The Sunset Strip has always attracted people who are passionate about music – from musicians and club promoters to writers and super fans. Brent X Mendoza is one of those people whose passion for music has translated into a career that includes working as a promoter, band manager and more recently Viper Room marketing director and contributing writer for TheSunsetStrip.com.
Preparing to celebrate his upcoming milestone birthday with a benefit show at the Viper Room this Friday, “Mr. Sunset Strip” reveals what he’s learned from this legendary boulevard, who he would pick to headline this year’s Sunset Strip Music Festival and which up-and-coming artist you should have on your “must hear” list.
Get to know more about the O.C. native and the man behind those weekly “Picks of the Week.”
While prepping for this interview, I did a Google search of Brent Mendoza. Here are some of the things I discovered: You love “music, going out with friends, meeting new people and just living life lol.” You’re “currently working on being a music producer and starting a career as one.” You graduated from Barstow High School in 2009. Does that sound about right?
[laugher] I didn’t realize there were that many Brent Mendozas in the world. It’s a pretty unique combination of names.
While those things may not be true for this Brent Mendoza, you have worked at the Viper Room, The Roxy, Key Club, Dukes, Terners, the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Are there any places we’re missing?
The Cat Club. I think I worked two shifts at the Cat Club momentarily when they decided to change their name to the Cat Pub. They were serving food and were open during the daytime.
And you write for Patch.com, The Roxy and Viper Room blogs.
The Sunset Strip "Picks of the Week" are being reposted on Patch, which is good extra exposure for The Strip and all the clubs.
The Roxy I’ve been doing for a while. Mostly I write artist interviews. [There’s] a series I started called “Five Questions,” which is generally for sort of up-and-coming artists. [The goal is to] try to get to know new artists; ask more fun questions. And for Viper, I maintain their blog as well.
Because of this vast experience working on The Sunset Strip and covering it, you’re sometimes referred as “Mr. Sunset Strip.” How did a young boy growing up in the O.C. turn into “Mr. Sunset Strip”? What was it that brought you here?
When I was 18 I moved to Santa Barbara to go to school. There I met a band and started managing them, and I was booking shows in Santa Barbara that [I couldn’t attend] because I was 18 and they were 21 [and older venues].
The band eventually wanted to move to Los Angeles and I moved with them. I kept going to school. I graduated from USC Thornton School of Music with a bachelor in music industry. In the meantime, I was bartending at the Viper Room. You bartend four nights a week, watching four bands a night, and you quickly learn which bands are good and who’s bringing in people.
Then I started booking shows. I had a night called “Overdose at the Viper Room.” It was a monthly residency. From there I worked at various clubs and the [Sunset Strip] Music Festival and eventually writing for TheSunsetStrip.com.
Is there anything you’ve learned from The Sunset Strip during your vast experience working here?
I know most of the key “players,” which is helpful when wrangling interviews or getting things done. I generally know who to talk to.
There’s probably a lot of easier jobs to do, but you do this because it’s your passion. You do it because you have to. You wouldn’t be satisfied or comfortable in another line of work not related to music or entertainment.
About those the Sunset Strip "Picks of the Week," how do you select them? And do you accept bribes?
"Picks of the Week" is a careful balancing act. As much as I can, it’s who has the best show, in my opinion, which is subjective. I tend to heavily lean toward rock oriented music.
[I start with] who has the best show and then sort of build around that. I try to include as many of the venues, clubs and businesses as possible. Do I accept bribes? Having a good relationship, you know, if its friends of mine, it definitely doesn't hurt.
Who has been your favorite person to interview while working as a correspondent for TheSunsetStrip.com?
Adam Carolla was a huge one for me. I have been listening to him on “Love Line” since I was 13, 12. So, growing up and listening to someone for ten-plus years, and then finally getting to interview them is a big deal.
And Melissa Auf der Maur who played bass for both Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, two bands that I grew up with and were huge in my teen years. Even though she’s not as well known on her own, for me getting to interview someone that I grew up listening to is a huge deal.
You just mentioned Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins being two bands that you grew up with. Are there are any other artists or musicians who helped inspire you to pursue a music-related career, aside from the band you were managing in college?
