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Hundreds Turn Out for Music Showcase Featuring New Artists in Echo Park

Glam Skanks, Brothers Collective Take Part in High Quality, Low-Tech Show

Glam Skanks presented by Echo Box Music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for

Glam Skanks presented by Echo Box Music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for


It was hot, loud and physical at The MIME Saturday night.

In other words it was Rock N Roll at its finest, as four great young bands including The Glam Skanks and The Brothers Collective hit the stage before a crowd of about 200 fans in Echo Park.

Free admission, free beer and wine, and great new music drew hundreds to Echo Park gallery, The MIME.

The purpose?  Simply to hear some new bands play some new music.

Co-sponsors Echo Box Music and Unison Music want to bring live music from new artists to the masses and they’re willing to spend money to do it. The MIME was truly the place to be rub elbows with musicians, artists, producers, photographers and press and to even have a free beer on a Saturday night.

Glam Skanks - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Was the music hot?  Yes.  Was the place physically hot?  Definitely. There was no air conditioning. But it was OK.  That made it easy to imagine what the kids who paid $350-plus per ticket were enduring at that little festival in the desert this weekend.  Both sets of fans are thirsty for new music.

And if Echo Box and Unison had their way, no music fans would have to pay to quench their thirst.

But really, how often does anyone get free beer and free admission as encouragement to see great bands right in Echo Park?  Basically never. And that’s where Echo Box and Unison come in.

“We want to do this often,” said Nolan Jamora, owner of Echo Box Music. By day, he’s the director of operations for Isky Racing Cams of Gardena.  “This is really about getting the music out to the people. Why should the people listening to the music have to pay?  This is a new model.  We want the people coming to hear the music to buy a CD, buy merch.”

Jaxine Sparkles keeps the beat - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jaxine Sparkles keeps the beat – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nolan is an interesting cat who has had his share of victories, you might say, as he is a Formula 1 racing guy.

But his love of music has brought him to this place — and that place is where he can help spread the enthusiasm for new bands.

“It used to be that the record companies would sign talented young musicians to a deal, but that’s a thing of the past,” said Bruce Witkin, founder of Unison Music.

Bruce is a producer who works with well-known musicians as well as the up and comers. “We just want people to hear the music, buy the merch and if we can do that by spending on beer and wine and having a show that’s free to the public, we’ll do it.”

And the crowds approved.

“This is my first time here and I think it’s great,” said Travis, who relocated to LA from the state of Washington.  “The people are really supportive of one anothers’ music.  This is a great showcase and I’ve loved the bands I’ve seen already tonight.”

Travis was among the 200 or so music fans who attended the Echo Box presentation by invitation only, packing the house and cheering on the bands.

Fans support the music - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Fans support the music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“I like the do-it-yourself style of this event,” said Christi. “It’s like the shows my mom used to go to, they would just say they’re having a show and tell their friends and people would have fun.”

Musicians today are familiar with DIY style in all aspects of music. Not only does a musician have to play, practice and perform, they also have to promote, most frequently through social media platforms.

But this night at The MIME was a throwback to low-tech Rock N Roll, where friends invited friends and spread the news of the event more by word of mouth than by social media.  Even our own went low-tech, handing out a typewriter-printed fanzine specially designed for the event.

The Hypnotic Hyenas opened with some cool songs, this new band is an updated new millennium version of power pop and the guys have stage presence.  Their cool music led off a hot night inside the MIME.

The Brothers Collective - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Brothers Collective – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Brothers Collective are really brothers and while they have grown together, so has their music matured. They have been keeping audiences engaged for several years with cool vocals and great beats. Their music is remenicent of the good part of the 1990s.

Kid Bloom look good, play solid tunes and the lead vocals are succinct and exacting.  Their new tune “I Kissed a Girl,” is a new release and from the sounds of things, Kid Bloom has a good career ahead.

