By MATT MUNOZ, Contributing columnist
Bakersfield musician Art Machuca has big plans to use his knowledge and connections to bring crowds back to the basement at Jerry's Pizza, once home to some of Bakersfield's biggest all-ages shows.
Those familiar with Jerry's Pizza already know its reputation for being an early tour stop for best-selling bands Paramore and Buckcherry, and the venue of choice for intimate shows by Weezer, The Used and many others.
Slow nights were rare when longtime promoter Nate Berg booked shows, and just about any form of noise was guaranteed an audience -- until Berg called it quits in 2006.
But if Machuca's long-term goals come to fruition, you may have the chance to experience those kinds of shows again.
"People are looking for something unique these days and gravitate to good entertainment," said Machuca, 25. "Our local community has a wide range of musical tastes, which makes my job enjoyable because it offers artists of all expressions a place to perform while achieving the goal of providing quality entertainment."
After parting ways with his longtime promotional partner Michael Scarfo, who operated under the banner of AM Entertainment Presents, Machuca plans to continue what he and Scarfo began six years ago at The Dome.
"I am officially leaving AM Entertainment. I am not giving up on booking. I will have a few big events from time to time," Scarfo posted on his Facebook in May. He gave no specific reason for pulling out of the production company.
"Michael made the decision to no longer be involved in the promotional scene," said Machuca. "Although Michael is no longer involved in AM Entertainment Presents, everyone wishes him the best in his ventures."
Machuca, who fronts local heavy alternative rock quintet Vlad Arthur, said straddling the line between entertainer and promoter has helped him develop skills he feels the venue can benefit from.
"Currently, I am running under the same promotions name. Jerry's is a historical venue. It is our goal to continue to find new talented artists and give them a place for exposure. We strive to find entertainment that succeeds the quality of entertainment that has preceded us."
Machuca and Scarfo did an impressive job of attracting a number of acts during their partnership at Jerry's, booking bands as diverse as punk legends Reagan Youth, EDM sister duo Millionaires, shock rockers Ghoul, Green Jelly and more -- always all-ages and with admission prices affordable for attendees with little to spare.
"We have people turn out for punk, hard core, metal, hip-hop, reggae, country, comedy and dance events, and we are constantly expanding to different art forms to suit what our audience desires. Young people recognize talent and good entertainment and aren't, per se, gravitating towards one specific genre of music."
With the departure of promoter Tim Gardea, who moved to Sweden in the spring, Machuca is one of the few independents around. For years, Gardea led the field of independent promoters in Bakersfield with the caliber of touring acts he booked.
"I think a loss in the number of shows was felt for a moment but people within the community such as myself are filling that role," Machuca said.
Berg, who recently paid Bakersfield a visit from his current home in Toronto, had a few a tips for Machuca.
"I can only offer what is based on my own experience. I can't offer anything that's not my own. What worked for me during the time I was there was to fill the calendar, those three words. Keep it simple. A lot of people get caught up in booking national acts, but local bands are really important. That's what worked for me. I had no control over how well these shows would do. I would just do my job to keep the calendar full. Everyone has desires and goals, but it's all about action. Reaching out is important, and the kids will always have their say."
Berg no longer works in the music business but said he keeps up with the latest developments happening in Bakersfield through hometown connections and social networking.
"I know that things evolve. Bakersfield has a great music scene, and there will always be bands coming up through the ranks. Jerry's was a great business learning experience. I carry the lesson in all aspects of my life. I'm proud of the past, and wouldn't have it any other way."
The upcoming Jerry's Pizza schedule includes the two-day alt-rock "Summerfest," featuring 15 confirmed acts on July 18 and 19, rapper Sapient on July 20, plus punk legends DRI on Oct. 17.
Machuca's band Vlad Arthur can be found rocking the Jerry's Pizza stage, when he's not working at keeping crowds pouring in.
"As an artist, I love juggling being a musician and show promoter. This is my life. I'm married to rock 'n' roll. I love what I do and am committed to it like it's my wife."
