Got the PG&E blues?
The Rolling Blackout Blues Review will get your electric juices flowing
A light bulb went on over the head of guitarist and vocalist Lenny “Blue” Durrer when he a got last-minute call to play at Nash’s Blues Night last July.
Durrer was between bands and had the brilliant idea to name a new band after the impending darkness that PG&E was about to impose on us: the Rolling Blackouts Blues Revue. The result is a really tight, hard-driving blues band.
To get the band together, he called some of his favorite local musicians that also were between bands. And thus was born the current band, composed of: Durrer, band leader, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and videographer; Bruce “H-Bomb” Bowen, harmonica, vocals and the head registrar at Chico State; “Dr.” Jimmy Conlin, the drummer and Oldies 102.1 afternoon-drive DJ; Mark “Boom Boom” Grant, bassist and master carpenter; Jerry “Sonrey” Garcia, lead guitarist, slide guitarist, graphic artist and Web designer; and Duane “T-Man” Howard, trumpet, vocals and interior-design salesman for DuPont.
Adding their ages up would total well over 300 years, with a combined musical experience of over 275 years—definitely enough to cause a power outage.
Garcia prefers to be called Sonrey, and his smile and stage presence certainly reflect the nickname. He considers himself a late bloomer, not picking up a guitar until he was 20 years old. But Garcia has certainly made up for any lost time; as the lead guitarist of the band, he knows how to get the band going with powerful solos. The crowd gets really into it, not to mention the band.
“It’s one of those magical groups where the chemistry just works,” Garcia said when asked how the band manages to be so good, even though the members practice together only once every other month.
Durrer agrees with Garcia about the magical chemistry.
He adds that the band members really know how to listen to each other and enjoy their music without any egos. Durrer said he has been playing the guitar since he was 13 or 14. For quite some time as an adult he has lived the life of a touring blues musician, becoming the music he sings and plays.
The rest of the cast is just as gnarly: Bowen is built like brick wall, thanks to being an exercise fanatic. He brings harmonicas to the show in every key and then some. The harmonicas are literally almost flowing over the sides of the carrying case he brings with him.
Bassist Grant claims to be a direct descendant of Ulysses S. Grant. He is a reliable band mate, driving 70 miles round trip from Redding and back just to play with the band. When Grant gets into a zone, he just grooves right through each set. You’d miss him if it weren’t for his real solid rhythm; he always seems to be anchoring the band while on stage.
As for the backbeat, Durrer calls Conlin the “doctor of rhythm and the keeper of time.” Conlin has got a great voice and years of experience on the drums to keep the band in good time.
On trumpet, Howard has some serious chops and knows how to use them. He takes advantage of playing an acoustic instrument and walks off the stage now and then during a set to spread the sweet sounds of his horn all around. The band calls him the “Silver Fox,” and by taking one look at how the ladies react to him you get the picture real quick.
The Blackouts play at dinner houses and casual gigs (weddings, parties, et cetera), often drawing an unpredictable crowd. Durrer says he’s never really sure whether the audience will sit through the band’s show, just enjoying the music, or if it will be dancing up a storm. Some of their regular spots include a few places in Paradise on the Skyway. Rumors was so impressed with their show that they cleared some dates on the calendar to ensure the Rolling Blackouts would be playing there.
While at 42nd Street Bar and Grill in Paradise, a few Paradise Town Council members showed up just to hear the band play. Another time the band was playing at Nash’s in Chico, a county supervisor showed up to party with a departing Butte County employee.
The Rolling Blackouts are members of the Midnight Blues Society, in Butte County, the Siskiyou Blues Society, based in Mt. Shasta, and the Shasta County Blues Society, in Redding. They will be playing at the 11th Annual Blues by the River Festival September 14 at Lake Redding Park, in Redding. They will also be playing on the same bill with numerous other blues bands, one of which is the world famous Canned Heat. If blues is your thing, check ’em out.