Tag Archives: California

OMB Peezy

The Stage is Yours • OMB Peezy Strikes Gold on His Debut EP

When you down they criticize ya,
when you up they wanna ride
I’m just tryna keep it moving,
been stuck so many times

– “Love you Back,” Humble Beginnings

OMB Peezy moved from Mobile, Alabama, to Sacramento at the age of 12. At 20, he is already being dubbed by The FADER as “the future of rap.”

OMB Peezy (OMB stands for “only my brothers”) built a name for himself early in his young career as a masterful freestyler, attaining exposure to a large audience via YouTube. When Peezy posted his video for the track “Lay Down,” he drew the attention of Bay Area rapper Nef the Pharaoh.

Through Nef, he was able to grab the attention of veteran artist E-40, which led to Peezy signing to E-40’s label Sick Wid It in February. E-40 then connected Peezy with 300 Entertainment (home of Young Thug, Hopsin and Fetty Wap). On Oct. 11, 2017, OMB Peezy celebrated his first release, a six-track EP titled Humble Beginnings.

“Humble Beginnings, you know, basically starting my career,” said Peezy in an interview with Submerge. “I’m letting everybody know I was always hood in the beginning, because in the beginning you got to be humble.”

For the new album, Sick Wid It/300 enlisted producer extraordinaire Cardo Got Wings, who has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Though the two never worked together in person, Peezy loved the chemistry between his words and Cardo’s beats, and was more than happy with the end result.

“It was easy working with Cardo,” said Peezy. “It’s not that easy working with a lot of producers. And him, we was getting a lot of work done. It’s crazy, because me and Cardo never met personally in real life, if I’m not mistaken. But we came up with some raw ass work that’s about to go down in the history books … shout out Cardo Got Wings, that’s my dog.”

Peezy feels strongly that the message he was trying to craft was executed exactly as he intended, and he should be. [Humble Beginnings] represents the rapper’s style well, and does a good job conveying his message. In “Talk My Shit,” Peezy beams with pride on his recent accomplishments while reflecting on where he’s come from; in “Doin’ Bad” Peezy talks about recognizing that fame and money aren’t going to solve all his problems. As for the sound, from the first track to the last, there is a cohesive plan, and it’s well executed. For Peezy, getting things right on his first impression to the greater public was of the utmost importance.

“I was completely satisfied with how the tapes came out,” said Peezy. “You know, all of the things I expect to tell in my story, you know what I’m sayin’? And he gave me the perfect beat to tell my story. The tracks, as far as “[Doin’] Bad,” “[Block] Up,” “[Love You] Back,” “Go Down,” shit like that … I feel like he came with the perfect sound.”

OMB Peezy

While Peezy has been perfecting the art of writing and freestyling, one of the aspects of his newly propelling career is the area of live performance. While Peezy had performed often for friends, and even worked in the studio, it has only been a short time since he first stepped foot on stage, and the experience was eye opening.

“I actually started performing like 11 months ago,” said Peezy. “I started writing when I was like 8. Then I recorded my first song when I was 12. [My first live performance] I was nervous as fuck. Nef the Pharaoh had brought me out on his birthday in Sacramento, that was my first performance. I was nervous as a motherfucker. I wasn’t even rappin’ fully in the mic. I ain’t even know how to perform.”

In the past 11 months, Peezy is still nervous before a show on occasion, though the experience is definitely making the process more familiar, and that familiarity is breeding a certain level of self-confidence. “I be nervous, be gettin’ butterflies before the shows,” said Peezy, “but soon as I walk on stage and I hear them screamin’ for me … I can have the baddest stomach ache on earth, as soon as I walk on stage and they scream my name, all that shit just be in my past.”

A key factor in the young rapper’s rise to recognition has been some of the veterans Peezy has helping spread the word. It’s these same assets that will help Peezy make his recent rise sustainable, by passing on the valuable knowledge they’ve built through years in the industry. E-40 is a prime example of the heavy hitters Peezy has in his corner, and while E-40 hasn’t changed anything about the music Peezy puts out there, his influence is undeniable.

“E-40 hasn’t influenced me on my music style or nothing,” said Peezy, “but he motivated me and gave me good words of encouragement and life advice. He’s influenced my career. My style is myself.”

From the first time he stepped into the studio to the recording sessions that resulted in Humble Beginnings, much of life has changed for OMB Peezy. Besides getting signed, touring and dropping his debut EP, the studio experience has changed for Peezy as well, resulting in his recording sessions to be a lot more … relaxed.

“Shit has changed,” said Peezy. “My first time getting in the studio, my mom didn’t know I smoke weed. So I couldn’t smoke weed. Boom. But now, shit I be smokin’ weed in the studio, pipe kicking ‘round, me gettin’ my vibe right. Shit be going good. My vibe has changed a whole lot.”

While Peezy still reps Alabama, he has spent a good chunk of his formative years in California. However, before Peezy headed out to the West Coast, he was a bit skeptical about his new place of residence.

“My impression of California was like—I ain’t gonna lie, I was young-minded—I didn’t think there was no black people or none of that type of shit out here,” said Peezy. “I thought it was all white people, all palm trees, everybody was friendly and shit. I didn’t think there was no hood, I didn’t think there was no projects. And it was different.”

Still, whether Peezy identifies as Alabamian or Californian, he has much love for the state and city he calls home.

