Last April 1, local musician Steve Brogden posted a status update on social media telling friends that his band Nukem, which formed in 2012, would be opening for heavy metal heavies the Scorpions and Megadeth in September.
Brogden tweaked an ad promoting the concert, adding “with special guests Nukem” underneath the two supergroups, and threw that on his Facebook page. He left it up, fueling intrigue and excitement about the band’s “big break.”
“People were buying it and they didn’t realize it was April Fool’s (day),” Brogden said. “I felt pretty bad about that. I would go to shows and people kept coming up to me and congratulating me on such a giant opportunity.”
Now it looks as if the guitar player for the El Cajon-based thrash metal band may have been prescient.
Nukem is in the running with 13 other bands to be the opening act at a headbanging music festival in Tijuana, Fronterizo Fest 2018. To be held April 27-29 in Estadio Caliente — the stadium formerly known as Agua Caliente Racetrack — it will be headlined by the Scorpions, Megadeth and Suicidal Tendencies.
The festival’s lineup also includes DS Legacy, a Dire Straits tribute band that features several former touring members of that English band, including guitarist Phil Palmer, keyboardist Alan Clark, King Crimson saxophonist Mel Collins, former Yes and Buggles member Trevor Horn on bass and vocals, and former Tom Petty/Average White Band drummer Steve Ferrone.
“We actually have the chance to make good on our April Fool’s day joke,” Brogden said.
Nukem features Brogden, drummer Norm Leggio and bass player Don Lauder, with an occasional appearance by second guitarist Laura Christine. She originally started playing live with the band and recorded solos on two of the songs on the band’s first CD, “The Unholy Trinity,” released in 2016.
The album also features guest spots by metal-heads Craig Locicero of Forbidden, Reece Scruggs of Havok and Jim Durkin of Dark Angel.
Nukem plays at various San Diego venues, including Brick by Brick, The Casbah, Ramona Main Stage, Soda Bar, Tower Bar and SOMA. It has opened for metal bands from around the globe, including Saxon, Kreator, Voi-Vod, Death Angel and Marty Friedman, former lead guitarist for Megadeth.
Lauder said the artists that influenced Nukem include such “old classic thrash” bands as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Testament and Overkill, as well as “new thrash” acts like Havok and Evile.
Leggio, who also drums with the local metal band Psychotic Waltz, is a Granite Hills High alum. His family owned an Italian deli in El Cajon for 25 years. He worked for the heavy metal-oriented Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon from 1989-1996, eventually buying the business.
The store, which closed in 2006, was instrumental in Nukem’s connection.
“Steve was a 14-year-old kid buying metal and always asking if I was hiring,” recalls Leggio, 50. “So when he was 17, I hired him. He would sit behind the register with his Flying V guitar and play along to King Diamond songs. He developed as a musician and became the fine young man he is today, and we started a band.”
Brogden had his own metal band while attending Santana High, but it disbanded after he graduated. He knew Lauder, a transplanted Texan, from the local music scene and asked him if he wanted to start a thrash metal band.
“Steve called me, and I said: ‘Hell yeah!’ And we pieced it from there,” recalled Lauder, who lives in Mira Mesa.
Nukem will put its mettle and metal on the line at 2 p.m. on Feb. 24 in Tijuana at the Audiorama El Trompo. The trio will perform in a battle of the bands with 12 Mexico-based groups and one whose members live and perform on both sides of the border.
As far as Brogden knows, Nukem is the only “fully San Diego” group on the bill. They will be the 11th act to perform that day. He said that 10 of the 14 bands from the February competition will get to play in April on a stage in the parking lot at Fronterizo Fest 2018.
The four best bands will get even more exposure, with two performing on the festival’s main stage on April 28 and two on April 29.
The Feb. 24 show in Tijuana marks the first time Nukem will perform in Mexico. “It is really huge for us,” Lauder said.
“Metal shows in Mexico are really something special and fun so we’re really looking forward to bringing Nukem down to them. This will be the largest show we’ve been a part of. We are 1,000 percent excited for this show in TJ. Our goal, like every show, is to deliver our best show ever.”
Nukem is already four songs into making its second CD. But that may have to be put on hiatus, in case the Scorpions or Megadeth invites the band to join them on tour.