The Santa Ana Sentinel

Bernal, León & Co. Present: Kilson Street

Posted in Arts & Culture, Pop Music, Santa Ana Showbiz! by Omar Ian Ávalos on February 7, 2013

Longtime Santa Ana singer-songwriter Richard Bernal and Santa Ana audio engineer and published author Conrad León present Kilson Street, a TV show with a focus on local musical talent.

Kilson Street debuts with a showcase of Santa Ana band Electro City, with video that is coming soon to the Kilson Street YouTube channel.

The show is, “A bi weekly showcase for local up and coming musicians in the Orange County area. Uncut and personal. If you would like to see yourself or someone you know on this, then let us know. Please subscribe and spread the word,” according to the Kilson Street Facebook page. Kilson Street is also on Twitter (@KilsonStreet).

Kilson Street is written by Richard Bernal and Modesto Briseño and co-produced by Modesto Briseño, Conrad León, Miguel Briseño and Rick Aguilar.

About Richard Bernal

Longtime Santa Ana singer, songwriter, guitarist and Downtown Original Richard Bernal has been involved with a number of local musical projects including “The Lost and Found Sound,” “Devil and His Friend,” and most recently “The Gray Wolf.”

About Conrad León

Santa Ana audio engineer Conrad León is a graduate of the Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood, CA. He is the author of “How to EQ and Compress,” a guide for audio producers, which is available online at Barnes & Noble. For samples of Conrad’s work visit


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Zoé & Fobia at the Observatory

Posted in Pop Music, Rolando by Omar Ian Ávalos on September 24, 2012

Mexican rock bands Zoé and Fobia come to Santa Ana’s Observatory Theater on Sunday, October 21st. Opening up for them are Los Bunkers. Doors open at 8pm.

Tickets are available here.

This will be Fobia’s second appearance in town. Santa Ana-based promoter MX Live Entertainment brought them to the downtown for the 2011 Cinco de Mayo festivities. MX Live also brought pop singers Aleks Syntek (September 2010) and Reyli (September 2012), and rockers Moderatto (September 2010) to Santa Ana.

The Observatory is Santa Ana’s house of rock and pop en español. Café Tacuba’s concert here in August was a sellout although tickets sold at a high price. That same month Chilean rap artist Ana Tijoux performed at the Observatory’s Constellation Room.

For more on the decades-long careers of Mexican rockers Fobia, click here.

For more on Zoé click here and here.

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Café Tacuba in Santa Ana: SOLD OUT

Posted in Pop Music, Rolando, Santa Ana Showbiz! by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 10, 2012

The Observatory OC reports that this Monday’s Café Tacuba concert is sold out.

There was speculation as to whether or not the asking price was too high, but never mind that. Café Tacuba, or any other Mexican rock group in Santa Ana is a hit.

The Observatory is now Santa Ana’s official house of rock en español.

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Café Tacuba Comes to Santa Ana

Posted in Pop Music, Rolando, Santa Ana Showbiz! by Omar Ian Ávalos on July 21, 2012

Rock en español finally returns to Santa Ana, where shows of this type are incredibly and inexcusably few and far between. We’re lucky to get one a year.

Mexican rock group Café Tacuba will perform at Santa Ana’s Observatory Theater (Formerly Galaxy Concert Theater) on August 13. Doors open at 7pm. This is an all ages event.

Café Tacuba’s Santa Ana concert is the fourth of a four city California tour. They kick off their tour in Oakland on August 9, followed by stops in Los Angeles on August 10, San Diego on August 11, and Santa Ana on August 13.

Will the Observatory now give the Yost a run for its money? Absolutely. This is the route that the Observatory has to take.

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Francisco B. Saucedo: An Original Santa Ana Artist, Part I

Posted in Art Music, Conversations, Pop Music by Omar Ian Ávalos on December 6, 2011

This will be a two-part feature on Frank Saucedo, a lifelong resident and artist of the city. Frank demonstrated artistic inclination early on in life and applied his artistry to drawing, painting and music. Part I is about his musical side and Part II will be about his visual arts side.

Frank, a composer, saxophonist and arranger tells more:

Santa Ana Sentinel: Tell us about yourself

Francisco Saucedo: I grew up and went to school here, and music kept me from making bad decisions in life.

SAS: When did you start making music?

FS: I started in fourth grade, where I picked up my first instrument, the sax. This was a Wilson elementary over on Baker and Washington.

SAS: So music kept you out of trouble?

FS: It kept me out of trouble because during that time when I was in high school there were a lot of gangs, and people that I grew up with in school were joining gangs. Back then, you were considered part of a gang by default, just by living in whatever neighborhood had whatever gang. So it was around that time that I was offered my first job as a saxophonist in a norteño (regional Mexican) music group. I was in my sophomore year in high school and I was playing four nights a week.