“I love Sacramento,” said Peezy. “Sacramento showin’ me pride and love. I love California. I love all of it.”

See OMB Peezy live at The Boardwalk (9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale) on Jan. 5, 2018 at 8 p.m. This is an all-ages show, and tickets are $20 in advance. For more info, go to Boardwalkrocks.com.

**This article first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of issue #256 (Jan. 1 – 15, 2018)**

Below the Surface

I see what your game is here, Mother Nature, and I think you have made your point. All winter long, the rains poured down to refill California’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs until, in some cases at least, the dams were literally bursting at the seams. The rain caused sides of mountains to slide away, taking houses, roads and pretty much everything else with them. As if that weren’t enough, once the clouds parted for the summer, the sun began its quest to burn us all up.

I’ve lived in this part of California for my entire life, so I am no stranger to the heat, but this is getting ridiculous. It was 109 degrees a few Fridays back and every time I stepped outside, I felt like my skull was an oven cooking my brain inside. To make matters worse, wildfires are burning everywhere despite all the rain we just got. If you must be outside, then prepare to be baked alive; and if you stay out too long, don’t be surprised if you end up looking like a crispy duck.

Between the pouring rain and the stinging sun, it seems like we only have about two months of the year when we can actually go outside. For the rest of the year, we are trapped indoors dreaming of the day when we might be able to do something beyond the confines of our homes again. Thanks to global warming, that time inside is only going to keep growing until the water is at our doors trying to wash us away. The tides will keep rising and our homes won’t be able to protect us forever.

Science fiction movies tell fantastical tales of mole people living beneath the surface of the Earth and mermaids populating the ocean depths, but what if they weren’t so far off the mark? What if we were really looking at the future of mankind? The United States backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement has all but ensured that we will continue to see both soaking winters and scorching hot summers in this part of California for the foreseeable future, so we are going to have to learn to live with it at some point. Seeking shelter either underground or under the sea may be our only hope of survival.

Sooner or later, all of us are going to have to make a choice. Will you be a merman or a mole man? Both lifestyles offer their own advantages and disadvantages, so the choice is not as simple as it may seem. For example, seafood lovers may find themselves delighted by the virtual buffet o’ fish that the ocean has on offer, but it will be hard to eat all that delicious fish with permanent grandma hands. On the other hand, spelunkers the world round will love the wondrous sites to be seen inside their new cave homes, but getting eaten alive by a bear is a really shitty way to die.

Whichever life you choose, one thing will be sure, you are going to need a pressurized suit. Evolution does not happen overnight and it certainly can’t keep pace with climate change. As we descend into the depths of the Earth, the atmospheric pressure is going to continue to increase and put the squeeze on you. For those of us who prefer not to be flattened into a pancake, a pressurized suit will ensure that we retain our three-dimensional shapes.

Any deep-sea diver or biohazard lab worker can tell you that functioning normally in a pressurized suit is no simple task. You’re wearing goofy gloves and a bulbous helmet and your range of motion is much more limited. You also have to be careful not to tear the suit, which is made even more difficult when surrounded by the sharp corals of the ocean and stalactites/stalagmites of the inner earth. All of this means that you will need training, so you should be prepared for that too. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to buy a pressure suit and start practicing now. I know I am. You don’t want to find yourself unprepared when our next phase of human survival begins!

Hometown Tourist: A Little Slice of Heaven

“So uh, the vibe here is way different than last time.”

There is no one “type” of tourist that visits Locke, California. One weekend there is a brigade of motorcyclists, the next, grandma and the grandkids are on a weekend escapade along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Since investing in a motorcycle, most of my “long rides” (I don’t even know if you can call them that) have been along the delta. Before riding a motorcycle, I had lived in Sacramento for 15 years and not once had I ventured onto River Road.

River Road—my experience with this road began as what seemed like a fairy tale. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this vision of what would be the most romantic rendezvous—a privileged one albeit, but none the less, a dream. It consists of a spontaneous trip in some sort of open vehicle (convertible, motorcycle, truck bed, etc.). It’s summertime; the warm wind gently kisses our faces, the trees above carve a natural tunnel with the long soft branches hanging so close you can almost touch them as you go by. My feet hang out the window, my arms spread wide, rays of sunshine flirt with the slight separation of leaves and perhaps nearby is a body of water that reflects these sun rays. In this moment, everything is perfect. I must have read a children’s book or watched an old cartoon at some point that embodied this visualization.

On a first(ish) date, I was offered a ride on his motorcycle. Keeping my fanatical excitement in check, we casually rode through the city as I held on gently, keeping my cool. What seemed like moments later, a dream I envisioned since I was a small child began developing into reality. No, it was reality. I lifted the face mask, felt the warm air on my cheeks, opened my arms to the sides and looked up to see a romantic covering of trees. With my arms spread I could nearly touch the soft branches and a glistening, flowing river was beyond. We rode past grapes and blackberries along the side of the road and waved to other people on motorcycles riding by. This, was River Road. Since then I have been countless times, with said “boy,” by myself, with my parents, and every time is just as great as the last. Though, that first time really blew my mind.

OK, enough with the romance, but seriously you guys, this drive is amazing. Whether you are in a car, on a motorcycle, a bicycle or walking, you need to take a stroll down this little slice of heaven.

