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Rising stars Blame Sally to play in Auburn
Concert set for Friday at Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center
TIME: 8 p.m. Friday, doors open at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn
In this era of "The Voice," "American Idol," "Duets," and "X Factor" ad nauseam, it was the Bay Area band Blame Sally on a KVIE/PBS fundraiser last summer that lured me to the TV and then to their September gig at Harlow's.
It was a packed house, mostly female, when Blame Sally hit the stage: Pam Delgado on percussion and vocals; Renee Harcourt on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Rob Strom on bass; Jeri Jones on guitar, bass and vocals; and Monica Pasqual on piano, accordion and vocals.
"Hands tied behind my back/ Watch the train run off the track/ Do you want your money back?/ Do you want?" Harcourt's voice in her "Throw Me A Bone" is clear and plaintive — earnest and angry, too — a mélange of emotions paired beautifully with Jones' guitar riffs.
"I'm sick of the news they're talking at me/ Everybody's killing everybody/ Everybody's killing everybody/ Countdown every night," Pasqual proclaimed under a driving beat in the stinging "Countdown." When Delgado finished a gut-wrenching "Chain of Fools" with Strom on upright bass, the audience sat stunned.
The women fronted the stage straight across with Delgado standing at a "cocktail set" of drums and Pasqual vacating her stool occasionally to caress the accordion. They didn't have fog machines, fire visuals or prancing dancers. They didn't need them.
These mostly 40-somethings craft their songs and amazing harmonies around life experience, offering sharp social commentary or vivid narratives of love, yearning, illness, motherhood and betrayal. Couple that with their own finely honed musical score melding rock and country with Celtic, Latin and Middle Eastern flavors, and it's no wonder their music resonates with fans, even across the big pond, especially in Germany and Scotland.
At a rehearsal last month in a cavernous hall kept by their Berkeley-based record label Ninth Street Opus, Blame Sally, minus the ailing Strom, revealed how their music came together.
"Monica and I met in 1990 at a songwriters competition in Napa. She won," Harcourt laughed.
Pasqual was working on a solo project, and a mutual acquaintance recommended a female guitar player — Jones, who was already playing music with Delgado.
"Monica got us together," Jones recalled. "It was really fun to play." But no one was interested in a serious band commitment then.
"We had our own projects and disappointments," Pasqual related, "and were kind of tired of the business of music and thought 'nothing is gonna happen; we're way past our prime.'"
Then they landed at the Bazaar Café on Clement Street in San Francisco. "People started coming. We didn't have one bummer of a gig," Delgado happily remembered.
They put out a demo of their music and the gigs just flowed, along with five albums. With all that estrogen and some strong heads there, it's easy to imagine a major war of egos. But not so with the "Sallies," as they call themselves.
"Our main influence is the love of our songs and acoustic harmonies. There isn't a front person," Pasqual explained. "People also make a big deal about our being a girl band, but that isn't what this is about." Plus with Strom, Blame Sally is not just a girl band.
"Rob's been with us for three years," Jones injected about the absent Strom, who manages a bass guitar just as expertly as he handles an upright bass. A full-time member, Jones lauds Strom and his "bass player personality — low key and grounded. It's easy to be around him, and that's rare to find in a guy to fit in with the four of us."
"It's about what's the best for the song," Pasqual continued. "We're also critical with each other. If it's not working or good, we say it — keeps it honest. We work until we end up with something we're happy with."