Sierra Surf Music Camp 2013 No. 6: Surf Band 101 - Part II

The evening breeze was beginning to take the edge off of the heat.  The crowd gathered at the Donner Mine amphitheater was ready for the next two Surf Band 101 bands.  And all of this was a prelude to the Sneaky Tikis and Slacktone.

I rolled on some more bug repellant and opened a Downtown Brown, which like Paul’s and John’s duet was brewed up on the North Coast.

Bob Bitchin’ supervised his students’ setting up.  Bob and Paul grew up together and are the only original Pyronauts left.  Bob’s playing combines power and strength delivered with grace and humor.  His rhythm guitar plus Tim’s drumming gives the band its underlying energy.  In many ways, Bob is the pragmatist who serves as an anchor for the Pyronauts.  How he plays is how he approaches life.  His insight and direct approach mean you get the truth quickly when you ask a question or seek his advice.  No frills.  No spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.  But somewhere in that truth will be a pinch of humor or empathy to sweeten the news a smidgeon.

Bob’s band on this Saturday night was named the “Loggernauts” reminding us that we were in the Sierras.  Made up of camp veterans, it featured a heaping portion of talent blended with various amounts of experience.  Lukas on drums and Greg on bass brought a ready-made and gig-tested rhythm section; after all, they have played together for a year in the Sneaky Tikis.  Joe -- Carla’s other half -- is a rock solid rhythm guitarist.  This year, Robert moved over to lead.  The set started with the Pyramids’ classic “Penetration,” which is a great song for getting your feet on the ground and nerves in check.  The set concluded with “Midnight Mai Tai” -- an original that Robert had written to make its public debut.  The crowd expressed its appreciate with rousing applause.

And we were down to one Surf Band 101 band.  The audience was eager to hear what experienced musicians tutored by Dave Wronski and Danny Snyder had to offer.  Anticipation was building.  Yes indeed, Tyler, Rob, and Lucas were next.  Jim Lee, who has played a bunch in bands, was on drums.  They were introduced as Penguin Riot.

As readers of our posts know, Rob and Lucas are the guitarists for the Sneaky Tikis.  They are cousins and have played together for some time -- the other half of Paul’s prodigies from last year’s camp.  Tyler or T.J. is a seasoned guitarist.  Spend a few minutes with him, and you know that he knows his stuff.  His resume includes playing jazz in the San Francisco bay area on a regular basis.

Penguin Riot’s mini-set was entertaining, energetic, and extremely well-played.  It included “Depth Charge” -- fittingly, a Jon & the Nightriders song.  For the finale, Danny Snyder picked up a bass.  And Tyler with two rhythm guitars to provide counterpoints capped off Penguin Riot’s performance with an original of his own.  Penguin Riot managed some choreography among the three guitarist.  As Tyler finished up, he announced in the mic, “I think I’ll call that ‘Sierra Surf.’”

The crowd applauded and cheered.  They had witnessed steel drums in a three percussionist band, a 9-year old lead guitarist, and the debuts of two original songs.  The Surf Band 101 bands for 2013 were history, and more was on its way!

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