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Play Time

Let there be local rock

There is something exhilarating about a live show. Even if the band sucks, the speakers sound fuzzy and the music isn't your thing, it's still possible to get a live-music contact high. Showing up at the same spot on the same night for the same band can be a strong and inexplicable bond, and at the best shows everyone rides the wave of euphoria together. No DJ night or drunken karaoke session can replace the excitement, sweat and camaraderie that a live music show provides.

Unfortunately, yet another premature epitaph for local live music has been written over the last few years. Those who remember what the local music scene was like 10 years ago can't believe its current state. And longtime San Jose musician Jesse Charles, of the Jesse Charles Band and the new local pro-music force the Northern California Music Coalition, tends to agree. "It needs a lot of help," Charles says of the local music scene.

Everyone has their analysis, excuse or conspiracy theory for how and why this happened. What is never acknowledged, Charles says, is that the bands themselves are partly to blame. He says he's seen too many local bands showing up late, taking long breaks and generally not really caring about booking venues. But ultimately, he says, bands and clubs have to make an equal effort and work in partnership.

Partnership is exactly what the live music community is seeking in the recent push to revitalize Silicon Valley's scene. South Bay Live meets monthly at San Jose City Hall to discuss the current state of affairs in local music. The open forum attracts local musicians, groupies, club owners, city officials, police and anyone else with a stake in live, local music. Another hands-on group is Charles' NCMC; a new organization created to attract the "best of the best" of local bands and work with them to help promote their group. With co-founder Bill Loneoro, Charles hope to "build up a critical mass of music lovers."

Thanks to much-loved South Bay haunts like the Blank Club and JJ's Blues, along with a budding underground of places to play, those music lovers can still get their live music fix. Looking up or looking bleak, live, local music will always rock in the South Bay.

As proof, we offer the lineup of local bands interviewed in this issue. It's our annual way to celebrate rock in October—or as we've been known to call it, Rocktober. This year, our cover band Strata kicks things off, along with Manchester School, Otto, Whiskey Avengers and the ubiquitous Johnny Manak. Everybody in the pit.

'The End of the World' may be just the beginning for Strata.

Manchester School basks in the glory of its 'Best Local Band' award.

Jonny Manak has his hands in everything.

Otto is revamped and ready to rock.

Last call with the Whiskey Avengers.

Andrew Kutsenda turns roller rinks and arcades into live-music venues.

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