Thirty years ago, musician Julian Stefoni began incorporating Prince songs into his performances — and the crowds responded in a big way.
“That was a good time, when Prince was really on the rise with his career,” Stefoni says. “I noticed that of all the songs we were doing, everybody really liked his stuff. I already had a knack for the kind of showmanship that went along with it. So I just took it further and next thing I know, it became a full-fledged tribute and I’ve been doing it ever since all over the world.”
Stefoni’s Prince tribute act, Erotic City — named after one of Prince’s songs — performs fulltime all over the country. Stefoni has two performances coming up in Bremerton: Tomorrow night, June 4, at the Redwood Theater, and June 18 at the Manette Saloon.
Getting the sound right is half the battle for Stefoni; immersing fans in the Prince experience also entails getting the look right. Stefoni bears a striking resemblance to Prince, but capturing the late singer’s flamboyant style helps cement things even further.
“Back then, I had to actually alter a lot of clothes to get the outfits, because I couldn’t afford it back then,” Stefoni says, recalling when he first started performing as Prince. “It’s not like a jeans and T-shirt type of deal, like with some of these other rockers. It’s very customized all the way. A lot of effort went into the outfits.”
Stefoni says he was lucky to have the right mix of musicianship and stage presence to pull off a tribute to a legendary performer like Prince.
Nobody can do exactly what Prince did. He’s just one of those people that came from a different planet.
“He has a very distinctive voice, and his range is very diverse,” Stefoni says. “He can hit those super high notes or he can go all the way in between. And that’s pretty rare for somebody to cover that and then cover all the other bases. Some people can either cover vocals, but they can’t cover the entertainment side. Some can be one or the other. … I was lucky enough to have the essence of having something that was close to his voice when I’m performing and close enough as a musician and entertainer at the same time.”
He isn’t afraid to add his own twist to the performance, either.
“Nobody can do exactly what Prince did,” he says. “He’s just one of those people that came from a different planet, you know? So you have to take what you can get from it and kind of add to it, to be your best. … I think with my audience, they love that I put my own energy and my own style, too. That’s what’s connecting to the audience. They love that stuff.”
One thing people should not expect at an Erotic City show is to hear carbon-copy renditions of the recorded versions Prince’s songs. When possible, Stefoni prefers to perform the live versions, which can sometimes markedly differ from the studio versions.
“I can do a song like ‘Take Me with U,’ and if you’ve ever seen him do it live during the Purple Rain concert era days, he really rocked it and funked it up, and it was just incredible,” he says. “And I’m like, ‘Wow, I don’t see any other people doing it like that. I wanna do it like that.’ And people love it. It takes it from zero to a hundred as far as the excitement in the room.”
Performing Erotic City fulltime is rewarding, but it can be a lot of work, Stefoni says.
“It’s like salt and sugar,” he says with a laugh. “It’s grueling, but if you love what you do and the passion is there, then it doesn’t seem like work. It just seems like, hey, I gotta go from that city to that city, but once you’re there and you’re rocking with that crowd, you’re not thinking about work anymore. You’re just thinking about the purpose of what you’re doing it for, and that’s where it is for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Erotic City performances
Catch Erotic City live at one of two Bremerton shows:
9 p.m., June 4, at the Redwood Theater (in the Tracyton Movie House), NE Riddell Road, Bremerton. Tickets are $13.76. Buy them here.
9 p.m., June 18, at the Manette Saloon, 2113 E. 11th St., Bremerton. 21+. Tickets are $10 at the door.
If you can’t catch either of the Bremerton shows, Erotic City is also performing 9 p.m., June 10, at Jazzbones, 2803 6th Ave., Tacoma. 21+, doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-25. Buy them here.
“I like to just categorize myself as an artist,” he says. “I wouldn’t necessarily put myself in a box and say that I could be primarily one [genre] or the other. I just like to go with how I’m feeling.”
Sam grew up in a musical family; both his parents sang, and his dad was a musician, he says. Sam started playing drums at age 2, and a cousin showed him how to play piano at 7. By the time he was around 10, he started getting into the production side of music: songwriting, composition, recording.
I feel like we need to have more of a stage for people who are bringing original hip-hop content to the table, because there’s a lot of that that’s being slept on out here
Learning to record his own music at a young age made it easier to explore different genres without getting tied to a single musical style, he says.
“I started off making my music and beats and stuff in my kitchen, just at my computer,” he says. “I didn’t have to listen to anybody tell me how to do certain things. I was able to just go in, do how I was feeling and let that speak.”
It’s no surprise he eschews being boxed into a single genre considering the range of his musical influences. It’s difficult for him to narrow it down. There are Gospel artists: Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, and John P. Kee. Then there are classic R&B musicians, such as Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, and more recent acts, like Eric Bellinger and Chris Brown. And he looks to modern rappers such as Dom Kennedy, Nipsey Hustle, and Schoolboy Q.
There’s plenty of inspiration close to home as well. In an area better known as the birthplace of grunge and renowned for its rock and alternative scenes, the Pacific Northwest — and Kitsap County in particular — are a hidden trove of rap and hip-hop talent, Sam says.
“We don’t get the same attention as far as music,” he says. “I understand it with me being a musician — it’s different seeing music with people on stage playing instruments and such, or having a band behind them versus a DJ. I can understand it, but that doesn’t take away from that one person’s creative ability.”
Sam says he’d like to see more opportunities for rap and hip-hop artists to perform and get their names out there locally.
“I feel like we need to have more of a stage for people who are bringing original hip-hop content to the table, because there’s a lot of that that’s being slept on out here, I think,” he says.
Like other musical artists, COVID-19 restrictions forced Sam to find creative ways to exercise his musical muscles.
“The initial hit obviously stopped everything until people started figuring out certain ways to go about being able to still do things,” he says.
