Local songbird Tori Roze has a very particular set of pipes with an onstage flair that’s second to none.
To be honest, the first time I heard Tori Roze and the Hot Mess live, I was pretty shocked to find out that they were from this neck of the woods.
We’re growing crazy good talent in this city!
This is a band that has the uncanny ability to transcend both gender and generational gaps by simply spot-on rock and blues numbers.
At their last show at Bar Pink on December 2, the band let their influences show by covering Amy Winehouse, Dionne Warwick, and MGMT. A little soulful, a little funky, and a whole lot of fun.
Recently I chatted a bit with Ms. Roze about her background, band, and attempt at reality tv stardom.
Let’s start off with a who’s who of your band. Who would you guys most like to share a bill with?
There are six of us: Johnny Alexander - guitar, Harley Magsino - bass, Serge McCoy - drums, Lee Clark (a.k.a. Mama Roze) - flute/backup vocals/added percussion, Jordan Morita - trombone, and myself on vocals/trumpet.
Who would we like to share a bill with? Oh man, there are SO many internationally: Janelle Monae, Sia, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Fitz & The Tantrums, Bjork, Alice Russell, Aloe Blacc, Ozomatli, Adele, Amy Winehouse (RIP), or Michael Jackson (RIP).
Your mom plays flute with you in your band. Who's idea was it to join forces?
Tori Roze: Once upon a time, my mom put her flute down for 10 years. She went pro at 15 years old and played her whole life through ... then she got busy and stopped. I was already playing as a duo with a buddy of mine and in the midst of assembling a band, I thought, hmm, why don't I ask my mom to just mill through the audience while we play and see how that goes. It went well obviously and I have been adamant about keeping her within the unit.
Do family spats ever influence the music or practicing?
Family spats NEVER interfere with anything band related, we don't really fight at the ages we are now, NOT TO MENTION, my mom is the bomb! We practice at my sister's house, my mom is there to keep us all in check as a unit, so it works out.
How, if at all, has your sexuality impacted your visibility in the music scene in San Diego and southern California? Have you found it harder/easier to get gigs around town?
Sexual orientation. It has been a double-edged sword for me, but mostly to the benefit of our band. There are so many venues in San Diego and we all have quite a few opportunities to play in in this here town ... many of which have only come to us due to my own personal association with those in my oriented community (San Diego Pride Festival, South Bay Pride Festival, Palm Springs Pride, Eden, Bourbon Street, Brass Rail, The Ruby Room, Portugalia, FlawLes events, Lavender Lens events, etc.).
By looking at me, most people assume just because I have long hair and dress like a "girl" that I am "not gay." I will not lie when I say that I use that to my advantage in the grander scheme of things because, hey man, I am a muse, think what you want from the audience, I could give a %$#!. I like my hair, I like makeup, I like girly clothes, so sue me!
More than anything I have made it a HUGE point to not allow sexual orientation into the room while making music/doing anything musically driven, it's just silly to separate things like that.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of gay musicians who have pigeon-holed themselves into a corner [within] the gay community, where there is no room to expand outward; we are not that, we will never be that. I am the only one in my band who is gay or bisexual and music is for everyone, so why put a damper on the stuff, if you can reach tons of people instead? I actually quit a band I was in because they would not play somewhere "gay," I wonder where they are now ... (internal laugh).
After trying out for The Voice, would you ever consider trying out for another talent reality show?
The endless "Have you ever/will you ever audition for...?" Little known fact: Reality shows are NOT based in reality. It's ALL politics and ratings, y’all. Reality shows are ONLY in their true form the first year they are made, after that it's a ratings show and I have no interest in being a "rating."
When I was 21 (circa 2005), I auditioned for American Idol. I rode a greyhound to San Francisco for 12 hours AND I had to take off rehearsal for the musical Hair I was starring in, only to find out that the whole thing was rigged for ratings. I watched at least 30 people who sang much better than me get turned away. I knew it was all a joke, because every single one of them was shoved off after their initial cattle-call audition (the entire stadium can hear you sing during that round, by the way).
No longer mystified, I swore to myself that I would never do another audition of that sort ... then NBC San Diego offered me the chance to win a VIP audition and I thought, "Ok, maybe this will be different and why not just do it because I can and people would kill for this opportunity, be thankful."
So I auditioned, they told me I had a call-back, I took all of my information (I was the only one they kept in my group) and then, nothing. Big fat nothing. That's Hollywood though, ain't it?
As a musician, I am far more legitimate in the actual work aspect of music than by making it in this world simply by "being in the right place at the right time." I work very hard for this band to be successful and I am not about to let our musical worth be dictated by glitz and glamour, we shall leave the opinion of our music up to youse guys, not a Hollywood dictatorship.
So longwindedly, the answer is no, I have no intention of auditioning for yet another reality-based singing show (habha, that totally rhymed).
I have no desire to give up my rights as a singer/songwriter/trumpeter/business person to become a "pop star" puppet. The music we make as a band is soulfully satisfying (no pun intended); we plan on keeping it that way.
