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VAMP: Neighborhood Watch Aug 28, 2014 So Say We All's monthly live storytelling show featuring stories about the Neighborhood Watch, whether its literal tales about the self-appointed protectors of the block, run-ins with wannabe cops or any other take on the theme. 62 other events on Thursday, August 28
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Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013

The Great Demo Review of 2013

Behold and beware: It’s our annual critique of local music submissions

By CityBeat Staff

Chica Diabla
Chica Diabla

Writing songs that sound like punk songs do not a punk band make. They aren’t bad songs, they just feel forced, like this is Hollywood punk. The vocals are so much cleaner and louder than anything else in the mixes that the whole thing reads like recorded karaoke. The singer (Epiphany, is it?) has the potential for a Jello Biafraesque style if she’d explore the weirder places her voice could go rather than just toss in cheesy guttural throat rolls at the end of every line. Don’t be afraid to sound ugly; it’s more genuine. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Trebly Feelings

Conceptus’ folk-rock is undeniably catchy and polished—almost to the point of being robotic. Their song structures, technical skill and production value certainly hint at maturity and dedication, but Trebly Feelings leaves one wanting more depth and exploration, especially when it comes to the lyrics. They’ve certainly got potential; the key is not worrying so much about how they’ll market themselves.

—Hutton Marshall

Corna Boy Hustlaz (C.B.H. Starr Gang)
Loud Pack 

One of my pet peeves are rappers who make lazy, overly laid-back hip-hop. I’m not referring to the chill West Coast rappers; I mean those guys that barely exert the slightest effort: Tyga and Big Sean, for instance. Corna Boy Hustlaz are like the K-Mart version of Tyga, which means the one song he sent irritated me instantly. Oh well, I’m sure he’ll do fine. This form of rap isn’t struggling to find an audience. 

—Aaron Carnes

Corna Boy Hustlaz
“Take a Shot”

This is a standard party jam. The bass is mixed strangely and sounds like a tuba, which I actually like. Could do without the second verse’s burst of misogyny, but otherwise I know a lot of people who will probably get drunk to this song. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Courtyard Roots
Money Grip

So we meet again, Courtyard Roots. This is the third year in a row that I’ve taken on these guys for the Demo Review, and I’ve come to respect them, if not exactly like them. Offering an improvement on last year’s crummy rap-reggae-rock, they drop a number of half-decent raps and juicy grooves on this album, even marshaling some UFO-style synth sounds for “Sit Back Rewind,” a near-perfect basement-stoner jam. There are plenty of stinkers, too, but it’s not too shabby.

—Peter Holslin

Crooked Rulers

The worst part about ’90s nostalgia and/or revivalism is that it took less than 20 years for any asshole with a guitar and a pedal to figure out it doesn’t take a shitload of talent to play like Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf or Sebadoh. These three songs made me want to either hang myself with a Fruit by the Foot or cut my wrist with a slap bracelet. But, hey, if you listened to any of the bands above, then Crooked Rulers has your number. FB/

—Seth Combs

Crucial Blend
Demo 2013

Crucial Blend’s eight-song demo should’ve been easy to hate. With their chillaxed stoner-brah vibe, reheated ’90s-ska sound and Calicentric palm-tree cover art, Crucial Blend court cliché like it’s an SDSU chick pounding 21st-birthday shots. But there’s something about the band’s crisp, spacious production and airy vocals that turn songs like “Ring the Alarm” and “Amigos Con Beneficios” into irresistible fun. 

—Chris Maroulakos

Da Da in Denial
LSD26 Made Cary Grant

This four-song demo literally broke my CD player in the middle of Track 4. Yeah, the player was old, but I’d like to think that it was trying to tell me something around Track 2 (“Orange U Glad”)—that there was only so much awful, burnout space-rock it could take. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear my CD player’s wails of pain over Da Da’s jammy noodling and inept attempts at singing. I’d use my disc drive on my computer, but I’m afraid my MacBook might also break and/or get a contact high.

—Seth Combs

Dark Thirty

A wistful collection of five oozy grooves by some local psychfiends, featuring members of Wild Wild Wets. The guitars are wet and wavy, the vocals smoothly grainy, the drums smart and chunky, the vibes all killer. Fear not, spacey-hippie haters—this is the accessible side of psych that’s home to deserts, flowers, leather, harmonicas and reasonable song length. These songs, particularly “Nothing to Say” and “Head Up High (Shark Head),” could sit alongside any of the top-tier Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre tunes in perfect reverb harmony. Peter Hayes’ sideburns-approved. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Spud Davenport
“I’m the Only One”

Gotta give Spud Davenport credit: On his earnest crush song “I’m the Only One,” he doesn’t rhyme “insane” with “brain.” He does, however, slur “I’m the Only One” about 87 times throughout the song, which quickly wears thin. The song is catchy, the harmonica work by Dan Byrnes is impressive and the production is decent (if a little too crisp). Davenport could stand to lower his vocals in the mix; maybe that will help make the lyrical repetition less grating. 