I don’t know if there’s an artist in particular. I was huge into music, Nirvana, growing up. My walls were plastered with band posters.
I did make a really horrible attempt at picking up guitar at one point, and after a few lessons you either take to it or you don’t. So, not being a musician, sort of the next best thing is being a patron of the arts or being able to put yourself in that world and help artists you find to be worthwhile or talented.
You have a big birthday coming up. We won’t say your age, but that you were born in the zodiac year of the dog.
We’ll say “E.T.” came out that year.
As part of your birthday celebration, you’re planning a huge party at the Viper Room on Friday, Feb. 17 that will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Can you tell us about the artists that will be performing and why you selected this charity?
The artists are all good friends of mine, and besides that, they are my favorite artists. This is the first time ever in my 10-plus years of booking shows that I’ve gotten the exact lineup of every band that I went after. Every band confirmed.
The headliner is a band called I Will Never Be the Same, which is sort of an industrial Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails-esque band, Into The Presence, 8mm, Gina & The Eastern Block, Omniflux, which is the drummer from Sabrosa Purr, and she’s also in a band called Big Black Delta that opened up for M83. This is her solo debut. It’s some of the most amazing music I’ve heard in a long time. I’m really excited that I got her to commit to doing this show.
The charity was personal. Growing up, my cousin passed away from leukemia at the age of 12; he was right around my same age. He was cared for at Children’s Hospital. Me and my family spent a lot of time there, and ever since then we’ve continued to support Children’s Hospital. I do one show every year for my birthday, and it’s always been about having a good time. It’s never been about the money. So, this being a more important birthday, I figured that I should have the money go to something more worthwhile.
If someone wants to bring you a gift for your birthday, any tips on what to bring/not to bring?
Paying their admission fee, that will be donated to charity, is all I'm really hoping for. Plus the Viper probably won't allow any gifts of booze to be brought in. Clubs tend to frown on patrons doing the BYOB thing.
You’ve been with the Sunset Strip Music Festival since the first year, assisting with everything from promotions to day-of set up to working as a talent escort. Recently, the dates for SSMF 2012 were announced (Aug. 16-18). Who would you pick to headline this year’s fest?
I guess the most obvious choice would be Guns N’ Roses because of their history with The Strip, and they’re touring. That seems like an obvious choice.
Radiohead has always been one of my favorites, but they have absolutely nothing to do with The Sunset Strip.
Any up-and-coming bands to keep an eye on?
I can’t say it enough, Omniflux. Mahsa Zargaran is her name. She has an incredibly interesting back story. She grew up in Iran, never even heard Western music – The Beatles or anything – until she was 15 and moved to the States. And now she’s playing in three successful bands and writing and recording her own music that’s amazing. That would be my biggest one to watch.
You’ve seen a lot of shows on The Sunset Strip. Any favorites?
Smashing Pumpkins at the Viper was ridiculous. A band that plays – you know plays arenas and 2,000 seat venues – playing a 200 person capacity room. Getting to see [shows that intimate] on a regular basis.
And as you look back on 30 years of troublemaking and a lot of time on The Sunset Strip, what’s the one Sunset Strip story that really stands out in your mind as the best? You created this question. Now it’s coming back to get you.
Oh man, should have seen this one coming… What comes to mind, a lot of things you probably can’t print, legally. Lots of run-ins with celebrities, and that sort of boring cliché stuff…
This past music festival, I was doing my usual job wrangling the talent — getting the artists from the stage to the media lounge, and to the signing booth, etc. — and Gavin Rossdale from Bush decided that he wanted to walk the festival grounds from one end to the other, instead of taking our waiting golf cart.
So that was a complete nightmare for me, as far as trying to sort of keep mobs of people away and keep him on time for where he was supposed to be. He’s a super nice guy that wanted to stop and sign autographs and take pictures for each and every single person that approached him, but finally it got to the point where they were supposed to be on stage like five minutes ago… So I sort of had to be the hard ass and start yelling at people, "No more autographs!"
He is quite dreamy though…
Well, cheers to you, Mr. Mendoza.
Photos courtesy of Genie Sanchez, www.totallylikeduh.com.