One way to keep the music going was by live-streaming performances on Facebook, he says. Shortly after things shut down, he performed an in-studio performance at Bremerton’s BoomHouse Studios. Shortly after that, he performed a musical contest with Seattle rapper Ellis Prescott.
“So there were still opportunities to do music and promote music and engage with fans,” he says. “It didn’t stop as far as that goes. But obviously with live shows, that was at a standstill.”
Post-COVID, Sam said there may be opportunities for hybrid shows, where people can attend performances in-person, but others can stream it online. “There’s an exclusiveness — people come there, but they can still view online as well,” he says.
One thing that won’t change, pandemic or no, is Sam’s commitment to continuing to grow as a musician and refine his sound. As an engineer, he says, “my ear’s getting more trained to the sound and as I’m getting around other engineers … I’m able to get their insight on what I’m doing and what I should work on.”
He researches techniques to practice or perfect online and then puts it into practice, he says.
“I’m always trying to apply that to what I’m working on currently, or even stuff that might not be out,” he says. “I’ll go back and redo what I just learned with something that might be old just to see the difference. I’ve definitely taken a lot of time and effort in getting the sound that I have currently.”
Check out Jordy Sam’s music
Jordy Sam performs 9 p.m. tonight, May 20, at The Crazy Otter, 141 Chimacum Road, Port Hadlock. Doors open at 8 p.m. 21+. Tickets are $25. VIP meet and greet tickets with exclusive poster are $35. Get them here.
Jack Parker grew up in a musical family, so it’s no surprise he went on to have a wide-ranging career as a musician.
Parker, who has performed in Rocky Point All-Stars and Tumbledown, and was a touring guitarist for MxPx, now performs under his own name, along with his band, The Remedy. But it all started with the influence of his mom, a pianist and vocalist, and his dad, a bluegrass aficionado who played guitar and mandolin.
When he was around 8 years old Parker, who grew up in the Purdy area, began playing the baritone ukulele — he was too small to play guitar at that age — and after learning his first few chords, he became addicted, he says.
His dad started taking him to bluegrass festivals and jams.
“I just absolutely loved it,” he says. “Kids weren’t really around a lot of bluegrass music. It was just me and a bunch of adults. All my friends were grownups at that point. It was an interesting way to grow up into that scene.”
When he got into playing electric guitar a few years later, he started raiding his dad’s record collection and exploring musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
When he was 19, he moved to Arizona to play in a band with his uncle, a professional musician. “He was a pivotal person in my development as a musician,” Parker says.
It was his first foray into playing in a rock band. “I just loved it,” he says. “Especially being only 19 years old and playing in bars and stuff like that, it was like an awakening for me at that point in my life.”
Something about Kitsap County just felt right to me. Once I got here I just felt instantly at home, like, these are my people.
Parker moved back to Washington in his early 20s and got a job at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma before he was transferred to the Silverdale store.
“At first I was like, ‘Where is Silverdale?’” he says. But they were offering him full-time work that he needed at the time. “I was back living with my parents so I was just like, ‘OK, I just need to take this and embrace it.’”
Once he started working there, he instantly began making friends with musicians coming into the store. “Something about Kitsap County just felt right to me,” he says. “Once I got here … I just felt instantly at home, like, these are my people.”
After forming a short-lived band in Kitsap, Parker met Chebon Tiger — who he describes as a “fantastic blues guitar player” — and played with him in the Chebon Tiger band.
Parker later went on to play in Rocky Point All-Stars, which he formed with KW Miller, and Marshall and Harley Trotland.
“That was a big turning point for me musically here in town,” he says. “I still look back on that band as probably one of the best musical experiences of my life.”
One night after a Rocky Point All-Stars show, MxPx frontman Mike Herrera approached the band.
“I didn’t really know MxPx’s music back then,” Parker recalled. “I knew who he was and I knew that they were a big deal, but I was more into blues and country and bluegrass and stuff like that, so I didn’t know the punk rock scene very well back then.”
A few months later, Herrera called Parker to ask him to record a solo on one of MxPx’s albums; the solo ultimately appeared on the song “Late Again” from Panic.
Years later, Herrera approached the band again to ask if they’d come into his studio and back some country-adjacent songs he’d penned. In exchange, he offered to record the band’s second album for free. “We jumped at the opportunity to do that,” Parker says.
That collaboration evolved into the band Tumbledown, which toured all over the country, including the South by Southwest music festival in Austin for three or four years in a row, Parker says. The band recorded two albums in 2009 and 2010. “We were a tight band because we played a lot, toured a lot, and it was a lot of fun.”
Parker began subbing in for some MxPx gigs around that time. He ended up being the band’s touring guitarist for around five years, traveling with the band to South America, Europe, southeast Asia and Japan. “I really got to see the world playing with that band … It was a lot of fun playing huge, sold-out shows all over the world. That’s just an amazing experience which I am just so grateful for.”
Parker released his first solo album, Homegrown, around 2015. “I did a couple of solo tours on that which I booked all myself,” he says. “I toured once a year for about three or four years, all the way up until COVID.”
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker had formed a band, Jack Parker and the Remedy, and started booking “all kinds of really cool gigs,” he says. “Obviously COVID shut that down quickly.”
The pandemic forced him to shift gears, since he couldn’t continue performing live. He bought recording equipment and taught himself how to use it. “I just really dove into that headfirst and started recording a new album which is just now finished two years later,” he says. He’s still finalizing the artwork and is hoping to release it sometime this summer.
Over the past year, Parker began teaching guitar again which, at 45 years old, has been a “total revelation” for him, he says.
“I taught guitar before, many years ago, but I didn’t enjoy it as much back then,” he says. “But now that I’m a little older and I’ve got more experience under my belt, I have just absolutely loved teaching guitar to especially kids, but adults, too,” he says, noting that he has a few students in their fifties who decided they wanted to learn guitar.
