Wake Up, Chino Hills!

Posted July 31, 2008 in Feature Story

Get a few minutes with Phil Pirrone and you’ll quickly find out that he’s one of those polysemous, jack-of-all-trades, do-it-yourselfers that always has a dozen irons in the fire. The 24-year-old Corona resident has thrown shows, released albums, signed with a major label, toured across the nation since he was 17, opened and operated his own label, and even set up a recording studio. 


But all these accomplishments haven’t been enough. Pirrone still has another line on his wish list: He always wanted to throw a music festival. And come this week, he’s going to get his wish. It’s a sink-or-swim proposition for this visionary, entrepreneur, and artist, who plans to launch the inaugural installment of what he’s anticipating will manifest into an annual event—the Longhair Illuminati Art and Music Festival—named after the independent record label he’s been running for the past few years.


Pirrone sees a number of advantages in cramming a host of bands, artists and other creative types from the region into the Golden Palms Plaza in Chino Hills this Saturday. For one thing, it’ll allow him to present new music from largely unknown acts to the masses in one fell swoop. And, as far as he’s concerned, hopefully serve as a catalyst to stirring some additional creative juices in the immediate locale, which is known more for being a bedroom community than a hotbed of artistic activity. 


“This is sort of my way of presenting myself into that world and solidifying myself as someone who really cares about live music . . . bringing people together to forget about their daily bullshit and everything that life shits on you,” he says. “Everything piles up and piles up and sometimes you’ve got to shake it off. And you need a gathering of beautiful souls, beautiful music, beautiful art, and food. You need to get out sometimes and just shake a leg. And this is my contribution to that philosophy, I guess. I want the label to be synonymous with genuine, artistic creations that knows no boundaries, and with this music festival that we plan on doing every year.”


Pirrone truly believes in establishing a sense of community for all to participate in. He seems to be aching to rally the talented troops of artists and musicians from their local hideouts. This, of course, stems from Pirrone’s own participation in the music scene, including his most prominent and visible post as a one-time member of rock act A Static Lullaby, arguably one of the most successful bands to spawn from the reaches of the Corona Expressway.


Pirrone, who formed A Static Lullaby while still in high school in Chino Hills, exited the band shortly after their signing to Sony/Columbia, and formed his current band Casket Salesmen with cohort Nate Lindeman. He subsequently started the Longhair Illuminati record label in 2005. 


“I wanted music to be my life and I decided three years ago that being a dude in a band with the way the music industry is going is quite possibly the most insecure form of sustaining a career in this business,” he says. “Some may say that starting a label was the stupidest thing I could’ve done, the worst timing to start a label. But even if we just go all digital at some point, or just a management community, or just a stepping stone, that’s fine. We just want to be some kind of community where musicians can exist and flourish and not get discouraged because there’s a lot of shit out there that discourages musicians these days.”


And Pirrone hasn’t seen a need to get discouraged as it’s been a slow yet definitely steady growth for the label, which has a handful of releases under its belt, including the most recent from Ride The Boogie and Your Highness Electric in June. Plus, there are also a host of prospective catalog entries in the coming months, mainly stemming from the rockin’ end of the music spectrum. 


“Over the last year, we recorded a Mongoloid record in our studios,” he says. “We just finished the Auditory Aphasia record in our studios. We also just signed a band called Jesus Make The Shotgun Sound.” 


Both Mythmaker and JMTSS have been recording their forthcoming releases, and there are plans for an Ojos Rojos split release with another Longhair Illuminati band, to be named later. Mongoloid and JMTSS will drop this fall as digital-only releases, but January 2009 could find the big push in releasing Mongoloid, JMTSS, Mythmaker and Ojos Rojos split in their physical variants. 


So, why the emphasis on digital releases before release of the tangible products? Pirrone notes that the label and bands are so new, going immediately to retail wouldn’t make for a sound financial decision. “The shipping costs, the manufacturing costs, the endcap fees, everything you incur by releasing a record to retail, it doesn’t make any sense to do it unless you’ve got a band that you know people are actually going to go out and buy the record,” he says. “When you’ve got a band like Mongoloid, no one knows who they are—no one. They don’t have a story. We have to build a story. So, we release the record digitally so it’s out there.”


And the second phase of the Longhair Illuminati plan is being able to not just present recorded music, but the live iteration via the festival, featuring Casket Salesmen and Honey (fronted by Lukas Nelson of 40 Points) as headliners, supported by the aforementioned Mongoloid, Mythmaker, Jesus Makes The Shotgun Sound, the madcap loop-collective Auditory Aphasia, Ojos Rojos, and a few others plus a separate DJ stage. In addition, several visual artists will complement the audible experience, including the works of Jeanette Sawyer, Luis Vera, Eric Vasquez, Bryan Barnes, Kelly Wager, Janelle Molle and Alex Luna. (On Luna, Pirrone says, “She’s bringing a full-sized refrigerator that’ll be totally interactive. The inside will be lined with cake icing.”) And lest we forget, acrobatics, a yoga booth, a recycling center, a photo station will all be squeezed into the plaza. Somehow. The festivities launch at noon and should be over by 10PM.


“It’s going to be something for the mind, the body and the soul,” says an enthused Pirrone. “Something eclectic, creative and beautiful. Something to kind of wake the IE up. There’s so much staleness in the Inland Empire . . . all this bullshit. I wanted to bring something eclectic, something fresh, that’s not silly. There’s something for everybody to just come together and feel everything, and be open, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!” 



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