The Glam Skanks

Not because they’re all girls — sort of — but it’s hard not to notice that The Glam Skanks really took over on Saturday night. The Glam Skanks have been playing together for about three years. They kick it into high gear every time, only these days they’re showing a lot more stage presence and their act is tight.  They still have the exploding confetti bombs and glitter, but front and center here are brunette vocalist Ali Cat and her tireless lead guitarist Veronica Witkin.  Bassist Millie Chan and drummer Jaxine Sparkles round out this great group.

Glam Skanks leave audiences crawling from the wreckage - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks leave audiences crawling from the wreckage – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Glam Skanks music is wild fun, ranging from mic-hurling punk to faux melodic but it’s the method of delivery that wins.

It’s such a compelling act you can’t divert your eyes even if you try.

The Glam Skanks put on a whirlwind physical romp that captures the crowd, romances them, then spits them out, leaving observers star-dazed and hearing the birdies and yet wanting more.

In the crowd were lots of notables and music lovers alike. Photographers Suzanne Witkin and Heather Harris brought the star power to the event, telling the story through the lens. Suzanne has too many photo credits to mention in the celeb-rocker world, and is known for her work in helping the animals.

Harris said she was impressed with the efforts of the co-sponsors to bring the music to the people.

“The live music scene is so much healthier now,” said Harris, who has photographed up-and-coming bands as well as veteran musicians for many years. “This is a really great live event.”

Veronica the #GlamSkanks guitarist - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Veronica the Glam Skanks guitarist – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It was refreshing how many of the people on hand “heard about” the showcase from a friend. Because while the web has developed into a great way to spread information and distribute music, unfortunately, it’s also used by the record companies to measure the “success” of a band on a quantative basis.  If the record companies don’t see a certain magic number of hits or activity, well then the new kids just aren’t going to the head of the class.  So it’s refreshing that at a time when analytics play such an integral part of all commercial business decisions that the guys from Echo Box and Unison would front these live, “non-quantifiable” showcases and spread the word the old fashioned way — from human to human.

The music community needs more events like this. New artists want nothing more than to perform their work. And the fans want to hear that new music, but for an affordable price. And while the record companies may have forgotten this, those who have not forgotten were together enjoying a great Saturday night.


Robby Krieger Jams with Los Lobos as Partygoers and Pals Celebrate The 2016 Lines of Gibson Guitar

Robby Krieger Performs with Los Lobos - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Robby Krieger jumps on stage with Los Lobos – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Music greats, friends and Halloween partygoers jammed into Gibson Guitar’s Beverly Hills showroom for a party to celebrate the company’s 2016 guitars.

The Doors’ Robby Krieger joined Los Lobos on stage to perform for several hundred people who crammed into the swanky Gibson Guitar offices near city hall for a celebration of the 2016 guitars.

“We’re very happy with the developments in both the hard bodies and the hollow body products this year,” said Dave Winters, general manager of Gibson Memphis. “We advance with technological innovation but we’re known for our tradition, first and foremost.”

Brian Ray, Peter Leinheiser and Dave Amato - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Brian Ray, Peter Leinheiser and Dave Amato – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

In an intimate setting, music stars, friends and fans shared conversation, food, drinks and laughs, and heard some rockin’ tunes from East L.A.-raised Los Lobos.

Los Lobos has released a new album, Gates of Gold, and is touring with stops in Henderson, Nev., San Francisco at the Fillmore, and Chicago.

Among the guests were Brian Ray of Paul McCartney’s band, also a longtime musician with Etta James; author and photographer Robert Landau, whose latest work is Rock N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip; his nephew Josh Landau, frontman for The Shrine; and Dave Amato, lead guitarist for REO Speedwagon.

Lisa Loeb with Gibson guys - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Lisa Loeb with Gibson guys – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Amato said he was stoked to be working with Gibson on a new signature model, but that’s all he would say.

“I’m having a great time with great people,” said Amato, a longtime friend of Gibson and host extraordinaire, Peter Leinheiser, Gibson’s entertainment relations honcho.



Engage With Audience For Music Success, Say Jesse Nolan, Tim Wheeler and Rob Schwartzman

Jesse Nolan, Tim Wheeler and Rob Schwartzman Talk Audience Engagement During Panel

– By DONNA BALANCIA – New collaborations, keeping supporters engaged, and performing as much as possible are crucial to the success of young bands today, a panel of rockers advised during Culture Collide 2015 in Echo Park.

