Where the action wasn’t

At times it feels like there are only about 300 live-music fans in Sacramento. On weekends, these 300 people spread out across the area’s various venues, creating fierce competition between the venues (and between the bands themselves) to get their fair share of the crowd. The scarcity of music fans also means that a really good show will literally drain all the venues in the surrounding area of any possible audience. In other words, in terms of draw, there’s likely to be only one well-attended show per night.

Case in point: Last weekend’s show at the all-ages Club Retro, where the 300-plus-capacity room was “filled” with all of 10 people. The probable reason? The 7Seconds, Groovie Ghoulies, Whiskey Rebels and Hanover Saints show happening just a few miles away at The Boardwalk. Of course, Club Retro’s lineup that night wasn’t at quite the same level as The Boardwalk’s, but it did have its moments—at least one of them, in fact, as a direct result of the club’s general level of emptiness.

Downshift delivered what was perhaps the evening’s most endearing performance. With about eight people in the room (meaning at least 292 people were missing), one might expect Downshift to run through its set halfheartedly at best. Instead, the band went full-blast, telling the blessed eight, “We’re playing this whole set just for you!” and then launching into it with strength, energy and class. The lead singer even took his wireless handheld microphone out into the center of the empty room and stood there, essentially alone, singing his heart out while the band played on.

The scene was made only slightly absurd by the projections on the screen behind the band, encouraging the audience to buy Downshift merchandise. (We all know music is a business, but having to be repeatedly reminded of that fact did little for my appreciation of the performance.) The slides didn’t exactly make Downshift look classy, but, given the empty venue, at least they were funny.

However, the most engaging band of the evening was Los Angeles-based pop-rock band the Randies, a group that had the meager audience paying attention and nodding their heads appreciatively. A last-minute add to the night’s bill, the Randies had little in common with the rest of the teenage screamo-metal bands they played with. They weren’t even the biggest-drawing band; that honor went to Burn.Heal.Scar. But, in many ways, they were the most successful, playing straight-ahead rock music with a minimum of frills and enough good pop hooks to keep the audience interested.

It also might be noted, not disrespectfully, that the Randies aren’t hard on the eyes. The band’s three guitarists all are female. To quote an audience member, “There’s just something hot about a chick with a guitar.” The good news is that the Randies return to Sacramento on April 9, with a show at the Blue Lamp alongside Radar Bros. and Carquinez Straits.