I caught your last show at Bar Pink on December 2, how did you feel that show went?
The show at Bar Pink was unreal! It started off with my bass player's new band, called bLUMPy. In a nutshell, they totally killed it. Super crazy cool jazz fusion, it made me feel funny inside like the unopened capillaries in my brain were being awakened. The whole audience was in a state of wonder watching them (imagine everyone's heads slightly tilted to the side, due to the fact that they didn't know what was happening to them).
We hit the stage around 11 pm and it was packed, much to our delight. It's so nice to get to a place in your career where people actually start listening and the attentive nature of the audience that night was all love. In my opinion, it was one of the best shows we have ever played.
After our most recent tour, I truly feel that we have become a family unit and it's extremely apparent in our musical performances. Cohesion baby, yeah! Four years later, our shows are only starting to blow our own minds and THAT my friend is what this here business is all about. You gotta have fun with it!
What has been your favorite moment onstage to date?
[It] was very random. We recently did our "Tour De Hip," spanning from San Diego to Seattle. On that tour, we did some seriously old-school style gigs, where we played in a number of record stores, one of which being Rasputin in Berkeley.
Rasputin has two floors, so when they park a band in there to play, they put them up on the mezzanine level overlooking the entire store. First of all, it was the coolest thing to be overlooking not only the store, BUT the street as well (Telegraph Ave). People were literally being brought in off the street to see what they had been hearing at a distance.
Secondly, I went to school at UCSC, so all of my friends who have never seen me do my thang were in attendance, which made for quite the "love" show. Even better, as we were setting up, I came to find that Janelle Monae AND The Roots had both played in the exact same spot where we were about to play.
Directly across from where I stood, I got to stare at the promotional posters they used for their in-store performances and it was at that moment that I thought, "Man, we are in the right place, we must be doing something right." It was also one of the best shows we have ever played. It just felt right all around.
What are you future plans for Tori Roze and The Hot Mess?
We’ve got a new album to be recorded within the next few months, musical evolution, a music video or two, BIGGER/BETTER shows (tons lined up at the moment), TOURING (we go once a year to somewhere new, so we are going to go three new places in 2012), open for someone major, take over the world ... in that order.
If you missed Tori Roze and The Hot Mess at Bar Pink last week, then I surely do suggest you check out their show December 9th at Winston's in Ocean Beach. It’s their last local show for 2011!
The Weekly To-Do
To date, I’ve always wanted to go to a zombie walk, but I miss them every time they lurch and stumble through San Diego. If you’re like me and want to prepare for the next one, I suggest you try out a Blood FX Master Class tonight. For $25, you can go to Twiggs Coffeehouse where you’ll learn the tricks of the trade to looking truly terrifying and disgusting.
On Friday night, check out Brewfestivus at Karl Strauss. Wear an ugly sweater and help this local staple celebrate the release of Josh Bernstein’s new book, “Brewed Awakening.”
Of course, as mentioned above, I also think you would be wise to hit up the last 2011 show for Tori Roze and the Hot Mess at Winston’s on Friday night.
On Saturday, there are a couple of options for you.
First, you might want to head over to the Jingle Bell Walk/Run 5k for Arthritis happening in Balboa Park. It’s exercise for you, and a chance to help donate to a cause sorely in need of research funding. So, why not?
Or, you might want to check out North Park’s Ray at Night. Touting itself as the largest monthly art walk in San Diego and with art from over 30 shops and vendors, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Or, another great ticket this weekend is 91X Wrex the Halls. I found out about this show too late and now I’m mad at myself, because I’m missing one of my current favorite artists, Florence and the Machine. Death Cab for Cutie and Social Distortion are also stand-outs for this 2-day music smorgasbord. If you don’t have plans already, I suggest you get your tickets now before they’re gone!
You have two pretty snazzy events to choose from on Tuesday.
First off, Meal on Wheels is hosting Food Truck Wars at two different car dealerships. I’ve only sampled a handful of food truck fare, but the lobster grilled cheese sandwich from the Devilicious truck is outstanding!
Or, if you’re watching that girlish figure for the holidays, how about you just pop over to Ruby Tuesdays. Producer Tori Roze has a killer line-up for this week, featuring Bronwen Wade, Half, and Wild Older Women.
The Venue Menu
Peruse this list at your leisure—These are the hottest lesbian nights around town.
Thursdays - Repent at Rich’s Nightclub.
Fridays – Soul Kiss at The Flame.
Saturdays – Femme Fatale at Numbers.
Sundays – Ladies Night at Bourbon Street.
All Day, Every Day – Check out the action at Gossip Grill.
Sandy is a staff writer and lesbian social columnist for SDGLN. She holds a BA in English from San Diego State University yet works mainly in the healthcare industry. Sandy previously worked as a staff writer and copy editor for San Diego State's independent and student-lead The Daily Aztec reviewing concerts and films. She enjoys iced coffee, orangutans, and Balboa Park. But then again, who doesn't? Sandy can be reached at BeanScene92103@gmail.com.