Local Waves, Episode Three: Brandon Hardesty

Brandon Hardesty,

Brandon and his soon to be wife, Sophia. Photo Credit, Sophia Tobin (Facebook).

On Friday, June 19th, I had an opportunity to continue my search for learning about the history of popular music in Annapolis and the experiences that the musicians share. This local wave proved incredibly radical, giving me new insight into the experiences of a more recent and extremely popular local group, Bumpin’ Uglies. On the night of their new CD release party, I was able to sit down with their lead singer and guitarist, and our local wave being featured today: Brandon Hardesty.

Another big time local player, Brandon has been working tirelessly for years both by himself and with his band to promote themselves as a huge part of the Annapolis music scene. And it has definitely paid off. While somewhat of a new convert to surf music, every time I see the Uglies, I enjoy their work more and more, thanks to the effort put in by Brandon, as well as musicians Dave Wolf on bass, and TJ Haslett on drums. If you are in the area, you should not miss this group.

Like always, the views expressed by the artist are only those of the experiences that they have been through. Any younger readers, who happened to stumbled upon this, now would be the time to talk to mom and dad if you can’t handle expletives. Otherwise, sit back, and get ready to ride.

Brandon Hardesty Eastport A Rockin

Brandon performing with his band, Bumpin' Uglies at Eastport A Rockin', 2015. Photo Credit, Matt Frye (Facebook).


Henry Pazaryna: So recently, I have been doing some interviews talking to local musicians and their experiences in Annapolis. Do you mind talking about your first music experiences, starting off with Bumpin’ Uglies, and then go from there?

Brandon Hardesty: Yeah man. I started playing guitar when I was seventeen and me and my friend who I initially started the band with, back in the day, before there was even a thought of the band, we were seventeen and would just go down to the harbor and he played djembe and I would play acoustic guitar. We would jam, just like busking, before I even knew what that word meant. We would just go out and play for tips and shit. We would just play until we made enough money to get a thirty pack, and we would go to the liquor store and get one of the dudes out front to buy us a thirty pack, and then that would be the end of that. Then we would go to a party, or whatever, and rinse, wash, and repeat. But instead of tips, we were looking for girls. I did that for a while and kind of lost it for a minute, but then I turned twenty one and I started doing open mics. There used to be an open mic at Acme that Jimi Haha ran, and I would hit that. That and Stan and Joes were both on Mondays, and the Whiskey did one on Tuesdays, and I would just do that, over and over and over again. I was like, “Man, I really like doing this.” I really liked doing this, you know? I put the band together and started doing it. Then it was all downhill from there (chuckles).

HP: So what year was this around?

BH: It was 2008.

HP: How old are you now?

BH: I just turned twenty nine in April.

HP: You’re twenty nine? Man, you look like you are twenty two.

BH: I just shaved, so… (laughing).

HP: It must be a surfer mentality or something.

BH: It’s funny. My little brother just had his twenty eighth birthday, and he was giving me shit. He said, “You know, everyone thinks I’m older!” And I said, “Dude, all right.” That’s not a compliment any more, but I’ll take it (laughs).

HP: That’s funny. So this is 2008. At that point, what was the band’s first venue?

BH: The Whiskey, man. The Metro didn’t even exist.

HP: So you must have been pretty bummed when they destroyed the Whiskey.

BH: Dude, I cried my eyes out. It was one of… I could count on one hand the number of times I have cried post puberty. That was one of them. I lost it. I was there on the last night. It sucked. It was just awful. I put my band together at that place. Like I said, initially it was just me and my friend Zach, and I would do that open mic. My first drummer was a guy I went to high school with who I hadn’t seen in years, and I just ran into him. And I was like, “Dude, I play guitar now and I do this thing.” And he said, “I play drums. Do you have a band?” And I said, “No. Let’s jam.” My bass player, Wolfie, that I have played with for five years now, he was in a band called The Cheaters that played there all the time, and he used to just hang out there. Every Tuesday night was like a thing at the Whiskey, back in the day. It was the shit. Everyone was there. At one point I had a six piece band. I played acoustic guitar, had an electric guitar player, I had a saxophone player, Zach played congas and shit. All that shit. Every Tuesday, we would do the Whiskey open mic. That was just the shit. Our first three album releases were at the Whiskey. When they tore that down, it sucked. It was a dagger to my heart.

HP: So now that it’s gone, and I know that you guys have done some touring, locally, where are the biggest places that you play? Nationally later, but locally in Annapolis: what are the best venues that you guys enjoy doing?

BH: The Metropolitan is the spot, now. That’s a good show. Ram’s Head is cool, but it’s not our kind of venue. It’s sit down and dinner crowd. Our shows are kind of rambunctious. Armadillo’s is a lot of fun, but it’s kind of weird right now with what they are doing, but I have always really liked playing Armadillos because it’s kind of like punk rock. It’s really tight, sweaty, and drunk. It’s fun. I like playing there a lot.

HP: Every time I have been to Armadillo’s, there has always been a DJ there. I guess I have just never been around on the days the bands play.

BH: Dude, back in the day, back when I was sneaking into bars and shit, they didn’t even have DJ’s or whatever. It was live music. Bands every weekend, and it was like this awesome environment of all the musicians. They would all hang out there. It was like what the Whiskey became, kind of. And then, they started doing DJ’s. Even then, it sucked. It was all downhill from there. Even when they have been doing DJ’s, they still would have shows upstairs every once in a while. They did it as much as every weekend for a while, and it was awesome. It was just crazy and wild.

