In a world where a strong online presence can be built with a little know-how and a lot of effort (or vice-versa), touring often feels like an antiquated step for up-and-coming bands. Traveling for hours on end in a shitty van with some of your best friends to play for 15 people in a dive bar sounds more romantic than it is — it’s usually fuckin’ brutal. It takes more than just passion to be able to keep a band afloat on its first forays into touring life and the two bands I was travelling with, Shotgun Sawyer (Auburn, California) and BandMaster Ruckus (Chico) had the level-headedness and foresight to thrive on their joint mini-tour last week.
Over the last year, both bands recorded their side of the EP at SNAFU family studios in San Jose. After the mixes were set, the EP mastered, and the tour booked, Dylan Jarman — vocals and guitar for Shotgun Sawyer — went back to San Jose to duplicate the tapes by hand with SNAFU founders Joan & The Rivers.
While both bands on the split play blues/rock, BandMaster Ruckus plays a slinkier, funkier variation while Shotgun Sawyer is heavier in its delivery. The trios complement each other nicely regardless of their positions in the lineup for the night.
Pacifica, California – Winters Tavern – Thursday, April 20
Bill: Headliner: Rock N Roll Suicides (L.A.)//Support-BandMaster Ruckus//Opener-Shotgun Sawyer
MVP of the night: CJ Valenti AKA Sea Jay Winterstavern
Pacifica is a quiet surf town just south of San Francisco that happens to be the home of one of the best rock ‘n’ roll clubs on the West Coast. Since taking ownership of the venue a few years ago, CJ Valenti has made quite clear that “it’s all about the music.” His willingness to book promising original bands regardless of their draw has turned Winters into one of the most eclectic and music-centric venues in the area. Valenti also often plays the role of the bands’ biggest supporter, as he’s almost always found on the dance floor while the band is going. The kicker is that bands are usually free to crash in the apartment upstairs after the bar closes down, saving them time, energy, money and the need for a designated driver.
Both bands were excellent in their tour kickoff and emphasized their strengths with poise. Shotgun Sawyer played to its dexterous use of dynamics that allow Dylan Jarman’s emotive vocals to hold the reins while BMR got the crowd dancing with its fun songs and swaggering rhythms.
Rock N Roll Suicides were a straight-ahead punk trio from Los Angeles and left soon after their set. The night stumbled to a halt around 4 a.m. as CJ and a couple members from each band headed to the beach with a six-pack and a skateboard. The sixer didn’t make it back.
Oakland – The Golden Bull – Friday, April 21
Bill: Headliner – The Loose (Oakland)// Support – Shotgun Sawyer// Support – BandMaster Ruckus// Opener – The Brankas (San Francisco)
MVP of the night: (tie) Eric Smith & Mike Hickel
When Bay-Area based indie record label SNAFU family was looking for a name, the first thing they were sure of was the inclusion of the word “family” over “records” or “studios.” It doesn’t take much time with the founders Eric Smith (vocals/guitar for Joan & The Rivers) and Mike Hickel (bass/vocals for JATR) to understand why; their dedication to the DIY spirit is only outdone by their selflessness toward emerging rock and roll bands on the West Coast.
In Oakland all four bands on the bill had gone through the SNAFU process:
- Drink Coors Light behind the practice spot
- Record in the Joan & The Rivers cozy rehearsal space
- Crash in the living room of their apartment
- Eat La Vics
- Duplicate tapes in the same living room
The sense of camaraderie was palpable as each band worked its way through sets and talked shit with each other afterwards. The Brankas stunned the crowd (as always) with their acrobatic chord changes and pioneering sound that lands somewhere between math-grunge and post-shoegaze. Shotgun Sawyer and BandMaster Ruckus continued their streak of awesome performances with their modern takes on traditional arrangements, and The Loose took their slot as hometown heroes, playing their first show since having their gear stolen late last year.
Brad DuFour (guitar/vocals) for BandMaster Ruckus was particularly engaging. Even though it was just his second show with Clint Philbin on bass, his comfort level was noticeably higher than the night before and BMR’s take on the Leon Bridges tune “Smooth Sailing” felt ballsier and more energetic than it had in the past.
After the show, Shotgun Sawyer opted to go back to Auburn to sleep in their own beds and deal with some car trouble before gearing up for the next two days. BandMaster Ruckus stayed with bassist Drew Pummer from The Loose and proceeded to do what bands do best: get loaded and crash on the floor.