The Serendipity of San Geronimo

Did you know that psycho-spiritual studies have found that when we first meet someone and get off on the wrong foot, it’s often because we have an innate energetic connection with that person, which needs to be explored?

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When I caught up with Darren Nelson, he was working on a light-box art project for the Lagunitas Brewery near his San Geronimo Valley home. The craftsman, poster artist and co-leader of one of California’s most up-and-coming bands unwittingly met his future band mate Jeremy D’Antonio while scavenging at a yard sale.

“I was driving by and saw they had this guitar for sale,” Nelson says. “The lady said it was $100 so I rushed back to my house to get the money. But when I returned I saw a guy handing her money for the guitar. I hated that guy for years.”

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Nelson later saw D’Antonio playing at a festival where he witnessed the greatness of alt-country band Tiny Television. He didn’t realize that D’Antonio was the same guy who bought the guitar.

“He kind of enamored me,” says Nelson. “I thought his band was so badass.”

After the show, the two got to talking and realized that they were neighbors in the valley hamlet of San Geronimo, population 446. When he got back to home, Nelson looked up his new friend and found out he was also a well-known sound engineer and producer. He called him up and booked a recording session for the solo album he’d been working on.

“Jeremy sat me down with a couple mics, a chair and bottle of whiskey and said, ‘Let’s see what you got,’ ” Nelson says. “Then I saw the guitar sitting in the corner and I was like, ‘You’re that guy! You bastard!’”

When the session was over, D’Antonio mentioned that he knew the perfect guys for the style of music Nelson was playing; they turned out to be the members of Tiny Television. That was about four years ago and the two artists have since jumped into music together first feet.

“They say we sound like one of those songs you remember from growing up. You’ve never heard it before, but it reminds you of this time. It’s childhood free-spirited rock ‘n’ roll.” – Darren Nelson

“Jeremy graciously wanted to share the spotlight with me and I knew that my solo record would be so much better if we just turned it in to San Geronimo,” says Nelson. “It was definitely kind of fate or at least serendipity. It couldn’t have happened any more perfectly.”

They decided to change the name of the band to the valley where they both live and they started playing almost every place in San Marin County that books music. Since then, San Geronimo has built its reputation as a hardworking band with a true appreciation for craft. They recently completed a two-and-half-year residency at Terrapin Crossroads where they had the chance to jam with Phil Lesh, Colonel Bruce Hampton and other legends.

Last year, San Geronimo recorded its debut album at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach.

“In the weeks before we arrived, My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses had been recording there, so that was a good sign,” says Nelson. “It’s a mansion overlooking the ocean with beautiful ceilings and stonework. We watched the sun setting every night as we were laying down tracks.”

The album has been well received for its solid, clean, warm production and focus on songwriting and vocal harmonies.

“There is this thing I’ve heard people who come up to us after the show say, and I’ve heard it too many times not to consider it,” says Nelson. “They say we sound like one of those songs you remember from growing up. You’ve never heard it before, but it reminds you of this time. It’s childhood free-spirited rock ‘n’ roll.”

San Geronimo recently signed with booking agency Mongrel Music out of Fairfax and acquired a headquarters in their valley home where they are planning to build a recording studio and produce two more albums.

“Things have really jumped now,” says Nelson. “We’re on the road a lot more and that’s brand new. In the end, it’s a band of good friends. I trust each one of these guys and that matters.”

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Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he's not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.