For years, touring groups have brought rock, jazz, blues and country to “the Jewel of the Mother Lode.” That was mainly because Byron and Laura Damiani were determined to use the Sutter Creek Theatre’s Art Deco ambiance as a transporting venue for the arts, a conduit for the community to be moved by high-level performances.
These days, the Damianis aren’t carrying that weight alone. The energetic personalities behind Sutter Creek Provisions and Feist Wines have also stepped in to bring great guitar pickers and singers to the city.
Considering what’s happening on a trio of stages, Sutter Creek is the undisputed epicenter of music in Amador County.
Susan Feist knew the plucky duet Mandolin Orange was something special when she convinced the pair to play at her tasting room in Amador City three years ago. Mandolin Orange has “blown up,” as they say, having just sold out the Fillmore in San Francisco. After Feist moved into her larger, shaded, vine-laced venue in Sutter Creek, she set about booking even more up-and-coming talent. Feist Wines’ current tasting room can accommodate 55 people during the winter and 80 in its courtyard for summer shows. That has helped lure musicians who are on the nationwide radar.
“This new agent I’ve gotten in (Los Angeles) has already sent me three really great bands,” Feist told me. “So I think the level of talent that’s been coming through has been really exciting.”
Such talent has included two-time Grammy-winner and multi-instrumentalist with the Old Crow Medicine Show Gill Landry, who performed at Feist in November 2018. The lead singer of the iconic Old Crow, Willie Watson, has also brought his rustic-roots style of play to Feist Wines, and he is again; Watson is one of the headliners for a special show Feist presents on June 22. Called the Eureka Street Music Festival, this special event kicks off with the sizzling juke-joint sounds of Amador’s Dog House Blues at 4 p.m. The next act taking the stage is the Deltaz, two highly praised brothers from Los Angeles who perform a rare take on the Americana sound. After that, Watson brings his singer-songwriter chops back to Sutter Creek. The show closes with the ’70s chic pop rock sounds of Ona, which comes to Amador all the way from West Virginia.
“I just want people to be able to come in and enjoy the wine and the farm-to-folk thing – the pizzas, salads and new layers to the menu – and to be able to sit while they listen to some of the best musicians around,” Feist said.
On the other end of Main Street, Casey and Darin Sexton create their own sonic magic at Provisions. They’re an obvious power duo for that task, what with Darin being the lead singer of the Highway 49 Band and Casey being a longtime radio host for KGC 1340 AM and 96.6 FM. The couple’s unapologetic, old-school tap house gets plenty of attention as it is for its selection of beers and ales; but once the Sextons started using their musical appreciation and connections to bring in bands, the unique entertainment factor at Provisions skyrocketed.
In the past few months, Provisions has hosted Yolo County’s top Americana band, the Bottom Dwellers, the high-spirited hillbilly sounds of Bear Market Riot and the Central Coast’s hottest new blues-rock group, August Sun. The Sextons continue to immerse themselves and their establishment in the national music scene; the week I wrote this, Casey had her radio show along on a backstage tour across the Midwest with the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, a major indie group that has also played Provisions.
While the city’s newer venues are sure to be exciting this summer, there will be plenty of action at the original cornerstone of music, the Sutter Creek Theatre. The excitement includes an appearance by Otis Redding III on July 13. This marks a chance to see him performing the songs of his too-soon departed father, Otis Redding Jr. It goes without saying that Otis Redding was a pathfinder in the history of soul music. His career started with legendary moments at the Apollo Theater. Later, when recovering from a dangerous polyp surgery in his throat, Redding brought his weather-stung voice into the studio to record “Dock of the Bay.” He tragically died in a plane crash in 1967. Over the years, Otis Redding III has worked to keep his father’s musical tradition alive. In July, the Sutter Creek Theatre helps bring that father-and-son journey to the foothills.
From Feist’s perspective, her wine bar, Provisions and the Sutter Creek Theatre are combining to give the county a unique one, two, three punch in top-level entertainment. And Feist loves that the city of Sutter Creek is at the center of this moment in time.
“Between the three of us, there’s so much quality music,” she said.
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