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[whitespace] Billy Club

A trio of psychobilly bands take the Aptos Club to hell and back

By David Espinoza

Elvis must be rolling over in his grave, and knowing the psychos responsible, it's probably the way they'd want it. Psychos, meaning fans of Psychobilly--a Jack Daniel's-fueled illegitimate kid of '50s rockabilly and punk that has a strange infatuation with Halloween paraphernalia. Think "Jailhouse Rock" played by Rancid with Eddie Munster on vocals.

In a surprise appearance (and I mean really surprising because a permanent band doesn't exist yet), Berkeley's Tiger Army opened up for San Jose's Hayride to Hell and the Deadcats Nov. 12 at the Aptos Club. Led by singer/songwriter Nick 13, Tiger Army is quite possibly the only psychobilly band in the state--maybe anywhere--to be on a well-known indie label. That label, Hellcat (an offshoot of Epitaph), just released Tiger Army's self-titled debut a few weeks ago.

Friday's show being the band's first in three years, Nick 13 and sit-in friends Geoff Kresge (formerly of AFI) and Joe Fish (formerly of Fury 66) were understandably a little rusty. To Nick's credit, when his voice could be heard over the superfast stand-up-bass slapping and distorted guitars, he sounded like a young Mike Ness (of Social Distortion). Overall, Nick is still too cautious as a frontman and too nice to be playing bars, where the audience can boo or literally throw you offstage.

This fact was not missed by the Deadcats, who got onstage roughly three or four beers down the line after Tiger Army. Straight out of Canada, the quartet performed the way sleazy bands do when they know they might never be back to the venue, insulting the audience, requesting naked chicks (there were none) and making a mess. All the credit must be given to their bassist, who, between attempts to piss off the jocks in the crowd, set his amplified washtub bass on fire and stood on it while playing. The best thing this guy had to say was, "Sorry I had to kick you but my leg was on fire."

Breaking the Mystery

Just who are DJ Zeph and Imperial? Whether it's two folks or 10, three months ago they released Break Builders Volume One --an amazing two-track mix of DJ sampling and far-out rhythmic textures. Kind of like the Netwerk Electric of their genre, DJ Zeph and Imperial throw down extended funky jams with turntables, the sort of thing that could be featured on any new major movie soundtrack. Break Builders Volume One--if you can find it, get it.

Sphere vs. Electric

It's the battle Santa Cruz has been waiting for all year. Two of the city's best groove bands, the kind you loose-noodle dance too, are facing off to play a double-header at the Catalyst Friday. In one corner, you have Netwerk Electric--the local pride and joy of modern funk and jazz sensibilities; in the other corner, Estradasphere--the twick and sisted circus freak band that shared the stage with Mr. Bungle a few months back and that has been known to have onstage satanic cheerleaders, yoga and a guy reading a book. Bring a comfortable pair of shoes--and a fork in case they decide to make salad onstage.

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From the November 17-24, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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