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P.O.D. returns to Petco Park for virtual concert series

The members of the band P.O.D (Payable on Death) at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
P.O.D (Payable on Death) performs in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego rock band celebrates the 20th anniversary of “Satellite” with a three-day livestream event

“You guys are killing it — 2001 all over again,” a voice boomed from offstage.

And on an abnormally chilly April day in San Diego, 2021, it did feel like 2001 all over again ... kind of.

Sure, the setting was Petco Park, which didn’t open until 2004. A noisy drone buzzed overhead, projecting HD footage onto a mounted video wall. In front of the Sycuan Stage, a production crew operated with face masks, and aside from a handful of family and friends scattered on the lawn of Gallagher Square (formerly Park at the Park), there wasn’t a ticketed audience member in sight.

But with the guys of P.O.D. up on stage, jamming to genre-blending songs from the early aughts, it did feel strangely like one was transported into another decade — two decades, to be exact.

This Petco Park performance is a homecoming of sorts for hard rock group P.O.D. (short for Payable on Death), that started its music journey in “Southtown.” The band members — drummer Wuv Bernardo, lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, singer Sonny Sandoval and bassist Traa Daniels — define the region of “Southtown” stretching from downtown to the border, including neighborhoods they grew up in like San Ysidro and Chula Vista.

The “Southtown” natives broke into the music industry in 1999 with their first major label release “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown,” followed by the Billboard-topping “Satellite” in 2001. Since then, the three-time Grammy Award-nominated band has released 11 studio albums and toured around the world.

“(P.O.D.) is the same four dudes that started the true American rock ‘n’ roll dream in Wuv’s garage … and we’re almost 30 years deep,” Curiel said.

Drummer Wuv Bernardo, lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, singer Sonny Sandoval and bass guitarist Traa Daniels of P.O.D.
From left to right, drummer Wuv Bernardo, lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, singer Sonny Sandoval and bass guitarist Traa Daniels of P.O.D (Payable on Death) at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Aside from Daniels, who moved to Nashville, Tenn. a few years ago, the band members still live in San Diego — where they have spent the last year quarantining. P.O.D. used the opportunity to “be in family mode” after decades on the road. But as the pandemic dragged on, they itched to get back together and back on stage ... even if the venue didn’t have an audience.

In honor of the 20-year anniversary of “Satellite,” P.O.D. will perform a virtual concert series featuring three performances: full album run-throughs of “Satellite” (May 13) and “The Fundamentals of Southtown” (May 27) followed by “B-Sides, Rarities and Hits” (June 13).

P.O.D (Payable on Death) performs in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Sandoval admits P.O.D. is “probably one of the last bands” to do a livestream during the pandemic, adding that live shows have been very central to their career. However, the COVID-19 cancellation of their scheduled in-person shows, including its anticipated “Circles European Tour,” led the “old school” band members to break tradition and try a new format.

Cleverly titled “Satellite over Southtown,” the series name is both a nod to the celebrated albums as well as the show’s San Diego setting — Petco Park in East Village.

Picking the show’s filming venue was a no brainer for the members of P.O.D., adding that they’ve performed at their hometown stadium multiple times throughout their career (and have even pitched a ball at the start of a Padres game).

Singer Sonny Sandoval and bass guitarist Traa Daniels of P.O.D (Payable on Death)
Singer Sonny Sandoval and bass guitarist Traa Daniels of P.O.D (Payable on Death) perform in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“We’ve always been a very prideful band about our city, and the whole world knows that ... everybody knows we’re the San Diego band, so it just makes sense that we would do (the concerts) with that kind of backdrop,” Bernardo said. “It’s a statement.”

To make the virtual show a reality, P.O.D. partnered with Mandolin, a digital engagement platform that helps artists, venues and festivals produce streaming concerts.

Meghann York, Mandolin’s chief marketing officer, said that since launching during the pandemic, the company has produced more than 700 livestreams and digital VIP events.