HP: Would you be willing to talk about your experiences seeing Annapolis as it’s changed over the last couple of years? As a local guy, I have definitely noticed how, not “yuppy – fied” its become, but it’s definitely different than what it was.

BH: Yeah, I guess. It’s grown. I’ve lived in Annapolis my whole life and a running joke, a running shtick of mine is “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m going to live here as long as I can afford to.” I truly believe. I love this city. I will live here as long as I can. And it’s grown, a lot. It was a town at one point, and it’s a city now. I remember being a kid and walking into the Market House. You could smell the fried chicken.

HP: Dude, I miss that Market House. Getting cups of Cream of Crab soup? I would demolish those.

BH: Yeah, man. I have waited tables for years at Middleton’s. You would walk over and get a donut before your shift. It was awesome. I feel like that was really the first nail in the coffin of the town that was Annapolis. Now it’s a city. And it is what it is. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, because it’s preserved its integrity and the character that makes it what it is. It’s just more people, you know? It’s good for the economy. You get your chains that come in and the crazy yuppie shit, but there is a lot of character. There is a huge art district here. I have been all over the country and I swear to god that Annapolis has one of the best music scenes I have ever seen. And I don’t just say that because I am a part of it. I couldn’t give a fuck less. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to justify what I’m doing. But it truly does have the most talented and diverse music scenes. Part of that is because there are so many bars here that have live music. I can speak from personal experience – you can be a musician, and be a working musician around here. You’re not going to have a lot of luck, unless you are like… like Pressing Strings. Jordan Sokel and Pressing Strings kill it playing his own work every night, because he is the fucking man. I personally play six or seven nights a week a lot of times, and I do a lot of cover stuff during the week, but it’s awesome. I don’t mind it, because it’s work. It’s better than waiting tables. It’s better than fucking not making money doing something that’s not music. There are a lot of cities, most cities, you would have a hard time finding an atmosphere and businesses that allow you to be a working musician. That is something that is great. And I think Annapolis has always been like that, but it got better with the growing economy. It kinda sucks, because it has lost a lot of the character. Like I said, I have waited tables here since I was eighteen, and one of the things – it’s like a double edged sword. Every summer, it’s the busy season, but it’s tourist season, and it’s just dumb. Getting crab cakes and tipping ten percent. Whatever. But it keeps me alive. It could go the way of Detroit and totally collapse upon itself. It’s very important to our city.

HP: So aside from Annapolis, where are the most favorite places that you guys have been to, nationally? And even internationally – have you done that yet?

BH: As far as international, they only thing we did was the British Virgin Islands. We did fly to get there, so that was cool.

HP: So nationally.

BH: Nationally. I love St. Augustine and I love San Diego. Specifically Ocean Beach. If I had to move somewhere, those are some of the places I would move. It’s cool. Good environment, same vibe, good music scene. Laid back. St. Augustine, way more so. It’s very small and has a beach vibe to it. Small town vibe. It’s actually, St. Augustine is going through what Annapolis went through probably ten or fifteen years ago, where it’s like people are finding out about it, and they are just invading. But, you know, whatever, it’s good for their economy.

HP: Listening to your music: what kind of influences did you draw from when you were writing? Is there anything that you can compare yourself to, or are you just trying to do your own work?

BH: Musically, like melodies, guitar chords, and rhythm patterns and shit, Sublime is what I am trying to do.

HP: That’s a big inspiration for you?

BH: Yeah. I’m not really a good musician at all. I’m a songwriter and a singer. Not a great guitar player. I have never claimed to be a great guitar player. But I love Sublime. When I started this band, that’s what I wanted to do. It’s what I enjoyed playing at the time. And it’s working. There is a lot to be said for branding. That’s what this band does. We do the ska – punk, reggae dub thing, and I love playing that. I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Neil Young, storytellers. The Avett Brothers is one of my favorite bands. I love Bright Eyes. Lyrically, that’s what I try to do for Bumpin’ Uglies. I try to take the Sublime grooves and the dub reggae ska punk shit and make these songs that have stories. Real stories that I have gone through, and my friends have gone through, or stuff that I have seen or something I think is clever. Either way, I want it to be clever. 90’s Hip Hop too, that was a big influence of mine, lyrically. Eminem, Big L, Tupac.

HP: Finishing up. In the next couple years, you said you will stay here until you can’t afford it. Do you see yourself going anywhere else, or jut bopping around?

BH: Hell no. Dude, if I go anywhere else, it’s going to be Arnold or Edgewater (laughs). I’m getting married in a few months. We are looking at houses right now. I have been saving since I was eighteen to buy a house, and my girl is pretty good with money. She is better than I am with money, honestly. We are trying to buy a house, and we have saved up a decent amount. We really want to get something in Hillsmere. It seems like the community is great, and the property value isn’t crazy expensive. Even if we don’t do that, we will still stay a hop, skip and a jump away. I’m not leaving. Unless I have to.

Once again, very special thanks go out to Brandon for sitting down and talking with us at SurfRhythm. I would very highly recommend catching Brandon as a solo artist or Bumpin’ Uglies as a band. If you are looking for a great time, check out the information below and look no further. As always, thanks again for reading, and catch you soon for the next installment of Local Waves.

Bumpin Uglies tour SurfRhythm Music

Bumpin' Uglies newest release, "Freakout Hell Bus" tour dates.

