Spotlight on the Brown: Phil Reyes
Founder of Souvenir Entertainment is a go-to sound guy for concerts, public events and so much more
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
¡Orale, Mi Gente!
Published on LatinoLA: November 20, 2012
It's been a minute, but this month we have another Spotlight on the Brown here on LatinoLA, spotlighting another successful Chicano who's making a significant contribution to the arts & culture of the Gente Brown in America, helping keep it alive and taking it to a higher level.
It's been almost 13 years since I came on the scene as Frankie Firme, my sole purpose being to bring back and keep alive the Chicano BROWN tastes & sounds of Oldies but Goodies, Rock & Roll, Latin Soul, original sound R & B, classic Funk & Soul, and the talents that have kept it alive for many years throughout the mythical Chicano land known as Aztlan (the west coast and southwestern United States, home of unique musical tastes).
In the process, I have been privileged to meet and befriend many artists & fans of these genres, sharing friendships, doing live shows, and traveling together.
In addition, I have been allowed access to the "background" of the business, meeting producers, writers, venue owners, and most importantly, the stage & sound men.
Any successful music artist, music group, comedian, radio broadcaster, actor or actress can tell you that "sound makes it the scene!", and nobody makes it better than this month's spotlight: Mr. Phil Reyes of SOUVENIR ENTERTAINMENT.
Born in south central Los Angeles, and raised in the Montebello-Pico Rivera area east of L.A. in the late 1960's and early 1970's, Phil remembers all the hip partying soul music and the "East Side Sounds" that helped put L.A. and the west coast on the world wide music map during the music explosion of that time.
I met Phil about 8 years ago, coming across him at some successful shows I MC'd and hosted…guy was impressive, I thought. I complimented him on his sound, he complimented me on my radio show, we talked about growing up on the East Side, the music, the low-riding times, the shows "back then"…and we have been friends ever since.
"It was really something back then," Phil says. "The music, the dancing, the parties, the girls … it was a great time to be alive, and I didn't want to see it die, so I sang in a band and kept the good times going for awhile, till I decided to something more."
Starting off as a mobile DJ in the mid 1970's during the Disco era, Phil "made his bones" doing weddings, private parties, clubs, and corporate events. "I had it all going on," Phil laughs. "I had lights, all the records, bubble & smoke machines, I was the announcer and MC on a powerful public address system, I connected folks with photographers, live bands and great locations, did some powerful and memorable gigs … so much so, I eventually became President of the American DJ Association of America, talking with and sharing the latest info on the DJ and sound business with pros all across the Country…and I learned so much."
During the late 1980's, the hiring of live bands to perform in addition to DJ's at events took an upswing in popularity again, and has surprisingly stayed up. To keep up with this trend, besides DJ-ing, and singing and performing in his own band, Phil began learning the trade of being a "sound man".
"I had been to many live gigs that were great…and a few that were not so great…and the biggest factor was the sound. The same goes with recorded music. The best artist can sound like the worst artist if there isn't a good ear on the other side of the microphone. That's when I decided to expand my involvement with the music that I love beyond that of just being a DJ, because I had a feel of what people liked hearing."
Phil began investing in sound equipment, as he saw that as one of the biggest factors at live shows. He went back to school and learned how to connect it all and make it work, which was an art he learned to perfect along with his friend, fellow sound expert & performer Larry Salas of LRS Sound and the popular Los Angeles band LRS-EXPOSURE.
"Me and Larry did our first sound gig together at Montebello Park some years back….Man! That was a great experience, we got a lot of compliments, and that's when I knew this is what I wanted to do. Since then, we've both moved up a couple of levels and continue to do sound for live shows al over southern California."
Phil has become well known over the years around Southern California's "Burrito Circuit" as the "go to" guy for many successful concerts, providing sound at such popular venues as the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet, The Montebello Inn, The Quiet Cannon, The Pico Rivera Sports Arena, Steven's Steakhouse, The Greek Theater, and some of California's casinos, and many public parks, providing sound engineering, sound equipment, and instruments for shows that have seated up to 7,000 people.
He has gone on tour with many "name" performers, his most recent with Country & Western's famed GATLIN BROTHERS, where all shows were sold out. "That was a musical journey for me that I'll never forget," Phil says of the Country Western legends.
"Being a sound company is a lot different than being a DJ or member of a band…you have to be ready to provide as many as 15 different microphones at one time, instruments that may have been forgotten by the band, stages and stage lighting, amplifiers & speakers, and having everything connected, wired, balanced, and ready for the performers to just walk on stage and do their thing for the audience. You're the first guys there, and the last guys to leave….and you are usually the guy held responsible for the success or failure of the show...that kind of challenge is not for beginners…it's a lot of work, but damn, it sure is fun!".
"I also connect people with the bands and performers that are in demand, because not just anybody has all the right phone numbers," Phil says. " After working out of my home & garage for so many years, it just got too crowded to house all the equipment I had amassed over the years, and I wanted to legitimize my business for concerts and other events beyond our popular 'Burrito Circuit', so I recently opened my own studio and equipment storage site."
I visited Phil at his studio in Chino recently, and I must say, it's pretty impressive. Phil's office and the outer lobby are tastefully decorated with Rock & Roll memorabilia, autographed photos of music personalities Phil has worked with, vintage autographed instruments, and with music softly playing overhead. The warehouse houses a large equipment truck, and shelves upon shelves of music instruments, speakers of all sizes, all the massive amounts of wires, cables, electronic sound equipment, lights, amplifiers, and just about anything else you would need to wire up anywhere like Dodger Stadium down to a small club or outdoor venue for sound and a great show.
"Now that I can make a living out of it, I'd like to give back some of what I've scored on, and share the wealth of knowledge. I'd like to have some students or interns come in and learn the business while I continue to expand. Maybe we can do some community events together as a project. SOUVENIR ENTERTAINMENT will encompass all that I've been involved with, including DJ's, live bands, professional concert sound set ups, stage lighting, band management, promotions, locations, backlines, and everything else under one roof. Doing the entire package as far as production & quality professional sound for any show should prove to be economical for promoters, entertainers, & venues."
Teaching the young now seems to be the next interest of Phil's…
And with that, LatinoLA welcomes another warrior to the Land of 1000 Dances: Phil Reyes…singer, DJ, professional sound company founder & owner…CHICANO !
Author's note: Phil Reyes can be contacted at:
3905 Ramona Blvd, Suite H
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone & the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul also known as the Voice of Aztlan
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