The Nancy Boys bring smart hard rock to OT.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Under a neon sign promoting Corona Beer, in front of a dart board used during Wednesday night’s Dart League, three fairly clean cut men dressed in jackets and white shirts take the stage at Ray Askew’s biker bar, Ocean Thunder. At odds with the bar’s rough and tumble atmosphere is the fact that two of the band’s three members are sporting red bow ties as they step onto the homemade plywood platform. And then there’s the band’s effeminate name, The Nancy Boys, which probably will not be stitched onto any biker’s leather jacket in the near future.
Despite this, The Nancy Boys rip into their first song of the evening, an original titled “Iris Film,” like they own the place. The tune begins with a nice ska-sounding riff until singer/guitarist Erhman Hall starts stomping one foot. While Hall hops up and down with a crazed stare, the tune becomes fiercer and fiercer until it reaches an almost screamed chorus over Hall’s aggressive riffing. Then, unexpectedly, the band veers into surf-rock territory with a few seconds of the Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run” before a hammering return to their original number.
As the band starts playing another original, titled “Mean Little Girl,” Hall is already on his knees playing guitar as he sings: “I’ve seen the dead.” After standing back up, Hall staggers offstage and plays a guitar solo while bassist Matt Bollwinkel and drummer Chas Croslin play straight men to Hall’s crazed rock personae.
The lanky, wide-eyed Hall is the sort of frontman you can’t take your eyes off of. His jerky movements recall David Byrne, or Chuck Berry.
Following more great originals, like “Bootstrap”—which goes from a dense, early Nirvana sort of riff into a spacey Bowiesque chorus about astronauts and Argonauts—and the Wild West sounding “Placemat,” the band tears into a sped-up, punk rock version of the Nirvana ballad “Polly.” In the middle of the tune, the band detours to another apparent homage with a few minutes of the Pixies’ “Holiday Song” before doubling back to “Polly” again.
A few weeks later, on Ocean Thunder’s back deck, the trio recalls another show that didn’t go quite as well. Hall does not remember the band’s first show, which occurred at CSU Monterey Bay’s Black Box Cabaret last September, very fondly.
“Terrible,” he says simply.
“Thank you,” Croslin says, relieved by Hall’s honesty. “I didn’t know how to put it.”
Though the gig was The Nancy Boys first show, Hall, Croslin and Bollwinkel had been playing together since 2003 as the band Erhman Hall. Despite having the same lineup (along with a flute player/keyboardist), Hall says that the band Erhman Hall was different than The Nancy Boys.
“That was more bordering on a classic rock sound, and this is bordering on punk,” Hall says. “The Nancy Boys are faster, louder and harder.”
The trio met four years ago working together at CSUMB’s World Theater. While Hall and Bollwinkel were full-time students at CSUMB, Croslin was—and still is—a CSUMB staff member and part-time student.
Due to their connection to the University, the trio’s debut CD Baklava was recorded in CSUMB’s Music and Performing Arts Building. The impressive seven-song release—which the band has been working on since last fall—ranges from the Pixies-style rock of “Blessed Wonder” to the guitar freak-out “SMFD,” where most of the vocals sound like Hall is shivering or having a psychotic episode.
Best of all is the jagged rock song “How It Feels to Be Alive.” The number is not only the sort of anthemic rock song that will slamdance around in your mind for days, but it also hits on big philosophical issues with a chorus questioning “if it is imagination that expresses how it feels to be alive.”
Hall, whose father was a non-denominational Christian preacher, admits that he has yet to find an adequate source of inspiration for life from things like religion or politics. But, the musician—who at 25 has already released two solo CDs and penned another 25 unrecorded originals for The Nancy Boys—seems to have answered the question that he poses in “How It Feels to Be Alive.”
The Nancy Boys celebrate the release of Baklava at Ocean Thunder, 214 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, Friday at 9pm. InBalance closes. No cover. 643-9169.