Arts Devo

Time to make some noise and a donation to a fellow noisemaker

Cole Marquis of The Downsiders.

Cole Marquis of The Downsiders.

Do me a favor When a young Arts DEVO first landed in Chico in 1989, he pretty much had only one goal: see The Downsiders live. As it happened, the very day I arrived in town, the Chico-based four-piece was playing a free outdoor show at the Chico State Rose Garden (yes, you read that sentence correctly—a free show on campus … and in the evening!). I was right up front, that night and for every show thereafter.

The Downsiders definitely wore the influence of Sonic Youth on their collective sleeve as they dabbled in weird tunings and made plenty of noise. But when they weren't knocking our socks off with their catchy up-tempo rock, the dudes' sonic explorations leaned more toward epic stoneyness than squalls of feedback. And they always put on a hell of a show to huge, enthusiastic college/punk/hippie/indie crowds; no one more wide-eyed into it than yours truly. The band made me feel plugged into whatever power grid brought their massive tunes to life, and my buddy Dave (where the hell is Dave?!) and I worshipped the guys in the band. And, along with Sonic Youth, The Downsiders provided the loud, tuneful, wild blueprint for the noisy fun I would attempt to create in many of the bands I played in during my time on local stages.

I think I’m ready.

All these decades later, I still haven't shaken my fanboyness. Even though I'm now friends on Facebook with former Downsiders guitarist/vocalist Cole Marquis (also of seminal 1980s Chico crew 28th Day), I have a hard time separating the memory of the hero from the man today.

All that aside, it's on Facebook where I recently learned that Marquis—who lives in North Carolina now—suffered a spiral tear to his aorta this past April, had surgery to repair it, and thankfully seems to be on the road to a near full recovery. Of course, there are a lot of out-of-pocket expenses related to having one's heart put back together, and a campaign has been launched to help Marquis cover some of his surgery-related expenses. If you have anything to spare and you want to help out one of my biggest heroes, visit and search: “Cole's Hard Cash.”

Did someone say noise? It's been a long time (13 years!) since I've been in a regularly performing band in Chico. During my first decade in town I made some fun noise with a lot of friends in a half-dozen different crews. But just before moving on from working in kitchens to working behind a desk, I kind of just let the door shut. My noise-making spirit was exhausted, and I put the rest of my energies into working on other aspects of my life, mainly learning how to be a journalist.

I've still been playing music since then—written a bunch of songs, recorded an album of my mellower tunes with another band and done a handful of one-off bands/music projects (even a promising but very short-lived noisy band with former CN&R Arts Editor and A.D. BFFF Mark Lore)—and I've still been involved in putting on shows, and of course writing about the Chico music scene in these pages. But I haven't gotten back to a regular, loud-music project—my favorite way to experience music—until now. For the past few months, I've been meeting with a trio of righteous dudes at a metal box out by the airport and having a blast woodshedding some dirty, loud goodness. We even have some shows scheduled for summer. (If you're really interested, I'm sure you can figure out the details. It's not fair for arts editors to hype their gigs in newspaper columns.)

And it's been kind of a revelation to once again kick open the door to high-volume expression. The energy that I thought was maybe lost turned out to be just building up in there. And, come to find out, tapping into that reserve is a mighty weapon in beating back the stresses of life into manageable chunks. I didn't realize how much I missed it. Here's to second chances. (You might want to plug your ears.)