As you meander down the road there are various stops along the way such as wineries, bars and small towns strewn about. One town specifically that I suggest you visit, is named Locke. Hidden off the main road, Locke is a small town about three blocks in size known for its Chinese history. Built in 1915, the town blossomed into a Chinese community and today is one of the last standing Chinese communities in the area.

A good friend and I took a Sunday trip down to Locke recently, and upon our arrival we headed to the only bar in town, Al the Wop’s. There’s history behind the name—just ask about it when you go. A miscellaneous assortment of condiments littered the bar top when I noticed peanut butter and jelly among the collection. Swiftly ordering banana peppers, my friend opened the PB&J, handed me a spoon and introduced me to one of Locke’s traditions (though, I’m pretty sure this one isn’t Chinese).

The town is old and beautiful; a handful of museums reminisce on its history and the grade school brings back memories I hadn’t felt in years. There is a traditional Chinese medicine shop and a statue of Confucius. Families sit outside in their yards while the kids run and play together. There are wooden-planked alleyways and big barn doors etched with writing. The town has some real culture and although it’s small, it packs a punch with its authenticity. I highly suggest getting out to Locke or one of the other River Road towns, but at the very least, enjoy the wonders of the River Road Delta that is so close to our home of Sacramento.

**This piece first appeared in print on page 14 of issue #238 (April 24 – May 8, 2017)**

Keeping California Positive with Rob on the Road’s Rob Stewart

Stay Gold

It’s always refreshing to turn on the television, peruse the channels and come across the warm smile and enthusiastic spirit of Rob Stewart, host of KVIE’s Rob on the Road. Stewart’s engaging personality always lures me in. Being a lover of California, I’m forever searching for new adventures and Rob on the Road provides that, taking viewers all over Northern California and beyond to explore the people, places, history and beauty this area has to offer.

Stewart’s personality shines as bright, if not brighter, in person. During our conversation we talked about his upcoming shows, how his life has changed over the last few years and, of course, Huell Howser.

After viewing just one episode of Rob on the Road it’s easy to see why some compare Stewart to the legendary Huell Howser, host of the long-running PBS show California’s Gold.

“Every single day someone says to me ‘We’re so glad you replaced Huell,’” Stewart says with a smile. “I quickly say, ‘I didn’t,’ because there’s no such thing. You cannot replace Huell Howser. He’s irreplaceable. All we’re doing is trying to continue the same spirit of exploring California.”

Howser did take notice of what Stewart was doing up north and decided to pay him a visit.

“When I started, Huell came to Sacramento with advice on how to do the show. He was such a sweetheart and a gem,” says Stewart. “Huell and I went and had hot dogs someplace over on Fruitridge Road, there was no place to sit so we sat out in the parking lot on the curb and he said, ‘I just want you to know I feel like you’ve got the heart to keep doing what I’m doing. I wanted to tell you that I think you have my heart.’”

Howser’s blessing means a lot to Stewart and it shows in his on-air gusto. Stewart reflects, “I think that one of the things that makes us similar is that we both came from outside of the state and we’re able to look at California with a fresh set of eyes.”

Stewart was a news anchor in Philadelphia and in Wilmington, Delaware for the PBS member station WHYY prior to moving to Sacramento in 2008. When Stewart arrived in California, he had a couple of paths to choose from.

“I had an offer that was full-time at another station in town and a part-time offer at KVIE,” says Stewart. “I accepted the job at KVIE because I knew I could do some fun feature segments that could be positive and uplifting.”

Branching off of his show’s success, Stewart is expanding programming through subseries under the Rob on the Road umbrella. One such subseries will focus on Highway 99.

“We’re going to hit up everything under the sun along the highway,” says Stewart. “The first one is going to air in May and we’re going to Marysville/Yuba City.” There Rob will be exploring the historic Bok Kai Temple. He will then travel to Stockton and play with one of the local sports teams.

Rob on the Road: Heroes and Helping Hands is another subseries that is annual and sponsored by the law firm Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld. This heartfelt series shares stories of inspiration and hope. One of this year’s features will focus on inmates of Folsom State Prison who are turning their lives around in a program called CALPIA (Prison Industry Authority). Prisoners in this program learn job training skills to use once they are released. This episode will premiere March 21 on KVIE.

Rob Stewart
Stewart is very passionate about spreading positive and uplifting messages as well as sharing his own inspirational journey. This is evident when glancing at his Instagram, which serves as a public journal at times. “It’s true, I love Instagram,” Stewart explains. “I tend to put more personal stuff on there than on my Twitter or Facebook page.”

It was on Instagram where I first discovered a more intimate, personal side of Stewart. He is an open book when it comes to his life and chooses appropriate outlets for his expression.

“I’ve always been very open. With a job that airs on television every day, people truly feel like they know me,” Stewart says. “I’m just me on television. There’s no different me off TV than there is on television. I mean I don’t flaunt on TV that I’m gay, or that my long-term relationship ended, or that I quit drinking three years ago. I don’t flaunt that on television because why would I? It’s not a platform for it.

“But I would certainly share that on Instagram in hopes of helping other people,” Stewart continues. “So, I am very open with my personal life, and any struggles I’ve been through because I believe in making your mess your message, and helping other people in life.”

Stewart backs up his message with actions by donating his time to many causes and immersing himself in projects that help others. He MCs Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus events and has been active for the LGBT community center. He is equally active for juvenile diabetes and ovarian cancer research.

