On Saturday June 15, The Paper Crowns adorned The Wine Tailor in Rancho Cucamonga, California from approximately 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For those not up on their indie acts, The Paper Crowns are: Spiro Nicolopoulos (vocals, guitar, banjo, stomp drums and loops), Nicole Pond (vocals, guitar, harmonica, stomp tambourine and stomp drums) and Dan Hazard (standup bass and “the occasional shout”).
The sounds of The Paper Crowns’ opening number were already falling on Foothill Boulevard as your rather reclusive writer and his sexy sidekick made the scene at the converted winery. One immediately witnessed an assortment of audience members at the quaint, vino-soaked venue. There were button-down shirts and girls in skirts, drinkers and thinkers, young and old.
Regular readers know that your usually penned-in penman promised to venture out and experience the music more regularly. So, as usual, don’t expect an in-depth analysis or a perfect playlist. It’s all about the overall experience and not a detailed documentation. Just be happy to hear highlights, mmmkay?
Memorable musical moments in the band’s first set included their performance of Johnny Cash’s of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Sure, it’s been done before-and it’ll be done again but Hazard’s slap-hand bass and the overall “new grass” nudge the band added refreshed the classic cut. Their take on the blues standard “Stormy Monday” with a little bit of scat courtesy of Nicolopoulos made it noteworthy.
The band brought out some soundtrack selections with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” from Good Morning, Vietnam and such Beetlejuice bits as Harry Belefonte’s “Shake Shake Shake Senora” and “Day–O (The Banana Boat Song)” . The intimate audience also enjoyed the group’s version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” and Cash cut “Ring of Fire”.
Their second set opened with an acoustic, folk-influenced version of the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams”. They also managed to give a bluegrass burst to the Stealers Wheel tune “Stuck in the Middle with You” and inject a song made famous by Linda Ronstadt—“You’re No Good”—with a funky guitar solo. The set ended with a memorable albeit reluctantly rendered request—Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”—which worked well in their musical mix.
Their final set included a cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” which turned out to be quite a fan favorite with much of the audience dancing and singing along. Even your rockin’ reviewer’s able-bodied assistant, Miss Sparks, felt the need to foot it with the other free-form frolickers.
The band brought out some original songs as well including the evocative, literary-laced, song-story “O Death Where Is Thy Sting” and the Clapton-like “Biscuit Roller Blues” which included a dash of Hendrix to boot. The evening also included the closing cut “Glory Glory”, from their disc See You Tonight which comes complete with an apropos unapologetically-lifted line from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Yes, aside from their own material The Paper Crowns play a lot of covers but they joyously inject them with their energetic “alt-roots” influence. The wide variety of genres on the tuneful trio’s playlist, personal vibe and interesting instrument selections made for an entertaining evening.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.