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By Photo by Brianne Perales
By MATT MUNOZ, Californian contributing columnist
Rarely do you get a chance to see a local band shed its skin for the better as the Aviators have.
Still rockin' the air with the loudest of ease, this daring young band on a mission to please have burned a hole through every beer-soaked bar stage in town since blazing off the launch pad five years ago.
It's a raucous atmosphere the quintet have always felt most at home in, where the girls are live and fellas high-five to lightning bolts of high- octane guitar licks 'til last call.
That style may not fit everyone's mug of beer, but for the legions of rowdies expected to pour into B Ryder's on Saturday to celebrate the release of the band's new CD, "Gotta Have 'Em to Grab 'Em," it ain't a party until someone flies off the handle.
"People going nuts at our shows are always great," said Aviators guitarist and co-founder Dan Reynoso of the band's penchant for causing audiences to let go of their inhibitions. "We've always wanted to be that rock and roll band."
That attitude -- and a desire to remain true to rock purity -- has been one of the most attractive qualities of the band.
"Everything about us has changed. We've evolved into something a lot tighter," said lead vocalist August Young. "It's just a lot more fun now."
Just two years removed from the re- lease of the group's debut, "Premium Rock and Roll," Reynoso and Young make it clear they'd rather direct the conversation to the present.
]"It's hard to move forward without bashing the old," Reynoso said.
That sits fine with the rest of the band, all being fairly new, having joined the band in the last year. There's big-guns drummer Sherwin Smith, cooled-out bassist Anthony Bradley, and bushy-haired lead guitarist Will Slikker, who together resemble a band of well-mannered misfits.
"Sherwin likes rock and roll music, but also knows what's appropriate with what the music needs," Reynoso said. "That's hard to come by. I think I've only lost touch with him onstage one time."
"And that was a scary night," said Smith, referring to one of a number of private you-had-to-be-there moments he and Reynoso have shared -- and one I'm not being allowed in on.
Young offered up his praises of Bradley.
"Anthony was originally a guitarist who switched to bass and put together effective, more defined bass lines. He also brought back vocal harmonies."
"The bass was only a couple less strings than a guitar," Bradley said with a laugh. "I knew I could do that."
Then there's Slikker, the group's secret weapon and, according to Reynoso, the ax man from another planet.
"Will is a rock and roll alien," he said.
"Will brought us solos you wouldn't believe. We've sounded better because of his playing and all of his energy."
There's also Slikker's often offbeat musings, which the band affectionately refers to as "Will-isms."
Slikker reclined quietly on a couch at the Padre as the band collectively shared a random favorite:
"If Jesus played guitar, that would be pretty epic."
That type of brotherly jib-jabbing is just one of the underlying themes on the Aviators' "Gotta Have 'Em to Grab 'Em," an over-the-top collection of driving rock anthems.
Kicking off with "Wolfman," Slikker's opening riffs are an homage to the group's musical heroes, AC/DC, with a dash of Motley Crue, while "Wildfire," stomps along with catchy lyrics from Young, whose voice has never sounded stronger. Young has grown into the role of seasoned front man, showing off his commanding presence in the studio and live setting.
Along with familiar pulsating heaviness, there are those tracks with plenty of melody, such as "Evermore," plus big, classic rock productions like "Breakdown and Breakout," both of which bear the imprint of each member.
Other standout tracks are "End of the Line," "M.T.B.W" and the CD's closer, "Prop Me Up," a playful, inebriated country sing-a-long.
"We recorded that song with our pants down," said Reynoso.
Recorded and produced at Backyard Studios in Lamont and Rocketship Recordings in Bakersfield, "Gotta Have 'Em to Grab 'Em," should help the Aviators expand the reach of their fan base, although they haven't done too bad at keeping their live schedule at a minimum of six to 10 shows a month. From Hollywood's Whisky a Go Go, to Camp Nelson high up in Sequoia National Forest, to San Luis Obispo, plus every sleepy farming town through the Central Valley, there's little the Aviators will say no to, even under the most exhausted of circumstances.
"We'll sleep anywhere," said Young. "And we're pretty personable."
To ensure everyone a good time on Saturday, the band will bring out the specially designed Aviator Assault Vehicle -- a customized 1967 Kaiser Jeep, which the group has been feverishly working to prepare for the show. There also will be giveaways, special guests, plenty of American flags on display to show off red, white, and blue Aviator pride, and a specially constructed catwalk extending from the stage.
"For all the kitties in the audiences," said Reynoso.
Copies of "Gotta Have 'Em to Grab 'Em" will be available for sale at the show.
Saturday's showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $5. All ages. Also appearing are Truxton Mile and Crooked Folk. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. 397-7304 or visit facebook.com/theaviatorsrock.
If you're out and about tonight, make plans to head on over to Chuy's in Rosedale for a free concert featuring Salvador Santana and his band.
Yes, his father is the famed guitar master Carlos Santana, but don't start yelling out "Black Magic Woman" or "Smooth." The multi-talented keyboardist, singer-songwriter and rapper can stand on his own, thank you.
"Having the name does carry a lot of weight by default," said Santana, 30, from his home in Los Angeles. "My father and I are both part of a legacy in our family, as the music goes beyond us through generations. Both of my grandfathers were highly respected bandleaders. Music runs deep in our family, no doubt, and having just said that bears a lot of responsibility."
Santana already has two full-length CDs under his belt: "SSB" in 2008 and "Keyboard City" in 2010. Both offer myriad hip-hop, funk and inventive urban sounds, which showcase his equally proficient, classically trained skills behind the keys. His latest EP, "Rise Up," is a more mature effort than his previous works, while maintaining a consistent uplifting lyrical message.
"I think it serves the legacy better to continue doing my own thing, rather than get up onstage with a guitar and play my father's music. It's not challenging to me, and I'd probably be criticized for doing it. I think the new EP is just the beginning of the next chapter of what I've got planned for the rest of the year."
Salvador Santana's live show is worth more than just a glimpse out of curiosity. During his visit to B Ryder's last year, Santana took the crowd on a rhythmic journey through his colorful songbook of rhythm while showcasing a killer backing band that includes keyboardist and vocalist Alex Nester. Highly recommended.
Tonight's showtime is 6 p.m. Admission is free. All ages admitted. Also appearing are classic rockers Power Play. Chuy's is located at 8660 Rosedale Highway. For more information call 587-5750 or visit salvadorsantana.com.