Save for prominent white circles that had been shaded by eyewear, the faces of the two L.A. cowboys glowed a sunburned crimson. Destiny bound, they entered from the dark night into a clamorous club. Quietly and with an unassuming pose, they picked up acoustic guitars and sang into a single microphone.
Soon, the crowd went silent, rapt with the ethereal harmonies and captivating guitar melodies. A voice in Spanish gasped in admiration, “Mapache!” And thus, the duo would forever be known as Mapache, the Spanish word for the masked, nocturnal mammal with dexterous fingers: Raccoon.
“That story — I don’t know where it came from,” Clay Finch said. “It’s not entirely true. But I like it.”
Finch and Sam Blasucci are Mapache, that part is certainly true. And it’s undeniable that Mapache’s soulful melodies are comfortable and compelling. A little country twang is reminiscent to the sound of the late Gram Parsons. The young musicians already are accepted by older, accomplished peers. Now, they are setting out to win over audiences.
Mapache opens a tour on Sunday at the Crystal Bay Casino and the next night at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael. Many of the shows will be in support of Nicki Bluhm. In others, Mapache will share the stage with its alter-ego band, Grateful Shred, in which Finch and Blasucci also play.
Mapache has been noticed for its music, of course, not the moniker.[pullquote]Mapache, pronounced like the line from the movie ‘Repo Man,’ ‘Let’s go eat sushi and not pay.'”[/pullquote]
“I think you just have to play good music and that will determine if you have a good name or not,” Blasucci said, “because there’s a lot of really amazing bands that have a ton of dumb names, but they are so rad it doesn’t matter.”
The two met at La Canada High School at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and they started a band, Melvin Doo.
“It was a trio that also played folky harmonies, but the lyrical content and musical style was … I am a little embarrassed by it now,” Finch said. “But that’s cool. You have to make music when you’re 16, too.”
Blasucci’s father taught him how to play guitar and his music collection led to appreciation for The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra.
Finch was influenced by a Ford Explorer. Time on the highway is a big part of life for L.A.-area dwellers, and the Finch family ride contained tapes by James Taylor, Bill Withers and Bob Marley.
“They influence me in how I hear and play music,” Finch said.
After high school, Finch and Blasucci went separate ways — Clay to Chico State to study and Sam to Saltillo, Mexico, to do missionary work. They eventually landed back home and resumed their musical collaboration.
“It was pretty natural,” Blasucci said. “It was like we left and came back and it was like we had never left.”
They live at the home of producer Jeff Horne, who was member of Circles Around the Sun, which recorded “Interludes For The Dead,” played during breaks from the 2015 Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead 50-year anniversary concerts. Guitarist Neal Casal was a member of the project, too. Casal and Chris Robinson of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood are frequent house visitors, and they have encouraged the two young Mapache members to pursue their passion.
Like the noisy L.A. club, the set up for Mapache’s recording session for the EP “Lonesome LA Cowboy” was simply one microphone in the middle of Horne’s living room. Finch and Blasucci sang and played acoustic guitars. They did just two takes on songs, keeping the better version for the record.
Dead-on harmonies and precise strums and plucks reflect a live performance, which must be inspiring to witness. The title track was written by Peter Rowan and recorded in 1973 by New Riders of the Purple Sage. A stretched-out and slowed-down guitar jam at the end reveals the duo’s musical acumen.
Mapache’s old-timey bluegrass take on Tom Paxton’s 1964 Scottish folk song, “Last Thing On My Mind,” a sorrowful epigraph to a relationship, is heartbreakingly personal yet catchy – C’est la vie.
Mapache will play Sunday in another one of those under-the-radar Red Room shows at the Crystal Bay Casino. There are a litany of bands that have played at the venue before exploding nationally. Sunday’s event is especially cool. It’s a doubleheader that will be headlined by Howlin’ Rain.
“Their music is a little bit heavier than ours,” Blasucci said. “It’s pretty loud, I think and much more rock ‘n’ roll. Some of it has similar influences like the Gram Parsons world and Grateful Dead world of music but we both express it differently. We play acoustic guitars and they crank pretty loud. It will be a fun match. It will be a cool pairing.”
- Mapache and Howlin Rain
When: 9 p.m. Sunday, June 10
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room
- Mapache on Tour
- May 25 – Crystal Bay, NV – Crystal Bay*
May 26 – San Rafael, CA – Terrapin Crossroads*
June 3 – Agoura Hills, CA – Tiny Porch Concerts @ Peter Strauss Ranch
June 5 – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up**
June 6 – Los Angeles, CA – Fingerprints
June 7 – Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour**
June 8 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent**
June 9 – Sonoma, CA – Huichica
June 9 – Santa Cruz, CA – Moe’s Alley**
June 10 – Crystal Bay, NV – Crystal Bay Club Casino**
June 12 – Chico, CA – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company**
June 13 – Arcata, CA – Humbrews**
June 15 – Hunter, NY – Mountain Jam
July 7 – Mariposa, CA – Yosemite Music Festival
July 12 – Port Chester, NY – Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre*
July 13 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
July 14 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
July 15 – Ardmore, PA – The Ardmore Music Hall*
July 17 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom*
July 18 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen*
July 19 – Detroit, MI – El Club*
July 20 – Toronto, Canada – Velvet Underground
July 21 – Toronto, Canada – Velvet Underground
July 27 – Floyd, VA – FloydFest
August 2 – Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon
* With Grateful Shred
** With Nicki Bluhm