Sonoma gig: Two Luvplanets align at Reel & Brand

The good folks at the Reel and Brand are bringing back a band that tore it up last time they orbited through. Luvplanet, then a pre-COVID five-piece band, is back tomorrow night, Aug. 1, for a 6 p.m. show. They will by necessity be winnowed down to a duo for the gig. The two primary members of the band, Mark McGee and Nichole Sutton, will play the same guitar-laden, vocally-rich original tunes that the full band typically plays.

Sutton is a SoCal gal, steeped in “Motown, rock ’n’ roll, metal, and the Grateful Dead,” according to her husband and bandmate, McGee. She sings and plays a wicked rhythm guitar, a perfect musical sidekick to McGee’s lead guitar work.

It is that guitar wizardry that has kept McGee a busy working musician since the tender age of 21. Learning the guitar at age 10, he says, “I listened to anything I heard on TV or the radio; Beatles, ‘Hee Haw,’ psychedelic, metal, classical, rock,” said McGee. “I am pretty diverse in my tastes.”

Those diverse influences, and the hours and hours of practice, have allowed McGee to make a living as a much-recruited sideman for many well-known musicians over the years. He has also fronted his own metal band called Vicious Rumors.

The Rumors were based in Santa Rosa. They began touring the world in 1998; they were huge in Japan and packed the houses in Europe. McGee was the lead guitarist and primary songwriter of the Rumors, and produced the band’s 12 albums.

Perhaps more to the Reel’s audience’s tastes, however, McGee was the lead guitar player in Greg Allman’s band for 10 years, from 1995 until 2004, and then again during a tour in 2007.

He was invited to audition for the band when Allman was living in the North Bay in 1995. “I got the call, played for him at studio in San Rafael, and got the official offer a few days later.”

’[Greg Allman
was pretty generous with letting me play my stuff, he never told me what to play or what not to play.’ ||| Mark McGee]

As one of the founders of the Allman Brothers, and progenitor of the Southern Rock style, the late Greg Allman knew a thing or two about lead guitar.

“While in Greg’s band, I tried to remain loyal to the history of the song,” said McGee. “He was pretty generous with letting me play my stuff, he never told me what to play or what not to play. But I tried to be true to the song. For example, when we played ‘Statesboro Blues,’ I played it note for note off the Allman Brother’s ‘At Fillmore East’ live record.”

Luvplanet is a project that Sutton and McGee started in 2006. They have just released their sixth album, called “The Day They Closed the World.” When they appear at the Reel, the duo will showcase their original songs, and wrap them in warm, penetrating harmonies that only siblings and married couples can reveal.

The music will take place outside in the pretty and spacious back yard of the Reel. All COVID precautions will be observed. The music, however, holds nothing back.

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