alking around Adams Pack Station in Big Santa Anita Canyon, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped out of time, and not just because of the old horseshoes and ranch gear tacked up around the place (or the long, windy drive up the road from Sierra Madre). Cellphone reception is virtually nonexistent. Station operator Deb Burgess and staff members clear the area and nearby trails of trash and graffiti, and take care of the goats, donkeys and other critters housed at the station. Built in 1936 and overseen by the US Forest Service, Adams Pack Station supplies Sturtevant Camp and 80 recreational cabins farther up the mountain that are accessible only by foot or the donkeys who live at the barn across from the station’s general store.
It’s a welcome place of respite for hikers, photographers, nature lovers and, on Sunday afternoons from late spring through early fall, musicians and their fans. Soaking up music as they rest at shaded outdoor tables, hikers come and go as bands perform on the impromptu stage adjacent to the barn. The artists’ “green room” is a hay-strewn pen just behind the stage, where a black-and-white-haired, floppy-eared gent named Burton holds court with fellow goats who’ve been known to bleat midsong, on cue and even on key. This Sunday, it will be Dime Box’s turn to guard against Burton’s sneaky penchant for nibbling on gig bags when the band’s backs are turned.
Dime Box is a family affair, which has often been the case throughout the career of frontwoman Kristi Callan. She founded Wednesday Week, which was part of LA’s Paisley Underground in the 1980s, with her drummer sister Kelly; in the ’90s, the siblings had a brief stint as Lucky with bassist Mike Lawrence. After working in David Gray’s band, Callan started Dime Box, which for 10 years has been dressing her smart pop sensibilities in country instrumentation. The current lineup also includes her guitarist son James Nolte, plus former John Fogerty/Frank Black drummer Nick Vincent and his fiddling/mandolin-playing wife Lyn Bertles and their bassist son Alex.
In July they released Dime Box’s second album, “Happy,” which balances guitar-fueled rockers like “Keystone” and “All of Nothing” with midtempo, fiddle- and mandolin-filled tracks like the good-natured “Spilt Milk” and “As the Crow Flies” (not to be confused with the Tony Joe White chestnut). The music is spirited, the family camaraderie is appealing, and Bertles, Callan and Vincent are road-seasoned veterans. Burton won’t easily steal the show.
Dime Box Band perform at Adams Pack Station at Chantry Flat in Big Santa Anita Canyon, Sierra Madre, at noon Sunday, Sept. 22; they’ll be followed by T.J. Sullivan & Mudboys at 1:45 p.m. and Wumbloozo at 3:30 p.m. Admission’s free, but parking costs $5. Info: (626) 447-7356. dimeboxband.com, adamspackstation.com