Musical outbreak

Local bookers put on inaugural Valley Fever fest

Two local music dudes spread the fever: Jake Sprecher (left) and Matt Leyrat.

Two local music dudes spread the fever: Jake Sprecher (left) and Matt Leyrat.

Photo by Howard Hardee

Valley Fever music fest happens Friday-Saturday, April 20-21, at multiple downtown venues. Go online for info and schedule.
$20 all-access wristbands available at Naked Lounge (118 W. Second St.)

As a longtime local musician and booker, Jake Sprecher believes that Chico can be a sneaky awesome stop for touring bands. Over the years, he’s seen plenty of out-of-town outfits roll through on a random night and unexpectedly have the best show of their tour.

“People here like to dance,” he said. “They want to talk to you after the show, they want to buy your merch, they want to buy you drinks. They’re very friendly and welcoming with touring bands, and I’ve found that it’s not like that everywhere.”

Booking shows isn’t just a way to get cool bands to town—it’s also Sprecher’s primary cultural outlet. “If we weren’t doing this,” he asked, “what would we be doing?”

The “we” in this case includes Matt Leyrat, another local musician who’s been booking shows at Naked Lounge for a little more than a year, working closely with Josh Hegg of Uncle Dad’s Art Collective and Sesar Sanchez of Chico Area Punks to bring in bands from out of the area to play with locals. Leyrat said he didn’t know Sprecher before he walked into Naked Lounge a few months ago and proposed putting on a music festival together.

“Jake just walked in and said, ‘I like what you’re doing here,’” Leyrat recalled. “And I had been talking about doing the same thing, trying to get venues to do [a festival], so I was on board as soon as he mentioned it.”

The duo put together Valley Fever, a two-day festival featuring 22 bands playing four venues this Friday and Saturday, April 20-21. A $20 wristband will get you into all the shows at Naked Lounge, Duffy’s Tavern and Argus Bar + Patio, as well as a Saturday matinee film at the Pageant Theatre. The lineup is mostly local acts like Sex Hogs II, Skin Peaks and XDS, teamed up with notable out-of-towners such as Guantanamo Baywatch, Kelly Stoltz and Playboy Manbaby.

“Going to see Guantanamo Baywatch in San Francisco would be 20 bucks on its own,” Sprecher said. “It’s definitely Chico-friendly in terms of bang for your buck.”

Leyrat and Sprecher don’t want to get too ambitious—not in the first year, at least—and are trying to keep the lineup small. “We don’t want to overdo it,” Leyrat said. “We’re trying to see how it evolves by itself.”

As for the multivenue format, Sprecher said it’s based on the model set by now-defunct CMJ Music Marathon in New York. And that’s the way he personally enjoys consuming a lot of music in a short time frame; he’s not the sort of festival-goer who likes camping out for three or four days.

“I like bopping around and seeing what you want to see,” he said. “Obviously, Chico is a relatively small community, but I figured there’s no reason we can’t do something similar on a small scale.”

Sprecher is active in a few different bands these days—playing drums in local Christmastime rock band The Yule Logs, Chico newcomers Mr. Malibu and L.A.-based crew Business of Dreams, and guitar in Bay Area garage-punk crew Terry Malts—and, over the years, he’s had stints in a slew of popular local outfits—Birds of Fire, Candy Apple and Pinhead, to name a few. These days, he plays mostly with the out-of-town bands, but always has Chico on his radar as a tour stop, and as a freelance booker he’s always trying to steer other bands here, too.

“In my mind, it’s really important to have a consistent presence of tour bands in town,” he said. “You get people excited and local bands get to play with musicians they listen to on their own. If you can bring people out to see good touring music, I think that’s an important part of any local scene.”