New Sacramento bands, what?

A look at five up-and-coming Sacramento groups and troupes

Black Holes, What? for dinner and board games: (left to right) Chakira Parsons, Drew Walker, Barry Swars, Daniel Grisham, Justin Butler and Joe Carusi.

Black Holes, What? for dinner and board games: (left to right) Chakira Parsons, Drew Walker, Barry Swars, Daniel Grisham, Justin Butler and Joe Carusi.

Photo By santiago meza

Find out more about the bands in this story:
Black Holes, What? (;
Oh Foot (;
Black Mackerel (;
World Hood (;
Cave Women (

Sacramento has a very unique music scene. There aren’t a lot of venues to play, and many of them aren’t all-ages, so bands often have trouble getting people to come check out their music. And then there’s the bars, where it can be difficult to get patrons to stop flirting and drinking and actually listen to the music. It’s a wonder any bands actually form in this town. Yet new generations of Sacramento bands pop up, if slowly, and they deserve respect for doing what some don’t have the valor to attempt, especially in this economy. Here are five up-and-comers worth checking out.

The accidental band

Initially conceived as a step away from the routine of Drew Walker’s solo project Doofy Doo, Black Holes, What? consists of Walker, Joe Carusi on drums, Justin Butler on guitar, Chakira Parsons, Barry Swars on bass, and Daniel Grisham on trumpet. The music reminds of Thingy, one of Rob Crow of Pinback fame’s earlier projects, or even early Pinback tracks for that matter. Its sound is sort of indie-psychedelic prog, certainly not surviving on the typical four-four and three-four time signatures. Its sometimes erratic and spastic songs appeal to the audiencegoer who lacks an attention span, as most of the band’s songs are under three minutes. The group, recently formed in March, was first supposed to be a full band only for the release of Doofy Doo’s album, Fingerpaint. But the group of old friends enjoyed playing together so much that everything just seemed to fall into place. Walker himself has played in dozens of local bands as a drummer, and it seems Sacramento has made quite an impression on him. “I’m a big fan of this town and the musicians in it,” he told SN&R, “and have been going to shows and collecting music here since I was 15.” Now, it’s his turn to put on the shows.

‘What Is Love?’

Fitting snuggly in a musical genre somewhere between Sufjan Stevens and Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s side project Little Joy, Zac Bauman and Maddy Shernock’s band Oh Foot have a charmingly simple sound that will warm the cockles of your heart. Currently, the duo’s working on its second album, Mythos, a follow-up to its debut, Algernon, which was released in 2009. The two Davis residents employ many different instruments—guitar, banjo, ukulele, singing saw, toy piano, tambourine, flute, glockenspiel, melodica, chord organ—and a variety of toys, synthesizers, keyboards, and samplers. But it’s the duo’s ability to harmonize that is the key to its charm; their vocals rise and fall acrobatically. Oh Foot’s rendition of Haddaway’s dance hit “What Is Love?” made popular by the Roxbury guys from Saturday Night Live, reminds of the ukulele cover Israel Kamakawiwo’ole did of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Both of Oh Foot’s albums are released via Beat Nun Records—but since they run the label, it’s a fun way of saying their albums are self-released.

Let them eat … uh, what?!

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about metal. It’s probably the screaming, and the fact that I don’t devote enough time to find out what the lyrics are about, so I usually only pay attention when the musicianship is particularly outstanding or unique. Black Mackerel is a bit of both: It embodies Metallica-like riffs without sounding like the bastardization that Metallica has become, and its lack of the barf-scream vocals (as I like to put it) appeals. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a vocal punch: The lyrics make sense, but they’re still super-aggro. And the band doesn’t sound anything like Godsmack, which is a plus. On some songs, such as the subtly titled “Let Them Eat Cock,” it sounds a bit like Linkin Park, but not whiny, polished crap. These guys are a lot older than most of the metal groups playing shows these days; they look more like the founding members of the Sons of Anarchy MC. But nothing says metal more than a trio of dudes that look like they could pummel your ass. So, props to that.

NPR and MTV approved

The duo that runs Sol Collective, a neighborhood arts and music haven near the corner of 21st Street and Broadway, also make up the project World Hood, which has recently earned some big-time blog chatter. Its 20-track self-titled mixtape, available on Bandcamp, has been heavily touted on and adored by MTV Iggy and NPR’s Alt.Latino blog. The project, which grew from late-night recording sessions after some of the shows they presented at Sol Collective, has elements of traditional cumbia and Latin grooves, electronic music, and hip-hop beats. All of which are created by Estella Sanchez and Anand Parmar, and feature the rhymes of Sikh-American emcee Mandeep Sethi. Though Parmar had worked as a deejay and producer for years with acts such as Compadre and Urban Jazz Session, Sanchez had spent very little time on the stage. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to their songs. That said, the duo has yet to play a live show. But it’s been practicing and will debut during Aboriginal Music Week in Winnipeg, Montreal, which is the first week of November. Any Sacto shows in the works?

Foot-tapping riot girls

Even some 20 years after the advent of the riot grrrl movement, you still think the Raincoats, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile when you hear the phrase all-female acts. But when it comes to the five current and former Sacramento State University students in Cave Women, riot grrrl couldn’t be further from the truth. Drawing from their backgrounds in classical, folk, a cappella, gypsy music, Brazilian and African music alike, members Casey Lipka, Alicyn Yaffee, Vanessa Cruz, Emily Messick and Kim Davis not only flaunt their beautiful feminine voices, but also show off their skills on instruments such as the mbira, guitar, melodica, accordion, claps, piano, flute, clarinet and baritone saxophone. It’s a lot to keep track of, yes, but their sometime Django Reinhardt-esque jazz sound, mixed with a gypsy twist, makes it hard not to tap those feet and hum along.