Ray Seapno

Photo By David Robert

Amid the tacos and tamales of Cinco de Mayo festivities at Sparks’ Victorian Square this weekend, local hip-hop and indie rock bands will be playing for the two-day YAM Jam. Coordinating the event is Ray Seapno of BlindDog Production. The event is May 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What is YAM Jam?

YAM Jam stands for Youth Against Meth. It was started off—we were basically—it was kind of crazy; I landed in a meeting with Join Together Northern Nevada, a youth awareness group against substance abuse. We had all these nonprofit organizations around the table. And I go, “I hear all this stuff you guys are doing for the youth in this county, but it seems like none of the youth are hearing about this. My production company is BlindDog Production. I have these teenagers, college students coming to my house. My ear is right where they are, but none of them are hearing this. I think the reason why is, I go to these clubs all the time, but the promotion is terrible. The papers promote people like you guys, but the places themselves aren’t promoting it.” They said, “If you have a better idea, Ray, go for it.” So when they started talking about Nevada being No. 1 in meth use, I thought, “Why not do something doing awareness about youth?” That Crystal Darkness documentary was shown. Then this whole YAM Jam came about. What it is, is an awareness for the youth of Washoe county. …

With all this stuff here, we were thinking, what venue can we have where it would have the most of the public, where the youth is and everything? The earliest date we could do it was Cinco de Mayo. The thing is, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes by throwing it on the same date as theirs. But luckily, Jesse Gutierrez, the executive director of Nevada Hispanic Services, heard about us and came to us, saying “Oh music! Oh perfect. Oh kids! Oh perfect.” So we collaborated and everything. …

I also want to highlight a lot of the striving artists in this town. Washoe County has a lot of talent. I’ve been in this industry for a long time. Musically, the best thing about this town is you get them real creative with a new sound, and they’re just wonderful to hear. Push Box, TreeWoodz, an artist named Dove. These are local independent artists, and they landed here in this region, and they create this eclectic Nevada sound. Unfortunately, a lot of these artists are trying to make it here, but they’re getting stuck in the middle. … With this YAM Jam, we’re trying to highlight a lot of the young independent artists here. By next year, Youth Against Meth is going to change because some sponsors here don’t like the word “against,” so next year, we’re changing it to Youth and Music.

Who are some of the bands playing?

The hip-hop is Saturday, and the rock is on Sunday with a talent show. … What’s going to be playing is a well-known independent band Who Cares?, and, let’s see, TreeWoodz, Element Crew, Apprentice, Dialect, Dove, Guilty One, Metaphysical—these are all hip-hop. On the rock, you’ll have Push Box, Days No Different, Days Eleven, Sobre2is—a Latin rock band—a visiting band from San Jose called Stripped Away. … These guys are all different nationalities, different cultures.

Why is music a way to confront meth?

Dealing with a lot of artists, a lot of them are not what you’d call straight-laced. A lot of teenagers came from a rough home life. It’s ironic, I get these people that come from broken homes, like Nevada Boy—he’s half black, half white, he doesn’t know his dad, and he’s adopted by a white family that’s divorced. His music style appeals to the ones that live in the trailer park, that whole desert thing. A real good guy, he’s not even 21 yet. He’s real talented, produces his own music. A lot of them, because of music, cleaned themselves up because this is business. This is work. It takes work to get your music out. … You can’t be drunk all the time, do drugs all the time. Believe it or not a lot of them get rehabilitated because of that.