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Auspicious Signs of a Nashville West Revival in Sacramento?
The Forever Goldrush Interview
featuring frontman Damon Wycoff
by psychologist Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, a.k.a., Dr. B. L. T., The Rock Doc
When Merle Haggard wrote The Roots of My Raisin', little did he know he was creating the philosophical blueprint for the musical house Forever Goldrush is building. Roots and relationships represent the raw materials for these Sacramento hopefuls. They've got a Bakersfield beat, borrowed from Buck Owens Boulevard, an affably engaging down-home feel, an alt-rock bark without the angst-ridden bite common to many an embittered band of the new rage age.
It was a beautiful spring day, May 1, 2002. I would have named the particular show I took in The Rockin' Rooster Show, because it was a wake up call to the local music scene (not to mention being sounded at 7 a.m.) The time was not the only unusual aspect of the performance. It was held in the parking lot of the local alternative newspaper, Sacramento News and Review, sponsors of this morning rock show. The show was designed to serve as a prelude to a concert series advertised on a colossal billboard immediately above and behind the band, a free concert series in support of Sacramento's Summer Sammies, northern California's answer to the decidedly more popular but conspicuously more garish Grammies. That morning, at this mini-concert I accidentally stumbled upon on my way to my day job, a mere 4-song set, swiftly propelled this band into the category in my mind I call Rock 'n Role Models. The words were audible and refreshingly authentic. The music and seamlessly embedded lyrics were delivered with unequivocal clarity and pristine charity. This could not be fool's gold. No, was the real thing. Forever Goldrush!
Solid, blood-sweat-and-tears bass patterns provided by Mason DeMusey were further emboldened by a steady, practical, yet penetrating drum beat, compliments of Tony Kale. Eric Hansen used his keyboards and back-up vocals sparingly, but tastefully, dulcifying without dampening frontman Damon Wycoff's sympathetic rebel yell. Every shifting chord of Damon's guitar was a gently gliding, gleefully grinding shift in gears. Each strum of Damon's acoustic ax graced as it grazed my ears. Each guitar run strung from the strings of guitarists Rick Melinda and Paul Markart was like a beer run--- energetically urging party guests to continue their convivial celebration at a steadily increasing feverish pitch. But there was no beer here. The music was all the intoxication one needed for the good times to roll. Too early in the morning? No offense to the chronologically impaired, but if this is to early, you're too old! Rockin' roosters rule the roost, and these fine feathered friends clawed and crowed the crowd into a frenzy. Sure, it could have been the caffeine talking, but I'm convinced it was the band, rocking.
As fortune would have it, I just happened to have my tape recorder handy and accosted the band after what I believe was their first set. Damon Wycoff didn't have to call his attorney or manager for an O.K. This down-home boy greeted me with a friendly, unpretentious smile as wide as any open prairie sky and extended a warm, yet firm handshake. No, on second thought, it wasn't a firm handshake after all. The fact is, much to my chagrin, it came darned close to crushing every bone in my right hand. Though my Freudian-tainted mind would normally wander to such an otherwise tenable hypothesis, I do not believe passive aggressive motives were involved. A more plausible theory was that he had been tossing around a few hay bails between recording sessions. Never mind my aching hand, I was fortunate enough to strike gold with this brief, but telling interview, so I must passionately proceed in striking these keys. I'd like you to meet the leader of the band, the man at the vanguard of a northern variant of the new Nashville West movement.
Rock Doc: Can you tell me a little about your band and what you're trying to accomplish here today?
Wycoff: We're all from Amador County up in the foothills--from a town of about 2,000 and a High School of about 400. So our music's about never forgetting where you came from. Our music has kind of a rural flavor. That's where a lot of the lyrics come from.
Rock Doc: That's definitely what I was hearing. I am seeking out bands and artists, not only for their singular talent, but also for what they have to offer the world, this country, and young people in particular. What are you trying to communicate?
Wycoff: We just want to be creative people, and make a living doing it, which is a rarity these days. A lot of it has to do with artistic integrity and what is artistic for us, and not compromising any of it. If you're a young person and you have a dream and a goal, you should do it. If your goal is to do something creative, you shouldn't be telling yourself, "I should really be a business manager." If you want to be a painter, be a painter! Because if you do, you're going to be happy in the end whether you've got money or not.
Rock Doc: Do you guys have any CDs out?
Wycoff: We have two CDs, one that we produced ourselves about three years ago called Unknown Territory. It was put out by Cargo records about a year and a half ago. We've just completed recording our third, so we're shopping it around right now.
This show is for the Sacramento News and Review, to promote their Summer Sammies Friday night concerts in the park. We'll be playing there, so we're out here showing support and giving ourselves a little exposure on Channel 31.
Rock Doc: In terms of the Sammy Awards, are you up for any?
Wycoff: We won two--one for best country band, even though we're not exactly a country band, and one for best songwriter.
Rock Doc: Excellent! Congratulations! I just interviewed Mark Yeary who was with Merle Haggard and the Strangers as Merle's right hand man for about twenty years. I'm trying to put my finger on the pulse of what I believe will eventuate into a Nashville West revival. Lately I've been focusing on the original Bakersfield sound and the Nashville West movement that originated in Bakersfield in the mid-sixties.
Wycoff: Yeah, I'm very familiar with that.
Rock Doc: I kind of thought you would be. When I heard you guys play today, I could hear some of that sort of rebellious sound that was coming out of Bakersfield during that era as a reaction to some of the smoothed out, sugarcoated, polished sound that was coming out of Nashville. You guys seem to follow that tradition to some extent.
Wycoff: We're definitely trying to go against the grain.
Rock Doc: I can see and hear that. Now I wanted to ask you about the effect that September 11 had on you as an individual, as a band, and on your music. Have you heard of Barry McGuire?
Wycoff: Oh yeah, “Eve of Destruction”, and all of that.
Rock Doc: Yeah, and did you know that “Eve of Destruction” was on the post 9/11 list of songs radio stations were discouraged from playing because they thought it might remind victims of the apocalyptic nature of the event?
Wycoff: No, I wasn't aware of that. Well, September 11 really had an effect on all of us as I think it did on everybody. It reminded us of the importance of family and of being connected to the people you really care about, and not taking them for granted. That's really what the band stands for, being connected to something bigger than just yourself, being a part of a close-knit community.
Rock Doc: That seems to be rare these days, as people seem to be alienated--cut off from the rest of the world. That reminds me, I'm not sure if you've heard of the band Sisera Fell, but they recorded a song called” Rise Up” that speaks of the absurdity of individuals being self-sufficient--trying to make it on their own without a need for anyone else. Sisera Fell's theme of acknowledging the limits of self-sufficiency and the need to reach out for something more to hold on to seems consistent with the core essence of Forever Goldrush. It seems to be an integral aspect of your identity as a band--what you stand for.
Wycoff: That's exactly right. Most of us grew up together from the time we were three years of age, so we've been close for a long time. We grew up in a community where everybody knew everybody else--it was a very close-knit community. You don't really see a lot of that today.
Rock Doc: No, you don't, but it was refreshing to catch some of that right here this morning.
On that note, I had to leave,
as I was late for my day job once again. As I left, I passed by the crew
of local cable channel 31 as the camera panned for visual gold and musical
treasures. I passed by Sacramento News and Review music and arts
writer, Jackson Griffith, who proclaimed to me with an appreciable err
of confidence in his voice that Forever Goldrush would be "... the next
big act to come out of Sacramento!" I looked into his eyes and knew he
wasn't joking. I looked into my heart and knew that I, like he, the channel
31 news crew, and all the rest of the eager early bird fans, had struck