SAS: So you stuck with music through elementary, junior high and high school?

FS: Yeah. I spent my freshman year in Texas, and that is where I got into jazz. This is also where I wrote my first composition for jazz ensemble.

    A Latin Jazz arrangement with revisions by Saucedo

SAS: You got your first exposure to jazz in high school and you continued doing jazz at Santa Ana College?

FS: I was originally a business major when I got there but it wasn’t until after I took a World Music class as an elective with Shane Cadman that I decided on majoring in music. I took big band jazz and Latin jazz and got more into composition while at SAC.

SAS: So when you got more into composition, you got into art music. How did you get into art music?

FS: I started taking applied music lessons for saxophone and again, Shane Cadman, my applied music teacher, was a major influence on me. He’s a saxophonist and a minimalist composer and I got exposure to 20th century art music for saxophone through him.

    Manuscript of Saucedo's Suite for Seven Winds

SAS: How much art music have you composed?

FS: I haven’t composed what I consider any major pieces but I can say that I’ve racked up about seven or eight pieces that I’ve written in my lifetime. My biggest challenge and endeavor was a suite for seven winds. I haven’t had it played live yet but I’ve shown it to other composers and teachers and they like it, I got pretty good feed back.

SAS: You’ve composed jazz influenced music and you’re also an arranger. You did a piece called “Noches” for jazz ensemble and you’ve also written a number of songs for Christian music settings and for Latin pop settings right?

FS: Yeah, I’ve always loved poetry and words and when I discovered a way to combine both (music and poetry), I wouldn’t say I’m an avid songwriter, but people have liked some of the stuff that I’ve done. I’m not one to follow pop culture, I’m more of one that if I like something or if that something moves me, then I write it.

    Saucedo's Suite for Seven Winds entered into Sibelius notation software

SAS: Do you have links to where your music can be heard?

FS: Not yet, I’m in the process of building my studio and redoing a lot of my stuff on Finale (a music software program). One of my goals is to get things recorded. I have a stepson now and I want to leave him a musical legacy in case he decides that he wants to jump into this world. I want to leave him a firm musical foundation.

One of my biggest focuses that I have in music is the people that I’ve met doing music. I don’t have many friends like I used to but being able to talk music with the few friends that have stuck around is like coming back home after a long trip.

In 2001, I had an unfortunate incident where I got sick, I had some heart trouble and my life stopped. I had just been accepted to Cal State Fullerton as a composition major. I had scholarships coming my way and I wanted to do the whole composer thing, like writing for films and games. But all of that came to a stop when I got sick.

But I remember one thing that you told me, something that always echo in my mind up to this day, which is something that changed my perspective, and that is when you told me that I didn’t need a degree to be a composer. That really closed a chapter in my life, because I felt that I had failed. But I was fortunate to have you always sharing your ideas and what you’ve learned with me. Life takes different turns but you manage to come back to what you love and I’m in the process of that.

Music to me is like a footprint, you make a footprint and then you leave. You walk a certain distance with it and you leave something behind, someone else takes off from there and that’s how it goes.

In Part II of this feature, Saucedo discusses the process of creating his visual art.

A Discussion with Samuel Muñoz

Posted in Art Music, Conversations, Downtown, Pop Music, The Inkblot by Omar Ian Ávalos on November 15, 2011

Thanks to Sam for writing this piece and allowing the re-posting of it here. Sam Muñoz is a fellow Santa Ana musician and writer on music. He’s the founder of the popular Santa Ana rock band The Inkblots. Their music is available on iTunes. For more of Sam’s writings on music click here for an interview with DJ Sal Navarrete and here for an interview with Electro City.

Samuel Muñoz writes:

It was working on my last article with Sal Navarrete that I met Omar Ávalos. He had kindly allowed Sal and I to conduct our interview in his studio in downtown that he rents together with other Santa Ana musicians. At the time of meeting him, I had no idea how great of a guitarist he really was. I knew first of his writings on his blog, The Santa Ana Sentinel, where he unleashes his uncensored commentary on pretty much everything Santa Ana including politics, culture, and, of course, music. A kind of controversial figure to some of the locals, Omar’s blog posts have received attention both positive and negative from the likes of OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano (mostly negative), the Santa Ana register’s Andrew Galvin, and the OC Latino Link. It was not after reading a few of his posts that I discovered his unique talent for the guitar.

Currently finishing his masters in musicology at Cal State Fullerton, his thesis entitled “An Anthology and Study of Nineteenth-Century Mexican Guitar Music,” Omar is an accomplished academic and cites as his most important influence, the music of Manuel M. Ponce. Although his original compositions specialize in flamenco guitar, his overall range on the guitar is extensive from rock to classical to jazz. One can hear his many original compositions in his sound cloud at

Omar was kind enough to meet with me last week during The Day of the Dead celebrations held at Fourth street. We met at the Gypsy Den on the second street promenade to talk a little bit about his history, his love and study of music, and his writing.

