Chico has The Banjo-ologist, Surrogate and Band of Horses

Band of badasses

Band of badasses

Chico is so badass Arts DEVO is kind of being blown away by our sleepy little town right now. February sunshine already had me all aflutter with an intense case of spring fever blooming alongside the almond blossoms. But now there is all this other local radness joining the sunny vision of local beauty in my head.

First badass thing: local CD’s Like the grasses of the foothills, Chico bands have been lying in wait for just enough sunshine to sprout fresh, green tunes for the local soundtrack. Over the period of just one month, five bands will drop new discs: Broken Rodeo (March 9, at Café Coda); Bogg, So Happy It Hurts (March 14, at Café Coda); Michelin Embers Talapatchei (March); The Chrome (March 28, Café Coda); Surrogate, Post Heroic (April 5, LaSalles).

Second badass thing: spring concerts I’ve already expressed my approval of Calvin Johnson’s band the Hive Dwellers coming to town (joining The Chrome at their CD-release on March 28). But now I’ve heard rumors of Seattle’s rainy-day surf-rockers La Luz possibly coming sometime in March, and I’ve also read a bona fide confirmed report of Seattle’s most excellent Band of Horses playing at the Senator on April 16! The dream-pop quintet is responsible for two of my favorite songs of the last decade—“Is there a Ghost,” “Funeral”—and I will totally be that annoying guy next to you singing every word out loud.

Banjo badass

photo by alan sheckter

And, the really badass thing: Gordy Ohliger Our local walking, talking, singing/strumming history lesson is already officially a badass, having been crowned Local Badass during the CN&R’s 2009 Chico Area Music Awards. The Banjo-ologist (who also plays a mean guitar) has been the subject of a PBS documentary for his virtuosic interpretations of the past couple centuries of American folk music, and he had definitely earned his recognition even before this past week. But then … well, I’ll just let him tell it via this snippet from his experience at The Bohemian Club:

Together in the car driving across the Bay to SF, myself and Alan Jabbour, and Walter Alvarez. … We are on our way to perform at The Bohemian Club, the closed and exclusive 140-year-old men’s club. (The membership waiting list hovers around 30 years.)

The interior of the building is like Downton Abbey; every room is two-stories high of oak paneling, marble staircases, marquetry, period lighting, with a remarkable collection of original world-famous artwork. … Our sets journeyed from a lost lively fiddle tune and a weepy ballad, through rowdy bluegrass, to humorous, a cowboy lament, full gospel, and a New Orleans jazz closer. At one point, a man read a moving Lincoln speech from a small leather-bound book of the 1800s while we played “Ashokan Farewell.” Our vintage instruments gave a joyful sound reviving our heritage songs and we sang in full harmony. (The piano was a Steinway full grand.) We finished to a standing ovation.

So, let’s get this straight, our friendly Banjo-ologist just played a gig in one of the most exclusive rooms in the world (a club whose members have included everyone from Mark Twain to Ronald Reagan), alongside fiddler Alan Jabbour, the 30-year head of American folk music/culture at the Library of Congress (1969-1999) and founder of the American Folklife Center, and piano-playing UC Berkeley professor Walter Alvarez, son of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez (with whom Walter devised the theory of dinosaurs being killed off by an asteroid ramming into the planet).

Sure, why not? (What a freakin’ badass!)