Culture vulture

When is the revolution?
Friday evening found Culture Vulture pedaling downtown to meet a friend at Duffy’s before heading to the Chico Women’s Club to check out the Brett Dennen concert. Having marinated my brain with Dennen’s new album for the past week or so, I was really looking forward to seeing what he’d be like live, performing within the intimate confines of the miniature auditorium of the Women’s Club.

Short answer: Great.

My friend and musical cohort Mark Z. and I arrived at the hall a little before 9, and the place was just beginning to fill up. Only a few people were inside, but the patio out back was dotted with people standing in small groups chatting about their assorted summers’ activities.

That’s right, it was one of the first shows of the new school year, and judging by the number of people there whose dad I was old enough to be, the latest crop of students is back and ready to enjoy some live music. As has been remarked by self and many others over the years, the student population of Chico is a fine lookin’ bunch.

But of course our purpose here is not to revel in the aesthetic wonderland comprised of the superficial physical appearance of our community’s young scholars; we acknowledge that it is so with a simple tip of the hat and lift of the eyebrow and move on to our real topic, which in this case happens to be the aforementioned concert.

If one had only his voice and publicity photos to go by one might be forgiven for imagining that Brett Dennen is a wispy, red-headed flyweight of a guy. Probably about 5-foot-4 and 123 pounds, mostly made up of big soulful eyes gazing out of a youthful face whose expression hints at depths of compassion and wellsprings of joy tempered by a keen-eyed discernment of the pitfalls of the current global culture.

In person he’s so much more. Literally. About 6-foot-6 or so, and not skinny in body configuration. His face is that of a just-maturing kid—I’d have guessed about 20 or so (even though he’s actually 26), and prone more to a big, goofy open smile than an angst-etched grin. But, like I said, we’re not here to get caught up in judging superficial appearances. Lithe young bodies are all well and good, especially when they’re smiling and dancing and giving each other hugs and not marching off to war to be blown to bits, but our concern here is music, which Dennen delivers with the lively good-humor of a joyfully seasoned pro.

Before the concert, the feminine half of a young couple standing near me commented on the lack of seating in the hall, and I jokingly interjected that once the music started everyone would be dancing anyway, so chairs would just be in the way.

Ha-ha, right, we’ll all be dancing. Sure thing.

But once the music—all produced by just Dennen on his amplified acoustic guitar and drummer Randy Schwartz on small trap set—started, a large majority of us were, indeed, dancing up a more or less subdued storm all over the hall. It was great. Dennen uses a lot of Caribbean rhythms in his guitar playing, and he effortlessly generates sing-alongs, dances with little kids who get on stage and generally creates a mood of celebration and acceptance that is a genuine and heartfelt joy to see and be a part of.

Nice work if you can do it.