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Angels Roost is a band on the rise. Could you catch them at their first Randsburg appearance? L to R: Bronson Slaughter, Valerie Stone, and Pete Tebow. / Courtesy Photo

Living ghost town comes alive for Old West Day, September. 16

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–  The Living Ghost Town of Randsburg will be rockin’ with live music from some of the most popular bands in our region. Visitors will come from near and far during the 21st Annual Randsburg Old West Day 2023 on Saturday, September 16. The event, sponsored by Rand District Merchants and Volunteers, will feature their traditional pancake breakfast, games, costume contest, prizes, car and bike shows, petting zoo, food and drink vendors, Old West re-enactments, and, new this year, saloon-girl dancers who call themselves Country Burlesque.

The pre-party for Old West Day starts inside The Joint on Friday, September 15, at 6 p.m. with Donny Prior and the Red Light Bandits. Headlining at 10 am on Saturday, outside next to The Joint, is Angels Roost, followed by Station Street. Up the hill on Saturday at the Cottage Hotel features Controlled Chaos AV playing from 10 am to 3 pm.

Friday night, Donnie Prior and the Red Light Bandits will be playing favorite Classic Country and Classic Rock music. Prior has a long history with Randsburg. His family moved to Randsburg in the 1920s. Prior went to school there and graduated from the Randsburg school. One could write a book about Prior and his experience playing with well-known musicians in Ridgecrest at the Porthole in the 1960s and in Randsburg, but for today, we are keeping it short. Most relevant is his memory of hanging out on the steps of the Rand Museum and playing bluegrass music with his brother in the year 2000. Folks loved it. A year later, they brought some bluegrass bands to town, which led to the first Old West Days. He says it used to be a Bluegrass Festival.

This year, Prior heads up The Red Light Bandits featuring Bryan Calendar from Bakersfield on lead guitar, Bert Douglas from Rosamond on bass, Carmine Sardo, a Country Music Awards Hall of Famer who played lead guitar for Freddie Fender, on drums will be Mark Jojoba.

Headliner Angels Roost (no apostrophe) hails from Lake Isabella in the Kern River Valley. “We love Wild West history in Western films and all that stuff,” says Valerie Stone, vocals, rhythm guitar, co-songwriter, and sound engineer. “We play Whiskey Flats Day in Kernville every year. So we’re excited to branch out and be able to play Randsburg Old West Days because I’ve never even been because we’re always working that weekend. Now I’ve got every excuse to go right to The Joint.” Bronson Slaughter, lead guitar, vocals, and co-songwriter, agrees, “Anything that’s Wild West, I’m all about.”

Rounding out the core of the band is Peter Tebow, who doesn’t have much to say. However, Slaughter says, “I’ve been playing in a band with Pete since I was 13 years old. He used to have to escort me to and from the stage because I wasn’t old enough to be in the bar to begin with. Pete was kind of like the chaperone that allowed me to get into the bars at such a young age. Pete was the only person in this valley who gave me a chance.”

It is very fitting for Old West Days that this band identifies as “Southern Rock/Outlaw Country” music. Asked how they describe their sound, Stone answers, “Kern River Country.” Slaughter elaborates, “There’s the Bakersfield sound, and then there’s the Kern River sound, and that’s kind of what we’re pushing to because, you know, it’s real country up here, and you got the river, and Kern River is the lifeblood of the area. So I figure, you know, it’s very country up here, but the Kern River has got a lot of rocks in it. So that’s where to get the rock influence. We have a good time with it. We’ve got a little bit of Bakersfield sound. We love the Bakersfield sound, but it feels and sounds different up here. As soon as you enter the valley, It feels different than it does in Bakersfield.”

This is a band on the rise. Be on the lookout for the release of their album being recorded in Nashville titled simply “Angels Roost.” Bronson explains, “We’re playing a lot of covers right now just because the album is in the process, and we don’t have everything copyrighted yet. So we’re waiting to get the legalities done, but we play a few originals here and there when people ask for them, or when we did the Wild West days, it’s a few of those types of shows where it’s all originals and no covers. And we do a handful of those every year.”

Of their originals, Slaughter says, “It’s all true story. Like all of our songs.” Stone adds, “Car wrecks, gunshots, adventures, misadventures; it’s not a bunch of love songs. It is a lot of stories. You know, sometimes I get tired of sappy love songs. There’s a love song or two on there. But generally, it’s everything else.”

These folks are known locally and have played in far-off places, including Kid Rock’s Rooftop Bar in Nashville, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada. This writer heard them at Harry’s Bar in Pismo Beach, California. Slaughter has a unique way of interweaving all his influences when he takes off on a lead riff. If you listen closely, you can detect his insane heavy metal-influenced riffs while he plays Southern Rock, and it works.

Stone’s parents didn’t enjoy music, so it skipped a generation. “My grandmother played the saxophone and flute. My grandfather played the bagpipes.” When Stone expressed her desire to be involved in music, she received a typical response, “Pick a real job.” That did not deter her. She explains on their website, “When I turned 19, I packed my little Honda and moved to Los Angeles. Shortly after, I personally guaranteed a lease on a 5000 sq ft space in Pasadena, and over the next few years, I put on the tool belt. I co-founded Summit Rehearsal & Recording Studios.” She managed and operated the studio full-time and learned on the job from “some of the best in the business.”

