Four guys in the far corner

Four Guys From Reno

Four Guys From Reno

It’s no great secret that bands that play the California State Fair are well-paid. Of course, not every band can play the fair; more than a modicum of talent is involved, and then there’s the “family friendly” component. If your music is liable to offend anyone at all, your band probably isn’t going to be invited.

In many ways, this year’s Sammies winner for best jazz group, Four Guys From Reno, is the ultimate fair band. Actually three guys from Sacramento, they are young and good-looking and play a smooth, fusion-jazz style that displays skill far beyond their years. Brian Rogers’ drumming is clean and decidedly funky (reminiscent a bit of Weather Report drummer Omar Hakim). Sam Phelps’ bass work is fast and interesting, and he plays with a crisp, solid tone. Andre Fylling, son of local jazz keyboardist and composer Bob Fylling, has a real mastery of his instrument (particularly for one so young) and displays some adventuresome qualities, as when he played a solo using human voice samples.

As fair music—in other words, music that you can stand and watch for a few minutes, enjoy and then move on from—it’s perfect, and I’m sure they got paid quite well for the show.

Why, then, was the band relegated to playing at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday at what must be the most distant and isolated stage in the whole of Cal Expo: the Toyota Xtreme Zone stage? Instead of a small crowd forming around the stage to watch the band while eating their deep-fried Twinkies, the band played to less than 15 people. Granted, when there are motorcycle events in the Zone area, there are undoubtedly more people in attendance, but why go through the effort of asking a band to play at all if you are going to put them in a no-traffic zone?

For those who did see it, perhaps the high point of the show was a guest appearance by Sasha, a 17-year-old electric violinist with a distorted style that was reminiscent on the one hand of Jimi Hendrix and on the other of Jean-Luc Ponty’s work with Frank Zappa. It’s a nice starting point (if a bit retro), particularly for a performer so young. Again, no audience, so no one heard it. It’s a shame, as both Sasha and Four Guys From Reno are worth checking out, so watch this paper for local listings (neither have Web sites in operation yet).

In the ongoing and tragic world of local band breakups, the Dining Room Romance has called it quits. The band’s Web site has disappeared already, so information on that is hard to come by. Also throwing in the towel is Condition, a relatively interesting progressive-metal trio reviewed in this column last April. The band’s Web site reports that Ross Hoyt and Bryan Stevens will continue to work together under a new name. (Does this mean that the third member quit or was axed?) More information on Condition can be found at

Alternative rock band A Single Second also is disbanding, with the official announcement coming from lead guitarist Jeremiah Maguire under the e-mail subject line “Through sorrow there is enlightenment.” Fans probably won’t be hearing the band’s long-rumored new EP, as the Web site lists the release date for fall. One assumes that it will never see the light of day now, but who knows.