The Sam Chase & The Untraditional at the Mystic Theater, by Carolyn McCoy

Sam Chase & The Untraditional (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

If I had a smaller word limit for my reviews, I’d have to choose five adjectives that describe SF troubadour-rockers The Sam Chase and the Untraditional wisely. The words I would choose would be “hypnotic,” “mesmerizing,” “joyful,” “hilarious”…and then the acronym “OMFG!” Luckily I’m able to say more than five words, and because the Sam Chase deserves so many more. If it’s possible to fall in love with an entire band, I think that just happened to me.

Petaluma’s Mystic Theater was ground zero for my newfound obsession with the Sam Chase & the Untraditional. With the wall of sound that cascaded into my ears and body from the first notes of their opening song, “Carry My Bones, Too,” I was mesmerized. Bandleader Sam Chase, a true showman in every sense of the word, bantered with the audience, spewed puns and witticisms, and created a connection to the crowd like the true star he is. He could easily be singing his songs around a campfire, at an open mic, or at some bawdy bar in the days or yore. His larger-than-life presence is hypnotic and helped to elevate the band itself into heights of orgasmic sound with just an arm wave or a look, acting as both orchestra conductor and wizard-in-command at the same moment.

The Untraditional, Chase’s huge nine-member band, all looked as if they were having the time of their lives. They upheld the music by adding depth and mood to each of Chase’s songs. Cellist Devon McClive, drummer Ted Desmarais, pianist Debbie Neigher, guitarist Nikko Rios, violin player Chandra Johnson, bassist Liss Leigh, and special guests guitarist Adam Dragland and trumpet player Zachary Throne, all created an energy that joyously swallowed me whole. Chase’s songs are folk based, with lyrical content that is both dark and hilarious. They ran through an epic 16-song set, including favorites such as the rousing “I’ve Got Problems” and “Rock Bottom Never Felt So Good” as well as never-performed-live songs “Shit From Shinola” and “Devil’s Throne” from their upcoming soon-to-be-named concept-album. Special moments within the evening were an impromptu two-minute version of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” that started out as a joke in the middle of “Blood Flow,” and a visit from Petaluma-based songbirds the Rainbow Girls, who sat in for a few little ditties as well.

All in all, it was totally an “OMFG!” kind of night, with the Sam Chase crew as well as opening act, LA soul-rockers the Soft White Sixties, finding a place inside my heart via my ears.