Tap Tap Rock and Roll
Whatever game you’re into, we got hot Chico music tips for every style of player
The No. 3 all-time ice-breaker line for new college room-, class-, dorm-, and potential soul mates: “So, what kind of music do you listen to?” (Right behind “Where are you from?” and “Are you gonna eat the rest of that?”).
Given the current musical climate, I’m guessing your answers are probably plotted somewhere on a graph that includes Lil Wayne at one end, “stuff from Glee” way over on the other end, and various random plots of White Stripes, Taylor Swift and Jack Johnson in between.
But we are not here to bro down over common playlists. This is your guide, a list of “cheats,” if you will, to help you add local flavor to your soundtrack.
You have your favorite bands already, but to get the full Chico college-life experience, you have to take in at least one segment of the local music scene. And the Chico News & Review is the source for local music. In addition to our weekly local coverage, every spring we painstakingly seek out every single living band in town as part of our annual Chico Area Music Awards (CAMMIES) celebration, and this year we counted more than 400 active local music acts.
While there are several local venues bringing amazing artists to Chico every year (Modest Mouse, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson were three recent visitors), there is nothing as fun as finding a place in one of Chico’s active little scenes.
We’ve included it all here, organized by genre, and under each one we’ve provided the the essential deets to help you master each scene, no matter what your game is.
Extended gameplay: Funk/jam
We built this city on jam rock. Mix the Grateful Dead laid-back country-ish jazzy jam vibe with a bright funkiness to keep the ladies on the dance floor, and you you get the foundation of Chico’s funk/jam scene. Visit Lost on Main or its sister club the Down Lo in downtown Chico, plus LaSalles, Nick’s Night Club and anywhere music is played outdoors (the summer Friday Night Concerts in the City Plaza, for one) and you’ll catch the groove.
Not all neatly fit the mold, but the heavy hitters to look out for include Swamp Zen, Electric Circus, Jeff Pershing Band, GravyBrain, Audio-therapy, Chris Schadt Band, the rap-inclined One-up, The Acoustic DJ and especially the beloved, Latin-flavored, longest-running Chico crew, Spark “n“ Cinder.
First-person shooters: folkies and Singer/songwriters
Get really close to the music at Chico’s two smallest, most intimate, live-music cafes, Café Flo and Empire Coffee (in the traincar).
To get started, choose from the following characters:
The Railflowers: Three sisters in harmony.
MaMuse: “One voice divided.”
Kyle Williams: The troubadour.
Fera: Melancholic indie-folk.
Erin Lizardo: Airy complex melodies not unlike Björk or Feist.
Envelope Peasant: Lots of words about love, life and geology sung loudly.
Aubrey Debauchery: Chico’s favorite daughter.
Around Town Collective: Subset of mostly acoustic-based songwriters and collaborators. Listen for any containing ringleader Zach Zeller … which is virtually all of them.
Guitar heroes: Rock
Chico does not have a consistent home for modern rock music. There is no one venue to just show up to on any given night and be guaranteed yer three chords and a 4/4 beat in four-minute bursts. There are a few 21-over spots that fill part of their bills with rock (LaSalles, Nick’s Night Club, Normal St. Bar) and one all-ages one (Café Coda). And any show produced by Devil Kat Rock Productions is a safe bet—Katie Devil Kat is a rocker herself (playing guitar in the all-chick Trucker’s Wife) and these days puts on shows a few times a month at Lost on Main.
But despite the lack of a focused home, Chico has an impressive selection of sounds from all points on the rock continuum from which to choose. Here are 10 distinct flavors to get you started:
The Amblers: Rock-and-roll with a California soul.
The Shankers: Not punkabilly, just pure, wild rockabilly (with a punk-rock heart). The answer to the question: “Who rocks Chico best?”
Candy Apple: Sweet go-go garage rock confection with sticky combo-organ on top.
Mute Witness: Chico cool-kids super group—modern rock with old-school harmonies.
Perpetual Drifters: Like Wilco’s Tweedy or Old 97’s Miller, frontman Garrett Gray has country in his voice, but rock ’n’ roll in his heart. Folk, pop, country, rock—whatever he’s in the mood for, Gray’s got a well-crafted song at his fingertips.
The Shimmies: Three Oroville brothers give Chico an answer to Radiohead. (Request an irony-free cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast.”)
Surrogate: Former Number One Gunner Chris Keane’s lush, moody, pop-rock bedroom project wide-released on Tooth and Nail Records.
The Yule Logs: The self-professed “hardest working band in snow business” only comes around one time a year to share holiday-themed, ’60s pop-informed originals and reworked classics.
Marked for Death: High-energy, fast-paced rock that leans toward the spirit of old Jimmy Eats World/Get Up Kids … but with a Stephen Segal worldview.
