By Lyn Jensen
Special to the OC Voice
Every Tuesday night from 5 – 9 the first three blocks of Main Street, just inland from the Huntington Beach Pier, are closed off to automobiles for the Surf City Nights street fair and come alive with friendly pedestrians listening to the sounds of music.
For at least one night a week you can forget the popular image of downtown Huntington Beach as an overcrowded cruising center, tourist madhouse or brawl-infested beer mall, watched over by platoons of police standing on street corners.
Smell the odor of kettle corn, cinnamon bread and salt air all mixed together while you hear some music you didn’t know you didn’t know, as the nineties-era radio ad used to say.
Promoter Steven Bradford of Bayside District books Surf City Nights shows featuring some of the finest local entertainment, ranging from breakdancers to young guitar heroes like Adam Ho, who is 19 years old and is probably the best pop act to come downtown since city officials foolishly tore down the world class Golden Bear night club more than two decades ago.
Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to discover Ho and his band, Freedom to Falll (yes, there are three l’s in the last word) right there on the street, playing without even a stage to separate them from their rapidly growing fan base. Look ‘em in the eye while you still can get this close, because the multi-talented Ho looks to be on the fast track to letting his rock-hero guitar, heartfelt vocals, and tuneful original songs take him anywhere he wants to go.
Look for him at Surf City Nights and you may find an Asian-American kid in a Led Zeppelin shirt, baggy shorts and sneakers, shredding his way through some tricky guitar parts of such crowd-pleasing favorites as the bluesy “Heard it Through the Grapevine” and the Latin-flavored “Black Magic Woman.” His dramatic voice has a teen-idol appeal, as he not only sings the songs but finds the emotion in them, the way an actor finds expression in a script.
His rhythm section, bassist Chris Alejo and girl drummer Jamie Scoles, plays impressively, too. They’re all still students-Ho and Alejo attend Orange Coast College, while Scoles is still in high school. Their families are all friends with each other-that’s how they met.
“Check us out on MySpace, or you older people, just google us,” Ho told the large and diverse multi generational crowd gathered to hear him play one evening.
True to his cross-generational appeal, Ho says he likes to play a 50-50 mix of alternative and classic rock. His material serves a refreshing mix of classic rock with a more contemporary alternative style. He’s at home with the top sounds of practically every decade of the rock era. From the sixties come the Beatles (“Get Back” and “Yesterday”), from the seventies, the Eagles (“Hotel California”). The eighties are represented by the Police (“Every Breath You Take”) and from the current scene comes One Republic’s “Apologize.” At times there’s a little Latin flavor added, such as Santana (“Oye Como Vah” and “Black Magic Woman”) and Enrique Iglesias (“Hero”).
He also has some original songs, like “Secrets” and “With Me,” that sound ready for radio play lists. He says his inspirations for songwriting come from what friends talk to him about, “their problems, or if something really ridiculous happens.”
Ho’s father played guitar as a hobby, and the son first picked up the instrument at the age of five. He started singing at the age of seven, writing songs when he was nine. He could be considered something of a child prodigy for, in 1997, at the age of nine, he won a talent contest at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Father and son now share a recording studio they recently built in their garage at the family home in Westminster. They’ve lived here for seventeen years, having moved to California shortly after Ho was born in Dallas, Texas.
Part of the fun of finding rising stars is to be able to say, “I saw him live back when…” At the moment the only way to sample Ho’s music is to hear him live, either with Freedom to Falll or other bands he hires his guitar playing out to. He recently completed a CD, Mistaken Hero, in his home studio where he played all musical parts himself, displaying his expertise on piano and drums as well as guitar.
Check http://www.adamho.com for future shows, because right now that’s the only way to get his CD. There are no downloads or retail distribution-yet. Bookers and promoters may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 714 425-4672.
To enjoy Surf City Nights, park for free in the city parking garage at 200 Main Street (if you can find a space, of course, this scene’s popular).