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Violin(ist) on fire
Patrick Contreras shows up to the Echo Street Cafe in his typical fashion, his violin case stuffed with hand-bill fliers, his laptop tucked under his arm, a smile on his face. He looks a bit frazzled, like a guy with a busy schedule. But that's just the last-minute stress of putting on what he calls the “most kick-ass local show. Ever.”
“It's natural worry. This is a big undertaking,” says Contreras, whose band will release its CD, “The American Rock Violinist,” with an all-out block-party bash June 20 in the parking lot behind the Tower Theater. Gates open at 6 p.m.
Contreras also made it a big responsibility.
That's why he called in former Smog City Roller Grrl and PR magician Joey Fernandez to kick off a media frenzy. Already Contreras has hit just about every podcast (OK, at least two) in town and is booked solid next week with TV spots on KSEE, KMPH and KFSN and a noun-hour gig DJing on 105.1 the Blaze.
The goal here is total awe. He wants to make a statement, push boundaries. He wants to inspire other local bands with the sheer awesomeness of the event, have them leave cursing his name.
“I want them to say, ‘that mother fucker. I can do that, too.' ”
If you've followed Contreras' career, the block party was inevitable.
As local gigs go, he's done them all — the weddings, the fundraisers. He's played the clubs and the dive bars, opened for touring acts (B.B. King anyone?). He sold out the Tower Theater and did well enough at the Warnors to make it worth his while and then some.
When the Tower District Marketing Committee came to him and offered up its help, the wheels inside his head started turning, fast.
“But I sat on that for awhile. I said, that's a golden nugget.”
This is a more confident Contreras, if you could imagine such a thing from a guy who punctuates his shows by swaggering his way across bar tops. He's paired the band down to a three-piece, a power trio, and keyed in on a more focused “rock” sound. He no longer feels it necessary to feature special guests to help sell the show — that was his insecurity showing, though he never wanted to admit it.
Even though the band was getting some name recognition down in Los Angeles and up in the Bay — they played to a packed house at The Mint — he knew they needed a record. So the band took a few months off, eventually enlisting Aaron Lipinski, a guy who had worked for Tooth and Nail Records and knows his stuff. He set them up in a makeshift studio at Immanuel High School in Reedley where they recorded the entire album live in nine hours over two days. It's a powerful, aggressive record, Contreras says.
“I know what I want to do with this band.”
It's work, no doubt, and Contreras treats the band like a busines, because that's what it is. That's his advice for those who want to “make it.” Get a band bank account, start looking for those tax write-offs. Register with "http://www.pollstar.com/">Pollstar and give them attendance numbers, so when you draw 300 or 400 — or 700 — people, it gets noticed. That's what's going to move Fresno's music scene to the next level, he says, and the challenge he's throwing down with this block party.
"We need to be shown still. You can do something big."