This was really a great time. I'm so glad I finally decided to go.
I understand this was put on by Dave, one of the guys behind the Chicago Exotica events. It was held at Chef Shangri-La, billed as a Chinese Fusion restaurant in North Riverside, IL (Chicago suburbs). Check out the website for some cool interior shots. It's done up Tiki bar style, it is quite amazing inside! Anyway, Dave and crew did an awesome job with the actual event logistics. I think it is the only event like this I have been to where everything ran on time like clockwork, despite some set backs that were no fault of their own (see below).
This lasted two days, but I only made the Saturday event (I spent Friday night in Milwaukee at The Exotics EP release party). During the day, they roped off the very large parking lot next to the restaurant, where they had a covered stage, seating, and some old-timey cars. The Surfabilly Freakout crew seemed to be running the sound and providing music between the bands. Inside the Chef they had vendors (Tiki stuff, clothing) and many interesting raffle items.
I arrived right when the first band started playing, but I had a lot of trouble finding parking, so I missed all but about 2 songs from Alewife, so I can't really say much about them. They were a guitar/bass/drummer trio plus a 2nd percussionist playing bongos.
The Astronauts Space Age Combo was next. They are a band consisting of keyboards/vocals, guitar, drums, bass, trumpet, & sax. They played a mixture of loungey, exotica sounding stuff (Mancini), and some more frat rock style numbers like Wooley Bully and Tequila. Very fun band and I enjoyed their set. It was curious though, almost every member had sheet music, and they all had to fight the wind which kept turning their pages.
I think the next band was The Fuzzrites, which consisted of Tommy and Dave (?) from the Concussions on guitar/vocals & bass, plus a 2nd vocalist, and Pete Curry (Los Straits) on the drums. They turned things up a notch by playing a rocking, garagey sounding set. Tommy was playing through his crazy Premier fold-together amp / extension speaker with a solid body Rickenbacker guitar (I didn't even know what it was until Ivan told me). Dave had a cool Mosrite bass. They did a great job on the vocals, capturing that style perfectly. The music wasn't really up my alley, but I enjoyed the set.
The Hot Rod Hucksters, a rockabilly band, was up next. Again, I don't normally listen to this style of music, but I did enjoy it. It was interesting to watch the stand-up (double) bass player and see how the technique differs from a regular electic bass. The guitar player had that fierce stinging Rockabilly sound down pat, played through a Gretsch (of course). The singer/rhythm guitarist seemed kind of bored and mostly sang in a monotone (or so it seemed). But he did do a great job on Chuck Berry's Maybelline, and the set closer, so I know he is capable of better.
The Dyes were up next. They made quite a stir because the singer/guitarist and bass player were very attractive young females. Rounding out the band was a drummer and guitarist playing a tele. They sort of had a Cramps / Trashwomen vibe and got a great reaction from the crowd.
Ok, let me temporarily stop with the bands and describe some other stuff.
Also throughout the day an all-girl dancer troupe called "The Janes" came out and did some cool 60's style go-go dancing in-between the acts, and often danced to the bands, livening up things considerably. They had 3 or 4 costume changes throughout the day. Meow!
The Chef crew had set up an outside bar / food tent in the parking lot. I had some great garlic fries that were seemingly stir-fried along with some peppers, onions, and Chinese-food style sesame seeds. Yum! They were also serving Mai-Tais and "Dr. Fongs" -- great rum concoctions that were very strong. My head was spinning after having a Mai-Tai followed too quickly by a Dr Fong.
It was great seeing some familiar faces as well. Midwest Surf Guy was there, camcorder in tow. Jet and the Surfabilly Freakout crew were there as well. Of course Ivan & The Madeira showed up. Ivan introduced me to Tommy and Dave from the Concussions, it was great meeting them and chatting with them.
Ok back to the rundown. At this point, I think we went into the Chef to get some food. Unfortunately you always seem to miss one band at these all day things, and I did not get to see (sadly) Go Tsunami's set. Hopefully I can catch them in the future. Some of the photos I saw later showed they had a very interesting visual act!
Dinner was quite good. And it helped sharing the meal with The Madeira plus Patrick's new girl Savannah. All great people and we had lots of laughs at the table.
