An upcoming concert, titled Made in Reno, showcases a diversity of Reno talent to raise money for Washoe County School District’s music programs
Reno, NV 89501
Local singer/songwriter Whitney Myer and I sit in the West Street Market and talk of Erykah Badu. Badu is one of the influences listed on Myer’s MySpace page, on which I had spent the previous hour, drawing questions from its well. The other members of the Whitney Myer Band, Scott and Fred Myer, her father and uncle, respectively, sit with us. In the early ’90s, Scott and Fred played in the Mudsharks, a local ska band that received major label attention before breaking with the tide of the ’90s ska boom.
Scott inquires of whom we speak with such excited tones, and Whitney sings the chorus of “Bag Lady.” It’s a hushed rendering, small and conscious of our public setting.
It’s also note-perfect.
The Reno music scene will display itself in varying capacities at the second annual Made in Reno, a concert featuring 20 local acts on March 26 at the Knitting Factory.
Among those showcased will be Myer and her band, as well as many others: Eric Anderson, Big Remote, Kate Cotter, Crush, Erika Davidson, Grace Gatsby, The Greg Golden Band, Hopscotch Whiskey, The Humans, Kung Fu Sophie, Lisa McCuiston and Slow Djinn Fez. Collectives and collaborations will too be on display, such as Soul-Fused Lyrics & Rhythm, featuring players from several different corners of the Reno music scene living up to the project’s name, as well as monthly open mic collective Spoken Views and improv comedy troupe The Utility Players. Meanwhile, local artist Joe Cargile will render each artist in spraypaint as the show progresses.
Pre-show performers include Jelly Bread’s Dave Berry and Mankindof, a psychedelic roots rock band that formed a mere three months ago. Mankindof features John Underwood and Zachariah Rees of The Deadly Gallows, playing drums and bass guitar respectively in this new band. There is also keyboardist Rabbit and guitarist Joe Little, who sees the show and other recent developments as signifying the music scene’s expansion.
“I think right now it’s under a lot of boom,” says Little. “We have the Knitting Factory, lots of local bands are getting booked. … It seemed like for the longest time nobody had any bands. But I think it’s on an uprising.”Knit wits
Several acts expressed their excitement over the Knitting Factory and the greater growth it may instill. As a local chapter of a venue with its history planted in the arts, the Knitting Factory is noteworthy in its inherent disconnection from bar and casino culture, despite being flanked on all ends by the downtown flush of casinos.
“With the Knitting Factory, we have one major venue in town finally, which we didn’t have for a while,” says Rees. “For a long time we had New Oasis and Stoney’s and they both disappeared, so for a while we’ve had nothing as far as a real venue.”
It’s this sort of natural ebb-and-flow with both venues and scene health that leads Myer to her own skeptical conclusions regarding the Reno scene.
“It kind of swells and goes back down,” she says. “It’s funny that you hear people talking about, ‘Oh, it’s getting big,’ … but I don’t think Reno will ever be one of those big music towns. I don’t think there’s the demographic. … I think it could have its own special thing going on a smaller level.”
Something is definitely occurring at this small level, and it is a multi-limbed something, traversing genres that may clash when contrasted. Regardless, Made in Reno aligns these artists, the only connective tissue being “Reno.” Each act will perform a few songs before the show moves quickly on to the next.
It is this inherent variety that most excites Erika Davidson, who will be performing her guitar pop at the concert with her guitar instructor, Eric Stangeland.
“It’s going to be really interesting, because we’re not doing a lot of songs, so we’re jumping from group to group,” she says. “It should be exciting.”
And this excitement can be found anywhere according to Wooster High School band director Jonathan Phillips, a former member of Sol’ Jibe who will direct Wooster High’s Jazz Combo at Made in Reno.
“I think anyone who doesn’t feel like there’s musical culture in our county hasn’t taken a step out their front door recently,” says Phillips. “A lot of people have no idea, but there’s always stuff going on here, and people need to recognize it.”
Phillips acknowledges Reno’s limits.
“You’re not going to make too much money,” he says. “But you definitely have the opportunity here.”School of rock
Proceeds from the Made in Reno concert will benefit the Washoe County School District’s music program, specifically aiding in making instrument rental affordable. Made in Reno founder and co-organizer Michael Sion, whose two sons, Aaron and Daniel, play in two bands on the Made in Reno bill, Crush and Hopscotch Whiskey respectively, spoke extensively of the effect music education had on his family. Daniel, at 15 years old, was first chair trombone of the Washoe County School District Honor Jazz Band.
“His public education experience with music was the predicate for the career he is building now in a rock ’n’ roll band in which he is writing songs, performing in clubs, preparing to record his first song in a professional studio and forging what will be his main career in life,” says Michael.
Music education was also instrumental in forming Crush, Aaron’s band. In addition to performing in Crush at Made in Reno, Aaron will be performing as part of Wooster High’s Jazz Combo.
“All these kids are 17, 16 or 15,” says Michael. “Without the free and intensive music education they’re receiving in the public schools, they would simply be treading water on their own trying to find their way in music.”
For others, like the members of Mankindof, music education offered a form of relief from the typical terrors of high school.
“For me personally, I was at Wooster High School for four years,” says Rees. “I absolutely hated every minute of it with the exception of the one or two hours a day that I was in music class. That was the only thing that kept me in high school.”
“It was the same with me going to McQueen,” adds Little. “The only class I ever enjoyed was choir.”
Phillips is particularly excited about the opportunity the show presents to his students, those who populate Wooster High’s Jazz Combo.
“Everybody started somewhere, and it’s nice for the students to be on a stage like the Knitting Factory,” he says. “It’ll just make them work harder and give them another thing to strive for, that they’ll hopefully be playing there again someday.”
And the community and creative experiences inherent in band are irreplaceable for Phillips.
“There’s a feeling while you’re in band that you can’t get anywhere else,” he says. “It’s not just the teambuilding or the camaraderie of it all. It’s something that’s a little bigger than everyone else.”