Don’t Miss This: Ray’s Vast Basement, April 15

by Dean Preston on April 7, 2004

Featured Show: Ray’s Vast Basement, April 15, Cafe Du Nord

Ray’s Vast Basement is more than just a band’s name. It’s also the name of a fictional cave located somewhere on the north coast of California. Nearby is the fictional town of Drakesville, and the region has quite a history. RVB’s music and the band’s website ( chronicle the rich history of the cave and the region. The result is what Jon Bernson, the genius behind RVB, calls “musical fiction.”

Ray’s Vast Basement blurs the lines between spoken word, historical fiction and song. As one critic put it, RVB is “one of the most literary musical experience you’ll ever have.”

RVB’s musical styles are all over the map. RVB moves seamlessly from talky songs about writers and local murders to Jonathan Richmond-like tunes about extinct blue ants that once populated the region. What holds it all together is the perfect execution and the intriguing story lines that run through music.

Ray McKelvey is one of my favorite characters in this musical drama. During prohibition, he used the cave as a speakeasy, hiring the local Drakesville musicians union for entertainment on Saturday nights. The cave quickly developed into the point of entry for inland liquor distribution. Then in 1932, Ray’s former friend and rum-runner, Captain Zarakas, ratted him out to the feds. Ray was convicted and sentenced to life. And so it goes in the world of Ray’s Vast Basement.

RVB’s latest cd, By a River Burning Blue, is one of the best albums of the year. Special treats on the cd include feature performances by local SF talents Michael Zapruder (Naked Barbies) on piano, Jason Kleinberg (86) on fiddle and Noe Venable on vocals. This is one of those cd’s that might take you a while to appreciate, but after about the 10th time, you’ll be playing it nonstop.

Do yourself a favor and go see Ray’s Vast Basement on April 15. This band’s a local treasure.

Ray’s Vast Basement
Thursday April 15, 9:00 p.m., $8
Cafe Du Nord
2170 Market Street, SF

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment

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