Sunday, January 25, 2009

The sound and fury of Surf and Turf

My first DJ set of 2009 was at The Cadillac Lounge on January 17th, as part of Surf and Turf, an evening of surf and rockabilly music. I posted the full press release on The Mysterious Vault a few weeks ago, for more background information on the show (see Jan. 7th posting). Surf and Turf was a simple concept – one surf band (The Vondells) and one rockabilly band (Tennessee Voodoo Coupe) facing off onstage – and I was thrilled to be part of the action, spinning tunes to set the stage for the live acts. Anyone who knows me, or who has followed this blog, will no doubt be aware of my enthusiasm for both surf and rockabilly music, so an event like this was right up my alley! Since I’ve been posting snippets of my DJ setlists on The Mysterious Vault, I thought I’d continue with a selection of songs from Surf and Turf. In keeping with the theme, I’ve assembled a list of 10 surf and 10 rockabilly songs from the night (the list appears at the end of the post).

The Cadillac Lounge was a natural setting for Surf and Turf, being a venue that regularly features both types of music. The evening’s festivities got off to a bit of a hectic start, as there was a matinee show booked earlier the same day that ran late, but things quickly fell into place and both bands got in decent sets.

The Vondells kick off Surf and Turf 
at The Cadillac Lounge

Guitarist Danny Bartley takes the Gretsch 
into surf country

The Vondells (l to r): Neil Bartley (drums), 
Danny Bartley (guitar), Ken Badger (bass)

The Vondells power through some dazzling instrumental workouts

The Vondells opened the proceedings with a solid set of surf instrumental pyrotechnics. This mysterious 3-piece unit were making a rare appearance with this show, and although they aren't a fixture of the live circuit, their performance was quite impressive and consistent throughout. The Vondells are comprised of Danny Bartley on guitar (better known as the frontman for The Royal Crowns), brother Neil Bartley on drums (ex-Shotgun Shack), and bassist Ken Badger (who I learned was a member of Toronto first-wave punk band The Scenics). Even if The Vondells is just a casual side project, these guys perform with a great deal of intensity and purpose. The setlist was all originals (with great titles like “Calling All Cars” and “Lakeshore Boulevard”), other than a cover of the themesong to the ‘60s exploitation film Beat Girl! This selection surprised me, as very few people I know are even aware of this great John Barry soundtrack. The title song is a menacing, twangy guitar-led piece, and should be a standard right up there with "Peter Gunn" and the James Bond theme as far as I’m concerned. The Vondells brought this classic to life and made it their own, and played a full set of wicked epic instrumentals. I’m hoping that this gang is back on the scene sooner than later!

Tennessee Voodoo Coupe onstage at the Cadillac Lounge (l to r):
Steve Abrahms (guitar), Big Rude Jake (vocals, guitar), Col. Gary Edwards (drums), Steve Good (bass)

Tennessee Voodoo Coupe deliver a shot of their "100 proof reckless hillbilly jive"

The rockabilly quotient of Surf and Turf was provided by Tennessee Voodoo Coupe, a local quartet that is a spin-off of garage punk-abilly rockers Blue Mercury Coupe. I’ve mentioned these two bands on a number of occasions in The Mysterious Vault, in part because I’ve spun records at quite a few of their shows over the past two years, and also because I dig both groups. TVC put this event together, and rounded out the evening with a fun set of rockabilly, country, jump blues, and inspired covers. Their show got off to a delayed start due to some technical glitches (even bare-bones rockabilly setups can have technical problems!), but it kicked into gear with a nice cover of “Mystery Train”, and picked up steam from there. The vibe onstage was casual, and lead singer Big Rude Jake kept a running gag going on the theme of Mill Street Tankhouse Ale… Might seem a bit odd, but TVC guitarist Stevie “Six String” Abrams is one of the men behind the fine local brewery, so it all makes sense. At least I think it does... TVC's setlist covered a lot of ground, mixing in stripped-down versions of Blue Mercury Coupe songs “Hot Rod Racer” and "Trans American", rockabilly numbers like “Driving Wheel", "Ubangi Stomp" and "Just Because", a spirited “Folsom Prison Blues”, and rockin’ takes on punky classics “Brand New Cadillac” and “Rockaway Beach”. While this wasn’t necessarily the best show I’ve seen by these guys (that would be their date at The Dakota Tavern last November), they certainly played a good set and ended Surf and Turf on a positive note. In retrospect, I was somewhat disappointed by the overall turnout, but considering the cold and snowy weather that night, I wasn’t that surprised. January shows are always a bit of a risky prospect, but Surf and Turf was a nice place to be on a blustery winter’s night. If all goes well, Surf and Turf will be back for another round when you least expect it.

TVC rock some Sun classics on a cold January night

20 songs from Surf and Turf at The Cadillac Lounge

Los Twang! Marvels “Queen Gipsy Witch”
Dick Dale & The Deltones “Let’s Go Trippin’”
Wes Dakus & The Rebels “Surfs You Rite”
The Shutdowns “Four In The Floor”
The Von Drats “Church Key”
Los Straitjackets “San Diego Shutdown”
Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet “Bennett Cerf”
Huevos Rancheros “Diamond Head”
Peter Wave & The Silver Arrows “Silver Arrows Stomp”
The Saints “Wipe Out”
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps “Race With The Devil”
Buddy Knox “Rockhouse”
Danny Gatton “Elmira St. Boogie”
Swing Cats “Viva Las Vegas”
The Cramps “The Way I Walk”
Handsome Ned “Put The Blame On Me”
Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio “Hold Me”
Joe Clay “Sixteen Chicks”
Jack Scott “Baby She’s Gone”
The Royal Crowns “Give It To You”

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