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Blame Sally

Saturday June 8th @ 6:00pm - 10:00pm

Food avail­able for pur­chase. Pur­chase your food in advance online!

Please, no out­side food or drink

More infor­ma­tion at: blame​sal​ly​.com

If you sense a slight incon­gruity in the title of Blame Sally’s Speed­ing Tick­et and a Valen­tine, rest assured that it’s as pur­pose­ful as the life it describes is ran­dom. The album lifts its name from a line in the bridge of the hard- charg­ing lead­off sin­gle, Liv­ing With­out You,” which describes a day, or maybe entire existence,that’s sweet and sour at the same
time/​mink and a porcupine/​speeding tick­et and a valen­tine.” Clear­ly, this is a band that knows its oxymorons.

The four women who make up the Bay area- based group have some expe­ri­ence with improb­a­ble com­plex­i­ties and con­tra­dic­tions. Almost every­thing about their his­to­ry is con­trary to con­ven­tion­al wis­dom. For one thing, they put their indi­vid­ual careers aside to start Blame Sal­ly when they were in their late 30s and 40s — the age at which bands are tra­di­tion­al­ly sup­posed to break up and begin solo careers. For anoth­er, this is obvi­ous­ly an all-woman band — girl groups”
usu­al­ly being the nov­el province of youth­ful upstarts, not mature singer/​songwriters. Split­ting the front­per­son sta­tus among each of the four mem­bers goes against the agreed-upon max­im (agreed upon by every­one but the Bea­t­les, any­way) that every group needs a sin­gle strong focal point. And didn’t they get the memo that women, in par­tic­u­lar women in show biz, are sup­posed to be pack­ing it in at this point, not mak­ing fresh introductions?

Actu­al­ly, they did get that memo and prompt­ly tossed it into the prover­bial cir­cu­lar file. We’ve real­ized that some of the things that might have been con­sid­ered lia­bil­i­ties were actu­al­ly assets,” says vocalist/​pianist Mon­i­ca Pasqual, and that in truth, the very thing you might be think­ing you should hide or isn’t going to help you is some­thing that peo­ple are excit­ed

One of the things I real­ly enjoy about being in this band is how inspired our audi­ences are by us,” agrees vocalist/​guitarist
Renee Har­court. There’s a real open­ness and lov­ing­ness between the band mem­bers, and a lot of joy, and I think peo­ple get that when they watch us play. In addi­tion to that, I think peo­ple find what we’re doing very inspi­ra­tional, because it’s a time in your life when you’re think­ing, Am I doing what I real­ly love to do?’ You start ques­tion­ing your career choic­es around that time, along with a lot of things in your life. And we’ve been for­tu­nate enough to be able to defy the odds and do what we love. Peo­ple enjoy see­ing that.”

There are a lot of peo­ple who become real­ly con­nect­ed to us, and fas­ci­nat­ed by Ooh, what’s their sto­ry?’ We’ve had
fanat­i­cal fans in their 40s and old­er, and also plen­ty of young girls who’ve been super into it. Just think­ing that’s cool — Wow, that could be my mom!’” she laughs

That’s not every­thing,” Pasqual points out. If we were com­ing out and our music sucked, or it was not vital-sound­ing, I don’t think that peo­ple would be like Oh, cool, they’re in their 40s,’ or what­ev­er,” she laughs. But they’re dig­ging what we’re doing, and they’re see­ing that it’s fresh and that it has life and orig­i­nal­i­ty — and then you throw in a How weird…!’ on top of that. It’s like when Lucin­da Williams real­ly hit when she was in her 40s. She’d been doing it for a long time, but for a lot of peo­ple, that was the first time they real­ly heard her, and it was like: God, she rocks, she’s cool, she’s got edge, and she doesn’t fit the stu­pid mold.”

