More than anything, Vagrant X is about building relationships, exchanging energy and bonding.
“The music is what comes out of the bond and chemistry we have,” said Gary Nichols, lead guitarist, vocals, original member and co-founder of Vagrant X.
When Nichols isn’t working for Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, Calif., as an equipment technician, he’s rehearsing or playing at private parties and special events such as Neil Stock, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Fallen Heroes, etc.
Vagrant X recently played at a 65th birthday party at the VFW Post 9657 in Rosamond, Calif., for Vietnam Marine Veteran Dick Schwartz and Air Force Vietnam Veteran Harley Davidson, who both turned 65 July 10.
“It’s an honor to play for these men who proudly served our country during a very controversial period in our history,” Nichols said. “It is always a great crowd.”
Nichols’ older sister turned him on to Janice Joplin and he was inspired by Jimmy Page and John Fogerty.
At age seven he started playing his dad’s guitar and at 12 he got his own guitar and has been teaching himself ever since.
In the late 1990s Nichols was playing at a backyard party when Jesse Calzada heard him.
“It was the first time I heard live music up front and personal,” said Calzada. The music gave him an itch and so years later he scratched it with a set of drums.
Together they started playing and became Vagrant in 2001. In addition to percussions and drums, Calzada also sings, handles the bands graphic design needs and prepares the bands promotional flyers. “We connect with the crowd and feed off of their energy. We are the engine and the fans provide us with fuel,” Calzada said.
The men’s wives are very supportive of the band and they all share dinner once a week to maintain and grow their special bond.
After making several guest appearances with Vagrant, guitarist Larry Kahn joined the band in 2011 and they became Vagrant X.
After listening to Vagrant Kahn, realized that their broad song selection covering more than five decades increased their opportunities to play more venues.
“Performing with Vagrant X provides the opportunity to give back to the community and build relationships; both are important to us. We inspire each other and we are inspired by the people that we meet while performing,” Kahn said.
Vagrant X recently played for the grand opening of the Bravery Brewing Company, a Lancaster, Calif., brewery with the theme of honoring our military veterans.
“Words can’t begin to explain the emotion in the room filled with veterans, family, and friends when Nichols and Vagrant X opened with the Star Spangled Banner,” Kahn said. Kahn is a 27-year security specialist with Boeing and assigned tot Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. “Having a band is about talent, dependability, and chemistry. Vagrant X has it all.”
Newest member Tom Miller quit school at 17 to join the Air Force and enlisted as an aircraft mechanic.
“I messed up, got in some trouble, but pressed on,” said Miller. He studied hard, earned a bachelors degree in Industrial Engineering and was commissioned as an Air Force officer.
After serving 21 years in the Air Force he retired as a major, earned a masters degree in Financial Planning and is now a Global Hawk Pilot contracted to NASA.
“After years of focusing on my ‘left brain’ as a technician, engineer and pilot, I decided I should start exercising my ‘right brain,’” he said.
Three years ago he visited a pawn shop in Palmdale and bought a bass guitar and amp. “My friend Jason set me up with some great equipment. I kept practicing and hanging out with the band. These guys are really great teachers. They helped me learn some songs and even called me up on stage to play. I must have done OK, because they asked me to join the band last April.”
“Tom got his masters, joined a rock band, bought a Harley and has never been happier,” said his wife Lorrie who also works at Edwards. “He used to just study and fly airplanes. The band has been very good for him.”
John Guerra is a devoted fan and enjoys dancing.
“These guys are the real thing,” said Guerra. “What you see here is who they are, no matter if it is rehearsing in the living room or playing before hundreds.” After 25 years of marriage Guerra lost his wife to cancer and met the Calzada family while working at AV Chevrolet. “After my wife passed, I was heading down a dark path and these guys pulled me out. I’m a great fan and I’m grateful for their friendship.”
Vagrant X encourages guests to step up to the microphone and join them on stage. “That unexpected element of guest performers is part of what makes Vagrant X special,” Kahn said. Recently Electra Bleu, a singer from the Santa Clarita, Calif., area, stepped up with her rendition of Crimson and Clover. “She rocked it.”
Each member of the Vagrant X band has direct ties to the U.S. armed services.
Miller served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years, and Calzada, Kahn and Nichols all have sons currently serving in the military.
“Vagrant X is an American band and proud of it. You can expect to hear the Star Spangled Banner performed at every Vagrant X performance,” said Nichols. Vagrant X will be playing Sept. 22 at the Rock Inn in Lake Hughes, Calif.