Our Dog’s day
In Sacramento, the name Grub Dog is the stuff of legend. It is a name that conjures a chapter of Sacramento’s music scene from a different time and, in many ways, a different place. It evokes a Sacramento music scene that is just as legendary as Grub Dog himself.
Of course, the reasons why Grub Dog Mitchell is legendary are tied closely to the era with which he is associated: the mid- to late-1990s Midtown rock-music scene. (Readers who do not know the name should understand that Grub Dog is a man, not a dog, or a band, or anything else.) This was a time when Mitchell and his band the Amazing Sweethearts, along with the Skirts, Magnolia Thunderfinger and a handful of other bands, ruled local stages with a full-tilt rock ’n’ roll aesthetic that brought audiences to a sweaty frenzy.
The first death knell for that era was the dissolution of Magnolia Thunderfinger. The Skirts followed soon after. Then Mitchell announced he was moving to the music-friendly city of Austin, Texas, where he has been ever since. Now, when we do see Mr. Dog in Sacramento, it’s something of a special occasion.
Case in point: last week at Old Ironsides, when Grub Dog and the Amazing Sweethearts reunited and stormed the stage on a bill that included Sherman Baker and another reunion band, Victory Gin.
The Amazing Sweethearts’ set was enough to make the musician-heavy audience nostalgic for the good old days of Sacramento rock ’n’ roll. (Among the head-bobbing crowd were the entirety of Two Sheds; members of Radio Cure, the Happy Landings, Red Star Memorial, Magnolia Thunderfinger and Las Pesadillas; singer-songwriter Sandi Leeper; and Placerville-to-San Francisco transplant John Blaylock to name but a few.)
The show was full-out roots-rock mania with a heavy Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown flavor and punctuated by two of the Amazing Sweethearts’ trademarks: massive guitars and massive drinking.
Of course, Grub Dog has never been one for understatement, and last week’s show was no different. As if the triple-guitar attack of Mitchell, Joe Kojima and Steve Randall wasn’t enough, the bandleader invited various audience members up onstage to shred, including former Magnolia Thunderfinger guitarist G.B., Las Pesadillas’ Noah Nelson and Victory Gin’s Bryan Ritchie. Shredding was promised, and shredding was delivered, with Ritchie providing the most interesting and complementary playing.
Although the guests were fun, I would have been perfectly happy listening to solos by Randall all night. Randall long has been one of this town’s most interesting roots guitarists, and his performance with the Sweethearts displayed his playing more than any of his current projects tend to. It was wonderful hearing Randall really rip out a fast, furious solo or three, switch to slide for a few numbers and go back to flat picking again.
Of course, by the time you read this, Grub Dog Mitchell most likely will be back in Austin again (with his Texas band, the Modestos). The Sweethearts will be back on the shelf somewhere, the members broken up into their various musical projects. Not to worry, though, because Mitchell cycles back through the doors of Old Ironsides every few months to remind Sacramento what rock ’n’ roll really is. Find out more at www.grubdog.com.