Cameron Park Life

Walking Spanish wins a Sammy

By October 28, 2010

WALKING SPANISH is, left to right, Tom Gunterman, Chris Haislet, Alex Nelson, Rob Mills and Tim Picchi. Courtesy photo

WALKING SPANISH is, left to right, Tom Gunterman, Chris Haislet, Alex Nelson, Rob Mills and Tim Picchi. Courtesy photo

El Dorado County-borne rockers Walking Spanish reached a new step toward notoriety earlier this month when they brought home a coveted Sammy (Sacramento Area Music) Award for best rock band.

For those out of the loop, the Sammies have become a milestone for local recognition for musicians performing in all genres since their creation in the mid ‘90s. The award process entails peer nominations, followed by a series of promotional performances, voting by fans and a final award ceremony in the fall.
Walking Spanish guitarist and lead singer Alex Nelson, 22, was surprised when he found out via a Facebook post over the summer that his band had been nominated.
“I didn’t even know ahead of time,” he said. “This friend of ours posted a comment, ‘hey, congratulations on the Sammy nomination.’ That was the first I heard of it.”
He was even more taken aback when the band was announced as a winner during last weekend’s award ceremony and concert, held outdoors with free admission along the R Street corridor in true block party fashion (a departure from the familiar “black tie” ticketed affair at the Crest Theatre in past years).
“There were something like, 10 bands in the category, which is really, really broad to begin with,” he said. “Prieta, The Phantom Jets, The Inversions … all very popular bands who I have tons of respect for. When they called our name, I just couldn’t believe we won.”
Besides Nelson, Walking Spanish is bassist Tim Picchi, drummer Robert Mills, Christopher Haislet on keys and Tom Gunterman on electric violin.
Recently, Picchi’s younger brother, Patrick, has been filling in on drums when Mills, who currently lives in the Bay Area, has been unavailable to play in Sacramento.
“Patrick is 17 years old and already an incredible drummer,” Nelson said. “He and Rob have very different, complimentary styles. Patrick brings a lot of power to the band, while Rob is very intricate. We got called back for three encores the last time he played with us at Marylin’s … that never really happened before.”
The Sammies are organized every year by Sacramento News and Review. Contenders are nominated by their peers and ultimately chosen through votes tallied from fans, putting the selection process in the hands of fans instead of appointed judges like other similar contests.
The award was a satisfying closeout to a busy summer for the band, Nelson said, that included a week long “mini tour” of Northern California and extensive work on the band’s next CD, due out at the end of January.
Walking Spanish’s short tour consisted of dates at Berkeley’s Starry Plough, Santa Cruz’s Catalyst (they played the venue’s small stage while the infamous Ted Nugent put a “Stranglehold” on the big room’s crowd), San Franciso’s Carnivale celebration and a the unlikely venue of a barn in Pescadero.
“The barn show was really different,” Nelson said. “It was at this farm owned by an equestrian rider — you know, the guys who show and jump horses — named Kelly McNight. We played in the barn facing auditorium-style, hay bale seating. There was plenty of beer and we all camped out overnight. It was a crazy, trippy great time.” When the band wasn’t busy entertaining hipsters and grass-fed cattle they were hard at work on their as-yet-untitled CD in the San Francisco recording studio owned by Nelson’s brother, Jackie Greene, and former The Mother Hips front man Tim Bluhm. The band worked under the direction of producer David Simon-Baker, whose recording resume includes albums produced for The Mother Hips and Los Lobos, Nelson said.
Always active, Walking Spanish can be found playing on any given weekend in Sacramento or surrounding areas. Check them out this  Nov. 8 at the Press Club or keep up with the band and give them a listen on Myspace and Facebook.

Andy Laughlin


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