2012 CAMMIES nominees
A bite-sized guide to the best of the local music scene
Thanks to this year“s shortened CAMMIES showcase season—from four weeks to one week—we had to gather all of the nominees for every genre here in this one preview issue. What you have in front of you is one giant bowl of easy-to-digest musical snacks that will give you a sense of the range of flavors that make up the local music scene. Dive in, pig out and go to www.newsreview.com/cammies to vote for your faves.
Carey Robinson Trio: This trio’s mission statement: “It should groove hard and make you tap your foot.” While not the sexiest of descriptors, it does adequately get the point across. It’s jazz for jazz lovers. And people who like food, as they play every Monday night at Café Flo.
Chico Jazz Collective: American history through music, featuring some of Chico’s best players. It’s a veritable who’s-who of jazz, with the likes of D’Augelli, Coltrane, Blakey, Minetaka, Elke, Scofield, Newman, Shorter—you know the names—rotating through. Chico Jazz Collective is like the 1992 Dream Team—loaded with talent, and awfully unfair to mere mortals.
Eric Peter: This impeccable guitar player has been performing in and around Chico for more than three decades. That’s some calloused fingers. Peter’s expertise covers everything from jazz to blues and all parts in between. He’s also been spotted playing some mean slide guitar with a Budweiser bottle and/or a beer pitcher.
Holly Taylor: A sassy chanteuse who makes her living belting out jazz standards and even some rockers. And, oh, can she scat—oodlee aw bop doo waah wee wah woo—which, when attempted by average folk, sounds like you’re trying to tell someone your pants are on fire with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
Lew Langworthy: Lew Langworthy has played drums for just about every jazz ensemble in town, bringing with him decades of experience. He’s like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction—dependable, there in a pinch, and respected by all (except for Vincent Vega, the big jerk).
Aubrey Debauchery: Aubs Debauch is more or less Puke Bootless these days, but she still plays out alongside stand-up bassist Ryan Davidson, drawing audiences that are captivated by her personable demeanor and soulful, tell-all country songs. And when I say tell-all, I mean tell-all—boozing, manizing, hangovers, small-town drama, Skid Row—you don’t know whether to fall in love or run for cover.
Kelly Brown & Lisa Marie: The story of these two songbirds goes like this: “When their paths converged they sang old tunes they knew about trains and the Lord.” Those are the building blocks of some of the greatest country songs ever. Which is to say these young women know what they’re doing.
Kyle Williams: A big teddy bear of a man with a tangle of dreadlocks and one sweet voice, Kyle Williams might just melt your heart. Bringing to mind the easygoing, surf-inspired pop of Jack Johnson, Williams has strummed his way up and down the West Coast. Endless summer, indeed.
Lish Bills: Lish Bills is the alter-ego of metal wunderkind Kirk Williams, who’s known mostly for his shred-skills in bands like Blood of Cain and CAMMIES metal-nominee Armed for Apocalypse. His solo act is a departure, and the song “The Bills” is a boozy blues number that’s one part Old 97’s and two parts Johnny Cash—straight, no chaser.
MaMuse: The voices of Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker are the backbone of MaMuse, or as they put it: “What a meadow would sound like if it could sing.” Together their harmonies are something special—otherworldly even. Perhaps it’s a meadow in some as-yet-to-be-named galaxy. That just sounds cooler.
The Railflowers: The sisters Knight were raised on Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell, which explains The Railflowers’ nod to early country and folk. But what explains those voices? Likely genetics, but this is music we’re talking about, not biology—let’s leave it at that.
Eye-Que: Mixing the electronic with the organic, Quentin Fields (Eye-Que) has been a mainstay of local hip-hop, whether he’s performing solo or with his funky former band, Live Assist. Eye-Que pens his own rhymes, and occasionally freestyles over classics (including Dr. Dre’s “Next Episode”), sometimes sounding better than the O.G.’s.
The Hooliganz: This crew knows how to throw a party: less Bachelor Party, more House Party. “Way That I Be” is the official soundtrack to said party, and the video is a peak inside that party. Now performing with a backing band (The What, featuring members of Armed for Apocalypse), The Hooliganz can play your party, too … if you don’t mind dancing, scantily clad women, a spilled Corona or two, or penguin costumes.
Resonators: Himp C should be given some credit for taking the Resonators to a different place. Since he joined the group in 2008, the Resonators have upped their game while holding down their corner of the foundation of Chico’s hip-hop scene. Plus they’re called the Resonators, which is the least hip-hop name ever. Which is really cool.
Twisted Strategies: Sort of like the Beastie Boys before they got old, a little like Sublime before Bradley Nowell got dead, and a lot like a kegger that never gets busted. Another Chico hip-hop group that you’re guaranteed to see playing live instruments … plus you might get a contact high free with admission.
