The Chop Tops Return to the Mercury Lounge - Santa Cruz California band, The Chop Tops returned to the Fabulous Mercury Lounge on a rather muggy and just hit twilight Sunday evening. The band was running behind schedule due to a grueling 10 hour drive up from Beaumont, Texas and looking into the future to another 10 hours on the road to Denver, Colorado. But as the sun was just reaching the point of being gone for good, the band arrived and began bringing in the gear.
The Chop Tops play what they like to call "Revved-Up Rock-a-Billy". They don't go by all the other terminologies that people use for this brand of roots rock meets punk and for good reason. From the first note to the last, it was obvious that their influences were many and that they enjoy catering to a variety of individuals in their fan base, and for that matter, in the bar. If you love straight up rock-a-billy, there's a song for you. If you enjoy punk, they have that covered too. Surf? Roots Rock? Classic rock-a-billy? You get the picture.
One great moment was when the band brought in the merch case, which looks like a giant stand up bass case. The case opens up and there are shelves and cds and t-shirts and stickers and it was quite an attention getter. The band members are really nice and offer deals on the spot and seem to genuinely enjoy not only the people who come out to see them, but were very complimentary about the venue and about the city and they were on top of things enough to know where they were and what they were doing.
Shelby on guitar was all over the Gretsch, looking like a mad hyena laughing hysterically and so into the playing, I'm pretty sure he didn't realize he bumped our table up front and I had to actually back up to take a picture since he was standing right in front of me making the guitar just spin an atmosphere that was electric and captivating. Sinner spit out vocals that could be understood and stood up to play his drums reminding us all of the heady days of 1980s Stray Cats. Hotrod was kickin' the bass and, to be quite honest, his warm up and sound check was better than some bands we've seen.
The set was short due to time constraints but was well worth the wait. I raise my Newcastle beer to these mates and wish them much success. They are truly great to see live and well worth a listen.
Darin Manson - a.k.a. Daddy 007 (38) - Submitted Sunday Jun 17, 2007
Truly historical events do not, by definition, happen every day. Those of us who have lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma for any amount of time, can definitely tell you this. This weekend, however, we were treated to a variety of events and an entire pomp and circumstance revival over three days in the form of something they have called "Tulsarama". These events came about to surround the main, historical event - the raising of the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere and a small time capsule from an underground vault that was buried by the citizens of Tulsa 50 years ago to this day.
Tulsarama seemed to get the city excited again and really brought many diverse groups of people together. The weekend has been all car shows and friends up from OKC and people in from all around the world. We had media in from as far away as New Zealand.
The best times, however, were to be found at the local bars and clubs and my wife and I, chose from all the thousands of things to do, to go with a sure thing. We saw the Oklahoma City band, the R.l.P. Tides for the third time this year. This band is the type of band that you want to see play live again and again. From the great surf and rock-a-billy sounds of Greg's beautiful Gretsch to the pounding perfect rhythm of Derek's kit - the band is always seamless and always a joy to watch.
Music that reminds you of the great beginnings of rock and roll and the subsequent sounds that remind you of when the light turned on and everyone realized that the music really could change not only a person, but perhaps the world - was a perfect backdrop to the raising of our 1957 Belvedere and time capsule.
It was a gorgeous Saturday night and hundreds of people were out and about, talking and drinking and just enjoying the groove of the band and the atmosphere of the 18th and Boston district in downtown Tulsa. The stars were shining and memories were made.
The band played from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is one of those bands that require the bar tenders, this night in the form of Reggie and Jenn, to scoot everyone out of the bar and get everyone headed home. No one wants to leave and everyone hopes that Greg might just pick up the Gretsch and play another tune for us to dance and groove to. My wife and I left after 2 a.m. and people were still in the parking lot talking about the optimism of the 1950s and the fact that music is what really brings us together.
Daddy 007 (38) - Submitted Sunday May 27, 2007
There are a handful of bands that I will see live given even the slightest chance or excuse to. There are a handful of bands that I prefer live to recorded. The live show is, to me, how the music is really meant to be heard and is the original expression of the creative impulse of the member involved. It is the in the moment representation of not only the art, but also of the artist - where the artist is and what is going on in the artist at the moment. Having this simple philosophy probably explains why I tend to gravitate towards rock-a-billy and punk being played live. So, you take a band that has elements of both and so much more and you can see why the Koffin Kats tend to inspire me.
I don't know the history of this band, nor am I good friends with them, so I will portray them from the reality base of being simply a fan and having seen them play live twice with two of their cds now in my collection. The Koffin Kats are from Detroit and they play something that many refer to as either "psycho-billy" or "goth-o-billy". I think they basically are the love child of simple hard rock and metal fused with the origins of rock and roll music. At first glance you might think these tattooed souls might just be a gimick or schtick laced with that typical "ooh, look at us so goth and trendy and all into vampires and stuff", but on first chord and drum hit and you realize that these guys are very serious about their craft.
