Ten Chico bands that defined the decade
Like most aspects of the Internet age, things in Chico’s music scene during the 2000s were fragmented. Punk did as well as ever, and metal bands and the singer/songwriters made a mark. But when it came to markedly capturing the imagination of a cross-section of the music-going public, the 2000s were hard to pin down. The answer, to this long-time local-music follower, lies in a variety of spots simultaneously. There were important players in the 2000s, but very few operated within a common scene.
So, with apologies to the dozens of Chico bands who mattered just as much in the 2000s , here are 10 acts that together form one image of what Chico’s music scene looked like in the decade of the oughts.
The Asskickers For the first half of the decade, Bob Howard’s punk-informed honky tonk ruled the local bar scene (in Chico and around the North State) on the strength of a stellar crew of ringers (John LaPado, Steve Bragg, Scott Pressman and Alan Wood) and Howard’s tongue-in-cheek approach to country lyrics.
Gruk In a town that breeds a new punk band every week, Gruk is a miracle. Formed just before the decade began, Gruk has ridden its anarcho-feminist freight train off the tracks through Chico (and around the world) ever since.
Bear Hunter Despite working at it all decade long, Chico’s answer to the Flaming Lips never drew a huge crowd. But the band’s layered pop-rock tunes, especially as heard on its sole CD, You Will Be Heard!, might just be the best local songwriting of the decade.
La Dolce Vita If I were forced to pick one band that best represented the traditional college-students-parlaying-their-wide-ranging-musical-interests-into-an-original- college-rock band, I would pick this eclectic trio. (If I had to pick two, I’d add Squirrel Vs. Bear. If I had to pick three, I’d add Deerpen.)
Number One Gun With a high-energy sound that set the standard for emo-ish, pop-punk rock, Number One Gun toured the country playing for thousands of rabid fans while it was signed to Tooth & Nail Records. Probably the most commercially successful Chico band of the decade.
The Americas or West by Swan Take your pick. Members of both bands emerged from Chico’s fertile indie/post-rock scene of the previous decade with the mission of using the tricks they’d learned to create a more experimental brand of rock. Only a two-piece, The Americas’ hyper-schizoid dynamics put other prog-bent pretenders to shame, while the four-man wall of West by Swan focused their considerable powers on exploring a full range of textures—from lulling whispers to roaring sonic destruction.
Aubrey Debauchery If I were to put one face on the last decade of Chico’s music scene, it would be Aubrey Pope’s. At the age of 16, Pope began the decade playing guitar with dynamic indie-punks Stars Upon Thars, then changed her last name to Debauchery, played a ton of shows and won the town over with a collection of straightforward girl/boy love/breakup tunes. After a handful of national tours, she switched gears again, adding a band (The Puke Boots) and a very country flavor before recording her third album.
Gorgeous Armada The most fun band in Chico over the past decade, hands down. Band leader Handsome Gorgeous and his giant, ever-shifting posse have put on the kind of hilarious, theatrical, good-time party experiments that put them in the same rarified league as Chico’s most legendary party band, Brutilicus Maximus.
The Makai There have always been metal bands in Chico, but before The Makai landed in the middle of the decade only metal fans knew about them. Combining elements of metal and hardcore punk, The Makai fashioned an especially brutal sound that has gained them an unexpected fan base that reaches beyond just the metal scene.
MaMuse Not since the Mother Hips ruled these lands has there been a Chico band that had the potential to capture the imagination of local fans of all types of music as MaMuse. The two-woman acoustic duo’s soulful, sparse songs are mesmerizing, but their greatest attribute is their ability to draw an audience in with breathtaking dynamic choices, then get under its skin with unwavering emotional commitment.