Saturday, June 30, 2012

Aloha Screwdriver, Banzai Surf and Stafford and the Bentz Brothers at Slim's Last Chance 6-29-12

Surf is finally coming ashore after many moons of absence. While Banzai Surf is starting to crank their schedule, this is the first full on, big wave, heavy wax, nose riding spectacle for some time. I saw the Banzai boys at The Georgetown Carnival (where they killed), but I think you would have to go back to the Rockabilly Ball in September of '11 to register a heavy surf.

Aloha Screwdriver was one of the headliners of the Rockabilly Ball Surf Night Spectacular, hosted by my friend Leon Berman. Leon is the DJ of Shake The Shack, the premier Rockabilly radio show in the world. Others may mimic, but there is nothing like the real thing. Leon has been at it for 25 years this year and is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. 

Leon, who has been recuperating from surgery, has been sorely missing for over two months. This night he was joining his cousin Mike to host the show. It was appropriate that they had Aloha Screwdriver playing live on the show. It was wonderful to hear Leon's voice back on the air, we all missed him a lot and hope for his further progress. You can stream this show anytime day or night at 

Choose Leon Berman at the DJ column and at the next window choose the June 29th show.

I remember seeing Aloha Screwdriver break out in an impromptu fight with Glowing Ray-Guns during their set in September. I was cracking up as they chased each other around the Tractor in mock battle. They provided the killer theater all while blasting the best in high energy Surf.

Well, not only did they end up chasing each other around Slim's, blasting each other with the coolest Ray-Guns, they provided the audience a way to protect themselves. I got a genuine Aloha Screwdriver Brand PU-31 Explosive Modulated, twirling Ray-Gun and here is the proof:

I purchased a t-shirt also. Be sure to buy something from the artist if it is offered. This dough goes straight into their pockets. If they are willing to come all the way up from Alameda, CA to play one show in Seattle we should support them as best we can.

My pal Mark and I went to Slim's at what I thought was early. We walked in just after 9 and the first band was already on. I am used to the show starting at 9:30 at Slim's. For whatever reason they started early and the whole show wrapped up really early. I had heard the boys from AS saying they had to leave for Portland that evening so that might have had something to do with it. But it was weird getting home just after midnight on a Friday Night. My wife wondered what happened.

Having said that, I have absolutely no complaints about this show; the bill was killer, the sound tech had it dialed in and I had my favorite perch at the bar. The wait staff was cute and efficient, say cheese!

This was one of the most fun shows I have seen in a while; each band was great; 3 different versions of the same genre. The crowd was starting to get big, Seattle had been dying for some surf and the rain wasn't going to keep us from enjoying it.

The first band was Stafford and the Bentz Brothers. They are local boys who play tunes from the early 60's; tonight it was all surf and they were really fun. Stafford Warner is on drums, Mark Bentz is on stand-up bass and bis brother Phil plays lead guitar.

They rocked some classics with imaginative arrangements. They added original twists on the familiar tunes we all grew up with. Phil was blistering the 6 string, his face twitching as he guided his fellow babies through some awesome surf. They also played some very creative covers, my favorite was one from the movie In Like Flint. As soon as I recognized it I had to laugh. Really fun and entertaining.

Here is a pic of Phil relaxing after his set.

The guys set the tone for the evening, they had fun and played a great bunch of tunes. They got the audience cooking, big applause after every song. They have a presence on Facebook and ReverbNation:

Banzai Surf was up next, they had to follow a pretty good act and set up for one of the best surf bands in the states, a tall order. But as usually they killed. BS is Joe Jabon on lead guitar, Joe Anderson on bass, John Mooney on skins and Jim Sadler on keys.

This band is as tight and talented as they come, playing high energy fast moving surf to an appreciative crowd on this muggy evening. Banzai Surf was cranking the best of original and classic surf tunes, just like they have done before. I have seen them many times and each time is a real joy and pleasure.  As you can see here, they had the kiddies up and dancing.

They are well practiced and skillful as they play very creative arrangements of some of the great surf classics. The also have some nice original interpretations as in their version of The King of the Hill theme song. I loved Telstar, The Good, Bad and the Ugly and the Godfather Theme. They also did a cool surf-bossa nova tune.

I loved the keyboard player, he blazed the keys performing a couple solos that had us all boppin'. There wasn't a butt in the place that wasn't moving. 

The best tune they did was The Sabre Dance surf style, so very cool, driving, frenetic, played with real passion and love. These guys had the whole place up and rocking...Banzai was the cry! Banzai we yelled, Banzai!

