Behind the ventriloquist heavy metal drummer

Little Italy marketing guy gets his act to the Brick

The ventriloquist and his dummy in Harrah's ad
  • The ventriloquist and his dummy in Harrah's ad

Although it’s not immediately clear to some, those “Funner, California” commercials are actually promoting Harrah’s Casino in Valley Center.

Nights Like Thieves  (Mario Rivera, left)

Nights Like Thieves (Mario Rivera, left)

Nights Like Thieves, "I Collide"

“They actually changed the name of the property where the casino sits to ‘Funner,’” explains videographer/editor Mario J. Rivera. “I wrote the music for the commercial with the ventriloquist heavy metal drummer.”

Rivera works at I.D.E.A., the Little Italy–based marketing agency that came up with the Funner series of TV spots. He is also the frontman of Nights Like Thieves, which he formed after moving here last year. Although he spent a year in L.A., Rivera spent most of his time in Albuquerque where he fronted Left Unsaid, which at its peak opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bad Religion, and Offspring.

He says his video aptitude (“I started making videos at age eight”) has always helped him with his rock side. “We started a hip hip band [in 2010] called Monster Paws just as a joke, but that video got us on Jersey Shore, Real World, and a Ford commercial.”

Past Event

Ritual Potion and Coast Red

  • Saturday, September 23, 2017, 6 p.m.
  • Brick by Brick, 1130 Buenos Avenue, San Diego
  • 21+ / $10

Funner, California, ad

Past Event

Nights Like Thieves

  • Sunday, October 1, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Bar Pink, 3829 30th Street, San Diego
  • 21+

Rivera says Albuquerque’s Left Unsaid played twice in San Diego. “It was in 2001 at the [now-defunct] Epicentre and I think at Brick by Brick. When I got this band together I wanted to get back to the Brick.” But he says the emails to the Bay Park club didn’t yield any offers. “Then I heard from this company called Superior Booking who hit us up about a show at the Brick.” That show this Saturday includes eight other bands. It gives a new spin on pay-to-play. “They give you 40 $10 tickets. You don’t have to pay in advance, but the night of the show you have to give them their $200 for the first 20 tickets you sell. The band gets to keep everything after that.”

Monster Paws, "Champagne Bike Ride"

A call to Superior Booking at a Cleveland-area phone number was not returned.

“This is the 11th or 12th show we’ve done [in San Diego] and we’ve only been paid twice,” says Rivera. “Once at the Blonde Bar and once at the Merrow. I’ve been in bands all my life. It’s like I’m starting over. It sucks, but fuck it. I’m having fun, regardless. I love playing.”

Nights Like Thieves, which released an EP on La Escalera Records, will also appear October 1st at Bar Pink.

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