Few musicians from San Diego County have had the impact of Gary Heffern. He was more than just the singer in a band. As the frontman in the late 70’s/early 80’s group, The Penetrators.
He became one of the pioneers of the modern era San Diego music scene. While taking his, as well as his bands music to both local and national stages.
He has undoubtedly influenced numerous musicians to follow in his path. Especially with his larger than life stage presence but not limited to his inspiring words. Including, his views on Romance, politics, humanity, social causes, friendship and many more. It’s all there in the words he sang with every song.
Now a resident of Finland, Heffern returns to the U.S. for a pair of shows at The Casbah.
Sadly Heffern has decided to hang up his rock ‘n’ roll shoes following these upcoming shows:
January 18 with The Penetrators at the farewell show. January 28, in a solo performance backed by an all-star band.
His reasoning behind his decision for the final performance is a mix of health and logistical reasons.
“I got into a car accident after my last shows. I have days where i am in constant pain,” he explained.
However, he continues on with, “I have medicine for it, but still, there are days where I just have to be flat on my back.”
He explains the voyage from Finland is also a long exhausting trip. “I am not getting any younger, and trips abroad make it really difficult,” Heffern explained.
“And I think everyone, everywhere nowadays is stressed about travel, especially in the states.” Hence his only having two performances. “I knew The Penetrators show would sell out, but I also wanted to say my own “goodbye” in my own way.”
For his solo show, he has organized an amazing line up of some of our very own local musicians. With opening performances from legendary punk and mod groups. Including The Dils, The Executives, as well as a few surprise special guests.
Meanwhile, the phrase “all-star” gets bandied about all too often. Although in the particular case, Heffern’s band for this show, it’s accurate.
Performing with Heffern on the night will be the top trending of the area’s top musicians, all internationally known, including singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill and violinist Alicia Previn as well as David Doyle (The Unknowns), Ray Brandes (The Tell-Tale Hearts), Kevin Ring (Manual Scan), David Fleminger (Alvino & The Dwells) and Victor Penalosa (The Flamin’ Groovies / The Phantoms)
“They are all people who are great musicians and have big hearts,” Heffern said.
“I have played with them before, but most importantly they are friends and accept me for who I am,” he stated. Does his band have a name?
“No, the band does not have a name. Other than perhaps “The Last Waltz,” which is stolen from The Band,” he said in a good-nature.
Heffern gives a preview of the night’s set list: “I’ll be playing solo tunes, band tunes, covers, new songs,” he said.
“I will be doing a lot of stuff no one has heard, also some spoken word from my book “Unholy Dreams,” some cover songs that mean a lot to me. and a grand finale that I hope will blow peoples minds.”
For this visit, Heffern will be back in San Diego for a month.
“The first week basically is trying to adjust to the weather and time difference.”
He notes that it will be a big change in scenery for him. “When I arrive in San Diego, back home there will only be 3 hours of daylight and it will be probably 30 below. It’s two overnight flights to get there, Exhausting.”
Might he return on a more permanent basis?
“I think I will look around and see how people are and how the political climate is when I am there to determine whether I can either afford to live there or not,” he said.
“I have been in Finland simply too long, I live modestly. but owe very little on my house.I’ve been putting aside money each month for hopefully being able to pay off my place there and do it before my birthday, as well as do some repairs. But I also want to speak to some people in San Diego about how they feel/gauge everything.”
Heffern has had a lot on his mind and these final shows address that. “I feel like the world is hurting a lot. and most people just don’t care,” he said.
“They go about their day, most are struggling, and have little hope for the future. So I am hoping with words and songs to bring some comfort, healing, tears, joy, and camaraderie. But most of all to remind everyone that we are all part of each other. and should care about each other.”
He considers some of life’s big questions. “How many people are gone? How soon is my time? I think about these things… have I become a better person? am I leaving this campground cleaner and in better shape than it was when I got here?” he said. “Well, these shows are my statements and vows to at least try.”
Looking back at decades of live music – what will he miss most about live performance?
“The audience interaction,” Heffern remarked. “The smell and the stink of the clubs, the people, even the smell of the rehearsal spaces put me in a trance” he adds.
He continues on “Even when rehearsing i feel like i am transcending into the song, just because of everything and the feeling of belonging to something, even if just for a moment. I miss that. For just an hour or so we are a community again,” he said.
Check out the website here: www.casbahmusic.com