Culture vulture

A little night music
There’s nothing like a break in an oppressively long series of rainy February days to give Culture Vulture a surge of premature spring fever. So it was with a special sense of anticipation and excitement that we set out from home last Friday night to walk the moon-washed streets of Chico for the dozen or so blocks it takes to get downtown. The walk was a reward in its own right, past sparkling porch-lit lawns and beneath sparkling street-lit trees, with many a kitchen and living room window exuding a warm domestic glow into their small portions of the night. But it was away from the private homes, be they ever so humble and so on, and into the communal spaces of the nocturnal downtown clubs that our feet were carrying us.

Because, in case there was any doubt in anyone’s mind, Culture Vulture loves bars. We love quiet, empty bars with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue seeping out of the jukebox; we love honky-tonk bars with live bands beating up Merle and Waylon tunes all night; we love punk-rock bars and blue-collar bars and disco bars and bars that haven’t yet been categorized.

But it’s bars with live musicians on stage that really win our most solid approval. Bars such as Stormy’s Off Broadway, where last Friday you could catch some of the finest musicians in town crammed onto the tiny stage to play all kinds of great songs with the two maestros of the evening, Tom Haithcock and John LaPado. Culture Vulture first met LaPado about 25 years ago when we were both regulars on the Orland honky-tonk circuit, playing country-western and old-time rock ‘n’ roll songs at the Orlando and the Richelieu and the Town Club. Kindred spirits recognized each other through the haze of tobacco smoke and whisky fumes, and we’ve been pals ever since, with the occasional gig or three-pitcher conversation to cement the friendship.

A musicologist with, as I’ve heard him put when referring to someone else, “his own style,” LaPado can pull an endless stream of songs out of the universal songbook and filter them through a remarkable voice that illuminates the human feeling lurking in every one of them. And he knows how to pick a band too: Jimmy Fay, Larry Peterson and Kim Gimbal, now that’s a fine little group of musical friends to have on stage with you.

Which I guess is what this little ramble is really all about: the camaraderie, bonhomie or whatever you care to call it that can be instilled or distilled by the judicious application of night club attendance, live music and perhaps a restorative beverage or two is of inestimable value. Even if you’re not actually playing music, just being there to see and hear those who are is a balm to the spirit and mind. So every once in a while we advise getting out of the easy chair or off the couch and seeking out a place where they’re playing the kind of music you like to hear. You’ll be with some people who feel the same way you do, and that’s gotta be good for you.

Musicians whose gigs I look forward to
The Asskickers

Bone Grüel

Experimental Dental School

Barbara Manning