Nominee Band Bios
The Ancient Sons
The Ancient Sons are nouveau psychedelic rock music. Or second-wave ’60s, if you want to steal from those who used to listen to ska. But close your eyes while listening to this band and you will not be able to tell that this band isn’t from the flower era. J.P.
Sounds like : definitely the Kinks, definitely not the Grateful Dead
See them live : May 29 at Cesar Chavez Plaza
Without pigeonholing these guys by putting some overused “post-punk” label on the band, Diciembre Gris has the flavor of being heavily influenced by the bands to which said tag line was originally attached. But they sing in Spanish, giving their style a slightly spicy flavor. J.P.
Sounds like : New Order with some spice—and in Spanish
While less British-sounding than they used to be, Sacramento noisemakers the Inversions still manage to keep their limey charm. But it’s the band’s element of surprise that keeps it fresh: What begins as a lazy riff might end as a meandering rock track with witty lyrics and a driving beat. J.F.
Sounds like : like an unscrubbed Wilco
See them live : May 21, Sammies Showcase at Old Ironsides
Th’ Losin Streaks
The guys sound a lot like some of their kin in the punk-rock world. Bands like Gas Huffer and New Bomb Turks come to mind, but Th’ Losin Streaks dish better hooks. Maybe a twist of Ghoulie influence in them as well. J.P.
Sounds like : Black Lips with rockier riffs and solos meets the Sonics
Middle Class Rut
This very interesting band sounds like if Perry Farrell had grown up with the current generation of youth. For some reason, they also remind me of a harder version of the band Remy Zero. J.P.
Sounds like : ’90s rock on taurine
Hello, math rock. This band has its claws in electronic and power pop, but it screams of the aforementioned genre, and their skills in this area are quite profound. This popular style has sprung up a lot around Sac, but to see these guys you need to live on the East Coast at the moment, as that is where they will be touring in May. J.P.
Sounds like : post-Jawbox math rock, Battles
Outstanding Hard Rock/Metal
Listening to these guys brings to mind visions of Coheed and Cambria without Claudio Sanchez’s shrilly voice. Also, much of their music is purely instrumental, although some songs feature vocals through the entire song. J.P.
Sounds like : a heavier Explosions in the Sky
See them live : May 27, Sammies Showcase at Blue Lamp
Category 7’s guitar riffs are the kind of hard-rock cuts that you see scrawny rocker dudes air-guitaring out to while waiting in line at Chipotle. But Dave Zaragoza’s vocals bring a softer, ’80s rock touch. So maybe I saw that kid in line at Orange Julius? Either way, this is pure suburban Sac rock. B.E.
Sounds like : all the members of Creed grew a pair
See them live : May 14, Trocadero Club, Roseville; May 27, Sammies Showcase at Blue Lamp; June 5, Ugly’s Tequila Bar, Citrus Heights; June 13, Vegas’ Nightclub and Sports Bar
I dig industrial rock from Galt, and so—lo and behold—when I discovered Claudia’s Ashes, it was like all my electro-goth dreams coming true: dyed hair, eyeliner, shadows, dark rooms and leather. And guitars that sound like vacuum cleaners that’re gonna run you over. Let them. B.E.
Sounds like : someone beat up that chick from Garbage and started a better, harder band
See them live : May 27, Sammies Showcase at Blue Lamp
I recently fell down the stairs and smacked my shit up pretty nasty, and that feeling I felt lying at the bottom of the staircase is the same thing I’m feeling now while listening to Drop Seven: defeated. But in a good way: Drop Seven is Sac’s premier metal band! B.E.
Sounds like : chewing on granite, ripping away at your teeth but liking it
See them live : May 16, Fire Escape Bar and Grill; June 5, Java Cafe
The lead vocalist of Man Automatic has a pink spiked hairdo, which is totally in your face, and that’s appropriate, because Man Automatic’s alternative hard-rock spirit—which encompasses a bit of ska and metal—is definitely something that’s going to be up in your stuff. B.E.
Sounds like : you’re going to need some Advil … with a vodka/Red Bull chaser
See them live : May 27, Sammies Showcase at Blue Lamp
Prieta’s barely hard rock … but just enough. They’ve got a bit o’ that Sacramento chill-rock vibe to them—mellowing songs out with keys and laid-back guitar outros—but also bust out the guitar-rock crunch when it’s necessary. And it’s often necessary, and that’s a good thing. B.E.
Sounds like : coming down from the Black Mountain
See them live : May 31, Midfest in Marshall Park
Red Wire Army
See bio under “Outstanding Teen Band,” page 15, where they’re also nominated.
From STD’s bio: “STD has built up a steady following since their initial show. Now, they are one of the areas top drawing groups in the region. They have graced the stages of the big Sacramento venues and are consistently requested by many Sacramento and touring groups.” And they’re pretty nice dudes who can rock. B.E.
Sounds like : suburban rock comes out of the garage
Times of Desperation
Rob Murrieta is the drummer for Times of Desperation, and man, can that dude wail: Yeah, I still have a brain freeze from those never-ending fills and 128 beats, complemented by Biaggio D’Anna’s wicked guitar thrashing. Whenever I want to kick someone’s ass, I listen to Times of Desperation instead. N.M.
Sounds like : running from the cops
The Stalking Distance
Aggressive smash-mouth punk-metal filled with a lot of gang vocals and screaming guitar solos. Not sure if this band fits better in the ’80s or ’90s, but assuredly one of those decades. J.P.
Sounds like : Mötley Crüe meets 2009
See them live : May 14, The Boardwalk, Orangevale; May 29, Blue Lamp
Another Damn Disappointment
ADD originally stood for Attention Deficit Disorder. This is fitting, considering many of the band’s hard-rocking traditional punk tunes barely reach the two-minute mark, but cliché, because what punk band isn’t affected with the disease? So, ADD changed its name to reflect something they are not, maybe to garner up sympathy? K.M.
Sounds like : Pennywise, Rancid
See them live : June 10, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
Boats! may be a local oi!-free punk trio on the pop side of the fence, but their riffage skews streetside—gritty guitars slash like tinfoil cuts; lyrics hinge on working-class tomfoolery. Their best asset, however, is their tempo: two-minute songs that don’t belabor things, two-riff ditties with smart bass lines and no-frills-just-fills drums. Oh, and they play hella shows. N.M.
