Like a marine biologist trying to bring attention to the diverse fauna and flora of a local musical tide pool before its inhabitants get washed away into the metaphorical sea of mediocrity, show promoter Emily LaBlond successfully did just that by throwing Save The Scene Fest on a Saturday at The Irenic.

I met Emily LaBlond through a mutual affinity for underground rock music. But the term “underground” implies subsisting below the surface, and the bands at her fest haven’t been devoid of sunlight and nutrients and barely scraping by. They have flourished in a mixed-genres ecosystem of their own, alongside a more known young San Diego garage rock scene that by default fills the niche of “underground” for uninformed music lovers.Young trio Soap Detergent opened the fest. In a digital age where it’s possible to find every kind of band name under the sun, bands either have to strive for creativity, be purposely ironic, or just not care. Not knowing what to expect from Soap Detergent, they played straight forward punk with jangly guitar leads, and for a few songs crossed into grunge-rock territory.

My comment about band names should ring true, as Paper came onstage second. Hearing that they’ve opened for nostalgic band Smash Mouth, their ska-tinged rock set consisted of all originals except for the band covering the beginning of Dion DiMucci’s 1961 hit “Runaround Sue,” and later playing Sublime’s “Santeria.” These kids definitely had the stage persona of a band with many more years of experience.Opt Out played next, and their poppy punk alongside the energy and smiles from all three members really exuded a positive energy. Midway through, friends of the band hurled rolls of toilet paper into the crowd. The members interacted with and encouraged crowd participation throughout their set, and ended with everyone and the venue covered in streams of toilet paper.

Essex Class were fourth to play, and had the most straight-ahead “rock” sound of all the bands
that reminded me of the Foo Fighters. For their song “Honey,” the band invited as much of the audience as possible onto the stage, with singer/guitarist Ryan Merrill declaring “We’re all going to be friends within the next two and a half minutes” before striking a chord that set off a giant conglomerate of headbanging behind the band.

The Bash Dogs, comprised of brothers Nate and Jeremy Barrett on guitar and drums and bassist Nathan Schmok, played next. Their sun-soaked brand of psychedelic rock, with some members being barefoot and shirtless, wouldn’t find the band out of place at a fest like Desert Daze. Drummer Jeremy even crowd-surfed towards the end of one song before rejoining his band mates to cover the Beatles’ classic “Twist And Shout.”

The band Grove played last. The members walked out to the crowd unanimously chanting “Fuck The Snykes”, which referenced the 91X-approved garage band The Snykes that singer/guitarist Pat Collins and bassist Chris Olson used to play in. Grove takes a more bluesy rock approach, and even had slower ballads like their song “Roses,” where drummer Lawrence Kattoula handed out real roses to starry-eyed teenage girls. They ended covering The Snykes’ song “Killer Whale,” which got everyone in a tizzy and was the perfect way to end the night.

Save The Scene felt like a giant family reunion for the scene these bands and their fans thrive in. Not privy to the existing relationships or inside jokes, I was still welcomed with open arms. Be on the lookout for what Emily (@promoceans) has planned for the future. As she loves to say, “It’ll be great.”

Review by: Daniel Leach

Photos by: Nick Regalo