Chico Unplugged rocks Madison Bear Garden with local talent


Paraic King plays a song he wrote at Chico Unplugged on Thursday. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

Grant Schmieding

The crowd, tightly packed, mostly stands—mingling as shoulders brush and bump. The stage is small, pushed into a corner, surrounded by bright, colorful lights. Beams of purple, blue and red dance across the venue, forming pools around moving shadows.

School of the Arts (SOTA) employees in black shirts with yellow letters stay at the top of the stairs, coordinating and helping guests. They organized this show, called Chico Unplugged, which aims to support emerging local artists.

Winners of the show, hosted by Madison Bear Garden, will get a chance to record their music in a state-of-the-art studio on Chico State’s campus. SOTA allows each musician to play two songs. Most of the musicians use acoustic guitars.

Local musician Anthony Coseo proves no exception as he gently steps through the crowd —a guitar slung across his shoulder—parting the white noise as he makes his way to the stage. His breath hits the microphone and lyrics begin to resonate as he strums his guitar, with extra-long strings dancing in the light.

The set ends to the sound of a thunderous applause. It’s obvious that the crowd is impressed—three people among it, the judges, will decide tonight’s winners.

Slightly distanced from the excited crowd, performers sit across the bar—in the back of the venue—observing the energy. Some tune their instruments; some rehearse their lyrics.

Lenon Padilla, another local musician, waits among them. He scans the crowd, moving casually around the back of the venue. Three acts after Coseo, he makes his way to the stage.

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Lenon Padilla plays a song he wrote at Chico Unplugged on Thursday. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

With a guitar in one hand and written lyrics in the other, Padilla sits before the crowd. His eyes rapidly move as he scans the crowd and begins strumming his first song. The crowd silently moves to his rhythm and occasional cheers break out during the set.

The crowd gives a warm applause as the song comes to an end. Padilla leans back and smiles shyly.

“It’s cheesy right?” he jokes, before finishing his set and exiting the stage.

Soon after, the last contestant of the night plays his set, just before a member of SOTA closes the show with one final performance.

As the last musician wraps up, the crowd’s high level of energy shows how much it’s appreciated all the great acts throughout the night. But four artists are called to the stage and they stand shoulder-to-shoulder—tonight’s winners. They are Coseo, Padilla, Anthony Amanoni and Paraic King.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of the Chico Unplugged competitions. The final competition, the Winner’s Showcase, will take place at Madison Bear Garden on Oct. 4. All winners will be given the opportunity to perform up to three of their original compositions. It looks to be a night worth checking out.

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