Chico strikes first
A lively opening night for second attempt at world record
Last spring, local musician and musical impresario Julian Ruck and a large group of volunteers worked themselves to exhaustion for more than a month in an attempt to organize the longest concert by multiple artists and secure a place for Chico in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Tackle Box Bar & Grill kept the lights on and the stage open 24/7 and Chico’s music scene showed up and played the south Chico watering hole from April 1 through May 5.
I spent many an hour, at varying times of day, observing the scene at The Tackle Box; I even drummed for a few sets with my cowpunk cohorts in Biggs Roller. But however lively, bizarre, harmonious and seemingly well-documented the event was, Guinness did not recognize it as a new world record.
Not one to take rejection lying down, Ruck is rallying the local music community to join him in a second attempt at the record, shifting the location to The DownLo, in the heart of downtown Chico. This time, Ruck and company are merely trying to break the record of 15 1/2 days (not double it, like last year), and the plan is to keep playing until 7 p.m. on April 17.
Curious about the scene at the new venue, I descended into the basement bar and grill for opening night. As it did in 2015, this year’s record attempt kicked off on April Fool’s Day, and as they did last year, Erin Haley and her band Firefly performed the first set. Haley has a sweet voice well-suited to the mostly mid-tempo folksy/bluesy songs in her repertoire, and her band, which includes Chris Briggs on bass, guitarist Mike Russell and percussionist Camille de Ganon, provides her with solid backing for her acoustic guitar strumming and singing. As a party-starter, the band struck me as a bit mellow, but Russell is a tasteful guitarist, weaving fiery lead enhancements around Haley’s vocals, and Briggs’ Fender bass conveyed a fat-bottomed tone and funky rhythmic power that had hips swaying to a great cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”
Next up, impressively getting all their gear plugged in during the skimpy five minutes allowed between acts—as per Guinness’ stringent rules—was Blooze on the Rocks, a band that lived up to its moniker by bringing some energy to the kick-off. The five-piece dished out quintessential bar-band chops, and its audience-pleasing covers included such gems as Cab Calloway’s immortal “Minnie the Moocher,” and a rocked-out version of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” A finale tribute to Quicksilver Messenger Service’s extended interpretation of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” upped the grooviness factor to the point of whooping, with worm-dancing and dirt-twirling on the dance floor and the periphery of the vast pool hall that fills the back half of The DownLo.
With the audience warmed up and receptive to fun, the funky collective of musical pranksters called Smokey the Groove swarmed onto the stage, bristling with horns, bass, violin, percussion, keyboards and guitars. The so-called “Sassy Space Funk [ensemble] with an Eastern twist” won over the crowd with intricate, prolonged jams that evoked at times a hybrid of Frank Zappa’s big band, horn-driven Grand Wazoo period and Parliament-Funkadelic at their most manic. In other words, the grooves got so deep, sitting still was not an option.
Despite a few technical challenges, the record attempt seemed off to a good start. Time will tell whether all the documentation (video, audio, physical notes) and procedural requirements will come together sufficiently to win over Guinness and bring the official record to Chico. But performance-wise, our little musical city was on point, and if nothing else, night one was a really good show.