The great rock ’n’ roll swami
Allow the music guru to show you the way through Chico’s scene</
What makes one a swami anyway? Well, the word swami is derived from Sanskrit (sva-min) and literally means “owner of oneself,” or to be clearer, a “complete master over instinctive and lower urges.”
I’ve been bestowed swami status in the field of music … OK. Really, I am but a simple man who is decent at playing a handful of instruments (all right, mediocre), has played in a couple of bands, is the owner of a respectable collection of records and CDs and tapes and MP3s (save for the “K” sections, which are clogged with dusty albums and songs from a certain band that wore makeup and platform shoes in the ’70s), and likes to venture out to venues and catch sweaty performances from local and national acts. If that qualifies me as someone who’s a master over instinctive and lower urges … then let’s rock.
As you’ll see, for being a one-horse town off Highway 99 (or the 99 for you SoCal folk), Chico boasts an impressive assortment of bands. You have your rock. Your metal. Folk. Hip-hop. Blues and jazz. A little something for everyone, as they say. And although this list is far from complete, it’s a good sampling of bands that are actively playing and creating music in Chico. I’ve also included my own pithy 2-cents’ worth—hey, I’m just being honest—but I have included each band’s Web site to help you, the student, study up.
So come along, my young apprentices (no, Mr. Trump, you dolt, it is not “apprenti”) as I take you on a fun-filled, star-studded tour through Chico’s music scene.
After six years, guitarist/vocalist Travis Wuerthner, armed with an arsenal of effects pedals, and drummer Casey Deitz, wielding a pair of sticks that defy the laws of physics, continue to bewilder packed audiences with their schizoid art rock.
My night with Audio Therapy was quite therapeutic, although I can’t remember if it was the actual music or that margarita and seven Pabst Blue Ribbons I drank beforehand.
Frontman and multi-instrumentalist Maurice Spencer takes his love of bands like Pavement and The Flaming Lips to create moody, sometimes eccentric, songs.
Dr. Becky Sagers Ph.D.
B-Boy poses and old-school rhymes still exist, and nobody does it better than these guys.
Biggs Roller is equal parts Hank Williams and equal parts Circle Jerks. I vaguely recall waking up naked with a mohawk after a show.
Blood of Cain
Take the 40-year-old frontman of OG Chico metal band Fallon, and surround him with a greasy gang of dudes in their early 20s, and you have one of the best metal units in Northern California.
(experimental noise; www.myspace.com/botchii)
Be warned: They will insult your good taste with their music, and Tom Botchii will definitely insult you personally during a show.
I thought I had walked in on an exorcism the first time I saw Boy Tiger. Now that … was some audio therapy.
(pop punk; www.myspace.com/wearebrighten)
With their squeaky clean good looks, fantastical hair and made-for-radio rock songs, the young men of Brighten have already exploded beyond the cozy confines of Chico.
Casing the Promisedland
(pop rock; www.myspace.com/casingthepromisedlandmusic)
Pulling its name out of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” Casing the Promisedland sounds nothing like the Boss. That’s OK, I don’t expect them to. If you like Jimmy Eat World and Saves the Day, you’ll love these guys.
This music serves one function: to get people to drink ungodly amounts of Sierra Nevada and then have a let’s-see-who-can-dance-the-worst dance party.
Love Sublime? Who doesn’t? Although it is 2007, and I don’t think Bradley Nowell even likes this music anymore.
Danny is an odd bird, and a brilliant songwriter and musician. Go figure. He’s also on Anti- Records with artists like Nick Cave and Elliot Smith.
Finger pickin’ good. Sorry, that’s all I got.
Dave Elke Trio
Not really jazz, but more of a new-agey, Kenny G kind of thing … only without Kenny G’s cool hair.
The Dead Romantics
Sloppy. Loud. Somewhat obnoxious. The way rock ’n’ roll ought to be, right?
Music that comes from the heart … and the liver of genius songwriter Nate Pendery.
Take Sabbath, The Ramones, maybe a little AC/DC, and you have Dirty Sister.
Jon Wesley and the Shitty TVs
Fun, energetic poppy roots rock—great live, and all captured on a brilliant EP called Faking Piece of Mind.
