For the last month, local teenager and aspiring musician Sam "Samo" Osterhage has been at the UCLA Medical Center, reportedly in good spirits despite having his heart seriously damaged by a virus and suffering a stroke that has left him blind. He has even been playing guitar in his hospital bed.
But good spirits don't pay the bills, so Sam's friends in the local music community have planned a benefit concert to raise money for his medical expenses.
It will be this next Saturday, April 5, at the Lobero Theatre and will feature the music of Jeff Bridges & The Abiders (yep, that's "The Dude" Jeff Bridges) and Santa Barbara alt-rockers Dishwalla (you might remember their hit "Counting Blue Cars" back in the 1990s, with lyrics "Tell me all your thoughts on God / 'Cause I would really like to meet her"). Tickets, which include the option of a VIP "eat-and-greet," are available online by clicking here.
Dishwalla's drummer, George Pendergast, is also the co-founder of the Rockshop Academy, which has been fostering Santa Barbara's next generation of aspiring musicians since 2009 through after-school sessions, summer camps and more. In the following, Pendergast tells Noozhawk about Sam's valued role at the Rockshop Academy, the upcoming show and what's in store for Dishwalla.
Be sure to join the Team Samo Facebook page for updates on how Sam is doing, and information on other ways to contribute.
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Jeff Moehlis: The upcoming concert is a benefit for Sam Osterhage, who is part of the Rockshop Academy family. Can you tell us a bit about the Rockshop Academy and Sam's involvement in it?
George Pendergast: Sam O is a part of Rockshop Academy as a student and also is Rockshop's first-ever Youth Advisory Board member. His mother, Judy, came on board as a board member and all of his friends were in my program. Because she had to be at Rockshop so often, Sam accompanied her to several board meetings. He became my go-to youth opinion. When the board members would put together an event, I would look to Sam O to make sure it was "teen" cool and not just grown-up cool! He then wrote a grant to help fund a program to bridge generations through music. He's a great guitarist and helps teach the younger Rockshoppers. He's that kid that all the other kids hug when he comes in the room.
JM: It's cool that Jeff Bridges will also be playing at the benefit concert. I gather that he has been a longtime friend to the Rockshop Academy, is that correct?
GP: As far as my relationship with Jeff goes, he's a friend to all youth music programs and supports so many things. We first met when he came to see his niece Jamey Geston play at Rockshop's first showcase in 2009. Most recently we worked together putting a group together for No Kid Hungry. Several Rockshop students and Jeff did "Lean On Me." It was a great experience, and he's very generous with his time and these types of events. His guitarist, Chris Pelonis, has a son named Christian who is a Rockshop student as well.
JM: Dishwalla has been touring quite a bit recently. How has that been going?
GP: Touring with Dishwalla has been such a great time. I think for the majority of some of the markets we're hitting these people haven't seen the band in 15 years. Some really die-hard fans are coming out and singing along to the songs that weren't hits. We have a different connection with the audience than we did back in the day. We seem to be inviting the crowd to be a part of the party instead of playing at them. I'm finding the crowd cares more if you can really play than any mystique or smoke and mirrors. We're extending parts of songs for longer jams, playing parts differently and most of it impromptu, which for the Dishwalla guys is very different.
JM: What are the future plans for Dishwalla?
GP: Dishwalla is currently writing and working on some 20th anniversary stuff. We have more shows coming up with our generation's biggies — Collective Soul, Tonic and Vertical Horizon — and we also have Eric Burdon's 70th birthday bash in Ojai.
JM: From the safe distance of a couple of decades, what was the good, the bad and the ugly about the 1990s alt rock scene?
GP: I think the good, bad and ugly were all versions of whatever had been ugly about the business, but with a playing field leveler that allowed the consumer to screw the artist and the label at the same time! We had all of this demand for false imaging and need for a story instead of just great songs. Where are you from, what do you wear, what are you angry about? It was weird.
We were these not too bummed guys from a nice town who weren't spoiled but had pretty good lives, so to be some angst out '90s alterna band was a stretch. Scot [Alexander] said it best once when he said we wrote a pop song — that's what's alternative about us. Look, almost any song that made it to radio is a pop song, we just weren't afraid to admit it.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
GP: Advice for aspiring musicians is always the same. I grew up in a drum shop. I worked there from the time I was 13 to record deals, and then came back to buy it in my 30s. Living in Santa Barbara I met people who had great financial wealth and they still had a sadness in their eyes. They would say to me, "Whatever you do give this everything you've got." I learned from them that if you have a passion and don't go after it, even if you fail, then no money in the world can fill that void of not pursuing your passion.
It's not an easy life, but if you have a true desire to go for it make sure it's with 110 percent of everything you've got. That way, make it or not, you know you did your best.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.