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Lou Niles' Neighborhood

Local music needs advocates -- and to that end, Lou Niles more than does his part

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    San Diego's music scene always needs advocates -- and few work harder than Lou Niles. (Photo by The Joelsons)

    Local music needs champions -- people that are willing to listen, support, and spread the good word. Of course, ideally, it’d be great if those advocates also came in the form of radio stations, TV stations (raises hand), publications and blogs. After all, it takes a village, as they say. And to that end, you could say Lou Niles more than does his part.

    For those who may not be familiar with him, Niles took over 91x’s Loudspeaker after the show’s original host, Marco Collins, left the station in 1990.

    “I was always very active [in local music],” Niles told me via email recently, “I managed bands, put on events and shows and benefits, put out two Loudspeaker compilations, tour-managed bands and helped guide the music choices for the first two May Day festivals.”

    Niles also has the distinction of playing on San Diego airwaves, for the first time, many local acts that would go on to national prominence.

    “My era was full of amazing music but I picked what I played. [I was the] first to play Jewel, Blink-182, P.O.D., Three Mile Pilot, Rust, Inch, aMiniature, Boilermaker, the Rugburns, Gregory Page … and so many bands like Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Fishwife -- [they] were all regularly played on my show. I didn't just play music that would be ‘alternative,’ I played all genres: The Paladins, Earl Thomas, Bad Mood Zeus, Crash Worship, singers, punk, metal, electronic, goth, everything.”

    After hosting Loudspeaker through 1996, Niles and his wife Carly moved to LA to “really dive into the business” and worked in radio promotion, touring, artist development, publishing, music supervising, film and TV work. After nine years, they moved back to San Diego and started Love Machine Films (LMF). Since then, the couple has made more than 250 short films for nonprofit organizations -- and helped to raise more than $25 million for those causes.

    “LMF specializes in films that tell a story and help organizations get the word out about their mission and their cause,” Niles explained. “Carly is a skilled, award-winning storyteller, director, writer and editor -- and we have award-winning documentaries, including one with international distribution, ‘The Nasty Terrible T-Kid 170: Julius Cavero.’”

    Upon their return to San Diego, Lou resumed his appreciation of all things local music. He now contributes, once again, to 91x Loudspeaker on Sunday nights with Tim Pyles and regularly hosts/books several showcases around town under the banner “In Your Neighborhood with Lou Niles” -- which is also the name of the web-series he produces with LMF.

    “'In Your Neighborhood' is an idea I've had for many years,” he said. “The goal is to turn people on to new things or things they didn't know about … That is why I did Loudspeaker from ‘88 through ‘96 and why I DJed at clubs and did college radio; it’s why I still donate an incredible amount of my time to the scene and artists in the scene: I really want to help bands break and help people find bands I think have something.”

    His latest curated show -- which features Matt Lamkin & the Confirmation (formerly of the Soft Pack), Creepseed and Jimmy Ruelas (his album release, too) -- takes on the Belly Up in Solana Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

    LMF has been busy, too: At this year’s Oceanside Film Festival (which is currently running at the Star Theatre and the Sunshine Brooks Theatre through Aug. 13), they’ll be presenting not one but two films. On Saturday, Aug. 12 at 7:05 p.m., they’ll reveal their latest documentary, “Love Is the Answer” -- a film that “chronicles the experiences, dreams, and philosophies of seven dying individuals through reflective interviews, vintage home movies, and words of wisdom for the living.”

    They’ll also debut the latest episode of the “In Your Neighborhood with Lou Niles” web-series on Tuesday, Aug. 8, featuring none other than Jewel Kilcher. In a way, the short film ties Niles’ 30-year musical journey together.

    “I was the first person to play Jewel on the radio, by far,” he said. “She didn't even have a recording yet and I tell the story in the video. We talk about her coming on my show and playing. I taped the performance and then had that cassette to cue up and continue to play her songs on my show. Not long after that, she was recorded by [Michael] Halloran and others and then signed to Atlantic.”

    Funny how things come full circle. However, Niles is far from done spreading the word about San Diego music. In fact, it seems like he’s catching a mighty second wind. 

    “I can't help myself,” he said. “It’s in my soul to champion music I believe in.”

    For information and tickets to the Oceanside Film Festival, go here. For tickets to “In Your Neighborhood with Lou Niles” at the Belly Up with Matt Lamkin & the Confirmation, Creepseed and Jimmy Ruelas on Aug. 9, visit this link.

    Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.