Neighborhood Jams: San Diego Music Thing

Happy Wednesday, readers! This week’s neighborhood jams is a real special edition. I will not be showcasing a particular band but instead the San Diego Music Thing! This is the 8th annual SDMT festival, and it took place last week over a span of three days at several different local venues showcasing over 80 bands – all for a good cause! The San Diego Music Thing is produced by the San Diego Music Foundation and proceeds will benefit the foundation’s music programs in 75 schools around San Diego County.


Last Thursday, November 12th, kicked off the festivities at local venues such as: The Casbah downtown, The Hideout in El Cajon, The Irenic, The Merrow and The Observatory both in North Park. The next two days these venues celebrated SDMT along with Soda Bar, Bar Pink, Ray at Night, and Blue Moon Brewing Company. The best thing about having so many different venues participating in the same venue is the eclectic atmosphere from all around.  One night the Merrow showcased just hip-hop artists such as Opoetik, DJ E3, and local Ocean Beach guys The Concrete Project. Also, Paper Days performed at the Merrow on Sunday – you can read my review on them from a few weeks ago here.

Some of my favorite bands that performed over the 3-day festival were: The Joy Formidable, L7, In the Valley Below, Yo La Tengo, and Milo Greene. Now I wish I could highlight each of the 80 bands that participated at SDMT, but that blog would be way too long and probably end up crashing on me (because of too much great rock ‘n roll, obviously.) Along with the 80 bands there were also three featured guest speakers, and this years lineup did not disappoint.  The speakers included: Greg Graffin of Bad Religion, Martin Atkins from TOUR:SMART, and Matt Vasquez from Delta Spirit. Together these guys were a power trio discussing how to make it in the rock ‘n roll business, and the audience was filled to maximum capacity with local San Diegans and each of the 80 featured bands.

Even though the San Diego Music Thing has come to a close this year you don’t have to wait until next year to make a difference. You can donate to the San Diego Music Foundation here!

Photo Credit: SDMT

Neighborhood Jams: Motion City Soundtrack

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you took those sweaters, Uggs, and earmuffs out of storage because it officially feels like fall these days. On this week’s neighborhood jams I am featuring a band that recently performed in San Diego on their tour last Saturday. Motion City Soundtrack stopped by along with The Wonder Years, You Blew It!, and State Champs. They played at Soma in Point Loma – a venue that is famous for their intimate atmosphere yet always filled with punk rock youths.

Motion City Soundtrack consists of five members each bringing so much to the table. MCS was originally founded by Joshua Cain (guitar) and Justin Pierre (vocals and guitar) in 1997 in Minnesota.  Soon after Jesse Johnson (keyboardist and moog synthesist), and Matthew Taylor (backing vocals and bass) joined along with former drummer Tony Thaxton. In 2013 Thaxton left the band and Claudio Rivera joined the group.  Together the band has released six studio albums including their latest Panic Stations released in June, 2015. Now as a long-time, die-hard, fan I must say that I love this latest album. Pierre is known for sharing all of his feelings in his raw lyrics that soon become their hits – and this album does not disappoint. One of my favorite songs from Panic Stations is Lose Control. At the concert this song really got the people jumping and going, even surrounded by heartfelt melodies the audience was singing along every word. Check out the music video below:

Now being the big fan that I am (I have seen these guys every year at least once or twice a year for the past ten years…) I want to go on a tangent of one of my favorite MCS songs from the album Commit This To Memory, and it is called L.G. FUAD. If you know what that stands for then consider this a virtual high-five from me to you. Yeah! I love this song, and every time MCS plays a concert they play this song. I feel like it is a real go getter for the guys, and the audience always replies back beautifully by singing along perfectly and with complementary clapping. Hearing this song live is also a treat because Johnson will go crazy on his keyboards, dancing around, and cheering on the audience. I’ve even seen him do a handstand or two ON TOP of the keyboard. It’s pretty crazy stuff. Regarding Johnson, he was not at Saturday’s concert because his wife was in labor with their first child – how exciting! I hope everyone is happy and healthy! It amazes me that these five guys are getting married, having kids, yet still rocking out as hard as they were their first tour. You can really see the dedication each member has for MCS, and it is so admiring. With everything on their individual plates they are not just limiting themselves to music. A pretty cool thing they did with the release of their latest album was partner up with a local coffee shop called Five Watt Coffee. Here Pierre, Johnson, and Taylor tasted and comprised their own coffee blend to make Panic Stations: The Coffee. Very cool.