Bumpin’ Uglies website: http://bumpinugliesmusic.com/

Aaron Bruno 2013 exclusive interview transcribed

Just after Aaron told us to just hang out on AWOL's tour bus.

We had the very good fortune of sitting with Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION on May 4, 2013, for an in-depth interview. It’s one that fans of Aaron and AWOLNATION will certainly appreciate, for his candid answers, and also the ease of conversation, which actually does show through in written form. We hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoyed our time with Aaron, and we’ll give a spoiler alert: The last thing Aaron said to us was, “Hang out here as long as you want, drink some beers or anything else; only the whiskey is off limits.”

Jeff Schad: I want to get the obvious question out of the way first, and I know you have heard it dozens of times before, but what was it like when you dropped “Sail” on the public? Your song became a widespread hit–that’s incredible!

Aaron bringing the energy during AWOLNATION's live performance at the DC101 Chili Cook Off, 2013

Aaron Bruno: There was never a distinct moment where we said ‘Okay, we’re going for “Sail”.’ It was more of an accident–I had several songs recorded for the record, and certainly I thought that it would be a different song, if there was going to be a song at all that would ever be a commercial success. I don’t know, I mean I think we tried to have “Burn It Down” as a single and it didn’t really react when it was played on the radio the few times it was tested. Which I was lucky and grateful that it even got tested at all, you know? And then a programmer by the name of Toby Ryan, he decided, “I think that song “Sail”, I think I’m going to play it, do you mind?” And we’re like of course, play it. Because we are lucky enough to be friends with this radio guy from Austin, TX,  [radio station] KROX, they played “Sail” and the phones lit up, and I didn’t expect that to happen, obviously, and it’s still going now as we speak, two years later. It’s a crazy thing. It’s almost at three million [copies sold] and it’s gone four-times platinum in Canada and Norway and a bunch of other countries.

JS: What does that feel like when you get that news? You don’t expect it, and it’s not your goal, so what is that like?

AB: You know it’s headed in that direction, because a lot of numbers equals a million right? So when you get to 100,000 your like ‘Holy shit, maybe it will go gold! Maybe it will go to 200,000.’ I always thought that if I had a record that sold 100,000 copies, I did it, you know I mean? I did it. Like a full record, not just a single, you know? I always thought a single would be great to sell 100,000 copies of. I mean, I don’t even know what these numbers mean anymore, I just know that uh… I just wanted to be able to sell out small venues, anywhere from 200 to maybe 500 or 600 [capacity] if we were lucky, and has ended up being a much bigger thing.When I was younger though, I would have told you that we were going to take over the world, sell millions of records, because I was just completely naïve and ignorant to the world.

JS: You can do anything…

AB: Yeah. 21 years old, you get your first record deal, of course you want all the fame and fortune. And then at a certain point, when it all failed for me, it became really truly about expressing myself through the music and nothing to do with the fame or fortune or anything like that. In fact, you know the fame side of it has been the thing that I have struggled with the most. It’s been the most uncomfortable part about it. I embrace it because it means that the music is translating to people and people are actually affected in such a positive way. So I would like to think that I have made my mark in this world by helping people get through the day with a song, that can be “Sail”, that can be any song on the record. And I meet folks that get tattoos with the lyrics, and stuff like that.

JS: That has to be a crazy feeling.

AB: It’s a little bit scary because you’re like, “Okay, well, man I have a lot of pressure to make sure the next record is good, because you have a tattoo of my words. My thoughts are on you forever.” And I’m also thinking, “I hope you still like this thirty years from now.” Your kids go, “What in the hell is that?” So, to answer your question, it was such gradual growth, and it still blows my mind that people know us at all.

JS: That song to me, and this is just the spirit the comes to me as a surfer… I just picture you writing that on some gloomy, big day, and some gnarly beach break. And that’s where it takes me to.

AB: To me, that one has that feel to it. It has a strong, one of those winter days that is a light drizzle, but offshore winds to go with it. Which back home is usually like an East-Southeast wind that goes along with rain. You know, there are those certain breaks that take are better than others that day. For some weird reason, the Santa Monica area takes the Southeast wind very, very good when it’s rainy conditions, which Santa Monica is terrible for surfing. It fucking blows.

JS: I’ve been there, yeah.

AB: I mean, sometimes at the breakwater in Venice… I have seen that go off.

JS: Yeah, sessions here and there.

AB: And the locals are so intense, that at this point in my life, after touring and being around human beings coming at me all the time, I really want peace of mind when I go surfing. So if I’m lucky enough to get the phone call from one of my best buddies to say, “Hey, let’s go to this one spot that no one’s around,” then I jump at that opportunity. In fact, I swear, if I was about to get married or have a kid and I was told that “Hey, we’re going to go to the spot,” I would probably go to the spot. I can just figure out the rest later, you know? If we were going to play on the Grammys, I wouldn’t show up to the Grammys to surf this spot. And I mean that. I really mean it. So, hopefully he doesn’t ask me if we ever get a Grammy nod.

JS: I nearly missed my sister’s wedding because I was surfing, you know? Those types of things happen when it’s the day.

AB: That’s why I didn’t go to college. I was sitting, and I remember paying for these little classes or whatever, and trying to start the whole process of it, and I was sitting there thinking, “Okay, well, I know the waves are good right now, so I’m going to leave.” And I just left. Because there was no one telling me I couldn’t, so I just did.

JS: You have to go surf!