“I just think it’s so good for people to learn an instrument,” he says. “It helps us in so many different ways to make us feel better and so that’s where I’m at right now. The look on a kid’s face when they discover they can play a G chord for the first time and their faces just light up, it’s absolutely a wonderful feeling to witness that.”
Upcoming performances by Jack Parker
Some of Parker’s upcoming performances include:
8 p.m., April 30, at the Hidden Door, 14525 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline, $10
8 p.m., May 14 at the Tracyton Public House, 403 NW Tracy Ave., Bremerton, free
7 p.m., May 28 at Slaughter County Brewing, 1307 Bay St., Port Orchard, free
In 2015, Bainbridge Island Author Steph Jagger’s mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. About 10 months later, Jagger took her mother on an extensive road trip, mostly through Montana and Wyoming, that included camping, hiking and horseback riding.
That trip and her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s are the subject of Jagger’s new book, Everything Left to Remember, which is being released Aug. 26 from Flatiron Press. She’ll be celebrating the release of the book Aug. 28 at Bainbridge’s Eagle Harbor Book Co.
Jagger says she frequently journals to help her understand herself and the things that are happening in her life. That process was the basis of her new book.
“When my mom and I were flying from Bozeman to Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the trip, she was sitting in the seat next to me and I found myself furiously taking notes in the notes app on my iPhone about various different things that had happened in the trip,” Jagger recalls. “It happened really quickly when I was on that plane ride, and started to realize the volume of stuff that was coming out of me, quickly onto the app on my iPhone. And I thought, there’s something bigger here. I wouldn’t have this volume coming forth so quickly if there wasn’t something larger that wanted to be communicated or understood.”
Although it has been difficult watching the progression of her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, Jagger says the experience has also left her in awe.
She invoked a quote from Seattle singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile: “There is nothing more real or more practical in this universe than mysticism … and it’s usually sitting right smack in the middle of grief.”
“I think that’s an interesting doorway in,” Jagger says. “If I am willing to not distance myself from grief — which, again, I think is part of our mental health process — if I am willing to walk into it and befriend it and be curious about it, and allow myself to have those feelings of, say, sadness, rage, sorrow, all of those things that come with grief, then I might also be able to witness other things, like awe and curiosity, connection, and other things on the other range of those emotions.”
Jagger says a person with Alzheimer’s is “living inside of a shifting time-space reality.”
“Sometimes she thinks she’s a teenager,” she says of her mother. “Sometimes she thinks I’m her sister, sometimes she knows I’m her daughter, sometimes she thinks I’m her sister, sometimes she knows I’m her daughter, sometimes she thinks she’s 102, sometimes she thinks she’s 17 years old. It’s a time-space reality that’s very fluid.”
That fluidity can result in interesting — even beautiful — moments, Jagger says.
“My mom had me when she was 37 years old, which means I didn’t know her when she was 0 to 37,” she says. “But because of the shifting time-space reality, sometimes she thinks she’s a 16-year-old, and I get to witness her doing things and acting in a certain way that’s like a glimpse into who she would have been at that age. And that is a phenomenal gift, when you think, ‘Oh, I wish I knew who my mother was at 16.’ Well, there you are. There’s a picture of who she was at 16 years old. So I think there’s some real gifts in there.”
Jagger will read from the book at the Aug. 28 event at Eagle Harbor Book Co. The event also includes a Q&A.
She’ll talk about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, but also tie the book’s themes to larger issues, she says. In the wake of COVID-19, we’ve all seen systems we thought would keep us safe — such as capitalism, corporate systems, or communities — be tested under the stress of the pandemic.
“I think we’re seeing a lot of those shift and change and some of them crumble and collapse,” she says. “And I think there’s a really large thread in the book that is the question of who will hold us, and where can we go to seek that safety and comfort when those things go?”
She’s also looking forward to meeting with people in her community after putting off in-person events for so long because of COVID, she says.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to do a lot of in-person events, so I’m hoping it’s going to feel a bit more intimate than some of the other cities and places that I’ll go, because these are people that I share a backyard with,” she says.
Steph Jagger at Eagle Harbor Book Co.
Bainbridge Island author Steph Jagger speaks at 6:30 p.m., April 28, at Eagle Harbor Book Co., 157 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island.
Joel Gibson Jr. got his first guitar when was 17. It was in 2017 that he made the leap and started his musical career as a country rock artist.
“It took me a really long time to get the confidence to get out there and do it,” he said. “And it really was my wife and her friend that ultimately went, you know, the only way you’re going to find out is to go out and do it — kind of a put up or shut up kind of thing.”
Gibson was well aware that people online and on social media can be “brutal,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that,” he said. “It was really taking a leap.” Thankfully, the response was mostly positive, he said.
As his music career started picking up steam, Gibson said he struggled to put together a full band.
“I didn’t really know any other players that weren’t already in a band,” he said. “And then it was a matter of getting in and recording our music.”
Although streaming dominates the music landscape, people still love CDS, particularly if it’s to support a live performer, Gibson said. He put out his first album, an acoustic EP called “Here up North,” in 2017 because people kept encouraging him to record one.
Gibson started out mostly covering other artists’ songs, but as he continued playing, he began writing more of his own music. He continues to do a mix of covers and originals at his shows, but finds that his fans particularly appreciate the latter.
“We reach a pretty broad audience just by the covers, and then we kind of mix in our original music, which tends to get the best feedback,” he said. “People are like, ‘You did awesome on the covers, but we really like your original music. You need to play more of that.’”
Gibson describes his music as country rock, and although the Pacific Northwest is better known for grunge and rock than country, he says there’s an underappreciated appetite for country music here.
