Mike Meza's fondness for Proof Bar is clear. In the mid 00's, it was one of the first venues that the former bassist of the Living Suns (now Dahga Bloom) was able to book a show and cause a ruckus. Within months of their first gig at the Santa Ana club, his band were able to stuff the place with beer-swigging longhairs and DIY scene kids banging their heads to the Suns' feedback-laden, fire-breathing psych rock. A decade later he still considers the club his stomping grounds, only now he doesn't have to be on the stage to create the scene.
Last summer, Meza became a promoter for Proof and created a live band event on Wednesday and Sunday nights called Wordovmouth. Since then, it's become a space where young bands and solo artists of all types come to test their mettle and sweat out their stage fright. And, as the name suggests, it's also a place bands go to learn a few lessons about self promotion.
"That's really the biggest obstacle for most local artists, " Meza says. Though he does spend time promoting on Facebook, Meza tries to keep his focus on creating a vibe for the venue and curating the bands. That generally leaves the talent to figure out how to get their audiences to show up to the downtown club.
"[Learning how to promote yourself] is a big responsibility," Meza says. On a recent Wednesday night, he's sitting down in Proof's basement, the walls lined with kegs and dripping in red curtains and graffiti murals. Sporting long brown hair gathered in a ponytail, tight black sweater and horn rimmed glasses, he speaks with a straightforward, zen-like demeanor. "Bands can either learn and grow or become defeated and fall. I've seen both. It's survival of the fittest."
Growing up in Placentia, Meza started his survival training as a young teenager by convincing places like Java Joe's in Yorba Linda or the Santa Fe Cafe in Fullerton to book his various garage bands. During his years spent in the club scene as a musician and a DJ, he's dealt with just about every concert clusterfuck and janky promoter in the book. Instead of becoming jaded by that, he decided to create an event that mirrors his idealism, diverse tastes, and his faith in local music. Wordovmouth is open to angst-ridden punkers, eccentric laptop producers, backpack rappers, conga virtuosi, Aeolian harpists–anyone with a desire to get on a stage and do their thing.
"I don't wanna segregate or deny any type of art here," Meza says. "I want to accept anybody who is willing to present their art to the public and I wanna try to match them with others who are established and have done something that the younger artists are aspiring to do."
In addition to a steady stream of local acts like Tyrannis, Gantez and Lazy Preacher, Meza snagged a notable coup, booking Supreme from the Wu-Tang Clan in February, in celebration of Proof's nine-year anniversary. Not bad considering the event is barely six months old.
"It's definitely a sign for me to keep going," Meza says. "This community needs something like this."
Whether or not Wordovmouth becomes a magnet for larger acts in the future, Meza says it will continue to be a home for the best artistic talent that walks in the door. And as the buzz continues to spread, the promoter feels good about that fact that his ideas about improving the live music scene amounted to more than just talk.
"Art is an underestimated weapon and it can be used for good or bad," Meza says. "But regardless most people who are artists are timid in sharing that voice and I wanna help encourage that group. Because that is a real catalyst for change."
Any artists interested in booking with Meza for Wordovmouth can reach him on Facebook or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.