Sounds like : classic post-punk pop
See them live : May 15, 300 Room, West Sacramento; May 22, Cozmic Café, Placerville; May 24, Fire Escape Bar and Grill, Citrus Heights; June 4, R5 Records; June 4, Main Street Brewery, Roseville; June 10, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
Consider the Thief
Alternative Press picked these guys as one of 100 “bands you need to know in 2009,” which is crazy praise. And their new album, Signs and Wonders, no doubt will be a breakthrough. Props. N.M.
Sounds like : Fall Out Boy
Dance Gavin Dance
DGD is arguably suburbia’s most popular band—to the point that it repped Sac so hard, it launched itself on the domestic-tour circuit. Big-time post-hardcore band now, to the point that it’ll likely sell out at The Boardwalk on back-to-back nights this weekend. And then it’ll end the summer on the Vans Warped Tour. Not bad. N.M.
Sounds like : better Linkin Park meets mellowed Refused, but screamo
See them live : May 15 and 16 at The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Working-class men Final Summation have been working hard to make a name for themselves in the Sac punk area, appearing on the bill of pretty much every punk act that comes through. With equal proportions of the Clash, Bad Religion and Youth Brigade mixed down with PBR, don’t be surprised to see these guys on the marquis in the near future. D.N.
Sounds like : true Sac punk rock
See them live : May 24, Fire Escape Bar and Grill, Citrus Heights; May 30, The Distillery; June 10, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
Sac’s hometown heroes of hardcore have been taking a break from the circle pits and stage dives to put together their new album, Pit Beast, due out on June 6. On the sonic landscape, you can expect the LP to land somewhere in between Hatebreed and Black Flag, but with their own unique Sac-bro-mento style. Get hyped, dudes. D.N.
Sounds like : Hoods, duh
Five north Sacramento dudes who sing punk in Spanish, Lost Freedom is surprisingly badass for how young the members are. Songs come at you short and quick, and even though I don’t understand the lyrics, I can feel them. Its YouTube videos, too, make me laugh, what with the band rocking out in a garage and some cute girl standing near the American River bridges, longingly gazing across the water. Hella power-pop punk. N.M.
Sounds like : the Descendents in Spanish
Another staple in the Sac punk scene, these guys have played pretty much every venue that can contain them, even after the demise of Orangevale’s VFW Hall. If you like the U.K. Subs, the Clash or Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards, then you should have no problem shouting “Oi!” during Pressure Point’s set. D.N.
Sounds like : oi! punk smashing into your face
A Single Second
Since they’re conception in 2002, A Single Second has been igniting mosh pits in the greater Sac area and is setting its sights this year on the rest of California. One would assume a strong AFI influence with a name like A Single Second, but the heavy guitar riffs and angst-ridden vocals give the impression that these dudes listen to a lot of Thrice. D.N.
Sounds like : well, Thrice
People first listen to Davis’ Buildings Breeding for its subtle indie hooks, but they keep listening to it for the band’s clever lyrical stylings. Musicwise, it blends the Beatles and Modest Mouse with a lo-fi quirkiness that can only come from playing in a college town. D.N.
Sounds like : Pavement in an era of way too many student loans
See them live : May 15, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, Davis; May 16, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden
David Houston & the Strings
Jeff Buckley, Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller, Sun Kil Moon—the list goes on. Pick your favorite singer-songwriter and while, yes, there may be a few minor differences here and there, the gist is still the same. Piano-driven folk, throw in some strings, brooding vocals—a little formulaic? Well, yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just need a little familiarity to pacify your dilemma of choice on the drive home from work. It’ll at least tide you over until you can pour yourself a drink. J.DLT.
Sounds like : what you’d put on before laying a lady down next to a fire
See them live : May 29, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden
The English Singles
I first saw the English Singles in a basement, before they even had a name and maybe even a clue as to what they were going to be all about. Even so, they were tight; I dug them. Now, a couple years later, the band brings its indie stylings every so often—crunchy guitars, pop hooks, rock loudness—and every show’s a keeper. N.M.
Sounds like : organized slacker pop
This group is forged in the fires of such bands as the early days of Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie, which is typically referred to as indie rock. They display similar power-pop techniques as the mentioned bands, while still developing a unique sound of their own. J.P.
Sounds like : sweater rock—but with a little more pop
See them live : May 29, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden
The New Humans
Experimental band the New Humans sound like they are trapped in an ’80s arcade game but are perfectly content living in it, inviting listeners to join in as the band flies its way past asteroids and saucers, keyboards guiding everyone. K.M.
Sounds like : Tron soundtrack meets key and synth-based Explosions in the Sky
See them live : May 29, Cesar Chavez Plaza
If Lucinda Williams got a hold of an audio mixer, put the beats on repeat and dished out the heartfelt wails, it’d be kind of like the sound of Sister Crayon. What started out as a female duo has added a pair of dudes (in the form Leon Smith on drums and Genaro Ulloa on keyboard/sounds/love), but S.C. plays an indie set that will transport you to new trip-hop heights. C.B.
Sounds like : a more melodic Ting Tings, a pinch of Rilo Kiley and a squirt of Erykah Badu, only with a much better outlook on life
See them live : June 6, Terra Lopez solo, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden
I always thought Sacramento was where all the good bands came to die, but after hearing Two Sheds, I actually thought I was going to have to eat my words. With emotive instrumentals, thoughtful lyrics and Caitlin Gutenberger’s voice that oozes poignancy, it’s a wonder this band isn’t filthy rich yet. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Cat Power’s kid sister
See them live : May 22 at Cesar Chavez Plaza
I saw Placerville band Alak at Luigi’s Fun Garden a few months ago, and the band’s too-cool-for-school attitude was a little off-putting, but you go to shows to listen to the music and not to make friends with the band members, right? And Alak’s experimental folk sound incorporates all kinds of genres but is still familiar enough to listen to casually and, ultimately, is quite impressive. K.M.