“From a tour standpoint, when country acts come here, they sell out just like any other act, if not faster in some cases,” he said. “Sometimes they play two nights. People love country music and I’ve always thought it’s because it’s universal. I think it speaks to the average person. … There’s plenty of country fans north of the Mason-Dixon.”
Even so, Gibson said he prides himself on winning over people who aren’t normally country music fans.
“The biggest compliment and/or feedback we get is, ‘I hate country music, but I like you. I love your show,’” he said. “And a lot of times that could be a spouse, like the girlfriend or the wife dragged the guy out, ‘She made me come to this, she said I’d like it and I didn’t think I would, but I love it.’”
Gibson has put in a lot of work to get where he is, but he doesn’t intend to slow down any time soon.
“I personally take a lot of pride in going out and putting in the work,” he said. “I like to say I won’t be outworked. Because there’s guys doing it full-time that don’t play as many shows as me. So when we’re at the point where we shift gears and I start doing this full time, we’re just going to go that much harder.”
In 2013, Tamara Kaye Sellman sat down to study for her finals test for the sleep technology school she was attending, and found that although she could see the words on the page just fine, she couldn’t read them.
“It’s the weirdest thing to explain to people, but I suddenly had no comprehension,” she says. “I could look at the letters on the page, and I could not see them as words, I could just see them as shapes.”
She saw a doctor in Poulsbo who recommended that she get an MRI. Two days later, the radiologist contacted her to let her know that she may have Multiple Sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS. After extensive testing at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, the diagnosis was confirmed.
Sellman’s debut book, Intention Tremor: A Hybrid Collection, released by MoonPath Press in January of this year, is an exploration of life with Multiple Sclerosis told through a mix of prose and poetry. She recently donated all the proceeds from the book — $1,000m — to the Accelerated Cure Project, a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating MS research.
When Sellman first began writing the pieces that would become Intention Tremor, they consisted entirely of poetry. But that didn’t feel authentic, Sellman says.
“I’m actually originally a prose writer, and a journalist, so it felt wrong or disingenuous to only have poetry, because I write across genres,” she says. “So I gave myself permission to break the structure I had imposed — which was helpful to get me started, of course — and I decided to take some works that were poetry and turn them into prose pieces and then finish out the rest of the collection with some other prose … I decided to be more experimental, and to buck the idea that you have to do it all in one genre, and call it a hybrid collection.”
Sellman wrote most of the pieces in the book shortly after her 2013 diagnosis during a writing retreat in Port Townsend where she spent much of her time around campfires. “You might find there’s a lot of stars and a lot of fire subjects in this book, because they’re inspired by my surroundings,” she says.
When she was first diagnosed, Sellman said her first instinct was to turn to “Dr. Google” to learn more about the disease. With a background as a science writer, it wasn’t difficult for her to track down research studies or get data from her doctors. But finding personal stories about living with MS proved more difficult.
“I needed some ideas about how people dealt with this, and I went looking for books, either memoirs, or poetry, or short essays or whatever I could find, and I didn’t really find a lot,” she says.
I wanted to provide people some hope that you can still keep living your life. You’re going to have to make some changes, let’s be honest, but there’s a way around it and you can still be who you are in spite of it.
She said of writing the book, “Part of it is very therapeutic, because I turn to writing when I’m dealing with anything that’s above and beyond the normal day-to-day stress, so I started writing these things just for me to understand my path, or maybe to answer questions or to explore my feelings about the situation, to deal with some of the mysteries and the frustrations of working within the healthcare system.”
The book reads like a medical memoir because it’s based on her real experiences, she says. “The book really helped me to understand that whole journey and now I feel like I’m a veteran,” she says.
At the same time, she wanted to keep the book grounded, because she felt people with chronic illnesses shouldn’t feel pressured to be “superheroes” overcoming adversity. “I wanted to provide people some hope that you can still keep living your life,” she says. “You’re going to have to make some changes, let’s be honest, but there’s a way around it and you can still be who you are in spite of it.”
MS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. As the National MS Society puts it, MS is, “an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.” The damage caused by the disease can either completely inactivate nerves, or inhibit the signals they carry, Sellman explains.
“For instance, in the title of my book, Intention Tremor, the tremor is really the nerves that are associated with my hands, having a weird reaction in which they tremor, because I’m having this problem with the signals in my brain not being able to inform the muscles in my hands and my arms how to act,” She says. “So they falter and they shake.”
The level of disability a person with MS experiences depends a great deal on where the damage to the nerve fibers falls within their brain, Sellman says. “So for some people if they have more damage in their spinal column, they probably are going to have more problems with walking, because those nerves in the spinal column go to and from, and have a conversation with, the muscles in your legs and your feet and so forth,” she says. “But I don’t have any lesions in that area; I have them mostly in other parts of my brain.”
Although Sellman’s MS is being treated with medication, she still has symptoms, such as not being able to speak or finish sentences. “In my head I hear myself saying the sentences, but I don’t actually verbalize them,” she says. And her ears ring constantly, a symptom she’s become accustomed to but which was “terrible” at first. Fatigue is another symptom, and she sometimes has problems with balance and coordination.
Promoting the book during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, Sellman says. Although she hasn’t booked any in-person readings — bookstores largely aren’t hosting them on account of the pandemic — she’s done many virtual readings and podcast appearances. And the feedback she’s been getting about the book has been largely positive, she says.
“I think I’ve written the book that I wanted to read, based on what other people have said to me,” she says. “So yes, I’ve received really great responses from readers, and also the comments that people have made in the virtual readings, or on my website or sales pages. People have been leaving some really strong feedback that suggests that whatever I did, it’s working.”
For James Hunnicutt, music is less about any particular sound than it is about making a positive difference in the world.
