In the last year and a half, the local Orange County music scene has been engaged in an experiment. That experiment can best be summed up in the words “End Pay to Play.” The Sky Catching Fire has been fortunate to have come together in the right place, at the right time to participate in this endeavor. The results have been promising, thanks to a handful of dedicated people calling themselves Orange County Music League.
Orange County Music League was founded in 2013 by John Safari and Kevin Martin, bookers of the campout music festival Bradstock. They’ve been giving local talent the opportunity to play on stages from Orange County to Seattle. They started OCML with the idea of ending “pay to play” and to reshape and rebuild a thriving music scene that benefits everyone from venue to promoter to artist. Their hard work and dedication has fundamentally changed the OC music scene and given bands opportunities they never had before.
We met John Safari outside the Copper Door in Santa Ana, California. He spoke incessantly about his love of music and his belief in the power of music to make the world a better place. Since we started playing shows in 2015, we’ve met countless local bands at various venues through OCML. And then something truly awesome happened.
We started going to each other’s shows, even when we weren’t playing. Suddenly we weren’t bands competing for gigs, we became a real community that shows up and supports each other. It’s the first time we’ve felt so much camaraderie between bands, and it’s allowed us to organize charity shows for the homeless, veteran’s, and sick friends. All while driving out Pay To Play promoters, and fostering the music community to grow and be the best it can be.
The movement is growing in 2016 as we’ve already spread beyond Orange County, booking shows in Long Beach, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. The Sky Catching Fire is stoked to be part of a community that includes local bands like The Alienated, Chad Martini, Populations U, The Barebones, and The Taco Truck. Hopefully the idea catches on in other towns. Bands supporting bands, going to shows when you’re not playing, and when you are – showing up early for the first band and staying to watch the last one. And saying NO to Pay to Play. Always say NO. Always.
We’re highly idealistic, and hopefully – it’s contagious.
The Sky Catching Fire started as home recordings of Laguna Beach street performer Thomas Monroe, who used to literally sing for his supper when he was out of work. Drummer Steve Ybarra liked what he heard, and the duo began playing shows around Orange County in 2015. Teaming up with Orange County Music League, The Sky Catching Fire has built a reputation for energetic live shows, captivating onlookers with punky rhythms, erratic vocal stylings, and punctuated by Thomas Monroe’s original poetry and socially conscious message. BLUE EP will be the duo’s first offering, and they will be touring in 2016.