By Dave Schwab
Local artists are taking their talents to the next level — and the next venue — in their quest to bring music to the masses.
“We’re doing Hollywood concerts family-style,” said solo guitarist/songwriter Rich McGee, who was joined by other musicians for an oceanview house concert at an Electric Avenue home in La Jolla April 14. “We’re up on rooftops, out in dive bars,” McGee said. “That’s what we’re planning to do in San Diego and La Jolla this summer.”
McGee said he started playing guitar and songwriting at age 12 after winning a guitar at a baseball game in Savannah, Ga.
He characterized his music as a “fusion that has rhythm and soul and generally relates a life story, mostly it’s ballads that inspire a sing-along or trigger a deep memory of a relationship, childhood, or loved one.”
McGee said he’s played at numerous venues all over town including House of Blues and Humphrey’s. He said the music scene in La Jolla, too, is expanding these days.
“We’ve never seen rock ‘n’ roll at Jose’s Courthouse and now Ronnie Lee is there, and they’re also starting to have live music at Hennessey’s and the Prospect Bar and Grill in downtown La Jolla,” he said.
McGee was joined at the April 14 gig by a number of other local musicians, including Scott West of The Scott West Band.
West, from Austin, Texas, moved to La Jolla in 2007 from Sacramento. He’s currently working on an album called “Austin,” that features Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble Bandmates Tommy Shannon (bass) and Chris Layton (drums) with 2008 Best Harmonica Player Jason Ricci.
In the past year, four of West's music videos (“Cowboys & Aliens, “Room 413, “Standing On The Moon” and “Keep It Clean”) have gone viral on Youtube. West has performed concerts this year with YES, John Waite, The Motels, The Fixx, Missing Persons, ASIA, The Killers, Niles Prescott (The Knack), Danny de los Reyes (Sting, Don Henley, Sheryl Crowe, Earth, Wind & Fire) and more.
La Jolla music promoter Ron Jones, owner of boomerdeejays.com, dropped in on the rooftop session. Afterwards, he talked about today’s changing music scene.
Acknowledging contemporary music is becoming more niche-oriented and hybridized — but no less challenging for aspiring artists, Jones noted, “There are so many choices, the pool is specialized, fragmented, diluted. It’s not like the old days when you had three stations all focused on the same thing.”
Jones counsels contemporary artists to not only find their niche, but entertain realistic expectations as well.
“You’ve got to define what making it is,” he said. “You can be popular with a few people, which sometimes is gratifying enough. But making it in the larger market — that’s the tough part.”
Noting “the talent is still there,” Jones nonetheless pointed out, “The stages have gotten smaller.”