A fun show at Flo to kick off the warm season
Chico, CA 95928
This show felt like summer. By the 7:30 p.m. start time last Wednesday, June 15, Café Flo was thick with the warmth of evening sun shining through the front windows as two local bands and two visiting bands crammed into the tiny room for a friendly night of music.
The visitors were San Francisco’s Rin Tin Tiger and Girl Named T, in Chico on the second night of a week-and-a-half West Coast tour together.
During her set, Girl Named T shyly announced that one of her songs, “Raven Fly,” was going to be featured in the second episode of MTV’s new show Awkward (premiering July 19), and after just a couple of songs it was evident that she possessed a special presence and powerful delivery that will likely continue to create many such opportunities for her. Otherwise petite and unassuming, the young singer/songwriter had a magnetic charm, with a voice that was warm and soulful on quiet tunes, and firey and just as rich when she raised the volume on spirited songs like “Beautiful” (“You were looking into the sky/ Lit a match and held it under your throat/ While I called, ‘No, don’t!”)
She was accompanied throughout by Rin Tin Tiger’s drummer, Andrew Skewes-Cox (aka Mr. Andrew), who played bass and some guitar. In fact, when he switched to guitar he played a couple of sharp, direct songs of his own, including a pretty, sparse number called “Choir” (“This is the way I was taught to play guitar/ … This is the way that I will sing in the choir”).
The duo’s set ended with a cover by a band they said they heard playing a living-room concert—“Let Me Inside When I Knock on Your Door” by Morgan Orion and the Constellations. And as they convinced the amenable Café Flo crowd to sing along with the “Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum-bum-bum-ooooooooh,” the living-room vibe at Flo was cemented.
Rin Tin Tiger followed, led by acoustic guitarist/lead vocalist Kevin Sullivan, who was something to behold. The lanky, floppy-haired redhead has a stature reminiscent of Dwight Yoakum, and a twangy voice of his own that soared despite the puny P.A. system as he and Skewes-Cox and his brother Sean E. Sullivan (bass/vocals) ripped through a hyper set of originals. Their sound was actually very reminiscent of that of some of those ’80s cowpunks like Rank and File, with some of the energy and dynamics of the Violent Femmes thrown in. The best example was probably the set closer, “Ghost Door” (for which the band just filmed a video that you can see at www.rintintiger.com), the upbeat pop song of the summer for all ears it comes across.
As for the local half of the bill, closers and show organizers The Great Good ended the night on a welcome loud note—with a mix of spacey indie-noise and art rock (admittedly my musical comfort zone). My favorite of the set was the dirgey “Spoiled Milk,” sung by bassist Robert Smith with lead vocalist/guitarist Fera joining in on the refrain—“There’s a truckload of pain at the end of that road”—before the trio descended into a beautiful swirl of noise.
One note: If The Great Good is interested in (and they might not be) graduating from being a fun and arty experiment to a focused and considerably more powerful live experience, then Fera’s guitar rig—a tiny practice amp stacked on a speaker—needs to be upgraded to match (and surpass, when called for) the volume and power of the rhythm section. I’d just love to see the trio owning a full complement of tools with which to impress more than those content in the lo-fi comfort zone.
As a bonus, kicking off the night was the brand-new (and unbilled) Sound City: a Chico super-crew of sorts featuring former Arrangement Ghost frontman Jason Willmon on bass; guitarist Ken Lovgren (Death Star, Antfarm, etc.); The Great Good’s Smith on drums; guitarist Byron Maes (for those who remember, from the way old-school Shilos, and later These Days) and 24 Satellites guitarist/vocalist Dusty Evans out front on vocals and tambourine, sans guitar.
While there was some muddiness to the mix (too many added effects/extra sounds for the small room and P.A.), the five-piece’s collective pedigree served them well on a handful of swingin’ mid- to up-tempo pop-rock tunes that were fun and fully formed despite this being only their second show.
The evening was a pleasant surprise beginning to a warm Chico summer filled with music.