Get in shape, start smokin’
New Year’s resolutions for the city’s live-music scene
What’ll make Sacramento more musically vital in 2007? Less in the way of radio-ready trendwhores would be good. More in the way of boundary pushing. Below, gentle guidelines.
Diversification and cross-pollination
Remember Ezra Pound opining that “poets who are not interested in music are, or become, bad poets”? Of course you don’t, because you’re probably not interested in poetry, are ya, punk?
We kid, but there’s wisdom there, and it flows both ways. Our poetry scene is gloriously, berserkedly happening, and our musicians should embrace it—not just lyrically, but also for reasons of presentation. As the Sacramento International Film and Music Festival’s Sac Music Seen program has proven, a little inter-scene action opens things up.
It’s fine to lay down a din under some old-school beatnik prattle, and nothing against you dedicated didgeridoods, but let’s step up the concept. How about something with more, uh, orchestration? Like a full-on performance. Chi Cheng did the spoken word theng. Now Deftones get literarily praised in the New Yorker. Just saying.
In general, step outside the comfort zone. If you’re all fuzz-pedal thrash, try acoustic. Attempt ambitious, potentially insulting rearrangements of other locals’ material. What’s to stop a Whiskey Rebels set of nothing but Didley Squat? Or a head-to-head between Hot Pistol and Tha Fruitbat? Are we actually encouraging breakbeat butt rock? Fuck yeah.
Sacramento’s live-music networks are strong. So strong, sometimes, they seem hermetically sealed. You can be a Boardwalk band or a downtown band, for instance, but rarely both. No good. And if you’re already gonna have five or six acts on a bill, mix it up. It may actually help if not every one of them’s a y’alternative duo.
Whimsy and adventure
There should be more bands with crassly dorky, regionalist names—like Sack of Mentos or Bitch Flippers or But It’s a Dry Heat—for us to defend as not crappy. Don’t be shy. The art of the so-dumb-it’s-great title is trial and error. Without it, we wouldn’t have such treasures as “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard,” courtesy of formerly Sacramentan dance-punk outfit !!!. Look for their third LP, Myth Takes, this March, featuring such niftily titled tracks as “Bend Over Beethoven.” !!!!
Meanwhile, with the True Love Coffeehouse back on the scene pouring Dark Lord mochas and Kepi-ccinos, it’s time for other menus to acknowledge local music. Rick’s Dessert Diner could ease right in: Instead of cake, Cake. What else? The Shaun Slaughterhouse meat locker at Chops? The Secretions special at La Bonne Soupe Cafe? Right, it’ll take some finessing. Trial and error.
It comes down to showmanship. More can happen on the costume front, on the banter-with-your-mates front, on the audience-rapport front. Call it crowdgaze. You’re asking people to watch you. Give them something to watch. If you’re the Haints or Rock the Light, keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re Las Pesadillas, get back together. Otherwise, remember the simple rule: If you can’t be interesting, be brief.
Don’t keep schlepping to the Bay Area for all those favorite acts that stop in Phoenix and S.F. and Portland and Seattle, but won’t let you spend money on them in your own city. What these bands need from us is a collective come-hither. Get their asses out here. Track down the talent management and the bookers at your favorite clubs and make demands. Judging from SN&R’s own inboxes, you’ve got the wherewithal to mount some major e-mail campaigns. Then: Show up. Tip your servers. Buy some merch.
Yes, it’s about more than going to shows. It’s about building culture. Especially now that our Tower has fallen and our pirate radio has been keel hauled. Well, it wasn’t so long ago that beloved indie rockitronicana concern Darla Records deliberately moved here from S.F. Imagine: Inferiority-complex capital of California suddenly rendered HQ for introducer of superior nerd-nichers you’re supposed to feel dumb for not knowing about, like Sweet Trip and My Morning Jacket! Then darling Darla moved on again, to San Diego. Are we, like, not cool enough? Eff that.
As our fair city gets more lofted and red taped and entertainment task-forced, people mustn’t forget to stand around on street corners willing things to happen. Vive les roving guerilla scenemakers, like erstwhile impromptu-happening act Sacramento. What the name lacked in crassly dorky regionalist panache, the players made up for in sheer eventfulness.
More musically vital means more wit, libido, bite, beauty, danger, arena-rock-scale ambition. Crazy new shit we’ve never heard that shows all the obscure-band-name-dropping, hyphenated-adjective-happy, know-it-all music writers their place.
Stay hungry, Sacto.