Pushin’ the fun
Australia’s Rosie Burgess Trio brings its energetic stage show back to Chico
Chico, CA 95928
My crew and I were still recovering from the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy when we headed to Grass Valley for the California WorldFest last month. The days in between had been a blur; camping gear was sprawled across the living room floor and costume garb cluttered doorways. But nonetheless, we were high off of music and made the not-so-arduous trek out to Grass Valley, a place where I heard the people were friendly and the scenery was delightful.
It was slow and surprisingly quiet when we got to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in the early afternoon on the festival’s third day. We trudged around and slapped on sunscreen as we studied the day’s lineup to see what sounded good.
“Ooh! Folk, blues and gypsy-roots!” The listing in the festival’s program was alluring: It described the Rosie Burgess Trio as a genre-crossing, energy-packed folk group from Melbourne, Australia. But it was the words “roots” combined with “gypsy” that really turned us on. And as it turned out, the trio’s ability to blend genres while producing toe-tapping, head-bobbing folk music was reminiscent of Chico’s current Americana scene, making it likely to be hit when they bring it to Café Culture tonight (Aug. 18).
Burgess’ stop in Chico will be her third visit, as she’s played at Café Flo twice (once with the trio, once on her own). She’s yet to share a bill with other bands in town, but drummer Sam Lohs knows a few locals from when she used to perform with her former band Fruit during its frequent stops in Chico.
“There’s really a great fire for making music and being involved in music, and people seem to be really enthusiastic,” Burgess said about Chico during a phone interview last week. “And there also seems to be a great sense of community. I love it when we go to places where you feel like everybody must know each other.”
At WorldFest, my eyes were glued to the casual, outdoorsy-looking trio—Lohs on stomp-box drums and a violin player taking the place of the trio’s official third member, bassist Tim Bennett—as a sweet-sounding voice poured out of Burgess and into the microphone: “I wear my stack-hat to bed, yeah-eh, to prote-ect my head, whoa-oh-oah, hum-dum-duh-duh … ”
Burgess’ voice had a staccato rhythm similar to badass female singer/songwriters like Ani DiFranco, but her approach is more varied than mere angry-chick stuff. The steady pluck of her guitar, Lohs’ quiet, consistent drumbeat, and the hum of the violin kept the mood cheery. The song, “Stackhat,” is off the trio’s newest album, Leap, which was released last fall.
Before the end of that performance, Burgess threw the audience a boomerang: “We don’t usually do covers, but we think this is the best song of all time.” Moments later, the violin kicked off and Burgess chimed in, beat-boxing then singing, “Ooh, baby, baby.” I turned to a friend, my eyebrows twisting: “Is that … Salt-n-Pepa?”
Oh yes, it was. The trio carried the acoustic beat with nothing more than their voices and acoustic instruments, and some older folks even rose from their seats as they cheered.
“I don’t even know why we [started performing ‘Push It’]. We did it one night totally as a joke when we were playing a gig in a tiny little town in Tasmania,” she said during our conversation. “The promoter was just this really cocky guy and I think he was a bit drunk and he was mucking around and the crowd there was having fun. We started breaking into a bit of beat-boxing and I think we just busted it out.”
She said she and the trio will likely perform the song until they get sick of it, which is probably smart, since it was a fun ending to an already dynamic performance. “That’s the whole point of live music,” she said. I could hear her smile through the phone: “If you’re enjoying it, chances are, people out there will be enjoying it, too.”