You have three individuals currently playing the live show. The guy who does the main singing plays a black stand up bass with metal carefully crafted to the sides. I think it must have something to do with looks, but more probable is so that the bass can handle the fact that he and the guitarist enjoy standing upon it and it often finds itself in the air and being flung around like a zombie dummy at a GWAR concert. Both times I have seen the band, the guitarist has favored a white guitar for part of the set and a black guitar for the other part of the set. I imagine the drummer goes through quite a few drum sticks and drum heads. I enjoy music where the drum kit is actually appearing to be abused and you almost feel sorry for it. Almost.
I saw the Koffin Kats this particular time at the fabulous Mercury Lounge and there were some issues with the mics going out. Something to do with a thermo something or other, but like most bands playing bars in addiction to venues and concert halls, the Kats rolled with the punches and stopped here and there or got into simple drum player hit that damn thing some more until they figure it all out mode. You didn't have to be told the band was having a good time and you weren't told you couldn't take pictures and video either. This band is all about it's fans as you can check out either on their web site or on their MySpace page. They love their fans and they are genuinely nice guys. They let you take pictures with them. They don't disappear on breaks or before or after the show and they actually say "thank you" at the merch table when you slap down some hard earned bucks on merchandise. They have a lot of merchandise to choose from and it is varied and seems to touch a part of everyone in the crowd. I actually heard some of the younger members of the crowd talking about how cool the shirts were. This is always a good sign.
I had front row seats and spent some time about five feet from the band doing some pics and video and everyone really seemed to enjoy the show. Due to the size of our bar, there wasn't much in the way of moshing or anything of that nature, but some people had come up from OKC, about 198 miles away just to see them play and that is always a good sign as well. Those who were younger did do a bit of shoving and there was some drinking of course and you know it's been a good night when the projectile vomiting comes out and makes it into the trash can and everyone is asking that person, "you ok man?" And the music just keeps on going.
If you get a chance to see this band, anywhere you might be, I highly recommend seeing them play live. You won't be disappointed.
For one thing, you can actually understand most of the lyrics and they mix it up and play different things all the time. I saw them a couple of months ago and they played about half the songs we heard in the first set and the other half was songs I had not heard played live. Judging from their touring schedule, these guys are work horses and enjoy playing live. It shows.
Bands I've discovered that come from the same remote ballpark include Nekromantix, the Deadlines, the Ghastly Ones, and perhaps the Chop Tops.
Starkweather Boys at the Fabulous Mercury Lounge, 18th and Boston, Tulsa Oklahoma
You know a band has an impact on you when you get to bed around 3:45 a.m. and then you are wide awake and wanting to write up a review of the band at 7:30 a.m., especially if you are beginning to see your first forty something birthday in a couple of years and sleep becomes more and more important. You aren't 18 years old anymore. But I digress.
I had the pleasure of seeing The Stark Weather Boys (Starkweather Boys? I've seen it written out both ways and can't seem to work up the courage to ask Billy Earl Pageant which it is supposed to be, I think I'll go with Starkweather Boys for at least with a 50% chance of being right I'll have either been right or can say that I at least had it written in my review the other way once) last night at my personal favorite venue, The Mercury Lounge.
The Starkweather Boys are that rare band indeed. They have top notch musicians that can duplicate a sound that hasn't truly existed for around 50 years in a way that almost betters the original. If there is a high definition rendition of the roots of rock and roll, these guys have it mastered and have those masters on their own personal hard drives. This band doesn't really have a hype machine to promote it. Instead, the band drives on a much better and truer wave of word of mouth and popular opinion among those subculture gurus in the know. I have heard that they were quite the buzz at the 10th annual Rock-a-Billy Weekender recently in Fabulous Las Vegas and, I must admit, they were my personal favorite on the commemorative cd that was put out during that fantastic event. There you will find the song that they opened with last night, "Abigail Blue", and the song is practiced and played to perfection. This song seems to be their "hit" if you will, but the set is so wonderful, all the songs lend a sense of "damn another great song from these guys".
I call the Starkweather Boys a rare band for several reasons, one is the reason above – a great band of musicians not following some hype train of pretentious wanna bes, but rather playing it up and letting the music and their talent speak for themselves. Another reason is something I saw last night. I've been at shows where the bass players string broke and we got about thirty minutes of stand up monologue and things seemed to deteriorate from there. I've been at shows where something went wrong and the band decided it might just be better to pack up and leave, the slightest mistake taking away all their mojo and rendering them impotent as a band. The Starkweather Boys, however, after having bass problems, simply chugged along and changed the songs up and then, as manna from heaven, a new bass was supplied in electric form and then in glorious stand up form so the band could continue. It was a great set and perfect as far as this writer will admit.
The last reason the Starkweather Boys are a rare band is that even as the opening band, they seemed the star attraction. True, many of their friends and fans were in attendance and many of us had come to see them in particular, although in true Josh owner of the Mercury fashion, all the bands were worthwhile and it was worth our while to stick around and see the headlining act of course. True, these guys are seasoned musicians and I've seen my friend Billy Earl play in a number of bands over the years. But this lineup seems destined for something. This lineup seems like a real legendary makeup. I wish them legendary status as they move on and play more gigs and record more albums and as they continue their journey into rock and roll history. Here's to the Starkweather Boys. A birthday shot from my wife dharma and a knowing nod from me. High accolades indeed.