Jesse Nolan of Caught A Ghost, Tim Wheeler of Ash, and Rob Schwartzman of Rooney, told an audience of musicians and music fans that up-and-comers need to think of new ways to keep it rolling.

“Bands are getting into co-writing with popular artists,” said Schwartzman. “When you write with other people it can activate a different side of your ability as an artist.”

Schwartzman said collaborating with well-konwn musicians helps the band on the rise get the added benefit — and attention — of the popular artist’s fan base.

“As businesses have gotten tighter the way you make money is different,” Schwartzman said. “The traditional channels of revenue have changed.  I don’t know how magazines work but they still have to get readers.”

Jesse Nolan, Tim and Rooney's Rob Schwartzman - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jesse Nolan, Tim and Rooney’s Rob Schwartzman – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Nolan said keeping the fans in your camp is critically important as the taste of the typical fan change change with the snap of a finger.

“As people have more options and more choices, you have to hustle,” Nolan said. “You will find fans and you will lose them six months later.  you have to generate a way to interest the audience.”

As for whether guitar bands are dying off as electronic music becomes more popular, Nolan said: “Things wax and wane with what’s happening culturally. Electronic music is so easy to produce.”

Ultimately, Wheeler said, keeping the experience alive is what counts to the bands and to the fans.

“I think people value the music,” he said. “With music you can give a live show.  People are still willing to pay to go to an event.”

The Culture Collide Festival, in the cozy enclave of Echo Park, was hampered by hot weather, but nonetheless presented cool up-and-comers as well as veteran bands, as well as a trade show.

In addition to Ash and Caught a Ghost, Making our “Bands To Watch” list are European indie ensemble, Balthazar, and local LA-area group Maudlin Strangers who present a cool, sound with talented musicians and a strong front man.  Props to the bands for playing in 100-degree weather.

For more information see the Culture Collide website.

Nick Waterhouse, Music’s Businessman, Brings Down The House at Teragram

Nick Waterhouse performs at Teragram Ballroom - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse performs at Teragram Ballroom – Photo © Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — Nick Waterhouse blew away the packed house at the Teragram Ballroom Saturday night, giving an uncharacteristically rowdy crowd an upbeat show that the fans went crazy over.

Waterhouse brought his Orange County swagger — and his pals — to downtown LA in one of the most dynamic performances in a long time.  He works with great musicians and he has good taste.  He writes catchy tunes and creates a good time for all.

Coolness Factor

But Waterhouse is more than a cool guy on the stage with a guitar and good songs.

The spectacle-sporting Waterhouse, 29, has the looks and sounds of a rocker, but the mind of a keen businessman.  He knows a good opportunity and that’s clear from his business decisions, and the artists he produces and promotes.

Pearl Charles and her band perform at Teragram Ballroom - Photo © Donna Balancia

Pearl Charles and her band perform at Teragram Ballroom – Photo © Donna Balancia

The excitement of the evening was marked by a lot of audience participation in the form of dancing and singing. Clearly, the Waterhouse fans are devoted, with the majority of the people in the audience singing along with Waterhouse word for word on each song.

There was even a brief — and stupid — fight that caused Waterhouse to halt the performance as security guards jumped in and broke up a ridiculous argument allegedly caused by two women and then whose boyfriends jumped in.

“It’s so weird to have a fight at a Nick Waterhouse show,” said one concert goer in the lobby after the show. “I think they continued the fight outside afterwards.”

Security had the matter well in hand and Teragram Ballroom is equipped with high tech cameras that are so good someone said “The video equipment they have makes a picture so crystal clear you can see their fillings.”

Paul Bergmann performs at Teragram Ballroom - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Paul Bergmann performs at Teragram Ballroom – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Waterhouse is so compelling it’s hard to take your eyes off this Buddy Holly-esque hipster.  The audience ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, which is to be expected as the music from Waterhouse is appealing across the board.

