Vocals/Keyboards: Mark Chavez
Guitar: Peter Shubert
Bass: Mike Montano
Drums: Matt Low
When Daniel from Studio 99 called my bluff last Friday about attending Mark Chavez' Midnight Panic debut show, I was none other than amazed and humbled. Having value as a writer in the Bakersfield music scene is an honor. Why? Because there's real talent locally. I don't have to leave town to see great guitar riffs, lyrical wisdom, piano virtuosos, techno dreamy and dream pop, punk rock mayhem, and top rate metal madness. Having such respect generates a good feeling; humble, trusted, the notion that I can blaze a path for the music scene and others can feel secure that I am driving this car somewhere. Not that I drive the only car. It's more like a freeway of folks trying to steer the scene in a lot of directions: Belton, Rivera, Dobbler...
I had expected Daniel to shirk my protest, to ignore my whining and complaining when I wrote this past week, "At the time I said 'yes'. But that was the day before the rock and roll-less art show. Come on Studio 99, I can't even get the unknown cool Bakersfield bands to support me with their presence, and you want me to show up and ogle over Mark Chavez and snap photos (like that killer one I took of Throatshot!) and do a snappy happy write-up to boot? Is this musician going to support me as an artist in return? Fat chance. I tell you what. If Mark Chavez contacts me:"
And then I got a phone call. It was past ten at night; I had been in bed snoozing from an intense evening of board games and checkers when the phone bleeped. Too comatose to pick up I listened to the message, ":and we would really like to see you at the show:"
Oh no, it wasn't Mark Chavez. But that was OK. It was the thought that counted; the effort that stuck. It was one of his buddies putting on the show: Wayne Vaugan, local contractor/band funder. I called him back the next morning and said a hearty thanks; we talked for a few minutes and parted ways with me being promised a pass for four:
It was to be a big night for Chavez and myself. The music scene would be surprised that I had returned so soon. I hadn't wanted to part ways with the music scene. I had big plans. But I can be stubborn when I feel left out of cross promotion and failed band readership. Just ask my friends. It wasn't that people didn't show up to my show. It was that music people didn't: Integrity is everything and I wasn't about to give in to my promise of not attending shows, that is, until I got that most unexpected phone call from the Chavez camp.
I had just recorded Calico Sunset in a big podcast where the sound had immensely improved. Yeah, now you can hear gum chewing and me breathing too heavy into the mic. Wonderful; perfect. Without a doubt it was a great evening of recording an awesome techno band, but now we were to take the podcast on the road, give it a whirl of a try at none other but a show brought about by the former front man for Adema-that is, until we got to the gate and my writing for the scene almost completely unraveled:
Bouncers are a breed all their own: thuggish, brutish, some rude, some nice, most not very understanding of miscommunication and take it out on you as if you've just asked them to be included in the coronation of King Louis XVI. Yeah, our names weren't on the guest list and it was an invitation show only. "You're not on the list, so you don't get in," grumbled one of the bald brutes at the gate.
"Can you go talk to someone? This show invited us."
"If you're not on the list:"
"Well this was a waste of time," I grumbled in return.
"If you're not on the list you don't get in. It's that simple. Who put you on the list?"
I had to think. He caught me off guard. I'm horrible with names. "Vaughan," I blurted. "That's his name."
"Oh. Well you're not on the list. You can't get in."
Didn't we just go through this? I wondered.
I had arrived with Matt Munoz and a couple of punks. I was already walking away, framing my next blog expose of thug gatekeepers and a purple bottle of Jarritos in favor of band write-ups, when Matt, peacemaker extraordinaire offered to make a phone call.
"Nah, I'll call the guy who invited us," I said, dialing as we walked, already thinking of a blog about being a forgotten writer; I felt like the warehouse we were at that was lost in the shadow of the Crystal Palace just up the street.
No sooner had he answered came a familiar holler from down the street at the gate entrance. It was Marky Pope-bouncer thug king of the warehouse venue... it was a perfect moment. There were laughs and handshakes and suddenly we were on to the coronation of Mark Chavez and Midnight Panic. Forget ol' king Lou.
Mark Chavez: tattooed, dark hair, having been one of the music industry's lifted, then one of the rock and roll fallen. I had heard a few stories of Adema. Kenny Mount claims to have named the band. One source alleges Chavez was addicted to painkillers and hid them in his mic. Who knows about the truth of such a story: This is rock and roll-a volatile profession that takes people and their addictions and often blows complete lives out of proportion. Perhaps Chavez just got out of the band to start something new for himself. I haven't talked to him. I heard he didn't like the musical direction of Adema. But that's all gossip.
"He's on his own this time," I heard someone say. "No help from the half-brother in Korn:" Big deal. Anyone can do anything they put their mind to.
One of the toughest parts of life is having to start over. We all have to do that sometimes. For me that would be my autobiographical novella, Thick White Crust, a journey to Bakersfield from Las Vegas on September 12, 2001 and the few ensuing months thereafter. I had a hundred bucks and a black bag with some clothes and eyed an old baseball field as a bed: that's just reality. You pick up, you leave, you move on and you even wonder where to sleep:
I followed Matt Munoz as he talked to folks from the local music scene. I saw Cesareo, Matt from Myndsick, Matt from Give Impulse, CK, Rocky and Preston Nash, Brett from Endrio, Brad and friends from Throatshot, all the guys from Another Year and a host of others. I listened to stories, to gossip, to young couples unaware that a novelist was in their midst who might write some of what he heard.
But then the show got started. I worked my way to the front of the pack. People let me pass as Mike Montano Jr. strapped on a bass and went right into the action. Mark Chavez' voice had a tinny echo to it. I'd never even heard Adema. The band came out meaning business and weren't about to waste time in between songs or during songs with unnecessary down time or extended show-off moments. They were on a mission to be heard and the crowd didn't turn its back. I snapped photos of Mark grooving hard in the scintillating stage lights; I got into a few of the songs to the point where I paused to focus on the hard rock and roll sounds of the band, to listen to the tightness of the musicians. I heard they had only been together a short while and already had 14 songs in their repertoire. Would we hear them all tonight? Not likely. This wasn't a marathon Mento Buru show where you dance until your eyes bleed and Matt's socks fall to his ankles in mad ska moments.
I saw kids grooving to the music and some of the old timers downing beers and enjoying the songs. There seemed to be several groups criticizing, wondering if Chavez were pretentious; they took in the new music and like experts plotting out Chavez' future. As if any of us know. As if no rock musician is a bit pretentious. Who wouldn't want to have played Oz fest, to have had an opportunity at stardom? So people ask, 'Can Chavez do it again, resurge to the point of a big label?' Maybe the show should have been open to the public. Maybe, maybe, maybe: Didn't matter-Vaughan called it the 'Family Show'. It was the first gig for Midnight Panic and no one ran away, not even the humbled novelist who felt part of the family once again...