Santa Feans of a certain age will no doubt recall the brief yet glorious reign of math-metal act The Seventh Circle. What many might not know is that one of its members, formerly local guitarist Trevor Bahnson, hung up his metal riffs for forays into gorgeous acoustic folky/Americana-esque songwriting some years ago. And the results have been excellent. Turns out Bahnson had the voice of a goddamn angel that whole time, and all that complicated guitar stuff he was doing in his metal days helped him to become one of our time’s most impressive musicians—genre or fame level irrelevant. These days, Bahnson travels more often than not, from years living in Los Angeles and performing with the Americana trio Song Preservation Society to time spent busking in Berlin, where he says the street music scene is fascinating and thriving. Bahnson has adapted to a nomadic lifestyle while constantly penning new material. “Sometimes heartbreak can do it, sometimes comfort can do it,” Bahnson says of his songwriting style. “I’ve been pretty unsettled as far as places to live; I’m traveling a lot, and that can inspire it.”
This obviously lends cred to his solo offerings, but lately Bahnson also makes time for Oakland, California's Whiskerman, a soulful rock act that pieces together so many old and new styles that it's tough to nail down a precise description, and they're coming to Santa Fe. From one song to the next, Whiskerman deftly weaves a simultaneous homage to mid-'70s classic rock, Motown soul, ambient soundscapes and modern rock with the slightest hints of folk and gospel strewn in for good measure. This can mean anything from head-bumpin', bass-heavy dance jams to whisper-soft introspective ruminations, but either way, front man/songwriter Graham Patzner's powerful vocal work sells it so cohesively that it's joyfully difficult to know where the separation between the band's many influences begins or ends.
The son of classical musicians, Patzner says he's always liked being a musician—he just never much cared for practicing. "My parents were kind of working-man musicians," he says. "They were always in one town playing with an orchestra or teaching lessons." No, Patzner didn't follow suit and go the classically trained route, but he did take private lessons from the time he was 5 and altogether, he's a lyricist, pianist, guitarist and violinist. Whiskerman began as his solo project. "I started forming the band bit by bit," he says, "but we went through a lot of players and now we're settled on a pretty solid band."
Solid indeed. Just take the YouTube tour to see what he's talking about. "What we're aiming for is … it kind of comes from a '70s feel, but symphonic or orchestral—rock 'n' roll," Patzner says. "There's some psychedelic stuff in there, it's definitely not just 'rock/soul,' and the songs are not just about 'I love you,' but maybe the spiritual crisis, or change and catalyst or those moments where songwriting can show you deeper into the window of your own life."
Patzner and crew have released two albums through small independent Bay Area labels like OIM, and Patzner says they're working on another already. For this tour, however, Whsikerman takes over Jono Manson's Kitchen Sink Recording Studio for some live audio and video recordings in front of an audience. Bahnson opens the show with his solo offerings. Neither he nor Patzner can say what will ultimately become of the recordings, but it should still be a good time for all. Kudos to Manson, by the way, for kicking off a series of shows and live recordings in his beautiful studio space.
As for this particular outing, it seems a Santa Fe no-brainer: it's folk enough that y'all should probably perk the hell up and pay attention but rock enough and different enough that people might even sneakily hear something outside the norm. Either way, Whiskerman boasts some of the most universally enjoyable fare we've heard in some time, and Bahnson is—I'm just going to say it—a musical genius. Effortless and skillful; sincere and moving. Damn, where do we get tickets for this thing?
Whiskerman with Trevor Bahnson
8 pm Thursday April 20. $20.
The Kitchen Sink Recording Studio,
528 Jose St.,