January is not the best time of year for surfing on the East Coast, or for traveling either. Luckily the weather cooperated and allowed us an easy 6 hour drive from Northeastern CT to balmy Bladensburg, Maryland. Mike & I were trekking south to see and support a very cool collaborative surf show at Chick Hall’s Surf Club, in business for over 50 years. Unsteady Freddie teamed up with Melissa from DC to put on a special show on January 27, 2007.
This club actually has a STAGE, and a very nice dance floor, with tables & chairs on either side of the dance space. A disco ball and light show sparkled on the floor, and the backstage was lit up with a sign that said “Surf Club” – a great backdrop for any surf band! There was a bar, of course, and something else going on in the back (pool tables?) but the music was so riveting I never left the dance floor area. Melissa did a great job with decorations and atmosphere – a pile of fake fish, shells, leis, and beads on each table put everyone in a festive, luau mood.
As the show started, emcee Unsteady Freddie dedicated the show to the memory of his recently departed cousin Robert. Then he let us know there were special guests in the house. The previous night there had been a Link Wray tribute concert in nearby Virginia. Link’s daughter Beth Webb, and grandson, Chris Webb, came along to the surf show as well. Jimmy Lee, Grammy-nominated vocalist, was also in the house, as was “Snake” Gabrielson, the Huntington Beach Snake, a legendary 1960s surf icon.
First up – Reverb Galaxy from the depths of interstellar space (and the MD/DC area). They took the stage dramatically in their space jumpsuits and sunglasses. Unfortunately the go-go dancing Neptinas were not available for this show (they usually dance with Judy Jetson-style dresses and ray guns). They treated us to lots of originals, including gorgeous slow melodies by guitarist Art. Art & Joe traded leads skillfully on guitar. The band also agreed to back up Chris Webb on lead guitar, Link Wray style, on a couple of Link’s ubiquitous tunes. Chris is a skilled and professional young guitarist who currently plays with the Raymen. Jimmy Lee also came up to belt out a blue-sy tune with the band.
Next up were Baltimore’s own Diamondheads. This was the official CD release party for their new CD “Diamondhead at Dusk” (although the disc has been for sale for a while at CD Baby. - Get the disc here - http://cdbaby.com/cd/diamondheads2 ). They brought a giant chocolate cake for everyone to celebrate. (This is a disc worth celebrating – it’s a great, traditional-style surf disc with some instrumental variety thrown in, and some beautiful and catchy tunes. Also VERY professional-sounding – I love this disc.) Having heard Diamondheads recordings in the past, I expected great things from Brian, Dave, Dave, and Dave, and I hear it. Wow! Brian and Dave passed off the leads fast & furious – a very tight band. Excellent original tunes – also everyone loved it when they popped off a catchy version of Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk”! I was happily surprised to see TALL Dave P. cranking on the bass. (Former Diamondheads bassist Mark Harp passed away during the recording of “Diamondhead at Dusk” – the disc is dedicated to him.) In addition to bass, Dave P. plays guitar – you may remember him from such other Baltimore surf bands as The Swiv-o-matics. The good news from Dave is that The Swiv-o-matics are on a temporary hiatus only and expect to be back as a band in the future. (It’s great to see the cross-pollination and support of the DC area surf bands for each other – this is what the NESMA vision is all about.)
Now it’s almost 1 a.m. – lots of people have been dancing the night away. In addition to us 9th Wavers, there were a couple of supportive Atomic Mosquitos in the crowd. Some of these people remembered the old Space Cossack days – the excitement and buzz in the crowd was that this event compared to previous Space Cossack shows! It was a strong event for local promoter Melissa, who supports live music in many ways. She is very involved with the DC Rock-n-Roll scene (see http://www.dc-rock-and-roll.org/. But wait – there’s more!
The Gremmies took the stage, ready to win over & hold the remaining crowd – and they did. They were certainly worth the wait. Tony on lead took surf classics (and some originals) and made them his own. This was a very strong 3-piece – drummer Todd & Tony have been playing music together for about 17 years, but the group The Gremmies has only played out about 4 times! You couldn’t tell – they were very professional and having fun. Before playing Pipeline, Tony mentioned that one of the earlier bands had played Pipeline and it was very nice, but when The Gremmies play it, they “make it their b**ch” – yes, they did! I hope you got to catch this band this past Sat. at Unsteady Freddie’s Feb. Surf Rock Shindig in NYC.
I’m glad we made the trip to MD for this show. It’s great to see area bands playing together, and building their local surf music scene. The MD/DC scene has a very strong core of surf bands – we expect to see more Surf Summits like this one in the future. Surfer “Snake” Gabrielson has posted some photos of the evening at http://hbsnakesurf.com/Archive/2006/Winter/SurfBands/surfbandparty.html - also, if you need surfing lessons in the MD area – he’s your man! Congratulations to Unsteady Freddie, Melissa, and all the bands on a fine production.
Review by Sandy of 9th Wave