A Chico playlist

CN&R’s annual look at who to watch in the local music scene

Have you ever written a song? Have you ever put together a unique combination of notes, set the notes to a rhythm, then strung a few meaningful words across a complementary melody and delivered the whole package on time, in key and with heart in front of a live audience?

This is not something that everyone can do. That is, apparently, unless you live in music-centric Chico, Calif. Here, where a state university brings new musicians with new musical ideas to town every 12 months and a famously social and leisure-inclined way of life provides plenty of opportunity and time for making music, there are new bands born every month and new songs written every day.

Out of respect for that spirit of creation and all the work that Chico’s eclectic music community continues to put into making songs for our city’s soundtrack, we take a break once a year to talk about what the local scene is up to and what you might want to add to your own local playlist.

With the literally hundreds of bands from which to choose, the question each year is how to pick the ones to spotlight? The goal is to end up with a representative handful of artists. Even after subtracting the bands that are still in their infancy and those that are already well-established, there still are dozens of energized young bands in Chico that will, in the upcoming year, play original music, record CDs, volunteer their time at benefit shows and stay out late supporting one another.

These are the five we’ve chosen to start watching: Ha’Penny Bridge, The Around Town Collective (and its busy stable of artists), The Amblers, Black Hole of Calcutta, and The Kevin Reid Project.

We could just as easily have put an entire different list of “bands to watch” together: Ma Muse, Anamnesis, Casing the Promised Land, Lysistrata, Belles and Whistles all will be singing new songs throughout the year. So will Champion, Birds of Fire, ¡Mammoth Torta! And Jason Conley.

And there are also the new crews that we passed over simply because we’ve already done features them on this year: Mute Witness, Pat Hull, Red Giant and Dick and Jane. Each of them promises to continue to be among the most active players within the scene and should be included in the conversation as well (stay on the lookout for Pat Hull, for one, who is releasing a much-anticipated new CD early next year featuring an expanded full band).

Our hopes are that the Local Band Issue will kick-start a local-music conversation, like the discussion started with last year’s bands: Erin Lizardo continues to be one of the busiest local musicians, playing solo with various collaborators, most recently accompanying Pat Hull. Three Fingers Whiskey is putting its country-rock songs on a soon-to-be-released CD. Blood of Cain has overhauled its roster and restarted its brutal metal assault without skipping a beat. The Shimmies and Dr. Yes Experiment! (now just Dr. Yes!) continued to be regulars (often on the same bill) on the stages at Café Coda and CRUX. And Surrogate maintained its status as scenester faves, sharing bills with most every popular local band on nearly every local stage every month of the year.

So, for now, get started with this introductory playlist, and hear some new original songs that have been written just for you.