Arts Devo

Thirty bands for 30 years in Chico

The Downsiders

The Downsiders

30 for 30 Arts DEVO moved to Chico in 1989, a 20-year-old puppy dog with a pillowcase filled with band shirts, a cardboard tube of rock posters and a couple crates of records and cassettes. No bed. No furniture. No car. No checking account. Just a fist full of student-loan money ready to be thrown at the essentials: beers, burritos and whatever band was playing that week at the Burro Room. That legendary downtown institution (located where Aonami Sushi is today) was a magnet that attracted young versions of the Flaming Lips, Green Day, Fugazi and Mudhoney, and it’s where my crew and all the local bands we dug gravitated on weekend nights.

I’ve lived here for 30 years now and in that time I’ve witnessed a lot of rad touring bands put on energetic shows as they experience Chico’s ready-to-party hospitality, and I’ve just as often watched as local bands have shown visitors how it’s done by setting fire to the stage. In fact, I’d take the Pepsi Challenge with Chico’s history of homegrown rock versus that of just about any other city. So, for my Chico birthday, I’ll start that list, a chronological roster of 30 locals chosen from across my 30 years in town. This is one man’s Chico timeline (arranged by decade) as told through the local music that’s defined his experience here.

Decade one: 28th Day: The original. Mid-’80s jangly dark-pop trio—with Barbara Manning and Cole Marquis singing/songwriting—that was my introduction to Chico’s music and the Paisley Underground. The Downsiders: Marquis makes the hectic jump for Chico’s stoney answer to Sonic Youth that was the real impetus for me coming to town (and tuning my guitar weird). Vomit Launch: One of the seminal American indie-pop crews and one of the best bands from here or anywhere. The Vertels: Redding homeys who tutored me with their guitar-driven nerd rock. Trench: Brutal end-of-the-world noise/punk/metal that literally threw up in its own mouth. Death Star: 1990s indie noise-rock perfection, especially live. (Objectively Chico’s best band ever?) Fat Chick From Wilson Phillips: Young, dumb, fun ska-punk for young, dumb, fun boys. Mid-Fi: Man-boys write the best snotty rock anthem, “Eugene.” Uncle Rosco: Fierce, complex, beautiful noise way before its time. Land of the Wee Beasties: See Uncle Rosco. The Imps: Slacker pop-rock for the Duffy’s generation. The Verves: Cover band gets a pass by playing only The Velvet Underground. The Mother Hips: Not my jam, but my Chico history is not complete without their song “Superwinner,” written because I was a jerk to them.

Decade two: Stars Upon Thars: Multivocal post-punk with scary live energy. MeYow: Noisy-circus version of current Chico crew XDS. Royal Crown: Bandleader Becky Brown’s lyrics remain the best I’ve heard out of Chico. Botchii: The sound of everything being destroyed. Danny Cohen: Butte County’s answer to Tom Waits and/or Captain Beefheart. West by Swan: The kings atop Chico’s formidable noise-rock mountain. The Americas: Constantly looping complex, loud, beautiful noise. (And Casey Deitz is the “Best F’n drummer in the world”—seriously, Google it.) The Makai: Metal not just for metal dudes. Whoa!

Decade three: Surrogate: Perfect pop-rock that would rule any town it lived in. French Reform: If they were around for more than a minute, this keyboard-informed guitar-rock quintet might’ve been the best Chico ever heard. Close to perfect. Michelin Embers: Western skiffle is the best music and only Chico knows it. Bunnymilk: Lyrics—beautiful, haunting lyrics—return to Chico. Bran Crown: More lyrics! Don Parrish is my Chico Dylan. Hallelujah Junction: Add up the previous three bands and invite ’em to your front porch. Donald Beaman: Sad, quiet, soulful, weird music for Chico nights. XDS: Disco punks turn down the noise and turn up the fun. Scout: Is the future.