Saint Rocke hosts inaugural original songwriter showcase

Chanteuse Sonia Sanchez of AM Radio Hits. Photos by Kevin Cody

by Garrick Rawlings

The inaugural Mic Drop Media’s Songwriter Showcase at Saint Rocke two Wednesdays ago was a heartwarming success, according to producer Michelle Crispin.

“The feedback has been amazing, I already have a ton of submissions for the next one,” she said.

The evening, which I emceed, began with a moment of silence, and then a celebratory toast in memory of Kevin Sousa, a central figure in the South Bay music community, who passed away just two weeks after performing at last month’s BeachLife Festival.

Singer-songwriter Sierra Miles, a recent transplant from New Jersey, was the first Mic Drop performer. This diva of darkness performed on guitar and piano in a bohemian fashion with rock attitude. The Husband and wife duo, Mark & Miss (Mark and Kendra Sandusky) were next. The couple was ‘discovered’ at the Sunday jam at Mike’s Guitar Parlor on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach.

Bedsweater is a product of Berklee College of Music

Bedsweater was the first band of the evening. The locals, who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, rocked the crowd with their unique blend of danceable surf rock, funk and jazz. Then the rocking trio, AM Radio Hits, hit the stage, led by singer/upright bass chanteuse Sonia Sanchez. The un-peggable band claims influences from the entirety the AM dial. They call their unique alt-rock vibe, “Upbeat M Heartbreak.”

The second married duo to perform was Winter Grain (Kate and Cecily Anderson), who graced the room with soaring harmonies. Kate, recently finished a 20-year career in the US Army as a helicopter pilot and has settled in the South Bay. 

In a real treat for me, the next performer based in Austin, by way of Detroit, was Robert Wagner, another multi-instrumentalist who performed a song each on guitar and piano. Wagner has also developed a solid South Bay following. The treat for me was his legendary father, Dick Wagner, was half of the blazing 1970s guitar duo, (the other being Steve Hunter),  who played on the first album I ever bought, when I was in fifth grade. It was Alice Cooper’s 1975 “Welcome to my Nightmare,” Cooper’s first solo album after the groundbreaking Alice Cooper Band broke up. Those boys stayed with Alice on records and on tour for the next few years. Prior to that, they were the tandem guitar threat on Lou Reed’s solo career-making classic live album from 1974, Rock and Roll Animal, which garnered sweet Lou his greatest success since his seminal Velvet Underground days. 

Furthermore, both Hunter/Wagner handled the stinging solos on Aerosmith’s famous rocking cover of the Yardbirds version of the Johnny Burnett, and the Rock and Roll Trio version (1956) of the original Tiny Bradshaw R&B version (1951) of the oft covered “Train Kept A Rollin.’” And on Aerosmith’s second album, 1974’s Get Your Wings. It was kept secret for years. Evidently Aerosmith’s guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford weren’t up to the task in the ears of producer Jack Douglas, who spontaneously pulled in the Hunter/Wagner gunslinging team from an adjacent studio at the Record Plant Studios in NYC.

Mark & Miss (Mark and Kendra Sandusky) were “discovered” at Mike’s Guitar Parlor by owner Mike Longacre.

Back to Saint. Beloved local singer/songwriter Mikey Jerome, credited Kevin Sousa with giving him the courage to follow his musical ambitions.  The multi-talented Jerome recently appeared on General Hospital and was voted Easy Reader’s 2023 Best of the Beach Bartender. 

Singer/Songwriter and South Bay native V Torres (Veronica Torres), who performs all over Southern California, also worked closely with Kevin Sousa and sent him her love in this performance. 

Blues guitar slinging songwriter Kira Lingman stepped up at the last minute, because of a cancellation, and knocked out a couple of her own tunes and joined forces with V Torres, as well.

In a bit of a Spinal Tap moment, the band Freefall Rescue, a melodic, indie rock band combining Post Britpop, New Wave, Synth-Pop, and Prog, was scheduled to perform earlier in the set, but were thought to be no-shows when their time slot arrived. Since we had more time, Lingman and Torres had percussion playing bandmates in attendance and asked if anyone had any drumsticks so they could sit in on the traps and play an extended set. 

Sierra Miles performed on keyboards and guitar.

Yours truly went on a stick-finding mission throughout the nooks and crannies of Saint Rocke, and lo and behold, when I barged into a storage room, I found a group of confused and anxious musicians holding their instruments looking a little lost.  I asked, “Who the hell are you?”

Turns out, Freefall Rescue had asked the wrong person about when they were supposed to go on, and were waiting for the word. The timing was perfect for them to conclude the evening with a great set.

Mic Drop Media’s Songwriter Showcase at Saint Rocke is Wednesday, June 28. ER


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