AB: And, I failed. I still have these weird nightmares now, that it made me feel like I’m not going to graduate high school or something. It’s like I have unfinished business with school or something.

JS: That’s interesting.

AB: Yeah, I know – it’s a reoccurring dream. It always happens around “Oh, I’m going to graduate” and then…

JS: “I’m out! It’s okay.”

AB: Yeah. (Chuckles)

JS: So I’m particularly interested in the connection that music and surfing have to you, and that follows in from talking about surfing already. I found surfing connects me to my passions in life deeply, and that there are always parallels to be drawn, and things to draw from surfing into what you do that you love. So it’s like you are able to find those clear, as well as abstract thoughts of moments in the water. What does surfing and music mean to you – that connection?

AB: They are almost the same to me. I couldn’t tell you which one I like more. Right now, sometimes I wonder if it’s surfing, because music has become a little bit of a profession, a major profession for me. Sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t want to do. You have to fly, or just like any job there is ups and downs. Or just being tired. Coming back from a seven week tour, that was very grueling for us, but I understand music so well, and I feel like it runs through my veins. With surfing, I’m not as natural at. It took a lot of work to get to be able to come out of a barrel.

JS: The layman has no idea.

AB: I started surfing at 13. My first true barrel, really, I mean I had a couple pocket rides, but really when I was like, “Am I going to come out of this? Ahh ahh….(swish, sound effect)”, I came out at Pitas Point North of C Street, south of Rincon and little Rincon, which has become way too crowded. I think I was 22 years old. It’s crazy that it took that long. But I was one of those slow learners. I got up in three steps for ever, and never would go left on my regular foot. I would never go left because it took me way too long to get up. And I surfed this spot called Leo Carillo way too much. It was such an easy, simple wave… Sometimes I look back and go, “Man, I wish I wouldn’t have surfed that spot so much,” because I got really good at carving and doing cutbacks, but nothing else, because the wave kind of runs away from you, so you’re constantly…

JS: Bending away, trying to find a hook?

AB: Yes. It’s just an easy wave.

JS: It’s not bending back at you.

AB: And there are assholes out there all the time, just in my way, and it’s interesting now because I grew up with this generation. We were like the next breed, and now there are like two more breeds after us, and I thought, “Oh, I’m that old kook.”

JS: I know. That’s the shocking thing to me.

AB: You know, I will paddle on my 9’6″ Lance Carson, which is a rare, beautiful item that I will keep in my family forever. So if it’s not barreling, I pretty much kind of longboard now. I’m on that level where I just love to…

JS: Go out, cruise, have fun.

AB: Not trying to get radical all the time, you know what I mean? You got to get radical when you click.

JS: Talking about localism and spots – Lunada Bay. You ever surfed it?

AB: No.

JS: That is one of those spots I think, if there is no reason to go there, you don’t go there.

AB: Totally.

JS: All right. I want to ask you about your spots, as we talked about, but what experience do you prefer – surfing it at home, now that we know you don’t surf on tour as much, surfing on the road?

AB: When the beach break lines up with the right swell, and the offshore conditions are tubing, there are a bunch of spots. There is really, like, four or five really incredible beach breaks. Well, six. One is private and you have to have like a military identification.

JS: I know exactly where it is.

AB: My brother in law is a civilian that works on the spot. So, every once in a while, the stars align, and he can get me in. But he has to drive me in.

JS: They do a contest, or they did a contest there?

AB: Yeah, you know the drill. But that is a difficult thing to regular foot.

JS: That’s gnarly.

AB: It’s like the Wedge, but a better wave for surfing. The Wedge is legendary, but this is more like a wave you can surf.

JS: Yeah, it’s more surfable for sure. But it’s a left mostly, right?

AB: It’s a left mostly, but in the wintertime, on a negative tide, the right breaks off a point, and I can do whatever I want. I have never surfed it. Actually, I did surf it one time. But it was small. It was one of those weird forcing it kind of things. I saw one maybe.

JS: Novelty session.

AB: Yeah, novelty session. Novelty sessions are what it’s all about. Sometimes, it the best when it’s just you and your buddy, and you feel like you are doing something special, but then you realize that you surf knee high slop for an hour and nothing happened. It never turned on.

JS: It’s that experience though. Like, “Hey, we got to catch it.”

AB: It is. I would rather surf close out barrels with my friends and pick my own peak than a good day at Rincon, or something like that.

JS: I’m the same way.We had a hurricane swell here once , when I was in New York. The swell pushed into an inlet and created this nice wrapping, kind of point break. I had never seen it before or since, but I caught it that day. It was four feet, it wasn’t anything great, but it was cool.

AB: And then there are those days you regret where you actually saw something that looked incredible, and you didn’t paddle out because you thought, “Maybe a different spot was better,” and you always go, “I wish I had done that.”

JS: Should have gone out there.

AB: This semi pro surfer that I grew up surfing with, he was older, like fifteen years older than me. But when I first started surfing, he was…

JS: What’s his name?

AB: His name is Dave White. He’s a realtor now. His daughter plays softball with my sister, and I met him and I was like “Please take me!” And he took me to a couple spots. Ones where he said “Never leave good surf to find better surf.” I have broken that rule a million times, by the way. It’s a good rule to live by, but I suppose you could be more mellow if you just live by that. I will spend five hours before I decide to paddle out, just driving around.

JS: Going here and there, and checking it all out.

