Support local musicians

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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My favorite pastime is to hear live music. Whatever city I’m in, I find the closest venues so I can immediately unwind. Musicians who effortlessly play their instruments before crowds or jam on the spur of the moment impresses me just as much today as it did at my first concerts back in college. Even with eight years of piano lessons, I still don’t understand how musicians can decide whether to play by ear in the key of B flat, for example, or the key of F flat. And after practicing for thousands of hours all these years later, I remain nervous if anyone other than my family hears me messing around on my piano. I couldn’t even imagine making it through one song on stage, much less instantly transposing the chords to another key. So I think musicians are very lucky. So does Gene Thorpe, who by day is broker/manager of Pavilion Realty, Inc. in Lincoln, and by night, is either practicing or performing his beloved R&B and rock tunes. Thorpe, who fronts The Fabulous DeVilles, has played professionally, ever since 1961 when he was 14 years old. Instruments he has mastered include the guitar, keyboards, drum, harmonica, bass and vocals. Thorpe has been in six bands since 1961, the last 16 years with current and former DeVilles. In the Sacramento-based Simultaneous Avalanche from 1969 to 1978, Thorpe played rock, R&B and soul across the United States. “It’s sort of like what the DeVilles do now. James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Sly & The Family Stones; horns-based,” Thorpe said. “Music is more fun than anything I can think of, except for a good escrow closing.” That’s great news since Thorpe rehearsed almost daily this past week. And he also performed three times this week; Thorpe sat in with Gun Shy at Thursday’s downtown Farmers’ Market; played old-time country songs and standards Friday at Lincoln Manor with another Realtor, Ron Barringer; and was with another band at Granite Springs Church on Sunday. “The thing is, when you rehearse and refine it, it gives you a great deal of satisfaction. When you play and get good reaction, that’s also great satisfaction,” Thorpe explained. “It’s like writing – you could be like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, get paid lots of money and that’s great. Or, like the rest of us, play for the satisfaction and that’s also great.” He can’t imagine not being with a band, although a musician’s life includes more than the few hours on stage or the many hours practicing at home. Also included are the many tedious hours before and after most gigs, such as driving to and from venues, setting up and tearing down heavy equipment, often for little pay and often when their friends are unwinding at home. In fact, the only aspect Thorpe doesn’t like about his need to play is that he doesn’t see his friends as much as he’d like. “Maybe the only bad part is you’ve committed so many hours a night that you miss other times when you could be at a friend’s party or wedding,” Thorpe said, before pausing and adding, “That’s the only downside. I would still do it.” For Thorpe, it’s about building relationships with others, both the audience and his band members.  The best part, Thorpe said, is “watching the audience have fun.” Doug Weiss, in the Lincoln Highway Band, shares the same sentiments. “If it’s a concert, how much is the audience into the song? With the dancing, how many people are on the dance floor,” Weiss explained. “If the dance floor is full, we’re doing our job.” Weiss, a former Cal State Hayward athletic director and baseball coach, is the bass player and shares vocals in the Lincoln Highway Band. Never mind that this is supposed to be Weiss’ retirement years. During the summer, Weiss instead is practicing or performing five nights a week with his band mates. Other seasons, he is working with the Lincoln Highway Band on the average of three days a week. “We’re having a tremendous time playing music. It makes it better that people are enjoying our music. It’s a win-win,” Weiss said. Lincoln Highway Band and The Fabulous DeVilles will play the next two Wednesdays in downtown Nevada City. I’m excited that residents in my former hometown will have a chance to hear these two talented Lincoln groups. I hope that Lincoln fans of the Lincoln Highway Band and The Fabulous DeVilles take a 50-minute ride to Nevada City on July 22 and July 29, respectively, to support them. Playing music is hard work and takes years to be at a professional level. But how easy it is for us, the fans, to support Thorpe, Weiss and their other band members at gigs while having a great time ourselves. Know and Go: Lincoln Highway Band When: 9 to 11 p.m. July 22 The Fabulous DeVilles When: 9 to 11 p.m. July 29 Where: Posh Nosh, 318 Broad St. Admission: $5