 1,700 names of people they said were opposed to the permit requirement. Opponents said the new rules were too expensive and unfairly saddled them with responsibility for the behavior of people who attend their shows. "Asking a thousand dollars for a two-year, non-renewable license is too expensive for most promoters," promoter Rich Wiese told the council.
Added promoter Barbara Wahli: "Promoting is a business that happens before an event. Once the event starts, it's in the hands of the venue - and yet we will be liable for behavior that happens, which should be on the individual. They should be responsible for their own behavior." Wahli also said other cities San Jose police pointed to as examples aren't being so heavy-handed. Some, including Chicago and San Francisco, have backed off pursuing such laws, she said, while San Diego's ordinance is much simpler.
San Jose's permit ordinance, if finalized by the council at a second reading June 17, would take effect in mid-July. Police said they would begin accepting permit applications in August and start enforcing the rule in October. The ordinance allows unlicensed promoters to continue operating only if the nightclub hosting their show agrees in writing to accept full responsibility for them. Promoters say club owners are unlikely to make such an offer.
For more information, read Metro Newspaper article:
Club Dread - Downtown promoters lose fight for the right to party
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
By John Woolfolk (April 27, 2008)
Another controversial proposal would require music promoters to be licensed by police, something being tried or considered in a handful of other big cities, including San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago. Those paid to promote events like deejay dance parties or rock bands would have to be fingerprinted and licensed by the San Jose Police Department. That would cost about $400, good for two years.
Police Lt. Dave Hober said the idea is to prevent finger-pointing when concerts turn violent. "What we consistently heard is we'd go to the club owners and they'd say, 'It was the promoter's fault and we don't know who they are,' " Hober said.
Merchants and club owners generally like the proposal, but some worry it may suffocate the local music scene. "It kind of cripples the young entrepreneur that gets into the music or arts promotion," said Mauricio Mejia, co-owner of the Vault Ultra Lounge, "especially with the kind of fees they are talking about."
Promoters are troubled by the cost and liability issues. Barbara Wahli of Barb Rocks Presents worries that "the venue can pass the buck onto me," while deejay Wendell Davis fears that "it's eliminating downtown nightlife by way of bureaucracy and red tape.
YOUR MUSIC MAGAZINE
By JC Haydon (May 2007)
Your Local Music - San Jose, CA
So often in any music scene, variables in coordination result in a disconnect between the passion that drives the bands and the business of putting together shows. In the past year, Barbara Wahli has proven that it's possible to make the business about the music, focusing on the quality of the event from the perspective of the fan and the musician. By offering paid gigs at a venue with good sound and staff to a perpetually growing number of Bay Area bands twice a month at the Cupertino Britannia Arms, she's built a solid reputation through well-attended and effortlessly executed shows, becoming a hub for an expansive network of promoters, performers, and venues. She's also proven that a passion driven perspective is contagious, recently taking on promotions and booking part time at the VooDoo Lounge and Johnny V's in San Jose, the Quarter Note in Sunnyvale, and the Rockit Room in San Francisco. Barbara also manages a growing number of bands on the rise, including Jade of Days and Nothingleft.