Making noise

Rekindling the musical fires

Have stomp box, will rock.

Have stomp box, will rock.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

In the final issue of each year, in an effort to tie a bow around 12 months of scene-watching and arts editing at the CN&R, I always set aside a spot to share ruminations on whatever arts or music topic has been at the front of my mind. And this year, what’s captured my attention most is something that hasn’t even been covered in these pages. More than any of the music, art and theater that I’ve written about and/or edited in the 51 previous issues, the subject that I’ve thought most about in 2016 is me. This was the first year in my tenure as arts editor that I’ve been as active as any of the local arts-makers, as I and three of my like-minded friends have been busy rocking the hell out in a noisy indie-rock four-piece that has consumed my spirit and most of my time.

In 2016—after a few months ironing out the kinks during 2015—my dudes and I (Viking Skate Country) settled into a routine of weekly rehearsals, honing our version of a rock band in an industrial park by the airport and testing our experiments during regular shows at Chico’s dives and all-ages spaces. By summer, we’d wrangled enough original music to record an album on the cheap and, on Dec. 9, we excitedly shared the fruits of our sonic labors during an album-release party at the Maltese Bar & Tap Room. To say it’s been a gratifying year would be an understatement. It’s been a life-changing and -affirming experience.

I’ve been playing music since I was a teenager, and have been in many bands during my 27 years in Chico. And while working for the CN&R, I have kept my toes in the musical waters by writing songs for fleeting projects here or there, and organizing occasional shows (often as part of promotions for this newspaper). Yet by the time of the CD-release party, it had been nine years (to the day) since I’d released an album of original music (with a sporadic project called The Party) and 15 years since the final show of my last serious local band (Cowboy).

Being in a band again—writing, arranging and working on songs and sweating them out on stage with my bandmates and the rest of Chico’s noise-makers—has opened a door in me I hadn’t realized had been closed. Behind that door, the embers of music-making had been smoldering and when opened, it exploded off its hinges. The music we’ve created kind of bears that out. It could be described as a bunch of guys playing with homemade fireworks, laughing and blowing shit up and singeing their eyebrows along the way. And thanks to the adventurous spirits of the sweet, open-hearted men who have joined me in this musical adventure, it’s also been much more. We’ve tapped into something wild and liberating, but we have an authentic affection for one another that’s also made it a very intimately emotional experience as well.

As I sit here writing this, I am tearing up with happiness and gratitude. And my greatest wish is that everyone could feel this way. To approach that little spark inside and ignite the flames of creation is a powerful thing. It brings with it the chance to forge something new, to introduce something into the world that wasn’t there before and change the face of reality in a tangible way. During this time filled with so much brutish ugliness, we could use more wild, kick-ass visions added to the picture of America.

The louder, the better.