Three Fingers Whiskey: Whether it’s Carl Perkins or Dwight Yoakum, if the venue is a bar with bottles of beer on ice, then the music “country” bands like Three Fingers Whiskey are playing is the definition of rock ’n’ roll.
System hackers: Indie rock and/or experimental
Three entry points: Café Coda, Empire Coffee, Café Flo
Choose your weapons:
• Looping stations and more than one variety of distortion: West By Swan, La Fin du Monde.
• New, young blood infected with old-school post-punk prog: Hail the Sun, Clouds on Strings.
• Navel-gazing solo artists: See folk section for Fera, Erin Lizardo, and some of those moody Around Town Collective folks.
• Funky Beck-meets-Prince mad keyboard-scientist: Dr. Yes! & The Soulgazers.
• Flaming Lips school of songcraft and showmanship: Bear Hunter.
• Only called indie because they are super loud and do crazy mathy things with their guitars while singing hyper, fast, melodic pop-rock anthems: The Secret Stolen.
Four-bit/old- school mode: Americana
Augie“s Café, Has Beans, and nearly every other café in town are the most devoted to keeping old-time music in the spotlight, but there’s no denying that the best Americana shows happen on the stage at Sierra Nevada Brewery“s Big Room. If an artist has won a bluegrass award, is at the top of the Americana charts or is considered one of the greatest acoustic guitarists in the world, he or she will be playing at the Big Room soon. Booker Bob Littell has brought in everyone from the Wailin’ Jennys to Tommy Emmanuel, and such acoustic heavyweights are only half his schedule (move ahead to the Blues section for more).
Don’t let the Big Room’s prominance, however, block your view of the stellar local selections. We have our own local stars in the Rock Creek Jug Band, Crazygrass, Ruby Hollow Band, Make It So, Aaron Jaqua, Mossy Creek and Rich and Kendall’s thrice-weekly Country Showcase (Thursdays, 6 p.m., at Towne Lounge, and Fridays and Sundays, 6 and 2 p.m. at Scotty“s Landing). Plus, there are our two nationally known characters—Gordy “The Banjo-ologist” Ohliger and the irrepressible singing cowboy Sourdough Slim.
Support for the local Americana scene, and the Big Room’s fanbase, is groomed in large part by the efforts of the members of the Butte Folk Music Society and their events and extensive calendar listings (visit bfms.freeservers.com) and local nonprofit radio station, KZFR, 90.1FM, and KCHO, 91.7FM.
Listen on KZFR: “American Pastimes” (Wed., 3-5 p.m.), “Woody and Friends” (Mon., 9-11:30 a.m) and “2-Penny Opera” (Sat., 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). Listen on KCHO: “Harmony Ridge” (Sat., 12:30-1:30 p.m.) and “Good Olde-Fashioned Folk Music Show” (Sun., 1-3 p.m.).
Unlimited ammo: Blues
If the only two things you knew about local blues were Big Mo & The Full Moon Band and the Midnight Blues Society, you’d figure the rest out real quick. Big Mo and crew have won the CN&R’s CAMMIES Best Blues Act award for five years in a row, so he’s a safe bet as an introduction. And the rest of the local blues bands show up in one form or another at the MBS’s monthly open jams (first Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Nash’s Restaurant).
Oh, there’s also this for your blues pleasure: Thanks to Chico State’s Chico Performances, the Sierra Nevada Big Room and Paradise Performing Arts Center, Butte County has played host to no less than B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers, Robben Ford, Mark Hummel’s harp masters and The Fabulous Thunderbirds in the last year alone. So there’s that, plus the fact that Jonny Lang, Ruthie Foster and Eric Bibb (all Chico Performances productions at Laxson Auditorium) are already on the fall 2010 calendar.
(Bonus blues: “Blues Bayou,” Mondays, 7:30-10 p.m., on KZFR, 90.1FM.)
Microphone interface: Rap
Despite the lack of any radio presence or regular live venue, rap is alive in Chico. And though we get a steady stream of S.F. Bay Area MCs at the El Rey and Senator theaters thanks to JMax Productions (The Pack, Del the Funky Homosapien) and a couple of touring biggies at Chico State thanks to A.S. Presents (MURS, KRS-One, Hieroglyphics), our local scene, when it can find a venue, is pretty dope as well.
Some of the big dogs include MCs DMJ and Cris Kenyon, who regularly open for local touring acts, and hot new crew Eye-Que & Live Assist, featuring MC Eye-Que and his ever-expanding funky, horn-heavy live band. Smart guy/smart ass trio Dr. Becky Sagers, Ph.D. are the longest-running local rappers, though they rarely play live. The most active crew is probably The Resonators, plus there’s the Chico State Hip-hop Collective and the cooperative of MCs making up Moonshine Music—Dash, TyBox, Willdy Diamond, Inclined and Eye-Que.
