Arts DEVO: Still The Boss

New Chico music venue, new Chico music release, and Bruuuuuuuce!

Bruce Springsteen on the big screen, March 31, at the Chase Center in S.F.
Jason Cassidy

It’s been a long time since a live performance has brought Arts DEVO to tears. But witnessing The Boss in person for the first time on Easter Sunday (March 31) in San Francisco with my wife of 30 years—the woman who made me fall in love with Bruce Springsteen’s music at the same time we were falling in love with one another—I had to close my eyes over and over to keep from bawling.

Way up in the nosebleeds of the Chase Center, we were both caught off guard as decades of living with these songs and stories—of Rosalita, Mary, and Wayne on the fourth of July, and all their dreams, pain, losses, and redemption under dirty hoods on the edge of town and the promised lands beyond—welled up all at once.

Early in the show Bruce made the promise to “wake you, and shake you, and take you to higher ground,” and he and the E. Street Band (still mostly intact and better than probably every other rock band out there) made good—for three unrelenting hours (the encore was 45 minutes long!).

Nearly every song provided its own highlight, but “My City of Ruins” (the closer to the 2002 album, The Rising) and its prolonged introduction provided the beating heart at the center of the show’s theme of our shared humanity. The song was originally written about the transformation of Bruce’s adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, but after 9/11 it became a song of hope for the people of New York City. With the band swinging the hymn-like tune quietly in the background, Bruce worked the crowd like a preacher overflowing with the spirit: “We need your help! Are you ready!? Are you prepared!?”

And he ramped up the emotions even more by appealing to everyone in the arena, including those no longer with us (like his mother, who passed away earlier this year): “I don’t know where we go when this is over, but I know where we remain. … If you’re here, and we’re here, then they’re here.”

It was all too much … in the most perfect, purging, uplifting, replenishing and transforming way.

More kicks

The last time I wrote about Lish Bills in this space was 2012. That’s when Kirk Williams’ solo alter ego last put out an album, the bare-bones, Kicks to Get, an intimate folk/country EP, which features “Booze,” one of my all-time favorite locally produced songs (“On account of the rain, let’s go out walking today/We’re living the dream and drinking our lives away”).

Williams recently announced the release of the first full album by Lish Bills, All Love and No Heart, which officially drops May 3 (album release show May 4 at Naked Lounge). Right now you can enjoy a four-song preview on his Bandcamp page.

The album was recorded by local engineer (and Surrogate frontman) Chris Keane, and features a band of local heavy hitters—Keane (guitar/keys/vocals); Gavin Fitzgerald (bass) and Jack Gingerich (drums), plus guests Bruce MacMillan (steel guitars) and Erin Lizardo (vocals)—backing Williams’ vocals and acoustic guitar.

In addition to the expanded instrumentation, the songs are more varied this time out, with breezy pop/rock sensibilities mixed in with the folk and country. I’m especially digging the slow-burning “Aberdeen” right now, with MacMillan’s tasty pedal-steel embellishments complementing Williams’ rich voice: “I will make you breakfast in the morning, before you head out to Aberdeen.”

A view from the back of the crowd of the new outdoor stage and beer garden at The Commons. On stage: Tim Bluhm and The Coffis Brothers. (Photo by Ken Pordes)

Live music outside!

Finally! There is an outdoor music venue in Chico! The Commons Social Empourium debuted its new outdoor beer garden last week with a kick-off party (March 30) featuring live performances by the The Coffis Brothers and Chico-favorite-son Tim Bluhm.

Photographer-about-town Ken Pordes was there to do what he does and he told me the place is an awesome addition to the scene, with plenty of room for dancing or hanging back and chilling. Plus, it’s all-ages! Next big shows: reggae dude Josh Heinrichs with Pipe Down (April 14), and the 420 Good Vibes fest (on 4/20, duh) with Dylan’s Dharma, Triple Tree and Dubcraft.

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