Gypsycore: The first old-man joke came from James Finch Jr., the other half of folk duo Truck Fight, something about the age limit being 40-and-over at Old Ironsides Saturday night. It was one of countless lighthearted degradations aimed at his stage partner, Noah Nelson.
Nelson, a Sacramento music man of many hats and even more bands, opted to celebrate the big 4-0 at Old I. His birthday bash was a music marathon billing some of his favorite acts, ending with the annual return of one of his most notorious, the gypsy-rockers Las Pesadillas.
But first up was Truck Fight, the duo of dusty folk rock featuring Nelson and Finch. The pair sauntered through a breezily paced set of acoustic tunes with the occasional synth keys and lyrical punk crass. One standout was an ode to inebriation and the local home front, “From Orangevale to Orangevale, to Orangevale and Back.”
Following them was Radio Orangevale, a supergroup of sorts with members of Las Pesadillas and Hypnotic IV. The band’s set effortlessly melted mathcore, surf and rock riffs tinged with Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.
Surf rock quartet Hypnotic IV played a host of vintage originals and timeless covers like “Riders in the Sky” and “Pipeline.” Not every homage stuck to the decade of the Beach Boys, or the beach. One of their last tunes opened with Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” taking Dick Dale straight to hell in the 1980s.
The night ended with a nostalgic odyssey led by Las Pesadillas. The band meshes a range of genres, including hang-’em-high outlaw country, classical symphony, gypsy punk, swing and light power metal. Center stage to the fury of sounds was violinist Damian Sol’s devilish fiddle shredding, narrated by Nelson’s Les Claypool-esque singing. After reuniting in 2015 following a long hiatus, this was Las Pesadillas’ first show in about a year. The band played one not-yet-titled track, and a new EP is planned.
The crowd loved what they heard and in response took to drunken dancing, cries and air conducting with their beer-free hands. But, it wasn’t only the audience that enjoyed the reunion. Between songs, Sol endearingly told Nelson: “Thanks for getting older.”
Whiskey-tinged twang: It’s easy to see why JonEmery is nominated for the Sammies this year. His rollicking honky-tonk show on Friday, March 24, served whiskey-and-beer-soaked dancing and hoedown jams in perfect measure to a full house at Pistol Pete’s Brew & Cue in Auburn. Devoted fans assembled at the rowdy bar to celebrate the lovelorn twang of electric guitar—this was country at its finest.
The well-attended show opened with Tatiana McPhee’s rallying cover of the Rolling Stone’s “Dead Flowers” to enthusiasm from the crowd, which began to gather around the stage. Before moving forward with heartfelt original songs, McPhee slung her guitar back and addressed the crowd:
“I hope you like country honky-tonk type music, because that’s what I play, so that’s what you’re gonna get!”
The crowd’s roaring approval was all she needed to play her own brand of country. Harkening to early Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard, her large acoustic guitar and powerful vocals blended seamlessly with the electric slide guitar and drums of her backing musicians.
This was just the opening act. JonEmery, whose new record Driftin’ To the Shoulder is due out in June, took the crowd late into the night with original songs off the new album and fan favorites. He showcased influences from the honky-tonk, Americana and punk scenes—channeling the likes of Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Jesse Dayton.
JonEmery got the crowd dancing and cheering from the billiard tables and the long wooden bar to the stage. His straightforward lyrical musings celebrate the simpler life, nostalgia and the melancholy of heartache. He even crafts cathartic, poetic reflections about trains.
Before the show’s end, JonEmery summed up his philosophy for a life well lived:
“If you ain’t havin’ a good time, you ain’t livin’ life, man!”