Stage Left

Keith Damron’s instinct for promotion was developed by working in local venues like Pierce Ranch and Seaside’s now-defunct Alternative Café.

It’s been a long day at Bargetto Winery for Keith Damron. But still, he pauses for a moment and begins nodding his head when WUWU, the duo he’s booked for the night, pauses on a downbeat to let out an angelic harmony. It drowns out the cheesy “yacht jazz” eminitating from the neighboring Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

This captures what 29-year-old Damron has been doing for local music for a long time. In the middle of predictable live show and background noise, he offers the opposite – something that goes against the ebb-and-flow of Cannery Row. Now he’s doing it officially, under the moniker Left of the Dial, which launched Oct. 11 with a showcase at The Lab.

“It started at Pierce [Ranch Tasting Room], when I was booking shows and I had to think about the stage,” he says. Formerly of Pierce Ranch, Damron garnered a reputation after booking several shows that people normally wouldn’t associate with the quiet sanctity of tasting rooms: garage and surf rock, Afro beat, Americana… and yet it worked.

“With Pierce, it always felt like someone’s living room. I felt like I could do a lot there,” he says.

Getting the feel of the room is an important step to Damron’s curation process. At Bargetto, there is one allotted corner for music and ample noise to compete with. To him that means explosive solo acts or duos.

From there he thinks about timing. As a local musician himself, having played with Bogie and the Turtles and El Camino Sutra, Damron has networked with all sorts of musicians: local, out-of-town, signed and unsigned. He is also adept at reading tour schedules, then cold-messaging bands that have a couple days in between shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Monterey isn’t a major stop for music,” he says. “If I see they’re already on their way, I ask if they want to pick up an extra show.”

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Once he matches the band to the space, he thinks of other musicians, usually local: “I want to give opportunities for local acts to play with bands they wouldn’t usually share a bill with.”

From there, that’s how he figures out a show. The end results are a hodgepodge, including Mark Sultan with the Shoobies, Strange Ranger with Bedrooms and more.

Key for Left of the Dial shows is accessibility. Damron likes the idea of making more shows all-ages because he remembers how many he missed out on. And he’d never put a cover on a show that he wouldn’t be willing to pay for himself. “I think about the show as a whole, and what I would be happy paying.”

Follow LEFT OF THE DIAL shows at Instagram.com/_leftofthedial

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Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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