MODESTO — A leading forum for indie music talent from Modesto and beyond is closing up shop at the end of this month.
After eight years, the Off the Air music series will hold its last show March 29 at Deva Café in downtown Modesto. The final concert will feature Ripon's French Cassettes (album release), Waterford-Oakdale-Turlock folk rock band The Airlings and Merced's Awahnichi.
Founder Greg Edwards, 39, who recently moved from Modesto to Oakland, said it was a difficult decision to pull the plug. But he said he is ready to try something other than constantly organizing events.
"It seriously feels like I'm ripping a piece of my heart out," he said. "It's cliché, but you only live once. You have to make decisions in your life that are hard in order to see other doors open."
The series had presented one to two concerts a month featuring bands from the Central Valley and throughout the United States. It started in 2005 at the 21-and-over Fat Cat Music House & Lounge and moved a few years later to Deva so younger people could perform and participate.
The series was respected for featuring top talent, and some headliners went on to appear in national talent contests. Lindsey Pavao, who performed at Off the Air with the bands A Colourado and Boxes, became a semi-finalist on the second season of the NBC singing competition "The Voice" last year. French Cassettes was a finalist in a national MySpace Artist Discovery talent contest, and Not an Airplane, another Off the Air talent, was reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine.
Off the Air strengthened and helped build the Modesto area music community. In 2010, the series celebrated its five-year anniversary by releasing the compilation CD "Portraits," which featured 32 top valley artists.
"It was such an insanely tightknit community of really talented musicians who blew my mind," said Rose Droll, one of the artists on the CD who has since moved to San Francisco. "Everyone who went (to the concert series) didn't go once in a while it was an impressive group of people who kept coming back and really appreciated music and were friends."
Edwards said that his move to Oakland wasn't the main reason he decided to end the series. "It's more of a personal decision in the sense that I just feel that I decided to move to a new place and I feel like since I've moved to this new place, I haven't really fully settled in and I don't feel like I can completely settle in it if I'm continuing to do all the same things I did when I lived in Modesto," Edwards said.
He will continue to release albums with the Off the Air label, including an upcoming release from the band Brass Bed (a co-production with Crossbill Records).
Edwards said he reserves the right to re-start the Off the Air series at some point in the future. He still has family and friends in town.
"It's my baby something that I've given so much of my life to that's also given so much back through friendship and experiences and learning, and enriched my life in ways I'm thankful for. I wish everybody else could have that experience."
The final Off the Air concert is at 8 p.m. March 29 at Deva Café, 1202 J St., Modesto. Tickets are $5; www.offtheair.net.