AB: Yeah, it’s a sickness for sure. But I think of so much along the drive, and I listen to new songs I’m working on in the car, or whatever, and I do some of my best thinking when I am in the process of trying to figure it out.

JS: As is now, I usually drive two or three hours to surf, so I know what you mean. That is crucial time.

AB: It is.

JS: The lyrics, “live in the water, stay in the water, scared of the city” – that resonates to me. Having surfed in Los Angeles, having grown up in New York, surfed in Long Island. I know that feeling that I get from it, does that represent surfing as a respite to you, those lyrics? Or is it something else?

AB: It can, but it’s also a metaphor for life. You know what I mean? The night life, the city life, the glamour, in bright lights, and all the stuff that doesn’t really have longevity, soul, and life, I guess that is what it’s about. It’s my way of staying stay true to yourself and not get caught up with the stuff that doesn’t matter. The superficial and fraudulence of life.

JS: Last question here. Read in previous interviews, how do you feel about your relationship with your family and how much it means to you? How do your parents feel seeing you now? How do they see your howling success, and your touring the world? What is their feeling?

AB: They are so proud that it’s almost hard to talk to them sometimes. My mom just oozes with excitement and they are pretty emotional at this point. My dad, he just saw us in Dallas, we played this festival in Dallas, and it was pretty high up, very similar to this. It was in a stadium, and I can’t guess how many people were there, it was in the 20’s(thousands). And of course, he got emotional when we played certain songs. If anything, it’s a great feeling to make them proud and not feel like a failure. I was starting to feel like a failure leading up to this. Getting a little bit older, and you’re not a kid any more. I had an agreement with my father that I really believed in what I was doing, and I thought I could find a career out of it. When none of that happened, we had a man to man talk and talked about what I was going to do. And that’s when I started trying to figure out other stuff. I wrote a script for a show, that actually there was some interest in from legitimate people, but they backed out.

JS: That’s cool; yeah Hollywood is kind of funny.

AB: I was also writing songs for other people, all along, having these ideas in a way that I wanted to express myself genuinely  Yeah, they are extremely proud. I’m mostly proud for them more than I am for myself.

JS: Giving you support, backing.

AB: It would just be a heavy burden, a heavy weight to bear having a child fail at life.

JS: It’s an interesting perspective.

AB: I didn’t want my father to feel like he failed me by not being a better dad, because I didn’t make it. So, if nothing else, I am very happy that he realizes that he has taught me all the right things to get where I’m at.


Local Waves, Episode Two: Jimi Davies

Jimi Haha Upstart Annapolis

Jimi, himself. Photo Credit, David Burroughs.

On Wednesday, June 10th, I was able to continue learning about the history of modern Annapolis music by interviewing another big time source. Jimi Davies, our local wave to catch this week, is most famously known for his work with his band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack (billed as Jimi Haha). Jimi currently resides in Annapolis, where he works tirelessly to get art into the forefront and continues his passion for playing music.

Currently, Jimi works on his magazine, Up.St.ART Annapolis, which is “a quarterly publication that highlights the creative people and businesses that make Annapolis such a rich cultural city.” Along with playing in the group, The Jarflys, Jimi remains as a positive force that champions the art community in Annapolis. While he uses many mediums, the message is always the same: promoting art for the entire community.

Jimi Haha Alison Harbaugh

Jimi, performing. Photo credit, Alison Harbaugh.

Henry Pazaryna: So after talking with Dean the other day, I kind of got the impression that you were one of the first people to come in and play your own stuff and be really popular. Would you mind expanding on that and talking about the history of that late 80’s time period, or whenever you got going?

Jimi Davies: Yeah, I guess it was around ’86, ’87, and that was my band 10 Times Big. I honestly didn’t realize we were like that. In Dean’s eyes? Maybe we were some of the first big bands doing all originals. I definitely noticed that there were cover bands, a lot of cover bands, but that was everywhere in Maryland. It didn’t seem like it was just Annapolis. And the reason that was because they would fill up a bar. So, it was easier to get a cover band gig because you know people are going to be there, and I just never had an interest in playing cover songs. I think that Ten Times Big played like three cover songs in the five years we were together. So, we would always go to D.C. or Baltimore. When we started playing Annapolis, I didn’t realize that we were, or maybe I did, but it just didn’t register that playing something original was kind of odd at the time. You know, I was young. I was like, 19. We would play Armadillo’s, and play two nights in a row on the weekend, like Friday and Saturday, and sell the place out. It was a lot of fun.

(JD, Continued) I know you mentioned East is East, because that was another band that we would always play with. For me, I moved to Annapolis after I graduated high school, and pretty much started a band with a bunch of friends, and I was working at Paul Reed Smith Guitars, which was on Virginia Avenue, and it was really influential. There were a lot of great musicians that worked there. Like, everybody that worked there was way better than me, as far as being a guitar player. So really, it helped shape me, and you know listening to HFS back in the day, when it was a just a tiny little station. We would listen to it all day and hear a lot of different stuff, and it really shaped us. We recorded at a place called LL Studios, which is Les Lentz, and it was in Hillsmere, in his mom’s basement, and all these punk bands would record there. We weren’t a punk band, but bands like The Hated, and Moss Icon, The Dead String Quartet, you know you could go in a day and see all these cool punk bands making really cool records. So to me, it was my first experience with “Oh, wow. Bands do original stuff.” Because even learning at a young age, if I wanted to play music to make a living, I had to write my own stuff. It was a refreshing thing, and I guess it didn’t even register that we were one of the first – I don’t want to take credit for us being the first original bands in Annapolis. I guess maybe in those early days, in the 80’s, there wasn’t a lot of them.

