Several years ago, drummer Billy DiBono and I were sitting backstage at Feather Falls Casino alongside the lead singer of 80s cover band, Tainted Love.

“Don’t ever start a cover band,” said the beaten down 30-something year old as he mustered up the artificial enthusiasm to take the stage and greet his crowd.

Wisely, Billy DiBono chose not to heed those grim words and started his own cover band, Decades. Since their inception 2 years ago, the band has made tremendous leaps in professionalism and it showed in their performance last Sunday.

I arrived at the taproom about an hour early in hopes of getting a good seat. Instead I discovered the pub packed to the brim with eager fans all hopped up on Ruthless Rye IPA. I retreated to the arctic winds of the back patio to partake in the seasonal ale, whose release was the original purpose for the live music celebration.

At exactly 6:30PM, sporting matching black and white outfits and in-ear monitors, the band took the stage, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Normally at these shows the guardrail between the stage and dance floor gets taken down, but this time it was left up to prevent the waves of people from spilling over onto the band’s equipment.

Lead singer Samantha Francis’ soaring voice was impressive, but what I found remarkable was her flirty stage personality which came complete with hair whips, eyebrow raises, and even the occasional wink…or I might have just imagined that.

Newest band member, Ben Ruttenburg, was an absolute delight to witness on stage. His strong theatre background contributes greatly to his confidence and talent as an entertainer. A highlight was his cover of “Tequila” in which he guided the crowd to replace the classic lyric with the more appropriate beverage title, “Ruthless!”

Bandleader and drummer, Billy DiBono, displayed the precision and consistency of a truly disciplined percussionist. He knew when to cut loose and when to keep things right in the pocket. It’s clear his days of rhythmic mediocrity have been left behind during his time with prog-punkers, The Secret Stolen.

Ex-Wicked Honey band members, Toby Brooks and Will Watje, bopped around the stage and both brought remarkable vocal abilities to the table. Will shredded some of the tastiest guitar solos I’ve ever seen, all while jumping on and off DiBono’s drum kit, which made for a visually engaging bonus to their live performance.

Until around 9:30PM, Decades ran the gauntlet of every cover song you could imagine (to borrow their tagline) “from Chuck Berry to Lady Gaga.” I was particularly impressed with their ability to control stage volume. They kept the crowd rocking without blowing out eardrums, as some pub bands are wont to do. Let’s hope Sierra Nevada continues to host this class act for future gigs, preferably on a night when everyone doesn’t have work in the morning.

Nolan Ford grew up in Chico, California with great respect and admiration for Synthesis and its mission to provide an alternative voice on matters of music, art, and life in Chico. In addition to editing the paper and managing its musical content, Nolan performs with various bands around town including Perpetual Drifters, The Rugs, Pat Hull, and acoustic duo, Emma & Nolan.