Fill in The Blank

Union-Tribune pop music critic George Varga conducts freewheeling off-the-cuff interviews with notable San Diego musicians about their work and what inspires them to do what they do. Each guest plays excerpts from a dozen or more songs by their favorite artists and discusses how these songs and artists influenced their own music. Listener participation is welcome at our toll-free number: (866) 818-6384. Anyone who correctly identifies the theme music for Fill In The Blank wins a free meal with George.

Recent Shows

Robin Adler and guitarist Dave Blackburn - Download

They perform some songs, talk about their approach to Mitchell's genre-leaping music and about their own work. In addition, Dave (who is from England and has two degrees in English) will explain why split-infiinitives are sometimes acceptable when translating hillbilly haikus into Latin.

Published: May 29, 2009

Joe Harris - Download

San Diego's Joey Harris has been a mainstay of the local music scene since at least 1980, when he led the local super-group The Fingers. A few years later he was heading, Joey Harris & The Speedsters, which released one classic album in 1983 and shared the same manager as Tina Turner.

Joey went on to replace Buddy Blue in The Beat Farmers and has since led or co-led numerous bands here. To preview his upcoming new album, "Joey Harris & The Mentals," Joey will be the guest today on Fill in the Blank, my weekly live music interview show on

Published: May 22, 2009

LAID-BACK: Troubadours guests - Download

Jenn Grinels was one of three San Diego singer-songwriters who was our guest today on Fill In The Blank. Jenn was be joined by Jefferson Jay and Jason Burleson, which means you'll get a triple treat -- and a free preview of the upcoming Acoustic Evenings at the Athenaeum concert series in La Jolla.

Jenn, Jefferson and Jason will each performed a song or two and discussed their work, as well as the new, non-profit organization Jefferson has launched to help promote indie music in San Diego.

Published: May 15, 2009

B-Side Players - Download

San Diego's B-Side Players celebrate a milestone event this year -- the band's 15th anniversary.

To mark this momentous event, B-Side Players, release a hot new album on Tuesday, "Radio Afro Mexica," the title of which hints at the genre-leaping group's diverse musical range. The band performs here Friday night at downtown's House of Blues, three days after headlining a Cinco de Mayo concert at the Hollywood House of Blues.

But you don't have to wait to hear this acclaimed band. Four members of the B-Side Players willl be the guests Monday on Fill In The Blank, my weekly live music radio show on

They'll talk about their 15 years of music-making and their new album, as well as playing a song or two live in the studio.

Published: May 4, 2009

Jose Sinatra - Download

San Diego music institution Jose Sinatra returns to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his anthemic song, "We Are The Whales."

Published: April 27, 2009

John Reis - Download

John Reis is the leader of The Night Marchers, the fiery San Diego rock band that released one of last year's best albums, "See You in Magic."

Reis, the former leader of such pioneering area bands as Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, performs early Sunday afternoon at Coachella with The Night Marchers.

Reis is also a co-owner of North Park's Park Bar Pink and the founder of Swami Records.

Reis will discuss everything from his colorfully named first bands in junior high school, which apparently never made it beyond playing in his bedroom, to mysticism in Hawaiian music, what it was like opening for a Pat Benatar cover band in the Midwest and the enduring greatness of James Brown, Bo Diddley and Black Flag. He'll also talk about some of Rocket's memorable European tour experiences and reveal his very early days in music as a budding orchestral conductor (again, mostly in his bedroom) and his fondness for the music of everyone from bluesman R.L. Burnside to the Electric Light Orchestra.

Published: April 13, 2009

FIRST BASS: Kristin Korb - Download

Simultaneously playing an upright bass and singing, while leading her own jazz band, is second nature for Kristin Korb. A Montana native who moved here in 1992 to attend UCSD, where she studied with contrabass legend Bertram Turetzky, Kristin performs here with her trio Wednesday at Anthology, where she'll celebrate the release of her fifth album, "In the Meantime," which she is releasing on her own label, the slyly named Double K.

Published: April 6, 2009

8th annual Spring Reverb festival - Download

Vocal maverick Toni Pope is one of the more than two-dozen envelope-shredding musicians who will perform at this weekend's 8th annual Spring Reverb festival at three different area venues. To be held Friday through Sunday, the festival is presented by Trummerflora, a freewheeling, independent San Diego music collective that is dedicated to creating music that knows no conventional boundaries in style or sound.

Pope, poet Roger Aplon, singer Nina Deering and vibraphonist/percussionist Nathan Hubbard will discuss their music and the festival. They'll also perform in various musical combinations to give you a sense of Spring Reverb's tone and flavor.

