Memories from Sacramento’s music yearbook
Sacramento musicians reflect on the last 25 years—and beyond
It’s been 25 years since the first SAMMIES award show but, of course, the local scene dates back decades before SN&R started handing out awards to area musicians. Still, we wanted to celebrate the SAMMIES’ quarter-century achievement and quickly realized no retrospective could do it justice. Instead, we turned to some of the people who helped make the scene what it is today, asking them to share memories as well as thoughts on how it’s changing. Their answers aren’t just steeped in nostalgia—they’re insightful and revealing of a tightknit community built on camaraderie, talent and hustle.
Abe Cunningham, Deftones
Memories: I remember [Deftones guitarist] Steph [Carpenter] and I riding our bikes to The Cattle Club, buying our first batch of Thursday night ticket [wristbands for a show we were playing]. We got back to [Steph’s] house and I wrote on our wristbands “Def-tones.” And he was like, ’No, it’s one word, no dash.’ Those were magical times—the late ’80s and ’90s.
How it's evolved: It’s a trip, I still look back at when [we] were all coming up; it was a special, amazing time, but quite honestly the fact is that we were gone for so many years on the road. Now, we’re aging rockers. This is my town. … People are doing amazing things in town now … [but] I hope the town will retain some of its funk, its mojo.
Terra Lopez, Rituals of Mine
First local show: I remember first attending Agent Ribbons shows back in the day at Luna’s Cafe. I spent a lot of time at Luna’s before I even started making music and really loved Agent Ribbons, Two Sheds, Spider Silk Dress, etc. I also spent endless hours at the open-mic night at True Love Coffeehouse and also so many nights at shows at Fools Foundation.
How the scene should evolve: I’d love to see the city continue to improve on working on supporting its artists. I think we have a way to go, but I feel like the city is making great strides in working on providing more resources to its artists, and that’s encouraging.
Jonah Matranga, Far
Memories: The first Far show was sometime in ’91, so … 26 years? Wow.
How it's changed: It’s never been the same since The Cattle Club shut down. It was small enough that smaller bands could play there and it wouldn’t feel too empty, and big enough that big local bands or touring bands could come through and play a decent show.
Noah Nelson, Las Pesadillas
Memories: My first show was probably 1993, so 24 years. It was in The Guild blue room. The drummer kicked the drum kit over and headed toward the door while removing his clothes.
How it's evolved: I don’t get out much and I’m older, [but] I’m positive there’s a younger group of kids out there doing some new great thing. Oh, and man, the Croissants, to me, are bringing it all back home. They put my midlife crisis into high gear.
First local show: Sam Stern at The Coffee Garden. Everyone was really beautifully lit under Christmas lights, and the people all huddled together clutching warm coffee with their friends. It was one of the first places where I learned that an intimate musical experience like that can sometimes top the most crowded arena.
First local show: This goes way back. The Chocolate Chips [at a] Sam Brannan [Middle School] dance. They were a trio.
How the scene should evolve: I’d like to see a lot more support for live music. I’d love to see people spend more supporting recorded music too. Of course, I’d like to see more venues for jazz and more people coming to experience it. We have great musicians here—more musicians than we have places for their talent.
Vincent Montoya, Mike Blanchard and The Californios, Tattooed Love Dogs
Memories: One of my favorite musical moments ever was the first-ever SAMMIES. … It was the first time all the musicians got to hang out and meet each other. Bands played a lot and rarely got to go to each others’ shows. … It was a way to acknowledge each other and form new bonds.
First local show: At least one of the very first shows I remember seeing was at Cafe Montreal, blown away like everybody else by Wood Is Good with Herbie Kritzer and Mike Urbano. It had to be the very late end of the 1980s.
Memories: The first time I ever sang in public was with [Christopher Gabriel Nelson] at the open-mic that Dr. Aud hosted at Melarkeys, probably ’91 or ’92. I sang harmony with Gabe. We did gigs together soon after, opening up for the likes of Andra Dare and [Cake’s] John McCrea solo at Cafe Montreal, before Gabe joined Cake. In 1993 I met Kevin [Seconds] and we sang together fairly immediately, followed by teaming up with Anton Barbeau to add harmonies to his songs as well. Kev and I lived above Rick’s Dessert Diner next to Cafe Montreal and could hear Daisy Spot or Cake coming through the windows before we headed downstairs.
Tony Brusca, The Brodys
How the scene's changed: I feel like the scene hasn’t changed much in 25 years. Bands, promoters, concert series and venues have come and gone, but new ones have filled their void. There continue to be many opportunities for bands in Sacramento. Bands that write great songs, put on entertaining shows, promote like crazy and connect with a fan base, have always driven the Sacto scene. As long as there are hard-working bands with a good product out there, the scene will stay alive.
Bobby Jordan, The Knockoffs, The Mr. T Experience
First local show: The first Sacramento band I really got into was Phallucy after seeing them at The Cattle Club.
Memories: I played my first Sacramento show in 1989 for $5. I have a show in Sacramento next month; the cover is $5.
How it should grow: Gentrification of downtown and Midtown will force the scene elsewhere, but art always finds a way to survive. It might get pushed to the edges and forced underground, but artists make art and will continue to rise above.