The mem­bers of Blame Sal­ly don’t have to work too hard to find the depth in their songs: Hav­ing lived a lit­tle leaves no choice but to go deep­er. In 2006 Har­court was diag­nosed with and suc­cess­ful­ly fought breast can­cer and Pasqual’s long­time boyfriend was diag­nosed with MS. Need­less to say, these don’t real­ly com­pare with flat tires on the tour van or oth­er worst-case adver­si­ties com­mon to bands start­ing up right out of college.

But — not to get oxy­moron­ic again — some of the per­son­al set­backs helped prompt some of the career breakthroughs.

Harcourt’s ill­ness total­ly affect­ed the band — but in a good way,” she says. I got my diag­no­sis and then two weeks lat­er Tom was diag­nosed with MS, so that was a very rough sum­mer for us. But we held togeth­er very tight­ly through all that. It’s still going on for Tom and Mon­i­ca, unfor­tu­nate­ly. But what hap­pened for me per­son­al­ly… It sounds so trite, but you know what hap­pens: You’re like, Oh my God, I might die,’ and then you start look­ing at your life like, Am I real­ly doing what I real­ly want to be doing?’ And the fact was, I’d been doing graph­ic design for decades and I was burnt out on it while the music was what was feed­ing me.

But I was the one who was hold­ing the band back in terms of real­ly mak­ing a go of it,” Har­court con­tin­ues, because I had
this busi­ness, I have a teenage daugh­ter and my time just wasn’t as flex­i­ble as theirs was. I went to the band and said, You
guys, what if we just real­ly try to do this for real instead of just for fun?’ And it was at that time that every­thing changed. The three of them were like, Hell yeah!’ Sud­den­ly all these things hap­pened. We got a man­ag­er, we got a book­ing agent, and then we got a great record deal that made it pos­si­ble for us to focus on music full time. It was quite inter­est­ing how once we all had the same goal, things real­ly start­ed to kick in.”

Speed­ing Tick­et and a Valen­tine is Blame Sally’s lat­est release on Ninth Street Opus, a Berke­ley-based label that’s also home to Amer­i­cana favorites like Car­rie Rodriguez and Sarah Lee Guthrie & John­ny Iri­on. After a suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gram­my Award-nom­i­nat­ed pro­duc­er Lee Townsend on 2009’s Night of 1000 Stars, Blame Sal­ly opt­ed to self pro­duce this time, striv­ing to cap­ture the edgi­ness of their live per­for­mances on the CD. Ear­ly buzz on the album has enabled them to land two-nights in late April 2011 at the leg­endary Great Amer­i­can Music Hall in San Fran­cis­co to kick-off the release.

The suc­cess of that shift is quick­ly appar­ent in Liv­ing With­out You,” a hard-rock­ing song about a woman uncer­tain whether to be dev­as­tat­ed or exhil­a­rat­ed by a relationship’s demise. (In line with Blame Sally’s embrace of the con­tra­dic­to­ry, the answer is, of course, both.) That rest­less band atti­tude also com­pels the dri­ving rock & roll of Pasqual’s Count­down,” a cry for love amid a thor­ough cat­a­logu­ing of mod­ern soci­etal nar­cotics, both lit­er­al and figurative.

Less fran­tic moments of anx­ious gor­geous­ness still abound. The open­ing track, Bird in Hand,” couldn’t be more in the
tra­di­tion of acousti­cal­ly ren­dered boy-los­es-girl folk tragedies, with Pasqual acknowl­edg­ing her debt to Bob Dylan’s
song­writ­ing style. Pasqual’s moth­er is from Spain, and she her­self lived in Mex­i­co for a while after leav­ing her Utah home,
which goes some way toward explain­ing why Pajaro Sin Alas” is not the first song Blame Sal­ly has record­ed that is at least
part­ly en español.

