Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 21, 2014

Indie rock rolls in on Ten Car Train

Local musicians to play benefit show for PPIE

by Sierra Rhodes

By day, they are typical, hard-working citizens. But at night, they shed their Clark Kent disguises and transform into Pleasanton rock stars.

Indie band Ten Car Train -- formerly known as Pilgrim -- rocks shows all over the Bay Area, but this weekend they are pulling into Pleasanton for a fundraising event Saturday night at Handles Gastropub. Proceeds will be donated to the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) foundation.

"We've wanted to play in Pleasanton for a long time but it had to be the right show at the right venue," said vocalist and bassist David Stark.

"Each of the musicians in this band come from different musical backgrounds, but Pleasanton is something we all have in common," vocalist and guitarist Chris Zaballos added.

It was, in fact, Pleasanton that helped bring the band together in what can only be called musical kismet. Stark, Zaballos and Charles McKeag -- who also sings and plays drums -- met at their respective jobs in real estate, though they knew nothing of each others' musical talents for years.

"I found out Chris played in bands and just a few weeks later discovered Charles was a musician, too," Stark said. "After that it was just a matter of time before we got together to play."

After Stark, Zaballos and McKeag began writing and performing as a trio, guitarist/vocalist Jacques Gautreaux was soon invited to play with the band on occasion during live shows.

Zaballos and Gautreaux each graduated from Foothill High School and jammed together for several years before drifting into other bands. Together, the members of Ten Car Train all shared the desire to play original music and keep it local.

Before venturing into original music, Ten Car Train began the way many new bands start -- by covering songs done by established artists.

Here they found a common love of alternative rock of the 70s and 80s, including The Clash, The Replacements, The Jam and early REM. As they refined their musicianship as a unit, they inevitably began experimenting with original material. The influences of those early alternative rock bands is apparent in their sound -- a blend of enthusiasm, power, awesomely layered vocal melodies, and a beat you can't help but rock out to.

"What sets us apart from other bands is our motivations are different," Stark said. "We have a no-compromise policy -- not in an obnoxious way -- but things have to be accepted by everybody in the group. Songwriting, performances, venues, all of it."

Another motivation -- to play more local shows -- made performing for the PPIE fundraiser an easy and unanimous decision.

"A lot of our friends and fans live in Pleasanton so that's where we play," McKeag said. "We've all done shows with other bands in San Francisco and other cities with vibrant indie rock scenes -- but with Ten Car Train we want to play closer to home."

The PPIE benefit concert is scheduled for 9 p.m. this Saturday at Handles Gastropub, 855 Main St. Tickets cost $10 at the door, with all proceeds going to the foundation. Handles will donate 10% of dinner sales that evening to PPIE.

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