To be sure, the sound is an important part of his music. Hunnicutt, a singer-songwriter based out of Port Orchard who’s headlining a show this Sunday at the Charleston, played in a variety of rock and rockabilly bands throughout his career. The spirit of ‘60s and ‘70s folk music is a major influence on his solo music, along with a dash of rock and country courtesy of artists like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
But since he became sober about 19 years ago, music became the medicine that kept him on the straight-and-narrow, he says.
“As the years went on, traveling and meeting wonderful people and having wonderful experiences all over the world with this [playing music], it really showed me how powerful and unifying — really transcendental — music can be as a language and medium to share with people,” he says. “Beyond the music style and artistic expression and influence, that’s the one core thing that is important to me, with this or anything else I do, is it has to have good energy in it.”
That was easier said than done over the past year as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think it’s been a crazy time for everyone that’s being honest with themselves and that wasn’t financially living in a very wealthy bubble prior to COVID,” he says. “Music has definitely been what helped to keep me sober and having a positive mindset. It’s been one of the biggest ingredients, and having performing live taken away during this time has been really rough.”
Yet, Hunnicutt insists silver linings have emerged from the pandemic. For one, the trials people have faced over the past year have forced them to grow. “It keeps you on your toes and makes you reassess where you’re at and walk your talk,” he says. “Because it’s easier to be happy when things are going easy. When they’re not, then you’ve got to dig a little deeper. It makes you grow. So it’s been hard, but I’m grateful for that.”
Another bright side: All the down time during the lockdowns gave Hunnicutt time to work on projects that had long sat on the backburner. He says he’s probably had 20 to 30 different album projects brewing over the last 30 years that he finally got a chance to sit down and work on. At this weekend’s show, he’s hoping to debut a song called “Our Time” being put out by the charity record label Piece of Pie Records. The song is about teen depression and suicide awareness, and proceeds will benefit the Jed Foundation, which works on teen suicide prevention.
It’s driven by compassion and empathy, and past the music stylings, that’s the most important ingredient to me
Hunnicutt started playing music when he was 12, starting his first band, called Aggressor, when he was 13. Since then he’s played in some 40-45 bands, he says, including Neutral Boy, the Swinos, Misery Seed, and Woodrot. He had a rockabilly band for a while called James Hunnicutt and the Revolvers, and played guitar for Texas-based musician Wayne Hancock and with the “metal-meets-bluegrass” band Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band.
He’s been performing his solo act for the past 25 years or so, and it’s become his main gig for about the past 15 years, he says. He’s toured the continental U.S. countless times, and also toured in Europe, he says.
In some ways, Hunnicutt’s act connects the dots between folk and punk music, he says, noting that his music is driven by social and political issues. He aims to write music that is constructive not just for him, but for the world around him. “That’s really what drives the lyrics today, whether it’s about addiction or loneliness or death — some real heavy, dark stuff,” he says. “But it’s driven by compassion and empathy, and past the music stylings, that’s the most important ingredient to me.”
Hunnicutt wouldn’t necessarily classify himself as “folk-punk,” though. “I’ve heard very little quote-unquote ‘folk punk’ that I’ve been exposed to that I cared for,” he says. “The theme behind it, the idea, though — I think I have a lot in common with that. … I’ve been labeled that and had people tell me they think what I do is folk-punk.”
There are certainly similarities — his music is acoustic and folky — but ultimately he thinks it’s his proclivity to write music that is constructive and makes people think that bridges the gap between the two genres. “To me, that’s what punk is supposed to be about,” he says.
James Hunnicutt headlines at 6 p.m., Aug. 8, at the Charleston, 333 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton, with Danny Attack and Seattle-based Phantom Pines.
Hunnicutt is also performing at 2:30 p.m., Aug. 8, at Port Gamble’s Summer Faire.
Danny attempted to brand his high school friend “Matt Attack,” thinking it sounded cool. It didn’t stick, and Danny decided to adopt the “Attack” moniker for himself. When he started playing solo shows as a singer-songwriter, he toyed around with different names for the act — Whispers in Reverse, Bad Wolf, Fear Frequency — before deciding to make his nickname the official name of the act.
When Danny Attack takes the stage at the Charleston this Sunday, it won’t be Danny Attack’s first time there, having performed at the theater in the past with one of his other bands. It will, however, be his first time performing in Bremerton under his solo act.
Based in Florida, which has loosened many of its COVID-19 restrictions earlier than other states, Danny’s been able to play shows around his home state for a while now, he says. But he recently kicked off a nationwide tour, his first since the pandemic forced widespread closures of music venues.
“I feel like I’m having to play catch-up again, because COVID started in March 2020,” he says. “I felt like I was ramping up a little bit — I was actually in Europe, in the UK, when all the COVID stuff was happening. So I had to cut a tour short while I was out there to get back here, because they were closing borders and stuff.”
He took the year to work on content, record an album, and shoot some new music videos. “Now it’s all catch-up,” he says. “I have to build up this momentum again and I’m hoping this tour helps that.” He has a UK tour scheduled in October as well.
Although he’s an independent artist, one could be forgiven for thinking he was signed to a label, given the polished graphics that adorn his album art and merch, and his professionally produced music videos. Danny credits his media team at Rozu Creative with adding that extra polish.
“I don’t put ‘Danny Attack’ on any of my merch,” he noted. “It’s only just ‘Attack.’” The idea is to make his merch accessible even to people who aren’t yet fans of his music. “I want to give people the option to buy it even if they don’t know who I am. People will buy art or anything visually appealing to them if they think it’s cool, if they like it. I don’t see that happening if it says ‘Danny’ on there.”
Being independent gives Danny more creative freedom. He’s not averse to the idea of signing with a label someday, but he’s done so much work with his past bands — booking shows and tours, for example — that he can handle a lot of what a label would do himself.