Sounds like : Björk from the hills
Artist Troy Mighty not only makes a physical transformation when he becomes Dead Western, donning face paint and a cool, Asian-inspired duds, but he also seemingly channels another persona, one that broods with a deep, cutty baritone of soft acoustic-guitar arpeggios and stylings. His set transfixes—and, for some, unnerves. But that’s the art, that’s the genius. N.M.
Sounds like : the dark, psychedelic flip side of the Daniel Johnston pop coin
See him live : June 6 at Luigi’s Fun Garden
Ganglians are a Midtown band. They work jobs and scrape up just enough gas money to get to their practice studio. And the band’s sound hearkens to Midtown’s easygoing and irreverent side: Ryan Grubbs’ vocals are heavily manipulated by reverb and vibrato, rendering his beautiful and soaring harmonies rough, grungy and streetwise. Ganglians’ stylings are less produced, and they use hand-me-down gear. You might liken them to a more ethereal and rough early Pavement. And you might liken them to kicking some ass. N.M.
Sounds like : S.F. garage pop meets psychedelic indie
Mom is music. She plays ’60s pop songs on a stereo and “sings” along, shuffling in her red dress, her face disguised by a creepy homemade mask. It’s amusing … and then, like a dark opera, something bad always happens—oftentimes to members of the audience. But don’t be afraid: Mom still loves you. N.M.
Sounds like : surf pop meets La Bohème meets the movie Saw
Order of the Golden Mirror
True to the genre, this group is weird, plain and simple. Expect the unexpected as each song glamorously descends down the rabbit hole. On the band’s MySpace page, featured song “Lazer City” curiously mirrors “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin, so you can still bask in the comfort of something familiar. M.H.
Sounds like : Led Zeppelin with the Bee Gee brothers on vox
See them live : May 29, Sammies Showcase, Luigi’s Fun Garden; June 12, Vega’s Nightclub
Pregnant is like taking a bath in an electronic sweet soup, and every time you pass gas, the bubbles rise and pop at the surface, releasing the lilting voice of Daniel Trudeau. Yes, it’s experimental and weird in a freak-folkish way, but it’s structured on just enough pretty melodies to make one ask for a second serving. S.S.
Sounds like : folky Aphex Twin
See them live : May 16, Operation Restore Maximum Freedom at Plainfield Station, Davis; May 17, Atelier
This band—from Davis but since migrated to the Bay Area—creates carefully constructed, introspective, graceful indie rock, with just enough fuel packed in to, well, rock. S.S.
Sounds like : digestible, ethereal yet down-to-earth rock
Grass Valley’s Aaron Ross plays a loose style of psychedelic folk, like a less electronic-based Animal Collective mashed with Modest Mouse. S.S.
Sounds like : a spring roll eaten on a country house’s porch on a warm summer day, with the electricity of a pending thunder storm pleasantly palpable—fresh, familiar, but lovely and exciting—in other words, a whole lot of tastiness
It’s been a busy year for Autumn Sky, one of Sac’s favorite singer-songwriters. Getting engaged, much to the dismay of male music lovers everywhere, and still managing to handle her rather busy show schedule and put out new tunes … that’s Autumn Sky. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. D.N.
Sounds like : sweet agave nectar
See her live : May 16, Javalounge; May 21, Sammies Showcase, Old Ironsides; June 6, Luna’s Café & Juice Bar; June 9, Atelier
Be Brave Bold Robot
BBBR is already well-known in Sacramento’s musical current. But if you can break away from your beer and barroom chit-chat and really take a listen, those jammy waters run pretty effin’ deep. Tales of psychedelic camaraderie, long-lost connections and the anguish of everyday conversation, BBBR is smothered in molasses one moment and all funked up in another. C.B.
Sounds like : Paul Simon, Iggy Pop and the Bloodhound Gang on an all-night acoustic bender
See them live : May 15, Sammies Showcase, Marilyn’s on K
With a perfect blend of sweetness and longing in her voice, it’s a mixture that one can’t blame a sailor for jumping ship to fill his ears with. This singer-songwriter is Sacramento’s mistress of haunting, emotional music. S.S.
Sounds like : a siren
Christopher Fairman’s tracks are mellow and dreamy guitar-based singer-songwriter tunage. Fairman’s influence of mid-2000’s Ryan Adams work is detectable, and sometimes, like in “Pages,” he surprisingly sounds like Andrew Bird. S.S.
Sounds like : Canadian pop
See him live : May 21, Sammies Showcase at Old Ironsides
Justin Farren is a man, armed with an acoustic guitar and a penchant for writing quirky songs about quotidian nonevents and musings, and is unafraid of admitting his shortcomings in his lyrics. He kinda sounds like that Jason Mraz guy—which Farren actually mentions in the hilarious “Where Did I Leave My Sweater?” Justin: You might sound like Mraz, but you’re far better than Mraz. And you don’t wear funny hats, either. S.S.
Sounds like : better than that Mraz guy
See him live : May 15 at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar
A Sacramento staple who’s been around longer than most SN&R interns have been alive, Kevin Seconds has morphed into an Americana freight train that’s still picking up speed. For those that might be used to his harder sounds, Seconds comes off now as a little kooky, but maybe he’s just a harpsichord with heart. Along with a hint of his punk-rock slip showing, K.S. definitely slows things down enough for listeners to enjoy the ride. C.B.
Sounds like : a night with REO Speedwagon with special guest Willie Nelson
If Abandon Theory were a basketball team, drummer Rudy Paiva would be the power center of the group—although this guy is no flopper. The band has a groovy acoustic-roots style that is lively and dynamic, but always maintains a congruence that is reflective upon the earnest rapport these guys seem to have with one another. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Ween and Slightly Stoopid on a blind date
See them live : May 22 at Old Ironsides
Arden Park Roots
These guys are the kind of rock pranksters that have band practice in a janky garage down the street, blasting funky ska jams and calling each other “sweet tits” in between. I bet they go to the local golf course afterward and blast air horns during people’s backswings or other similar shenanigans. Oh, and they kinda rock, too. M.H.
