2008 in Music

CN&R’s music writers rehash their faves of 2008

Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

Reviewing the year in music for a Chico audience is challenging. With such a diverse population of rabid fans devouring an even more diverse (and insanely crowded) calendar of local and touring artists, any attempts at a comprehensive rundown would either come up hopelessly short or collapse under its unwieldiness.

Where do we start? With an overview of the big names who visited Chico for one night (plus a shout out to the hard-working organizations that brought them)? Tommy Emmanuel, Matisyahu, Snoop Dogg (twice!) and Avett Brothers (thank you, Chico Performances, A.S. Presents, J-Max Productions and Sierra Nevada Big Room, respectively).

That might work for some folks, but how about the nightlifers? That electric crowd of socialites feeding at the overstocked stages of Chico’s bars and all-ages hotspots? Praise is especially deserved for that frequently thankless task of keeping Café Coda, LaSalles, Nick’s Night Club, Monstros Pizza and Lost on Main booked with touring bands (remember Imaad Wasif? We Be the Echo? The Misfats?!?) as well as rotating Chico’s 300-plus pool of rock stars through the calendar.

And speaking of that local talent pool, the biggest splash in the CN&R offices this year was once again our spring-long tip-of-the-hat to local-music, the CAMMIES, and its attendant month’s worth of showcases around Chico and (very!) good-time party finale at the El Rey Theatre.

It could go many ways, but in the end the best solution that we seem to come up with every year is to just let those who’ve been writing about music talk about whatever music stuck with them. We’re all tuned into the local scene, and each of is tuned into our own individual radios as well. Between us we should be able to cover the local highlights while sharing a few personal musical picks that kept us juiced-up for the task.

Jason Cassidy
2008: Axel Rose put out an album under the name of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Coldplay plagiarized Joe Satriani and, apparently, Britney is now OK.

That’s it. What a great year for music!

Here’s some smaller stuff that went down as well:

10. Ruckus Roboticus: Clevelend DJ/remixer collaged samples (reminiscent of DJ Shadow) from spoken-word and educational albums, creating playful and funky remixes and a brand-new sort of children’s music on Playing With Scratches. Check: “A Child’s Introduction to Drums.”

9. Pat Hull, live (with full band) at TiON grand opening Nov. 8. A revival dance party punctuated by the perfect pop-ness of “True Love.”

8. The Soul’s Release: Go to myspace.com/thesoulsrelease and be blown away as Chico metal shredder Alex Rich goes ambient.

7. Polvo reunited and I got to road trip with C. Harris-Nystrom to Bimbo’s in S.F. to see the guitar-noise pioneers. (My Bloody Valentine reunited too, and though it pained me, I passed on spending $50 to reminisce).

6. Around Town Collective: Zach Zeller, North Cedar, Boy Elephant and more brought a collection of indie-folksters to Chico and a record label on which to share it all.

5. Dick and Jane: Scott Itamura and Molly McNally’s sing-a-long ukulele folk/pop songs charmed the town.

4. The Secret Stolen: Best live band in Chico.

3. A band called MURDER: Former CN&R Arts Editor Mark Lore and current CN&R arts editor had too much fun playing music louder than the rest for three memorable shows.

2. Vampire Weekend: Though I probably used up enough ink on these guys last year, their self-titled debut didn’t actually come out until 2008. And, even though I’d already heard every leaked song, the officially packaged collection of Afrobeat-influenced, cleanly presented pop treats was the best album of 2008.

1. Titus Andronicus: I love these Glen Rock, N.J., power-pop/poppy-punk/noise-pop/hyper-rock makers so much that Mr. Lore and myself actually invented the band mentioned in No. 3 for the sole purpose of opening for them Aug. 2 at Nick’s Night Club. The show ruled; the guys in the band ruled; and their debut album, The Airing of Grievances, still rules!

Shigemi Minetaka

Christine G.K. LaPado
• I finally got to hear Das Vibenbass at Café Coda (in January, like I swore I would when I wrote my 2007 Top Ten list). Another packed Coda show for the innovative Seattle avant-punkrockjazz quartet. Fun!

