Rocksteady and Lee at Sonoma’s Hopmonk this weekend

This weekend brings two strong musical acts to HopMonk Sonoma. On stage Friday night, Nov. 16, is local guitarist Dan Martin. Saturday night’s show on Nov. 17 features a solo presentation by the “Georgia Gypsy” herself, Erica Sunshine Lee.

Dan Martin is a Sonoma Valley resident who moved here as a sophomore at Sonoma Valley High School. He formed his first band when he was just 17 years old. They were a band of musical friends, and it included Tony Gibson, who is still very active in the local music scene himself. Tapping into the ska sensibility, they played and punked around town for a couple of years. The band played at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, and very often entertained the crowd at the Shop, the defunct youth-based venue that was on Eighth Street for a number of years.

Martin, now 38, has been playing with his Rocksteady band since 2012, when they jelled into a slow-groove dance band. With seven pieces, Rocksteady brings a pleasantly infectious smile to the crowd. Soon, there are feet on the floor, moving to the beat.

A solo album project is keeping Martin busy these days. Additionally, Rocksteady is working on another release. Martin and his band play a number of cover songs, but are primarily cutting originals that Martin has written over the last few years. While strumming his custom Telecaster, Martin, et al, also sample material from Toots and the Maytals and Alton Ellis. For his HopMonk show though, Martin will be doing it solo on the venue’s small stage. Admission is free and show time is 8 p.m.

Saturday night’s crowd will get to see Erica Sunshine Lee deliver her sunny and sassy songs. Playing her acoustic guitar, Lee sings songs of drinking, love, life and good times. She is particularly comfortable on stage and has great rapport with her audience, a result of her playing about 250 shows a year.

Lee has toured all over the world. Recently in Australia, she gave the crowd a taste of her song, “You Saved me”, that reached the Top 20 Down Under. A tour through Italy yielded a partnership with an Italian country band (yes, that’s right) who recorded her songs “Something to Dance To” and “What Turns Me On.”

Lee has an impressive list of accomplishments in the songwriting department. Her songs have been recorded by a number of Nashville artists, including Mark Bray and the Viper Creek Band.

She wrote and produced all the songs on the new EP by Raegan Willis, “Like Minded Strangers.”

She had the crowd at her July HopMonk show eating out of her hand after just a few minutes. “Chunky Dunk” had the women laughing and singing along with gusto. Lee strummed the opening chords to ‘Mojitos,’ and everybody chimed in.

Touring the world with her guitar, a suitcase full of “merch” and a satchel full of stage clothes, she has a tale or two to tell. She recounted one show at a nudist colony in an East Bay city. “Everybody was nude, except me. I sold more T-shirts than I ever had before that day.”

Lee started her band in San Francisco in 2006. At the time, she was selling cars at Putnam Chevrolet Cadillac Hummer. While telling the story of those days, she gave a dead-on impersonation of her former boss’s radio commercial, “Bring your wife, your pinkslip and your checkbook…”.

Having lived in Redwood City for eight years, Lee has a strong local base of friends and fans. But it’s her home turf of the South that provides most of the material she writes about. Her new album, called “Buried Treasure,” has a Jimmy Buffett feel to it. She has written a song called “Georgia for This,” in which Lee sings of her love for her home state. Trucks and dogs get a mention in her songs; beer and rum, too.

Lee has a friendly stage persona and sings confidently and very well. The Breedlove guitar she hangs around her neck provides her with all the background she needs. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is free, merch is reasonable.


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