Merced artists participate in “Local Grind”

Merced Sun-StarSeptember 20, 2013 

The downtown music scene served up some fresh-brewed musical talent Saturday night when Merced-based record label Nyx Records held a live recording of local artists at Coffee Bandits cafe.

It was the second live album recording since June, when Nyx Records partners Dan Hong, Alison Rush and Jordan Cowman produced “The Local Grind,” a CD featuring 12 local artists. The album recorded on Saturday, titled “The Local Grind: Refill,” features 13 local musicians.

According to Cowman, the idea behind the first album was to bring a handful of musicians together from open mike night who played live, but didn’t have anything recorded.

“As it was, we’d get some good music out there for cheap and be able to offer the musicians a little something to highlight their stuff,” Cowman elaborated. “And we decided that it was such an easy process to do, and people liked it so much, that we'd do it every few months.”

About 25 gathered in Coffee Bandits to hear mostly acoustic songs on guitar with original lyrics by the musicians. Rush sang and played her ukulele while collaborating with guitar player Michael Calabrese.

Established local singer-songwriter Joey No-Knows played a couple of stirring melodies to close the show. William Benjamin St. Clair improvised beautifully on the piano, and played bass on a song with his wife, Coffee Bandits owner Mellissa Eisner.

UC Merced creative writing instructor Byron Webb, 46, played his songs “Half the Time” and “Wondering” on his guitar. Webb thought the album recording was wonderful for bringing in people both young and old from diverse backgrounds, who wouldn’t normally meet.

“I think there’s a lot of talent in Merced. It’s culturally and musically rich,” he said.

Wardrobe 234 Etc. shop owner Rudy De Leon, 37, broke the acoustic mold using his soulful voice to sing over electronic samples. De Leon described his style saying, “It’s a little electronic, pop, and R&B. A little mixture of everything, pretty much. I like to experiment a lot with different sounds and putting them together. Different genres I think work well together.”

Stage performer and Merced College student Sophie Kanabay, 25, played her music for the first time in front of a live audience. Despite some sweat and nerves, Kanabay said the experience “was a nice rush.”

Kanabay also talked about the importance of getting the word out on local musicians.

“It shows that Merced has talent. Merced has people that are driven and have passion,” she said. “For all of us to come together and support one another in that I think is a really beautiful thing. I really hope that people start coming to these things more to know the positive atmosphere that it breeds.”

Cowman added, “We could do a lot of these and not tap what exists in Merced. I think it’s the duty of a lot of the places downtown to bring out all the tremendous talent that exists and showcase, like, this is what’s happening here. This is a loud, noisy, exciting town and you can be a part of it really easy.”

The audio CD is to be on store shelves in three weeks at Coffee Bandits, and Tigers and Daggers Records, among other places downtown.

For more information, visit www.nyxrecords.com.

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