• April’s Peru Negro show at Laxson: One of a number of great Chico Performances offerings in 2008, which included Texas swing kings Asleep at the Wheel, Soweto Gospel Choir and amazing Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster.

Known as “The Cultural Ambassador of Black Peru,” Negro’s 22-member troupe of instrumentalists, dancers and singers mesmerized the crowd.

• Ranchero Nights: Traditional Mexican music at Lost on Main! (Chico Performances also brought trad Mexican music to town this year with the Laxson appearance of singer Linda Ronstadt and the impressive nine-piece Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano.) Viva la musica!

• Local ukulele/vocal duo Dick and Jane (Molly McNally and Scott Itamura) bring a lazy-day sweetness to the Chico music scene.

• Festival king Dan DeWayne’s Chico World Music Festival (and WorldFest in Grass Valley) rocked the North State once again with a slew of awesome local, national and international world music acts. Thanks to the Chico City Council for reinstating funding for CWMF to continue in its usual glory.

• Sacramento-bred “Prince of Americana” Jackie Greene’s multiple Chico appearances, at the El Rey (twice—once with the Mother Hips’ Tim Bluhm, as the Skinny Singers) and Sierra Nevada’s Big Room.

• A.S. Presents brought passionate young New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott to town in early December.

• Deluxe house-concert venue The Birdhouse hidden in Little Chico Creek Canyon in Forest Ranch—easily the most interesting new place to enjoy live music, both for its exotic location and excellent offering of touring artists.

• West Virginian-turned-Chicoan singer-songwriter Jason Conley, formerly of indie “high lonesome” trio Slap Shoe Fly. Conley’s new CD, The Postulant Thief (recorded at Dale Price’s lovely and local Electric Canyon studio) is my current local fave.

• And my pet favorite: The return of jazz pianist Shigemi Minetaka to the local scene after being in Canada and Japan for the 2007-08 school year with her husband, Chico State math professor Thomas Mattman, while he was on sabbatical.

Blitzen Trapper

Mark Lore
I rocked. I rolled. I moved away to Portland. In the process I saw some great shows that covered different genres and cultures in two states. Ace Frehley rocked San Francisco, although stalking him in his hotel might have been more fun than the actual performance. Ranchero Nights was the most fun I had at a Chico show, while seeing The Thermals got me hot and bothered in the chill of the Pacific Northwest. In 2008 I was introduced to Vampire Weekend and Liam Finn. Orland’s Nothing People released their first full-length, making yet another year-end list. Old 97’s came back with a solid effort. I also fell in love with Blitzen Trapper, along with the city the band calls home.

10. Sacto’s Far reformed/covered Ginuwine’s “Pony” … far out?!

9. El Guincho at Holocene, Portland, Nov. 24: Barcelona’s Pablo Díaz-Reixa took Tropicália and Afrobeat and dropped it into a giant bowl of dance soup.

8. The CAMMIES Awards Show at El Rey Theatre, May 1: Good music. Delicious Blue Moon. And more fun than a grown man should be allowed.

7. Heavy Metal in Baghdad: Filmed in 2006, this rock doc follows Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only heavy metal band at the time, while examining the disarray caused by insurgency and the U.S. invasion.

6. Anonymous, Nothing People: The three-piece’s first full-length—the best spacey psych rock lurking right in your backyard.

5. Ace Frehley at The Grand, San Francisco, March 21: Much to my surprise, a very kickass rock show. Ace is still God.

4. Blame it on Gravity, Old 97’s: What can I say? I’m a fanboy.

3. The Thermals at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Dec. 5: Incredibly fun show, and a sneak peek at the band’s forthcoming platter, Now We Can See, due out April 7.

2. Ranchero Nights with Banda La Patrona and Ilusión Norteña at Lost On Main, June 6: Corona flowed, people danced, the Latino community was repped. Made me wish I looked good in a pair of cowboy boots.

1. Furr, Blitzen Trapper: Not a bad song in the batch from Portland’s indie-country kings.