If I don’t make my music and play it out, and send it to people or tour as much as I can, no one’s going to hear it
“A lot of times when you are signed and have management and things like that, there’s a lot of stuff you have to go through before you can get stuff done,” he says. “A lot of the big labels, they want their hand in it of course, because they want to make sure it’s commercial enough, they want to make sure it sells. That’s the business. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”
That drive to commercialize the music often conflicts with the values of alternative bands, Danny says, and although it’s not a particular concern for him personally, he sees value in the do-it-yourself attitude: “I’m doing it for myself because if I don’t do it myself, it’s not going to get done,” he says. “And I’m not one to wait on, ‘Well, I’m just going to sit here and write my music and hopefully someone’s going to sign me and then I can do it all.’ I’m more of a, ‘if I don’t make my music and play it out, and send it to people or tour as much as I can, no one’s going to hear it.'”
It’s difficult to pin down a single genre or theme to describe Danny Attack. Songs range from dark folk tales about murder and mayhem, to lighter pop-punk-inspired fare, to twangy Americana.
“I write to what I like or what I want to sing to, so it’s all over the map,” he says. “I can’t really put it in a particular genre. … I think one I heard was alt-folk, alternative-folk. As a wide range, that might be something I fit in, but I couldn’t say that I belong to any particular one, just because each song is different across the board.”
Having played for various bands of different genres has given him a diverse fan base as well.
“I have metal fans that like my stuff, I have country people that are my fans, and things like that, so it’s a pretty wide range of fans and I think that’s because I write across genres,” he says. “One of my metal fans may not like too much some of the slower stuff I do, but they might enjoy more of the murder-folk, more of the heavier folk stuff that I do. But it keeps them around because they know I’m going to keep writing stuff like that at some point.”
Danny says he’s looking forward to Sunday’s show and that it should be fun. “I hope everyone comes out,” he says.
Danny Attack opens for Port Orchard-based James Hunnicutt (check out our interview with him here), along with Seattle-based Phantom Pines, 6 p.m., Aug. 8, at the Charleston, 333 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton.
COVID-19 restrictions brought challenges to planning this year’s Kitsap Pride event, but working through those challenges has created an opportunity to try something new.
The 25th annual Kitsap Pride festival is 4-9 p.m., July 31, at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds (a change from the event’s typical location at Evergreen Rotary Park). This year’s event features a “Coming Out Concert” starting at 7 p.m. and headlined by the Kim Archer Band, with DJ Dana Dub and drag performances offering entertainment earlier in the evening.
Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kitsap Pride put on a drive-thru event, featuring decorated cars, free swag, and “Pride in a Box” kits people ordered in advance.
Things are getting somewhat back to normal this year, but as the event was being planned, a number of COVID-19 restrictions were still in place and outdoor gatherings were limited to 400 people, said Kitsap Pride President Michael Goodnow. With those restrictions in mind, the group planned an outdoor concert.
Now that restrictions have loosened, there is no limit on the number of attendees, and the event will feature many elements from past Pride festivals: a beer garden, more than 40 vendors (including artisans, local businesses and nonprofits, and more), and a teen space and other youth activities hosted by the Boys and Girls Club.
One benefit of holding the event at the fairgrounds is that it can accommodate a greater number of people at one time; the parking capacity alone is a benefit, Goodnow said. “We’re certainly excited to see how this works,” he said.
Everything will be outdoors, and the event will follow any COVID-19 restrictions or guidelines in place once the event rolls around.
“We are asking folks who participate that if they are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask,” Goodnow said. The Kitsap Public Health District will be onsite to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those who would like one, but people receiving vaccines at the event will still need to wear a mask since it takes two weeks to develop antibodies. The health district will also offer HIV testing and provide info on PrEP, medication that prevents HIV.
People are sometimes confused by the fact that Kitsap Pride takes place in July rather than June, which is Pride Month. Goodnow noted that Pride isn’t limited to a single month. “Pride happens absolutely around the calendar, and around the globe,” he said, later adding, “It’s not like we’re late to the game.” Kitsap Pride has always taken place the third weekend of July until this year, because the fairgrounds weren’t available that weekend.
Kitsap Pride has always had a different feel to it than larger events in cities like Seattle. “The scale of it’s smaller, but we estimate that we get almost 4,000 people in the festival throughout the day … We try to offer a lot of the same things, just on a scale that feels more like Kitsap,” Goodnow said.
Kitsap Pride’s first priority is bringing the community together, Goodnow said. “If we can’t connect as a community, then it’s harder to connect for advocacy,” he said. The organization has tried to offer events throughout the year to keep people connected. “For a long time here in Kitsap I would maybe meet someone at Pride who would say, ‘It’s my first time coming here,’ and then I always felt like, what am I going to say? ‘OK, see you next year!’? So we try to do some stuff throughout the year to keep people connected.”
The organization is all-volunteer, so although it doesn’t currently have the capacity to offer services such as counseling, it’s able to direct people to available services in the community.
Get more info on Kitsap Pride and stay up to date on upcoming events at kitsappride.org/.
Featured Photo: Rainbow flags fly at Evergreen Rotary Park during the 2016 Kitsap Pride festival (Kitsap Scene File Photo)
UPDATE: David Olivas came out with a new music video for his song “Phone, Keys, Wallet, Weed.” Check it out:
Adam Sandler’s new Netflix comedy special is titled “100% Fresh.” But detractors are saying the special — or at least one particular part of it — is actually quite rotten.
David Olivas, 33, of Bremerton, has been rapping since he was 13. He’s not blowing up the music charts, but over the years he’s carved a place for himself in the local rap and hip-hop scene.
Olivas is finding himself in the national spotlight recently, however, thanks to Sandler’s new special, which included the performance of a comedic song called “Phone, Wallet, Keys.” The only problem? The song bore a striking similarity to Olivas’s song “Phone, Keys, Wallet, Weed,” originally released in 2015 — a full three years before Sandler’s special hit Netflix.
