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Shock & Awesome

Local promoter pumps up the punk scene


I SEE THE LIGHT La Luz headline an eclectic show at the Arlene Francis Center this weekend.
  • I SEE THE LIGHT La Luz headline an eclectic show at the Arlene Francis Center this weekend.

It started simply, as these things do, with a Santa Rosa house show in 2013. A group of kids wanted to bring their favorite bands to their hometown, so they booked some acts, printed flyers and started calling themselves the Pizza Punx.

Pizza Punx has since disbanded, though that wasn't the end for organizer Ian O'Connor. This year, he set up shop under a new name, Shock City, USA, and once more began welcoming nationally touring and even international acts to the North Bay.

Last month, Shock City debuted with a concert featuring Philadelphia punk band Sheer Mag, fresh off their set at Coachella. This weekend, two Seattle-based bands, girl-group La Luz and solo project Sick Sad World, grace the stage at Santa Rosa's Arlene Francis Center on June 4, with support from Oakland's Silver Shadows and local duo the Acharis.

For O'Connor, Shock City is a one-man, self-financed labor of love that continually excites and inspires him, even while it's burning a hole in his pocket. "It definitely drains all my time and money, but I can't imagine not doing it," says O'Connor. "I've never done anything in my life that felt this important. This is the one thing that feels like it's worth doing."

O'Connor's passion for sharing enlivening music extends beyond the punk-rock spectrum, evidenced by the upcoming La Luz concert, which will display an energetic and eclectic mix of surf, psychedelic, garage and post-punk.

Known for their ferocious live shows, La Luz headline the party with sunny, jangly upbeat melodies and rich four-part rock harmonies. Not to be outdone, Jake Jones' Sick Sad World is surprisingly bright in its guitar fuzz and pop hooks. Oakland's excellent Silver Shadows combine the best of '80s new wave synths and '90s post-punk reverb. Last but not least, the Acharis make a mix of electronic and noise rock with equal parts groove and grit.

"Part of the thing I want to do with Shock City is move out of just doing punk and rock and roll shows," says O'Connor. "I feel like we carved our own little niche with Pizza Punx, and now that's done and I want to move on to something new."

Later this summer, Shock City will host a diverse range of acts from Los Angeles rockers Gun Outfit in July to Barcelona's Belgrado in August.

"I love all kinds of music," O'Connor says. "And I want to just bring good music and art and culture to a place that is hungry for it."

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