As is the story all over, the pandemic put a halt to that business. She realized it was time to find her own voice because, all those years, she recorded other artists. She met Slaughter in 2020 and began the road to the current musical partnership. They are a couple but choose to stick to talking about the music.

Stone and Slaughter are also deeply involved in two Kern River Valley local FM radio stations. Stone is the Producer/Program Director at Kern River Radio.  KCNQ 102.5 is the country station; KRVQ 104.5 is the Classic Rock station. Slaughter also produces but is more of a radio personality. He says, “We really believe in pushing the local factor. You can listen to the radio, you can watch television, and find out world news, California news, whatever you want. But we focus on local. It’s about pushing the community forward and getting the word out there but also, you know, poking fun at ourselves. Because why take yourself so seriously? We have a good time with it.”

Julie Gentry manages the band, and Angels Roost is well-represented with merch (rock and roll speak for merchandise) and an online presence that includes a webpage (, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. She wants you to know that if you like what you hear, you can catch Angels Roost the day after Thanksgiving at The Patriot in Ridgecrest.

Slaughter expresses gratitude to their fans. “Every day, their support has allowed us to get to where we’re at and continue going to Nashville. The fans have been number one since day one, and they’ll always be because if it wasn’t for the fans, you got nothing.”

Ridgecrest-based Station Street has been a local favorite since they started playing about 18 years ago. These guys get the crowd dancing, and the band members have fun while doing it. They have charts, so they can add brass instruments if desired, but the core four are Jim Sweaney on bass, Greg Velicer on rhythm and lead guitar, Nino Agostinacci on drums, and Greg Turnbaugh on keys. All four are vocalists, trading leads and harmonizing.

Station Street is no stranger to Old West Days or The Joint, Randsburg. Their fans follow them faithfully to dance and enjoy the sounds. Speaking of their sounds, interesting rhythms, tight harmonies, and very danceable come to mind. Technically, they are a Classic Rock Cover Band.  Agostinacci says, “When it comes to just music, I don’t think there’s anything that we couldn’t pull off if we really wanted to. Our song list is really eclectic. I mean, we’ve got everything from old-school country all the way to disco, and we’ve got metal stuff in there.” He adds, “I think, collectively, we probably have about 200 years of experience in the band.” He’s the youngest in the group, but the others have been playing for 40 to 50 years.

Turnbaugh is the only player that has been in the band since the beginning. In the early years, they rehearsed in Sweaney’s grandmother’s garage on Station Avenue in Ridgecrest. They named the band Station Street because it just sounded better. Today, Sweaney says, “I think most everybody here will agree, we like to see people having fun. Singing along, knowing the words that we’re singing and playing. I mean, that’s what I’m all about. I mean, I missed my chance to be a hero and a superstar a long time ago.” In one way or another, the other band members express the same sentiment. Nino tops it off with, “I’ve been in a lot of bands, and this is the easiest band ever.”

On Saturday, you can catch them at around 2:30 pm on the concert stage next to The Joint. They will likely play until 10 p.m. or so. You can find their other gigs by checking out their Facebook page.

Meanwhile, up the hill, Controlled Chaos comes all the way from Antelope Valley to play at the Cottage Hotel. They take the stage at 10 am and play until 3 pm. This is their first time to play at Old West Days, but they have played at The Joint. These folks are very popular and well-received wherever they play. They are a Classic Rock cover band who plays “A little bit of everything, all the way from the 70s to the 2010s.” says Pete Wohlgang, lead guitar. Asked to describe their sound, he jokes,  “When I hit the wrong note, then we call it jazz.” Bass player Idaho James has a pretty accurate description of their sound, “I think we have a contemporary classic sound. We use classic instrumentation, but we play contemporary songs. And we try to make all of the songs our own. We don’t sound exactly like the record. We’re not a copy band. We’re a cover band.” He also wants to clarify, “I’m not from Idaho, I’m from Iowa, these guys can’t spell.”

They are serious about their music but obviously enjoy joking around with each other.  Vocalist Tonya Tolomeo tells us how they named the band, “We came up with it because somebody asked if we do rehearsals (way back when we first started). I was like, ‘No, we don’t do rehearsals. It’s kind of like just a controlled chaos when we get up there. We kind of call it out and make it happen, and then it works.’” But the guys say, “We’re the controlled, she’s the chaos.”

Not only is their drummer talented with on-target diverse rhythms, but he is also fun to watch. Steven Brewer tosses and twirls his sticks without missing a beat. “He’s a child prodigy,” says Wohlgang. Tolomeo adds, “He’s been playing with us since he was 18, straight out of high school on the drumline. This kid is amazing.” Now in his mid-twenties, he is the youngest member of the group. Wohlgang and Tolomeo have been playing together for about 21 years.

If you can’t wait to hear them, they will be playing at VFW Post 7665, 2811 Nugget Ave, Lake Isabella, tomorrow, Saturday,  September 9, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Or you can check them out on Facebook and search for Controlled Chaos AV.