After we finished the Concussions took the stage. I really did not know much of anything about this band but I was quickly won over. Not exactly a surf band, but just an awesome instrumental band with their own style, which features elements of surf, r&b, and more traditional rock-n-roll. Again Tommy (aka Dick Chicklet) was playing through his Premier amp, but this time with a '59 Jazzmaster. He had a very tough sound which at times sounded really heavy and other times much more nuanced. The band performs in these crazy skull masks and has quite the stage show. They opened their set by announcing that this was not only Melanie & Eddie Angel's anniversary, but Melanie's birthday as well. They dedicated their first song, the Theme to Midnight Cowboy to them (which Los Straitjackets also play a lot). The band reminded me of Los Straitjackets at times, but again, they have their own thing going on, and I dug it.
The Madeira were up next. I have seen this band so many times but it is always a tremendous experience. The band sounded great through a backline provided by Phil from the Cocktail Preachers. I know I am biased but you could really tell the Madeira had the most original sounding songs of the day. They started out heavy and then had a nice mellower middle part of their set before finishing strong with several fast numbers. They closed with Tribal Fury, the title track to the new album, and I think I saw Ivan even turn up the volume for the last part of the song. Awesome set!
Finally the Neanderthals took the stage to close out the outside portion of the day. This incarnation was Eddie Angel (Los Straits) on guitar / vocals, Johnny Rabb on vocals / drum (singular!), Tommy from the Concussions on bass, and Pete Curry on drums! Dressed in their Lone Ranger masks, furry caveman skins, and converse high tops, they are always a super fun party band. And they really rocked! Unfortunately it started pouring rain not even halfway through their set, and they had to quit. They were under a canopy, but most of the audience wasn't, and the Surfabilly Freakout guys had to tear down their sound booth in record time. So this was quite a bummer but I was very glad I did get to see them play 5 or 6 numbers.
So at this point things transitioned inside for the last two bands: Roger & The Wraybands followed by The Cocktail Preachers. To be honest, I was really starting to drag here, and I was bummed by the rain cancelling the Neanderthals. I even contemplated skipping the rest and finding my hotel to crash. Boy am I glad I stuck around!
Roger & The Wraybands killed. It must be said. I had seen these guys with a slightly different line up in 2007 or so. I enjoyed them then, but this time they came out swinging. They are an all cover band, but they have it nailed. And they were loud and powerful, just like Outerwave (California's resident trad surf cover band). This time around they had Bill Aqua, formerly (?) of the Reluctant Aquanauts on guitar, and I think a new bass player since I saw them last. The same powerful drummer, and Roger of course, who really brought his A-game playing through a sexy white Strat. They hammered out some awesome songs which had the Janes and other audience members dancing. Bill was playing through some kind of Gibson hollow body, and both guitarists were using Fender Twins I think. Not a reverb tank or pedal in sight, but they didn't need it. They really sounded fantastic, tight, and totally nailed those songs. They played a lot of Ventures, some Los Straitjacket covers, and some great surf standards. Roger and Bill took turns on the lead duties, and it was all very impressive. The whole band was very impressive. Excellent job guys! Wow!
(It was nice chatting with you Roger, and Bill I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk more. But it was great to finally (!!!) meet you in person)
At this point it was 11:30pm and the Cocktail Preachers had to be in downtown Chicago at 5:00am to play at some race/run. I was worried they were going to play an abbreviated or mellow set. But perhaps inspired by Roger & The Wraybands, they too came out loud and swinging! They played a very powerful set, lots of their tasty originals plus some awesome covers from Jon & The Nightriders and even Gooch In Space by the Deadbeats! Bruce was killer on the steel guitar. I absolutely love those songs they do with Bruce playing some tasty slide guitar. They do an amazing cover of the 60's classic Gutterball (Goldtones) in this mode. Dr. Ben on the drums is most impressive, easily their strongest drummer to date. He was hitting so hard his kit was creeping across the floor and I thought he was going to hit through his toms on the set closer cover of Sing Sing Sing, Los Straitjacket's style. Wow again!! Very impressive set and I understand they did make their 5am gig just a few hours later.
Well congratulations on reading this epic report if you made it this far. I was kind of light on details since I wanted to cover each band. If you have any questions or if someone else posts their recollections I'll likely say more. I took a few pictures but nothing really all that interesting to post. There are a ton of pictures on Facebook though. Search for Surfabilly Freakout and Motorhead Mike. They have some great photos.
Thanks to everyone who worked very hard to put on this show, it was awesome! I hope it becomes an annual event!
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Last edited: Sep 10, 2012 20:55:13