Rolling the tape and tooting our horn

Recording studios are usually heard and not seen by the record-buying public, with the exception of tourist attractions such as Sun Studios and Abbey Road. So it was a rare opportunity for musical train-spotters when the new Retrofit Recording, at 19th and S streets, not only opened its doors for a look-see Friday night, but also offered some musical acts—local (Electrogroup, Lookyloos, St. Avalanche) and out of town (Barbara Manning from Nevada City, the Aisler Set from the Bay Area)—that performed in the new space. The studio’s backers, after spending great wads of money on expensive equipment, even threw finger food into the deal. Needless to say, we were there.

The evening’s musical highlight was arguably Barbara Manning. Manning remains obscure, and undeservedly so, for someone who combines songwriting talent with interpretive skills and a healthy obsession with baseball. Instead of the cooler-than-you vibe given off by so many indie rockers, Manning has an infectious enthusiasm for song which can disarm the jaded. Performing in her typically straightforward style, with only an electric guitar and her singing sister Terri on backing vocals, Manning charmed the Retrofit crowd with selections from throughout her decade-plus recording career, whether she was thrashing her axe on “Fireman” or singing a duet—a sublime version of Wings’ “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”—with Terri. Not sure how it went down on tape, but from the floor it was a fine way to inaugurate the new space.

Yep, it’s that time of year. In three short weeks we’ll be able to say that spring has sprung, and that a young lady’s or gentleman’s thoughts have turned to, if not love, then perhaps True Love, or Harlow’s, or the Torch Club, or … well, you get the picture.

Uh-huh. It’s SAMMIES time. On March 28, at the Crest Theatre on K Street downtown, the humble publication you now hold in your hands will present the 10th annual Sacramento Area Music Awards. But you knew that.

However, this year, SN&R is also sponsoring a series of showcases at various venues around town, so those of you who haven’t heard some of the SAMMIES nominees can get an idea of what they sound like, in case you’re curious. The series kicked off last week; it continues for another five weeks. Here’s this week’s calendar:

Thursday, Feb. 22: Snubnose (Capitol Garage).

Friday, Feb. 23: Funkengruven (Marilyn’s), Popgun (Hard Rock Live), !Akimbo (Palms Playhouse, Davis), Hip Service (Powerhouse Pub, Folsom), Red Star Memorial’s Bobby Jordan, solo (Café Milazzo), Xenophilia (True Love Café).

Saturday, Feb. 24: Christian Kiefer (Café Milazzo), Shortie (Scratch 8).

Sunday, Feb. 25: The Mind Club (Torch Club).

Monday, Feb. 26: Aaron King Trio (Torch Club), the Hucklebucks (Aces).

Wednesday, Feb. 28: Jimmy Pailor (Torch Club).