The garage door was up at Slim's which helped keep us cool on this damp evening, but the peeps were at a fever pitch. Banzai Surf had thoroughly rocked and we all needed to catch our breath as one of the craziest entertainers on the west coast were up next. One more pic of this really great band of local surf musicians. Banzai!

See Banzai Surf here, buy their CD, it is great surf:

If you ever get a chance to see Aloha Screwdriver do not miss, this is one of the funnest, most entertaining bands you can see live. Three guys slither up to the stage but burst out with such energy that the first response is to flinch.

All of the members of the two previous bands and a big crowd stood in awe as these boys showed us how it was done. Great presence, cool outfits and killer music was the mission for the evening, from the first lick it was awesome.

Aloha Screwdriver is Donald Bell on guitar, Grant Shellen on bass and Steve Slater on drums. As I said, I have seen them before and when I heard they were coming back to town I canceled all plans and headed to Slim's. This was a must see event.

 These guys are not content to stand up on a stage and play a static show, far from it. I don't believe they even think there is a boundary between them and the crowd. Grant was the first to enter the fray, running through the bar with his wireless bass; the crowd going nuts the whole time. He was killing the bass while wearing a silver chest plate and wrap around shades.

 Steve is usually manic in his percussion style, many times standing and moving around the set. He plays anything that will make a thud or a tink, so fun to watch. He was wearing a Tyvek jumpsuit and a blinking set of goggles. He is a blur most of the time. Here he is presenting himself for our approval.

Steve is standing on the Rock Box. This is a riser with constructed with holes in the top of it and halogen lights under shining up through the holes. It is activated when one of these showman decided to get crazy and mount the damn thing. Hilarious and another detail that makes this band so great.

But wait, there is more. Here is how cool the Aloha Screwdriver boys are: they brought the Rock Box to Kexp for the radio broadcast. Never mind that the only folks that would be seeing it was Mike and Leon the DJ's, Aloha Screwdriver had to get their jollies! Awesome group these guys.

Donald is a freaking genius of surf guitar, just shredding the strings, at times making sounds that I didn't think could come out of a guitar. Dressed in garage style blue jumpsuit, he blazed an original and highly creative surf path, he and his mates were rocking their dynamite brand of original surf tunes.

They play extremely high energy surf and the crowd was right there with them. The mood was happy, and the kiddies were sweating to the best surf music in the west. I cannot do justice to this set, it was a freaking gas. You can hear some of the fun at the KEXP archive listed above.

They have a dynamite CD, order it without delay, you will become a quick convert. I have had the CD for 8 months and have never got tired of hearing it. You can see them here:

This is one of the rare surf shows in town and I was really glad to see a good crowd. It did help that my friends over at Shake the Shack hosted the boys live on the program earlier in the evening.

This was a great evening as surf music brings out the best in everybody. Surf is happy music, have you ever heard a bummer surf tune? Even Quentin Tarantino's dark moods cannot sully surf tunes.

The best resource on the planet for Surf Music is Double Crown Records based in Bellingham WA. They produce and record surf and instrumental rock from all over the world. They have a killer sale right now, 20% off all music. I just ordered 4 CD's to add to my collection. I am a subscriber and get 4 CD's of their choice (always great) sent out over a few months too. Check them out here:
and check out their Facebook page for the 20% sales code here:

Get out and see some live music soon, your heart will be lifted and you will feel better for it.

Thank you to Slim's Last Chance for hosting a great show. This is a wonderful venue for live music, chili, adult beverages and fun.  See them here:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Rainieros, Casey Ruff and the Mayors of Ballard, and The Georgetown Orbits at Darrell's 6-9-12

I had an epiphany this weekend, actually 2. It became clear as I got deeper into Saturday evening that this was one of the best weekend musical experiences I have ever had. It ranked right up there with the Rockabilly Ball; I had seen 16 killer bands in just over 54 hours. Here I was lucky enough to catch 10 bands in just over 29 hours. An incredible weekend of talented musicians, adult beverages and cool people.

The second fact that I came to realize is that Darrell's is the best place to see live music in Seattle. It rates a 10 in all the categories. It is easily accessed, it is in a small neighborhood and you can park feet from the front door. It is a warm and welcoming place, all the peeps are friendly and work hard to please. The bar is close to the stage and almost all the seats have a great view. The stage is small and intimate, there is no riser so you are on the same level as the talent. And speaking of talent, the bills are always top notch, every talented musician in the Seattle has had a spin at Darrell's.

This Saturday evening proved to be one of the funnest nights of the year. It started with one of the best western swing bands in Seattle, The Rainieros.

