Old acquaintance

Ah, another year in the Sacramento music scene comes to a close. Venues opened and closed; bands broke up and reformed and broke up again; records were released and disappeared; bands toured, received the obligatory label interest, toured, planned to tour and so on. It was, in the end, 12 months long, with all the trappings of being another year.

Two years ago, I wrote, “Sacramento’s music scene is still staggering around as it searches, perhaps in vain, for an audience to match its golden years in the early 1990s. But there are a few indications that live music might be gaining ground.” The music scene is indeed gaining ground, but that ground isn’t in Sacramento proper.

I have a theory that in the early 1990s, most of the venues in Midtown booked young up-and-coming bands. Now, 15 years later, the audiences for those same venues are older, and the band members are older. Older people don’t go out to shows as often as 16-year-old kids (or even 21-year-old kids). In other words, Midtown Sacramento has gotten a bit long in the tooth.

The venues where kids go— Club Retro, the Underground and The Boardwalk in particular—are packed with enthusiastic young people listening to new bands every night. I’m not saying it’s some kind of musical nirvana, but it feels like the new music scene is out there in Roseville and Orangevale, and not in Sacramento. The average Midtowner could go to every show for a month at one of those venues and be hard-pressed to find a single band they’d ever seen before.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to disprove this theory. Bands like Didley Squat are young and new and have made a name for themselves in the Midtown scene. There are plenty of younger punk bands playing The Distillery and elsewhere to keep some semblance of freshness in the grid. Still, more often than not, it’s a bit geriatric compared with what’s happening out in the suburbs.

In a last note, I’d like to acknowledge the tragic passing of two much-loved local musicians. Mike Guis, the drummer for a variety of local bands including !!! and the Yah Mos, and a longtime member of the scene that congregates around the Loft, was hit by a car while biking on Madison Avenue last week. He died on the scene. By all accounts, he was one of the most amazing human beings in the local music world.

Late this year, we also lost Jim MacLean of Sewer Trout (and a raft of other bands), who ended his own life at the end of November. Like Guis, he was well-loved by his friends and family. Gornzilla’s Web site offers links to two Sewer Trout songs for those interested in MacLean’s musical legacy: www.nokilli.com/rtw/archives/000076.html.

Mike and Jim, you’ll be missed. Let’s hope 2006 has more sunshine.