Stevens arrived in San Diego from Chicago during the Fourth of July weekend in 2007.
“I was told in 2006 I only had a few years to live,” he recalled. “So, I saved some money, and one day I decided to drive until I saw water. I wanted to find music and good weather to finish out my days. I ended up in Ocean Beach and never left.”
Stevens is first and foremost a musician. He and Jennifer have an acoustic duo called Beer Money. However, it’s as a videographer and concert promoter that he’s made his biggest impact, recording hundreds of groups for posterity for years.
“Honestly, a lot of that was by accident,” he said. “As I got to know the scene and figured out what was wrong with it, I found myself enrolled in trying to fix somehow.”
This led to a short-lived TV show on Cox Cable, which then evolved into booking shows in local venues. “It all just kind of fell together,” he said. “The video thing started as a ‘perk’ I offered to the talent that played my shows and, somehow, we slowly got famous for it. It has been an obsession ever since.”
Stevens doesn’t mind being known as a promoter /videographer, as opposed to a musician.
“I don’t. We still play quite often, but we don’t make a big deal out of our music,” Stevens said. “For that reason, most only see us as a promoter/talent buyer/videographer. That’s fine, actually, because we’d rather be known for how much we helped others than to be known for only helping ourselves. If we are leading anyone anywhere, it’s by example.”
He said the local music community is strong.
“The scene itself is fine,” he said.
“The music in this town is to- notch, and as a community we are working together in ways I didn’t see five years ago. The problem is the potential audience is asleep at the wheel. This town is ‘California comfortable.’ Not enough of the San Diego general public goes out to see live music. I think that through good free media we can still reach those people glued to their couches and get them out to see the next show.”
He said part of the issue is the sheer quantity of performers hitting the stage these days.
“It's not that music is less important,” he said. “There’s a lot of it in this town. Southern California has more musicians, artists and performers per square mile than in any other market I’ve ever lived in. The music will always be around here for as long as there are places to play it. I’ve made it my job to put it on your TV and computer screen. I can only continue to hope it’s making a difference.”
One of his most recent endeavors involves filming DJ Tim Pyles weekly in a Sunday night local music show on FM 94.9.
“He’s been coming in for the last few months. It’s been great, and the bands love it,” said Pyles. “I would say the value of what Joe is doing is priceless, and the bands can use it as a tool. I’m thrilled that he’s doing this, as it adds a whole new dimension to my show. The audio and visual component of the bands in the studio is so much more powerful than just having the audio.”
It seems clear Stevens is happy to have his life immersed in music.
“I like the ‘nakedness’ of it,” he said. “Original bands/artists are screaming their diaries to us with every song. The lyrics tell a unique story that we can feel and identify with. It’s therapy for the artist and the people that hear it. It makes for the best kind of distraction from the trappings of daily life. Through music, no emotion is ever wasted or forgotten.”
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