Smart Bomb v36

Every year, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts publishes its YCBA 100 list that names people, organizations and movements that are using the arts to innovate and shape the future of culture. This year, among names such as Chance the Rapper, Donald Glover, Barry Jenkins, Rupi Kaur, and 100 Days Action, the YBCA includes Oakland’s SMART BOMB for “showcasing dynamic, innovative and marginalized voices” through music. The monthly showcase curates local and global producers and DJs to bring all kinds of experimental, abstract and left-of-field sounds into the Legionnaire Saloon with the sole purpose of expanding its patrons minds to new and scarcely-charted sonic waters.

We spoke with Asonic Garcia, one of SMART BOMB’s founding fathers and curators on what the recognition means and what’s in store for the showcase’s present and future.

The Bay Bridged: For those that don’t know you, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Asonic Garcia: Peace, my name is Jason. I grew up in Vallejo, California and I live in Oakland. I make music and art as Asonic Garcia, and I am one of the founders and curator for SMART BOMB Oakland.

TBB: When was SMART BOMB started? How was it received in its early years?

AG: SMART BOMB Volume 1 was back in March of 2013 at the Legionnaire Saloon, which had just opened at the time. That show is still very special to me; we had a real family lineup playing that night: Dakim, Devonwho, Spaceghost, Drewmin, Aly, DJ Centipede, Mike Boo, the Zap Tap, and more. It was a very proper beginning and we were blessed to have a humble and genuine turnout of folks who were eager for the type of energy and abstract vibrations that filled the space.

I feel like, in the beginning, our shows were completely coming out of left field and because we were musicians and artists rather than show promoters, we were naturally on some lowkey shit and were a very well-kept secret for a while. Some savvy and heady music lovers were on the frequency early, but it took some time for a lot of cats to catch on. As we had more local artists play and live paint, they dug the vibe and energy of our events; word got around and I feel the gradual growth was very grassroots in spirit.

TBB: What were your goals for the showcase in the beginning? Has that changed as it has grown?

AG:In 2013, I approached my Secret Sidewalk bandmates at the time — Mike Boo, Marcus Stephens, Michael Reed, and Alex Abalos — with the idea of starting a new live event series in Oakland to fill a certain void that we all felt. Our band was all about putting together different styles and disciplines of music that shared the same sensibilities of fearless experimentation and boundary pushing creativity. From avant-garde jazz to turntablism; jazz, soul, and funk; to modern forward-thinking electronic music and instrumental beats. We wanted to hold a space for groups of artists and musicians you normally wouldn’t get to see in Oakland sharing a vibe and sending out an inspirational energy. As we grew with each event, I can feel the local community that always came to shows sprout and flourish; it’s been amazing to see how these get-togethers can nurture folks’ creative freedom and sense of letting go of any negative doubts that can hold you back from trying new things and exploring new ideas. We’ve been going for four years strong now and that’s a straight-up blessing.

TBB: What role does SMART BOMB play for Oakland’s art community?

AG: Oakland’s art community impresses me everyday, ‘treal talk. I mean, look around. We are surrounded by pure unbridled raw creative energy — it’s in the air, it’s in the seismic waves that travel under our feet, it’s in the vast ocean — that gives us a feeling of no limits and no boundaries. I am a Bay native and the changes happening to the Bay Area are undeniable, but the result of it is some very interesting and strong art. I’m constantly inspired by the ever-growing group of artists, collectives and positive folks who exist by this shared ethos. I think our place is right along with others I deeply respect, which is to maintain and hold a space that is genuine, honest, safe, and true to the styles of expression we embody.

TBB: In some ways, SMART BOMB is akin to LA’s Low End Theory. Do you think that comparison is true? How is SMART BOMB different?

AG: Off top, gotta show endless respect to folks at Low End, man. For years, they have been an integral part of showcasing this wild and abstract counterculture we all represent. I have been around since their inception, I’ve gotten to play at Low End events in Los Angeles and San Francisco with my friends and I’ve gotten to see their growth from a heady and cutty California beat scene haven into a now worldwide recognized hub.

I understand that because the music we present is so diverse and we share some sensibilities, it is much easier to compare SMART BOMB to something like Low End when explaining it to someone. But I feel like our brothers in SF who threw (and still occasionally throw) the legendary SF music party Change The Beat was more like our Bay’s different and distinct version of a Low End. The heavy vibes and mind-blowing new music at Change the Beat was definitely an inspiration for creating SMART BOMB. I think SMART BOMB has our own vibe that is very Oakland, very East Bay. It’s an intrinsic feeling and vibe I can’t really explain or try to comprehend. But one thing I learned and picked up from Low End is the professionalism and on-point organization of Daddy Kev, mane. Kev drives a tight operation out there and that shit really pushed me to be on point with curation and every detail.

TBB: What does it mean to you and the SMART BOMB team to be recognized as innovators and included in the 2017 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 list?

AG: It’s still hella surreal, I’m still pretty in awe. Sometimes, you have your head down, trying to hustle, just trying to make ends meet and this creative expression and community gathering is essential for sanity, survival, and healing. At times, you can forget that it means just as much to so many others and recognition from YBCA is a real reminder of how valuable and important holding these types of positive spaces are for our community. I’ve been going to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts since I was super-young, so to gain acknowledgement from a place that has taught me is very full-circle and trippy. I’m just thankful for everything, for all my folks who work so hard for SMART BOMB, for all the brilliant folks who support us and love us. This is a truly magical time and I am not taking anything for granted, ya dig?

TBB: What plans do you have for SMART BOMB in the near future?

AG: Many plans. We are starting our SMART BOMB Expansion Series of live events starting this summer, branching out to more venues with different themed events, such as a rap/producer-driven event and an immersive avant-garde visual/audio type of event, to sound healing events, stuff like that. We will be putting out more projects from young shining lights in our community, from music albums, to photo zines, art prints, and more in interesting ways. We are organizing more compilations inspired by local social issues with goals to help this cultural mecca we reside in stay intact. We are going to keep dropping monthly mixtapes…it’s funny, I just had a vivid dream about having our own radio show on a local station, so I feel like my pineal gland is telling me that is the next move. So yeah, we

[are] staying busy trying to spread love and maintain positive vibrations in this wild world.

SMART BOMB v36 with Fresh Daily, Lo-Fiction, Chhoti Maa, Blvck Achilles
The Legionnaire Saloon
June 17, 2017
10pm, $10 ($5 before 10:30pm)