Four guys named Steve

What universal Steve?

What universal Steve?

The Universal Steve (or, if you prefer to use the name on the band’s recent flier, Los Cuatro Estebans) is a biblical band. Not biblical in a religious sense but in a “Book of Numbers” sense, where all the fine folks stretching back into the desert are busily begetting and begatting each other with wild abandon. I’m not sure in what order this particular begetting happens, but here’s a list well worth pondering: Toadmortons, Acme Rocket Quartet, Chance the Gardener, Natalie Cortez and the Ultra Violets, Wonderful Broken Thing, Bone Games, Civil Rhythm, Bill Scholer Blues Band, Caron Vikre, Grub Dog and the Amazing Sweethearts, the Lionhearted, 133 Elephant Experts, the PiePets, the Ne’er Do Wells, the Holiday Ramblers, Shep’s Faithful Head, Ted’s Exploding Head, Zombie Motorcade, Dave Webb & the Intentions, the Jupiter Sheep, Merchandise 7x, Taxable Snacks, Miracle Fish, the Usual Suspects, the John Warren Band, Two-Named Boy, Melissa Olsen, Anne O’Rexia and the Stickmen.

This is the “featuring former members of” list that appears on the most recent Universal Steve flier. The end result, on display last Friday night at Old Ironsides, is a poppy, roots-based sound that represents the collected vision of a group of music veterans: Steve Bryant, Steve Randall, Steve Edberg and Steve Nicholson. (One wonders how they came up with their band name.)

How marvelous to hear a group of music veterans come together for such a project, for although the music of the Universal Steve isn’t groundbreaking, it is professionally and emotively performed, reminiscent of locals Carquinez Straits and alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. The showstopper for this listener was “Ophelia,” a song that found Bryant’s songwriting at its most heartbreaking and Randall’s guitar playing hitting just the right tone—a mixture of snarl and drone that extended a moment of tension perfectly. This is accessible, pop-influenced songwriting (courtesy of Bryant) performed by a crack band: perfect if you simply want to hear a good band play good songs. Check out the band’s Web site at; the band doesn’t gig that often, but its new CD, E Pluribus Esteban, is worth a listen in the meantime.

And in the news: has announced that Earache Records has signed Sacramento’s death/black-metal act With Passion. Earache’s site ( has a sample, the well-named “Train Wreck Orchestra,” but fans can expect a new full-length from the band sometime next year. Meanwhile, locals can hear the band at The Boardwalk on November 28, on a bill including Darkest Hour, Between the Buried and Me, Fear Before the March of Flames and Cattle Decapitation, the latter of which wins the award for best-named band in this particular edition of Clubber.

Meanwhile, for months now I’ve been hearing that local music monthly Rant Magazine was in danger of closing up shop, but I’m pleased to report that rumors of the paper’s impending demise have been, according to a recent e-mail from Rant head honcho Robyn Byrnes, greatly exaggerated. Although there was a brief hiccup in production due to illness, music fans will be happy to know that Rant Magazine "isn’t planning on closing up shop just yet." Rant can be picked up at most local music stores (especially if they are privately owned).