Here’s Sandler’s performance:
And here’s Olivas’s song:
This has led Olivas’s fans to ask: Did Adam Sandler rip off David Olivas? Some of Olivas’s most devoted fans have bombarded Netflix’s social media accounts to point out the uncanny similarity between the two songs. They’ve even contacted journalists across the country in an effort to ensure Olivas gets credit where they believe it’s due.
A couple days before the controversy broke, Olivas’s wife started watching the Netflix special, but turned it off before Sandler’s rendition of the song came on. A couple days later, Olivas was working his day job at Bremerton cannabis retailer The Reef when his wife texted him, telling him that Adam Sandler had, as she put it, “jacked his song.”
Olivas laughed it off at first, thinking she was joking. He kept getting tagged in Facebook posts, but couldn’t check them out while working. Finally, he took a break so he could see what all the fuss was about — by this point, he’d received 20-30 notifications from people tagging him in the comment thread of Sandler’s “Phone, Wallet, Keys” video.
More Than a Coincidence?
At first, Olivas thought it was a coincidence.
“My jaw dropped when I first saw it. I was a little speechless at first.”
“As people have been quick to point out, there’s half a dozen songs floating around that have titles like that,” he says. “But then when you click on the song, it’s more than just the title or sharing a couple words of a chorus. My jaw kind of dropped, honestly, when I first saw it. I was a little speechless at first.”
Although “Phone, Wallet, Keys” was performed by Sandler, frequent Sandler collaborator Dan Bulla was credited as the writer. He also performed the song with Sandler in the special. When the Kitsap Sun reached out to Sandler’s press office for comment, they directed the paper to Bulla; he has yet to respond to the Sun’s request for comment on Twitter.
Olivas doesn’t have a particular bone to pick with Sandler or his team and says most of the fuss was raised on his behalf by a dedicated group of fans who felt Olivas should get some kind of recognition for coming up with the song first.
“People that are fans of my music really ran with it. A couple of them, Netflix blocked their posts and banned them after a minute,” he says. “They started emailing journalists and stuff who are covering it.”
Robert Bacon was one of the first to report on the controversy on his podcast. Bacon mashed up segments of the two songs side by side so people could gauge the similarity of the two songs for themselves. Listen for yourself:
In addition to Bacon’s podcast and the Kitsap Sun, the story has been picked up by XXL Magazine and HotNewHipHop, and Olivas has been contacted by a reporter from the Washington Post. The media attention has helped Olivas confirm that he’s not crazy: Other people recognize the similarity between the two songs.
“Phone, Keys, Wallet, Weed” appears on Olivas’s December 2015 album, “We Thrive.” It was recorded earlier that year, but Olivas had been using the phrase as a mnemonic device years before that, he says.
Olivas was traveling to a show in Port Townsend with his friend Denon Jones. When they stopped to get gas, Olivas began reflecting on his upcoming album.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, man, I have a lot of good songs on there, but I don’t know if there’s a real good, hyphy club song … I should just take that “phone, keys, wallet, weed” that I do to remember my stuff and just put it to a banger and make it kind of funny. But I think people would be into it.’”
Jones was onboard and encouraged Olivas to record the song, which was co-written with Chris Dean.
The song has always been popular, although Olivas says it’s not necessarily the best representation of his overall catalogue of music. Much of his music tackles more serious issues. “Reason to Live,” for example, is a song about suicide prevention awareness. “Blessed” is about appreciating what you have in life.
Olivas always had a knack for storytelling, even as far back as elementary school, where he gravitated toward creative writing assignments.
“My favorite stuff was when they would just give you a sentence … and be like, ‘Write a story with it.’ And I would just go off of that. So I always enjoyed writing and hip-hop just spoke to me.”
Olivas heard Tupac for the first time when he was 12 and a friend popped one of the rapper’s cassette tapes into the car stereo on the way back from a church camp. The music made an impression on him, due to “the way the beat hit with the bassline and the way it pumped you up and made you feel,” he recalled.
“Hip-hop sent shivers down your spine. It just got you through hard times and made you feel pumped up, like you could do anything.”
Hip-hop also appealed to him because it was a genre that encouraged storytelling. You could fit more lyrics into a rap song than you could in other genres. “It takes talent in most genres to get your point across in less words or whatever, but hip-hop, some of my favorite stuff was just the storytellers — Tupac and Biggie and Nas, who would just tell stories, take you somewhere. It was magical to me. It (sent) shivers down your spine and it just got you through hard times and made you feel pumped up, like you could do anything.”
Olivas was 13 when he constructed his first rhymes. But true art can’t survive in a bubble: He wanted to share his music with the world.
“When you talk about having a dream your whole life, I remember when I just wanted more than anything to have my own CD released and have the booklets and the credits and thank-yous on the inside,” he says. “I used to read those cover to cover.”
In high school, he attended Olympic College through the Running Start program. There, a man named Roger Nick helped Olivas operate the recording equipment in the college’s music studio. “(I) … made some pretty bad music that I thought was cool at the time and started passing out CDs,” he says.
He’d fulfilled his dream of making a CD, but ultimately, he was just a kid messing around. He’d eventually take his music making to the next level, but it may have never happened if not for an accident that changed his life.
In December 2005, Olivas and his fiancé, Lacey Castro, were driving back to Washington from Los Angeles. As they drove, the conversation turned to Olivas’s music. He told Lacey he was thinking of putting music on the backburner to focus more on work and making money. But she wasn’t having any of that:
She turned to him and said, with a sense of urgency in her voice, “You have to promise me you’ll keep making music.”
“Ehh, I don’t know, Lace,” he responded. “It takes a lot of time and I don’t know if I have the time and money to put into that and still pay bills.”