Liam Fitzgerald is the lead singer and head man of the talented collection of musicians. He always surrounds himself with great artists and tonight was no exception. This was the same band I had seen at The Sunset a few months ago. I reviewed the here:

Liam plays guitar and sings vocals, Nick Streeter plays lead guitar, Tyler plays a mean doghouse bass and Donnie is keeping the beats in back. They had us moving from the first lick. A couple hit the dance floor at the bell, Liam made sure to acknowledge them and even asked if the tempo was right for dancing. You gotta love a man that loves his peeps.

They played all my favorites and more. The Rainieros just came out with a new CD and it is filled with the great swing that Liam is known for, buy his CD or down load it here:

The whole placed seemed to be moving as one, Scott had the sound dialed-in and the dance floor was packed. Liam had us in his clutches and he and his mates were swinging.

Liam's wife Emily was sitting with friends and enjoying the show. Liam dedicated a song to her, she beamed as her honey sang for her. Later, in the second band's set, Casey Ruff had also sent a song out to her.

This must have lit a fire under her and she couldn't sit still. After Liam's set, if she wasn't dancing she was trying to get Liam up and dancing with her. Once I looked over to see Liam sitting down, one hand wrapped around a beer and Emily on the other hand dancing around him. I saw him try to distract her with a toy. There was a internally lit hula-hoop making it's way around the dance floor, he grabbed it and handed it to her. Thinking he had been successful he turned away only to be followed close behind by his tireless wife. He solved the problem by ducking in to the men's room.

A super cute couple, watching them was one of the side-stories to an awesome evening. This was as much fun as I have had in a long time and we were just getting started.

My friend Kevin joined me as his in-laws live just around the corner. He walked up around 10. Kevin had always wondered what lived behind the dingy exterior of Darrell's. Man did he get a face full of it tonight. He was amazed at the crazed scene, watching him rocking away with Casey and his band I knew he would be back.

We went to the car during one of the breaks and he played some tunes from a live concert performed by Robert Earl Keen. Kevin is from Texas and Keen is one of the musicians that he said best represents what he listened to as a kid. Keen is quite the story teller and funnier than crap, we were in tears laughing so hard. Another side story, but just one more layer in the killer evening of fun.

Casey Ruff was up next and he and his mates were amazing. Billed as alt. country, they had all the elements of a great band. Casey is from Custer, Montana and has joined up with a group of talented musicians.

Here is what I have for personnel, please leave a comment if I am incorrect; Casey Ruff lead singer, guitar, Kate Voss on vocals and electric piano, Dan Walker on guitar, DJ Busby on bass and Kubby Casual on drums. Then of course there was the additional volunteer band members who joined the fun from the dance floor. Donnie from Liam's band and another jovial gent were having a blast adding to the fun. Here is just a small representation of what transpired last night.

This was not an unusual scene this wonderful evening. Again, I can't remember having a better time in the recent past.

Casey and his band got everybody in the place up on the dance floor and moving. If it was possible,  they turned the heat up a notch on this rhythm-soaked evening. I loved their brand of country, if you were not dancing you were dead.

I cannot do justice to Casey and the set they performed last night. After his show I asked him where he had been all my life. I have had my head buried to have missed him. I am looking forward to seeing him again. See and hear him here: and connect with him here:

As if we weren't sweaty enough, the next band promised more killer music. I knew we were in for some fun when I saw the horns come out. The Georgetown Orbits are a reggae band and as the kiddies got situated on stage I watched as Scott made sure each one had what they wanted. A couple of tunes into the set, he again checked with each individual band member to make sure they could hear themselves. Did I mention that Darrell's is the best place to play as well as see live music?

It just so happened that the lead singer and front-man for this awesome collection of musicians was named Darryl. And since he had the same name of the place where he was performing, he decided that he had special privileges. His self appointed title was to be King! And there was no one to argue that fact. We, his loyal subjects were at his command. He made sure that we were happy in our situation, constantly checking with us, how is everybody at Darrell's?

King Cole (Darryl) was a merry old soul...a short message from the King, get up and dance!

A benevolent master, he commanded us to get up and dance. He got up close and personal charging into the crowd and chiding those who stubbornly were still seated. Imagine this electric personality exhorting the kiddies to move; all while the killer horn section was thumping, the keys were rocking, the bass was driving and the drums were pacing a dynamite reggae beat.

Oh mighty Lord Darryl, what can we, your people do for you? Get up and dance was the order; so we danced, and we danced. It was 1AM and we danced. Roosters were crowing outside, the guy who cleans the toilets was almost done, and the bartender was waiting impatiently at the backdoor with her coat in her hand and we danced.