TyBox: Finally, someone’s bringing back the criminally forgotten art of beatboxing (in addition to his inventive wordplay and freestyle skillz). It’s party-meets-conscious rap. TyBox’s cut “Green Thumb” is an exhaustive examination of Northern California’s No. 1 cash crop. Hint: It’s not almonds, and it rhymes with Larry Crane.
Beltain: Blending 11th-century folk and elements of ’60s pop, Beltain sounds like Frank Zappa playing during Medieval Times. Mandolin, pan flute and accordion are the instruments of choice, but the dark harmonies of Dave Cowan and Morgan and Mikkel McDow steal the show. They wield a mean jousting lance, too.
Boss 501: Ska and reggae have been shoved aside over the past two decades, typically enjoyed by dorm rats with an oversized Bob Marley Legend poster on the wall and a smuggled bubbler under the bed. This eight-piece swims against the tide, rebooting blue-eyed ska for 2012, which might actually make them more punk rock than most punk rockers.
Cannon & Lion of Judah: Led by a Jamaican transplant who goes only by Cannon, this band has traipsed through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and miraculously ended up in Forest Ranch. And they’re the real deal, harkening back to the trippier, late-’60s work of Jimmy Cliff (whom Cannon has performed with).
Los Papi Chulos: A big band that covers even larger musical territory, from Afro-Cuban to Cumbia and Latin jazz. Airtight musicianship is what Los Papi Chulos brings to the dance, so all you have to do is concentrate on your “Cuban motion.” It’s all in the hips, white boy.
Soul Union: A funky cross-section of musical styles that is guaranteed to get people to kick off their shoes and incite massive drum circles (the hippie equivalent of a mosh pit). The vocal delivery of John Dutro is frantic even as he spits inspirational lyrics. It is all good.
Furlough Fridays: Holy 1995, Batman! A quick rundown of influences: NOFX, Smashing Pumpkins, Portland-born/Chico-adopted Floater. Furlough Fridays is all about muscular guitar riffs, all prettied up by vocalist Linda Bergmann. If you think it’s too soon for the ’90s alt-grunge revival, someone better tell these guys … and that Gavin Rossdale chap.
Gentlemen’s Coup: Scott Barwick continues his ’60s fascination with Gentlemen’s Coup, a band that pays especially close attention to the post-Beatles work of Lennon and McCartney. Their finely crafted pop songs are heavy on Mellotron and piano, with all of the spaciness that made people swear by LSD.
The Make: What do you get when you cross a Superbowl champ with former members from Tooth & Nail Records champs Number One Gun? The Make, of course. It’s a more straight pop approach this time around, and the Aaron Rodgers-financed single “Get It” is pure delicious sugar—we’re talking a mouthful of Frosted Flakes, marshmallows and Jelly Bellies washed down with a 32-ounce Mountain Dew.
Perpetual Drifters: Fronted by songwriter Garrett Gray, the Perpetual Drifters play thinking-man’s pop music with just the right touch of twang and British Invasion—basically all the elements you ever need. And those sunny hooks pair well with Gray’s bookish wordplay. Essentially, listening to Perpetual Drifters makes you not dumb.
The Shankers: Everyone loves The Shankers … except for the shankees, but they hate everything. Kerra Shanker plays standup bass, Christina Shanker plays standup drums, and guitarist-vocalist Johnny Shanker is a standup guy. Together they play mutant garage rock with a healthy dose of grease and grits. Or as we like to call it—rock ’n’ roll.
Surrogate: Another former Tooth & Nail Records champion, Chris Keene has been fronting his band Surrogate now for five years. The band refers to its music as “slow jams for slow people,” although mid-tempo jams for Midwest farmers has a certain ring to it. Fast jams for fast-living heathens? OK, slow jams for slow people it is.
The Blue Merles: This country quartet embraces the Bakersfield Sound made famous by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard (and later Dwight Yoakam and The Mavericks), which is to say the best kind of country. The Merles amp things up to appropriate 2012-levels, keeping roadhouse dance floors filled and beer pitchers emptied.
Broken Rodeo: This two-piece country outfit keeps things sparse—guitar, mandolin, spare percussion—which leaves more room for their yarns of love lost and the road weary. It may sound like a downer, but add a little whiskey … wait, that’s a downer, too? Ever see a grown man cry?
Gordy Ohliger: Gordy Ohliger is a virtuoso banjo player, self-proclaimed “musical Mark Twain,” and about the only person on the planet who can get away with calling themselves a “banjo-ologist.” He performs all over in addition to his speaking engagements at various museums. Ohliger also has the distinction of being both a banjo-ologist and a Local Bad Ass.
