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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Avenida Music is the reigning Best Local Band per the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and with good reason.

Not only is Avenida Music one of the top cover bands in the valley, known for putting exciting new twists on tunes we all know and love, with hundreds of songs ready to go at any given moment; the band members are setting their sights on something bigger: For the past few months, Josiah Gonzalez, Samuel Gonzalez, Vince Gonzalez and Sean Poe have been hard at work transforming a vacant space in the heart of downtown Indio into an oasis for artists.

“This is our headquarters,” said Josiah during a recent interview with him and his brother Samuel. “This is going to be a combination of office space, rehearsal space and lessons (space). We’re going to be renting out rehearsal space to other bands and acts, (and offering) lessons for every instrument in order to be able to pay for the location,” located at 82713 Miles Ave.

“We want it to eventually be a space for showcases of the music and art in our community. A big part of that is developing programs and events that highlight the artistic community of the valley. We’re sticking to making it all-ages, so that everyone can show up. It’s not going to be a bar; it’s going to be a place dedicated to music and the arts for everyone to access. Along with having bands play here, we’re going to activate the location for educational events, such as teaching creatives how to take their art and turn it into a business. We’ve been meeting with people within the city government in order to make that happen, so the city can help the artistic community have a voice and find a place for their skills.”

Samuel added: “It’s been cool seeing it all come together, much quicker than we expected. This definitely isn't something that came about by accident; we’ve wanted to have our own space for a while, a place where we’re able to provide more opportunities to people of the valley. We want to create an environment that is positive and that fosters people instead of looking down on them. That’s what’s big for us. We want this place to be as supportive as possible, so that people can take what they want to do and turn it into a living.”

I’ve witnessed nothing but sheer generosity and selflessness from the Avenida Music guys—and these character traits are influencing the new space in amazing ways.

“We’re working right now on a couple of partnerships with nonprofits—the AMP (Academy of Musical Performance) program as well as Desert Arc,” Josiah said. “With Desert Arc, we are working to bring in people with developmental disabilities, and they’ll be able to partner up with local musicians to do music lessons. We’re going to be donating the space for them to use, and helping them find funding to employ musicians—who wouldn’t otherwise be playing during the day—to come and teach. We’re also going to be putting a ramp on the stage, to allow people with disabilities to be able to perform. We hope to be able to partner with more nonprofits in the future.”

Few local bands have ambitions as large as this one, but Avenida Music is not your average local band. I was curious how this determination developed.

“The dream has always been to get out of our parents’ garage,” Josiah explained with a laugh. “The vision wasn’t anything beyond just needing a practice room, though. As we started to build out our business plans, and plans for the future, the vision developed into what it is today. We thought of ways that we can use our space to help develop the community and build the infrastructure that helps other musicians build a career and have a place in a welcoming community.”

Of course, the members of Avenida Music are already looking ahead to the next phase of development for the new space.

“Our next step will be putting a recording studio in here,” Josiah said. “We want it to be capable of doing live recording sessions with both audio and video. We’re already looking toward the future, and are looking at ways to develop cost-effective music production that will be accessible to people in the Coachella Valley. We’re working toward what essentially will be a ‘music incubator.’ We want to help out with every facet of someone’s career—bringing them in, recording them, producing the music, helping with merchandise, and helping with booking and management. We need space for all of that, and our reach will evolve as opportunities arise.”

While the exact date for the opening of the Little Street Studio had not yet been finalized as of this writing, it’s coming soon.

“We’re looking to be launching in mid-September,” Josiah said. “We’re going to be partnering with the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce to have a big ribbon-cutting grand-opening event where people can see what will be available to them here. I’m on the board for the Indio (branch of the Greater Coachella Valley) Chamber, and we’ve had a lot of support from the city. We want to be up and running fully in October; we’re going to be partnering with the city for a couple of events. Opportunities are going to show up as we continue to do what we’ve set out a vision for.

“If people have any ideas … we’re open to talking to people about how we can be a resource or point others in the right direction. We want to start that conversation, building a network of advocacy starts when people come together.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/littlestreetmusic or www.littlestreetmusic.com.