The Georgetown Orbits are Darryl Grandison on lead vocals, Orion Anderson on guitar, Cale Wilcox on bass, David "Ozzie" Giles on Hammond Organ, Jared Fanning-Lytle on drums, Dan Loren on Flugelhorn, Adam Bruno on trombone,/trumpet and Sean Jensen on tenor and baritone saxophone.

The horn section was stellar, each artist getting a lot of solo time. Dan killed the Flugelhorn. I played the trumpet in high-school and I found my fingers were moving as he played his sweet solos. Adam was rocking the trombone, his sound gave the band so much depth. Again, the solos from mainly his trombone and one great trumpet solo were killer. Sean was awesome on both the tenor and baritone sax. I looked forward to his solos and loved when he brought out the big artillery for the heavy-duty action.

David was totally dynamite on keyboards. He must have been classically schooled as his skilled fingers played some of the best stuff of the evening. It helps to have that Hammond speaker translating your art, the sound was amazing.

They had a lovely young lady join them for a few tunes, she had a beautiful voice and a great stage presence. She later grabbed the hula-hoop and I got some cool pics. Bridgid Roney was a great addition tonight..

Orion was blazing on the 6 string, and along with Jared on percussion and Cale on bass, added the layers that make a rocking reggae band. The driving beat was infectious. The crowd was thin by now as it was half past witching time but no one dared leave. The King would not be pleased.

I had been talking with Scott earlier in the day and he was apprehensive about the bill tonight. Would his menu of differing genres work, would the babies get up and rock? The answer was a emphatic yes! Another triumph at Darrell's; this was one evening I would not soon forget.

See The Georgetown Orbits here:

The Georgetown Carnival featuring Banzai Surf, The Black Crabs and Knut Bell and the Blue Collars, 6-9-12

The weekend of live music is just over half over. I have 3 more bands to see tonight (Saturday) including one of my favorites; Liam Fitzgerald and The Rainieros are playing at Darrell's. Oh boy!

I saw three great bands last night (see previous post) and I just saw 4 bands this Saturday afternoon. Here is the report on that wonderful Saturday experience.

The Georgetown Carnival is an event produced by the merchants and community of that revered neighborhood. This area has had it's ups and downs over the last century, right now it is definitely on an up.

Here is one of the traveling entertainers at the Carnival.

One of my favorite bars in town, Calamity Jane's is located on Airport Way. Sarah and her crew have some of the best food and drink in town. Wonderful original art on the walls, wine and dine in a great atmosphere. Janice is the chef and this girl can cook. I had her conjure and prepare the menu for my 60th birthday party, incredible original food at an amazing great price.

My favorite sandwich place in the world was there; Where You At Matt? I had the best Shrimp Po-Boy in my life right here Saturday. Crisp fresh roll, shrimp cooked perfectly (not over-cooked, rare for even a mortar and brick joint) and a yummy sauce with many greens and tomatoes. My wife and I made it disappear with barely a word passed between us.

Streets were blocked off, all the neighbors were out and the atmosphere was happy and fun. Lot's of booths selling crafts and hand made clothing; the place was jumping. There were 2 dogs for every man woman and child, typical Seattle. There were several stages where live music was being performed. I, of course gravitated to the one with my style of music.

I should say I and my wife. This was a special occasion as the lovely and beguiling Mrs. Ghia joined me on this outing. She had a gas so my day was really special.  She got to meet some of the friends that I usually only see after her bedtime. Grady Shawver of the Blue Collars was super cool and made a special effort to say hi. A very sweet and talented man. We also got to see Scott Walker the talent behind the great bills at Darrell's Tavern in Shoreline. We hung out for quite a while, he is another great guy.

OK, quick word about Scott. My regular readers know I have a man-crush on him. He is about the nicest guy you ever want to meet. I was delighted to meet his son and one of his buddies. His kid was actually hanging around with him at the Carnival. That tells you something about how cool Scott is.

But here is the best thing about Scott; he loves live music. So much so that he was there on a Saturday catching bands that he himself has booked into Darrell's. Sometimes countless times as with the Crabs, they are a virtual house band at Darrell's. He had been the sound tech for 3 rockin' bands the night before and he was going to do the same later that evening. Oh and he does this 5 nights a week. He is a witness to one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world. In fact, he is chief chef of the incredibly creative bills that grace Darrell's stage.

