Sun August 25, 2013 2:00pm

Teens Set to Rock the House in Vallejo

By Mark MacNamara

Steve SageAugust 25, Sunday, 2 p.m., The Empress Theatre in Vallejo presents Diablo Valley College’s “Rock, Rhythm, and Blues Revue.” More than 20 bands playing blues, rock, soul, country, oldies, and pop. Bands are made up of over 80 students from age 16 to 70. There will be two all-girl bands and the concert is 50 percent female overall. All are part of Steve Sage’s class at DVC in the theory and performance of blues, rock and roll, country, funk, soul, and R&B.

Incidentally, if you don’t know him, Steve Sage is a Bay Area icon, nearly a human guitar, and if you’re a musician interested in rock ‘n roll then you may have been to one of his concert/classes. His venues are always indicative. In June, the show was in concert with the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association, a giant swap meet and car corral.

The show lasts two hours. One band after another, lickety-split, one song only. “Playing on the Empress stage,” says Sage, “fits right in with our commitment to keeping American roots music alive for the next generation.”

Empress TheatreWe spoke to Sage earlier this week and asked what was the most important requirement to play in a rock band. And did he have any particular advice?

“What you need is a strong desire to play with others,” he said, summing everything up. “And everything flows from that.”

Sage, who started out in high school bands, found he had a good ear, and studied theory, acknowledges that classical musicianship is a great leg up but because rock is less dependent upon technique, what’s most important is, once again, “A strong desire to play with others.”

Or, think of it this way, four opera singers don’t get together to jam. Right?

In 2004, at a Sage concert, Jeff Tamelier offered this advice to would-be rockers — Tamelier, from Tower of Power; Pacific Brass and Eclectic, and Starship, among other bands: “Play with big ears. Listen to what the other guys are doing and try to find a spot for yourself where they aren’t. If you can’t hear what they’re doing, you’re too loud! If you want to be in a band, you don’t have to be the best player, you have to be cool, you have to fit in … No one wants to share a bus with someone who leaves his stinky tennis shoes laying around.”

Empress Theatre: 330 Virginia Street, Vallejo. All Ages Venue. $7/advance and $9/door General Admission (707) 552-2400; tickets and information

Mark MacNamara ( is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.