Days of Lore

Baby Gramps

Baby Gramps

Running all the way to the Bay
The Hemlock Tavern in S.F. has become one of my favorite venues outside of Chico (even if they still don’t know what a Dirty Bird is). So when I was invited by my trusty compadre and CN&R calendar editor Jason Cassidy to check out Bay Area indie noise trio
Track Star, which was playing two nights at the Hemlock, I said hell yes.

Track Star is, of course, an S.F. band, but through the late ‘90s the three-piece was a fixture here in Chico, befriending and playing alongside bands like The iMPS and Cowboy. It was a little before my time, but things changed about a year ago when I received a copy of Track Star’s Communication Breaks record. “Breathtaking” would be the most apropos description.

The band’s S.F. performance was even more powerful—a sexy set of pop songs drenched in the squeal and distortion of guitarists Wyatt Cusick and Matthew Troy (the latter is also the frontman in S.F.'s Calling All Monsters). One thing that sticks with me is Cusick’s knack for taking metal-inspired riffs and twisting them into a pretty poppy bow. Add lovelorn lyrics and you’ve pretty much got perfection.

Also on hand were Portland popsters Eux Autres. The brother-sister duo of Heather (drums) and Nicholas (guitar) Larimer divvied up their simple pop songs that smell ever so slightly of The Vaselines—boy-girl vocals and arrangements that beg for handclaps. The duo played a number of selections from 2004’s stellar Hell is Eux Autres, and a few new ones that will find their way on to a new record soon. Homework assignment: Listen to “The Things They Carried” on repeat. Promise. You’ll love it.

Meanwhile, back in Chico …
Baby Gramps isn’t the latest in hip hip-hop artists on MTV—he’s actually a blazing finger picker who sings like Popeye the sailor, or as a writer for the Seattle Times puts it, “Kermit the Frog on acid.”

He even looks a little like Kermit the Frog on acid. Just kidding. Hiding behind a long, unkempt gray beard and a straw hat, Baby Gramps is regarded as one of the more interesting purveyors of flat picking (which he refers to as “scribbling"), drawing influence from blues, jazz and ragtime.

His song “Cape Cod Girl” was recently featured on Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys (Anti- Records), which includes artists such as Richard Thompson, Nick Cave and Brian Ferry. He’s even performed on The Late Show with David Letterman … which is good, if nothing else for the simple fact that it wasn’t The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Baby Gramps sounds good on record, but I have a hunch it’ll be even better in the live setting. Well, we’re in luck: He’s stopping by Café Coda Wed., May 9. Show starts at 7 p.m. and costs five bones to get in.

At the very opposite of the spectrum, and the opposite end of town, Austin, Texas’ Attack Formation will fill Monstros Pizza Fri., May 4, with a noisy, slab of techno dirge that looks to be a nice change of pace for the punk rock pizza joint. Also on the bill is Reaganometry (also from Austin), the Bay Area’s CHT and local horror punks Season of the Witch. Show starts at 8 p.m. and is, of course, all ages.

And back to s.f. …

Former Chico artist and musician Jonathan Troxler has just had one of his drawings used for a poster for the May 3 Old 97’s show at the Fillmore. Pretty cool: Cool guy. Cool art. Cool band. Anyway, you might remember Troxler’s exhibit with Bob Howard that was considered blasphemous by some (and shut down) for his hilarious depictions of figures like Mother Theresa … as a hot dog. Good stuff.