The resemblance is where any comparison to Buddy Holly ends, though, as Waterhouse, one of Southern California’s favorite sons has built his career to major success, much in a succinct businesslike fashion.

His song, “Time’s All Gone” is used on the Lexus CT Hybrid commercial and that spot is played over and over again, many times a day.

“He is so smart that he did that,” said a fan. “That is the thing that we dream and hope for today.  It’s so hard to make a living as a musician or an actor.  To land a major commercial, that is a lot of money.”



And apparently Waterhouse is using the money for good. He’s writing with other artists, with two of them — Paul Bergmann and Pearl Charles — playing on the undercard of the Waterhouse headliner.

Pearl Charles has a nice quality and her band carries through in almost a country rock sway.  She has a melodic voice and her All-American style was appealing to the audience.

Bergmann’s tempo was mellow, but the talented guitarist-harmonica player-singer is an Echo Park local who admits, this gig was probably the biggest he’s played. He is on the Fairfax Recordings label.

The Nick Waterhouse show at Teragram Ballroom was upbeat, exciting and among the most fun evenings to be had in a long time.

The Teragram Ballroom, by the way, is a hit on all levels: Courteous staff, great sound, good food and a fun time.  It’s downtown LA, but there’s parking across the street, on the street when you can get it, and there are a few other parking lots in the area.

The Sun Sets on HOB Hollywood: Steel Panther Gives Sendoff to Club

Steel Panther Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Steel Panther plays the final night of HOB Sunset on Aug. 3 – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

House of Blues Sunset to Shut Its Doors for Good, Steel Panther is Club’s Last  Act

Photos and Story By DONNA BALANCIA — Better get in your last licks before famous House of Blues Sunset closes its doors for good on August 3.

Steel Panther, the band that built a residency at the Sunset Strip club, plays the last night of HOB Sunset, for information see HOB website.

Steel Panther will continue its well-loved metal sendup act with its next announced gig at Rock Allegiance in Pennsylvania in October.

Recently, workers in all departments employed at HOB Sunset expressed dismay about the pending closure of the Sunset Strip concert venue.

“It’s terrible,” said Sandy who works as a ticket taker. “Everyone is depressed about what’s going on and people aren’t happy about finding another job.”

The collective mood of bartenders, security guards and waitresses was flat at best, as employees said they were either looking for work within parent company Live Nation or hit the unemployment line.

“I’m sad about this, it’s a landmark,” said John who works in security. “They said they’ve ‘lost their lease,’ but who really knows the truth.  All I know is that mentally, nobody is showing up.”

The Outre - Photo © Donna Balancia

The Foundation Room is where many aspiring musicians got their start – Pictured: The Outre – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“The last thing Sunset Strip needs is another condo development,” said Bobby who said he would be talking to his higher ups at the company for a job. “It’s terrible that they’re closing down, but I hear they’re looking for another location and they could be open before we know it.”

For people who have called the House of Blues Sunset home since the 1990s, the closure represents another piece of the Sunset Strip slipping away.

But the Los Angeles music scene is changing in many aspects and after reigning as the supreme place to make a name, the Sunset Strip may relinquish its title to downtown LA and Silverlake.

Stiff Little Fingers plays HOB Sunset on July 31, and one last Gospel Brunch is set for Sunday, Aug. 2

Fender Plays on Without President Bob Roback

EXCLUSIVE: Fender plays on without President Bob Roback

By Donna Balancia

California Rocker has learned President Bob Roback is no longer with Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

When California Rocker reached to do a story on his 1-year anniversary, it was discovered Roback was not able to be reached at the offices of Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

As of yet no successor has been named.

The company announced Roback was named President of Fender Musical Instruments Corp. last April.  He is also on the board of directors of the privately held company.

Mainly known as co-founder of Dashbox and former Head of Music for Yahoo!, Roback has been an entrepreneur and executive in the music business since 1991.  Roback was not immediately available for comment, we sent a message.

The Stratocaster by Fender is a staple of the music industry.

