CAMMIES: Week two
Indie/Experimental, Jazz, Electronic nominees
The term “indie” died probably sometime in the late-’90s. Though still used to this day, it’s been rendered almost meaningless in an age when music critics and record companies have adopted far more sexy, to-the-point labels like “doom-synth,” “dream-jam” and “post-crunk” (put post in front of any genre and it sounds cooler). If indie was taken in the literal sense, then every artist in Chico would be considered indie, right?
Fortunately, many of this year’s Indie/Experimental nominees fall into the latter grouping—however, by the time you’re done reading this, every band in this category will have been bequeathed a new, more fitting descriptor.
Bear Hunter is led by Maurice Spencer, the eccentric vocalist and guitarist who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses (literally). The trio’s lone LP You Will Be Heard! is easily one of the best pieces of digitally encoded polycarbonate to be released in Chico (it got them a Critics Choice Award for Best Local CD in 2008). Let’s hope the next record comes soon. New label: Jesus Christ Supergroup.
It seems like only yesterday that the lads in The Secret Stolen were just getting their bearings. Now—dare we say it—a veteran band, TSS has toured the West Coast, released a couple of records, made a music video, and lived the Chico lifestyle while living to tell about it. The Secret’s out: Post-Erratic Punk Disorder.
Dr. Yes! has expanded his wall of sound by adding The Soulgazers (!), who make those electronic bleeps and skronks come alive. It’s early-’70s funk brought into the 21st century by flying saucer. Newly dubbed: Discotheque from Mars.
The members of Red Giant and La Fin du Monde don’t need to say a word. And they don’t, instead letting those guitars twist and shout and scream. In fact, the only time Red Giant has gotten wordy is on the title of its 2008 EP You Sir, Have Falsified the Future. They said it best: “Hella Postapocalyptic.”
La Fin has become one of the most consistent bands in Chico—churning out epic pieces (it just released the aptly titled Monolith) that walk a fine line between intricacy and sheer power. The five-piece always seems to have a show lined up with locals and equally impressive out-of-towners. Double-bass + quintuple members = Mönolithic Crüe.
Erin Lizardo hasn’t let motherhood stand in the way of making new music. She’s ditched the acoustic guitar for the time being and is fronting “indie”-pop four-piece Joybook along with her husband/singer-songwriter/CN&R contributor Lucas Sarcona. The band’s debut self-titled EP is a collection of sleek, gorgeous pop songs centered around Lizardo’s haunting vocals. Without head in the clouds we redub it: Dreamiest Pop.
The Shimmies play it straight for the most part—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s rock ’n’ roll made by men (the three brothers Galloway and Jack Gingerich) who live it. Only the finest riffs, harmonies, verses and choruses go into the making of these songs. See: Post-Grunge Classic-Neo Rawk.
Descriptions are subject to change.
Jazz in the 1930s and ’40s was the most popular music in America—the artists were the equivalent of, say, a Taylor Swift or a Michael Buble today. (Fear of new taxes and big government should be the least of tea partiers’ worries!)
Yes, the times are a-changin’, but jazz—like the blues—has continued on for more than a century. Of course jazz has morphed, too, picking up along the way elements of funk, psychedelic rock, and even punk. For decades Chico has been a hotbed of jazz players and aficionados, musicians who have remained true to the form while searching for a bigger audience, or at least an audience that isn’t eating at the same time.
The 2010 nominees exemplify this town’s rich musical history. Charlie Robinson has played everything from jazz to country and classical since moving to Chico in 1951. A living legend in the truest sense, the 76-year-old guitarist is still leading his Charlie Robinson Trio, which includes trumpeter Deric Binyon and bassist Jonathan Stoyanoff (who won the Critics Choice Award for Best Bassist in 2009).
Guitarist Eric Peter—who’s called Chico home for more than 40 years—might be best known for his longtime collaboration with vocalist Holly Taylor. This year he’s teaming up with fellow seven-stringer Mike Wiegert as The Magnificent Sevens, which keeps in the spirit of Peter’s ability to entertain a crowd.
“Part of the whole sport, for me at least, is having the audience enjoy what you are doing,” Peter says. “I love that risk of letting it all hang out in front of a live audience. The audience can sense that, too.”
Rudy Giscombe knows this. No matter where he’s playing, it’s a safe bet the alto-sax player (and
professional photographer) will end up strolling among the crowd as he cranks out standards with swagger and cool.
Of this year’s nominees, there’s probably no one who has been more pivotal in putting Chico on the musical map than Rocky Winslow, whether he’s playing solo or fronting 20-piece big band Jazz X-Press. The Chico State professor and trumpeter has played with the likes of Burt Bacharach and has even performed on The Tonight Show. The son of a bandleader, Winslow was raised in Texas, where there is no doubt something in the water.
“[My] mom was an English teacher, but both my brothers, their wives and offspring are all band directors,” he explains. “So music, except for the Dallas Cowboys, is most of what I remember.”
Pianist Shigemi Minetaka played in Winslow’s Jazz X-Press as a grad student in the mid-aughts before going on to become a member in noted jazz trio NewmanAmi-Yumi alongside friend and upright bassist (and CN&R staff writer/special projects editor) Christine LaPado. Since sax player Michael Newman left town a few years ago LaPado and Minetaka have continued to play together, further exploring their avant-garde, books-be-damned approach. Yet another reason to feel good about the future of jazz in Chico.
There is an insistent bass beat pulsing underground in this town. If you’ve walked into downtown Chico’s Lost on Main during one of DJs Mike Z and Simple Science’s popular BETA parties over the last year, you know that, despite the disappearance of some of old haunts for dubstep/electro/bass/fidget/house (TiON, Crux, Velour Lounge) there is still a lot of dancing to electronic music going on—every two weeks, at least.
We should take a second here to make a distinction with regard to the CAMMIES Electronic category. While nearly every electronic musician on Earth puts in time mixing DJ sets for parties like BETA, not every DJ produces his or her own original electronic music. And for purposes of the electronic-music category, only artists who do at least some composing/producing are eligible to be nominated.
Most of this year’s Electronic nominees have been BETA guests, notably newcomer James Brown. The producer/DJ’s palette includes dubstep, house and “glitchy broken beats,” and he also recently launched a new blog called T.he glOaming featuring new-music downloads (http://prototypesprototypes.wordpress.com).
MANIC ONE was a regular at the old Velour Lounge (on the back patio of Panama Bar & Grill) and has been making music for almost two decades, getting his start with the Ninja Bass Squad in the mid-’90s, and playing every festival since, from South X Southwest to Burning Man. Despite the name, the music is more moody—and the 2009 Electronic winner has been producing more original material as of late to go along with his popular DJ sets.
Going back even further to the days of the Brick Works, Vritri (aka Ayrian) has been a constant in keeping electronic music alive in Chico, most recently organizing shows at the old TiON warehouse in addition to continuing to produce his own blend of trance and breakbeats.
Metisyn is a relative newcomer who lists far-reaching influences from Dead Can Dance to Alanis Morissette, and her version of electronic music has the markings of both. She doesn’t perform often, but she does record, creating lush vocal melodies that float over atmospheric noises and beats, for a vaguely industrial-sounding brand of electronica pop.
Swedish-born Hjalmar Hake aka OILPANIC aka Holger Honda started making music in the early-’90s with a Swedish electronic group with a killer name in The Rotten Beak. OILPANIC’s music tiptoes through ambient and stomps into dub-influenced dance numbers, and the man’s quirky personality is all over every track. He likens creating music to being in the kitchen: “It’s like good cooking; first you need healthy fresh ingredients.”
—Mark Lore & Jason Cassidy