I have to admit that Sacramento’s music scene occasionally embarrasses me. It’s not the bands that do so, or even the fans, but rather those audience members who seem oblivious to the event, the venue or the fact of live music at all. These are people who come to a live-music show simply because there are other people there, and it somehow seems like a more conducive environment for their drunken revelry.
Harlow’s is particularly problematic in this regard, as I have yet to see a show there that doesn’t include major audience chatter. This was particularly a problem two weeks ago as Low and Pedro the Lion played the room; Low’s intensely quiet music was met by a steady babble of voices from the bar. Abstract Entertainment’s head honcho, Brian McKenna, who booked the show, told me that the talkers tend to be folks who stop by Harlow’s after basketball games, pay the cover, drink at the bar and sometimes don’t even ask who played until after the music is over. It would never occur to me to pay a $10 or $20 cover charge to sit at a bar, but apparently the venue’s clientele is like that.
The last time I saw jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter play the room, he growled mid-tune to his bassist, “This is worse than Tahoe.” I assumed that he meant the audience babble, but I could have been wrong. Either way, Hunter looked pissed.
I also should disclose, though, that I too have been labeled a “talker.” Last year in San Francisco, my father and I caught Our Lady of the Highway at Cafe Du Nord. The band was playing a slower song, and I commented to my father how much I liked the sound of it. After the song was done, a person at a nearby table came up to me and said, “That song was called ‘Beautiful’ until you talked through it.” I’m not entirely sure what that meant, but the general point was crystal clear: Shut up.
The situation is complicated somewhat by conflicting audience expectations. When I go to see live music, I am there for the music. Of course, many others have a completely different agenda, namely to socialize and drink—both noble endeavors, to be sure—and as the beer flows, the socializing gets increasingly loud. Couple loud conversations with a relatively quiet band, and the problem becomes clear, as does the only possible solution: Drink less and play louder.
Despite Jeremiah Maguire’s announcement last September, A Single Second has not disbanded. Instead, the band continues on with a new lineup (without Maguire, for one). The band features vocalist and guitarist Shawn Peter, guitarist Chris Silva and drummer Clay Woolery, and it has added bassist Jason Silvester of Lesdystics, Strange House and Ten Foot Pole. The band will be releasing a new CD in June and is warming up its new lineup with nine (!) local shows in April. Check www.asinglesecond.net for the dates and locations.
Meanwhile, Bawb Pearce of Sacramento mainstays the Beer Dawgs is releasing a new project under the name Slim Bawb & Gator Bait. The CD is titled Ghost Dawg (a nice reference to Jim Jarmusch) and features Pearce on banjo, resonator guitar and mandolin, backed by stand-up bass and fiddle. Check the Beer Dawgs’ busy schedule at www.beerdawgs.com and see if you can pick the CD up at an upcoming show.