Music News & Reviews

Growing up Numbskull

Eddy ‘Numbskull’ Burgos, founder and owner of Numbskull Productions, at Downtown Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo, one of the many venues with which he works.
Eddy ‘Numbskull’ Burgos, founder and owner of Numbskull Productions, at Downtown Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo, one of the many venues with which he works. TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JOE JOHNSTON

Chances are, you’ve been to an Eddy Numbskull show.

As the founder and owner of Numbskull Productions, Eddy “Numbskull” Burgos has been responsible for bringing the biggest names in punk, ska, metal, hip-hop, rock and reggae to the Central Coast — from AFI to Del Tha Funkee Homosapien to Vampire Weekend.

Upcoming acts include Guttermouth, Ozomatli, and G Love and Special Sauce.

“Every single one of my childhood heroes I’ve worked with or met at some time,” Burgos said. “I’m a walking TMZ.”

Based in Murrieta, Numbskull Productions manages nearly every aspect of every concert, from booking to sound systems to janitorial services. (Burgos jokingly adds “artist ego managing, spectator protecting and substance abuse counseling” to the list.)

“Making shows work mathematically is always a challenge,” Burgos said, once the cost of permits, public address systems, catering and other fees are factored in. “But we always seem to power on.”

Early exposure

Born in San Diego and raised in Oxnard, Burgos got his first exposure to live music at age four at Disneyland. He watched Kool & The Gang, clad in glittery suits, sunglasses and top hats, perform across from popular attraction Space Mountain.

In the early 1980s, he remembers seeing The Clash — then touring in support of their fifth studio album, “Combat Rock” — and The English Beat perform at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

“That one laid the foundation,” he said.

Still, Burgos added, he never planned to become a concert promoter.

“I was just some punk kid that wanted to create a platform for alternative fringe musicians to showcase their art and a place for people to experience

it,” he said. “No one was providing that at the time.”

So with the help of a few friends and money from his pizza delivery job, Burgos put on his first show on July 20, 1989, at “this dilapidated ’70s Latin discotheque in seedy downtown Oxnard.”

The name “Numbskull Productions” came from a childhood hobby — drawing superhero comic books.

“One of the characters was this happy-go-lucky smiling skeleton that … just got in the way of the real heroes. His name was Numbskull,” explained Burgos.

Before long, Numbskull Productions was an established presence in the Southern California music scene, orchestrating shows in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

When 3,700 kids flocked to UC Irvine in 1992 to see punk acts NOFX, Face to Face, D.I. and The Muffs, “We were blown away,” Burgos said. “This was before punk rock was main-streamed and video-gamed, so to have that many people there was not even imaginable.”

Over time, however, “Los Angeles just got too hedonistic,” said the show promoter, who grew weary of catering to celebrities and their entourages. “Christina Ricci showed up at a show and it was like, ‘I have to pay?’ ”

In search of fresh scenery and new crowds, Numbskull made its first foray into San Luis Obispo County on Sept. 24, 1994, with a concert featuring punk stalwarts Lagwagon and Strung Out.

“I saw that there were some people who needed a counterculture,” Numbskull said.

Early concerts often took place at Trinity Hall off Highway 227 in San Luis Obispo, or at Malachi’s, in a cornfield halfway between Morro Bay and Atascadero.

“That was pretty Wild West, out in the sticks,” Burgos said, recalling “totally under-supervised” shows with zero police and security presence. “I liked the looseness of having a free-for-all atmosphere … that element of danger.”

Numbskull Productions gradually progressed to include more established venues such as the Avila Beach Golf Resort, Cal Poly Rec Center and Cayucos Veterans Memorial Lions Hall.

“It wasn’t until SLO Brew went all-ages that we started to spread our wings and bring music to the downtown (San Luis Obispo) area regularly,” said Burgos, referring to what is now Downtown Brewing Co.

According to Burgos, local shows have inspired their share of controversy.

When Bad Religion performed at Cal Poly in front of 3,000 fans in 2003, people sent letters to college newspaper The Mustang Daily in protest. Others objected to NOFX, whose “Rock Against Bush” tour took a stance against President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

Positive influence

These days, Burgos and his 18-member staff work with more than 85 venues in nine California counties. Locally, they range in size from the 150-capacity Steynberg Gallery to the Cal Poly Rec Center, which can accommodate 3,500 fans.

A typical month’s lineup might include Johnny Cash tribute band Cash’d Out, acoustic emo act Never Shout Never and alternative rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket.

“That diversity really helps in booking ’cause I try to find something for everyone,” explained Burgos, who admits to having “an insatiable obsession” with music of all genres. “Where else are you gonna find a Leftover Crack gig and a Bryan Adams show in the same night?”

That said, he’s forged close relationships with artists that have stood the test of time — acts like AFI, NOFX and Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi.

Certain experiences also stand out from his 20-year career, such as watching Sublime and No Doubt close the inaugural Vans Warped Tour in 1995, or playing soccer with Run DMC in Santa Barbara.

“Slayer giving me a possessed goblet handcrafted by a Nordic blacksmith was south of heavenly. It sits on the mantle in our office and we worship it daily,” he joked.

“I’m a total fanboy geek, so working with some of the artists I worshiped growing up is really exciting,” the concert promoter said. “But as cheesy as it sounds, the most rewarding thing is exposing people to new music that hopefully makes a positive influence on their lives.”

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.