Expatriates return

It feels as if the local singer-songwriter scene in Sacramento has taken something of a downturn—not in terms of quality, but in terms of quantity. The Fox & Goose still features singer-songwriters, interspersed with full bands, and of course Luna’s Café continues to host these solo artists. Nonetheless, it feels like last year at this time, if you threw a rock in Sacramento you’d hit a singer-songwriter. Now, I’m not entirely sure where they’ve all gone. (Statements like that always bring in a flood of e-mail explaining how out of touch I am. Maybe, like the Americana scene, they’ve all moved to Davis.)

Last year saw the departure of two of Sacramento’s most promising singer-songwriters: Mike Rofé (then the drummer for the Famous Celebrities, in addition to his solo work) and Josh Schramm (then also bassist for acoustic math-rockers Nice Monster). Rofé moved to Los Angeles, a town he felt would be more conducive to a career in music, performance being only one of many options. Schramm has relocated to Seattle, where, he said, his wife’s graduate studies provided a “good excuse” for a move.

Over the weekend, both Schramm and Rofé returned to Sacramento to perform at the Fox & Goose, Sacramento expatriates come again to the local stage. Both songwriters performed gorgeous sets, with Rofé’s being particularly surprising in the context of his stage presence. Witty banter with the audience before—and sometimes during—the songs gave the audience a chance to step back, relax a little, laugh and then pour themselves once again into the music. Schramm’s set also was superb. He performed his songs as part of a three-piece band with Rofé sitting in on drums, which gave the set a soft-rock, California sound.

Schramm’s experience in Seattle is that of being a small fish in a much bigger pond. “Seattle is infinitely larger than Sacramento,” he said, noting that there are many more opportunities to perform but also more competition. “Once Gillian Welch was performing right down the street from me. Who are you going to go see? Me or Gillian Welch?”

Nonetheless, Schramm feels Seattle music fans are serious about their music. “It seems like Seattle is fervently local. Even if there are only four people at a show, they’ll all sign my mailing list, and I’ll still sell a couple CDs.”

Rofé’s experience in Los Angeles has proved somewhat different. While he’s still positive about his move, Rofé feels that the music scene there is more cutthroat than Sacramento. “I think Sacramento musicians and listeners are there for each other,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that way in L.A. Everyone’s out for themselves.” Rofé’s primary haunts in Los Angeles include the Room 5 Lounge, the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Pig ’n Whistle—all central points for the singer-songwriter scene there.

As for the Fox & Goose show itself, Schramm noted, “This was an exceptional show for us in Sacramento.” It’s not often that singer-songwriters can perform to large, attentive audiences in Sacramento, but that’s exactly what Schramm and Rofé did last weekend. The atmosphere was a testament not only to Schramm and Rofé, but also to Nice Monster (which celebrated its CD release that evening) and headliners Didley Squat.

Find more information on these artists at www.mikerofe.com and www.joshschramm.com. Both songwriters return to Sacramento periodically to perform, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.