Sounds like : Sublime
Sacramento band Cuesta Drive is sonically all over the map. You never know quite where you’re headed next—over soulful bridges through rolling hills of rock, from sandy salsa beaches down into valleys of funk—but really, what does it matter, anyway? It’s the scenic route. “Everything,” the first single from their latest trip, Distractions, is taking a spin at local radio stations KWOD 106.5 and 100.5 The Zone. Kick back and enjoy the ride. K.B.
Sounds like : the Red Hot Chili Peppers arrested by the Police
See them live : May 15, Sammies Showcase at Marilyn’s on K; May 24, Crawdads on the River; May 28, Pyramid Alehouse Brewery; May 30, Midfest in Marshall Park; June 6, Powerhouse Pub, Folsom
This is a band you’d expect to hear on 98 Rock; it’s that simple. The bassist even looks like a Mexican version of Chris Cornell in his heyday (or perhaps a distant cousin of Josh Fernandez), but that’s beside the point. Beyond the intense facial hair and power stances, these guys look like they might have a bright future in the music industry. How do I know this? Because they have official Fair Game wet T-shirt contests, and damnit, that has to count for something. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Red Hot Chili Peppers à la Blood Sugar Sex Magik mixed with a heavier, more progressive sounding version of Incubus and a lot more leather
See them live : May 31, Midfest in Marshall Park; June 12 at The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Izabella is about as American as drugs and apple pie, so it seems quite fitting that the sextet’s most recent release is of the same name. In addition to their plans of rocking practically every major California music festival this summer, they are also undertaking their first East Coast tour later this fall. Take note of this dynamic jam band, because trust me, you won’t be able to escape them any time soon. J.DLT.
Sounds like : guitar jams in Trans-Ams
See them live : May 20 at Harlow’s
Although there are four guys that make up Smoke, it’s a wonder they don’t include a girl named Mary Jane on their band roster, considering every time I listen to them I feel like I just got a contact high. All jokes aside, the band has continued to be an integral component of not only the local reggae and punk sector, but also the entire Sacramento music scene as a whole. J.DLT.
See them live:
May 22, Beach Hut Deli, Folsom; May 31, Midfest in Marshall Park
If these guys got a crack at the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, they could be outta town faster than you can say “the Fray.” Folky, lyrically smart and as sensibly complex as a soy cappuccino, this familiar coffeehouse band can easily fit into many different genres, such as “progressive rock.” C.B.
Sounds like : Dave Matthews before he got rich and pussy-whipped, or maybe John Popper if he kept his up with his diet plan and finally ditched that harmonica
See them live : May 22, Old Ironsides
This group of young men is an inspiration to every person out there who has ever wanted to grow their hair long, drive around in clunky old van, and live every day as if it were 420. Currently on tour to promote the recent release of its full-length sophomore album, ZuhG Life, and garnering critical acclaim from esteemed publications such as High Times magazine, Zuhg appears to be an early summer favorite among college campuses near and far. J.DLT.
Sounds like : if Dispatch were from NorCal and smoked a lot more weed
See them live : May 23, Marilyn’s on K; May 27, Powerhouse Pub, Folsom; June 11, Sammies Showcase at Old Ironsides; June 13, Tex Wasabi’s
Aaron King Quartet
In the Sacramento blues realm, guitarist and vocalist Aaron King has reigned supreme for the past decade. Blending jump blues, boogie-woogie piano riffs and a style of playing that is undoubtedly reminiscent of another man by the name of King, the four-piece stays true to its roots while still expressing an abundance of its own ingenuity. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Stevie Ray Vaughan in the Central Valley
See them live : May 22-25 at the Sacramento Jazz Festival, Old Sacramento; June 13, Glen Hall Park
Harley White Jr. Orchestra
While updating a genre that’s almost 70 years old can be a daunting task, the Harley White Jr. Orchestra has managed to do so in a style that even Count Basie himself would be proud of. More than 18 years after his debut, the contemporary yet soulful White continues to prove himself not only as a skillful bassist and composer, but also as a first-rate bandleader that shows no sign of deceleration any time soon. J.DLT.
Sounds like : modern hard bop fused with a box of Zatarain’s dirty rice
See them live : May 15, Sammies Showcase at Marilyn’s on K; May 24, J.B.’s Lounge; June 6, William Land Park; June 7, Torch Club
One Eyed Rhyno
Family barbecue-style blues-rock popularized by Jonny Lang and local celeb Jackie Greene. The kind of act you may see while perusing the county fair or backwoods dive bar. Actually, they are playing Sacramento County Fair, so go check them out in their natural habitat. J.P.
Sounds like : blues in the backyard with the bros
See them live : May 16, Macy’s, Westfield Galleria, Roseville; May 23, Sacramento County Fairgrounds
Ross Hammond is a man who can probably express himself with a guitar better than most of us can with the English language. Although his style of playing feels blithe and effortless at times, his true musicianship and technical skill still manages to permeate his compositions. His collaborative efforts with local musicians have also given credence to his true versatility as an artist. J.DLT.
Sounds like : an eclectic hodgepodge of jazz-fusion that includes flavors of everything from bebop to chamber music, and an intimacy about it that defies articulation
See him live : May 15, Sammie Showcase at Marilyn’s on K; May 30, Luna’s Café & Juice Bar; June 5, Fox & Goose
Sacramento Blues Revue
To me, Sacramento Blues Revue embodies what comes to mind when I think of the Sacramento Jazz Festival (or Jazz Jubz, as we like to call it at SN&R): straight blues in the vein of B.B. King, a few laid-back old guys that look like they could tell you a few stories involving a man named Jack Daniel, and, most importantly, musicians who are truly in it for the music and nothing else. Best of all, they have somewhat of a rotating lineup, so no one gig is ever the same. J.DLT.
Sounds like : a blind guy sitting on a porch somewhere—usually found in close proximity to a harmonica
See them live : May 17, Powerhouse Pub, Folsom; May 22-24, Sacramento Jazz Festival, Old Sacramento
Everyone knows a couple that may seem odd on paper, but in practice make a great pair. This exuberant seven-piece does just that by infusing traditional Mexican cumbia music with modern Jamaican dance-hall rhythms and a robust horn section. Part island and part español, it’s the unmistakable passion of the entire band that keeps their aspirations of unity through music from being lost in translation. J.DLT.
