Easy Reader and Dirty Hippie Radio have teamed up to co-procure and co-present some local shows, beginning with a monthly gig at Saint Rocke which kicks off next Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. The general idea is to cultivate a rich night circulating around good music and good beer, while pulling in a few striking bands from outside the immediate beach bubble. It is an experiment in expanding upon local culture… with The Hollow Legs, Blac Jesus & The Experimentalists, and Saint James Band.
Blac Jesus & The Experimentalists
“We are firm believers in the miracle working of music through God’s blessing,” says Runson Willis (guitar, vocals) on behalf of himself and his band mates Francisco Morales (bass), Brian Perske (saxophone), and Daniel Fernandez (drums and percussion).
“So, I mean, I don’t really know exactly what type of music you would call that,” continues Willis. “But we play blues, soul, funk, and rock and roll… It’s really hard for me to categorize it… It’s like a lot of different stuff, but still from the same soul… We just play soul music, really. Music for the soul.”
Blac Jesus & The Experimentalists come to us from Pomona with a sound that’s difficult to categorize indeed. After listening to their Crimson EP, I once attempted to describe it as early Taj Mahal under a late 60s San Franciscan influence, revealing both psych and jazz-rock undertones with a dash of percussive Afro-Latin spice. And while the whole meal is served on a pious platter with the band’s blessings and prayers extended to anyone who’s meant to receive them, you wouldn’t exactly throw on a record and hear “religious music.” Their music is more effectual in its purpose than directly preachy.
Willis explains: “Our music is driven toward trying to inspire people to go and create, but create under the name of grace; and by that name is Jesus, man. It’s hard, but you know what, it happens and I’m so glad to be able to play this kind of music. God is good man… We wanna give thanks by just trying to inspire people, plant seeds of inspiration and hopefully people will be able to see the blessing that God has put on them… We all have purpose; we just need to open our eyes to see it.”
You may be wondering how a band like this can go around calling themselves Blac Jesus, or think it controversial… But there’s a perfectly tangible explanation: it’s a guitar, man!
“It’s funny, people think I’m Blac Jesus!” says Willis through a good laugh. “But I’m like, ‘Yo dude, I got this guitar, man.’ And I actually have this little decal, this transparent decal of Jesus on it, but he’s black, man, you know?”
The story of the black guitar and how it saved Willis is a story which finds him lifted from dark depths, back into music and onto the stage, with a band and Blac Jesus in hand, to deliver their music for the soul.
“We’re pretty heavy with it man.” And while cracking up, Willis adds, “It doesn’t do anything but make the music better.”
Saint James Band
“I’m 51, but don’t tell anybody that, all right? The guys I’m playing with are like in their twenties.”
Saint James Band presents a curious dynamic which finds 51-year-old veteran guitarist George Castrinos, who’s played with the likes of Larry Taylor (Canned Heat), Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), and bluesman Robert Lucas, jamming alongside two young gents in their twenties.
Castrinos (guitar, vocal), currently based in Los Angeles, actually used to live in Hermosa Beach and played The Lighthouse frequently throughout the 90s. He brought on Curran McDowell (bass, backup vocal) and Ethan Yeager (drums, percussion, backup vocal), who were already friends and schoolmates in Berkeley, after they passed auditions in answer to his Craigslist ad. The result?
“I guess you would call it rock, bluesy rock, with a little bit of folk,” says Castrinos. “Almost kind of like, honest. I wanted to do an honest record.”
Well, he’s not wrong. Saint James Band’s debut LP Who You Are is due to drop in about a month, and it’s totally honest, bluesy rock with a little bit of folk – more rock than folk. It really kicks when it’s time to kick, tender when tenderness beckons, and catchy with just enough nastiness to still be good.
Castrinos need not worry about the considerable age gap, the record sounds like it was made by a few fine musicians not a day over their mid-twenties to thirties. Additionally, the age spectrum lends itself nicely to the band’s appeal, with apparent wisdom wrapping itself comfortably around youthful vibrance. At any rate, it seems to be working since Saint James Band recently opened for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Or, maybe it helps to have a little connection…
Referring to Jade Castrinos of the Edward Sharpe outfit, Castrinos says, “My daughter is the singer in the band, so we have a little connection.”
In fact, not only has George Castrinos played with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but he plays slide guitar on their track “Fire Water.” He’s also contributing a bit of playing to Jade’s forthcoming solo record. And while there’s absolutely no plan for a collaboration here in Hermosa Beach, Castrinos does point out that when Jade’s in town she likes to join her father on stage for a bit of singin’ the blues.
Easy Reader & Dirty Hippie Radio present: The Hollow Legs, Blac Jesus & The Experimentalists, and Saint James Band at Saint Rocke on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. Craft beer specials, $5 cover. You can listen to Blac Jesus & The Experimentalists and Saint James Band on DirtyHippieRadio.com, tuning you in to the independent music community.