For Avenida Music—voted as the Best Local Band by readers of the Independent in the annual Best of Coachella Valley poll—music revolves around family.

The band includes three brothers—and may be the only local group to be the subject of a song by another local band (Frank Eats the Floor). Avenida Music has played all over Southern California for weddings and corporate events, and has a weekly residency at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.

When I sat down with Josiah Gonzalez (piano/synth), he told me some fascinating stories about the musical journey that led to the formation of Avenida Music.

“The band is composed of two of my brothers (Vincent and Samuel), myself and Sean Poe (also of the Hive Minds),” Josiah Gonzalez said. “My brothers and I have been playing music together since we were 9 years old. My dad scrounged money together to get us lessons and instruments, and we were playing in church or just for fun. We’ve been playing for about 15 years together.

“We all found ourselves back in the Coachella Valley after college and decided we should continue to play. It started as a cover gig for my aunt’s birthday party; she wanted us to play some Beatles tunes. We liked doing it so much that we started playing with friends and playing in garages in 2015. We had no idea what we were doing and were just looking for some gigs playing covers.”

Avenida, like some other local bands, is named after an element of a local neighborhood.

“We spent the first two or three months playing in a garage trying to come up with a name. We couldn’t come up with anything anybody liked,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We went through 50 or 60 different options no one could agree on. We were originally playing in Cathedral City, and every other street is called Avenida something. We thought, ‘Why not Avenida?’ It stuck.”

While Avenida Music started off playing covers, it is not just a cover band … although when you see “Avenida Music” on the bill, you should expect covers.

“We do have original music. We made an interesting pivot after we picked up Sean,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We started playing covers and original stuff, but it was hard to differentiate. … When we started making more money as a cover band, we decided we really needed to focus on that. We wrote our five-year plan based on the idea we’d play corporate gigs and weddings. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been writing original stuff—and that’s what we’ve been working on right now in side projects not named Avenida Music. We really try to separate the two to remain consistent in what we do as a band.”

The Gonzalez brothers had no choice but to play music growing up.

“That was predetermined. Literally: Before we were born, our parents decided what instruments we were going to play, and when they were going to have us,” Josiah said. “They knew they wanted a quartet that had a piano, bass, drums and a sax. They ended up with four boys (each) two years apart. … My dad has been a minister for most of his life, and he would do jobs for people, saying, ‘I’ll do your landscaping for free if you teach my son how to play piano.’ That’s how he got all of us lessons. We’d come out of the womb, and two years later, they’d be introducing us to the instrument as if it was propaganda, like, ‘Isn’t the piano great?’ We all ended up playing those instruments, and we all still do play those instruments.

“They didn’t let us quit. I tried to quit piano a couple of times, and my parents said, ‘We’re sorry, but that’s not really an option.’ I’m grateful in retrospect. They made sure to tell me, ‘We work really hard to make to get you these lessons, and this is something you will carry with you for the rest of your life.’”

The Gonzalez brothers’ parents believed music would help instill character.

“I remember being really scared, because they were making me play in a convalescent home. I got really mad and said I didn’t want to be playing in convalescent homes and church events for old ladies,” Josiah said. “I was about 11 or 12, and my dad told me, ‘I didn’t work this hard to get you these lessons so you could go hide in a corner and play by yourself. Your job is to go use this gift you have to help other people.’ To this day, that is one of the things I remember. … It made an impression on me, and it really resonated as to why we still play music today. The reason we play is not for us; whatever we have is to be used to bless other people.”

Josiah Gonzalez said he was surprised to learn Avenida Music had been voted Best Local Band.

“We were blown away when we were nominated and when we won,” he said. “We have a big family; my dad has six brothers and sisters, as well as a lot of cousins. But I think more than anything, we’ve really tried to be as supportive of other musicians as much as possible, and we’re really grateful, because some people reciprocated that and voted for us. … We’re really grateful that people appreciate what we do and the music we do.”

Avenida Music will perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information on Avenida Music, visit www.littlestreetmusic.com.

Published in Features