“My dedication to any cause is equal as long as it is doing something to help somebody else,” Stewart says. “I want to use the platform of Rob on the Road to plant positive seeds no matter what it’s about.”

Less than three years ago Stewart’s life was much different, but he chose to make some drastic changes that allowed him reinvent who he is.

“I was overweight and eating and drinking too much,” Stewart explains. “I want people to know they can turn their lives around. We can stop bad habits that do not serve us well. At any age we can go through radical change to help us live our best lives. It’s not easy, but it’s worth every bit of it.”

When Stewart’s longtime relationship ended he decided to escape from his comfort zone, quit drinking and move from the suburbs to the city. Once in Sacramento, he began to immerse himself in the community and hasn’t looked back.

Rob Stewart
“I can promise you that everything you’re searching for is right outside of your comfort zone,” Stewart continues. “And sometimes that comfort zone is really not that comfortable when you start to look at it. Ultimately, set yourself free.”

Rob on the Road airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on KVIE Public Television or online at Robontheroad.org. Rob on the Road: Heroes and Helping Hands will air March 21, 2016 on KVIE.

Old Blood Brings New Beginnings

With a solid lineup in place, Cold Blue Mountain surges forward

In 2009, chief songwriter Will McGahan (guitar) and yours truly (bass) built the beginnings of Cold Blue Mountain in the unique college town of Chico, California with the simple goal to start a heavy band. Joined by friend, funnyman and drummer Daniel Taylor, and guitarist Sesar Sanchez shortly thereafter, the instrumental metal band was soon playing local shows with an expanded sound.

In 2012, Chico’s resident metal vocalist (and Amazing Race contestant) Brandon Squyres convinced the quartet that vocals were necessary and themes were needed for the music, thus rounding out what is today’s version of the group, along with a new savage bassist Adrian Hammons.

With McGahan’s signature core songwriting intact, the group remains a force to be reckoned with on the heavy music circuit. The beauty of Cold Blue Mountain is that they are much more than your typical metal band and evidence of this can be found on their brand new release, Old Blood. Opening track “Seed of Dissent” begins with an emotionally driven piano track by Taylor that leads into sedating guitar strums by McGahan and Sanchez, which abruptly ceases into a classic guitar harmony. The sonic explosion of heaviness quickly ensues and Squyres’ sickening screams plead: “How much of this tyranny can you handle without speaking out against the captors that took hold of our land through force and corruption?” It seems quite apparent that Squyres put significant time into researching atrocities of American history and penned well-thought-out themes that make the new record a cut above.

What you’ll find within is a group of individuals who are casual, but committed to the craft of writing, performing and presenting the best product they can. Just about every member plays in another prominent Chico group (Amarok, Surrogate, Teeph, Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy), but with Old Blood, they might want to make Cold Blue Mountain a primary focus.

Drummer Daniel Taylor and vocalist Brandon Squyres took time out of their busy schedules to discuss the making of Old Blood, touring and other shenanigans.


How has the dynamic of the group changed since its early days as a trio?
Daniel Taylor: In some senses it’s a totally different beast, but in a lot of ways the vibe is the same since the beginning. We don’t necessarily play progressive metal or post rock, but the music has stayed true to a hybrid of having melody, riffs and being catchy. Also, we’re no longer an instrumental band and there are three new people in the band that weren’t before. We’re somewhat defined now by having a strong vocalist with experience and presence. Brandon also acts as a coach of the band, conducting all of us to continue to practice songs, making them better or more epic.

What can listeners expect from Old Blood? Did you guys try anything new this time around in the studio?
DT: We spent the better half of a year working on the recording, bits at a time. Before we went into the studio to track anything with Chris Keene [producer], our friend Greg Hopkins recorded all five songs on the album at our practice space. We did pre-production on every song we planned on recording, which gave us a rough copy to analyze and dissect. With our own intuition, we slowed down tempos making them sludgy or heavier, and trimmed down or altered parts of the songs to make them more cohesive. Will went through the songs with a fine-toothed comb and dialed his parts in and layered a lot of guitar tracks. Keene also helped serve as a final judge to whether or not we should include or scrap certain parts in songs.

Can you explain where the themes on Old Blood originated from? When did you decide to do a concept album?
Brandon Squyres: When I first joined the band, song titles were already in place and [I] just made the lyrics work with the existing titles. When we were making the new record, Sesar wanted the theme to be about breaking the will of man. I liked the idea, but took it a little further and wrote a concept story about a group of people that had been broken down who would rise up, take action and get back to who they were. I found inspiration with researching Native Americans and my own genealogy. In order for my Native American relatives to get government benefits, they would have had to give up everything they fought for just to be labeled something else. A lot of my relatives weren’t willing to compromise because they were so proud of who they were, thus weren’t recognized by the U.S. Government as being Indian. I was inspired by their self-preservation and perseverance. The ideas for the album were written with some of these themes in mind, but not about a specific culture or time frame.
My goal was to make the lyrics go with the structures of the songs like the score of a movie. The tone of the music goes along with the stories; like on “New Alliances” there is a calm before the people make attacks towards outlying outposts of a big city.

How was the decision made to sign on with Halo of Flies Records?
BS: I’ve worked with Cory von Bohlen (owner) on releases with my other bands (The Makai, Amarok) and have toured with his band (Protestant). We all like the releases he’s put out and it’s much more enjoyable to work with a friend. We wanted to give Cory the first chance to put out the record because he is a great guy and always puts out a great product.

