Longtime local musician Keigan Skydecker (Serpico, The Infrareds) recently redirected his passion to the world of concert promotion. So far, he has shows lined up at East Village on the second Saturday of each month through March 2011. But on Friday, Skydecker will trade his acoustic-electric, singer-songwriter format for something a little different: a rambunctious all-electric, envelope-pushing, three-band show.
The Insect Surfers, surfadelic ragamuffins out of Washington D.C., arrived on the scene back in 1979 during a time when bands like Bad Brains flourished with relentless energy. Founding member and guitarist David Arnson says only one-third of the outfit’s songs were instrumental in those days. But things changed in 1985 when Arnson relocated to Los Angeles and reformed The Insect Surfers. The name stayed the same, but vocals were almost completely eliminated.
“It’s more in line with the surf-instrumental tradition,” Arnson says. “I would jokingly tell people that we lost the capacity for speech; our strength is in the guitars, not the vocals so much.”
The art of the surf-instrumental – mastered by greats like The Challengers and Dick Dale – is all about conveying lyrics with guitars instead of words. Arnson and his new configuration of the band tell stories through reverb and whammy bars.
On “Baja,” the last tune on their latest LP Mojave Reef, rapid-paced guitars echo back and forth to one another, mimicking a surfer trying to conquer a wave.
Arnson credits the resurgence of surf music to Pulp Fiction’s use of Dick Dale’s “Misirlou.”
“People heard that sound and got really excited,” he says. “There was a whole burst of surf bands that started out around that time. Some are still around and some aren’t.”
Three decades and nine records later, The Insect Surfers continue making surf music and helping it evolve. In the ’90s, they started the Acid Beach Festival, a happening that showcases new area surf bands helping to push the genre into new waters.
“I started the festival because I noticed a lot of the surf festivals centered around traditional ’60s-flavored sounds,” Arnson says. “I wanted to put together a festival that incorporated more futuristic and psychedelic sounds.”
The Luxury Sweets may be a hell of a lot younger than The Insect Surfers, but they’re doing something similar: taking a genre and expanding on it while keeping it intact. The Santa Cruz band uses the building blocks of The Rolling Stones and The New York Dolls to construct its own boisterous concoction of good old garage rock fused with a disenchanted youth sensibility.
“We usually just get together and jam and see what random little tunes come out,” says bassist Rachael Chavez. “We write what we feel, not for a specific audience. That’s how we roll.”
The evening rounds out with the youngest of all three bands, The Cronies. This group of Pacific Grove teens – once known as Lennis Edney – played its first big show back in February at the benefit for Vinyl Revolution. Clad with psychedelic Native American outfits and war paint, these powerhouse pipsqueaks are partial to the vintage sound of The Kinks and Vanilla Fudge.
In sum, the groups cover a lot of ground, which was the idea.
“I really wanted to put together a show that would appeal to everyone,” Skydecker says.