Tonight, Jerry's Pizza will feature Bakersfield country singer Cowboy Calvin and the You Ain't Ready Band. Showtime is 8 p.m., admission is $10, all ages. Jerry's Pizza is located at 1817 Chester Ave. For more information, visit AM Entertainment Presents on Facebook or call 633-1000.
It was a hot, dusty and truly funky day on the set of the latest video shoot for Los Angeles neo-soul diva Cris Cado.
Filmed on the balmy afternoon of June 29 at Ethel's Old Corral, which is becoming a hot spot for independent filmmakers, the video made use of the unique visual backdrop for Cado's single, "Crazy Love."
Deejay and SoCal music promoter Cid Hernandez, Los Angeles film director Steven Boe of Imaginal Cells Inc., and Cado collaborated on the Russ Meyer-inspired music short.
"The concept was to capture the style and feeling of the 1960s girl cult motorcycle and car films like 'Girl on a Motorcycle' and 'The Mini-Skirt Mob' and 'Faster Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill!,'" said Hernandez, who pitched to Boe the idea of filming in his hometown of Bakersfield. "I was so happy Steve was open to working here. He was really instrumental in shaping the 'cult moto' concept into something workable for a music video format."
Hernandez, who's been active in the underground Los Angeles music scene for years, has always had an affinity for authenticity in his work, as a supporter of the rare-groove vinyl-collecting community. Well-versed in vintage Jamaican roots reggae, ska, hip-hop, jazz, and northern soul music, Hernandez said his interest in working with Cado was based on mutual interests.
"I was looking for new music for my Web radio podcast, 'Royale Radio.' I saw a Facebook post of some of her music, and I contacted her about adding a song to the podcast. Later on we had a meeting and decided to try working together. We are both in the same stylistic space in Los Angeles. After talking, we realized that we had the same musical sensibilities of vintage influence with modern interpretation."
Cado's groove-oriented compositions, teamed with her laid-back vocals, are a blend of Chicago jazz chanteuse Anita O'Day, crossed with British soul, ala Amy Winehouse, all with a bit of a Southern drawl. She's sophisticated, hip, smooth and despite filming a full day in 106- degree weather, had nothing but love for Bakersfield.
"I had an incredibly great experience," said Cado. "Everyone I worked with was so cool and kind. I am so touched by the generosity of everyone involved. Gracious people made my work so pleasant and exciting, in spite of the hot weather."
Released earlier this spring, Cado's independent seven-song EP debut, "Rain on the Concrete," is a solid introduction to the singer-songwriter. Produced by Tru James, a member of Los Angeles funk ensemble Stone Mecca, the record also features an appearance by hip-hop producer RZA of legendary rap group Wu Tang Clan, on the song "Grind is Gangsta."
"She's got a good amount of traction with numerous shows and radio appearances," said Hernandez. "With the completion of 'Crazy Love,' I think she's in a good spot to springboard her sound and style into the global music market. We hope that Steven (Boe) will be open to other projects in the future, like our next video for 'Grind Is Gangsta.'"
But first Hernandez is eager to get the video for "Crazy Love" to fans, including members of Bakersfield's Treads Scooter Club (Hernandez is a member) and the U.S.-Bakersfield chapter of the 59 Club motorcycle group, which helped spread the word via its website and extensive member base. By the time production day had arrived, 16 vintage racers and cruisers rolled into Ethel's for a spot in the video.
"Cris deals with a confrontation at Ethel's and handles the trouble as a gang boss would," said Hernandez of the video's storyline. "There are scenic shots of her riding a Triumph motorcycle once she has dealt with the trouble."
Hernandez plans on having a local release show for the video that will include a concert with Cado once the final edit has been completed.
"We will have a party near the end of the summer to thank everyone involved in the making of this video. Everyone in town is invited. Cris hopes to make Bakersfield a part of her regular rotation of cities to visit in the future. She made a lot of friends during the shoot."
Cado backed up that statement with profuse praise.
"I think it's a special town with special people," she said. "A great change from L.A., where I am born and raised. Riding a bike in the desert was such a highlight. Bakersfield is for bikers -- that's for sure."
For more information on Cris Cado, visit criscado.com.
Contributing columnist Matt Munoz covers the music scene for The Californian. He brings you "The Lowdown" every other Thursday.