Oh, Reno. There you are.
After three days of partying until six in the morning, here you come up the stairs of Pignic Pub & Patio with a coffee in one hand and a beer in other. You’ve redirected your engine to a hidden reserve tank for one more day of supporting local music.
“In the majority of cities there is a stigma against local bands,” Loud As Folk host and founder Spike McGuire said in an interview. “I think we fight that by offering Reno a brand they can trust.”
The fourth day of Loud As Folk’s eighth anniversary festivities was titled Rachbot and the Ladies of Folk Gospel Brunch. The vibe was of a quiet meditation. The type of songwriters who finish a song and you sigh “hmmm” to yourself.
“I’m not a morning person,” Gina Rose said. “Well, I guess it’s one.”
“It’s Reno morning!” McGuire shouted.
Stature doesn’t proportionally translate to vocal power. Rose’s powerful songs project from her petite frame and her mature, beautiful voice fills any room.
Between each song, she shared honest insight into her life as well as inspiration and positivity about life and love. I find myself lost in her songs whenever she plays. I fail to think of an artist who reminds me of her as well. It’d have to be a goddess like Bonnie Raitt.
Schlee from Santa Rosa, California, played next. She wore a Barbie T-shirt and extremely green pants. It was her Reno debut and a role-reversal from John Courage’s set the day previous. Courage provided passionate acoustic solos and harmonies this time around.
Her music conjures that lovely feeling of nostalgia as if you know the song, even if it’s the first time. Like first hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s thick baritone.
The duo’s aggregate guitar playing yielded entrancing, winding guitar riffs like Iron and Wine’s “Naked As We Came.”
During the set she switched to a beautiful rose-decorated autoharp. I loved her voice when she reached for the high notes.
Krystal McMullen started with a cover of The Cranberries. I’m sure it’s difficult to cover them without sounding a little like frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan. McMullen made it her own.
She then shifted into a medley of “No Diggity,” “Pony” and Kanye’s “Heartless.”
The chords prompted me to take this note — if I could make a suggestion, “Hotel California” might work in there as well — then later in the set she played it! Kismet.
After a few more covers, including wedding-favorite “I Hope You Dance” and club-favorite “Havana,” she ripped into an original that was passionate and great.
At one point during the set I saw Bryan Jones (Buffalo Moses) slip McGuire a Reese’s Fast Break like drug money.
And the award for best band name goes to … Blunt Force Mamas!
They are an all-female group fronted by Rachael McElhiney of Failure Machine (and formerly Buster Blue). She urged the crowd to sing along to anything during the tranquil gathering.
We have introduced Reno to quite a few touring artists who now make a point of coming here regularly.” — Spike McGuire
McElhiney started singing “Go To Sleep You Little Baby” a cappella. Ladies started taking the stage from every direction adding their vocal harmonies. The crowd found itself surrounded by sonic beauty. Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss would be proud.
It’s odd to see someone beside McElhiney playing baritone, an instrument she’s known for. She got a little choked up while sharing the stage with another player (and college friend) she met around the time she was told you couldn’t major in baritone. She responded, “Oh yeah? You watch me!”
McElhiney was also joined onstage by her sister, her “little chicky,” a nickname she’s despised since they were kids. As payback, her sister Michaelyn interrupted the setup to the next song to embarrass her sis by making the crowd sing a past due Happy Birthday to her.
McElhiney has the voice and skill of a deity. And a smile I cannot help but mention every time I write about her.
It’s my guess she’s the type of songwriter whose songs must come out. She sings of her dog, grandpa, friends and lovers. The stage slowly dwindled from full band to just McElhiney and her baritone ukulele. She even put that away for more a cappella and megaphone fun.
In keeping with the gospel vibe, they played “Wade in the Water.”
“It’s Sunday,” McElhiney said. “You’ve got to repent for something!”
She thanked her friends and family of musicians, then called her former bandmate Jones the little light of her life. It was an emotional Sunday.
“Next we’ll visit the church of spice,” McElhiney said.
They covered the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” with a little shuffle. I was longing to hear all of their voices a capella, and when they did, it was surely fulfilling.
The homily ended with McGuire joining the ladies for a lively rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” with flute, baritone sax and drum solos.
“We have introduced Reno to quite a few touring artists who now make a point of coming here regularly,” McGuire said in an interview. “In turn, that has opened up a lot of opportunities for local acts to make connections that help them play outside of Reno.”
You call the people who help you survive and do what you love “family.” Loud As Folk in Reno is rich with kin. Until next year.
— Tony Contini