In preparation for their pre-recorded livestream, the band members — who had not been on stage, let alone seen each other, in more than a year — were given about a week to “do their homework” and brush up on the songs. Once Daniels landed in San Diego, they then practiced together in person for nine days straight, up until the night before the scheduled performance.

Singer Sonny Sandoval and drummer Wuv Bernardo of P.O.D (Payable on Death)
Singer Sonny Sandoval and drummer Wuv Bernardo of P.O.D (Payable on Death) perform in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Satellite over Southtown” was filmed in a single day at Petco Park, with P.O.D. performing three shows as back-to-back sets, sans audience. Mandolin helped coordinate the video and production teams, which included Petco Park employees, as well as individuals working for San Diego production companies Maktive and Spearhead Media.

Unlike a true-to-name livestream, P.O.D.'s concert series is prerecorded and segmented into separate shows to be streamed virtually for fans on three different dates. Wilber notes that a prerecorded approach allows both the creative and technical teams the “luxury of redoing a song” during the shoot.

This luxury came in handy for P.O.D.’s first set of the afternoon, as the band worked through technical hiccups with the music software program Pro Tools. As an added challenge, this first set — “B-Sides, Rarities and Hits” — was arguably its most ambitious performance out of the three.

P.O.D (Payable on Death) performs in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Unlike the other album-focused shows, the concluding concert of the series features a collection of lesser-known songs. Many hadn’t been performed in decades, untouched since early gigs at venues like the first SOMA location on Union Street, only minutes from Petco Park. A few of the tracks, they confirmed, have never been played on stage before.

Despite the ability to go back and re-record mistakes, P.O.D. said it didn’t abuse that advantage to produce a perfectly polished show.

“We plug in and there’s little mess-ups ... and I’m proud of that,” Curiel said. “We’re musicians playing our instruments and playing 40 plus songs in one day.”

“There’s a lot of rawness — we’re not going to change that, we’re not going to fix that,” Sandoval added. “It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

P.O.D (Payable on Death) performs in front of the cameras to a mostly empty audience at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Along with authenticity, one of P.O.D.’s hallmarks is feeding off the energy of the crowd and encouraging audience participation during live concerts. However, the band members said they were surprised — and relieved — with how easy it was to get into the livestream performance, comparing the experience to shooting a music video.

Jason Wilber,the production lead at Mandolin, ballparks that approximately 25 people were on set during filming, which is on the larger side for Mandolin’s productions. From a technical standpoint, a livestream is shot very similarly to an in-person show. Wilber notes that the lack of a crowd grants the production team increased flexibility and creativity.

“The difference there is that it gives the video crew a little more freedom because they don’t have to work around an audience,” Wilber said, adding that the freedom extends past the stage to post-production work.

A view of some of the camera crew while filming P.O.D (Payable on Death) at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For “Satellite over Southtown,” viewers can expect the virtual show to “project a larger-than-life version of P.O.D.” The band has been hands-on in the show editing process, and wants the concert series to not only celebrate an important career milestone, but also serve as a tool to reconnect with fans.

“It’s a way for us to show our fans that we care,” Curiel said. “We know that we’re in a pandemic and can’t come to your country or come to your city, but this is our way to celebrate 20 years of ‘Satellite’ ... We want to put some effort out to feed the fanbase — give them some love.”

“Our little way of trying to give something back,” Sandoval added.

P.O.D (Payable on Death) performs in front of the cameras at Petco Park on April 14, 2021.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

And that ongoing relationship with fans is symbiotic. P.O.D. often hears from listeners that their discography has gotten them through hard times, including the pandemic. This feedback and support motivates the band members to push forward, whether it’s getting out of their element with a virtual show or gearing up for the next in-person tour.

“It’s fuel in our tanks — it’s almost 30 years later and our music still means something,” Sandoval said.

INFOBOX
When: May 13, 27 and June 10 at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $20 single tickets; $50 for three-day pass ($55 tickets to a pre-show meet and greet via Zoom are available as an add-on.)
Online: boxoffice.mandolin.com/pages/p-o-d


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