Guitar triptych

A showcase of the diversity of rock guitar at Lost on Main

Shots Fired at Lost on Main

Shots Fired at Lost on Main

Photo by Ken Pordes

Shots Fired, Blackfoot Gypsies and Michael Russell Trio, Aug. 24, Lost on Main

Saturday night, Lost on Main—downtown Chico’s live-music hotspot—offered a triple bill of guitar-based music that delivered a diverse range of styles and approaches. Blues, rock ’n’ roll and many variations of funk were variously showcased by three bands that brought an undying supply of energy to a lively evening.

To kick off the night, the local Michael Russell Trio (with Russell on guitar/vocals; Ben Colbeck, bass; Garrett Smart, drums/vocals) played a brand of electric blues that drew on such forebears and contemporary artists as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pat Travers and Gary Clark Jr. The trio laid down a selection of Fender Stratocaster-fueled jams that at times emulated their influences and occasionally ascended into moments that revealed their own perspective on how to rock the blues.

Russell’s guitar playing effectively exploited the tonal variations to be be wrung from an electric guitar by way of subtle, crafty manipulations of the tone and volume knobs with his pinky finger while playing. The surprise high point for this rocker was when drummer/singer Colbeck took over vocals for a cover of Elton John’s classic “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting),” which gave Russell a chance to cut loose with a rocking solo that drew revelers off their seats and onto the dance floor.

Next up, Nashville rockers Blackfoot Gypsies brought good-humored, turbocharged honky-tonk rock and, in bassist Dylan Whitlow’s case, festive regalia and classic showmanship (think the Rolling Stones and The Faces) to the stage. The bassist was decked out in striped flares, broad-brimmed felt sombrero and granny shades, and he exemplified the heart of good-time rock with an elastic performing style that inspired this journalist to abandon his notebook to dance.

Blackfoot Gypsies started their career as a drums-and-guitar duo, and frontman Matthew Paige’s guitar style makes it clear how the years of playing as a pair enhanced his ability to combine both rhythm and lead parts seamlessly with infectious energy that played well off of drummer Zack Murphy.

Hard to top, I thought at the time, until DJ Williams and his band Shots Fired raised the bar with a whole new, yet complementary vibe. Fans of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will recognize Williams as the guitarist who enlivens that manifestation of funky reality, but as a band leader he’s got a whole other world to explore and reveal.

The Denver-based guitarist/vocalist plays with an impressive rotating roster of musicians from some of the country’s best funk, jam, rock and hip-hop crews (from The Motet to Snoop Dogg), and the tight crew that joined him at Lost—DeShawn Alexander, keytar; Derrick Wong, bass; and Lyrics Born drummer Max MacVeety— immediately had the crowd on their feet as they started playing.

The Shots Fired set was rooted in funky grooves, with Williams spiking the energy with his fiery guitar work, but the styles were all over the place. From cosmic waterfall space-funk, to hyper be-bop-inflected jazz, to fusion-flavored evocations of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” the band closed out the night with a set that explored of a wide breadth of guitar-music styles that lasted all the way to last call and beyond.