You can take the man out of Reno, but you can’t take Reno out of the man, or so it seems with Richmond Fontaine frontman Willy Vlautin.
“It’s got more soul than a lot of cities,” he says. “It has it’s own thing going. The underbelly of Reno I find really interesting.”
Vlautin, who now resides in Portland, Ore., returns to his former hometown with his band whenever he can.
“I love Reno,” he says. “I didn’t want to leave it … [but] it was really hard to play music there.”
Vlautin was frustrated that he couldn’t find many gigs in Reno where people wanted to hear original music instead of cover tunes. So like many local musicians and bands before and since, he decided to relocate to a city with a more diverse music scene. Five years ago, he moved to Portland, and within six months, he formed Richmond Fontaine, which today comprises bassist Dave Harding, pedal steel guitarist Paul Brainard and drummer Sean Oldham.
The band’s mix of country, punk and folk and Vlautin’s lyrics, which one publication compared to the short stories of Raymond Carver, has attracted a growing number of fans and has received critical praise around the country. Vlautin explains that he often writes about the environment he’s in.
He says some of the songs on the band’s first two albums, Safety and Miles From reflected his feelings about living in an unfamiliar place. Vlautin expounds on themes of loneliness and despair on the third album, Lost Son, although not about leaving his hometown.
“I quit writing about Reno by the second album—I’m not as homesick,” he says, adding that the band’s upcoming album, Somewhere Near, focuses more on where he’s at now.
Richmond Fontaine will be touring in support of its new live album, Whiskey, Painkillers & Speed, a collection of songs recorded on their last two tours. The band will play Reno next week as part of a five-date West Coast tour and will tour across the Midwest and West with Alejandro Escovedo in July.
Reno Days are here again
Reno may have lost the Mapes and Reno Air, and is facing an uncertain future as far as the casino industry is concerned, but, by golly, we still have our pride.
The second annual Reno Days festival aims to instill community pride by celebrating the past and present of our city. It also commemorates Brigadier Gen. Jesse Reno, after whom our city was named. The weekend event features live music, crafts and historical re-enactments by the Nevada Civil War Volunteers and the Great Basin Free Trappers.
City of Reno spokesman Chris Good says an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people attended last year’s festival at Idlewild Park. He says this year’s event has expanded in size and will take place at Wingfield Park on the east and west sides of Arlington Avenue.
“Everybody last year seemed to have so much fun that we expect it to grow tremendously this year,” Good says.
Reno Days begins at 7 a.m. June 2 with the YMCA World’s Largest Run and concludes at 4:30 p.m. June 3 with a concert by Lydia Pense and Cold Blood. There’s no admission fee to attend the festival.
Call 329-6309 for more information.