Abstract show shakes Blackbird Cafe with loud energy


Harsh R screams his lyrics throughout Blackbird on Tuesday. Photo credit: Daelin Wofford

The tiny venue barely had any spots in its parking lot Tuesday night. Musicians dressed in all black, unloaded rugged tour buses full of equipment while locals made their way to the back door of Blackbird Café, contemplating what they would see tonight.

Chico has a thriving population of local ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) musicians, who are given chances to perform at small venues like Blackbird Café all the time. These shows are generally abstract. It’s unlikely that they will ever draw large crowds or be palatable to the general public but they are an outlet for energy and abstract expression.

This show consisted of four gothic-musical sets; Dude Corpse, Harsh R, Clayface and IVER. Local non-profit organization, Chico Area Punks (CAP) booked this show. CAP, founded in 2000, consists of a loose collection of local bookers, promoters and musicians that strive to support Chico’s local DIY music scene.

While CAPs shows are generally unconventional, I’ve never been to any event with a vibe quite like this.

Intensity started building as gothic-music fans sauntered around the little venue, checking out band merchandise, fliers and dusty old bookshelves. Musicians waiting to perform mingled with the small crowd before the show began. Space was extremely limited, but the artists and staff set up amplifiers and speakers that looked capable of damaging the structural integrity of the building.

The music shook everything—chairs and windows rattled each time the abstract sounds blasted through the building. Also, it was the first day of the tour for a couple of the performers, which lead to some technical issues. Microphone feedback and amplifier static muffled a couple of the major sets.

None of the performances were flawless, due to these setbacks. But the crowd clearly appreciated the show. A hearty applause rang out after every song of the night, technical difficulties or not.

Artists, whether they are catering to the masses or not, need an audience. The intensity on their faces illustrated the hard work they put into their music. Smiles spread across their faces as the crowd greeted them with handshakes and compliments after each set.

Each artist thanked the crowd, the bookers and the venue before and after each set for the opportunity to share their work. It was obvious how much they appreciated even a small crowd like this. That’s what CAP and small venues like Blackbird seem to be focused on—giving small artists a chance.

I’m sure none of these musicians will be winning a Grammy anytime soon. But that’s fine. People attended this show for the unconventional energy and I’m thoroughly convinced that each artist evoked their intended emotion in spades.

When the show ended, my ears were ringing. The lights came back on as the artists mingled, sincerely thanking everyone for coming to see their show.

Grant Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @G_Schmieding on Twitter.