More We Love Instrumental Music with a Melody: The Retronauts



Sometimes having to get a number of tasks done in less time than usual provides a much needed kick in the butt.  The Pups agreed to play at Shine on January 12 -- then only a couple of weeks away -- and committed to find another band to round out a “Surf Night.”  Our proposal was for something in late January, but January 12 was what was available. 

Oh, well . . . c’est la vie.  Beggars can’t be choosers.  Just balance the day job with the rock ‘n roll fantasy.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

Going around Midtown to promote the show on Saturday made me realize how fortunate we are that the Retronauts agreed to join us at Shine.  Bill:  “Their sound is the closest to the Ventures that I have heard for a long time.”  Proprietor:  “That should be cool.”  Bill:  “You’ll see quite a contrast in styles.”  Customer:  “Wow, that sounds like a fun show.”

We first saw the Retronauts four years ago.  Back then, the Lava Pups were some kind of Walter Mitty-esque day dream.  The Retronauts, on the other hand, were bringing their dream to life.  Over the years, we watched them find their sound and evolve into a band.

Amazingly, the genesis of the Retronauts is a “musician wanted” ad on Craigslist.  Rob Jones and Mike Gabaldon met through the ad, jammed, and -- voila -- said, “Let’s form a band.”  Even though he had owned a guitar since he was a teenager , Rob did not begin to play “seriously” until he was in his 50s.  Unlike the kids of today, Rob waited until he was 60 to join a band.  Mike took up guitar in his 30s.

The “let’s form a band” idea came to fruition through two steps.  First, the Retronauts added a bass player and a drum machine.  Then, they became a real band by firing the drum machine and adding a drummer. 

Terry Malone and Jerry (“Garsh”) Garcia -- not the dead Dead guy -- play bass and drums respectively.  They collectively brought several decades of band experience to the Retronauts.

Given the length of time that each member has played, the Retronauts are egalitarian in their playing.  Rob and Mike shift between lead and rhythm guitar seamlessly.  Rob occasionally takes over on bass so that Terry can play lead guitar.  The changes work because each member of the band is an experienced musician.

As they evolved as a band, the Retronauts gravitated for the clean sound of the Ventures.  Less reverb, less thump, less double-picking, and more shimmer than many surf bands.  Demonstrating the influence of the Ventures on their sound, the Retronauts have not given in to loud and fast.  They play to the room, not to overpower it.

The Retronauts that will perform Saturday night at Shine are far-removed from the band that we heard four years ago.

Their presentation will differ from that of the Pups as will how they engage the audience.  But, despite any differences in style, both bands love instrumental music which has a melody.

Guess what?  We think that the audience at Shine will too!

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