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Young Ignant Benches Take an Escorted Trip

High schoolers Ignant Benches just opened for Foster the People and they play Escorted Trips on Sept. 1

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    Courtesy of Ignant Benches
    Ignant Benches play Escorted Trips music and arts festival at Che Cafe on Sept. 1.

    Imagine being asked to open for Foster the People. Now, imagine you're still four to six years away from being legally able to enter Soda Bar -- where Foster the People recently held their Sacred Hearts Club party -- and co-owner Cory Stier still asks you to open for the indie-pop superstars.

    Such was the case for Chula Vista locals Ignant Benches, who range in age from 15 to 17 and range in style from the Strokes to Muse.

    It's thanks in part to the band's producer, Brian Karscig (Convoy, Louis XIV, the Killers), who has thrown his support behind wunderkinds Anson Kelley (vocals/guitar), Andy Tistoj (guitar), Isaak Jejjoni (bass) and Mauro Rocha (drums). 

    "We started playing together in 2014 when I was still in middle school, around seventh grade," Kelley told me over the phone last month. 

    "My cousin Andy, our guitarist, had a video game called Rocksmith 14 that we would play.... We'd jam every once in a while with our bassist Isaak, and then we got the opportunity to play in a talent show in eighth grade. We played that show and that solidified the band," he said.

    Fast forward four years and the band is playing bars and venues that even some veteran of-age groups have trouble getting into.

    While their next show is at SOMA on Friday, Aug. 10, Ignant Benches are fortunate enough to also be included on the lineup for Escorted Trips, a newly minted music and arts festival taking place at the Che Cafe on Sept. 1.

    Escorted Trips has a behemoth of a bill, with Foliage, Fashion Jackson, Ingonoir & Snapghost, Imagery Machine, Ethics, Retra, Nite Lapse, Sights and Sages, Miss New Buddha, Oak Palace, Contact, Trip Advisor, Monsoon Season and, of course, Ignant Benches all taking the stage from 2 p.m. to around midnight.

    The festival will also feature art from prominent San Diego musicians Katie Howard of Big Bloom and Dani Bell.

    "The concept came about when we were kind of bandying about name ideas. I lived in San Francisco for a while in the '90s, and I lived next to a house called Reality House West. Next to that house was a house called Escorted Trips. Essentially what it was -- and this has nothing to do with the festival; we're not implying that LSD use is needed for the festival.... Escorted Trips was a house that the hippies would go to and they would be escorted on an LSD trip. So, we thought, 'What better way to represent music?' We're taking the festivalgoers through a musical trip. The trip is all around San Diego and even into Tijuana, and we have a band from San Bernadino. We're taking everyone on a curated trip through the musical landscape of San Diego," said co-founder Joel Carrillo. 

    "We really tried to get a good representation of all the different types of acts that are available in [and around] San Diego," fellow co-founder Martin Sohikish added.

    And they've done a good job of that by poaching Foliage from San Bernadino, Ethics from Tijuana (featuring our own Josemar Gonzalez Lizarraga), Fashion Jackson from Ocean Beach, Miss New Buddha from San Diego proper and Ignant Benches from Chula Vista.

    Listen to all of these bands on the official Escorted Trips Spotify playlist here.

    "I’m a bit of an outsider; I'm in a band in San Diego, but I'm originally from the Bay Area. And I complained to Martin a lot, there’s no music scene here in San Diego; there isn't this, there isn't that -- I'd have to go to L.A. to see music. It turned out I was just ignorant. There just wasn't a platform where I could easily access those bands. And Martin's like, 'Come into the DIY scene, come watch shows with me, actually start playing locally and get to meet some of these bands.' And it turns out there's a great group of bands that are very talented that I just wasn't aware of," Carrillo said.

    Can we get a "duh"?

    With Escorted Trips, Carrillo, Sohikish and their third partner Christopher Gorrie are trying to provide a medium to promote what they see as an underserved market, and the Che Cafe -- with its long history in the punk and DIY scenes -- is the perfect fit to make it happen.

    "The Che is very willing to do big festivals like this. They're willing to provide volunteers for them.... The Che is such an iconic venue -- one of the most storied DIY venues on the West Coast, and it’s all-ages," Gorrie said. 

    A rowdy, all-ages crowd will definitely help Ignant Benches. The band may be young, but with the right support system, they have the potential to develop into something really special.

    Ignant Benches play Escorted Trips on Sept. 1 at the Che Cafe. You can get tickets here.

    Rutger Ansley Rosenborg has been an Associate Editor at NBC SoundDiego since 2016. Find out more here, or contact him here.