We were work­ing it out in the stu­dio, and Mon­i­ca sang it through a cou­ple times and it was beau­ti­ful,” says Del­ga­do. Then, for some rea­son, I think Mon­i­ca said, Why don’t we see what hap­pens if Pam sings the song?’ It just so hap­pened that at the time I was going through some real­ly hard stuff with my fam­i­ly and that par­tic­u­lar per­for­mance, on that day, was what the song need­ed to con­vey, so we kept it. I think it’s amaz­ing and a real hon­or that she would entrust me to sing such a per­son­al song.”

It was a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet,” con­firms Pasqual. That song and Take Me There’, I would say, are the two most raw, very hon­est songs I wrote for the album. Pam’s such a great singer and I actu­al­ly think that vocal­ly she was able to hit some of those notes that were hard­er for me to hit. But my songs tend to be so per­son­al most of the time, and that one in par­tic­u­lar, that it was a lit­tle bit of an odd feel­ing to give it away to be sung by some­body else. But Pam kills it.”

This last state­ment high­lights some­thing that fans of Blame Sal­ly can’t get enough of. Even though most of the time we bring fin­ished songs to the band, when it comes to arrang­ing, it’s always like a great sur­prise, and it’s a very demo­c­ra­t­ic process. Everybody’s open, and it becomes everybody’s song. I think that’s one of the things peo­ple love about the band — they see the excite­ment we all have in pre­sent­ing each oth­er and pre­sent­ing each other’s songs.”

One song, Back in the Sad­dle,” is a true group col­lab­o­ra­tion, with Renee’s teenaged daugh­ter even cred­it­ed as an addi­tion­al writer. In this num­ber, the pos­si­bly real, pos­si­bly myth­i­cal Sal­ly of the group’s name makes her first appear­ance in their lyrics, as they describe a char­ac­ter who gave up artis­tic pur­suits for the more worka­day world. Every day Sally’s sup­posed to look younger/Can’t let them see des­per­a­tion and hunger…” The band mem­bers didn’t take the path of the char­ac­ter in the song, but they cer­tain­ly relate to the pres­sures she feels.

Deal­ing with issues com­mon to women? Def­i­nite­ly. Just for women? Hard­ly. It’s true that, in the Bay area, the group has a
large les­bian fol­low­ing, and there are gay as well as straight women with­in the band. It’s an amaz­ing bless­ing for us to have a real­ly strong women’s fol­low­ing at our home base. But that may have prej­u­diced some peo­ple who have nev­er heard what we’re doing. When we go on tour, there are often more men than women at our shows. I think for every­body in the band, to be defined as women’s music’ feels wrong, it feels inac­cu­rate and limiting.”

Cer­tain­ly the musi­cal con­no­ta­tions of the women’s music” tag tend to be more strict­ly acoustic and folky than this oft-
elec­tri­fied band has turned out to be. I’m a big fan of the pop song and its struc­ture,” says Har­court. I think my song­writ­ing tends to be a lit­tle more pop­py than Monica’s. I think Mon­i­ca is much more lyric-dri­ven, and I’m prob­a­bly more melod­ic and chord-change-driven.”

Renee’s kind of a hit song­writer,” agrees lead gui­tarist Jeri Jones. But that’s not exclu­sive to her. Pam has writ­ten
Hur­ri­cane’ and Trou­ble,’ two of our most pop­u­lar songs. And Mon­i­ca is the queen of lyrics. I have enor­mous respect for the depth that she writes with.” There are oth­er clear dif­fer­ences among the four­some. There is so much diver­si­ty in the band because of our back­grounds,” Jones con­tin­ues. Pam and I both have a lot of R&B and coun­try influ­ence, and Pam brings a soul­ful­ness and charis­ma, espe­cial­ly in live per­for­mance, that peo­ple just can’t resist. I have no jazz influ­ence at all, where Renee is super-jazz-ori­ent­ed in her back­ground. Her dad was a musi­cian, and she has a real­ly inter­est­ing under­stand­ing of ensem­ble arrange­ment. Mon­i­ca stud­ied solo clas­si­cal piano and brings a lot of clas­si­cal influ­ence. She also lis­tens to a lot of the super-inde­pen­dent stuff that the rest of us don’t. I think one of the great things about the new album is that it’s got ele­ments of all those things.”