Multiplayer action: World music
Chico State’s Chico Performances’ greatest contribution (of many great contributions) to our city is its sustained efforts to bring artists from all over the world to the Laxson Auditorium stage. West Africa, Ireland, Eastern Europe, Asia, Canada and South America are all regularly represented. The fall semester alone will feature acts from Brazil (Badi Assad), Cuba (Omara Portuondo) and Bali (Gamelan Çudamani).
For Chico’s part, our own music scene features a nice variety of world sounds: Double Zero Band (Cajun); The Pub Scouts (Celtic), Ha“Penny Bridge (Celtic), Watson 349 (reggae), Los Papi Chulos (Latin), Soul Union (African/reggae/world), Brass Hysteria! (ska), Boss 501 (ska/reggae), Chico Ska Orchestra (ska).
Duffy’s Tavern, Maltese Bar, LaSalles and Café Culture (which also hosts touring reggae and world music acts) are all venues that host some or most of these local world-flavored acts.
The God mode: Metal/hard rock
While the heavy stuff is part of the rotation at LaSalles and Lost on Main—and even occassionally at the metal-friendly Paradise Lost Specialty Video—the most consistent spot is probably the house-that-punk-built, Monstros Pizza.
Trying to attach the proper sub-genre to local metal bands is as fruitless as trying to explain grime, grindcore or Viking metal, so rather than try and tame the beasts with proper names, I’ve arranged 10 of the most crucial local crews by tempo. Going from glacial to humming-bird heart we have: Amarok, The Abominable Iron Sloth, Armed for Apocalypse, Cold Blue Mountain, Esoteric, Teeph, Blood of Cain, The Makai, Helm of Cerberus, Tome of Goetia.
Free play mode: Jazz
Pick your evironment.
• Coffee shop: Green Eggs & Jazz, live jazz, on stage and in the foreground, every Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Café Coda.
• Dining room: Fifth Street Steakhouse, Japanese Blossoms, Johnnie’s Restaurant, Left Coast Pizza. Current favorite players: Rudy Giscombe Trio, Magnificent Sevens, Christine LaPado & Shigemi Minetaka, Holly Taylor, Charlie Robinson Trio.
• University setting: Chico State faculty and student ensembles, including flagship superstar group, Jazz X-press.
• On the airwaves: “Evening Jazz,” weekdays, 9-11 p.m., on KCHO, 91.7FM. And on KZFR, 90.1FM: “Miles Ahead, Miles Behind,” Mon., 5-7:30 p.m.; and “It’s Just Jazz,” Tues., 3-5 p.m.
Monstros Pizza is the only name you need to remember if you want to enjoy punk music in Chico. Go find it on the north side of the Chico State Campus, between Warner Street and the railroad tracks, the pizza parlor with sawdust on the floor, dusty pizza boxes tacked up on the walls and all the cheap, loud, fast thrills you are craving.
The musical program at Monstros (which includes metal, and some loud rock and indie as well) is overseen by the Chico Area Pyrate Punx, a devoted group of volunteers that brings a few shows a month to the all-ages venue.
Visit chicolist.com for Monstros (and other Chico underground music) listings and look out for these local band names: Black Hole of Calcutta, Zabaleen, Fight Music, Baghdad Batteries, Disorderly Event, ¡MAMMOTH TORTA!, Nothing Left, the less-hardcore more-garagey trio Severance Package and pretty much everything featuring Cody K (which is pretty much everything).
Glitch fix: Electronic
… 01010001010 BETA 000110 “bleeding edge of modern electronic music two Saturday nights a month at Lost on Main” 0100110 and 530techno.blogspot.com 01101010 “electronic music community site for the California North Valley and Sierra Nevadas” 01010001 …
Expert level: Classical
Four stages of classical fitness:
1. Warm-up: Northstate Public Radio, KCHO, 91.7FM. “Classical Concert,” weekdays 1-5 p.m.
2. Road work: Paradise Symphony Orchestra. Performances up the hill at Paradise Performing Arts Center. Paradisesymphony.org.
3. Heavy lifting: Chico State’s School of the Arts. Chamber ensembles, choirs and opera workshops featuring student and faculty peformers.
4. Victory lap: North State Symphony. The top musicians in the north state have been a part of this orchestra for more than 100 years.
Augie’s Coffee & Tea
230 Salem St.
265 Humboldt Ave.
931 W. Fifth St.
365 E. Sixth St.
(Chico Performances, School of the Arts, A.S. Presents)
University Box Office, corner of W. Second St. & Normal Ave.
Devil Kat Rock Productions
434 Orange St.
Has Beans Coffee & Tea
501 Main St.
(El Rey Theatre & Senator Theatre)
Lost on Main
319 Main St.
628 W. Sacramento Ave.
Nick’s Night Club
1414 Park Ave.
Sierra Nevada Big Room
1075 E. 20th St.