Carson Valley band will be in Mammoth for two shows
It’s unusual to stumble upon an event listing for a double bill featuring a Seattle-based punk accordionist and an Americana rock troupe from Gardnerville, Nev.
I was intrigued.
The show was at Studio on 4th, a great find of a club on a seedy stretch just east of downtown Reno, where the drinks are cheap and the crowd diverse. You know you’re in sketchyville when the free parking across the street is at the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
The small venue was packed to hear Buster Blue, a collection of musicians from the Carson Valley and their 20-plus instruments, which include clarinet, trombone and chain-in-a-bucket. It was clear that friends and family members were welcoming the band home following a few months on the road.
After being fired up by the crazed opening act, Jason Webley, the crowd’s enthusiastic reception inspired Buster Blue to deliver a great set. With imaginative songwriting, fun harmonies and a sound influenced by Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, they offer approachable music and a genuine likeability. Their Virginia City vibe is enhanced by “old-timey” apparel, complete with derbies, brocade vests and suspenders. According to the group, “this lets people know they’re coming to see a show.”
Bryan Jones and Jay Escamillo gave birth to the band about three years ago in the coffeehouses of northern Nevada, with Bryan playing guitars and banjo and Jay on percussion. One problem: no drum kit. Jay would play along on an assortment of pots and pans.
Soon they enlisted long time friends and fellow high school marching band members Rachael McElhiney, Brendon Lund and Andrew Martin. (When you watch the band play live, it’s pretty easy to guess who the drum major was.) Their unique sound began evolving out of a wide range of musical tastes, from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to Bruce Springsteen and Radiohead.
With growing popularity, they’ve embarked on an extensive tour of the western states, including stops on the Eastside at The Tap in Mammoth (July 16) and Tioga Mobil Mart (July 21). I caught up with the band via telephone as they were about to set up for their first-ever gig in Wyoming.
Sheet: Your sound is hard to classify. Who do you like or dislike being compared to?
Bryan: We don’t mind how people categorize us, as long as they’re having a good time.
Andy: People feel comfortable putting a genre on things. We like doing what feels comfortable, regardless of genre. It was surprising to be compared to [swing band] Cherry Poppin’ Daddies or being told we were a ska band. Once a fan said, “You’re almost as good as the [Celtic punk band] Dropkick Murphys!”
Sheet: When I first saw you play, I thought “Wow, Gardnerville schools must have amazing music programs.” Is this the case?
Andy: There are great music teachers in Gardnerville and great music programs. I’m still friends with some of my teachers. We’ve all gained a lot of skills and it’s a positive thing to do.
Bryan: Growing up in a smaller town breeds a sense of creativity, instead of getting into trouble.
Sheet: Tell me about your Mammoth connections.
Andy: Rachael lived in Mammoth for about five years, up through kindergarten. I had friends with a time-share and came here to ski in middle school and high school.
Bryan: Mammoth is one of those mythical places that people talk about. It’s been great to us and we’re really looking forward to being here and growing our audience.
Sheet: The last two times you’ve played here, it has snowed — a lot. Hopefully it won’t snow for your July performances!
Andy: We bring the weather.
So, you may want to carry an umbrella if you head to an outdoor Buster Blue show. The band has just been added to the lineup at Millpond Music Festival in Bishop, Sept. 16-18 and is also scheduled to play at the Strawberry Music Festival, at Camp Mather, which borders Yosemite National Park, in September on Labor Day Weekend.
For more info and tour details visit www.busterblue.com.