What­ev­er place they came at this from, they are uni­fied in actu­al­ly hav­ing chops. This per­haps shouldn’t count as a nov­el­ty
but, for what­ev­er rea­son, still does. I don’t think there are that many well-known women singer-song­writ­ers who are that good on their instru­ments,” says Pasqual. Ani DiFran­co, Bon­nie Raitt, or Tori Amos, yeah, but they’re often backed up by men. So peo­ple do get sur­prised when they see four women play­ing real­ly well. It cross­es a lot of gen­der and age stereo­types, too; peo­ple who are just into music all real­ly relate to that.” When it comes to the list of stereo­types Blame Sal­ly will be hap­py to dis­abuse you of, we’re gonna need a big­ger scroll.

Blame Sal­ly got start­ed in 2000 when Pasqual was putting togeth­er musi­cians to play at a kick­off con­cert for one of her solo
projects. She and Har­court had known each oth­er since mutu­al­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in a song­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion years before. For this sup­pos­ed­ly sin­gu­lar pro­mo­tion­al show, Pasqual also enlist­ed two of the most sought-after side musi­cians on the scene, her old friends and band­mates Jeri Jones and Pamela Del­ga­do. It was the one-off gig that’s last­ed 11 years — and counting.

We were fed up and dis­il­lu­sioned with the music scene,” says Har­court, so when we start­ed play­ing togeth­er, we were like,
Let’s just do this for fun, with no expec­ta­tions of achiev­ing any type of quote-unquote suc­cess”.’ Of course that meant it
became the most suc­cess­ful project that any of us have had.”

When we formed the band, we were sick of try­ing to please an elu­sive indus­try. I know I nev­er want­ed to write or pro­duce
songs that I didn’t real­ly feel authen­tic about. And I didn’t real­ly like try­ing to present myself in a way I didn’t feel authen­tic
about, or lying about my age. It wasn’t some­thing I was ever inter­est­ed in, and I think for women, that’s a big strug­gle. But I think it was lib­er­at­ing when we also real­ized this: When you’re 29, you can say you’re 23 or 24, which is already push­ing it as far as the industry’s idea of how old a woman should be. But by the time you’re in your late 30s, it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter if you look 30 instead of 39. Who cares? You’re already over the hill at 30!

So we just were kind of like, Screw it, we’re not gonna make it any­way’ — in that sense — so let’s just have fun.’ So we did.
And we noticed that sud­den­ly we start­ed get­ting big­ger and big­ger audi­ences, our joy was infec­tious. And our stan­dard of
Let’s just make this good, let’s just have fun, and we’re not gonna be any­thing that we’re not,” peo­ple respond­ed a lot to that. Women are frus­trat­ed with this idea that you’ve peaked in your 20s. It feels so false and yet it’s real­ly per­va­sive in our soci­ety, with the images that are per­pet­u­at­ed every­where. Every­body knows that’s false, but there aren’t very many peo­ple out there just deny­ing it; instead, they’re try­ing to accom­mo­date it somehow.”

Call Blame Sal­ly queens among non-acco­mo­da­tion­ists, then… even if you’re unlike­ly to soon hear an album any more warm, invit­ing, heart­felt, or, yes, down­right musi­cal­ly accom­mo­dat­ing than Speed­ing Tick­et and a Valen­tine — the kind of Blame every­one will want to spread around.


Pam Del­ga­do: Per­cus­sion, gui­tar, vocals
Renee Har­court: Gui­tar, bass, ban­jo, har­mon­i­ca, vocals
Jeri Jones: Gui­tar, bass, dobro, man­do­line, vocals
Mon­i­ca Pasqual: piano, keys, accor­dion, melod­i­ca, vocals

Out­door show. Doors open at 6:00, show starts at 7:00.

Food will be avail­able for purchase.