Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Pub of the Dead" follow-up: zombies in pop culture and psychobilly, or "Why Zombies Ate Her Brain"

As reported in my previous article (click here to read a review of the "Pub of the Dead" psychobilly night at Old Town Pub, Pasadena), there has been a general resurgence of zombies in pop culture, and zombies seem to be particularly popular among psychobilly fans.

Yes, I know zombies have been a part of pop culture for a long time. After all, as Professor Robert Maniquis (UCLA, 19th century literature expert) pointed out while analyzing the popularity of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the 2009 literary mash-up “co-authored” by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith), the Jesus story represents perhaps the most enduring and famous tale of living dead resurrection ever. I’ve never really thought about Jesus as a zombie, but the professor has a point. And I'm also aware that the psychobilly love for zombies stems from a cult-like obsesstion with old sci fi and horror B-movies, many of which featured campy zombie gore.

While there is a long history of fascination with the undead, there has been a clear spike in zombie love the past few years, rivaling, if not trumping, the sexy and alluring vampire fetish… or maybe just catering to a very different audience. Some have attributed this resurgence of zombie interest to Max Brooks’ books such as The Zombie Survival Guide (2003) and World War Z (2006). Now there are zombie walks across the nation where people dress up and stumble along main thoroughfares with their arms outstretched, muttering “mbbbrrraaaaaiiinnsssss” at passersby. Last year I attended Oakland’s “Thriller” re-creation when zombies all over the world simultaneously performed Michael Jackson’s choreography. There was recently an art exhibit in Arcadia entitled “Zombies in Love.” I’m not even going to get into the scores of zombie movies and video games, and I’ll tell you all about the “Zombie Research Society” in a later article. These are just some of the recent manifestations of the zombie fetish in popular culture.

So why are zombies are so ubiquitous in the popular imagination lately? I’ve started to compile some of the different theories people have come up with. I’ll write in more detail about each of these soon, but for now, here is a brief run-down of what I’ve found:


Friday, February 26, 2010

Zombies moaned their approval for the bands at last week's "Pub of the Dead" psychobilly night

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” – tagline from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978)

“When hell is full, the dead shall drink at Old Town Pub” – tagline for “Pub of the Dead”

And they sure did. Walking into “Pub of the Dead II” at Pasadena’s Old Town Pub, I found myself struggling to recognize the people I knew. Most of the guests had smeared their faces in white, grey, green, and black paint, and artfully dabbed fake blood around their mouths. Scabby bits of rotting flesh decayed off their cheeks and chins. But after my eyes adjusted to the scene, I was able to figure out who the zombies really were. Over there I saw a cowboy hat, so that had to be Xavier from the Texas-based band Hotrod Hillbillies. And that must be Tony, guitarist and singer of The Rocketz, dressed in a tattered suit, looking like a corporate zombie who fell victim to the disease on the way home from the office.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Psychobilly and rockabilly shows for any fan this weekend - Feb 26-27

There are shows for any and every type of rockabilly/psychobilly fan this weekend.
If you want to find out what metal music with a washtub bass and mandolin sounds like, check out Los Duggans at Spike’s on Friday.
Do you like a little bit of surf mixed with old-school rockabilly, space aliens, and ska? Then support Gamblers Mark at Tropics Lounge in Fullerton on Friday.
Or check out The Sugar Daddys – yet another incarnation of The Moonlight Trio musicians who play great old-fashioned rockabilly.
In the mood for some two-stepping country-western cowpunk psychobilly? Don’t miss the Hotrod Hillbillies at The Juke Joint this Friday.
Or see The Daisy Pushers who play darkly swinging rockabilly fitting of a burlesque show at a circus, on Saturday at the Surf City Saloon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Creepshow review – Canadian “hellbilly” band tours California with must-see performances

Talk about a polite band. Singer Sarah “Sin” Blackwood told the crowd: “You all better sing along with this song, or we’ll pick on you.” The bassist Sean “Sick Boy” McNab quickly added: “Yeah, but we’re Canadian, so we’ll apologize right after.” The fans who gathered at The Troubadour on Friday, February 12th needed no encouragement to participate – they sang along, whirled around in the pit, shouted call-and-response phrases with Sarah, and screamed their approval of every song. They even clapped along impressively in time with the beat when the band encouraged them to keep the rhythm going through an entire song.