Sounds like : if mi abuela smoked some good sensimilla
The Devil Makes Three
Lead vocalist Pete Bernhard doesn’t have that deep, guttural twang of your typical country rambler, but instead a straightforward baritone with just the right hint of drawl. His lyrics are down-home and modern, like on a song about a friend, where Bernhard jokes that “He’s got a PowerPoint presentation about some girl he wants to do.” And that’s what’s so genius about DM3: They take ragtime but pepper it with rock energy and good-times humor. They’re one of the best bands in town—even though they’re always on tour. N.M.
Sounds like : ragtime meets the Ramones
You know that noise some musicians make? Mainly in country, sometimes with Björk or a lot of the little girls on Star Search—that guttural kind of growl-while-singing thing, usually on a word like “Welllllll” or “Ohhhhhhh”? Yeah, that one. Kate Gaffney makes me want to do it. And that’s a good thing. K.B.
Sounds like : Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant shaken over ice, with zest for garnish and an added splash of color
See her live : June 2, Torch Club; June 11, Sammies Showcase at Old Ironsides
A little more country and a little less folk, and it’s all due to their busy violinist Shane Kalbach, who tirelessly fiddles, giving the whole group a charming Midwestern quality. And with a nostalgic Sacramento track featured online, who can think poorly of a group so devoted to its roots? M.H.
Sounds like : songs from a Coen brothers film
See them live : June 9, Sammies Showcase at the Torch Club
They may be just a few good ol’ boys singing songs about whiskey nights, but by the end of their set, you’ll be singing along, too. Picking up where Hank Williams left off and throwing in some modern-day punk for good measure, these guys will sing their throats out while smoking packs of Chesterfields. D.N.
Sounds like : a flat tire in Woodland meets a barnyard good-time jam
See them live : May 2, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden; June 4, Old Ironsides
Richard March sounds like actual country music, not that glammed-up, wannabe-pop “country” that has been rampant the past few years. No, March is full of twang, nostalgia, storytelling about living and learning, and tales of the heart, with sufficient doses of fiddle, banjo and slide guitar to keep it traditional, but with extra electric guitar, making it contemporary. S.S.
Sounds like : a slice of Memphis and Nashville here in the River City
See him live : May 14, Auburn Alehouse, Auburn; May 23, Walk ’N Rock for Kids benefit on the Capitol steps; June 5, Blue Lamp
Like ordering a sweet tea in the Sacramento heat, Rowdy Kate at first feels a little out of place. But then her rockabilly twang and witty, random affection for Jim from The Office (see her song “I Heart Jim”) reveals R.K.’s sweet, Southern charm and a capital city kick. If country isn’t your thing, the tattoos and familiar Sactown vintage style will make you a convert. C.B.
Sounds like : if Katy Perry and Toby Keith made a baby, who then got honky-tonk on your ass
Flirting with the fine line between the heartfelt and melodramatic, Silver Darling has a special place in the pastoral corrals of our hearts, probably because there is something trustworthy about the twang-a-langin’ sounds of Americana. And, basically, the band looks like it sounds: bearded. M.H.
Sounds like : someone gave Dad a guitar and a bottle of whiskey
See them live : May 16, Operation Restore Maximum Freedom at Plainfield Station, Davis; May 22, Cesar Chavez Plaza
Sacramento country with a bluesy, mid-’90s rock feel, T.R. lays you down by the fireside, then introduces you to its horn section. This band’s melancholy, blue-collar sound somehow makes you feel like it understands and that—hey, man—everything’s going to be OK. C.B.
Sounds like : Screaming Trees, Mazzy Star and Joe Cocker just hid your cowboy hat, but are willing to trade it for a bottle of whiskey
See them live : May 15 at Old Ironsides
Tumbleweeds sound almost as though your grandpa’s records fell into a time warp; the band has a harmonious, nostalgic sound that brings you right back down to gramps’ old pickup and his trusty pack of Marlboros. A little camp and a fixin’ of folk, the Tumbleweeds do country the way it used to be. Only less annoying. C.B.
Sounds like : Merle Haggard and friends invited you to a show that they’re a-playin’ at On the Y
See them live : June 3 at Marilyn’s on K
Agent Ribbons has a sweet, indie stickiness that’s got to make Cake jealous. A sound to be nationally reckoned with, the ladies of Ribbons can tell a three-minute story that’ll leave you wanting more. A little quick-step country, a lot more burlesque rock, this band doesn’t fit into one specific box. Unless you ask nicely. C.B.
Sounds like : Los Angeles-based the Bird and the Bee vs. the White Stripes in a Battle Royale … inside of a circus tent
Do you miss ’80s shoegaze? If so, the Generals can tap into that nostalgia: bold, Morrissey-like vocals; rich guitars; synths and keys; and those Reagan-era bridges where all the aforementioned instruments crescendo into a bleeding-heart outro. Aww. B.E.
Sounds like : an echo of Echo and the Bunnymen
See them live : May 21, Sammies Showcase at Old Ironsides
The Impotent Ninja
The Impotent Ninja’s hip, futuristic sound makes you want to want do the robot in your kitchen. Layers of modern rhythms, electro mixes, breezy natural elements (like singing sparrows)—TIN seems to have fun, if mild-mannered and refined good times. And on the song “That’s My Jam,” it’s as though TIN’s invented a hooting-owl choir. Tweet on that. C.B.
Sounds like : the Talking Heads with She Wants Revenge manning the astronaut space station
See them live : June 11, Old Ironsides
Formed from members of O! the Joy, Justin Goings and Kyle Marcelli, comes Jeepster, an experimental jam band who recently secluded itself in a Lake Tahoe area cabin to record its new full-length album, What If All the Rebels Died?, which drops June 30 in the States. Good thing, too, considering their live show has garnered some serious praise (to the point of giving headliners a run for their money, I hear), so be sure to catch them when you can. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Honestly, I’ve been sitting here over an hour and I still have yet to find a band they sound like. That must mean something, right?