Samuel Muñoz (SM):

So tell me about where you grew up and where did you go to school.

Omar Ávalos:

I grew up in Ward 5 [see map of the wards in Santa Ana here]. I’ve lived there all my life. I’m right on the edge of ward 5 on Willits and Diamond. My neighborhood schools were Spurgeon and Valley. But I did not go to Spurgeon. I went to Greenville and Macarthur. Greenville had a lot to do with instilling music in me. Although prior to that I had already been inclined to do music as a five year old, Greenville gave parents that option to put their kids in music. So, that was a big defining aspect of myself, being in that school. After Greenville and Macarthur, I went to Tustin [high school] for a year and then I came to my neighborhood school, which was Valley. At that point on, I partied like there was no tomorrow [he laughs].


It’s understandable. It’s what you do at that age.

Omar Ávalos:

Yeah, I partied like there was no tomorrow and I started to bounce around schools. Now that I look back, that time became another defining moment for me because I had to stop myself and really start thinking about what I was going to do with my life. And so I opted on music. I looked in retrospect and I said “ ok I’ve done music since I was a kid. I’ve always liked it a lot, so I guess I’ll do music.”


So where did you study music after high school?

Omar Ávalos:

I went to SAC [Santa Ana College] and I did the music program there and I got my Associate’s. From there I went to [Cal State] Fullerton and did the Bachelor’s in music composition. In between, I went to Spain and studied Flamenco guitar briefly. It was a course in Sevilla. Then I came back to Fullerton and I did the Master of Arts in music history.


I also heard that you are an instructor at SAC?

Omar Ávalos:

No, I’ve been an assistant music instructor. I’ve been there since 2001. I help run the music lab.


How did you get into Flamenco music specifically?

Omar Ávalos:

I guess it was a challenge. A challenge that was put to me by someone who just asked me “Do you play Spanish guitar?” And I said “No.” But those kinds of things create a spark. For example, I had a teacher ask me “Do you compose?” and I said to him at the time the same thing, “No.” But then that became a stimulant for me to begin composing. So when someone asked me “Do you play Spanish guitar?” I made it my business to learn that.


Tell me a bit about Flamencali?

Omar Ávalos:

It is just a name that I have performed with from time to time. It became a “brand,” a name for a group that I thought of. Just like there is Devil and His Friend [another band from Santa Ana], there is Flamencali. I did shows here at the Gypsy Den with dancers and around southern California [under that name]. It was also about identity with the region. Instead of having a pretentious name associated with Spain, I chose something that would identify with the area.


Can you talk a bit about some of your influences in music?

Omar Ávalos:

Oh definitely Silvestre Revueltas and Manuel M. Ponce [both Mexican composers active in the early 20thCentury]. Those two are probably my biggest influences. For guitar, there is a guitarist named Julio Cesar Oliva from Mexico, and Juan Manuel Cañizares from Spain who is just an amazing Flamenco guitarist.


In terms of your musical compositions how do you go about creating your own work?

Omar Ávalos:

Well, I think there should be a purpose. If there is a purpose, a reason for your composition, like if it goes with something or it’s for an event, that is when I compose. I don’t just compose to compose. But when I’m on the guitar things come, you know. Call it “noodling” or whatever–you’re thinking of things and you compose things as you go. But I think that there should be a reason behind a composition, a purpose for that composition. […] For example, when I did my recital in 2005 at Cal State Fullerton I put on this eclectic display of genres; it was a play in genres. I learned from Manuel Ponce to be versatile, because he was a very versatile composer. He could write like Bach or the romantics. He was called the father of Mexican musical nationalism. I remember listening to a talk from Conrad Pope, who did music for Seabiscuit; he was talking about the film composer John Williams, and he told composers there that day to be versatile in genres. He described John Williams as the most successful, the most well known, and the most versatile composer. So, this is something that I had in mind before I got to Fullerton. You had all these composers that put themselves in this niche that wanted to be “cutting edge” and like John Cage and only that. Others just wanted to be minimalists or of the avante-garde and I wanted to show my versatility like Ponce.


I want to talk a little bit about Santa Ana, the Artist Village in particular. I want to know, since you have been active in the artist community for quite some time now, your opinion on the changes that have happened to Downtown.