HP: Now that was just what I picked up from what Dean said, as an outside observer who was looking in, and said “These couple groups were the first guys that I came in and saw.” And said, shit, they are really popular too.

JD: And I would definitely say that it started to snowball as well, because when we started playing, we were being influenced by people that were playing at these bars. Like the duo Wheatley Dean, and Dave Glazier, and Greg Phillips Trio, and all these bands that had great musicians, Craig Carr, all these great musicians in Annapolis that had a lot of gigs and they were kind of like the forefathers for all of us. And so we were like, “Well, they’re playing here”, so we would just submit a demo and be like “Get us a gig”. The first couple of gigs we had, we had a good draw, so they let us keep coming back. But then it really started to snowball, and in the 90’s there was a ton of original music happening Downtown Annapolis. It wasn’t even a second thought. It was always more original bands than cover bands playing, at least for quite a while there was.

HP: So was the stuff in the 90’s that was coming out more like Kurt Cobain, Nirvana – esque music, or was it blues? What style was that?

JD: It was all over the place. Once Ten Times Big broke up, after five years, started Jimmie’s Chicken shack, and we started out as an acoustic trio actually (chuckles) and played a couple of these places, the typical places downtown, and became a full band, and we just started playing everywhere. Within about a year, I started a record label, Fowl Records, like a chicken pun, and we just basically put the label on our record to make it seem like we had success. It was kind of a bit of a joke, but we started to have some success, and other bands wanted to be on the label. People would start releasing records and we would just put our logo on it and put it out and around town, in skate shops and whatever, but it started to create this little bit of a scene, but the label ran for nine years. There were a ton of bands from Baltimore and all around Maryland that we would distribute and put out on our label, but in Downtown Annapolis, Baltic Avenue was a great original band. Underfoot was my favorite. Gorilla Monsoon, The Shit was easily my favorite punk rock band ever, and they were all very different styles of music. There was no one genre. We would try to pull everyone together and play shows where there were all different kinds of music. We realized that people don’t just like one kind of music, they like every kind of music, and good music. We would just put on shows and have a blast. It was a really cool time, the early to mid 90’s. It was pretty intense. Even on a Sunday. Every Sunday, we would be playing at Armadillos, and it was packed, and it was just a blast.

HP: So what point do you remember Jimmy’s Chicken Shack really taking off and getting big all around the country? Did that happen?

JD: It happened pretty quickly. We recorded a full record within the first six months of being together and even our first show, which was at a house on Route 3 – it was called the Aggravated House – it was Ten Times Big’s last show, we just did a reunion show, really, but there were a bunch of other bands playing, and we played, and people said “Wow! You’ve only been together for six months and you already have a tape out?” A cassette tape, it wasn’t an album, and we instantly started having a bit of a crowd. We started playing Baltimore, D.C., we would play anywhere we could. We had a flatbed truck that we used. People would bring a flatbed trailer up to RFK during a Grateful Dead show or a Pink Floyd show, and the parking lot would be full, so we thought: we should play the parking lot. We will get in front of thousands of people. So we would set up with a couple other bands, play, and the police would come by, shut us down, they would leave, and we would start playing again. We really started to make a bit of a wave around here and then touring up and down the East Coast, but I would say that we started around ’92, ’93, and by ’96 we were signed to a major label. That seems pretty quick to me, but I always knew the minute we started playing I told the band “We are going to get signed to a major record label”. And they were like “No way, you are full of shit!” And I was like, “I’m not full of shit. We are going to fucking get signed to a major record label, I know it.” And I knew it from our first practice together, and it ended up just happening pretty quickly. We were playing in Baltimore, and shows at the 8 by 10 would be insane. People jumping off the balconies, the whole place was jumping. People would be sweating. It would be so hot and sweaty in there that the sweat was condensating and it would get caught on the ceiling, and it would be raining down on people. It was totally fucking gross and awesome (chuckles). Or like Hammerjack’s. We would sell out Hammerjack’s and it was really only within a few years, and I think that it was based on the fact that we would play anywhere and with any kind of band and just try to borrow from every crowd. We played with cover bands. We would open for bands that started out as cover bands and then became original bands, like Laughing Colors. They had a huge crowd. And then came all original stuff. We played with them, we played with Kelly Bell Band. We would play with The Allmighty Senators, which was my favorite band from Baltimore, and so we would always try to play with anybody we could and borrow from their crowd, until eventually, if a national act came through, they said they wanted a local band to open, and Hammerjack’s would say, “Well, we will put Jimmie’s Chicken Shack on it, because they are going to bring an extra 500 people.” So, 311 came through, or Fishbone, or Filter, all these huge, national bands, and they would put us in front of them because they knew we were going to promote. I would always make original art posters and hang them all over town.

HP: I do want to talk about that too. I have seen a lot of your stuff from your Facebook posts, and your magazine – it is really into art. Would you care to explain more about that, talk about what you are willing to accomplish and what you are trying to do?

