Saturday marked evening No. 3 of Loud As Folk’s 7th anniversary and everyone’s eyes seem a little bloodshot.
Resident sound guy Greg Gilmore woke up at 5:30pm. Hangovers aside, the team assembled to support Spike McGuire, Reno music and The Generator, a community space for artists and people wanting to learn something.
Josh Windmiller of The Crux from Santa Rosa sets up for a show by pulling a heavy chain and wrench from a black wooden box. Before each song, he wraps the chain around his foot to stomp and clank some percussion.
He sang a song about Reno in a gravely guttural voice and won the crowd over immediately. He has the vocal freedom of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock.
“Seven years,” Windmiller said. “That’s a tough thing.”
He suggested audience members should get a beer, then make a friend and buy them a beer.
“Hell,” Windmiller said. “Buy me a beer!”
He said some days he’s not suited to be in front of people because he has absolutely nothing to say. Despite running out of small talk, he pleased the crowd and initiated possibly the first slow dance during the four-day fest.
Willy Tea Taylor was second on the bill. He pulled a small four-string tenor guitar out of its case.
“Willy is magical,” headliner Rachael McElhiney said. “When you’re around him – things happen.”
McElhiney met the other performers back in her Buster Blue days. She spoke of Taylor and his town, Knights Ferry, like mystical fantasies.
When Taylor started playing, people sat down and stomped their feet in front of him.
If I saw bulky, red-bearded Taylor walking down the street, superficial me would assume he was in a metal band. Instead, he unexpectedly started with a beautiful rendition of the spiritual “Wade in the Water.” He then played a sweet a cappella ballad for a damn good dog he misses.
He closes his eyes and feels every word. His whistle solos are superb. His voice seems to harbor a North Carolinian drawl, but he hails from California.
“I’m Reno as fuck,” Taylor said. “I’ve got a sticker. I carry that around the world with me and I say ‘fuck yeah I’m Reno as fuck'”.
He told a story about someone asking him how he got the sticker. His answer – lots of long nights in Reno.
“It’s nice to pull into Reno seeing everyone wrecked from the night before,” Taylor said. “Because the town usually wrecks me and we can just get wrecked again together.”
Next up was Sam Chase of San Francisco. He’s a touring machine and has graced the stages of the High Sierra Music Festival and Outside Lands.
“I’m hungover as folk,” Chase said.
But he didn’t let it get to him. He said when you go on tour with Willy Tea Taylor you get used to it.
He’s articulate and plays cerebral songs. Songs about friends and life. He growls over quick guitar trills like a riled-up version of James Taylor.
He dedicated a song to Spike and called him the “King of Reno” and dared anyone to challenge the crown. Before starting the song, someone dropped a donation in The Generator’s bucket. Chase thanked him. The donator said “No, thank you.” Chase said “Oh, how polite.” Then they brought it in for a hug.
“That was a nice moment,” Chase said. “That’s rare. Let’s give a round of applause for that moment.”
McElhiney has been playing music since the sixth grade. She said she felt the same way before Loud As Folk as she did before her first saxophone solo in band. She was drinking hot tea and hoping her voice was up for the set. During the sound check her baritone ukulele wasn’t getting quite loud enough.
“I’m better at the singing part anyway,” McElhiney said through a beautiful smile. “I’m a saxophone player, I’m not used to accompanying myself.”
People who get nervous always seem to be the most talented and robust artists. The woman “nervous about her voice” started with an a capella. She sang and snapped into the mic. The crowd roared in response to her voice resonating in the small venue.
Her voice and skills are dynamic. She hummed and scatted even while cycling instruments. She was accompanied by her baritone clarinet and drummer Alise Corbin.
There are two types of divas, one is difficult to please, the other has the voice of a goddess. McElhiney is Reno’s diva, and I dare you to find her without a smile.
– Tony Contini