Bob Roback Appointed President of Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Moby To Keynote Generation Next at NAMM Show

Moby NAMM Donna Balancia California Rocker

Moby will keynote Next Generation at NAMM Show – photo courtesy NAMM

Moby, the award-winning musician and producer will deliver the keynote address to launch Generation Next at NAMM Foundation on Thursday.

Generation Next is a NAMM Show educational opportunity for college music students preparing for careers in the music products industry.

National Association of Music Merchants annual convention, the NAMM Show, Launches Thursday

NAMM Foundation lobbies on behalf of music education. The foundation conducts outreach during the NAMM Show, which launches Thursday in Anaheim.


Moby’s keynote, made possible in collaboration with the Los Angeles College of Music, starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Anaheim Hilton’s NAMM Foundation Lounge.

Moby is a platinum recording artist and producer, who has worked with artists including David Bowie, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, New Order, Pet Shop Boys and Metallica. He has sold an estimated 20 million albums worldwide.

Music students and educators can register for the 2015 NAMM Show at

Shep Gordon, Mike Myers Talk ‘Supermensch’ at Landmark Theatres

Shep Gordon California Rocker

Shep Gordon, photo courtesy Supermensch

LOS ANGELES — Shep Gordon didn’t want to have a documentary done on his life.  But it took an operation to change his mind, along with 15 years of begging by Mike Myers.

“I didn’t see the value in it but over the years our relationship developed to a place where I had total trust in him,” Gordon said of Myers who produced and directed the documentary Supermensch.  

The International Documentary Association screened Supermensch at Landmark Theatres in the Westside Pavillion and Myers and Gordon were on hand for a question-and-answer session following the film.

Fame is a dangerous achievement, Gordon reminds us throughout the film.  As the manager for everyone from rockers like Alice Cooper and Blondie to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, fame is something Gordon knows well.  Both he and the director of the film take the topic seriously, calling fame the “toxic waste” result of being successful.


Gordon and Myers got to know each other through “Wayne’s World,” and Myers said he became interested in Gordon, a guy who stayed out of the picture to let his clients have the spotlight.  Many years later — and after Gordon suffered a life-threatening injury and was lying in the hospital — Myers said “Now do you want to do it?” and Gordon responded: “Yes!”

Jimi Hendrix California Rocker

Jimi Hendrix suggested Gordon become a manager – photo courtesy of Supermensch

While there was subsequently some hemming and hawing a few weeks after he was back on his feet again, Gordon finally went along with Myers’ dream project.

Myers said Gordon is his mentor and is a “fascinating progressive capitalist and ethical hedonist.”  The onscreen interviews prove he’s also a great storyteller with a lot to say.

“I’ve always felt honesty is what gets you through anything,” Gordon said. “I realized in my occupation, I could really hurt people and I would tell them.  A consequence of celebrity is fame and it’s very hard not to hurt yourself.”

Gordon points out all the friends and clients he’s had who have been victimized by the pitfalls of fame. Fame has cost people relationships, sobriety, and in many cases, their lives.  Neither he nor Myers understand the more recent trend of trying to just “become famous” without the creative aspect behind it.

“Celebrity used to be a celebration for achievement,” Myers said. “But it is a declining currency.  It’s a serious problem when the goal is to be famous.”

Gordon said whether you’re a singer, actor, poet or chef there’s a rejection factor most people won’t live with.   

He told the audience to embrace every rejection and to always forge ahead, because after all, he said, “It only took 12 people to start Christianity.”


Bob Roback Joins Fender as President

Bob Roback President of Fender by California Rocker

Bob Rodack has been named President of Fender Guitar Corp.

LOS ANGELES — Bob Roback has been named President of Fender Musical Instruments Corp. and will open a new Los Angeles-based office for the company.

Mainly known as co-founder of Dashbox and former Head of Music for Yahoo!, Roback has been an entrepreneur and executive in the music business since 1991.

Bob Roback and Digital Strategy

Long-considered a base for emerging music talent, Los Angeles represents a continual resource for retail.  The company’s latest move is seen as an initiative to increase presence in the LA market.

At Fender, Roback will oversee the development of Fender’s emerging digital strategy. The company wants to engage a broader group of consumers.



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