The Trailer Park Band Stand was located behind Jules Maes in the parking lot. I know this location very well. I purchased a painting from The Nautilus Studio. They are located in the parking lot, well in the trees above the parking lot. A very cool space. See Yvette here:
Oh, and I had my 40th birthday at Jules Maes, a small coincidence.

Banzai Surf was on first and this group of Seattle veterans know how to rock. They have been around for years. I last saw them at The Rockabilly Ball Surf Night, they opened for a killer bill at the Tractor. They were cranking by the time I got there.

Banzai Surf is Joe Jabon on guitar, Joe Anderson on bass, John Mooney on drums and Jim Sadler on keys. They play classic driving surf with an attitude. Thy perform wonderful arrangements of standard tunes played with skill and all the immediacy of a heart attack. The crowd was up close and grooving, these old men were blasting!

I only caught a couple tunes, I was sorry I didn't catch their whole set. I suggest you see them if you have a chance. They are playing a bunch around town in the coming months, check them here:

The Black Crabs are one of the bands that really make me smile. My regular readers know I will move every muscle to see them perform. I have crush on the bass player and this is the safe way to see her...nobody gets hurt.

Johnny, lead singer, lead guitar and lead nut-job of the Crabs had a bum fret-pinky finger. He and his dog-buddy Emmet were attacked by a poorly loved pit-bull (I say poorly loved as I don't believe there is a inherently bad dog breed, I think there are some breeds that are unfortunately abused and treated poorly and thus have anger management problems). His finger was badly mangled and he ended up with 2 pins in it. It is currently in a splint and he cannot play guitar.

Now I thought this would be a problem. Even with the talented Nick Streeter sitting in on guitar, I couldn't imagine seeing the Crabs without Johnny playing one of his beautiful guitars. As it turned out, after seeing him perform without his guitar, I am torn over ever wanting to see him pick it up again. Take a look at these pics and you tell me. Guitar or no?

All right, let's be honest, an army of Jimmy Page's and Eric Clapton's couldn't replace Johnny and his guitar. I hope the finger heels fast and those 2 pins are actually an asset.

The Black Crabs are Jonathon Stuart, Kirsten Ballweg on stand-up bass and vocals and Tom Forster on drums and vocals. Nick sat in for Johnny and did a yeoman's job. They played their usual fun rockabilly and swing. I have reviewed them many times, slobber covers all the keys on my MacBook when I write about them.

See them here:
here is a review I did some time ago:

This was a special treat as Johnny put on a marvelous show. Besides being a nice guy, he is also a great entertainer. We are lucky to have such a wonderful resource for killer music. Thanks to Kirsten, Johnny and Tom or their tireless efforts to entertain the great unwashed masses (that's me and you).

The day just kept getting better; I saw my boss in the crowd. Most folks wouldn't want to see their boss at such an event. I was on my second pint (my wife was designated driver) and was grooving to the killer music. But Tom is not just a creative genius, he is also a regular guy. We exchanges smiles and salutations.

Knut Bell and the Blue Collars were up next. This was a dream bill Surf, Rockabilly and now Country. Knut and the boys were the perfect capper to a dynamite afternoon.

Knut and his band of musicians are another one of my favorite bands. They play original country, western swing and twang with special skill and warmth. Knut's deep voice and his imposing size may give you a start at first. 2 bars into the first song you are falling in love; warm fuzzies are moving through your extremities. Your foot starts tapping, your head starts bobbing, soon your butt is swinging back and forth. Knut and the boys play feel-good music. I always feel great when I'm in Knut's company.

Knut Bell and the Blue Collars are Knut on guitar and lead vocals, Kinny on pedal-steel, Grady on lead guitar, Jim on bass and Lewis on drums.

Look at the smile on Grady's face, he doesn't have any fun!

Kinny is stellar on the pedal-steel. His twang sets the tone for the band. Grady is one of my favorite guitarists and he did not disappoint here today. Jim is laying the bottom, driving the band with his bass and Lewis is keeping the beat on the drums.

The crowd was up again and dancing. There was a little kid up close watching and Knut flipped him his pick mid-song. The kid picked it up, enjoying his new toy and the attention being paid to him. Knut is one of the sweetest souls on the music scene in these parts.  We couldn't ask for a greater representative for the Pacific Northwest (Latteville) than Knut.

I have reviewed them several times before, here is one of the posts:
See Knut here:

There was more music coming up. Rats in the Grass looked great but I had to pace myself. I had 3 more bands to see that evening. I retired knowing I had seen something special.

Thanks to The Georgetown Carnival, all the merchants, musicians and artists for the fun, the food and the music.