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18 Jan 2020

The Lucky 13: Samuel Gonzalez, Multi-Instrumentalist and Frontman of Avenida Music, Performing Regularly at Spotlight 29

Written by 
Samuel Gonzalez. Samuel Gonzalez. Andrew Cabral

Avenida Music is one of the hardest-working music groups around. The band has multiple residencies; our readers selected Avenida as the Best Local Band in 2018 in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll; and we recently covered the group’s brand-new Little Street Studio performance/teaching space in Indio. You can catch them performing at Spotlight 29 at 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17; Saturday, Feb. 1; Friday, Feb. 7; and Saturday, Feb. 22. The brothers Gonzalez (plus Sean Poe of the Hive Minds) take the music you love and put an exciting twist on it, reinventing hits from any decade. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/littlestreetmusic. The lead vocalist and—depending on when see the band—the possible bassist, guitarist or drummer is Samuel Gonzalez. Here are his answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

When I was in middle school, my brothers and I went to see this Christian hardcore band called Seventh Day Slumber play at this little church. We were super into Christian rock bands at that age.

What was the first album you owned?

When I was a kid, my dad would bring me these EPs that he got at these ministry conferences from bands no one has ever heard of—good stuff, by the way—but when I was in high school, I saved up enough to buy Sound of Melodies, a Christian-rock album from my favorite band (Leeland) at the time. I played it on my brother’s Walkman 24/7 until it stopped working.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I recently have been riding on a Vulfpeck train! I’m super-obsessed with the band right now, but I’m also really stuck on Albert Hammond Jr., Bad Suns, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Colony House—and I’m forever stuck on Kings of Leon.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I’ve never been a fan of lazy music. Whatever genre it is, you can tell when a song was made lazily, or as a cash grab—and it usually does go viral if it’s catchy enough. I just ain’t about lazy music. Put some thought into your art.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Again, I’m on a Vulfpeck train right now. I just recently watched their Madison Square Garden performance on YouTube! It’s so freaking amazing how they run around the stage and change instruments, and just have the time of their lives on up there. I’d love to see a show this year!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Definitely One Direction. I actually think their later music is solid, and they definitely have a good writing and production team. I even saw their documentary in theaters. In fact, I think I mentioned them in an Avenida podcast episode on guilty pleasures.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Little Street Studios … just kidding. I really like the Wiltern and the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I know that there’s a meaning to it all, a little resurrection every time I fall. You’ve got your babies; I’ve got my hearses. Every blessing comes with a set of curses. I’ve got my vices; I’ve got my vices versus. I’ve got my vice versus,” Vice Verses, Switchfoot.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

That’s an easy one: Switchfoot—some of the greatest performers and songwriters of our time, in my opinion. People sleep on them because they were a Christian “one-hit wonder” in the public eye, but their music has always spoken to me. They sing about hope and light, in a world that seems so dark, especially for people in the music industry. They may not be at the top of the charts, but they have been together, writing and touring consistently, for more than 20 years and aren’t slowing down—even starting their own label so they could have creative control. They have built a cult following (myself included) that truly feels like a family. Each live show is an experience; you have to be there to feel it. They are the essence of who I strive to be as a musician: dedicated to my craft, and honest in my music.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

“Wanna jam?,” to the next Musician I run into. My real musical “idols” are all people I know personally, and I’m always looking to jam.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“I’ll Fly Away.” It’s a classic gospel song they’ve played at all my family’s funerals. I grew up in a charismatic gospel church, and it’s a huge part of who I am as a musician. My roots will always be in gospel choir music. My faith has kept me grounded all my life, and it’ll be there when they put me in the ground.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

I’m tempted to go for the classics, like Led Zeppelin or Are You Experienced (by the Jimi Hendrix Experience), but again, it goes back to my roots. The Nu Nation Project by Kirk Franklin was one of the only albums we had in the car growing up, and we pretty much memorized all 17 tracks. It’s truly a masterpiece in my mind and a huge part of the bond my three brothers and me share.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Back Pocket” by Vulfpeck. Just do it! Now! Go Listen! You won’t be sorry! (Scroll down to hear it!)

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