No he’s not a funk guy, he’s emo, but “Josh Emo” was already taken. Just kidding. Funk writes some genuinely well-crafted pop songs, and the beauty part is that he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what he is.
This band of merrymakers can range anywhere from six to 20 members, led by the extremely handsome frontman Handsome Gorgeous. One of the most fun live experiences I’ve had in Chico.
Two-minute punk songs with screamed vocals from a woman named Rachel Loveless. Blink, and the set might be over.
Hear For Now
This crew is extremely good at what they do—inciting alcohol-fueled, badonkadonk shakin’ grind-fests. Ssshhhh … don’t tell your parents.
Horror Horror Horror
Sludgy riffs and pounding drums take movies like The Shining and Psycho to a whole new level.
La Fin du Monde
Two bassists. Zero vocals. Lots of effects pedals. They do the math.
Metal dudes that are fierce, but ever-so fashionable.
Machinegreen fuses elements of ’80s new wave synth with riff-heavy rock to create short, well-structured bursts of pop that are catchy as hell.
Punk that teeters on metal, with an attractive lead singer that can really belt out the anarchist lyrics with authori-taaahh!!
The Makai make me want to scream and jump around, which is usually what they do live. Metal with the heart of punk rock.
An indie-rock legend who’s starting to play out again. Look for her project Sleestack coming to a rock venue near you.
This quirky trio of exemplary musicians plays consistently around town, sometimes with artists outside the jazz community.
This guy plays damn near every day on the corner of Second and Broadway. You may have already dropped some coins into his guitar case … if you have, then you know he’s got the Johnny Cash meets Social Distortion thing going on.
True punk rockers that encourage intelligent political discourse through their music. Much beloved in Europe.
(hip-hop, rock; www.myspace.com/pyrx)
Gah! These guys have the monopoly on bongs and bitches in this town, and they have their own tour bus called Blaze 1.
The Secret Stolen
I like these kids. The Secret Stolen incorporates a nice mix of intricate, dual-guitar rhythms with straight-up punk rock energy. And they do a lot of good in the local music community.
Johnny and Kerra Shanker play some of the weirdest, rockinest rockabilly around. The cool thing is you can see them play with the heaviest of metal bands, or with the poppiest of pop bands, and it makes sense. I ™ The Shankers.
Sleazy Earl Ray & the 2 Drink Minimum
Tales of porno stashes and fleas are told with the help of an acoustic guitar and a washtub bass, aka the “Gut Bucket.” Must see slea-zee.
Staedler refers to his music as “‘Conscious Alternative’ music, integrating evolving consciousness, political and social awareness and the deep emotional struggles of modern humans.” That’s a whole lotta world-savin’ to fit into a few songs. If I see the word “conscious” in another band bio, I swear I’m going to buzz-saw an entire rainforest.
(indie, metal; www.myspace.com/stationarylegs)
Heavy, mathy rhythms with lunatic drumming and blood-curdling screams. Some of it is beyond impressive, although sometimes it takes a detour into meander-ville.
They’re on Tooth & Nail Records. There are some nice pop songs in the bunch. There. I think I’m beginning to see the light. Ha! Just kidding. But I was serious about there being some nice pop songs in the bunch.
Beautiful ’60s-infused country rock that recalls Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds. Fantastic harmonies. Great songs.
Team Shark Week
Two men and a mountain of keyboards, oscillators, phasers and an 808 drum machine. Sound confusing? See them live and it will start to make sense.
Three Fingers Whiskey
Nothing tricky here. This is pure country for tossin’ a few back. Three Fingers Whiskey is a well-oiled country music machine. It doesn’t hurt that they have a singer who looks like she was pulled from the same mold as Shania Twain.
(fist-pumping hard rock; www.myspace.com/vextintent)
Like I said … fist-pumping hard rock. Not to be confused with fast-pimping hard rock. Vext Intent plays energetic music that gets its impressively sized audiences … well, pumping their fists.
West By Swan
One word: LOUD. Watching West By Swan brings new definition to separating the men from the boys.
The Yule Logs
Christmas rock; www.myspace.com/theyulelogs
That’s “Christmas” rock, not “Christian” rock. The Yule Logs come out only once a year, but are as fun as spiked egg nog and mistletoe on a cold winter’s day. l