The kids are all right

A few thoughts from two who grew up with Spark & Cinder parents

Jana Faith, daughter of slide steel guitarist John LaPado
I was born the same year as Spark ‘n’ Cinder. It was, apparently, a cinderin ‘n’ a sparkin’ good time. Soooo, due to age restrictions, I can’t truly speak to the, ahem, indiscretionary behavior that I’m sure was occurring during that period, but I’m certain it was fun, fun, and mmmhhmmmm kinda fun.

I do have one memory though, that takes place when I was about 3 and one-half and a little more than grumpy. Melody Hall was a venue that I frequented often (Chico Hippie Kids—Happenin’ Babies ‘R’ Us). I recall that hall better than I remember last Tuesday. I know the cracked plaster in the bathrooms, the ballet bar along the side, the stage. I definitely know the floors as there were numerous sock-only slidefests hosted pre-gig by the local Spark gypsy children. It had to be pre-gig as the floors tended to get a bit sticky. That was fun.

My mother had a coat, floor length; a big hand-knitted conconction from my Gram that, many, many times, doubled as my blankie/home base at Spark gigs. (My mother desires that I make mention of the fact that I slept at Spark shows in this coat from 9 months old to around 10 years old. Yeesh!) This particular evening I was snuggled in a corner, close to the stage. I was a sleepy little girl, comfortable in the moment, but quite unable to nap. First problem: My mother, the wild dancing woman. Oh my! The embarrassment! She took Sparks’ groove to the core and threw it back to the world in a wild abandon that I could only shake my young head at and pray that nobody knew I was there with her. Second problem: Spark & Cinder was so damn loud. I mean, crap, I had a blankie, I was 3, I was sleepy. SHHHH for god’s sake! They were interfering detrimentally with my getting my nap on. I was one pissed little monkey. I’d wrap a huge wool sleeve over my head to no avail. The whole fiasco morphed into much toddler pitching of the body and, ultimately some tears. I mean, how much more grief can you give a young gal: Your dad is too loud and your mom is channeling the guitar solos. Shit, I probably would have been okay with basslines, but no go; it was the twirling dervish enchilada for mi mama. And my dad? Up there belting out, well, something, I don’t know…. Whatever it was, it was LOUD!

Yeah, I know, what normal 3-year-old gets embarrassed? You weren’t me.

But I also recall that the hall was packed and not just that night. Most shows that I attended as a resident napper were big, filled up, raucous affairs. As they are now. But now they are filled with the faces of my past as well as with the youth of Chico, who somehow, admirably, seem to find this need to hold on and embrace their hometown culture. You wanna find roots, baby? You will find them, perpetually, in the youth of Chico, California. Thirty years ago. Today. And always, the span of wonderful happenings in between. I was that youth and I am still; somewhere. But now that I’m older I find that the situations that caused me embarrassment are now due cause for my Chico pride. For my family pride. These days you might certainly find me dancing like there is a twanging guitar string threading through my body. Do I look crazy like I thought my mom did? I really don’t give a shit. Is the music too loud? Absolutely not. I’m right in front of the speaker and Turn It Up! Are the members of Spark my family, my pride? Most certainly, resoundingly, yes. I have a history of being announced, not as “Jana” but as John LaPado’s daughter. Many times my name is simply left out of the equation. My dear friend Dusty, who has known me as a complete individual since 13, introduced me thus to a Duffy’s bartender, minus the name. Seriously. She promptly apologized, thinking I might be offended. Au contraire. Not only does that connect me with my father who I admire more than anything, but it connects me with the rest of the family that we have amassed over the years, surrounding this band. They are a fulcrum to a distinct, yet ever growing populace that I will always be proud to be a part of.

Spark ‘n’ Cinder, as a band and as individuals, have watched me grow up right with them. What an honor. For me as well. (bah-dum-bum). I’m sure I’ve seen their improvements as musicians, but mostly I wouldn’t know it. I always thought they were rock stars. Loud, nap-robbing rock stars. And if you see me when I visit I will vigorously and proudly say “Hi! I’m John LaPado’s daughter!” Then I will find where this impossibly fun band is playing and I will dance like there is a spark within my hips and a cinder under my feet.

Aye Jay Morano, son of percussionist Jerry Morano
Growing up as a child of Sparks really taught me about pursuing your creativity, so being in a band, making art, or acting in a play was never a weird thing to do. It was a natural extension of what our parents were doing.

Events like the Concow Country Fair or the concerts in the park were just a regular thing. It was normal stuff. Years later, getting to play with Faydog [Jimmy Fay’s son Casey] and my dad in the park and having my son running around like we used to do was almost too overwheming in the “full circle” aspect.

I credit the band (and my dad of course) with showing me that it wasn’t about “making it,” it’s about doing what you want to do. There’s no shame in working a day job, it’s what you do with your time afterward that really matters. Draw, make music with your friends, dance, sing.

It’s so neat being able to grow up in that environment. not just the band, but the park, One Mile, Hooker Oak School’s open structure program, swimming holes, Camp Chi-Da-Ca, all of these things factored in to shape a whole generation of Chico folk. I feel really lucky to be a part of that.