Same faces new places

A look back at the musical climate in the year 2001 reveals some familiar faces and new venues

HONKY-TONK HERO Guitar maniac Junior Brown burned up the fretboard and the dance floor at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room.

HONKY-TONK HERO Guitar maniac Junior Brown burned up the fretboard and the dance floor at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room.

photo by Tom Angel

The year in review.

The year 2001 on the local music scene was marked not by a humming black monolith in Downtown Plaza Park, but by far more typical fare—namely great concerts in intimate, usually under-supported venues.

The same dedicated people were working their promotional magic in the community—from rock impresario DNA to Chico State University’s Dan DeWayne and others like Justin Maximov of the Brick Works, Doug Roberts of Duffy’s, Bob Littell of the Sierra Nevada Brewery and Steve Schuman of North Valley Productions—just to name some of the people who keep music flowing all year ’round.

Of course, there were also the musicians themselves—lots of young people taking up new bands or splintering off old ones, and seasoned musicians like John LaPado and saxophonist Mike Newman lending their prodigious talents to several local groups.

In perhaps the biggest news, there were some new venues, from the brand new A.S. Student Union Auditorium (which had to turn away from hip-hop and punk shows, thanks to facility damage done at some shows) to the renovated Senator Theater and the upscale Big Room at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, which began booking shows more regularly.

The presence of two Indian gaming casinos, Gold Country and Feather Falls, in the Oroville area also brought plenty of high-profile shows on a regular basis (including Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam, Ray Charles, Robert Cray and departed blues legend John Lee Hooker, among others).

On a smaller scale, the new Tower Used store set up a small spotlight stage, and Moxie’s Café, now being booked by musician Jason Cassidy, formerly of the veteran indie rock band Cowboy, hosted some excellent shows (mostly folk and indie rock). With the closing of the Blue Room and its wealth of experimental rock, Cassidy scored some major coups booking performers like Bill Callahan (Smog) and Pedro the Lion to perform in this intimate coffeehouse setting.

REST HIS SOUL The late, legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker gave one of his last performances at Oroville’s Gold Country Casino.

photo by Jocelyn Carrol

And let’s not forget the arrival of a new symphony in town: the heralded Northstate Symphony, a union of Chico and Redding symphonies that performs in both towns—for symphony music lovers, things took a step up in quality.

When asked about the past year and upcoming hopes, omnipresent local promoter DNA was enthusiastic.

“The scene’s pretty healthy right now,” he says. “This last year saw the disco thing sort of fade down—meaning more live bookings. Even though we also lost some great bands like Electric Circus and Cowboy, there’s a lot of activity going on out there.”

When asked about other musical genres, such as the current state of local live hip-hop, DNA says that many promoters and venue owners are likely worried about associated gang violence and drug use—which has meant most hip-hop has remained underground (at house parties, etc), though still widely popular and successful. Chico rapper Marty James of Scapegoat Wax managed to nearly score a national crossover hit with “Aisle 10” off his album for the now-defunct label Grand Royal and has moved on to Los Angeles to pursue his professional career.

“Side note, I should emphasize that local bands really ought to promote themselves more,” DNA adds. “Contacting local media like the CN&R and The Synthesis is an easy thing to do and helps turnouts. More bands should do that.”

DNA’s own rented venue, the Senator, is about to open the balcony space as well as get a beer license for coming shows. And he says the next Nowhere by Nowhere Festival—a large club crawl weekend of various shows and film events—is being timed for better weather (hopefully!) on the first weekend of May, the same weekend as the Endangered Species Fair, the Artisans Faire and the People’s Parade.

“We really want to bring people to Chico and show them a broad spectrum of the community,” he says. “As far as acts, we’ll have more headliners, hopefully more clubs. … We’re currently talking to people like [Sacramento’s national sensation] Cake.”

“Right now, there’s stuff going on in Chico every night," DNA notes. "If you think there’s nothing going on, you’re just not trying hard enough."