Only a couple of years ago, myriad music venues provided a place for local musicians and fans to play and come see live music in the Monterey area. According to some of Monterey County’s musicians, however, recent closures and renovations have led to a lack of opportunities for bands to perform and music-lovers to see live music.
“The best place to perform used to be the Alternative Café, then the Golden State Theater and then East Village,” says Miranda Zipse, singer of local sweater punk band Pipsqueak and former CHS student. “None of them are doing live music anymore, which has kind of killed the scene.”
East Village Café Lounge, once a haven for local bands, was recently renovated and after re-opening only allowed acoustic music, which removed one of the few venues left for underage bands to play plugged-in shows.
“I think the reason many of the venues stopped having live performances is because their main revenue is alcohol sales,” Zipse says. “A large number of people interested in live music in this are underage.”
There are still choices out there for bands, including the Carmel Youth Center Open Mic Night, and the recent opening of Spirit Vision Studios downstairs provides a monthly show called Carmel Live, featuring four local bands for one price at the new venue.
“I started Spirit Vision Studios with the hope that I could have a place for bands to get creative, record and hang out,” says Benjamin Rosett, owner of Spirit Vision Studios, and drummer of instrumental band The Strawberry Girls.
Rosett says that his goal with Carmel Live is to have a place for local musicians to play weekly and to give music fans a place to see live music for a low price.
“I believe that that’s all it takes to get the music scene to flourish again,” Rosett says. “Unfortunately that’s easier said than done.”
There seems to be a common consensus among musicians that Monterey County is lacking in opportunities available for local live music.
“Monterey needs to invest into local bands and a local venue,” says Meana Samitch of Meanbean Entertainment, a touring and booking agency. “Booking high school or college band is always fun for me. I get to meet everyone, inspire new music, get some good connections and spread ideas and new bands.”
This lack of a music scene in Monterey is not due to a lack of talented musicians, though, as everyone seems to agree.
According to York High School senior Sam Griffin-Ortiz, singer and songwriter for a couple local bands, local musicians are often too focused on getting noticed online and through social media, losing touch with creating a loyal fan-base through live shows. He argues that local artists should start from the ground up by studying music, writing music, practicing and then moving on to the promotional aspect.
“Maybe that point of view is overly optimistic in the face of contemporary consumer culture,” Griffin-Ortiz says, “but I stand by it. Even if it doesn’t gain you as many Facebook likes, sustained effort in the creative process will create more rewarding art.”
“There’s less local bands than I’d expect,” says CHS junior Chris Good, guitarist for instrumental rock band West of One. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity, but I don’t think many of our musicians are interested in actually striking it out on their own beyond a one-off Singer-Songwriters set.
“Carmel has some of the most talented musicians ever to grace a high school campus,” Good goes on to say. “I also believe that Carmel High musicians are so focused on rigorous honor groups and concert bands that they rarely actually experiment with music.”
For some bands, this lack of a local scene means simply going outside of the county to get shows. Salinas punk band, The Lonely Revolts, most often has to find shows outside of the Monterey county, but according to vocalist and guitarist Josh Galvan, the band gets a good response to their songs most of the time.
As Galvan says, “There are plenty of different bands with different styles in our area with no outlet to perform.”