For the last five years, if you wanted to experience the best rock gig in OC’s local music scene, all you had to do was find out where Jeramiah Red was playing. Those who took the time to seek them out usually found themselves near the front of the stage at a crowded local venue, staring at the curious moose head logo plastered on the band’s kick drum. Five, flannel-wearing Fullerton musicians would momentarily set down their beers, pick up their instruments and deliver a barroom blitzkrieg of explosive rhythm, crunchy guitar riffs and vocals stained with Southern grit.
When the bulk of our scene in the mid aughts was awash with precious, arsty indie rock, J. Red turned heads by turning up loud and being unabashed in their praise for the rock gods of yesteryear. They knew how to write catchy rock songs and would share a bill with just about anyone.
“There were times when we had to cater our set to play with metal bands like Railroad to Alaska [now Painted Wives] and other nights we’d be playing with [singer-songwriter] Nicole Vaughn and we were like 'we can’t burn this house down right now,'” says harmonica player/percussionist Travis Ruiz. “So it helped push us in various directions.”
Sadly, their final show this Saturday at The Wayfarer has that bittersweet, end-of-an-era feeling to it. After a nearly year-long hiatus, the band is officially calling it quits. But not before one last gig at The Wayfarer, along with their friends Robert Jon and The Wreck and Big Monsta.
The band says they can’t narrow down the reason for the split to one specific event (their last official gig before this farewell show was last summer in San Diego). But after half a decade in the local spotlight, guitarists/vocalists Wes Dickson and Ian Cullen, bassist Tim Miller, Ruiz and drummer Garrison Giali admit that they were ready to trade in their rock star aspirations for the domestic life. That includes pursuing careers, raising families, and moving in different directions.
“We all just got comfortable with our own personal lives,” Dickson says. “[After our last show in San Diego] literally no one picked up the ball until Robert Jon [Burrison] texted all of us [with the last show idea]. Everyone responded with full hearted enthusiasm and we were all really excited to do it.”
However, the band also understands how much their music meant to their fans and friends, Burrison [of Robert Jon and the Wreck] who nudged the band to do one last rowdy farewell gig.
“There’s a ton of people I know who would be super bummed out if we didn’t play at least one last show,” Giali says. “We have a lot of fans who came out and supported super hard and I feel like we owe it to them.”
The band made their first official splash in OC back in 2011 with the five song EP, Ghost Tracks From the Getty, which started them on track to an OC Music Awards praisefest that ensured they couldn’t even walk past the Grove of Anaheim without being nominated for an award of some kind. Their debut single, “My Baby,” currently plays at the Honda Center every time the Anaheim Ducks win a game (which we will sorely miss during the rest of the playoffs). They'll probably be forever known amongst hockey fans as the band that does that “wooo-wooo song.”
“It’s still a trip when I’d go to the games when we were still a band and they would play it,” Cullen says. “ I’m like holy shit I’m playing in the Honda Center sold out without even being here.”
For their sophomore up effort, the band teamed up with producer Jon O'Brien at the Music Box Studios in Irvine to churn out The Winter Tick in 2013. Blending catchy tempo changes with heartfelt balladry, the development of their sound was palpable as they continued getting breaks like landing on the airwaves of KLOS or opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Pacific Amphitheatre.
The show this weekend isn’t just a chance for you to hear their old tunes (and perhaps a few unreleased tracks that will see daylight someday). As per usual, the band will host a variety of guests and friends to sit in and jam, including original drummer Matt Pleskacz who left the group in 2013.
“It’s really cool to see a lot of the friends we grew up with that want to see us play one more time and I feel really humbled and appreciative and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it for the rest of my life,” Cullen says.
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Despite the fact we’re bummed they won’t be gigging anymore, it’s worth noting they leave behind a vibrant local rock scene that they helped create along with acts like Robert Jon and the Wreck, Big Monsta, Well Hung Heart and many others along the way. And if there’s one thing we’re sure of, their last gig is bound to be one giant party that’ll hopefully last us until they decide to pull a Thrice and come back when we least expect it.
“I wouldn’t close the door on it,” Dickson says. “I can imagine us all getting bored with our lives at some point and agree to come back.”
Let’s hope so.
For tickets and full info on the Wayfarer show this Saturday, click here.