Published: March 30, 2009

GRACE SLICK: Rock legend - Download

There weren't many rock legends like Grace Slick back in the 1960s -- and there aren't any now. That's why we're so excited that the former Jefferson Airplane singer-turned-painter will be the special guest today on Fill In The Blank.

A pioneering rock singer in the 1960s and '70s, Slick helped San Francisco's Jefferson Airplane soar to prominence with such classic songs as "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love." She also performed around the world with the band, including at two of the biggest rock festivals of 1969, the peace-and-love-fueled Woodstock and the violence-and-death-marred Altamont (during which fellow Airplane singer Marty Balin was punched out mid-song after trying to break up a nearby altercation).

When she was 21, Slick briefly worked in downtown San Diego at Marston's Department Store. After rising to stardom with Jefferson Airplane, she became nearly as well known for her social and political activism as for her powerful, impassioned voice and sometimes mind-bending lyrics. She was also one of the few rock singers of her era who was regarded as both a sex symbol and a no-nonsense feminist. Her influence on several generations of subsequent rock singers continues to be signifcant and there are at least several current young rock acts named White Rabbit, after the "Alice in Wonderland"-inspied lyrics Slick wrote for the Airplane's acid-rock anthem, "White Rabbit."

Retired from music since 1989, when she left the more commercially oriented band Jefferson Starship, Slick is now a devoted painter, whose work is shown in galleries across the country. Her next local showing will be March 28 and 29 at the Wentworth Gallery in La Jolla, where she will be on hand to mingle with fans and personally unveil one of her latest paintings, which celebrates this year's 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

Published: March 23, 2009

San Diego Indie Fest - Download

Get ready for the 2009 edition of San Diego Indie Fest.

This year's edition, the fifth, will take place March 28 on 8 indoor and outdoor stages near (but not in) the Birch North Park Theatre on University Avenue. A total of 85 bands will perform, including actress/vocalist Juliette Lewis and her latest band, Juliette & The New Romantiques, SiSe and such diverse local talents as Rhythm & The Method, MC Flow, The Burning of Rome and Hectic Watermelon.

Hear an exclusive interview and performance by Indie Fest co-founders Danielle LoPresti and Alicia Champion on today's show.

Alicia and Danielle will discuss this year's Indie Fest -- which, in addition to a wealth of musical offerings -- will also include an Indie film festival, comedy and more. They'll also perform a few songs live in the studio, pick a favorite recording or two to play by some of the artists fatured on this year's Indie Fest sampler CD, and chat about the recording studio they run, DURGA Sound.

Published: March 16, 2009

PAYING HOMAGE: All-star lineup salutes Lou Curtiss - Download

Over the years, Lou Curtiss has served as a mentor here to everyone from Tom Waits, Mojo Nixon and Big Sandy to A.J. Croce and Gregory Page.

Lou, his wife, Virginia, and three top local musicians -- Gregory Page, Robin Henkel and Chris Clarke -- will talk and perform on today's show.

As Waits, Nixon, et al, will happily attest, Lou is also the owner of Folk Arts Rare Records, a local goldmine of roots music, where Waits used to hang out back in the late 1960s and sometimes performed solo shows. "Folk Arts is a soul-food library and seed bank, much like the Library of Congress, where you go to light your torch," Waits told the Union-Tribune a few years ago. "All the secrets of the universe are there."

Lou -- or rather, the Lou Curtiss Sound Library Preservation Project -- will be saluted Friday night at a benefit concert at North Park's Old Time Music. In addition to Page, Henkel and Clarke (who will play with his band, Plow), other scheduled performers include Curt Bouterse, Patty Hall, Phil Boroff, Sara Petite, Wayne Brandon, Tanya Rose & The Buffalo Chip Kickers, Allen Singer & Dane Terry, and Los Californios. With a ticket price of $10 at the door -- "no maximum" -- this should be one of the best live music buys of the month.

Proceeds will help underwrite Lou's ongoing work to preserve his library of 90,000 hours of recorded music, much of it cut live at various festivals he's overseen in San Diego over the past 42 years.

Many of those recordings were made at the now sadly dormant San Diego Folk Festival, which Lou founded back in 1967. Until he was unceremoniously elbowed out a few years ago, Lou was the longtime guiding light for music programming at two major annual events here that grew out of his folk festival, the Adams Avenue Street Fair and the Adams Avenue Roots & Folk Festival (which this year takes place April 25-26 and will feature a number of the artists performing at Friday's benefit concert, including Page, Petite, Henkel, Hall, Boroff and Clarke).