Singer Dave Alvin, from Downey to Petaluma

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.



What: Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore

When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m.

Where: The Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.

Tickets: $25 general admission


“The thing about our hometowns is, a lot of our important first-time experiences happen there,” says musician Dave Alvin, calling in from somewhere near Salt Lake City, “and those first-time experiences tend to have a big part in making us who we are. Whether it’s the first time you saw a puppy dog or a tree, or your first hamburger, or your first kiss, whatever it is, it probably happened in your home town. They did for me. So you know, no matter where I go now and what I do, no matter how many puppy dogs and trees I see, or kisses I share or hamburgers I eat, I am always the guy who had my first-time experiences of those things in Downey, California, my hometown, the specific place that shaped those experiences by the mere fact that that’s where they happened.”

Alvin, whose first band, The Blasters, was formed in Downey before he went on to play with the pioneering punk band X — just the beginning of a long, impressively varied career that includes huge swaths of folk and Americana music — is about to hit the road with his band and touring partner Jimmie Dale Gilmore, after playing The State Room in Salt Lake the night before. It’s just one of many stops on a tour that began in late May, and will bring Alvin and Gilmore to Petaluma’s Mystic Theater this Saturday night, Oct. 6. For the record, Gilmore — himself a certified country music legend — grew up in Lubbock, Texas.

That’s why the duo’s critically acclaimed new album is titled “Downey to Lubbock.” The name is taken from the song of the same name, honoring the singers’ home towns, while mining poetic gems from the notion of living in a place and moving away, but always carrying a bit of that place with you.

Asked if the long list of cities he and Gilmore have played on the current tour will include either Downey or Lubbock, Alvin laughs.

“We thought about it,” he admits, “but the problem with my hometown is there’s not an appropriate venue, you know? And Jimmie’s hometown, Lubbock, does have one venue that’s not too bad, but Lubbock is not central to anywhere. So it just didn’t make sense to try and make that happen.”

And for what it’s worth, Alvin points out, the title of the album is technically a metaphorical reference, not so much a geographical one. That (geographical metaphor) is territory he’s explored many times, most notably in his gorgeous song “Dry River,” inspired by the cement-lined San Gabriel River, which flows through Downey but frequently has no water in it.

Geographical metaphors don’t get much juicier than that.

“So with that in mind,” Alvin says, “since we ARE speaking metaphorically, I’d have to say that every single night Jimmie and I go out on stage, we are playing in Downey and Lubbock — ’cause you just can’t get away from your hometown, no matter how hard you might try. You can’t help but view the world through the eyes of that person who learned how to see the world in that specific place you grew up.”

Though it might appear on the surface that Gilmore and Alvin come from entirely different backgrounds — particularly in terms of the music they are famous for bringing into the world — Alvin says that the two old friends have only recently discovered how much they have in common. During a stripped-down tour in early 2017, featuring just the two singer-songwriters swapping songs played on acoustic guitars, they found that their musical connection is more than just a mutual appreciation for the same singers and songs.


What: Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore

When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m.

Where: The Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.

Tickets: $25 general admission


“At one point, sharing stories about where we grew up, we suddenly had the realization that we both used to go to a place in Los Angeles, a folk-and-blues club called The Ash Grove, at pretty much the same time,” Alvin says. “My brother Phil and I, when we were teenagers, we used to go there in the late 60s, two or three times a week. Even before we could drive we’d be hustling rides to the Ash Grove. And little did we know that at the same time, Jimmie had moved from Lubbock when he was 19 or 20, and he was hanging out there at the Ash Grove too. We probably bumped into each other and never even knew it.”

Over the years, Alvin has frequently collaborated with different musicians, in the process exploring a wide array of musical styles, leading many to call him a master of reinvention. But Alvin doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t consider it reinvention,” he says. “It’s more like flushing things out into the open that I’ve never shown people before, but were always there. As for playing with different people all the time, I like doing things with different musicians, because I’m self-taught, and performing with other people is how I learn. I’m basically a blues guy, but I want to learn as much as I can from as many people as I can, no matter what kind of music they play.”

Case in point, in the early 80s he was briefly with a band called The Flesheaters, with John Doe and DJ Bonebreak from X, Bill Bateman of the Blasters, and Steve Berlin (originally one of the Blasters before joining Los Lobos.)

“We backed up this punk rock poet named Chris D,” he says. “We made this strange album back in 1981, “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die.” It wasn’t really punk rock, because it wasn’t really anything. It was its own thing. For lack of a better description, it sounded like if Captain Beefheart and The Doors and Antic Sam the Blues guitar player had a garage band, it might have sounded like us.”

Earlier this year, the Flesh Eaters got together again, on a bit of a whim, for a short tour.

“It was a reunion thing, just for giggles,” Alvin says. “And the tour went so well, and the band sounded so amazing, we thought, ‘Let’s make another record.’ So we did, and it’s coming out in January. So The Flesh Eaters will do a little U.S. tour around that album. I’m real proud of it. It’s very different from what I usually do, but like I said about flushing stuff into the open, this is also part of what I do, part of who I am.”

And after that adventure, he says, he and Gilmore will be hitting the road once again. But first, there’s the rest of the current tour, and his appearance at the Mystic, a venue Alvin has played many times over the years.

“I probably shouldn’t say this,” he laughs, “but Petaluma reminds me of Downey a little. It’s a smarter, prettier Downey. So it goes without saying that I feel pretty comfortable there.”

Show Comment

Our Network

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine