The scene is real

So many good Chico bands in 2015

Bad Mana: good banda.

Bad Mana: good banda.

photo by Sesar Sanchez

Every year at this time, via my alter ego, Arts DEVO, I tally up my local favorites and offer awards to the year’s most noteworthy arts experiences in my final column of the year (see page 34). One of the regular features of those annual awards is “Best local music,” a running list of my favorite local acts. The criterion for inclusion is that I’d pay money to see the band even if it was the only one on the bill. And—not trying to be too much of a jerk—the list is usually pretty short. Like everyone else, I have my preferences.

This year, however, I needed the extra room for 2015’s much-longer-than-usual list of Best local music:

Michelin Embers, Bad Mana, Mad Bob Howard, The Vesuvians, Teeph, Tri-Lateral Dirts Commission, Skin Peaks, Bunnymilk, Bran Crown, Fera, Michael Bone, She Fetus, The She Things, Severance Package, Hallelujah Junction, Solar Estates, The Yule Logs, Surrogate, Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy, Donald Beaman & The Spirit Molecules, Lish Bills, Sisterhoods, Blaster Dead, John Holmes, The Chrome, West by Swan, The Americas, Team Skins, Trox and the Terribles, Sex Hogs II. (I’d probably throw Panther Surprise and The Empty Gate on there as well, given the pedigree of the players and the reports I’ve received on their sounds, despite the fact I haven’t had the chance to see them yet. Both are at the top of my to-see list for 2016!)

That’s about double the size of the normal list, and it features many new (or new to me) bands coming onto the scene—Bad Mana, Tri-Lateral, Skin Peaks, Team Skins, Sex Hogs II, The She Things—and making an impression right away.

It also encompasses a wide range of original sounds—from the high-lonesome giddy-up of The Michelin Embers to the brutal, unpredictably schizoid approach to hecticness of Tri-Lateral Dirts Commission.

I’ve been following the local music scene as some combo of musician, promoter, arts editor and fan since the late-1980s and I’ve seen how the scene rises and falls over time, and I can say we are definitely riding a creative swell. It’s that perfect storm of a large number of original artists realizing Chico is small enough to easily plug into and bring their new ideas to the intimate community, sharing with and inspiring one another while also inviting touring bands that bring even more influence/inspiration before leaving and spreading the good word.

It’s been invigorating to have an overwhelming stream of new ideas and sounds wash over the stages of the handful of committed venues—The Maltese, Monstros, Lost on Main, 1078 Gallery, Duffy’s Tavern—that have provided the consistency as well as connection to touring bands that are so important to sustaining a scene.

Of course, it goes beyond the local bands at the top of my personal list. There is a wealth of fine music—covering a huge swath of the musical spectrum—doing right by Chico; talented, innovative, passionate acts like MaMuse, Bogg, Nolan Ford Band, Alli Battaglia & The Musical Brewing Co., The LoLos, Swamp Zen, Furlough Fridays, Garrett Gray, etc. And there’s also the ridiculously active punk scene that I only occasionally dip into, featuring probably a few dozen active local crews that join forces with a constant stream of touring acts that come through Monstros Pizza thanks to the Chico Area Punks.

Then there’s the metal scene, which is probably the strongest in town, with many of the crews—Aberrance, Amarok, Cold Blue Mountain—recording and touring extensively, and energetic fans/bookers supporting a wide range of subgenres and attracting an impressive list of out-of-town bands for power-packed shows and even a music festival (Epic Fest), making Chico a bright spot on the greater metal map. And it seems like the whole music scene is once again making a case for Chico as a hip music town and a musical destination.