A little brouhaha at the Capitol Garage

An unlikely pairing of Snubnose and Split Lip Rayfield at a recent Monday Capitol Garage show made me wonder if the two crowds each attracted would get along. After all, I’ve never seen kitschy bluegrass attempted alongside angst-ridden punk rock. Sacramento’s bluegrass scene, limited to a handful of acts—FTRA, Scott Joss—should’ve been proud to knock down doors to play on such a bill. How did a power punk-rock trio land this one? On this night, however, ’twas history in the making; both acts, coupled together, made for a rockin’ good time.

Snubnose, the night’s openers, dazzled and delighted the 25-plus early attendees with their tales of drinking, money (or lack thereof) and debauchery. Led by the talents of lead vocalist/bassist L. Ron Drunkard, the Sacramento trio rifled through a set of three-chord standards and blues-soaked numbers. New guitarist/vocalist Jordan Peterson, who’d only played a handful of shows previously, seemed right at home on the Capitol Garage stage. The antics of drummer Magnificent El Cajon—wearing cowboy hat and swilling beer throughout the set—were thoroughly contagious. He seemed to enjoy himself so much I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

After a short break, it was time for the night’s main attaction, Bloodshot recording act Split Lip Rayfield from Wichita, Kansas. I’d seen the band at SXSW, the yearly industry schmoozefest in Austin, during a Bloodshot showcase. The band, then a three-piece, was Eric Mardis on banjo, Kirk Rundstrom on guitar and Jeff Eaton on bass, and was, arguably, the best act on the bill. The free beer and hot dogs didn’t hurt either. And with the addition of Wayne Gottstein on mandolin, Split Lip Rayfield was unstoppable.

Split Lip Rayfield played its tongue-in-cheek ditties and porch standards at breakneck speed. By first song’s end, the Garage was filled with 20- and 30-somethings and the smell of Budweiser. Eaton’s bass, fabricated from a gas tank with a single weed-whacker string, created a nice foundation for the juxtaposing rhythms of Mardis’ and Gottstein’s fretwork—imagine Ricky Skaggs on crank. The pseudo-white-trash quartet was right at home in Sacramento, and played new material supporting its recent album, Never Make It Home, whose songs formed the bulk of the set list.

To match the vibe, Split Lip sold bargain thrift-store T-shirts for $5 alongside its pricier shirts at $15. The shirts, which came from various places of origin—flea markets, dumpster diving—were about as ugly as they were hilarious. Heaped in piles on their merchandise table with virtually no attempt at an orderly presentation, the shirts resembled dirty laundry more than saleable product.

The combination of Snubnose’s most rocking moments—the Cramps meet Reverend Horton Heat—with Split Lip Rayfield’s unbelievably skilled players made for one rollicking good time in old Sacto. For a measly $7 cover, you couldn’t beat it.