Mother of a band

Mother Jones

Mother Jones was the LA Music Awards pick for Jamband Artist of the Year.

Mother Jones was the LA Music Awards pick for Jamband Artist of the Year.

Mother Jones will bring their trippy, jam-band grooves into Reno for the first time for Rollin’ on the River.

We’ll be getting a show with big-time musicians, enough chill to freeze a tea pot and a chance to see what “local band” means in the music capital of the universe—or of southern California, anyway. The LA Music Awards named them “Jamband Artist of the Year.”

The Los Angeles-based band is not, sadly, the musical wing of the left-wing political magazine of the same name. I say sadly because there’s now no chance at all they’ll start a fight with Reno’s The Reagan Years. Why can’t life be more ironic? Instead—like the magazine, in fact—they take their name from Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a 19th century labor organizer who, with the Knights of Labor, helped put an end to child labor in the United States.

Beyond the name though, Mother Jones plays the sort of music people in convertibles play when they’re cruising along the beach and looking for snow cones. Not to say they don’t have some harder songs. “In Your Lies,” particularly, has some driving riffs and growly stuff, but even that is driving in the dance-faster sense and not the head-banging sense. “Round and Round,” led by Halina Janusz’s smooth vocals invites the listener to “dance forever and ever.”

Singer and guitarist Janusz performs with an interesting voice that’s sometimes creamy, sometimes Janis Joplin. Keyboardist and singer Marshall Thompson lends Mother Jones an Age of Aquarius sound when he’s not touring the world with the hugely talented, criminally underrated, sorta-star Jem. Then there’s guitarist and singer Chris Nyquist, the new guy who is trying to catch up on the 100-plus original and cover songs Mother Jones can play. Chris Kirshbaum plays some laid-back drums to keep it all together. Finally, singer, songwriter and guitar player Son Vo brings an intriguing past to his work. The orphaned native of Vietnam came to the United States at age 4, survived the foster care system and now co-owns Rising Sun Records with Janusz.

They’re politically active, too. Vo writes songs about military veterans, a group to which Janusz says Vo feels a strong connection. They’ve also played at fundraisers for the Democratic Party around Auburn, Calif., and at Mother Jones magazine’s new offices’ grand opening. Lastly, they played in Washington, D.C., to lobby against large bumps in royalty payments from small radio stations and internet radio. While that bump would have bankrupted many of the stations that play Mother Jones, fighting royalties still seems odd.

“It’s funny, as an artist, to lobby for less money,” says Janusz.

In addition to the Rollin’ on the River performance, you can catch Mother Jones at Placerville’s Cosmic Café on July 19 and the Lakewood Concert in the Park on July 31. If you’re going to LA, they play Brennan’s Pub pretty regularly.

They’re a good band to come see if you, in the heat of July, decide you want to chill out next to a river and soak up the sounds of a grade A jam band.