—T. Loper

Daygo Dave
Pineal Gland

I gathered that his name is slang for San Diego, not from where we Italians were thinking. While Daygo Dave has much further to go before his flow is as seamless as the impressive guest artists featured on this 22-song mixtape, there are definitely some highlights. The prime jams are about weed, along with bangers “Tiger” and “Murder Dance.” The sexist barks typical of this genre were relatively minimal, but really needn’t be there at all. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea

As if the name didn’t give it away, this is probably the schmaltziest adult-contemporary balladeering I’ve heard in a long time. In the Carnival Cruise ship of my mind, the band’s guitarist is playing one of his epic solos right after we get stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, all while I eat onion sandwiches and shit into a plastic bag. Except the ship is also sinking and the band just plays on. 

—Seth Combs

Def Shon
Officially Official

Def Shon would be wise to reissue this album under the title Official, a much more forceful title.
Redundancy aside, this is a fairly decent album of West Coast-style street rap, full of classy beats and memorable lines like this one: “I keeps it funky like James Brown taking a shit.” Easily the most memorable boast I’ve heard in a while. 

—Peter Holslin

Into the Green-Gold Morning

Detta put forth a five-track EP of accommodating instrumental rock that feels like it’s on the edge of something amazing. I hate to say it, because I appreciate a good instrumental album, but what this trio might need is a modest dose of staunch, unshakable vocals thrown into the mix. The result could very well be awe-inspiring. 

—Justin Roberts

Dexter Riley Xperiment
Dexter Riley Xperiment

I can’t take a man seriously if he spells “experiment” with a capital X. But there’s a lot of good stuff on this mini-album, from the rubbery blues-rock clank of “Left Leg Drag” to the blazing pop of “Aviette” to the cosmic folk of “Snake Bite for Jesus.” There’s Tom Waits and Beck vibes all around, but Dex has a style all its own. Keep it up, but please consider a name change.

—Peter Holslin

Cassidy Diane
Cassidy Diane

17-year-old Cassidy Diane shows herself to be a talented vocalist, albeit slightly Auto-Tuned, in demo opener “Beautiful Design.” Co-written by local music heavyweights Bryan Stratman and Astra Kelly, Cassidy’s demo pushes her ahead of the pack in the race to become San Diego’s next breakout female pop star. Though it’s difficult to determine from these three tracks where Cassidy’s musicianship ends and where that of her co-writers begins, it’s safe to say she’s well on her way to building a successful career in our arguably crowded local music scene. 

—Justin Roberts


This is a new San Diego hip-hop collective, and for the uninitiated, it’s difficult to discern every one who’s involved in it, or what they’re trying to promote as a specific current release. Daniel “Too Dope” Diaz is at the front and is involved in all the one-off collabs here. The whole thing needs to be a bit more streamlined, but there’s enough to start paying attention.

—Scott McDonald

Doug K
Time Ravages

Time Ravages offers a sensitive spin on surf-influenced easy listening. Appropriately, its safe grooves are reflected in its cover: a sadlooking pelican alone at the beach. Aside from lame cover art, it’s clear Doug K puts a lot of himself into these recordings. His Bowieesque guitar work works well, too. He just needs to upgrade from the drum machine and lay off the borrowed Beatles hooks. 

—Hutton Marshal

The Drabs

David Bernat’s distinct, Lou Reedesque vocals might feel contrived at times, but as he sings over the band’s pop-rock melodies, they give this album an unconventionally gratifying sound. The track “Record Collection” is one fucking fun song, with its Louis XIVlike spit-spoken lyrics: “I need your record collection / because I need to get high.” CityBeat ended up getting duplicate copies of this album, and music editor Peter Holslin finds it profoundly unremarkable (“Boooooooring!” he says). I, on the other hand, think The Drabs have more than just a little aptitude for this music thing, and I wouldn’t mind hearing what comes next from them. 

—Justin Roberts

Dre the Fifth
“We All In”

Dre the Fifth’s Bay Area heritage is apparent from the first hit of the kick drum on this single. An authentically hyphy beat accompanies Dre’s polished, E-40 / Mac Dre-inspired vocals. The obligatory references to Henny, Remy, Patron, being “all in the club,” 20-inch rims and Mac Dre are all there, so he’s got his bases covered. Throw in the feature from the garden-variety singer on the hook, and you have an average Bay Area club banger that sparks just enough interest to wonder what else he’s got. 

—Jesse Ross

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