Poa Porch Band: This rag-tag band of merry foot-stompers formed over whiskey, but not on a porch despite common belief (that came later). The Poa Porch Band plays bluegrass that conjures up the rustic ramblings of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs—no neo-jazz-funk fusion, just spare and gritty songs. And whiskey.
Three Fingers Whiskey: The elder statesmen (and woman) of local country, Three Fingers Whiskey continue to play originals inspired by the outlaws Jennings, Cash and Nelson, and good ol’-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. And whiskey. Fact: A steady diet of Jennings, Cash, Nelson and whiskey will keep you looking young and sexy.
Amarok: Some say the “brown note” is only a myth, although I’m convinced Amarok formed with the sole intention of proving science wrong. This four-piece enjoys beards, illegible metal logos, and playing riffs that have frightened people into thinking WWIII had begun in their back yard. If it’s too heavy, you should be wearing a diaper.
Armed For Apocalypse: A4A (that’s what the kids call them) have taken on many forms in the past six(66) years. The current lineup is the heaviest yet, armed with loads of muscular riffs and an even more muscular drummer. This is metal, pure and simple. When End Times come you want these dudes on your side.
Cold Blue Mountain: Heavy, heavy, heavy … but not metal. And that’s OK. These guys keep things slow, but occasionally take things to epic heights. Powerful is a more apt description. And thirsty. For some reason I want to shotgun a Coors Light whenever I see their name.
Into the Open Earth: The name says it all: These two guys enjoy gardening. And rocking uncontrollably. Into the Open Earth remind me a little of Sweden’s Raised Fist—hardcore, pissed off, buzz-saw guitars. But you’d think harvesting organic kale from your back yard would make you a little less intense.
Teeph: Egads, this is scary, a mishmash of mosh-worthy songs that tell sordid tales of murdering hipsters and soliciting sex at the deer pens. This band is technically proficient, but doesn’t rub it in our faces. It’s frightening to think what they would like to rub in our faces.
Holy Buzzcocks! Why in the hell are there 22 nominees in the punk category? Because that’s just how punk rock the CN&R is. Actually, all punk-rockedness in this case belongs to the local punk scene and its fertile home base, Monstros Pizza. In the spirit of the annual come-one-come-all CAMMIES punk showcases that the Pyrate Punx have hosted there, we decided this year that it was about time we followed suit and just made every local punk band a nominee. What follows are the 22 that we could pin down, though there’s always a chance we missed a few. But hey, this is punk rock not flawless-list rock. Get over it and get in the pit!
Ready? One, two, three, four: Baghdad Batteries, Born Into This, Brass Hysteria!, Chingado, Cody K & The Thundertrain Express, Disorderly Event, Fight Music, Filthy Luke, Icko Sicko, In Reach, Jay Decay, Kasm, Nothing Left, The Oisters, Pintlifter, The Pushers, Ryan Davidson, Season of the Witch, Severance Package, Shivaree, The Suspects and Zabaleen.
The Amy Celeste Band: It was a Blues Society open jam that got vocalist Amy Celeste to overcome her stage fright. Now she fronts her own blues band, which jams out originals as well as their own shape-shifting takes on standards. Blue-eyed blues doesn’t get much more soulful.
Big Mo and The Full Moon Band: How is Maurice “Big Mo” Huffman not the mayor of Paradise? (His wife, Robin, was a town councilwoman after all!) Since moving to Northern California from Germany in 1989, Big Mo and his band have pretty much ruled the roost here in California and pretty much all over the map, blending blues with southern rock and soul. Hell, this guy should be chancellor of Germany.
Sapphire Soul: Sapphire Soul’s sound is as massive as frontman and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Arthur’s beard (OK, the beard has a slight edge). These cats play boogie-woogie blues to crowds that like to boogie oogie oogie on the dance floor, whether it’s an original or a well-chosen classic.
Second Hand Smoke: Mike and Kathy Williams dig into the roots of blues as well as everything that came after. Their stockpile of covers reads like a radio play list from another time—from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Strange Brew” and even “Margaritaville.” The aural equivalent of a black-light poster depicting a Hawaiian-shirt-clad Elvis.
Swamp Daddy: The newest kids on the blues block, Swamp Daddy goes for the heart of New Orleans (Nawlins, if you’re nasty). It’s a steaming cauldron of gumbo with a little of this and a little of that, but not so spicy that it will frighten off wallflowers from attempting some shufflin’.
Clouds On Strings: These lads out of the Chico State music program know their way around a three-over-four hemiola. But they also know how to write a melody. Basically, Clouds On Strings make math (rock) fun. Thank god. There’s some King Crimson and Steely Dan prog in there somewhere, too. They even do that well.