I wish Motion City Soundtrack much luck on the remainder of their tour. You can check out where they are going next here. Be sure to give their Facebook a like or two. And I strongly urge you to light a candle and listen to their acoustic versions of their own songs – it’s truly beautiful.

Neighborhood Jams: The Aura & Øvation

Hello friends! This week on Neighborhood Jams I am featuring the San Diegan band, The Aura & Øvation! I highly, highly recommend listening to these guys – each musician adds so much emotion with their preferred instrument. This past January they released the album, Brilliant Nights – EP, and you can purchase it on iTunes. On their website you can listen to their entire acoustic EP, read up on each member’s background, and check out a quick summary on each song from their acoustic EP. It’s absolutely great to read about the band’s feelings and thoughts on their own songs – it makes the connection between the musician and listener stronger. I loved it.

If Dashboard Confessional were to do a collaboration with Kings of Leon we would get the guys from The Aura & Øvation. They would be considered alternative rock. Lead singer and guitarist, Mike Strong, combined his instrumental skills along with his passion for poetry and, in the first song from their acoustic EP, titled Vines and Mini Blinds, Strong’s emotions and honesty shines through. You can feel the rawness in each chorus, and I believe it is truly beautiful. Alongside Strong is Jesse Richardson on guitar and bassist Paul Philips each bringing a key ingredient to the heart wrenching songs. Lastly, Chris Thiel is strumming away and keeping rhythm on drums. Thiel is three-time San Diego Guitar Center Drum-Off Champion, and his skills and techniques really round out The Aura & Øvation.


I also really loved the songs House on Fire and On These Brilliant Nights both featured on their album Brilliant Nights – EP. Each song sounds full, powerful, and make me want to close my eyes and do a slow head bang. The guys have played at several local venues including The Tin Roof and Point Loma Nazarene University – I wish they could play at SDSU! It’s so great to find local bands filled with so much passion in their first albums. Great job guys, great job. Check out The Aura & Øvation on October 24 at PLNU’s Fall Fest.

Give these guys a like on their Facebook.


Photo Credit: Sarah Binsfield

The Ghost Inside and Every Time I Die concert review

Jonathan Vigil

I’m very picky when it comes to seeing concerts. It usually takes more than two bands I want to see for me to crawl out of my house, but I’m glad I made an exception. I hadn’t seen The Ghost Inside or Every Time I Die before their show at Soma on Nov. 13. Now, I can die happier knowing I’ve finally crossed them off my list.

I missed half of Backtrack‘s setlist from what can only be described as spontaneous traffic in the San Diego area, but from what I heard, they did solid job at opening. The New York hardcore band brought their A game, with all the high pitched screams and breakdowns you associate with the genre. Although, they may have been too trusting with the crowd taking the mic every other minute.

  Hundredth went up next. They sounded like a more composed version of Backtrack, in a good way. Slowing down and changing pace makes the heavy parts seem that much heavier. They had clean vocals, but those were drowned out by the rest of the band. However, Hundredth had a very short setlist because of their lead vocalist’s migraine.

Architects brought the life out of Soma once they took the stage. If bass is your thing, then Architects would’ve made you happy. Bass and drums were the dominant instruments. You could still hear the vocals, but the guitars were barely audible. It was a little disappointing because there were some interesting guitar riffs. Other than that, they played a pretty good show with amazing breakdowns and vocals.

Every Time I Die drum sound check

Apologies for the bad quality. You’d think since we can put a man on the moon, we’d be able to make a camera that takes good pictures indoors.

As you can probably guess, Every Time I Die came up next and stole the show. Listening to them live is like riding on a train without brakes being conducted by a clown. From start to finish, they had a sense of humor and never slowed down (until the encore). I absolutely lost my mind when they played The New Black, We’rewolf and Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space. Having so many good songs released made for a setlist that wasn’t boring in the slightest. Everything sounded tight and no instrument was quiet. All-in-all It was chaotic and a blast.

Finally, The Ghost Inside took the stage and also did a great job. The started off with Avalanche which sounds infinitely better live than recorded. Instruments and screams were heavy and made for some brutal breakdowns. However, the singing was a little off pitch and quiet. It didn’t make too much of a difference considering how the entire crowd was singing along. Most of their setlist came from Get What You Give with a few from their now released Dear Youth and older work. It was a great balance considering so many songs, such as Engine 45, Dark Horse and White Light, are on one album.

The headliners are what made this concert. Their two performances back-to-back made for an concert that still has my body aching and ears ringing in the best way possible.