The skyway to Paradise

I just might warn a few at
Sometimes I don’t get the facts right. For instance, a while back I said that the band Warcry destroyed the park during the “hard rock” fest in August, when it was actually the master destroyers, Say Ten. Then last week I commented that expired jam band Puddle Junction couldn’t carry a tune, which was an inside joke but untrue just the same. In some ways, Puddle Junction came to Chico fully formed almost a decade ago. I remember the big blue bus, The Kramalot, barreling around West Second with a bunch of freaky guys leaning out the window. The story goes that a bunch of Livermore folks, tired of daily doses of radioactivity, came to Chico in hopes that their band at the time, Medicine Dog, would finally find a home. Their crew varied, but lead singer Doug Stein and bass player Troy Dye kept the Dog alive for a while, as the boys adjusted to dollar beers and sorority girls. Over the years, Stein found himself fronting for so many bands that any list would be incomplete, but Gravy Brain, Stone Blossom, Stout and Downers and of course Puddle Junction were some of the notables. From Sherwood Brew Pub to 319, from Juanita’s to Stormy’s, it was possible on any given night to find Stein (and posse) playing originals and classics to anybody who would listen, ingratiating himself into the scene as a true troubadour.

Steins voice was/is, as I alluded to last week, not of the perfect-pitch variety that I wrote of. His voice is more rugged, individual. Think Jim Morrison, not Dave Matthews. And with Puddle Junction, Stein really had come home. His Robert Plant found kinship with Brian “Gravy” Ashers’ Jimmy Page-like noodling. With its solid back beat and complicated keyboards, Puddle really seemed to be going places. Even my fledgling record label thought them grand enough to invest in an East Coast tour in support of their new live CD. But good music isn’t enough to keep a band together at times, and Puddle fell apart till only a wet spot was left.

And so, music fans, what did we learn from this week’s column? Well, for one, sometimes it’s better to work through differences and hold on to the dream, and other times it’s better to run like hell. And second, as Stein’s recent music conglomerates attest to, you can’t keep a good dog down. So be on the lookout for this veteran of the jam band scene as he takes the 21st century on, one note at a time.