Sitting down with percussionist and vibraphone extraordinaire Mike Dillon, who plays Torch Club Jan. 20

Punkadelick. Photo by Joshua Marc Levi

By Eddie Jorgensen

Local promoter Brian McKenna, a.k.a. Abstract Entertainment, has been bringing Mike Dillon to the Sacramento area since the late 80s, lighting up stages at the now-defunct Cattle Club as well as The Crest Theatre. This Saturday’s show carries on that tradition by bringing Dillon’s Punkadelick project to the intimate Torch Club.

Bandleader Dillon – an adept vibraphone, ma-rimba, Prophet 6, congas, and bongo player – has released a number of records through the Royal Potato Family label that showcase his vibraphone magic and more. His current instrumental rock / funk / acid jazz / jam band trio – the Punkadelick project – features a veritable who’s who of amazing players. This includes multi-instrumentalist Brian Haas (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and drummer Nicki Glaspie (Beyonce).

For those that don’t know, Dillon has played locally with Billy Goat, Clutch, Critters Buggin’, Garage-A-Trois, Hairy Apes BMX, Les Claypool’s various side-projects (Bastard Jazz, Fancy Band, Frog Brigade), Mike Dillon’s Go Go Jungle, Primus and the Chocolate Factory, and Rickie Lee Jones. By default, Dillon has a devoted legion of Sacramento- based fans.

And while their new album doesn’t technically drop until January 27, the current run of shows is the perfect set up to get their newfound and longtime fans alike on board with the new material. Written during the pandemic quarantine via online Zoom writing sessions and later during live gigs in intimate venues, the new 10-song platter showcases an instrumental band hellbent on grooving in and around the 1 count and with great effect.

We caught up with Dillon just before the band started their short Midwest and West Coast run.

SN&R: You’ve been playing the Sacramento valley and neighboring areas for quite some time in various incarnations for Abstract Entertainment. What is your fondest memory of playing around here with any of your bands?

Dillon: Brian McKenna is a great guy and the last of the independent promoters. My first show I did with Brian was December 21,1990 at the Crest Theater opening for Primus. That was the first time I encountered Les Claypool. It was also my first tour of California. That whole trip was magical. Cities and states had yet to become ubiquitous placeholders for Starbucks, Best Buy and Whole Foods. For a kid from Houston, Texas, California was a new experience. The music at the Crest embodied what we were doing in Texas, but it was obvious Primus was doing something on another level 33 years ago. The next time I played Sacramento was at the the Cattle Club opening for the Dead Milkmen. Years later it would come full circle when Brian promoted the Frog Brigade show at the Crest in the fall of 2002. I remember battling ‘Fish’ Fisher from Fishbone on the drum/vibes solo Les (Claypool) gave us every night. After the show, I walked off the stage and someone’s wife in the opening band said, “I like his electric door bell machine.”

SN&R: Will there be more Punkadelick dates in 2024 aside from what we see online currently? Any festival or overseas offers yet?

Dillon: We’re talking to a few people at the moment, but nothing to announce just yet. Our Sacramento show comes in the middle of a big West Coast tour. We’ll get back on the road and hit it hard after we release our next album this fall. We are all going to do some festivals this summer and play down in New Orleans during Jazzfest.

SN&R: Were you able to stay busy recording all through Covid lockdown? Any other projects you collaborated with we should know about?

Dillon: I made 10 records during lockdown. There were three which were released by my record label, Royal Potato Family. These records were ‘The Quarantine Sessions: Shoot The Moon,’ ‘Suitcase Man,’ and ‘1918.’ I also made another at the top of 2023 called ‘Inflorescence,’ which is the album we’re (Punkadelick) currently touring behind. I made another in that time period as well with The Dickson Cousins called ‘Argosy’ which I will be selling at the Torch Club with the others mentioned.

SN&R: Any other projects you recently collaborated with?

Dillon: I just did the 2023 ‘Summer of Green and Hunt for Green’ October tour with Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. I am also a member of Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz.

SN&R: What about touring do you enjoy most these days?

Dillon: Loading gear (yeah, right) and good espresso.

SN&R: Any hobbies or extracurricular activities on your days off or during show days?

Dillon: I play tabla and take long jogs. I like to keep it simple.

SN&R: Were there extra songs that didn’t make the record or possibly demo’d that will end up on the next Punkadelic record?

Dillon: We are doing a new Punkadelick record that is inspired by Cumbias. Having grown up in Texas, Cumbia and Conjunto music is everywhere. It’s the soundtrack of the neighborhoods I have lived in and has become part of our musical language. We had a few Cumbias I wrote recently and, instead of putting them on the instrumental record, I suggested we do a whole record of Cumbias Mike Dillon-style.

Dillon & Punkadelick play Saturday, January 20th at The Torch Club located at 904 15th Street in Sacramento. Lab Rats open the show. Doors open at 8pm and the show starts promptly at 9pm. Tickets are available at the door. 21 and over patrons only.

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