Secret getaway

Danny Cohen Stormy’s, Fri., May 7

As the sun goes down, the house lights go real dim, and a string of Christmas lights makes a loose frame around the front window at the back of Stormy’s tiny stage. Actors, musicians and hippies—Chico old-timers for the most part—dance and talk to whatever regular folk/blues/ jam band is in the window and ignore the stream of college-age revelers parading past on the sidewalk outside.

Last Friday night, a less-regular performer at the tiny downtown bar, Danny Cohen, took advantage of the venue’s casual vibe, stealing away the atmosphere and placing it under his domain, in Dannyland.

With ghostly illumination creeping up his face, Cohen crooned and graveled through the collection of surreal stories on his new CD, Dannyland.

“L.S.D.!” he blurted to start off “The Devil and Danny Cohen,” and his backup crew (Carey Wilson on drums, Snake on stand-up bass and John LaPado on lap-steel) chug-a-lugged the quick yet muted tempo, while Dave Hurst came in and out with horror-theme organ wails. And Cohen held the reins, like a stagecoach driver navigating a nighttime trip, not quite in control, coming across the “cat before it sprays,” a “ribcage split” and voices speaking of earthquakes and sonic booms with the refrain: “It’s just a drug/ no need to change.”

The slow groove of “Enlightened Despondency” tugged me through its creepy vignettes ("and an old man drove around the block in a wheelchair"), and Stormy’s became somewhat exotic, like a strange, remote hideaway in a movie, where the characters duck in to get out of the rain, only to encounter a bizarre and shadowy little world with a mysterious band sweating away the soundtrack in the corner.

Dannyland comes to the Blue Room Friday, May 14, 9 p.m.