How has touring altered the perspective of the band? Do you have any upcoming tour plans?
BS: We have plans to do a small weekend tour in Eugene, Portland and Seattle in December, then a full U.S. tour in January and February.
It’s nice when you’ve worked so hard making the music to hit the road and see people’s reaction to your music. You can read or hear reviews of the music, but it’s much more fulfilling seeing people’s reactions to the live shows in person. Touring is also a great bonding experience and makes you a stronger unit. You start to realize how to better work with each other and this transfers directly to the live setting.
DT: When you play in your own town, it feels like more of a hobby, but when you leave town and all you have to do that day is play a show, I tend to have more focus and play better because I want to perform the best I can. We always seem to have great shows in Seattle and Portland, so we figure it’s best to go back to the well.

Prepare for even more face meltage when Cold Blue Mountain plays the Starlite Lounge on Nov. 22, 2014. Check Coldbluemountain.com for more details.


Back in February Davis’ G Street Pub closed its doors for good, or at least that’s what everyone thought. Turns out, former head bartender Chris Armanini purchased the place and re-opened it in late October under a new name, G Street Wunderbar. The location underwent intensive remodeling, including an updated commercial kitchen, new bathrooms, a new sound system and more. Craig W. Hiatt is the chef of the Foothill Grill, which is what they’re calling the restaurant portion of the business. Hiatt features classic grill fare at Foothill Grill and traditional barbecue items like pulled pork, tri-tip, hot links, cole slaw, etc. G Street Wunderbar will still host plenty of live music like they used to, which is great news for the local music community! Their weekly breakdown looks a little something like this: Monday nights are Pub Quiz with “Geeks Who Drink” starting at 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday nights are karaoke starting at 9:30 p.m.; Wednesday nights are Funk Nights; Thursdays will see DJ Wiz spinning; Friday and Saturday nights are reserved for live music; and on Sunday nights there’s a pool tournament at 6:30 p.m. Upcoming noteworthy shows include Shayna and the Bulldog on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 and The Brodys and A Single Second on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. For more information, find G Street Wunderbar on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, @GStWunderBar.

Robot Birds from Brooklyn

Artist Chico MacMurtrie Brings Inflatable Robot Technology to Davis

Rambling somewhere around the axis of where sculpture, engineering, robotics and puppetry collide lays the malleable artworks of Brooklyn-based visionary Chico MacMurtrie. For the past 20 years, MacMurtrie’s anthropomorphic mechanisms have taken on many forms, stimulating commentary on the meaning of movement, of life and of the ways in which viewers are allowed to interact with art, while at the same time examining how art interacts with the world at large.

For reference, take MacMurtrie’s large-scale installation, Birds–showing at the Richard L. Nelson Gallery at the UC Davis campus through Dec. 11, 2011Birds brings together a fleet of elegant bird-like creations, hung in a procession above snaking floor lights meant to represent a river. The installation utilizes some complicated mechanics, computers, a revolutionary inflatable architecture technology created by MacMurtrie himself, and very subtle robotics to produce an interactive demonstration. The inflatable technology, made of a light fabric, essentially allows the avian forms, though loaded with mechanical actuators and machines for movement, to approximate seamless, non-rigid organisms. The “bird” sculptures react to environmental sensors–triggered by the people in the room–by coming to life from a deflated form, to begin beating their wing-like appendages as if flying. Portraying qualities consistent with actual living systems, should a viewer get too close to the sculptures, or spend too much time ogling, they begin to devolve, or die, eventually crumbling back into their stasis one by one.

In short, it’s a provocative commentary on environmentalism, over-population, urban sprawl and more…with robots!

Inflatable Archit Growth Photo: Chico MacMurtrie / ARW

To give an accurate synopsis of MacMurtrie’s robotic sculpture work is nearly impossible, given that the more tangible elements of contemporary art remain satisfyingly absent in his work. Instead, MacMurtrie’s muse is derived from the examination of amorphic shape shifting, using robotics to bring to life geometrically abstract creations–most of them very big–to titillate viewers, and to bring a sense of symbiosis to the art-viewing ritual.

MacMurtrie’s sense of reinvention began during his undergrad college days at the University of Arizona. As a painter, MacMurtrie, 50, says he felt confined by the starkness of the canvas.

“My paintings got more physical, and ultimately I began literally throwing my body into my paintings, using my body as a brush,” explains MacMurtrie. “Ultimately, what I was after was the resulting effect of the paint on my body.”

When the paint had dried on him, the result left a kind of skin. MacMurtrie had an epiphany to move away from painting toward creating transformational performance pieces utilizing body skins. It wasn’t until he took the skins off that the seeds of what MacMurtrie now grows would be sown.

Inner Space - Photo: Chico MacMurtrie / ARW

“Once I emerged out of the skins, I noticed that the skins had a life of their own that was even more interesting and more powerful, in my opinion,” says MacMurtrie. “I began to figure out how to put sub-structures into these skins to animate them.”

MacMurtrie taught himself robotics, and began to see the world in mechanical systems. His new muse was to break down movements mechanically, while utilizing his background in sculpture to form a hybrid of the two. This process began with MacMurtrie’s creation of interactive robotic humanoids in the early ‘90s, collaborating with computer engineers and programmers, and has moved into his innovative work with inflatable robotic architecture. In order for him to progress, MacMurtrie literally had to reinvent the way the processes of construction and implementation were approached for his work–to move beyond robotic automation, and into abstract robotic sculpture.

