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.