New Chico bands and venue, plus Tim McDonald and Ben Ruttenburg

Writ broke my speaker

Writ broke my speaker

Too much good?
All I can say is, damn. Where do all these bands come from? Even weeding out the bedroom projects and phony profiles, just a cursory MySpace search for the Chico area yields a mind-boggling proliferation of new live-performing and/or CD-recording musical units. I’ve already slobbered on about
The Soul’s Release, but have you heard of electronic diva Metisyn (playing Jan. 30, at TiON)? The new Around Town Collective collaboration Last Workhorse (Feb. 12, Café Coda)? The return of Sean Harrasser (of Harvester fame) under his solo moniker The Envelope Peasant (Jan. 30, Café Flo)? The excellently named electronic-ish indie crew The Dirty Castanets (clap) (clap), fronted by Phiona Carousel (Feb. 21, Café Coda)? Of course, there’s also the new crews Joybook (Feb. 7, Chico Women’s Club) and The Gentlemen Crawlers, plus Magalia bowel- rattling metal-makers Writ and brand-new epic stoner-metal trio Cold Blue Mountain (Feb. 13, Paradise Lost), featuring Daniel Taylor, Zach Ahern and Will McGahan. Huzzah!

A new age
Where are all these bands going to play? I say house parties! All you college kids who won’t be getting any of that cleaning deposit back anyway: Make your time count. Throw a house show! Get on MySpace now and get these bands into your living room.

Maybe some of the new crews will get their shot at Chico’s newest hot spot, Café Culture. I honestly wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but inside the old Gold’s Gym on Fifth Street (for you really old-timers, in the old Ping Pong Palace building), Greg Fletcher has opened a massive new venue. Fletcher has the noble vision of “uniting communities through the arts,” and his new space has already started doing that by renting out space for classes in African drumming, various styles of dance, tai chi, Capoeira, Pilates, yoga and many other activities. There’s also a full-service café, a store selling imported instruments, jewelry and clothing, plus already-booked performances by the Chico Poetry Slam crew (first slam Feb. 12) and, hopefully, live music on the horizon.

A standing ovation
Thanks to being married to a kindergarten teacher, I know a little about the Flat Stanley project. Taking cutouts of the paper-thin 1960s children’s-book character, students put the flat little man in an envelope and mail him to a relative or some far-off place to visit and return with tales and pictures from his travels.

This weekend, the world traveler stops by Chico for a Chico Performances presentation of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley (Friday, Jan. 30, Laxson Auditorium), a musical created by another well-traveled character, Chico State grad Tim McDonald. McDonald was one of the founders of the old Chico City Light Opera (where Chico Theater Company currently resides), and after the theater closed in 1997, he moved to New York City to join other Chicoans (including fellow CCLO mainstay Coy Middlebrook) pursuing theater careers. After making a name for himself in children’s theater in New York, McDonald formed his own company iTheatrics, which converts children’s literature into musicals for schools—the Flat Stanley musical is one of those ventures. Next up for McDonald: James and the Giant Peach . See what else homeboy is up to at

Ben Ruttenburg returns

The next wave
Chico has lost much of its theater talent to the lure of the Big Apple and its theater scene(s) over the years, and one of the more recent faces to take flight is Ben Ruttenburg, son of Chico Cabaret honchos Phil and Sue Ruttenburg. The young Rutt hasn’t been in the big city long, but almost immediately upon his arrival he’s made his mark, but not in theater … in music. With a run of solo-acoustic shows at clubs all over Manhattan in his wake, and his first CD in hand, Ben is making his way to Chico this week for an EP-release party at the Cabaret Sunday, Feb. 1 (also, catch him the night before, Saturday, Jan. 31, at Nick’s Night Club). Get a preview at