Simply put, he’s not an engineer. But that doesn’t bother him.

“If I would have gone to engineering school, it would have inhibited [me],” says MacMurtrie. “Often, I’m doing things that are extremely difficult and challenging. People who have a practical understanding of engineering wouldn’t take those things on. I end up creating more work for myself because I’m not an engineer, but it’s more of a genuine process, I think.”

With lots of funding help, due in no small part to five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as funding from national, local and international granting agencies and 30 corporate sponsors, MacMurtrie and his collaborative group of artists, technicians and programmers–Amorphic Robot Works, founded in 1991–have created more than 250 mechanical sculptures that assume anthropomorphic and abstract forms that have been shown all over the world.

Totemobile - Photo: Chico MacMurtrie / ARW

Totemobile - Photo: Chico MacMurtrie / ARW

Totemobile - Photo: Chico MacMurtrie / ARW

Big examples of this work include Totemobile–a robotic sculpture that in its settled form appears as a life-sized representation of a 1965 Citroën DS automobile. During the performance process, the sculpture is disassembled robotically, growing slowly from the inside out to finally bloom into an organic 60-foot-tall totem pole. The result–which utilizes the inflatable technology–is a stunning pseudo-Transformers study of pop culture idolization and the inner-workings of organic labor that any construct of man was forced to endure.

With Birds, MacMurtrie tried to create an in-between point from Totemobile, and his early humanoid robots.

“[The birds] could be legs, they could be cones. They are certainly abstractions of birds,” explains MacMurtrie. “People see them as birds because they appear to have wings, and they appear to live and die, and they appear to take flight. They also have a pattern of becoming unified, then falling out of order. It resembles nature. It’s not so important that they are literally birds to me, as much as [viewers] get a sense of: they’re organizing the way nature organizes. They fall apart the same way that nature tends to fall apart.”

MacMurtrie says that the birds have received different reactions the world over. And while the abstractness of his work is true in a geometric sense, his hope is that it inspires people to think beyond the mechanics of his creations.

“The most important thing is that it’s alive, it has a life force, it’s trying to organize itself and trying to find its structure,” says MacMurtrie. “There’s a lot of social commentary [in Birds], but it’s extremely subtle. The birds work pretty much the same way we do. The difference is they’re fueled by air, and if we can’t breathe, we don’t live, and if we don’t eat fuel, we certainly don’t live. In this case, their air is fueled by electricity. It’s similar or parallel to our living.”

Birds shows at the Richard L. Nelson Gallery at Nelson Hall at UC Davis through December 11, 2011. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. and by appointment Fridays. Call (530) 752-8500 for more information. For more about Chico MacMurtrie, visit Amorphicrobotworks.org.

Good Grief That’s Good!

A Submerge guide to pumpkin libations

Words by Adam Saake – Photos by Nicholas Wray

Hey look! It’s fall. Oh, there it goes. Living in Sacramento, you know that fall makes a quick appearance yet there are so many ways to indulge. Having your checklist done early, your Halloween costume pre-ordered and a trip to Apple Hill in permanent marker on the calendar is a good start, but there are still a few things that fly by under the radar. Pumpkin beer is one of them and if you’re not quick to grab a six-pack off the end cap, you might miss out on some limited edition suds that can be quite delicious. What once seemed like a novelty has now become a tradition for some serious beer drinkers and the choices have multiplied. Ales, lagers and even ciders are popping up on the shelves and each offer unique takes on the flavors that this iconic orange squash has to offer.

America’s Original Pumpkin Ale

Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, Hayward, Calif.

Buffalo Bill’s Brewery offers a quality pumpkin ale that is firmly centered on drinkability and not necessarily pumpkin overload. Not to say that pumpkin isn’t the focus here, but on a scale of Linus to Return to Oz, this is somewhere in the Silver Bend Pumpkin Patch. The first initial sips yield the pumpkin and then the luster slightly fades, but still very refreshing. Clocking in at a little over 5 percent alcohol and 11 IBUs (international bittering unit), even grandma might have one with you to celebrate the holidays.

The Hayward, Calif.-based brewery who are also known for their Alimony Ale and Orange Blossom Cream Ale have had their feet in the microbrew market since 1983. These guys definitely know what they’re doing with their pumpkin beer, so you’re safe to grab a six-pack and enjoy.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Blue Moon Brewing Co., Golden, Colo.

Surely the most recognizable name we’ll mention here in our Pumpkin Beer spotlight, and either you love it or you hate it. Blue Moon, a Miller/Coors product, hit the scene around 1995 at The Sandlot Brewery in Boulder, Colo. (then just owned by Coors) and it didn’t take long before it had made its way into many watering holes around the country.

Originally launched in 2006, the Harvest Pumpkin Ale has had a facelift this year and according to Miller/Coors has been “re-launched and reformulated this year.” What does that mean? Well instead of brewing the beer with just pumpkin and cloves, they add nutmeg and allspice as well. That and the label become a little less artsy and lot more branded. What you get is a quite enjoyable beer with a good body, smooth finish and great balance between the hops, pumpkin and spices. Coming in at 5.7 percent alcohol, Harvest Pumpkin Ale is a step up in intensity but not overpowering and certainly a beer you can enjoy more than one of.