Omar Ávalos:

Well it was very obvious back then to me that the area needed improvement. And it is still very obvious to me that it needs improvement. When I started coming here there was no Gypsy Den where we are at today, no Memphis, or any of this stuff. All there was, was this place called Maury’s Deli, before that it was Neutral Grounds, but they used to have open mics and poetry on Thursday nights. I used to come for that. As far as the changes happening, I think there should be a balance as far as the ethnicities represented here. I don’t agree with the arguments against having improvements or changes here. I think that people need to be part of the solution and propose businesses and get into the business class. I strongly believe that. […] I have said before that I would like to see local people getting involved and turning local people on to business, so that we are at least represented equally. Why not have Latinos from Santa Ana owning the commercial real estate? I know that it is a “crazy idea,” but I would advocate for that. Lets take care of our community through business. And instead of complaining, or picking up your toys and leaving, which I understand some organizations have done because that is their way of protesting the changes or improvements, they should stick around. If they have a network of musicians that they can bring somewhere to, for example Eibar Coffee, then stick around. […]


Lastly, I want to talk about The Santa Ana Sentinel and how that got started.

Omar Ávalos:

It started off as a political observer last year [May 27th, 2010] during the election year because I got tired of just hearing that one voice that is just anti city council and saying things that are suggestive, or what I interpret as suggestive, criticisms of the Council whether it was Amezcua, Pulido’s challenger, or Arellano, of the Weekly, or whoever. […] And so I started that as a response, as an alternate voice, out of concern. I wanted to opine about matters. It is not that I am blindly pro status quo, but I just think we need to keep a balance because I think too many people follow blindly just for the sake of getting behind “Che” or Subcomandante Marcos and the like.

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Art Music of the Day: Vereda Tropical as Done by Alondra de la Parra & Co.

Posted in Art Music, Arts & Culture, Pop Music, The Journal of Mexican Art Music by Omar Ian Ávalos on November 12, 2011

Where’s the art music? In the orchestration. Therein lies the craft, the art. Orchestration is not something your neighborhood DJ or rock band is going to provide.

This is another example of the fusing of pop and art music. De la Parra, conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in New York City, collaborates with three of Mexico’s most visible pop female singers; Lo Blondo of the group Hello Seahorse, Natalia Lafourcade and Ely Guerra on this track and on the new album Travieso Carmesí.

I’m reminded of another very fine version of Gonzalo Curiel’s Vereda Tropical, this one with a tropical orchestra, a mariachi and José Santana, the father of Carlos Santana singing. Incidentally, Carlos was a violinist before he picked up the guitar and learned the blues in Tijuana with Javier Bátiz.

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Art Music of the Day: “12/12” by Kronos Quartet & Café Tacuba

Posted in Art Music, Arts & Culture, Pop Music, The Journal of Mexican Art Music by Omar Ian Ávalos on November 9, 2011

The world-famous Kronos Quartet, a string quartet from San Francisco, joins Mexican pop group Café Tacuba for an experimental piece of art music. This is a fusion of pop and art music.

The work contains random looped samples of music and sounds ranging from the drum and pipe of the voladores de Papantla, club music, ordinary street sounds and a sample of the symphonic work Sensemayá by Silvestre Revueltas.

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Sunday Night at the Yost: Molotov

Posted in Downtown, Pop Music by Omar Ian Ávalos on September 4, 2011

Update: The doors opened around 7:30 and prior to that there were two long lines formed, one of them stretched out from the promenade and onto 3rd street, where Molotov’s tour bus was stationed. This was the first time that I saw such long lines at the Yost, it seems that not even the new night club events at the Yost have matched the numbers for the Molotov event.

Once inside, I had never seen so many Pumas de la UNAM soccer jerseys in one place outside of a soccer match. If you know Molotov, then you’ll know why.

There were two opening acts, one was a very light opening, not very suitable style for Molotov fans I thought. I entered around 8:30 so I didn’t catch their name, but only some of their tunes. They sung in English and at some point into their set the audience very energetically started shouting for Molotov to come out.

The second act fared better. Although people were impatiently waiting for Molotov, the band Pobreska put on an intensely energetic ska set, which turned the audience on and some within the audience aggressive. The mosh pit went without incident although security seemed ready to pounce on the pit because of its rowdy nature. Pobreska sung in Spanish and English and effectively warmed up the audience for Molotov that came on at 10.

This wasn’t just any concert at the Yost. This concert was significant because people responded, and big. This concert proves that Rock en español will be a hit at the Yost. Already last year Aleks Syntek and Moderatto performed here. The outcome of the concert, particularly with the attendance, proves that people have spoken and they’re more interested in having Rock en español at the Yost, (I sure do), and not the politicking or political posturing of mobs trying to keep Santa Ana from improving.


Mexican rock band Molotov performs tonight at the Yost Theater. Doors open at 7. Prior to the concert the film Bugambilia of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema will be screened for free at the newly christened Plaza Santa Ana at the corner of Fourth and French streets, as part of day two of the OC Film Fiesta.

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