Sasquatch in the house
It seems every time I turn around these days, I see the name Adam Varona.
Sometimes it’s news of his recent wedding (officiated by local legend Kevin Seconds), and other times it’s an invitation to one of his house concerts (the last, held on July 4, featured a staggering number of Midtown acts, including Estereo, Ghetto Moments and St. Simon 3). Those shows are promotions for Ferocious Kitty Media, the music media and promotions company Varona started with his wife, Danielle.
Then there’s Varona’s latest self-released CD (Coffee and Nirvana) and the even newer four-way split he did with singer-songwriter Mike Rofé and SquishTheBadMan’s Dave Middleton and Julie Meyers (both performing solo): a tour-only CD ridiculously titled Toe-Tappin’, Finger-Snappin’ Tour 2004. And speaking of tours, Varona and his band the Famous Celebrity Asses (a.k.a. the FCA), and featuring all three of the Toe-Tappin’ folks on the four-way split, have all just hit the road for their first-ever tour of the Southwest.
That tour kicked off with a show at Roseville’s Owl Club last week, where Varona and the FCA performed on a bill including a solo set by Rofé and sets by Reno act Mister Vague and Sacramento band the Regards. It was, as is often the case, a spotty night for audience at the Owl Club, although there are some indications that the club is starting to pick up speed. Nonetheless, the numbers waffled between eight and 20 people throughout the night, a somewhat depressing turnout for a tour launch.
Despite the low numbers, Varona’s band made the most of the situation, performing an increasingly wild set that sounded like Toad the Wet Sprocket lurching through a set of Replacements covers. Particularly entertaining was one moment where keyboardist Meyers hit an abrasive wrong note (which elicited peals of laughter from both the band and audience) and proceeded to play the rest of the song (correctly!) by playing the keyboard with her nose. It’s refreshing to hear and see a band that takes real joy in performing music. That kind of joy is infectious, and Varona himself—whom Mister Vague’s Mark Earnest described as a “giant, leaping Sasquatch”—is the primarily instigator of that joy: a man who clearly enjoys what he’s doing onstage. Go to www.adamvarona.com for more information.
Varona’s set was followed by the Regards (online at www.theregards.com), the post-Amazing Sweethearts project of Joe Kojima Gray featuring former members of the Smokejumpers and the McAllisters. The Regards are essentially a roots-infused Americana rock band, like a somewhat more calm and less drunken version of the Amazing Sweethearts, featuring melodic, rocking songs performed by Gray on acoustic guitar backed by a three-piece band. Of particular note is the basswork of Tom “Double D” Thumb, which is as steady and rhythmically powerful as Bill Black’s best work backing Elvis Presley’s early recordings. Gray himself is a good songwriter and singer, although it might also be noted that his vocal range is very short, at times making the songs sound too similar in tone. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy project by a Sacramento veteran.