King for a day
Jason King Roxas
Jason King Roxas is a local guy. He attended Little Flower School and graduated from Manogue before attending the University of Nevada, Reno for a degree in criminal justice. After earning his degree and taking the LSAT, Roxas was supposed to leave the Biggest Little City to attend law school, but he decided to stick around, just for a while, to play guitar in the local music scene. That was 20 years ago.
“It’s funny, because a lot of my friends who went the career path are hitting the point where they’re getting ready to retire, and they’re like, ’Hey, we’re going to start a band,’ and I’m like, ’OK, now you’ve got an awesome retirement, and you’ve got all this stuff, and I’m like uhhh’ … I am very happy actually,” he added with a shrug and a laugh.
Roxas started the Jason King Band, a bluesy rock ’n’ roll outfit, shortly after college. The name, he explained, was suggested by a friend who anticipated that while band members might come and go, Roxas would remain a constant in the music scene. It was an accurate prediction. Over the years, there have been many iterations of the Jason King Band, but, regardless of the roster, Roxas never stopped booking gigs—even when the recession often found him in the position of having to play solo or not at all.
“I was getting a lot of people going, ’Hey, listen, we love you. We love your band, but we don’t have the money to pay the band. How much just for you?’” Roxas said. “I love the guys, and to a certain degree—and I know that they have full-time jobs and stuff—I felt responsible.”
Still, he went for it. And the band continued playing together as often as possible, relying on big summer events like Hot August Nights to afford them the opportunity. In 2009, RN&R readers voted the Jason King Band’s album Blue Skies & Black Shoes the best “local band CD.”
In the end, having to book solo gigs during the economic downturn helped Roxas realize that—with a little flexibility—he could turn music into a sustainable career. Six years ago, he left his position as a youth counselor at the Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Center and began performing full time.
“It’s kind of like owning your own business,” Roxas said. “You’ve got to hustle. Sometimes I’ll play two or three times in one day. If I can pack in like 15 shows in a week or something, I’m like ’Yeah, sure. I’ll do it.”
With that many shows on the docket, Roxas has learned to embrace the experience of playing venues both large and small. On weekday evenings, it’s not unusual to hear the distinctive combination of his smoky voice and the velvety, melodic blues of his guitar emanating from a quiet casino bar. It’s a curiously pleasant experience to hear him play to a mostly empty room—the hush between notes acting as a third instrument in his one-man show. But Roxas’ feelings on the matter are mostly pragmatic.
“In my mind I’m like, ’You know what? If I wasn’t playing tonight, I’d be in the living room doing the same thing,’” he said.
Today, 44-year-old Roxas remains a mainstay in the Reno music scene, having witnessed the coming and going of everything from venues to bands to trends. Now more than ever, he’s hopeful for the future of local music.
“If you look at the contemporary history of the past 40 years, there’s always an ebb and flow when it comes to live music and DJing and stuff,” Roxas said. “The casinos had a big influence on that kind of stuff. It kind of stifled a lot of the local guys. Actually, it worked one of two ways. It either killed them, or it made them really good—they wanted to get that good. Now you have live music venues that have nothing to do with casinos. It’s awesome.”