Nevada Backwards

by Brett Lemke
May 2003

Nevada Backwards on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 2003

Nevada Backwards on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 2003

Nevada Backwards are the hellbillys from Sacramento, California. A quartet of acoustic musicians, their sound is an amalgam of alt-punk and jamband bluegrass. Acoustic to Nevada Backwards, however, does not mean quiet. Their tortured sandpaper vocals and driving mandolin/banjo overtones fill each room with primordial savagery.

Brian Ballantine takes care of the vocals and guitar, Keith Lionetti plays upright bass, Troy Kimura bangs a ¾ size drum set, and Mick Stevenson plays mandolin, banjo, and acoustic guitar. “We’re totally unplugged,” says guitar/singer Brian Ballantine, “That’s it. It’s the only way that it can be done.”

In their spare time the four operate Tortellinni in Sacramento, a printing press and studio where they lease practice space to bands and musicians in the area. They work with each other and they are in a band together. “We have some practice space, and we’re releasing a CD on our own label,” says Keith. If this is in any way reflective of their personalities, then that to me is an assurance is that they won’t break up due to an ego issue.

Many working bands play daytime parties/festivals/weddings between the nightly circuit of hazily smoky bars and venues. Nevada Backwards takes that idea a step further, capitalizing on playing gigs while travelling to their destination. “We will be riding the train when we tour across the West Coast,” said Keith, “And we’re going to be the dining/bar car entertainment.”

This isn’t the first time the hellbillys have seen the Midwest. “I was in a band called Mynock that played at O’cayz Corral once [or twice] when we toured,” says Keith, “This one should be interesting. We’re riding the train until we get to Minnesota, then we will be renting a van for the week in the Midwest, then we take the train back.”

The arrangements for Andrew Jackson and Foundation highlight their 2002 album Ignorant. Brian’s voice grates like a meat grinder into the soul of his listeners. Tijuana and Materialistic Free from their album Seedy Bars which can only be purchased at live shows. “Keith and I both wrote Tijuana,” says Brian. “That place is totally crazy. Keith and I both had two totally different experiences, and we went at different times.”

A dust cloud hangs suspended midair in the immediate vicinity a reflective quality, and Destination Unknown trails off in a seemingly endless stream of ideas. As the last of the gear is packed into the hellbillys’ shuttle bus the last cigarette is stamped of its orange-red glow. Akin to yet another chemical hangover, they will be leaving another stop behind them as the lowering sunset keeps pace on the long drive back to Sacramento, California.

Nevada Backwards will be train-hopping their way to the Midwest stopping on Wednesday, 5/14 at Vnuk’s in Cudahy, Wisconsin, Thursday 5/15, at 324 Live in Lacrosse, Friday, 5/16 at The Anchor Inn in Madison, Saturday, 5/17 at the Terminal Bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Wednesday, 5/21 at Club Mutiny in Chicago, Illinois.

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Nevada Backwards
CD: Ignorant Record Label: Grandma's Phonograph Company
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