Pumpkin Lager Beer

Lakefront Brewery Inc., Milwaukee, Wisc.

Located on the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee, Wisc.–pronounced mealy-walk-ay if you’re Alice Cooper–Lakefront Brewery has been crafting quality microbrews since 1987. The brewery itself is a huge tourist attraction to the point where sold-out brewery tours gave way to online ticket sales. Still independently owned and cranking out large volumes of beer, boasting over 20 different selections, Lakefront is testament to the little guy doing big things.

Their Pumpkin Lager Beer, apparently inspired by a Thomas Jefferson recipe that brewery owner Russ Klisch stumbled upon, is as close to pumpkin pie in a beer form that you might find. Pour one into a glass and you’ll immediately notice that the nose jumps out; heavy with pumpkin, cinnamon and clove aromas. The mouth feel echoes the nose; rich yet goes down easy and the use of Caramel and Munich malts lend to the texture and depth of this fun drinking beer. Slightly copper in color and 6 percent alcohol, you might spill a few family secrets after a few of these.

Pugsley’s Signature Series: Smashed Pumpkin Ale

Shipyard Brewing Co., Portland, Maine

Caution: double entendre approaching! Shipyard Brewing Company’s co-founder and Master Brewer Alan Pugsley has outdone himself with this Smashed Pumpkin Ale. Not only will you be “smashed” after a few of these, but your head will feel like Gallagher took his sledgehammer to it in the morning. Packed with so much spice, pumpkin, hops and malts and 9 percent alcohol, this pumpkin beer is truly a trick and a treat. Submerge asked local beer guru Mark Neuhauser of Pangaea Two Brews Cafe what he thought and he called it “very sweet…pumpkin pie in a bottle.” Pugsley uses three different malts including Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich along with two different kinds of hops; Willamette and Hallertau. The high alcohol gives it the backbone and bite, making this beer perfect for any of your spice filled holiday foods.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Shipyard would blow the stem off the pumpkin beer category. These guys are known for amazing craft beers that they’ve been perfecting since 1992. They’re Maine’s largest brewery that also makes Capt’n Eli’s Soda, a craft soda that comes in seven different flavors and are the 19th largest craft brewery in the country. All that from little ol’ Maine, go figure. On top of that, Pugsley is kind of a rock star in the East Coast microbrew world. Back in the ‘80s he bounced around and helped establish quite a number of breweries as well helped design and build breweries in the United Kingdom.

Hard Pumpkin Cider

Ace Cider: The California Cider Company, Sebastopol, Calif.

Alright, here’s your wild card. Ace Cider based out of Sebastopol, Calif., has been making cider for 15 years. Before there were really cider options, there was Ace and over the years they’ve stayed amongst the companies making really high quality, gluten free and delicious ciders. This year is the first year that the company has released their Hard Pumpkin Cider, an apple-based cider that is blended with pumpkin and allspice. Jeffrey House, owner and master cider maker, says that he made 10,000 gallons this year and it’s already all gone.

“People are racing to drink it,” says House.

With the popularity of the product, House says they’ll more than likely double or even triple production next year to meet the demand. The cider is quite a unique product that doesn’t scream pumpkin but merely suggests it. The allspice is subtle and you pick up the apple on the finish along with an interesting aftertaste reminiscent of pear candy. This cider is 5 percent alcohol and quite low in sugar content, 9 grams per 12-ounce bottle. If you’re really aiming for pumpkin, I’m not sure if this is for you but overall a tasty cider that fits in perfectly with their existing line.

These beers and ciders can be found at Total Wine, Whole Foods, Corti Bros and other select specialty markets. Call ahead because they are seasonal and will disappear quick.

Still thirsty for more pumpkin beer? Pangaea Two Brews Café has Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale on draft. Pangaea was lucky enough to acquire three of the six kegs allocated to the entire Sacramento area, so get it while it’s here. Or, head over Alley Katz and try a Double Pumpkin Ale on draft from Sam Adams.

Prog Rock Extravaganza!

The Pride of Lodi, In Oceans Prepares to Play Sacramento

Before the progressive rock group In Oceans starts band practice, they prepare to embark on a mini journey. All six band members pack up their instruments and meet at a cottage, located in the “boonies” to get the creative juices flowing. While jamming in the small cottage, the band has turned their random guitar strums, bass notes, drumbeats and song lyrics into music that can make anyone want to jump around in a mosh pit.

The Lodi, Calif.-based group is ready to share their five-song EP Earthwalker with music fans everywhere. Submerge caught up with vocalists Stephen Parrish and Matt Miller over the phone after a day of practicing for an upcoming gig.

“We just came together and made this awesome collaboration of magic. We’re really stoked to see what people think about it,” Parrish said.

During the year and a half they’ve been playing music together, the group has created a unique rock sound. “Our music [has] extremely progressed and we got our signature,” Miller said. Each band member (Parrish, Miller, guitarists Ryan Hinch and Jake Knutson, drummer Jesse Reeves and bassist James Garner) played a vital role in making their EP sound stage ready.

“Music-wise we make sure everyone puts in their stance. Everyone has different stuff: funk, mainstream, experimental, we all [have] our different little traits,” Parrish said. “That’s why we’re glad that everything came together in this EP.”

“Everyone brings their own influences,” Miller added. “What we aimed for is something that a lot of people can relate to.”