“No,” she insisted. “You have to promise me you’re not going to stop making music. It means a lot to people and you’re good at it.” He finally relented and told her he wouldn’t quit making music.
Four hours later, the couple found themselves in a car crash that injured Olivas and took Lacey’s life. In the wake of the life-changing accident, Lacey’s insistence that he promise to keep making music took on new significance for Olivas.
“I remember thinking it was kind of weird, the sense of urgency,” he recalls. “I’m not going to speculate on anything beyond that, besides to say it’s not something a lot of people could say, when the love of your life at the time dies in a pretty rough way and then hours before that, told you to never quit making music.”
“It was on me to do something, like God wasn’t done with me. I still had some work to do.”
He didn’t get back into the studio for another year. When he did, he recorded a song for Lacey and gave it to her family on the one-year anniversary of the accident. He formed a band with his guitar-playing roommate, a rap-rock outfit called Redemption City. From there, he found himself fronting another rap-rock band called Crush Proof Juicebox, before returning to pure hip-hop, forming the duo Endgame with another local rapper, Nik Fury. As Endgame, Olivas had the chance to tour locally, opening shows for such acts as Kottonmouth Kings, Tech N9ne and Geto Boys.
Hip-hop became a way for Olivas to fulfil his promise to Lacey, but it also proved to be therapeutic, a way to heal from the psychic trauma the accident had inflicted on him.
“It made me like, OK, if I didn’t die from that or become an alcoholic and give up — which I tried to do for a while — then it was on me to do something, like God wasn’t done with me,” he says. “I still had some work to do.”
The accident shaped much of his early music and still does, to an extent. “Now it’s been 13 years,” he says. “It’s not something I think about every day or anything, but it’s always been there and it’s something I’ll always feel a responsibility for, but in a good way. It’s not as if I’m like, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to make music now because I promised this girl.’ It was something that, because she said that to me and I remembered it, it got me through some hard times and really saved my life in a lot of ways in terms of being a form of therapy.”
A Local Scene
As Olivas honed his skills, he found support and fellowship in the local rap and hip-hop scene.
Kitsap County’s burgeoning scene is overflowing with talent, Olivas says. Although the scene is diverse, it’s also tight-knit, he says. “Like any scene, some people have their groups and some people run in different circles and everything, but … people from different camps come together and have great shows and the fans have a good time.”
At 33, Olivas says he’s an “older guy” in terms of the hip-hop scene. But he sees many of the younger musicians doing cool things. As an example, he points out Young Lew and Jordy Sam, a duo putting out “KUBE 93-ready” songs.
“There’s kids that were little guys when I was starting out that are doing some really cool things,” he says. “It may not be known on the level that a bigger city scene is, but … there’s a lot of talent whose story needs to be told.”
And that’s not to leave out many of the forebears who came before, including both musicians, labels and promoters, such as I-Gang, a duo that was active in the early 2000s; Doc and Wesley Blackwell of Noroc Records; Lions Den 360, and Hustle Style Entertainment.
“There’s a lot of people doing a lot of things,” Olivas says. “I could go on, but if I start naming too many names it’ll seem like I’m leaving somebody out.”
In the wake of the Adam Sandler controversy, the artists in the local scene have been a major source of support. “They feel like one of their own got a raw deal and are just trying to spread the word,” he says. “The support from both the artists and the fans in the community has been really overwhelming and amazing.”
As an artist, it’s never fun to feel like someone’s used your work without properly crediting you. But Olivas acknowledges there’s been an upside to the situation. It’s given him a national spotlight and pumped his music into more ears than ever before.
The day after the controversy began erupting online, “Phone, Keys, Wallet, Weed,” garnered a couple thousand listens overnight. Although Olivas’s music has generated thousands of listens over time between Spotify, iTunes and other platforms, getting that kind of traffic over the course of a single day was unusual. The traffic continued to increase, and by the next day, the YouTube video alone had racked up 5,000 views. At the time of this writing, the video has more than 28,000 views.
But the circumstances for the extra attention have seemed surreal.
“Do I think Adam Sandler is up late at night looking for obscure people to rip off? Probably not. But my song has been on the internet for a while and I don’t know what could have (happened) or how somebody could have come across it, but it’s just odd. At this point, thousands of people agree that it seems oddly similar.”
It’s possible, Olivas says, that it’s a case of unintentional plagiarism.
“Most songwriters have had that experience where you start to write something … and then you realize halfway through, ‘Aww man, I’m taking this from …’” he says. “I’m not an unreasonable person and I’m not going to say, ‘Yep, this is what happened. This guy heard it, and he ripped me off and rubbed his hands together and was like, ‘Ha ha, I’m going to screw this guy!’ I don’t know any of that … I don’t know for sure what happened and I don’t want to level any accusations of definite wrongdoing.”
“I’m not angry. I’m just kind of a guy that is dealing with it as it comes day by day.”
But that doesn’t mean Olivas isn’t considering all his options, including the possibility of legal action. In the meantime, though, he’s focusing on the positives.
“I’m not out here angrily shaking my fist or anything,” he says. “A lot of people have said, ‘You should be thankful if Sandler ripped your song off,’ … and I’m like, I get it; I am thankful for the attention and the opportunity and the platform, not just with this song, but to try to promote in general what I’m about, which is taking care of your fellow man and really trying to let and let live if you can. … I’m definitely not bitter. I’m not angry. I’m just kind of a guy that is dealing with it as it comes day by day.”
There is one way Olivas says Sandler could make it up to him, however.
“If we could just make Little Nicky 2, and then maybe I could be in it for like 30 seconds or something, I’d be good with that,” he says with a laugh. “You can’t have Rodney Dangerfield anymore, may he rest in peace. But I’d be down for Little Nicky 2. Let’s do it, Adam.”