When we last checked in with those budding rock stars, the Primitive Radio Gods, it was summer and they were about to embark on a tour to work their hit single, "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand." The first tour began in July in Santa Barbara, and the second ends at Emerald City, also in Santa Barbara, this Saturday night. Local bands will open--among them, Jon Wayne.
The Gods have been around so long, they used to be someone else, the I-Rails, a local quartet that did the nervous pop rock thing for years, releasing four tapes. Now basically the I-Rails plus former Mudhead guitarist Luke McAuliffe, the Gods began not as a pantheon but as a singular deity: singer/songwriter Chris O'Connor.
What was to become the fifth I-Rails album, instead became the Gods' debut album, "Rocket." O'Connor did it all at home during his time off from his air traffic controller day job, which is probably why it says "produced and performed by Chris O'Connor" on the CD.
So O'Connor finished the album, then mailed a bunch of CDs to record labels and producers. The right guy listened to the CD, O'Connor got a deal, the song became a hit, and he reconstituted the I-Rails plus McAuliffe to do the tour thing.
Now the single is fading like a $22 concert T-shirt (that now fits the cat), and the band is ready for Plan B. O'Connor recently discussed life on the road from the Midwest.
How's the rock star biz?
Well, here we are at The Ranch Bowl in Omaha where we get free bowling, free food and free beer. It's up and down, you know how it is. The last tour was two or three months long, just like this one. We started the first tour in Santa Barbara at Toes Tavern and we're ending the second tour in Santa Barbara at Emerald City. Patti Rothberg was supposed to be on the bill, but canceled. She went to Japan . . . so we're going to have local bands open for us. Ever heard Jon Wayne? They . . . devastate country songs.
Someone's got to do it. Why did you decide on a club tour?
That's all we could do because we probably couldn't fill big theaters. So clubs are about our speed, although we could've opened for somebody big.
Is it like you thought it would be?
Yeah, pretty much. We drive and play. We drink a lot and try to get sleep when you can. . . . We take a lot of aspirin. Food, drink, road, play.
Is it a grind?
Yeah, it's a grind, but you get used to it. The first tour, I was sick all the time, and driving in the Midwest in the winter can be nightmarish. We played in Kansas City, then drove eight hours to Minnesota, then we drove eight hours to Omaha, then we're driving eight hours to Utah.
How many of these interviews do you do?
Not as many as last time. That tour, I did a couple every day, but now the single is dying out, so I'm not doing as much. One time this stoner dude interviewed me and never really asked me a question. It was like "Dude, so how's it going, dude?" He probably worked for some little fanzine that got Columbia's number some way.
Do you miss your day job?
Ah no, not at all.
What's next for the Primitive Radio Gods?
Well, we only have a one-album deal with Columbia, so after this gig, we're going to try to get an advance and start on another album. We've got tons of songs.
Every Thursday through December, except tonight because it's Thanksgiving, Santa Barbarans will be packing the Calypso on State Street to dance to one of the legendary local groups, the Wedding Band. With a rotating cast of players, usually around eight or so, the Wedding Band has been around off and on for the last dozen years.
No T-shirts, no name on the drums, no stickers, and no originals--just covers--the Wedding Band has tons of fans, mostly college age kids hanging out for the drink specials. Spencer Barnitz, the Spencer of Spencer the Gardener, is the front man. Between him and his pals, they know about every song ever written and could play longer than the Grateful Dead and Phish.
Inevitably, a Wedding Band gig begins with a rendition of "The Wedding March," which is merely "The Funeral March" with a better beat. From then on, it's anybody's guess, but expect such dance-floor staples as "Mustang Sally," "Wooley Bully," "Brown Eyed Girl" and like that. They take requests and are seldom stumped.
The Wedding Band started in 1984 at Joseppi's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar on State Street, but the place became so packed they outgrew the joint. Next, the band moved to the Beach Shack, and now it's Calypso, formerly the Ketch. There's a long bar, a rather crowded dance floor, lines at the bathroom and a nice patio where patrons can slurp and slum under the tupidanthus (that's a plant). The band begins around 9:30 p.m. at the venue at 514 State St. The cover is $1-$5, depending on to what degree you are fashionably late.
And the funniest band in Santa Barbara since Los Guys, Nerf Herder, signed with Arista Records on Nov. 19 after being flown to New York to do a showcase for label President Clive Davis. Their self-titled debut disc containing the riotous "Sorry," will be reissued on Arista on Dec. 17.
Next step: Touring with rock stars beginning the first of the year. Upcoming Nerf Herder gigs include Dec. 11 at the Lobero Theatre and Dec. 28 at Toes Tavern.