Even though the music was just released in the beginning of June, the band has already received positive feedback through social networking sites, gaining more than 4,000 likes on their Facebook band page. And if you decide to like them on Facebook, you can expect to see them interacting with almost every fan through status updates, comments and likes. Even though they are gaining strong momentum in the small city of Lodi, their music is spreading across the United States. The Facebook page tells them that they have tons of fans that live in Seattle who are waiting for them to take their show north of their hometown.

“We would like to take a trip up to Seattle and walk around the streets and see if anyone knows us there,” Miller said.

The band also caught the eye of Jonny Craig, lead vocalist for Dance Gavin Dance, after playing the 2010 Battle of the Bands Ernie Ball stage at Warped Tour. “He came up and talked to us afterward and he was pretty impressed with our set, so that was a nice little booster for us,” Parrish said. Both members agree that they hope to play Warped Tour again but are now focused on prepping for upcoming gigs, including a headlining show at the Ace of Spaces in downtown Sacramento.

“It’s our first show in Sacramento. I think it’s my first show out with the band in Sacramento, besides the Boardwalk,” Miller said.

If you decide to catch their first headlining show in town, be prepared to find yourself jumping around the stage one minute then laughing the next, because these rockers like to act “goofy” on and off stage. They take the music very seriously but seem to go with the flow for everything else that jumps in their way–even when deciding upon their band name, they just chose it as a “safe” name and hoped that it would catch on with people that listened to their tunes. They even joked that they could be called the “Fluffy Farts” as long as it would catch on.

“We paid for a guy to go to Sizzler, and he gave us the rights to the name [In Oceans],” Miller joked. “We just want people to listen to the music really.”

The members of In Oceans are the type of rockers that anyone would want to hang out with and tell a few jokes with after their shows. Especially in their hometown, they chat with fans and eat tacos at the local Jack-in-the-Box. “We sign the receipts,” Miller said. “I’m just kidding, we don’t sign the receipts, but if they want us to sign the receipts we would love to.”

They also like to have fun during their mini road trips to different shows. They play rounds of their own version of a word make-up game, where they improvise and start to rap in the car. “We start to freestyle. It gets insane,” Parrish said. After the band finally arrives at their destination, they have a pre-show ritual of huddling together backstage to get revved up to take the stage. “The whole focus is on playing a good show and keeping the energy up,” Miller said.

“I like to put on a show that we would like to go watch,” Parrish added.

According to both vocalists, “fun, crazy, extravaganza and awesomeness” are a few of the things that a member of their audience can expect from one of their live performances. Residents in Stockton might have caught them playing a high-energy show at one of their favorite venues called Empire Theatre, an old movie theater that houses film screenings and live shows. But outside of local venues, they hope to place their music in as many ears as possible. “Hopefully something crazy happens with it because it’s something everyone definitely needs to hear,” Miller said. “We love anyone and everyone that listens to our music. Come out to a show and see; it’s going to be a party.”

In Oceans’ new EP, Earthwalker, was released June 1 and can be purchased on iTunes. If you’d like to keep abreast on the band’s latest happenings, or maybe find out where they’re eating tacos, friend them on Facebook at Facebook.com/inoceansband.

Sutter District Welcomes New Art Gallery

j27 Art Gallery

If you’ve driven through or walked down J Street past the 2700 block lately, you’ve more than likely noticed the new sign outside what used to be Papi’s Pizza that simply says, “Art.” Meet j27 Art Gallery, a brand new gathering space co-owned by area artists Susan Rabinovitz and Michael Shane. Rabinovitz, known for her hand-forged jewelry, met Shane, an abstract painter who also owns a shipping and delivery company, at the Sacramento Art Complex where they both had studios about a year-and-a-half ago. “We’d always discussed doing something together,” Shane said during a recent conversation with Submerge. “So about two months ago when I started looking at commercial space I called her up and said, ‘Are you still in?’ and she said, ‘Yeah!’ so we came over and looked at this space. We signed the lease two days later.” Shane pointed out that they are aiming to break the “Second Saturday only” mold and that they want to be “an everyday gallery.” Every weekend there will be something going on, not just on Second Saturdays, be it a live art exhibition, live local music, meet and great sessions with artists and more. Currently represented at j27 are paintings and jewelry from Shane and Rabinovitz as well as a slew of other regional artists’ work including abstract paintings by Gayle Rappaport-Weiland (June’s featured artist); photography from Monica Lunardi and Allister Oliver; fused glass art by Nicole Krohn; sculpture work by Molly Brown, Paula Swayne and Angela Ridgway; paintings from Donna Marie Sterpe as well as cartoonist Eric Decetis’ world-renowned work and much more. Shane pointed out that j27 is proud to be the only gallery selling Decetis’ original art, whose cartoons have graced the pages of countless publications. All in all, j27 has an excellent mix of art found in all sorts of mediums. It’s easy to get sidetracked when in the space, as there are so many eye-catching things to look at. “We’re trying to be very picky about the art that we hang,” Shane said. “We want to have an upscale environment and we want to be the place where people come to buy fine art. But, we want it to be a fun place too; we don’t want it to be stuffy. If you come in, you’re going to hear music, we’ll talk to you about the art, it won’t be dead cold and quiet. It’s important to carry that real high-end stuff, but you don’t have to make it, you know, cold and museum-like.” Learn more about j27 and the artists behind it at j27gallery.com or just stop in. They’ll be open every day starting at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. on Sundays).
-J. Carabba