JD: I mean, with Upstart Annapolis – I have always been like a town crier in the sense of yelling from the rooftops of how cool of a town this is. Friends that I have that are in bands that tour all over the country would come into town, I would show them around, and they would say, “I understand why you stay here! There are a lot of great musicians here, there are cool artists.” So the idea was basically that there is all this great stuff, but it really only gets hinted at. There are whispers here and there, but the newspaper and other magazines would just do a little blurb about a show, or they would blurb about some kind of art thing. But nothing focused primarily on art. So, that is what this is about. Shining a light on the amazing stuff that happens in this town that people might not necessarily know about unless they are in that circle. Because there are people that walk up and down West Street that you will see walk up and down every day, or someone riding a bike with a guitar, like Jonathan Stone, and you would have no idea what they do, you just see them all the time. That reminds me of when I first moved to town, and I would be walking around town and I would see this guy carrying a beat up guitar case, and he had an Afghan hat on. And I came to find out that his name was Danny Littleton and he played in this band, The Hated, and they were the coolest punk band ever. We ended up playing gigs with them at St. Johns. I remember seeing him every day, walking back and forth, and I was like “Who is this character, and what is he doing?” So that’s what this magazine is about, shining a light on all those people that you might just happen by, or you walk through a bar and see someone playing in the corner, or painting, and not really know is behind it. That is the idea of the magazine.

HP: So looking towards the future. Have you seen any local groups that are primed to kick it in gear and take it to the next level?

JD: I think there are people that are already doing it. Swamp Candy; they are in the United Kingdom right now for two months now. Bumpin’ Uglies; they are all over the country. Pasadena tours all over the country. Pressing Strings; Jordan is probably one of my favorite songwriters in town, I just can’t listen to his music enough. Sun Club? Phenomenal band. They blew me away the first time I saw them. They are getting started touring around. And then Gingerwolf, which is Thom Beall, playing the launch party for the magazine this Friday, he is phenomenal. There are so many really good bands, and they play all the time. Shawn Owen Band, Sweet Leda, all those bands are just as good as any band you could find anywhere, I think. It’s a different era from when Jimmie’s Chicken Shack broke out and got signed. Getting a record deal at this stage of the game is not the golden trophy that it used to be. In the 80’s and 90’s, to get signed to a record label was the goal, and you don’t have to do that anymore. It’s a totally different route. The internet was nonexistent. Websites were slow. I don’t think we had a website until we got signed. And even then, we didn’t really care that much about it. Now? The internet is huge. It’s a whole different kind of approach to everything. But every one of them that I listened to, on any given night I go out and hear some of these people playing. These songs are fucking great! They are just great songs and the players are great. The proof is bringing people in and out that are in national bands and are touring, and I can say, “Oh, check this band out really quickly”, and they say “What the fuck is going on in this little town? Why is it so good?” That new breed really reminds me a bit of the scene we were creating, the early to mid 90’s. There was camaraderie. There was never a competition. It was always us collaborating and trying to lift the whole place up together. There are so many bands I didn’t even list that are just so good. I could just sit here and keep throwing names of local bands that are just phenomenal.

Upstart Annapolis Spring 2015 Jimi Haha

Jimi's Publication, Upstart Annapolis. Spring Cover, 2015.

SurfRhythm wants to thank Jimi one more time for agreeing to sit and talk with us. We highly recommend catching him with his band, The Jarflys, when they play their next show on Saturday, June 20th with Dean Rosenthal at the Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge, located on West Street, Annapolis. Thanks again for reading, and catch you soon for our next installment of Local Waves.

Local Waves, Episode One: Dean Rosenthal

Dean Rosenthal

I have had the good fortune of watching live acts come in and out of the town of Annapolis for many years. While this experience had taken me even deeper within the local music scene thanks to my legal admittance into the bars that feature nightly performers, we at SurfRhythm thought it would be a great idea to start documenting the experiences and interviews with popular performers in Annapolis. This is the first of many local waves to catch and ride this summer, and I chose to start with one of the most enduring local acts in the Annapolis area: Dean Rosenthal.

Dean Rosenthal, the pre-eminent local bluesman, has been a fixture in Annapolis for a very long time. Grinding his teeth in the mid and late 70′s around Annapolis, Baltimore, and D.C., the following Dean has built up is legendary. Justifiably so, Dean was able to sell out Ram’s Head On Stage – the biggest venue for live music in Annapolis – for his performance celebrating of 40 years playing music. Accompanied by percussion and Mandolin, Rosenthal has a three-piece ensemble that focuses on older blues and folk covers from artists such as Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, and Bob Dylan, as well as originals written in the same spirit.

Before Dean played, I had a chance to interview him about his life and time around Annapolis. Anyone interested in the local history of music in Annapolis since the 1970’s, be sure to keep reading, Dean does not disappoint.

Henry Pazaryna: All right. As the man of Annapolis, I figured you would be the first guy to go to. First is: how much has Annapolis changed and how much has it remained the same since you started? 

Dean Rosenthal: It’s changed a lot as far as acceptance of places to play and the acceptance of having outside music in general. You know, having street festivals and different things like that was unheard of back then. They chased us away with a stick (chuckles). Annapolis just did not want live music back then. It was run by the old sort of regiment that was the downtown residents who considered the State Capital was their back yard. And my big thing was if you live in the city, you got to put up with stuff that happens in the city. The big joke used to be “if you want to hear crickets, then move to Davidsonville!” You can’t live downtown in the state capital…

HP: And not expect some noise to be made.

DR: Yeah. And to think that you’re not going to share that with the rest of the state, you know? “This is my town, so I make all the rules.” 

HP: What year was that around?