But don’t let the band’s Canadian politeness fool you. Their songs – often about demonic subjects - are not for the faint of heart. Just take a look at these song titles: “Demon Lover,” “Run For Your Life,” “Buried Alive,” “Dearly Departed,” “You’ll Come Crawlin’” and “Long Way Down.” But what’s interesting about their song-writing style is that these songs delve deeper than typical psychobilly tracks influenced by horror movies. These songs of terror, monsters, and demons are often metaphors for personal experiences of adversity, heartbreak, friendship, and addiction – subjects that most people can identify with even if they haven’t watched Dawn of the Dead a hundred times.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine's Ball 2 weekender - Frantic Flintstones thrilled thousands of psychobilly fans

It felt like prom night. Psychobilly and rockabilly fans from all over the nation showed up in full force, dressed to the nines, eager to socialize with others who had traveled to Pomona’s newly renovated Fox Theatre for this big event. The second annual Valentine’s Ball is just one of the famous “weekenders” organized by Rich of Black Cat Entertainment, the other being Labor Day weekend’s Hollywood Showdown now on its eleventh year. The Valentine’s Ball, which took place February 13th (conveniently on the Saturday of a three-day weekend in honor of President’s Day), is quickly becoming one of the nation’s hottest annual destinations.

This year’s event attracted an estimated 2,000 fans, filling the luxurious Fox Theatre with vibrant energy. The venue was perfect. There was a side room with a bar and comfortable places to sit when you needed a moment to relax, away from the noise of the main room. The spiraling staircase ushered patrons up to the prom-like photo booth and to another bar on the smoking patio. The plush lobby offered fans a chance to meet with band members at the merch tables. And, of course, there was the huge auditorium with room for the lively wrecking pit and great views for those even further back who didn’t want to risk breaking a heel or mussing up their well-done hairdo’s.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zombies, pirates, and shakin' bones: psychobilly and rockabilly shows this weekend

Last weekend was a busy one for rockabilly and psychobilly fans, with The Creepshow at the Troubadour and the Valentine’s Ball featuring Frantic Flintstones in Pomona (check back for reviews coming soon).

But this weekend offers plenty of local shows. So get out your zombie costume and support your local bands!

“When Hell is full, the dead shall drink at Old Town Pub” – dress up and join them
- "Pub of the Dead II": The Rocketz, The Returners, Becky & the Blacktones, The Transers
Friday 2/19/2010, at 9:00 PM
Old Town Pub
66 N. Fair Oaks (Entrance in alley on Holly St), Pasadena, CA 91103
$3 if you’re dressed like a zombie, $7 if not
21 and over
Click here to read more about The Rocketz.

Or celebrate the weekend at an awesome pirate bar with great music
- “Bar That Sucks” presents Gamblers Mark, Mission Creeps, Cold Blue Rebels, The VooDuo
Friday 2/19/2010, at 8:00 PM
Redwood Bar
316 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
21 and over, $10
Click here to read a recent interview with Gamblers Mark.

- The Copy Cats – the greatest rockabilly cover band!
Friday 2/19/09, at 8:30 PM
The Other Place
316 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, CA 92802
Free, 18 and over, full bar, kitchen until 11 pm
Click here to read more about The Copy Cats.

- SHAKN’ BONES: Viernes 13, Henchmen, Los Creepers, The Triggers, The Riff Raffs resident DJ Von Badsville spinning rockabilly, psychobilly, punk, rock’n’roll, garage, & surf all night
Saturday 2/20/2010, 9:00 PM
Bamboo Bar
14304 Telegraph Rd., Whittier, CA 90604
21 and over, $10 cover

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Creepshow teams up with Miss Derringer at the Troubadour this Friday - a must-see concert

Ghouls, demon lovers, zombies, the devil – just some of the characters found in the horrifically fun songs of The Creepshow. The group boasts four talented musicians: the cute but tough bombshell Sarah “Sin” Blackwood rocks on guitar and lead vocals, Sean “Sick Boy” McNab slaps away on a stand-up bass topped with a skull, Kristian “The Reverend McGinty” Rowles delivers dark-sounding sermons and creepy organ sounds à la J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, and Matt “Pomade” Gee keeps it all together with solid rhythms on drums.

To get the hard-driving hybrid sound that makes this Canadian band unique and exciting, take a little Johnny Cash, mix in some Dead Kennedys and the Damned, throw in the zombie love child of Wanda Jackson and Elvis Presley, and add a dash each of skate punk, haunted house organ, 1980s goth, and 1950s/1960s vocal group harmonies. So whether you want to call it “horrorbilly,” “psychobilly,” “horror punk,” “punk-a-billy,” “hellbilly” or whatever other term people have come up with to describe the general “rockabilly meets punk meets horror movie” style, the band prefers to simply call it “Rock n Roll.”

