When Sean Rosenthal tells me stories of his past, his upbringing, his time spent in heavy rock and hardcore bands, artist and musicians he’s hung with, and images he’s photographed, it’s apparent that his life is a collection of strange variables too unbelievable and exhilarating to fathom. But sometimes life is stranger than fiction, and in Sean’s case, it really is. After almost 20 years in the entertainment industry, Rosenthal’s media skills are razor sharp, made even better by the experience he’s gained with his production company, The Kings Inn. “I do the booking, the sound, social media, design, photography and video coverage, and the night has been weekly or twice a week, at least, for over 5 years,” he says.
Rosenthal grew up in Orange County, hanging around musicians including a young Steve Aoki, who during high school was in a band called goodhue. At the age of 15, Rosenthal was inspired by this growing scene, and decided to buy a bass from a copy of The Recycler for $50. When he was 18, he met a couple of South County guys through local shows, and eventually formed the hardcore band Adamantium that eventually signed to Indecision Records in 1998. After over 15 years of hiatus, the band has their second this December 16th at The Observatory supporting Atreyu. It was with Adamantium that Rosenthal began his path into the entertainment industry, and recalls, “Unity was what hardcore was all about,” Rosenthal says. “The friendless become friends standing for one another, together. [That] was the spirit anyways.”
After a few years of touring with hardcore, post-hardcore, and screamo bands like Adamantium, Farside, and Open Hand and burgeoning acts like Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day, and The Ataris, Rosenthal's music career came to a halt. He'd had enough with music after being chided by the singer of Open Hand.
He left the band when they returned to California from a two month, East Coast tour. Rosenthal had already been sharpening his photo and design skills that he originally honed in high school by making DIY band zines. He decided to apply that artistry to a career. Back in Orange County, he began shooting event photography at local DJ nights, and for magazines like OC Weekly and Riviera. He also started to broaden his personal design firm, Within A Dream, which he had conceptualized in his first semester in art school.
Tired of the DJ club scene he was constantly working at the time, Rosenthal decided to go against the popular scene and build a night that was the antithesis of those events. He called it The Kings Inn. “I had gotten back into vinyl and the classic rock stuff like Fleetwood Mac,” Rosenthal says. “I started listening to Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. Then there were new bands like Calexico, Iron & Wine, and Old Crow Medicine Show. I knew this was the kind of sound I wanted, but thought, ‘Is anyone even doing this kind of music right now?’ So The Kings Inn started with that.”
Started in 2011, the first night was hosted at Memphis Bar in Costa Mesa, and became a reoccurring event focused on roadhouse style roots, blues, rock, Americana, and country music. Over time, he broadened the night to local venues like Detroit Bar, The Observatory, Alex’s Bar, and The Escondite in Downtown Los Angeles with artists like The White Buffalo, Restavrant, and Mason Jennings. Rosenthal, in pursuit of film making opportunities, made a move to LA in 2014. The Kings Inn came right along with him, and he continued to utilize his passions to connect with local and touring roots-based musicians.
After two years gone, mainly booking in Los Angeles, Rosenthal has come full circle, returning back to Orange County yet again, adding Casa Costa Mesa, home of the late Avalon Bar, to his rotation. The first night of The Kings Inn at Casa consisted of Eagles of Death Metal’s front-man Jesse Hughes hosting a DJ night, and overall, Rosenthal’s intention is to bring back LA artists to the OC music scene in hopes of reinvigorating the growing Americana, rock, and folk community that had started building years ago back at Memphis. Where it will go from here? With Sean, it’s hard to imagine a limit.