Wednesday, Sep 25 2013 06:45 PM

MATT MUNOZ: 'Sweetness' keeps musical flavor

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    By Photo by Holly Carlyle

    Therese and the Sweetness — from left: Gary Rink, Jason Blakely, Therese Muller, Travis Byler — will perform Saturday at Sandrini’s.

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    By Photo courtesy of Jimmy Bruch

    Afroman has issued 15 full-length releases in a varied career.

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    By Photo by RP Photography

    Chris Carton helps The Blue Deacons recreate the Steely Dan vibe.

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By MATT MUNOZ, Californian columnist mmunoz@bakersfield.com

There has always been an abundance of singer/songwriters in Bakersfield, but few are as noticeably busy as Therese Muller.

She's got her every-other-Thursday solo piano gig at Chef's Choice Noodle Bar and is a member of both the popular Beatles tribute band the Abbey Roadies and the '80s-centric Members Only.

And now -- in her spare time -- the vocalist/keyboardist has managed to put together an all-star collaboration called the Sweetness, which makes an appearance at On the Rocks Friday.

Formed loosely as the Therese Muller Band last year, the group has coalesced around Gary Rink on bass and Jason Blakely on drums, both recommended by Travis Byler, who'd already been performing as a duo with Muller.

"I have to give credit to Travis for recommending these guys," said Muller, 30, of her bandmates, all of whom perform regularly with other popular local groups (Blakely with alternative Latin act Velorio and Byler with Celtic rockers 1916; Rink left reggae trio Dub Seeds earlier this year).

"You're always wondering if things are going to work out, but from our first rehearsal, our creativity just gelled. We even wrote two songs during our first practice."

After a few well-attended early shows and the addition of original material, a vote was taken in January to rename the band to make it official.

"We had a list of names. One of them was the Ninjas, which the boys liked, but we also all really liked that Jimmy Eat World song 'Sweetness,' so after a vote, we all agreed. I'm Therese, and they get to be the Sweetness."

Through Muller's already established catalog of original and cover songs, the group quickly created a buzz wherever they appeared.

"The flavors are all different now. Gary brings a jazzy funk, Travis has a Dave Matthews vibe going on, and Jason puts a nice rhythmic bow on top of things. We can play for four hours and be a late-night jukebox if we want."

To date, the group already has recorded their first EP consisting of Muller originals "High," "Unscathed," "For Good" and "Tell Me." Muller's melodic pop-oriented musical and witty lyrical styles often draw comparisons to songwriters like Regina Spektor and Sara Bareilles.

The group has been working on a batch of new tracks with plans for a release sometime next year. Until then, fans can pick up Muller's EP at all live shows for $5 or through her official website, theresemullermusic.com.

"We are so proud of the songs that we've written and as a band. Once we're done recording they are being sent out to booking agents and promoters all over California."

Friday's showtime is 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5. On the Rocks is located at 1517 18th St. 327-7625.

Afroman

Three acts always guarantee a packed house no matter how many times they visit our area: rapper-gone-Southern-rocker Uncle Kracker (who opened the Kern County Fair), ganja rap rockers Kottonmouth Kings, and rapper Afroman, who makes a return appearance to On the Rocks tonight.

Say what you will about Bakersfield's tastes in music, or the type of hazy-eyed crowds these acts may attract, but with the exception of Uncle Kracker, both the 'Kings and Afroman have built their respective fan bases through effective "grassroots" campaigning, if you'll pardon the pun. Both have survived independently releasing their own best-selling records after only a brush with the majors.

Like the 'Kings single "Suburban Life," featured on the soundtrack to "Scream," Afroman's 2001 hit, "Because I Got High," has had prominent play in not one but three films, including "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." Since then, the song has become an anthem for today's fun-loving slacker.

For someone who claims to smoke that much herb, Afroman's resume doesn't look like he's been sitting on the couch all day eating cheesy puffs to quell his munchies. After building his own self-sustaining musical empire, with 15 full-length releases sold mostly through his website afromanmuzzicc.com, he also plays a mean psychedelic blues guitar, adding a cool element to his live show.

With album titles such as "The Hungry Hustlerz: Starvation Is Motivation," "A Colt 45 Christmas," "Frobama: Head of State," and "The Prodigal Son" (his venture into Christian music), how can you not join this funky party?

Tonight's showtime is 9 p.m. Also appearing are the X-rated rap duo Beach Bum Alcoholics and local reggae roots quintet Amity Flow. General admission is $15, or $25 for a VIP ticket that includes a meet-and-greet and copy of Afroman's latest release.

The Blue Deacons

Last Friday's final show of 2013 for Steely Dan tribute band The Blue Deacons at On the Rocks was one of the coolest shows I've caught all year long. Organized by downtown troubadour Chris Carton, who'd been working hard to get the project off the ground, the result was beyond what I expected.

Let's begin with the stellar jazzy lineup: Paul Perez, sax; Mac McClanahan, sax; Michael C. Raney, trumpet; Ron Christian, trombone; Fernando Montoya, flute; Gary Rink, bass; Tyler Evans, guitar; Paul Cierley, guitar; Cesareo Garasa, drums; Daniel Hardy, keys; Candace Brown, vocals; Alisa Spencer, vocals; and Salvador Galindo, vocals and guitar.

All assembled by Carton, who led on keys and lead vocals, The Blue Deacons put on a mind-blowing three-set, 30-song show of classics that included the Steely Dan album "Aja," in its entirety. Faithfully arranged and performed, any bumps along the way were lost in the mix. From "Kid Charlemagne" and "Hey Nineteen," to "Black Cow," "Dr. Wu" and beyond, the audience could be seen lip-synching along to every lyric. Plenty of wild Steely Dan fan dancing too. Let's hope Carton keeps this great project alive and well for next year.

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