Blonde Toledo is a local San Francisco band that has a unique element of horns performed by Connie Walkershaw that somehow manages to play two saxophones at the same time. They’ll be releasing a new LP at the end of the month and to go along with it a record-release party Jan. 27 at the iconic San Francisco music venue, The Makeout Room.
Leading up to the show we spoke to Jesse, the band’s bassist, about where they got their name, when their interest in music first began, and what the funniest thing is that’s happened to them at a live show.
How’d you come up with the band name?
Our drummer Rick Kennon frequents a masseuse by the name of Juan Toledo. One night at rehearsal, as we were playing the name the band game (which can be hilarious, nauseating, or brain deadening, often simultaneously), he happened as an aside to mention Juan Toledo, which Connie heard as Blonde Toledo. “That’s it!” she shouted.
How would you describe your sound?
Oh god, I was hoping you would describe it for me, as I am a bit too involved to have a critical vision. Leave it to say that there is a lot of saxophones, even though we have only one sax player. Melody, both instrumentally, as well as songs, is the lynchpin of the whole affair. Our songs with words tell excellent stories, while they, and frankly, everything we do is very dancey, just not in that machine way that’s so popular with, well … with machine people.
Even though we have an electric guitar and electric bass, we use them in a natural way, so they don’t alienate the wonderful warmth of drums and percussion. So when we really get that good bounce going, it all hangs together in a nice “organic” way, but not all hippie granola.
When did you first become interested in playing music?
When I got drafted into my first punk band, back in the arty part of the punk days. Connie, on the other hand, used to play flute in her father’s group, backing up belly dancers, so she was getting paid to play as a tween. She shifted to Sax when she joined her first rock band, so she could be heard over all those loud guitar guys
What’s the funniest that’s ever happened to you at a show?
One night we were playing Revolution Cafe. That same night, The Conspiracy Of Beards (a 20 person chorus that sings only Leonard Cohen songs) was performing across the street at The Makeout Room. In the middle of our second set, the whole Conspiracy of Beards comes in, as our guitarist at the time was a COB alum.
Now Revolution Cafe is a very small room, which was already crowded before the beards showed up, and now it’s packed to the rafters, literally, as several members of the Beards have climbed up on the little round tables that are scattered around the place.
Everyone in the room is dancing when one of the table dancers decides to crowd surf. There he is being carried along hand to hand in this tiny little space when his friend on another table joins him. Now there are two of them surfing back and forth above the heads of the mass of sweaty dancers.
The most amusing aspect is that in the corner, our daughter who is grounded, and so not to be left home alone, is sitting doing her math homework, so pissed off to be there at her parents’ gig, that she is ignoring whatever is happening in the room and misses the whole thing!
Where do you like to hang out most in the city?
It shifts around from season to season, depending on who is booking what venue, and do they serve spirits. In the warm weather, I love Revolution Cafe on 22nd, as you can hang out outside, and still hear the music. Or the backyard at The Royal Cuckoo, although only between sets. When the temperature drops, I like a nice tight intimate spot with a bandstand, like The Lucky Horseshoe, or The Deluxe. But when I want to dance I will go to any venue that books to my taste.
What’s your favorite place to eat in the Bay Area?
I will never divulge the hidden hole in the wall spots that I have uncovered in my constant search for the perfect dumpling
What do you say to people who think that the music scene in the Bay Area is dead?
“It’s only dead during the day, you really should come out at night!”
If you could put your own version of a supergroup, who would be in it and why?
This is an unfair question, as I am in a band, in the old sense of “a band.” Not a “project,” or an aggregate of sidemen enacting my vision. Everyone in Blonde Toledo is in it for the music, as there is no other situation that comes together in just that way. So I am already in a group that’s super fun, super talented, and super good.
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
Well, other than Connie playing two saxophones at the same time, at least once in every set, the most surprising thing is that Connie and I have been making beautiful music together for the past 35 years.
Is there anything you’d like to plug?
Well, we are getting set to releasing our first LP, with a CD Release Party at The Makeout Room on Saturday, Jan. 27. The show starts at 7 p.m. with a special opener I am not yet at liberty to reveal. We will be giving a free CD to the first 50 people through the door.