There are very few people that come into this world with the level of notoriety, admiration, and appreciation from family, friend, colleagues and fans that Steve Soto had. Also known as “The nicest guy in punk rock”, Steve was beloved by all that met him. He had a smile that would light up a room and made each person he spoke to feel like a friend.
Steve was a gifted musician with about three thousand different band projects to his name (okay, that might be over exaggerating but Steve didn’t know what it was like to take time off. He was a true “working musician” in every sense of the word). Starting the iconic 80’s punk band, Agent Orange, at 15 years old in 1979 set the tone for the rest of his accomplished career. His resume includes, but not limited to bands like Adolescents, Joyride, Manic Hispanic, 22 Jacks, Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts, Black Diamond Riders, A Flock of Goo Goo and Punk Rock Karaoke.
Sadly, on June 27, 2018, Steve Soto left this world too early and died from natural causes. Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard Music, Kerrang! and news outlets all around the world announced his death which shows what a foundational building block he was to the music scene and community. He left behind a musical legacy for us all to enjoy and relish in.
This Saturday, August 22nd at 5 PM PST, there will be a livestream tribute for Steve Soto benefiting the National Independent Talent Organization and Save Our Stages.
During this COVID-19 time of social distancing with no concerts we forget of the many, many other people affected by our current circumstances; the venue workers. Bands, sound guys, security, bar tenders, lighting techs, stage hands, concert promoters, booking agencies and the like have all felt the hard truth of being out of work with no end in sight to when business will get back to whatever normal will be. Worst of all, the venues themselves have all taken a huge hit with no shows and no customers which means no profit and no money to pay rent. We will end up seeing some of our most beloved venues closed down because of the spread of this virus.
“The early days were amazing because we were part of this scene that was really organic … The major labels and the media wanted nothing to do with us so that scene was able to happen in Southern California outside of the music business machine.”
Photo by John Gilhooley Circa 2013
Less venues also means less shows for touring bands to perform at which makes it more expensive for bands to travel to different areas. These are tough times for everyone but having no live music affects us all.
I spoke with Efrem Schultz of Death by Stereo and Manic Hispanic – of which Steve Soto played guitar and background vocals for. He had this to say about the current music industry predicament and his dear friend:
“Kathy Mason is the brains behind this show. She’s working her magic with Social Sanctuary to make this happen. I’m a giant Bad Cop/Bad Cop fan so I’m really excited to see them all there, they are so good! There are also some big names that haven’t been announced yet.“
I remember when Death by Stereo played a live stream at this same venue, Social Sanctuary, the visual effects in that place were astronomical! Since there’s no audience to distract your eye, it would look a little weird to have it be plain with some boring lights. But the jumbo-tron playing in the background and the amazing lighting production and camera work makes it so professional!
Schultz added… “the production teams are visual artists in every way. They are all super professional and everyone wears a mask, keeps their distance and each production crew member works in their own station behind an acrylic barrier, they even have someone to sanitize the dressing rooms whenever you leave to help keep you safe. It’s a real privilege to be working with so many great people in so many different aspects.“
Looking back Efrem said “Steve just knew so many people and had such a huge friend group so when he passed, there was a big void and so many people stopped seeing each other at his shows. I didn’t realize that I only saw those friends at his shows. This tribute show will be a cool way to get those friends together, and those that aren’t performing get to watch at home, it will bring some love and closeness back and help us all feel some togetherness in a time when we can’t.“
Schultz added… “Steve transcended generations. He never stopped. He reached a really vast audience and he brought a lot of people together and turned a lot of people on to different things even they didn’t know they would be into. When you saw him, you could just talk to him, he was so down to earth. I watched him play my whole life and I really idolized him. I once went to an art show in San Francisco many, many years ago and he just walked up to me and said, ‘What’s up, Efrem? Dude, I have a couple friends tell me I should know you; we’d probably be friends! Take down my number.’ He was that cool. You could go to any corner of the globe and find someone with a story like mine. I think that’s one of the many reasons he’s so loved. I was lucky to be there and be his band mate for many years. “
Although, not performing but also a very close insider to Steve was Mike Cambra, drummer for Adolescents. He shared with me:
“Steve was the real deal. I learned a lot from him. I mean, he pretty much started Orange County punk, I wouldn’t have the scene I grew up in if it weren’t’ for him and the songs he wrote. It’s inspiring that he never stopped, always had the passion. The punk scene, especially the Southern California one owes a lot to him. I miss him and he’ll never be forgotten.“
We completely agree, Mike!
There’s another Mike punk fans know, he’s Mike Magrann of CH3 (Channel 3). We recently caught up with Magrann to talk about the show and Steve specifically.
Magrann is also a long-time friend and sang Soto’s praises. he said… “He’s always been the constant of the Adolescents which I consider The Beatles of Orange County punk, beyond that he was always just a true musician, promoter, studio guy, tour manager, his whole life was music and it just infected everyone else around him. He saw the true joy in music and made his living with music and he would get home from a tour and grab his acoustic guitar and hit the road again. He was just a tireless road worker so he got the respect of everybody and was just a genuinely great guy. He would always have time to just sit down and talk to you about anything. That’s why it’s so fitting that everyone choosing a Soto song for this benefit to save the stage is because fitting. If anyone knew about being a full-time musician and relying on those stages and clubs it would be him. They are just the cultural hubs of each community and if we lose those it’s going to be disastrous so I just think it’s really fitting that we honor Steve Soto as a way of saving our venues”
Bottom line, this is destined to be an epic night of punk rock in the OC. Other great bands on the bill include the aforementioned CH3 and Death By Stereo… also playing are Bap Cop/Bad Cop, Left Alone, Manic Hispanic, Swinging Utters, Greg Antista & the Lonely Street and many, many more. It’ll also serve as an early birthday for Soto who would have turned 57 on August 23rd.