Rockin’ road trip with BandMaster Ruckus, Shotgun Sawyer

Spencer Kilpatrick

BandMaster Ruckus guitarist Brad DuFour on the road in Northern California.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Spencer Kilpatrick

Since first playing together two years ago at a party in Boreal, BandMaster Ruckus and Shotgun Sawyer have gigged together regularly, developing their specific takes on heavy blues with a shared tenacity and passion for the music.

BandMaster Ruckus has become a sleeker incarnation, taking notes from The Black Keys and their predecessor RL Burnside. while Shotgun Sawyer has bulked up their tones and looked to Zeppelin and The White Stripes for their inspiration.

Their split album, the SNAFU family produced “8 Bangers,” features four songs from each group. While the two trios’ differences are apparent, it’s their combined energy and resoluteness with the genre that makes the release such a strong effort. The mini-tour was made up of four enthralling performances in Northern California. But the trip still had its own hiccups.

BandMaster Ruckus’ guitarist/bassist Seth Burns was unable to play the shows so Brad DuFour (guitar/vocals) enlisted the help of Failure Machine’s drummer Clint Philbin to fill in on bass. The lineup change resulted in DuFour playing guitar for the duration of each set, which up until this tour he had never done — their sets used to be split half and half with DuFour and Burns switching guitar and bass midway through performances. The lineup change, while immediately inconvenient, pushed DuFour to play guitar on songs he hadn’t before and ultimately gave the sets a more cohesive feel.

Spencer Kilpatrick

The opening band Bootlegs kick ass in Nevada City

NIGHT 3
Nevada City, California – Cooper’s – Saturday, April 22
Bill: Headliner: Shotgun Sawyer//Support – BandMaster Ruckus//Opener – Bootlegs
MVP of the night: Ty Rodrigues (drummer for Bootlegs)

The night opened with Auburn-based teenagers Bootlegs. While their sound didn’t mesh with BMR and Shotgun, their energy did. The kiddos tore through their set with poise beyond their years and put on a great performance for the 20-or-so people in attendance. Drummer Ty Rodrigues stole the show with a relentless attack and a bevy of chops that had the other musicians in the crowd blown away.

Late-night host: Brett Sanders

BandMaster played their set with ease as DuFour found himself even more comfortable with full-time guitarist duties.

Shotgun Sawyer’s lead singer/guitarist Dylan Jarman lost some of the power in his voice after the first two shows but was able to change his delivery to accommodate his condition and the performance didn’t suffer in the slightest. “I lost my voice hootin’ and hollerin’ for BandMaster Ruckus the last couple nights,” he explained after their high-energy tune “Bad Man.”

After the show, we went to Shotgun bassist’s Brett Sanders’ house and drank whiskey & Dr. Pepper before falling asleep.

Spencer Kilpatrick

Shotgun Sawyer in the Naked Lounge in Chico.

NIGHT 4
Chico, California – Naked Lounge – Sunday, April 23
Bill: Headliner – BandMaster Ruckus // Support – Shotgun Sawyer
MVP of the night : Chico folks

After a day relaxing at DuFour’s house and walking around Chico, BandMaster met Shotgun Sawyer, which drove separately, at Naked Lounge — a small, college-town coffee shop. As the bands loaded in their many amps and sound checked, the members of Shotgun Sawyer and I got nervous about the volume in such a small space. “So how many songs do you think we’ll get to play before they shut us down?” Jarman not-so-jokingly asked before their set. I shrugged.

The worry turned out to be for not. After the soundcheck, college kids started showing up and buying beer, the lights were dimmed, and after a bit, the place felt more like a club than a coffee spot. The patrons weren’t worried by the noise and the show went off without a single problem. To get 35-40 people to a show on Sunday night is no small feat for a newer band and the crowd at Naked Lounge that night was engaged for both bands’ sets.

Without another band on the bill, this show was the most focused of the road trip in that it featured two like-minded bands with three consecutive nights of playing behind them. Shotgun Sawyer played its strongest show of the run despite Jarman’s throat not being at 100 percent and BMR played to their hometown crowd the way one would expect; with abandon. Each band supported the other and the night took on a celebratory feel as BandMaster played a pair of encores to close out their set.

The Shotgun Sawyer guys decided, once again, to head back home after the show but not before a series of long goodbyes were exchanged and tentative plans for the future were made. The future looks bright for each of these young bands when taking into account their focus and ability to roll with the many, many punches they’ll likely endure in this profession.

Make sure to check out the split release here: https://snafufamily.bandcamp.com/album/8-bangers

-Spencer Kilpatrick

On the road, Part 1.

Tahoe Onstage

Tyler Hansen rests in his van hammock.
Spencer Kilpatrick / Tahoe Onstage

Clint Philbin, left, had big shoes to fill during the tour with BandMaster Ruckus and Brad DuFour.

About Spencer Kilpatrick

Author Spencer Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English. He hates the Lakers and his top three emcees are Blu, Earl Sweatshirt and Nas.

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