And the Winner is….Bridger

by Lisa Morgan

Sunday night at The Hood Bar and Pizza was further confirmation of the incredible depth of talent rising up from within the Coachella Valley, as intense and extreme as the desert landscape itself.   A packed house and cheering onlookers was evidence enough, but witnessing the focus and electric energy stirred up in the judges, people who have dedicated their lives to music and the art of inspiration, was absolute confirmation.


Mike Palm:  Original member, lead vocalist and guitar player for Agent Orange, an American punk rock band formed in Orange County, California in 1979. The band was one of the first to mix punk rock with surf music.  Palm has been an iconic punk rock warlord in the music industry for over 30 years.


Esjay Jones:  Jones is a Platinum selling South African artist with seven number one hits.  She works in Los Angeles with top producers, songwriters and artists, including Krewella, Alien Ant Farm, Rihanna, Justin Tranter (Fall Out Boys “Centuries”) Trey Vittetoe, Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s) Brian Kennedy, Mike Elizondo, JR Rotem, Mitch Allan, Toby Gad, The Underdogs, Olivia Holt, Pia Toscano, Lorialla and many more. She also specializes in artist development.

Christian Sesma:  Sesma is an independent film maker who has been featured at the Palm Springs Film Festival as well as other film festivals throughout the world.  Sesma has made 9 feature films, all in the action or action/comedy genres, four of which are releasing worldwide in 2016.  Sesma has consistently featured the music of local musicians in his films. He is currently in production on two new films with Universal Studios.

Kristen Reinhagen Ortiz:   Ortiz is the talent booker and promoter for the nationally known Date Shed concert venue and Empire Music Ventures, which includes the annual Rhythm, Wine and Brew Festival.  For several years, she has been witness to internationally and nationally touring bands and what makes them great and has deep insight into what moves people in the concert and music festival arenas.


“It is always a pleasure being surrounded by people that love and support music and musicians. Round one showcased four bands with different levels of musicianship and talent. Music is not something that anyone can ever judge – it is art, it’s an expression and it’s personal. I greatly enjoyed all performers and look forward to seeing them on bigger bills.” – Esjay Jones

“Last night’s battle of the band style competition was a great kick off. The amount of talent on stage was insane, and everyone rocked hard.  I will definitely use some of these talented musicians in soundtracks for upcoming projects.”  Christian Sesma

“Words can’t quite describe how impressed I was with all four bands. CMF’s have a sound so tight you would think they had been together for years. Bridger is one bad ass band that’s going places. Dan Dillinger absolutely shreds and their high energy was as intense as their sound. Female bass player in Sunday funeral….the bomb! And everybody should have a little taste of Gutter Candy.”  Kristen Reinhagen Ortiz

“I had a great time at the showcase! I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was a new experience for me. I was surprised by the diversity and originality of all of the bands. I love the Hood Bar, and it was a pleasure to be able to hang out and enjoy the music. Thanks for inviting me! And I would definitely have Bridger open for Agent Orange.” Mike Palm

WHAT I HAVE TO SAY (for what it is worth):

Classy Mother Fuckers (CMFs):  It is never easy being the first band in any competition or showcase, but the Classy Mother Fuckers (aka “CMFs” for the more tender hearted) set the bar like road dogs!  The youngest band in the lineup by a landslide, they are evidence and inspiration that the desert’s music scene has a strong future to match the foundation laid by other DIY desert based bands such as Dali’s Llama, Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man, Queens of the Stone Age and Unsound (to name a few). The raw talent on that stage dropped jaws and earned respect in a venue that has witnessed the best of the best.

Gutter Candy:  Glam rock lives and is as entertaining and inspiring as it ever has been.  Shawn Mafia, tight leopard print pants, big hair, leather vest adorned with band pins and rock and roll bling, is an entertainer’s entertainer, one who can win over the toughest of crowds.  By putting themselves so fearlessly far out there, Gutter Candy earned their place in our hearts by simply allowing us to get over ourselves.   Backed by a band seasoned by a lifetime of musical passion, Mafia is as much about making people smile and feel crazy good, as he is about the music.  The stage was too small for this kind of courage and musicianship, so it spilled over onto us all, and we were better for it.

Sunday Funeral:  Lead by Justin Ledesma who has tenaciously carried this band through many reincarnations while staying true to his own music and sound, we saw yet more diversity in the musical flavors the high and low desert of Southern California have to offer.  As original as you can get without going off the relatable charts, I am ALWAYS impressed by Ledesma’s musical intellect and how he’s able to translate it through whatever combinations he brings together as Sunday Funeral. This band was all heart, and we were all impressed by this band’s performance as well as its huge looming potential.

Bridger:  THIS BAND! What more can I say about this band that has not already been written?  A family affair… an absolutely incredible, contagiously electric, beautiful family affair on and off the stage, THIS BAND ultimately and deservedly, won the event and moves on to the finals.  THIS BAND blew my mind a year ago; this night, they incinerated it.  The first thing that came over all who watched, like an unexpected tsunami, was the magic of their pure joy.  It flooded from the stage and into the venue the minute they began to play.  Bridger is what happens when love, inspiration, character, work ethic, raw talent and purpose come together in their purest forms.  They were created to do this and they did so brilliantly.  It would be hard to fathom them getting any better, but knowing them, they will continue to strive to better themselves. THIS BAND truly deserves the large arena.  THIS BAND renewed the sense of awe in power punk, rock and roll in all of us. THIS BAND, simply put, RAWKED!