The Creepshow celebrated the release of their second album, Run For Your Life, with a very successful non-stop North American tour last fall. Now they’re back with a winter tour before heading off to Australia for the Soundwave Festival later this month and then Japan for Punkspring in April. If you haven’t seen The Creepshow hit the stage before, then you’re in for a wonderful treat. They are one of those rare bands that sounds just as great live as they do on their well-produced album, and totally entertaining to boot. There are so many different musical influences that go into their sound, it’s best to just go get a taste of it for yourself. You’re bound to find something you like in their eclectic mix of styles.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Interview with Black Cat Entertainment: Valentine’s Ball, Feb. 13, featuring Frantic Flintstones

The highly-anticipated Second Annual Valentine’s Ball event this upcoming Saturday, February 13, 2010 is organized by Black Cat Entertainment, the same promoter that presents a variety of 80s, punk, psychobilly, and rockabilly events throughout Southern California, most notably the annual Hollywood Showdown (which has been going strong for ten years now).

I got a chance to talk to Black Cat’s owner, Rich, and it’s clear that he loves providing fun and entertaining events for all types of music fans. Here are some clips from the interview:

What’s the best part of running these events?
Rich: Definitely the satisfaction of putting on the event and seeing the fans involved, happy, and excited to see and meet the bands. I take thousands of photos, and it’s great to see everyone having such a good time. I make it fun by adding all the pre-show events and I try to keep it feeling like a party, a fun thing.
[Check the end of this article for all details on the main event, as well as the pre-show activities on Thursday and Friday]

What’s the most challenging aspect?
Rich: These days it’s harder to get people to go to shows. Before, it was automatic, but with today’s financial situation, people have to pick and choose what they’re going to spend their money on. It was the worst when gas went up, because if you had $20, it went to filling your tank. But I think things are picking up, and I really appreciate all the shop owners who sell our Valentine’s Ball tickets in their store. We all really try to help each other out.


Valentine’s Ball on Saturday featuring Frantic Flintstones – psychobilly legends from UK - and more

 Fans have been looking forward to this event for months, and now it’s almost here. The Second Annual Valentine’s Ball takes place this weekend with a concert on Saturday February 13 featuring the legendary Frantic Flintstones (UK), The Swampy’s (Belgium), Mad Marge and the Stonecutters (Victorville), Stellar Corpses (Santa Cruz), and Dr. Bizarro’s Victims (San Fernando Valley).

There will also be a meet and greet with Frantic Flintstones and some of the other bands at Bigfoot Lodge in Los Feliz on Thursday February 11th at 10 PM, and an in-store at Red Zone in the Panorama City Mall on Friday February 12th at 6 PM (see the bottom of this article for details on all these related events).

Much of the anticipation is due to the headliner: Frantic Flintstones is one of those legendary UK 1980s psychobilly bands that appeals to fans who have been into this music for decades as well as people who are newer to the scene and just discovering the innovators of the genre. Members throughout the years have also played with The Meteors, Morrissey, and Guana Batz, among other famous rockabilly/psychobilly bands. Check out their MySpace page for an entertaining history of all the line-up changes – and drugs/booze – this band has gone through. Don’t miss this chance to see Frantic Flintstones, since you never know when they’ll make it back to LA again.
Click here to see which songs you recognize on their MySpace page.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Gamblers Mark - storytelling masters of psychobilly, ska, surf, and rockabilly. Tonight @ Spike's!

Now this is a psychobilly band that can really carry a tune. I got a chance to check out Gamblers Mark on January 23rd at The Surf City Saloon and January 24th at the “Veteranos del Underground” music festival at Self-Help Graphics in East Los Angeles.

Lead singer/guitarist Dave Gambler has one of the best voices I’ve heard in the billy scene in a long time – great tone and sustain with a crooner style that doesn’t overdo the vibrato. His brother Danny Exito (on upright bass) and Ricky Lobo (on drums) add sweet-sounding back-up harmonies that fully round out the awesome vocal skills of this band. Listen to “Rockahula FiveO” or “Down a Highway” for great examples of their clean, crisp, tuneful melodies and harmonies. Plus, there’s an honorary fourth member: Dave’s son, Jacob Dean (aka “Jake the Ripper”) earned his nickname by showing off his shredding skills at the Veteranos show while his dad threw merchandise to the screaming crowd.

Then there’s their unclassifiable mix of music genres – a little rockabilly here, a little psychobilly there, and a dash each of punk rock, ska, and surf music. Their influences range widely across the musical spectrum. Take, for instance, the first two concerts that Danny ever went to see - Dick Dale and Reverend Horton Heat - or the fact that they listened to early Jamaican ska on the way to the show. And sometimes Dave gets ready for a show by listening to industrial goth music, or surf, or 1940s jazz, or Spanish rockabilly, depending on his mood. Then Ricky brings more punk rock to the equation, which adds an extra edge to the basic rockabilly drum pattern. Put together, you get a band that can cater to any crowd.

Click here to read the rest of the review on the Examiner website!