Return of the loud
Ride the Blinds once again raises a ruckus at its home away from home
“Listening to [Ride the Blinds'] music you’d think you were transported back to a Bill Graham Presents concert in the late ‘60s-early ‘70s. … They seamlessly put their thumbprint on the dying art of ‘the rock band.'”
—online music blog-zine Acid Bird
There’s something to that quote. Ride the Blinds harks back to the days when Zeppelin stomped American stages with sludgy blues riffs and thundering drums.
All that noise from a three-piece.
The San Francisco trio—Chris Guthridge on screaming electric guitar and insistent, bluesy lead vocals, bassist Bill Cramer, and his brother Nick on drums—have been playing together for the past five years. To celebrate their fifth anniversary, Ride the Blinds is due to make a tour stop in Chico, which has embraced the band’s raw live energy with open arms.
The band is only 5 years old, but the roots go back more than a decade.
“We all used to mess around playing music in the basement of Bill’s house just for fun back in, like, 1996, ‘97,” the good-natured Guthridge recalled. “We loved the same music, and hanging out together.”
After high school, Guthridge and Cramer relocated to Monterey, where they lived and played music together “in a party house” for about a year.
“We didn’t have the grades to get into schools, you know, so we just jumped out into the world,” is how Cramer put it.
Guthridge and Cramer eventually took classes at the local junior college to learn how to be students. The two “students” parted ways as Cramer left to attend Portland State in Oregon, and Guthridge drifted around California and beyond, including a short stint in Portland trying to put bands together.
After several years in Oregon, Cramer returned to the Bay Area, where he graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in political science. It was around that same time that Guthridge, who was living back in the Bay, persuaded Cramer to start “a nice little rock-'n'-roll band” with him.
Little brother Nick, who had been practicing drums in the family basement since he was 12, was invited into the band on the ground floor.
“We thought we would go out and look for a drummer,” said Cramer, “but then we said, ‘Hey, look who we’ve got right here—Nick!’ “
Thus began Ride the Blinds—a self-described “power trio” that plays originals and the occasional revered Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King or Junior Wells cover tune, which they “infuse with a lot of very grande rock,” as Cramer described it.
Ride the Blinds (named after a line in iconic early bluesman Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues") released its self-titled debut in 2004 on the now-defunct Bay Area label Klepto Records, which was followed up by 2006’s Stop Running, both of which showcased the band’s bare-bones approach to rock.
Cramer and Guthridge agree that there is something to the musical chemistry between two brothers and a close friend: “It’s like we’re all brothers now, anyway,” said Cramer.
The band may call San Francisco home, but like Portland’s Floater, the members have found Chico to be inviting. Ride the Blinds has made Chico a regular stop during the past five years, playing at venues like the Towne Lounge and Off Limits (now Nick’s Night Club).
The members are excited to return to Chico, one of their favorite places to perform since their early days, when they were invited to play The Mother Hips’ CD-release show at LaSalles.
This time around, Ride the Blinds will be playing a lot of material from their new as-yet-to-be-titled record, due out in the fall.
“We just love Chico,” gushed Guthridge. “We want to keep it in our rotation. We’d love to play in Chico once a month.”