DR: This is like mid to late 70’s. There were only a few places in town that even allowed live music and [the town] tried their best to shut those down. Charlie’s was a real big popular place, but it was in a neighborhood and all the residents complained that they heard music at night. So, they tried to stop it, and they eventually did. They eventually drove them out. The other one used to be Pier 7, which was down in Edgewater, and you know they sort of had their own thing – they were far enough away from where they could have music inside. But they couldn’t have it outside because the people on the other side of the river complained they heard music. It’s okay that jet boats are going up and down the river, they got no problem hearing diesel engines blaring, but if they hear music, that will upset their weekend.

HP: Man, that sucks.

DR: Yeah. It was a very strange period. And that’s why a lot of bands had to leave Annapolis to go somewhere else to play and then, at least in my case, I got invited to play in Annapolis once I had left and people saw that I had been in the Washington post, the Baltimore sun, and the city paper, and then these clubs wanted to know “Hey can you play here?” and it’s like “Well, I live here.” That was kind of the irony then, but I have told that story a thousand times.

HP: So after you were not playing around Annapolis in that mid to late 70’s, where did you go? Did you ever leave the DC – Baltimore area to go West or South?

DR: I never really left the area. I mean, I went to Baltimore, and started playing at the 8 by 10. That was the real sort of first out of town place I played, and was playing there for a couple years, and got hooked up with another musician. Then he and I started doing a duo thing, which was really good at the time because they weren’t really hiring bands. They didn’t want bands, but a guy with a guitar and a flute, that was okay. But even that – we would play at what’s called Pussers, back then, it was called the After Deck. And same situation. They didn’t mind jet boats going in and out of Ego Alley, but if they heard a guitar and a flute, they would shut that down. (Chuckles) That was ridiculous. 

HP: That’s weird to think about Pusser’s like that.

DR: Yeah. And the same thing, they didn’t mind when the yacht club shot off cannons during the sailboat races, but don’t want to hear any music. The Naval Academy band could march up and down everywhere they wanted, but that was it. It was just like I said, a restrictive time, and that’s why there were a couple of organizations that tried, like Larry Freed. He started a local paper in town that was letting people know what was happening as far as music. The newspaper? Nobody around here would give anybody an update. The radio station wouldn’t tell you what was happening in the area. So, he started this paper, and there were a couple of them, and Larry ran it for a while. Becky Cooper, I think took over after him, and tried to let locals know what was happening at least in the area. But it’s changed. There’s just a… you know… you can’t stop rock and roll (chuckles).

HP: Was there a year that everyone said “man, this is awesome”, or was it more gradual?

DR: Well, I noticed it when, I don’t know what year it was, but I noticed it back when I was playing at what was called Mum’s at the time, and up until then, most of the music around town, band were playing covers. They were covering music. It wasn’t until Ten Times Big, those are the bands I knew, and East is East – they were really kind of coming out and saying “We’re not playing covers. We’re going to play our own music.” That was Jimi Davies and PT Sevin. When they came on to the scene, I really saw things taking a big turn because they were really popular, immediately. I don’t know where they came from, but all of a sudden they had these huge crowds, and it was showing the other players that you could get around by playing original music. Every now and then I will hear Jimi play a cover, but those were the bands that I noticed coming by that were just saying “We are not going to play covers.” That was like in the late 80’s, early 90’s, they came around. 

HP: So do you have any recorded stuff, or is your stuff all live?

DR: No, I recorded things, but, I recorded some records and CDs, and I put out about three records of my own and then a bunch of others where I’ve done session work for people over the years. But my thing was, I wasn’t ever back when there were record stores like Tower Records – I would walk into Tower Records, and there is thousands of records, and thought, why does the world need my 

CD? But it was one of those things you had to do because people were coming up and wanting to buy stuff from me, but I was never one of those guys who went around and knocked on doors and said “Hey, I need a label”, or something like that. I never tried to do that. I have managed myself, never had any management. Of course, that’s why I’m in the surroundings I am now, I manage myself. It’s like the guy that is his own attorney; he has a terrible counselor. But, I have put stuff out over the years, at least three under my own name, and then just scattered where I sat in and did session work with people.

HP: And for anyone who is trying to come out and see you this summer – where will you be?

DR: Ever since I had a couple heart attacks, I got really sick, and I had to drop out, I used to play every night. Now, I don’t play every night. I just don’t do that anymore. The regular thing is: I play here, 49 West, on Wednesdays from 5 to 7, and then the following week, I’m at the Ram’s Head Patio from 6 until 9 in the garden, and that rotates every week. One week, I’m here, and one week I’m at Rams Head. Eastport A Rocking is coming up, and I’m usually involved in that. I’m doing a show on June 20th with The Jarflies, which is another band that Jimi Davies runs; I’m doing that on June 20th at the Metropolitan.
You know, it’s like I said, I don’t have a real schedule because I just got out of that. I spent most of my life hanging around in a bar and I don’t do that so much anymore. I’m trying to get into an opening act for somebody, so I’m not standing there at 3 O’clock in the morning waiting to get paid from a bar owner. I want to try to get into a presentation thing. I come out and play for 45 minutes, and I do the songs that I want to play, and then I’m gone. That’s where I am these days. The whole thing about hanging out until the early morning – I don’t want to sound jaded, but I’ve done that.

SurfRhythm wants to thank Dean again for his time, and would definitely recommend checking him out if you are in the area. Get ready to catch some more local waves soon, as I take the time to interview more people throughout the summer to paint a picture of their lives within the local music scene of Annapolis, Maryland.