A glimpse into Chico’s past music scene with The Funnels


The Funnels in the late ’80s looking happier than ever. Photo Courtey of Paul Bruce

Matthew Manfredi

Chico has always been a hub for the performing and visual arts. Bands, artists and music venues have come and gone over the years but the passion continues to grow with newer generations.

As seen through the eyes of The Funnels, a band of Chico State graduates provide a brief glance of the Chico music scene during the ’80s and early ’90s.

The Funnels
The Funnels jamming out on their guitars. Photo Courtesy of Paul Booth

It was graduation weekend 1990— just three years after Playboy Magazine voted Chico State the No. 1 party school in the nation. A crowd of 200 people stood on the back patio of the Red & Grey Pub as The Funnels ripped through their set list, playing everything from Talking Heads covers to new wave originals.

“The whole back patio of the place just collapsed,” said Tom Atmore, guitarist for The Funnels and 1985 Chico State graduate. “Nobody got hurt but it was just one crazy scene.”

Tom Atmore, guitarist for The Funnels. Photo credit: Matthew Manfredi

But by 1990, people falling though a deck would be considered normal at one of their shows.

Atmore and his close friend, Jim Richards, moved from Ventura to Chico in 1983. Atmore began pursuing his undergraduate in business management at Chico State but he and Richards shared the dream to bring their music from Southern California to Chico. After finding a drummer nearly a week later, the band began gigging regularly, bringing an “onslaught of new wave” to Chico, Atmore said.

The news of Richards getting cancer in the early ‘90s affected not only the band but everyone in the surrounding music scene. For a few years, the band moved on with a different guitarist but it wasn’t the same. The Funnels had been something they brought to Chico together.

Funnels flier from back in the day. Photo courtesy: Steven Ferchaud

“I think we were one of the first bands to play The Bear,” he said. “We had close to 400 people in there on a Friday night.”

During the ‘80s, the volume of music venues in Chico was much higher than we know today: The Ping Pong Palace, with its 500 person capacity, was found in the same building where Gold’s Gym is located today; Canal Street, is now occupied by the Chico Bookstore on Main Street.

The collection of bands and genres of music represented during the decade was very similar to the diverse music scene that exists in 2016.

“There will always be a lot of fun things for music fans to do,” said David Puerner, junior English major. “The many venues and performers provides everybody with their ‘musical’ fix.”

David Puerner, junior English major. Photo credit: Matthew Manfredi

As the years went on, the band’s popularity continued to grow. While playing at popular venues, fraternities and sororities, they eventually became one of Chico’s most sought-out party scene acts. Budweiser sponsored the band after they came in second to Bon Jovi in a radio songwriting contest, and they also won Best Band six consecutive years in Chico News & Review.

The Funnels played well into the ‘90s, forming gigs for Chico alumni all over Northern California.

“At some point we just grew into this machine,” Atmore said. “The timing was just right.”

Matthew Manfredi can be reached at [email protected] or @matthewmanfredi on Twitter.