La Fin du Monde: Still one of the kings of the noise-makers here in Chico, armed to the teeth with dual guitars, dual bassists, perhaps even a couple of members with dual personalities? Instrumentally speaking—and it’s all instrumental—it’s a sonic punch to the face. Their last album is called Monolith for a reason.
Master Lady: Great name, turns out they make a mean batch of rock, too—the sort of spaced-out power pop you used to find at CBGB. It’s also one of the more raucous outfits to come out of the Around Town Collective, known more for its folkier folks. This band belches at their table.
The Shimmies: These lads take their love of Simon & Garfunkel and Nirvana to the blog-laden New World. Meat-and-potatoes rock gets purtied up with layers of shimmering harmonies and keys. Remember Radiohead before they got all wimpy? The Shimmies are kind of like that, only less wimpy.
West by Swan: A freight train among the handcars, West by Swan continues to make tremendous noise after nearly a decade. You might not find a louder, more ferocious band with such Zen-like members. Chalk it up to experience, or age. Or both. Forty is the new 20 after all, and WBS and their beards are in their prime.
Alli Battaglia & the Musical Brewing Co.: Jam? Funk? You got it. Alli Battaglia leads her Musical Brewing Co. of airtight players through originals that bring to mind those easygoing early-’70s. Simply close your eyes and imagine Carole King’s Tapestry (an album, mind you, that everyone and their mother owns) lilting from your AM radio dial. Ahh, is that a breeze I feel?
Black Fong: Another old-school funky endeavor from the mind and bowels of Jack Dammit (Brut Max). Not to speak on Dammit’s behalf, but one listen to Black Fong and you might get the impression he wants to funk you, and funk you real good. All night long.
GravyBrain: “Funk and fusion” is how GravyBrain describes their sound. This four-piece is more than funky; they’re downright zany, ready to infiltrate Burning Man at the drop of a wizard hat. They have a song called “Kung Fu Grip” that clocks in at almost nine minutes … just add 11 minutes to that during a live performance.
Jeff Pershing Band: Guitarist Jeff Pershing has probably spent as much time studying music as he has playing it. Simply put: Pershing has powers beyond your wildest imagination. His namesake band churns out smooth Caribbean funk that will make you feel like the first mate of a tropical pleasure cruise.
Soul Butter: GravyBrain? Soul Butter? It’s enough to make you funking hungry. These young gents carry on the tradition of Chico bands of yore—the Mother Hips, Electric Circus—giving audiences something to dance to, but always with an ear for songcraft. It’s undeniably Chico, without the fear of being buried under a big, scary extended jam.
Swamp Zen: Swamp Zen are to flip-flops and tie-dye shirts what the Ramones were to leather jackets and ripped jeans. Uniforms aside, ringleader Doug Stein has been at it as long as … well, as long as one of those extended jams that gets the oldsters and young honeys twirling in the grass.
Billy the Robot: Not actually a robot, nor named Billy, the artist also known as MANIC ONE has been manning the ones and twos for nearly two decades. He probably has an incredible record collection. BtR is known for his mashups, often combining hip-hop with dance music from the ’80s and ’90s. He’s also a world-class vocalist while showering. Don’t ask how we know that.
Kezwik: I assume this 16-year-old prodigy is for DJs what Doogie Howser was for doctors. Specializing in dubstep, Kezwik is all about keeping the party lively—of course, only if the party includes cookies and milk and other wholesome fare for the under-21 set. Musically speaking, however, Kezwik is like a Jaeger Bomb.
Symbio: A DJ for all occasions, Symbio keeps things light early on and gets crunk-freaky during the small hours going heavy on the tech- and acid-house. He also looks to pioneers like New Order and Skinny Puppy for inspiration, which tells us he knows his stuff.
DJ Whitlock: “Slaying dance floors with bass and lasers on sight,” is how Matt Whitlock describes his show. Sounds like a Red Bull and vodka kind of night, eh? DJ Whitlock knows how to work a room, and is well-versed in house, electro, moombahton and anything else that sounds like it might involve massive bass rattling your gray matter.
Eyere Eyes: Atmospheric and creepy. Bass is only part of the equation, an equation that probably also includes a lot of ones and zeros. The rest is a swirl of odd bleeps and bloops with occasional string samples thrown in the mix. Sounds like a slow and methodical robot attack.
Simple Science: Metallic beats with a heart of rock ’n’ roll, Billy Hopkins—aka Simple Science—creates a sound he’s dubbed “rocktronic.” I suspect if this kid can bring rock and drum and bass together, he could potentially bring warring factions to peace. Besides, we can all agree that a drum machine has more personality than Mitt Romney.