Chico, your space for music

With nearly 200 performers, Chico is your place (and MyPlace) for music

The Top 20: This isn’t a list of the best bands in town (though arguments could be made for many of them), just a checklist of locals you’ll need to check out for a well-rounded taste of Chico (and don’t forget your jazz vitamins--free, several nights a week all over town) Abominable Iron Sloth (meh-tul) The Americas (indie) The Asskickers (country-punk) Aubrey Debauchery (indie singer/songwriter) Bear Hunter (alt-rock) Becky Sagers (hip-hop) Brain in a Cage (young meh-tul) Crazygrass (hillbilly bluegrass) Gruk (punk) Incredible Diamonds (rockabilly) Barbara Manning (indie legend) Mystic Roots (reggae) North State Symphony (classical) Nothing Left (acoustic-punk) Number One Gun (emo) Pub Scouts (Celtic) Red With Envy (metal-punk) Spark ‘n’ Cinder (Chico’s longest-running dance band) Squirrel vs. Bear (dance-punk) West by Swan (noise experimenters)

There are roughly 200 actively performing musical acts in the little town of Chico, give or take a recent breakup or a drummer who just graduated. Sure, only a handful of them make the college party circuit or the stage at LaSalles, but they are out there, all your favorite styles and anything and everything you might just be interested in seeking out. There are easily as many choices for live musical entertainment in Chico as there are in any college town west of Austin, Texas.

Where to start, though?

Places like LaSalles and Off Limits are great for seeing a wide variety of current musical trends, with the former concentrating more heavily on music you can dance to, like cover bands, modern rock and also, once or twice a week, the more heavy mosh-worthy material of local (Red With Envy, Satori) and touring metal and punk bands.

Off Limits is a on the outskirts in south Chico, and its live music calendar reflects that outsider status. Punk, indie, metal and other less radio-friendly acts play five nights a week, with local sonic experimenters West by Swan, dance-punk revivalists Squirrel vs. Bear and punk-rock promoter Devil Kat Rock Productions regularly on the schedule.

Chances are, though, if you’re new to town you’re not yet of age for these places, and there are still a few venue options to meet your college-age needs.

Two record stores, Tower Records and the local independent Fulcrum Records, have all-ages shows. Tower’s are once a week (Saturdays, 7 p.m.) and feature mostly beginner local and touring bands of every genre playing free showcases in the “used music” side of the store. Fulcrum has shows more frequently, usually Thursday-Saturday nights, and showcases an impressive variety of quality touring and local underground acts—indie, punk, hip-hop, DJs, metal. Locals Birds of Fire, Aubrey Debauchery, Abominable Iron Sloth, The Americas, Sleepyhead, Slow Down Theo, Becky Sagers and Gruk are a just a portion of the bands that play with great touring acts from around the country, especially from parts up north in the backyards of SubPop and K Records.

Chico State’s A.S. Presents brings some of the better touring acts, with folks like Henry Rollins and Ben Kweller coming through the BMU Auditorium, plus a variety of smaller touring and local acts presented outside in the Free Speech Area when the weather is nice.

But, the cream rises to the mighty Senator marquee downtown when it comes to big touring acts geared toward college audiences. J-Max Productions is in charge of most of the shows that go on there, and a short list of bands he’s put on the old theater’s stage includes Mudvayne, Modest Mouse, Flogging Molly, GWAR and Tech9. Some of the bigger local acts—Number One Gun, Red With Envy, Brain in a Cage—also make the occasional Senator bill.

The wide variety of acoustic and rock shows at local cafàs like Moxie’s, Cafà Flo and Has Beans are always all-ages, as are the downtown concerts in Children’s Park (next to the church on the east side of the Chico State campus). The Friday Night Concerts belong to the Downtown Chico Business Association and feature family-friendly classic-rock/r&b, jazz and a few varieties of world music by such long-standing acts as the Jeff Pershing Band and the Road Rockets.

Local impresario DNA’s Downtown Music Revolution (now on Tuesdays) is a little more energized, geared as it is to a more youthful audience. Past Music Revolution performers have included the Mother Hips, Barbara Manning, Pyrx and Buffalo Creek.

Of course, not everyone wants to stick with what they’re comfortable with. Well, all right, most people actually do want to stick with what they’re most comfortable with. For many of the older Chico locals, the difficulty is breaking away from the music of their generation and checking out much of the all-ages and college-focused fare mentioned above. The challenge for those of you who are just moving to town is to branch away from the comfort zone of school and other party attractions and maybe see a Chico Performances production at Laxson or the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., or a jazz combo in a cafà, or even one of the many choral groups from the university’s Music Department.

The greatest pride of the locals when it comes to live music is probably Sierra Nevada’s Big Room. Some of the bigger names in blues, jazz and Americana music have passed through the impressive space. And, not only have folks like Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel and slide-guitar master Roy Rogers played the room, videos of their performances have been produced by the brewery for the recently broadcast PBS special series, Sierra Center Stage.

North Valley Productions is another promoter to look for. Owner Steve Schuman regularly brings big acts like Gillian Welch and Shawn Colvin to the Chico Women’s Club, the Cedar Grove outdoor concert area in Bidwell Park and to the great-sounding Paradise Performing Arts Center, a short drive away.