See them live : June 11, Old Ironsides
The funny thing is, Melee Beats couldn’t be further from what most people would consider “pop”; this is straight-up house music you’d expect to find in a moderately sketchy discothèque frequented by ingénues of a questionable moral fiber … but in a good way. Truth is, this guy has got some real talent and some bright prospects as a serious musician. In this case, I even feel kind of wrong for comparing him to Daft Punk, because Nic Bertino’s tracks actually suggest that he has a pulse. And unlike Daft Punk, this music doesn’t make me want to stick a fork in my eye. C.B.
Sounds like : 50 percent Röyksopp + 50 percent Daft Punk = 100 percent awesome
This girl’s beautiful, soft voice is soothing ear candy, evoking visions of sunsets on the beach and other happy thoughts that will make you wish you were on vacation. It would be a good idea to listen to her on the weekend, and not a Monday. K.M.
Sounds like : Norah Jones, Regina Spektor
See her live : May 15, Luna’s Café and Juice Bar; May 16, Fox & Goose; May 20, Blue Lamp; May 26, R5 Records; June 4, Fox & Goose
I dare you to not move during a 20,000 gig. Seriously, try it. It’s physically impossible. There’s so much energy in this happy-synth-pop pair’s set, gravity won’t allow you to sit still. It’s likely Meg Larkin and David Mohr made a sonic deal with the devil. Only wish I’d thought of that first. K.B.
Sounds like : ((Spalding Rockwell x David Byrne) – arrogance)/opiates + (Nintendo + a whole lotta sugary snacks)2
See them live : May 16, The Stag, Woodland
Outstanding Teen Band
There’s a classic-rock tinge in Dead Scott’s domineering keyboard work, and affected vocals weave through the tracks, giving the band an Eagles-meet-the Cure kind of vibe. They draw influence from groups such as Steely Dan, MGMT, Animal Collective, Mac Dre and Mike Farrell’s band Daisy Spot. On MySpace, they describe their sound as “Frank Sinatra on crack.” Hmm. J.F.
Sounds like : a seedy “Hotel California” meets Pitchfork
Beware, attendees of the Dog Party: The sounds of these two pre-teen girls can invoke an unexpected existential crisis. When the 10- and 12-year-old sister duo performed at a staff luncheon for SN&R a few months back, I spent the next two days wondering where the time had gone and what the hell I was doing with my life. K.B.
Sounds like : Kim Deal just before the helium wears off entirely
See them live : June 7, Nike Women’s Fitness Festival, state Capitol
It’s easy to dismiss Josiah James as just another dude trying to make teenage girls swoon, but anyone in his increasingly large fan base will let you know that this kid has serious talent. His songs reflect his positive outlook on life, which isn’t a bad thing: At 19, he’s a little too young to be jaded by life. That doesn’t happen until you make the serious bucks. K.M.
Sounds like : Switchfoot
See him live : May 14, The Destination; May 15, Pow Wow Days, Orangevale; May 22, Victory Life Church, Folsom; May 23, Pop Ups, Elk Grove
Red Wire Army
When I first heard Red Wire Army, local teen metal outfit, I was totally blown away by the intensity of the thrash stylings: The band’s sound is pure unpretentious heavy metal, tom rolls, electric riffs and squealing to boot. It’s offensively awesome; my dog is deaf, but I covered his ears, anyway. N.M.
Sounds like : true ’80s metal
See them live : May 23, Sacramento County Fair, Cal Expo
This Nevada City teen band is kind of like another Nevada City band, Them Hills. Both have crunchy guitars and a sound rooted in classic rock—but the Shreds more so, and they rip some fryin’ guitar solos. B.E.
Sounds like : Led Zeppelin meets Black Mountain meets the foothills
See them live : May 16, Sammies Showcase at Luigi’s Fun Garden
Ryan Lindow is Citystate, and he throws down electronica beats with a minimalist but unexpected kick, the kind of bassy dub sounds that’ll have you bumping your ass into someone else’s, inducing a kind of faux-toasting dance-floor unrest. Citystate also does deejay sets, and you’ll often see him at places like Cuffs Urban Apparel on Second Saturday. B.E.
Sounds like : Ricardo Villalobos meets Clipse-like hip-hop beats
Forms in Flux
A jarbled mix of everything, Forms in Flux takes on most genres out there right now. There’s electronica, hip-hop, spoken word, Americana bass lines and anti-government angst, all topped off with some singsongy “Ring Around the Rosy.” While nobody seems to be left out … what the hell is going on here? C.B.
Sounds like : the Chemical Brothers ran into an unplugged Trent Reznor, then plotted to smack the taste out of the Flobots’ mouth—but the Roots won’t let ’em
Kiro makes drum ’n’ bass electronica and has been doing so since 1994—impressive. And Kiro’s latest track, “Hold On,” is a wild and explosive epic with all the hallmarks of pure techno: a bangin’ drop, great hook moments, dirty bass and a solid drum backbeat throughout. N.M.
Sounds like : jungle meets Squarepusher
I’m sure I’d probably appreciate the sounds of Resynthesize a lot more if I was under the influence of some sort of designer drug. However, it’s the complex beats and tempo changes of IDM mastermind Brandon Tallent that are really what’s impressive. His rhythmic turns of phrase are unexpected and intricate to please the most discerning of audiophiles, yet simple enough to still maintain the attention span of the average club patron, solidifying his status within the Sacramento club scene. J.DLT.
Sounds like : a mathematical synth orgy
I spent forever trying to pinpoint another band or artist to properly analogize Tha Fruitbat’s sound, but I decided to spare myself the embarrassment and spare you the bullshit. Truth is, although there is some clear inspiration from the original innovators of the ambient and down-tempo genres, Evan Schneider’s psychedelic project is all his own and truly deserving of some quality props for his clever samples and compelling beats. J.DLT.
Sounds like : early Björk meets jacked-up jungle and drum ’n’ bass
Two Playa Game
If you asked my 4-year-old self what the words “blow job” meant, I probably would have explained my cleaning techniques to remove dust from my NES game cartridges. And the men of IDM duo Two Playa Game have developed an entire musical experiment out of those very games, creating danceable beats from vintage titles like Super Mario Bros. and Q*bert. Combining industrial elements, diverse sampling and an impressive level of geekiness, TPG has put the electronic scene on pause to take notice. J.DLT.
