Hoppin’ and boppin’
The new Bobolink Productions has terrific touring bands migrating through Chico
The Bobolink boys are the newest—and right up there with the coolest—musical game in Chico.
The new production company’s mastermind, Azariah “Z” Reynolds, was sitting in my living room, unaccompanied by his normally indispensable partner Larry Lemm, who of necessity on this rainy day was out tending to his Durham orchard.
By the time of the interview, I had already had the pleasure of witnessing some of Bobolink’s well-attended productions, including the Jessica Lurie Ensemble and the Hot Buttered rum String Band.
The soft-spoken Reynolds explained to me the genesis of how and why he created Bobolink, which is named after a rare migrating songbird with a distinct, high-pitched, ecstatic song.
From 1999-2002, as a Chico State University student, Z was talent buyer and production manager for Associated Students Presents. He fondly recalls his intense involvement in the opening series of concerts—David Grisman, Spearhead, Galactic, Karl Denson, Femi Kuti—in the new Bell Memorial Union auditorium.
After leaving A.S. Presents, Z toured nationally with rap group Jurassic 5, whom he had met during his A.S. days, as a roadie and “merch” man. Returning home to Chico in late 2002, he started Z’s Live Music, doing concert production locally for such touring artists as Keller Williams and The String Cheese Incident. He was then invited to go on the road again, this time with popular Sacramento-based postmodern-pop band Cake as stage manager and instrument tech.
Back in Chico again in October 2003, after extensive national touring with Cake, he wanted to start his own business again, but realized he needed a partner to accomplish his vision of not only producing events, but also booking and managing bands and providing a ticket service to concert-goers. “Doing Z’s Live Music by myself just about killed me,” he chuckles, “You can’t do everything by yourself.”
Enter Larry “The Ear” Lemm. Described by Z as “a music fanatic … a musical genius” with similar musical tastes to his own ("[Lemm] was the only person I could have gone to, really"), Lemm became Z’s essential partner. Lemm’s years as road manager for San Diego’s Giant People Ensemble and as manager for Global Funk, as well as the many, many concerts he has attended across the country, together with Z’s expertise, make for a powerful, savvy duo. Throw in recent third member Joe Reynolds, manager of local band Chingus, assisting with production and doing Bobolink’s Web site and managing bands and tours, and sound man extraordinaire Kyle Porter (Z: “The difference between us sounding good and sounding bad is Kyle Porter"), and you’ve got one heck of a quartet. Add to that their smooth-running, on-going collaboration with the Bean Scene and its owner Connie Nixon, and you’ve got everything you need to have great shows in a great venue (Z again: “Everything about the room is fabulous!").
In the days following my interview with Z, I attended two other Bobolink shows at the Bean Scene: Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet, from Seattle, a talented, daring and wildly satisfying group (who got the packed place jumpin’) that had just played SF’s Great American Music Hall the previous night for three times what Bobolink charged, and the innovative Benevento/Russo Duo, facing off on multiple keyboards and drums.
Bobolink is quickly carving out its niche in the Chico music scene, bringing in "a whole ‘nother section of bands that have a fan base" that might not otherwise come here. Z sincerely explains that Bobolink Music is "trying to spread good vibes. We want people to go home feeling educated, enlightened and relieved. That’s what Larry and I have gotten from music. We want to bring that feeling to people and to supply [the] medium to our community."