Column: turn up the volume! How Cathryn Beeks and Listen Local are boosting San Diego’s music scene
Cathryn Beeks no longer lives here. Not physically anyway. But while the founder of the Listen Local radio show and Musician Resource Center now resides in the Lucerne Valley, San Bernardino County, her music-loving heart still belongs to San Diego.
Since starting hosting open mic parties at the Coaster Saloon in Mission Beach 19 years ago, Beeks has been one of the biggest fans of the San Diego music scene. And as his plans expanded to include an online events calendar, festivals, club nights, and a radio show, building became his business.
If you’re a San Diego musician who wants to be heard, Beeks wants it to happen. Because she knows what it’s like when it doesn’t.
“When I first came to San Diego, I had big dreams of being a famous rock and roll singer. But when I was trying to get into open mics in 1999, it wasn’t very open. If they didn’t know you, you couldn’t have a showcase, ”said Beeks, who moved to San Diego from Cleveland after years of working in the real estate industry and touring and recording with several bands.
“I wanted to create an open mic party where even people who had just arrived in town could find a show and play, where it was open and you could just step in the door. It was a joy for me to find a good group and to give them a hand.
On Monday, Beeks will host a holiday version of Listen Local’s free virtual song circle, a now-monthly pandemic project that gives musicians of all stripes the chance to sing along and socialize. Since it is the holidays, the songs will be festive. Since it’s Listen Local, so will the mind.
“Cathryn is just amazing at bringing people together,” said local singer, songwriter and producer Jeff Berkley. “She sees opportunities everywhere and she knows how to put the right people together to make the magic happen.”
Born in Riverside, Beeks grew up in a home where everyone from Janis Joplin to ABBA and the Eagles took a ride on the well-used family turntable. Beeks finally started making music when she attended Lancaster High School. It was mid to late ’80s, and when Beeks joined a neighbor’s band, she embarked on a decades-long journey that took her to perform with bands in Jacksonville, Florida. , Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Cleveland; write songs and open a thrift store in Lakewood, Ohio; and the street in Boulder, Colorado.
By the time she arrived in San Diego in 1999, Beeks had acquired a very useful set of survival skills. She knew how to reconcile office work and musician life. She knew that being creative also meant being flexible. And when she started expanding her open mic parties to something bigger, she also knew that when you want to change your life, having a goal helps.
“Everything I do stems from my fear of going back to a 9 to 5 job,” Beeks said with a laugh. “You try to figure out what people need, and then you try to provide that service. “
Over the next 10 years, that meant turning ListenLocalsd.com into a website with a daily schedule of live performances by local artists and a growing list of open mic showcases in clubs across the county. This meant launching the Band Camp Music Festival at Mission Beach. During this time, Beeks was performing with several local bands, including the Gandhi Method and Not Your Mom.
And in 2009, she took over as the host of “The Homegrown Hour,” a long-running San Diego music show that landed on the alternative adult station KPRI / 102.1 FM. At the end of that concert in 2014, the enterprising Beeks presented her show on the web with ListenLocalRadio.com. Twelve years later, his monthly Listen Local Radio show still gives any musician in San Diego, Big Bear or the High Desert who emails him a song a chance.
“She’s created opportunities for so many artists by opening venues for them and playing them on the radio,” said Berkley, who worked with Beeks when she recorded “The Homegrown Hour” in her studio. “She has brought up so many artists to be seen on stage.”
From the Lucerne Valley home she shares with her husband, Jon Edwards, Beeks rotates many artistic plates. There’s Hart Acres, an outdoor event space, and a mini campground where she hosts artist retreats and photo and video shoots. She still plays with her band Calamity, runs the thrift store @greenroomshop on the Poshmark online marketplace and makes videos about artists and musicians for her YouTube channel 1/2 Fast.
But no matter where she is or what she’s doing, Cathryn Beeks keeps her eyes and ears on San Diego. There is no place like a musical house.
“The people in power in San Diego’s music industry are affordable and accessible, and they really want to help the people who created this community,” Beeks said. “San Diego is very unique in this regard. The music scene is very friendly and cooperative. There is a lot of love in being such a big city.
Listen Local’s virtual song circle and holiday party take place Monday, December 20 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Go to listenlocalradio.com for more information.