By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Beloved SF raconteur and guitarist Chuck Prophet tops the bill for this early evening outdoor show at Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond Thursday.READ MORE: 'Highway Slingshot Shooter' Fires Ball Bearings at Windows Along San Jose's Guadalupe Freeway
Born in the Southern California town of Whittier and raised the Bay Area suburbs, Prophet first came to fame in the mid-1980s after joining the country-influenced neo-psychedelic band Green On Red when the group relocated to Los Angeles from Tuscon, Arizona. The band would record it’s landmark Enigma Records effort Gas Food Lodging, earning the group accolades in the U.S. and Europe and a major label deal with Mercury.
While the band continued to receive critical acclaim for the vivid character studies and rootsy country psychedelia heard on 1987’s The Killer Inside Me and Stones-flavored Here Come the Snakes two years later, by 1992 the group had called it quits. That freed Prophet up to pursue his solo songwriting career that he started with his first recording Brother Aldo in 1990.
Mixing modern lo-fi sensibilities with his storytelling songs and swampy roots influences, Prophet released a string of celebrated albums during the 1990s including the semi-autobiographical Homemade Blood and the clanking, Tom Waits-tinged The Hurting Business. The songwriter’s contemporaries took notice of his skills as a tunesmith, with the likes of Texas punk-roots singer Alejandro Escovedo, rock band Heart and blues great Solomon Burke covering his songs.
Early in the 2000s, Prophet convened the first line-up of his backing band the Mission Express, a crew that drew on some of the finest players in the city. The songwriter continued his solid hitting streak, releasing more critically lauded albums such as the eclectic Soap and Water in 2007 and his more recent triumphs like the historical San Francisco travelogue Temple Beautiful in 2012 and the character-driven Night Surfer two years later.
The gifted guitarist released his acclaimed effort Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins on Yep Roc Records in 2017, earning another round of ecstatic reviews. Self-described by Prophet as “California noir,” the songs on the collection ruminate on mortality whether lamenting SFPD officer-involved shooting victim “Alex Nieto” or paying respects to David Bowie and other passed legends on “Bad Year For Rock And Roll.”
While his latest recording for Yep Rock — entitled The Land That Time Forgot — came out last summer during the height of the pandemic, Prophet has maintained a steady pace of activity with online and in-person concerts showcasing the evocative new tunes including the wistful lament “High As Johnny Thunders” and the pointed salvo directed at former President Trump, “Get Off the Stage.”READ MORE: 3 East Bay School Districts Go All-In on Student Vaccine Mandates
Prophet has also been performing as part of the Casual Coalition, a collective of Bay Area all-stars including members of Mother Hips, Phil Lesh & Friends and Stu Allen and the Mars Hotel playing music from Bob Dylan’s landmark late ’60s recordings with the Band that eventually saw partial release in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.
For this show as part of a new outdoor concert series at Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond this Thursday, Prophet and a stripped-down trio featuring his wife Stephanie Finch (keyboards/guitar) and drummer Vicente Rodriguez will play new songs and old favorites.
Prophet will be joined by noted local songwriter and onetime collaborator Tom Heyman. A veteran musician who first came into the public eye as one of the principles in Philadelphia-based band Go To Blazes in the late ’80s, Heyman put out five albums and toured extensively on both sides of the Atlantic up until the band split in 1997.
Heyman relocated to San Francisco the following year, quickly settling into the local scene with stints playing guitar and pedal steel with such renowned local acts as alt-country outfit the Court & Spark, X bassist John Doe’s solo band and Prophet himself.
Heyman also started recording his own roots-oriented songs as a solo artist, tracking a series of albums including the live covers collection Ballads, Blues and Union Dues and his latest effort, the pub-rock inspired new collection Show Business, Baby that came out in 2017 on the Bohemian Neglect imprint.
With his recurring Sad Bastard Club night at the Make-Out Room, Heyman regularly features like-minded local songwriters performing their songs in a stripped down setting. After COVID shut down the bar, Heyman along with co-worker and fellow musician Justin Frahm filled the void by creatively staging and filming over a dozen editions of the Sad Bastard Club on its own YouTube channel. People attending the Point San Pablo Harbor show are invited to bring blankets and low-backed chairs to the outdoor venue. Food and beverages will be available.
Chuck Prophet Trio with Tom Heyman
Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m., $35-$40 (ticket price includes parking; kids 12 and under free)
Point San Pablo Harbor