Sounds like : Donkey Kong meets drum machine
Tommy Fox, Nick Bianco and Brannum Goldsmith are Aquifer. These Amador County dudes are hip-hoppers, but they are more. They are writers who are detailed in the craft of poetry, not simply making music for the sake of making music. There seems to be a greater cause at work here. Aquifer’s music is an audio and intellectual experience that is unique and really quite exciting. J.F.
Sounds like : Sage Francis, space aliens
See them live : June 7, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
There’s not much to say about Cawzlos that he hasn’t said himself: great, skilled, “winning.” The verbose former frontman for the Cawz is now solo and slowly trying to monopolize the Sacramento hip-hop industry. Or maybe he’s trying to create it by juggling his LMNH record company, his artist promotion and stage performances. Dynamic. J.F.
Sounds like : money changing hands
This gangster has maybe 1,000 albums out. OK, maybe not that many, but C-Dubb is heavy on the studio time and light on sleep. A fan of ’90s mobb music, you won’t hear C-Dubb rapping about saving the whales any time soon, but that’s how we like him: mean, dirty, gritty and rude. J.F.
Sounds like: Mack 10, Tech N9ne
See him live: June 4 at The Onyx Club, Roseville
Yes, this man came back after a split from Sick Wid It Records. And not only did he survive, he came out with an album that, like a ball of Silly Putty, stretched out every genre imaginable and formed into a pleasing, gelatinous shape right in our laps. What does that mean? Who knows? But Doey Rock’s music just makes you say ridiculous shit. J.F.
Sounds like : Scarface, KRS-One
There is no emcee in Sacramento with a better name. This north Sacramento champion came right off the street and delivered Flossalini Is My Homeboy, an album that shows every side of street life, but most importantly, the realistic one, and the side where the heart is the only organ that counts. J.F.
Mac Dre, Kurupt
Izreal & DJ Kool Kutz
Whoa, before you hear God-centric hip-hop and think it’s some hand-holding, happy-ass throwaway rap, think again. Izreal kicks some of the hardest rhymes in the country. And with Kool Kutz cutting the hell out of records behind him, the duo is unstoppable. Especially with Christ on their team. J.F.
Sounds like : Mountain Brothers, De La Soul
See them live : June 7, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
Live Manikins are emcees Runt Rock, Flavius, Self. It’s as close as Sacramento has to a supergroup. These guys are all doing solo stuff, as well as carving time to perform as a team. Their live shows are as raucous as a punk-rock set, but these dudes are strictly hip-hop, from the way they dress to the carefully crafted words they spit to their deejay, DJ Rated R, who’s always in one crazy predicament or another. J.F.
Sounds like : A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde
Theek, Skurge, S.O.L. and DJ Tofu De La Moore make up Righteous Movement, who kick hot rhymes with a cool demeanor. These guys have taken their act on the Warped Tour and have been “coming out with their album” CP Time for what seems like years now. But we’ll wait, because all of Sacramento knows how good these guys are. J.F.
Sounds like : the Roots, Jurassic 5
See them live : June 5 at Cesar Chavez Plaza
The Other Poets
Prozak Morris (of A New Hope) and Random Abiladeze (of Neighborhood Watch) formed this group that usually goes by simply T.O.P. Their self-titled debut CD is an ambient mix of spaced-out hip-hop beats that drift toward electronic and opposing voices, Morris with a spastic and dramatic flow, and Abiladeze with an even, smooth one. In short, it works. J.F.
Sounds like : Freestyle Fellowship, Living Legends
During the past year, A.R.A.B.’s been working hard to make sure his name stays in your brain: Shows, e-mail blasts, press releases and MySpace bulletins are all fair game. Not to mention, A.R.A.B. kicks a sound that’s street-smart, with killer lines and clean production. Dude is going to run things in this town if he keeps it up. J.F.
Sounds like : Nas, Mobb Deep, Mac Dre
See him live : May 14 at Blue Lamp
The emcee formerly with the group Livestock, Blee knows his Sac hip-hop history. Now, as a solo artist, he’s gotten more recognition than ever, with his signature turf hop, which is part hardcore rap/part hardcore backpack rap. Also, watch for Blee at live shows as he flies around the stage like an overly caffeinated gangster. J.F.
Sounds like : Mac Dre, Keith Murray
When you hear the term “battle rapper,” you might automatically think “horrible studio artist.” But get that idea out of your head. Chase Moore is just as good in the studio as he is freestyling against an opponent. The dude has a perfect blend of pop and hardcore rap, and you bet your ass he’s going to try to sell it like it was a platinum Rolex. J.F.
Sounds like : Jay-Z, T.I.
One of the best, funniest, most original hip-hop songs out right now, “Light Skinned,” is from Floe Montana, which states, “Pardon me, but I hope nobody gets offended / We don’t say light skinned, we say light-skin-ded.” Funny cuz it’s true. Anyway, emcees with huge brains make the best ones. J.F.
Sounds like : Ras Kass, Eminem
The singsong quality to Illecism’s flow makes him sound like your best friend who tells jokes about other people’s mamas and makes you laugh all day long. That’s not to say he’s gimmicky or lame, because he isn’t; Illecism takes care with his craft, which is obviously why you nominated him. J.F.
Sounds like : Fatlip, Fresh Prince (before he sucked)
See him live : June 7, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
Who else in Sacramento gets Chino XL to host his mix tape, Keith Murray and Sadat X to do tracks with him and Immortal Technique to give him a shout-out from the stage? Nobody. He works his ass off, and that’s why Mahtie Bush gets everything he deserves. It’s impossible for Sac to hate hip-hop with this dude around. Ironic, isn’t it? J.F.
Sounds like : Immortal Technique, Chino XL
See him live : May 14 at Blue Lamp; June 7, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
This is the freshest law-school dropout to ever touch a microphone. Mic Jordan, primarily known for his battle raps and uncanny ability to freestyle, is also a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer. A man who is truly lost in his own head, but willing to step outside of it for a minute to school the rest of us. J.F.
Sounds like : Talib Kweli, KRS-One
As a speaker, poet, scholar and musician, emcee Random Abiladeze has random abilities. A humble character with an enigmatic, charismatic flow, the guy’s getting some attention outside of our city and catching ears from university halls to far-away venues. Seriously, who knows what he’ll do next? J.F.
