Subtle as a Flying Mallet. That describes the Lava Pups. Too bad that Dave Edmunds used the phrase in 1975 for an album title. We are the antithesis of subtle or sophisticated -- the anti-subtle -- or . . . . Subtle as a flying mallet!
The anti-subtle of the Pups and the subtle and sophisticated stylings of Surface Tension wrapped around a cupcake cake made for a rousing show at Old Ironsides. As the two bands loaded in starting at 3:00, the looks on the staff’s faces showed that they expected an entirely laid back afternoon. Gray hair, white hair, little hair, short hair. Relatively small amps; no double stacks; no 500-watt bass heads. The bartender probably was wondering if he needed to send out for Geritol for the bands.
After Surface Tension set up stools on the Old Ironsides‘ stage, the staff probably believed its expectations were confirmed. But come show time, the place was humming with people. The bar was filled. The “show room” was pretty full with only an area directly in front of the stage open. Suddenly, the bartender was hopping to keep pace with the demand for drinks. This was not going to be a laid-back-pour-a-couple-of-soft-drinks afternoon.
Surface Tension played its combination of rock and blues. Its set was all original songs carefully crafted to fit the band’s instruments and voices. For the show, a conga was added. Charlie’s vamps and precise riffs spiced up the songs. Eva’s sultry voice contributed to each song -- either as the lead vocalist, a counterpoint, or harmony. I kept thinking, “Nina Simone or Dinah Washington?” Layered harmonies added to the sophistication of the music that had no bass. Its “bottom” was up an octave or more from conventional rock.
Surface Tension finished to enthusiastic applause. Even though the bar was busy, the staff still figured it was half right in its assessment. The music was distinctively cool, and the delivery certainly had been pretty laid back.
While the guests drank and, along with the staff, partook in cupcake cake for the Pups’ anniversary and my birthday, Surface Tension’s stools and small PA were replaced with the Lava Pups’ drum kit and instruments fed into the Pup PA -- 220 watts per channel driving 15” speakers. A container of ear plugs was set out. Sue tuned her new solid body uke. Robert tweaked the settings on the PA. I donned sun glasses and a new purple paisley blazer, and the Pups were ready to play.
Any thought by the staff that this was going to continue to be laid back in any way was put to rest within a few bars of Glenn’s driving beat, Robert’s flourishing bass lines, Sue’s solid rhythm, and the throaty output of my Schecter gold top. The Pups had come to play energy-infused instrumental garage rock. Nothing sophisticated. Nothing subtle. Reverb. Echo. Occasional distortion. A straight-ahead wall of sound interrupted by banter with the audience between songs.
And this audience was engaged and having fun. They clearly felt our energy and returned it with energy of their own. They responded with “The Ventures” when asked about a northwest band beginning with a V. The audience shouted “Surf Party” in reply to “what kind of party is this.” They danced to “Miserlou.” The entire bar sang along to “Secret Agent Man.” During “Ghost Riders,” people mouthed the words.
The Lava Pups’ combined ages may be a quarter of a millennium, but we are not ready for the rest home yet. On this Saturday, we played with pure energy and had pure fun. Despite Becky’s cautions, I even drew air with a couple of jumps on the stage. As Robert and I jumped together to end the “Link Wray Medley,” my guitar head stock hit the ceiling (not that hard, it was low). The crowd applauded and cheered.
Driving home, I mused about how this music stuff had made for some wonderful times and this particular Saturday had been one of the best birthdays ever. Why had it been so long in the making?
Then I shifted from what might have been philosophical musings to the concrete. We had shown everybody including the staff that we were the anti-subtle -- yeah, subtle as a flying mallet!