Red Meat — from left, Jill Olson, Smelley Kelley, Les James, Scott Young and Michael Montalto — will play at The Palms on Saturday. Courtesy photo

Red Meat — from left, Jill Olson, Smelley Kelley, Les James, Scott Young and Michael Montalto — will play at The Palms on Saturday. Courtesy photo


The Palms serves up Red Meat on Saturday

By From page A14 | August 21, 2013

The Bay Area-based band Red Meat mixes rockabilly, country, Western swing, gospel-style harmonies and warmly irreverent fun into its own infectious blend of honky-tonk twang. Red Meat returns for an 8 p.m. show Saturday, Aug. 24, at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters. Tickets are $15.

Red Meat bears the stamp of the five members’ Midwestern and Ozark upbringings in their vocal harmonies, ’60s and ’70s rock music in its bass groove and telecaster guitar solos, and the effervescent sense of humor of its adopted Bay Area home base in its lyrics and banter. Red Meat combines all these influences into a sound and live show in which the country and honky-tonk twang is in cheerful coexistence with an exuberant, almost post-punk, rock ‘n’ roll sensibility.

Case in point: One song kicks off with scorching fiddle, launches into tight bluegrass-style harmony vocals, adds a tasty guitar fill and is an ode to a “12-Inch, 3-Speed Oscillating Fan.” In other hands, this might be a deadly laughable combination, but with Red Meat, audience members break into grins as they are swept up into the music and a particular kind of joy of meeting the ridiculous head-on.

This is not to say that all of Red Meat’s songs are on off-the-wall topics. Jill Olson’s “Thriftstore Cowgirl” combines a roots-rock feel with subtly wistful lyrics, and her “Broken Up and Blue” was included in the soundtrack to “Monster’s Ball” (and was played as Halle Berry stepped forward to accept her best actress Oscar for her role in that movie).

Scott Young, the band’s primary songwriter and musical arranger, has penned songs ranging such as “Honky-Tonk Habit” that would have been right at home in Bakersfield’s country heyday to the just slightly tongue-in-cheek “Girl With The Biggest Hair” to the all-out rollicking fun of, yes, “12-Inch, 3-Speed Oscillating Fan.”

Since forming in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1993, Red Meat has gone from a bar band surprising — and winning over — urban rockers with its country twang to being hailed as California’s top honky-tonk band. Along the way, Red Meat has released five albums (three produced by Grammy-winning roots-rock icon Dave Alvin), served as rockabilly legend and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Wanda Jackson’s touring band, and received rave reviews from sources as varied as Entertainment Weekly, No Depression, Country Standard Time and the Los Angeles Times.

In honor of Red Meat’s 20th anniversary, the city and county of San Francisco named April 26, 2013, “Red Meat Day” complete with a mayoral proclamation and Red Meat delivering a lunchtime concert on the steps of City Hall.

Red Meat consistently delivers high-energy shows packed with tremendous music, irreverent humor and infectious sense of camaraderie that spills over to the audience. Red Meat is Smelley Kelley (vocals, audacious bantam-rooster stage presence), Olson (vocals, bass), Young (vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle, trombone), Les James (drums, percussion, vocals) and Michael Montalto (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, accordion, piano).

Tickets are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if the show is not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and redmeat.net.

Kate Laddish

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