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Narrow Minded: ‘Chico Unplugged’ impresses at new venue

Trevor Whitney

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Equipped with a new location at Madison Bear Garden and some unfamiliar talent, every night of this semester’s “Chico Unplugged” is guaranteed to be different than any night in the past.

Chico State’s School of the Arts Productions has been teaming up with KCSC radio and the Instructionally Related Activities program to put on the free, biannual three-week event since 2012. Interested musicians show up at 6 p.m. to sign up for the competition, formerly at Woodstock’s Pizza, where they perform two original songs in front of the audience and judges with the hope that they’ll be selected to win recording time and bragging rights.

Whoever decided to pursue the venue change needs to be frozen in carbonite and worshipped on the School of the Arts wall of fame for eternity. The competition is taking place upstairs out of convenience and lack of an alternative, but it gives the concert the isolated, intimate feeling that was unattainable at Woodstock’s.

The consensus was that a larger venue with a proper stage was necessary and The Bear obliged, said Ian Roth, production team tech manager and a recording arts major.

“This event is probably the best exposure a singer-songwriter can get in Chico,” Roth said. “Tonight we had 60 to 80 people in the room. It’s a great crowd too — a friendly crowd. No matter what, everyone’s there to support local music.”

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First-year prerecording arts major Matt Holmen, who also performed last semester at Woodstock’s, feels like the larger, more lively crowd kept him relaxed onstage. Better attendance on top of a “vibey-er” location in The Bear make this semester’s “Unplugged” a success, he said.

“Vibey-er” is an understatement. The endearing clutter strung up from the ceilings, puzzling wall art, bar proximity and aforementioned isolation effectively set the casual tone for the whole night before the first note was sung. Nobody was there that didn’t choose to be there, because if the music was particularly offensive, laughably corny or made up of too few chords, the option to go get drunk downstairs among the philistines remained open.

At Woodstock’s, the whole place was the downstairs. When the competition was there, the people that just wanted pizza looked like they just walked into an under-12 soccer party at Round Table by mistake.

There’s no escaping that unwarranted feeling of trespassing in a public place when something is going on that we aren’t involved in. It just seemed like the divide in the audience sort of manifested into this subconscious feeling of discomfort and indifference that even beer and pizza couldn’t cure.

The concert didn’t feel like a priority at Woodstock’s, whereas at The Bear, it does.

Trevor Whitney can be reached at [email protected] or @nicegrandmas on Twitter.

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Narrow Minded: ‘Chico Unplugged’ impresses at new venue