Sounds like : Kool G Rap, Nas
TAIS stands for Truth Arises in Search, which is kind of like a mission statement for this member of Righteous Movement. When he’s doing his solo artist thing, TAIS still represents the fundamentals of hip-hop, but he does it alone, as if he’s trying to find himself along the way. We’re happy to join him as he searches. J.F.
Sounds like : Talib Kweli, Mos Def
See him live : June 7, Sammies Showcase at The Press Club
DJ Epik is mostly a producer now, but he’s been seen all over Sacramento behind the ones and twos since the ’90s, when he was primarily deejaying for Livestock. Although he’s too humble to admit it, this guy really knows his way around a pair of turntables. Hear that, young ’uns? J.F.
Sounds like : wiki-wiki
See him live : L!fe every Thursday night at The Distillery
This guy is a character. When he’s not deejaying for his group Tribe of Levi, DJ Filth is making a mess, talking obnoxiously in a movie theater, eating, producing music and practicing on his turntables. He can cut, mix and whatever else you do with a turntable. His dreadlocks alone have more hip-hop in them than most of the people in Sacramento combined. J.F.
Sounds like : chk-chk-chk
DJ Kool Kutz
Some groups have background deejays, you know, the kind that don’t even have to plug in. They just stand there going, “Yeah!” and pretending to cut, even though the whole set is on the group’s laptop. And then there are deejays like Kool Kutz, who take a track and turn it into a masterpiece by chopping up samples in front of your eyes. J.F.
Sounds like : chiggy-chiggy
DJ Mad G
Sacramento would have rioted if Mad G wasn’t nominated for this award. And they should. You know why? Because every dope cut you heard on those CUF and Deep Fried Funk Brothers albums came under the fingers of this guy. In that case, he’s got this city under his fingertips. J.F.
Sounds like : “Why does it have to be so damn tough?”
DJ Mr. Vibe
Not only does DJ Mr. Vibe do the cuts and scratches for Another Rap Group, he’s rocked at many of the major hip-hop shows in Sacramento, including the KRS-One performance where he got to back the notorious Bronx emcee. Thank God for deejays like Mr. Vibe for making all these groups that rock to laptops look stupid. J.F.
Sounds like : breakdown
See him live : May 16, West Coast Brew Feast, Miller Park; May 30, Old Ironsides; May 31, Midfest, 28th and J streets; June 12, Cesar Chavez Plaza
The lost member of Live Manikins, a member of Velvet Wax crew and proud father, DJ Nocturnal is a true cutter ’n’ scratcher. He’s the kind of guy who never stops talking about the art of deejaying, and his style is dexterous and not afraid to experiment with the hip-hop sound, taking unheard-of tracks and spinning them into gold. J.F.
Sounds like : ziggy-zig zig
See him live : June 13 at UnitedState
This Neighborhood Watch-affiliated deejay has his eyes on the prize. Once known for backing groups like State Cap. and 5th Ave, Oasis began to venture out on his own, combining a mash-up club vibe with the ethics of a turntablist. Now it seems like you can’t leave your damn house without seeing his name somewhere. J.F.
Sounds like : ziggy-ziggy
See him live : May 14, Blue Lamp; June 2, Powerhouse Pub, Folsom
DJ Rated R
Known for sharing a stage with Live Manikins, DJ Rated R is often the star of the show. Like a skilled guitar soloist, oftentimes emcees will step off the mic and let Rated R do his thing as the crowd goes nuts. If you doubt the skills of a deejay, you haven’t seen DJ Rated R. J.F.
Sounds like : chiki-chiki
DJ Rock Bottom
Could DJ Rock Bottom be the most soulful man in Sacramento? Yup. Whether he’s spinning jazz, hip-hop or soul music, this turntable technician is only thinking in good music. He’s a party rocker, as well as a thoughtful slanger of melody who aims to please a crowd of hungry fans of urban music. J.F.
Sounds like : scrrratch
Outstanding Hip-hop ProducerAdmant
Admant’s beats are hard, Admant’s beats are funky; they can get you hooked like a crackhead junkie. This dude has cuts, skills behind the board and he’s probably a really nice guy, too. But nobody knows because he never emerges from his turntable cave. Well, now Admant’s a Neighborhood Watch all-star. Look for him on a CD near you. J.F.
Sounds like : Dr. Dre, Jazzy Jeff
See bio under “Outstanding Turntablist” (page 17), where he’s also nominated.
If you need a hard beat to complement your hard lyrics, you go to Goldfingaz. That’s just the way it goes. Synths, hand claps, pianos—whatever the hell you need to make your beat hot for the streets, Goldie’s got it. He’s just always been that way. J.F.
Sounds like : DJ Quik, Scarface
Sacramento’s “King of Beats” is on fire right now. His Omina Laboratories recording studio has been a hit with musicians from all over California, and his beats, hardcore and sinister, have been selling like, uh, beats that are hard and sinister. People love those. Yeah, this is definitely the year of Synth. J.F.
Sounds like : Dr. Dre, bang bang
JustLuv is one of those producers who makes you want to start rapping just so you can hear your voice behind one of his airy, organic and dramatic tracks. He breathes a new life into the classic hip-hop song by experimenting with sound, rhythm and genre. The art is better because of JustLuv. J.F.
Sounds like : earth, wind, fire
Where did this guy come from? It’s weird—one minute there was no Lee Bannon, and all of the sudden the guy’s doing tracks for U-N-I, Big Shug and the Jacka. A success story is an understatement. We’re proud to have such a prodigy in Sacramento. J.F.
Sounds like : Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Hi-Tek
See bio under “Outstanding Emcee” (page 17), where he’s also nominated.
You might know this guy as an emcee with the legendary Live Manikins crew. But you might not know that some of those beats, flavored with Latin percussion and breezy melody, are produced by the one and only Runt Rock. If only Runt Rock could bust out some dance moves, he’d be the perfect triple threat. J.F.
Sounds like : Santana, J Dilla
Outstanding Sacramento Band
Vote for your favorite of these Sacramento bands now through June 14 at www.sammies.com.
The Devil Makes Three
Th’ Losin Streaks
Middle Class Rut