Four songs we almost never get to play live because they’re apparently all too noisy to be played within earshot of the people we live near, including two songs each by Chandler Travis and Steve “Woo Woo” Wood. Our first EP in six years; alternatively titled “Live at the Bugway Giraffe”.
This was from a special night: the occasion was the WooWoopalooza, the benefit to help cover the surgical costs for our guitarist Steve Wood, which he played about a month after extremely invasive and even life-threatening surgery, looking and sounding just like the monster he’s always been; never saw anything like it.
The Catbirds contributed a new Chandler song, “Playin’ Records,” to the second annual record about records from the folks over at Bubbles in the Think Tank, “Eponymously Entitled.” It’s a real record, 7 inches of clear vinyl, and purchase comes with a free download of all the music on the record plus several bonus tracks.
In addition to the Catbirds, the record includes Deke Dickerson (rockabilly/hillbilly/rock & roll/etc guitarist with his own Ecco-Fonics and the Dave & Deke Combo); The Weisstronauts (mostly instrumental surf/spy/ska/psychedelia); SEMIchuck (featuring members of Chicago’s Chuckleheads UK); Mr. Curt / Bird Mancini (Mr. Curt is a Boston institution – geez, he started off in the scene as road manager for the Modern Lovers! – and Bird Mancini is a guitar/accordion duo that wowed us all at the 2012 Boston Christmas Cavalcade); and the legendary Pete Labonne (who wrote our crowd-pleaser “Pajama Pants Baby“).
There’s even cover art from our good friend in Japan Yutaka Suzuki, with art direction by our friend Todd Remley from Indiana, and label art by the famous Cal Schenkel (“Trout Mask Replica”, anyone?)
Buy your copy now over at love.bubblesinthethinktank.com – we recommend getting the actual record because the package is so lovely, and it comes with a digital download that includes bonus tracks.
If you missed one of the best rock and roll shows this area has ever seen, here are some suggestions for how to gain some freedom from thankless responsibility and mundane self-absorption, so that you can experience the indelible buzz that should be rightfully yours the next time the Catbirds roll into town:
1) Put your kids up for adoption with Russian host families.
2) Return your dog, cat or other pet to the animal shelter.
3) Unplug your television and leave it on the curb or under a neighbor’s rain gutter.
4) Apply a sledge hammer to your iPhone and/or iPod.
5) Tell Grandma you’ll play Call of Duty and Halo with her on a week night.
The Dos Equis man has got nothing on Chandler Travis, who is arguably the Most Interesting Man in the World. Leading more bands than George Clinton in his prime, a barefoot Travis brought the Catbirds into Troy for their Ale House debut, and 37 songs later the crowd was still howling for more.
Electrifying and mesmerizing best describe the sound of the Catbirds, whose 2012 debut Catbirds Say Yeah rocks the body and the soul in equally frenetic measure. Live, the “Wow!” factor goes up several levels when this band plugs in and taps into a collective psychedelic garage rock and beach music unconsciousness. Travis (bass and vocals),Dinty Child (various guitars, mandocello and vocals), Steve Wood (guitars and vocals) and Rikki Bates (powerhouse drums) entered the cozy room to applause. “We’ve been dreaming of you all day!” announced Travis with a grin and tip of his hat before counting off Ronnie Dawson’s modern day rockabilly classic “Fish Out of Water.” Next, Steve Wood wailed on “Stoned,” a cut off the new album that merged the demented innocence of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and abandon of the Fleshtones.
The party had officially begun.
Picking favorite moments from the two sets is daunting because the bar was set so high and never let up. Travis took the helm on the original “All I Wanna Know Is,” tossing out snarled lines with gusto and letting the band throw riffs out in a blaze of fuzz and feedback. Mel Torme’s “I’m Coming Home Now” featured deft vocalizing by Wood, Child and Travis, all held down by the impeccable stick work of Bates. The loose but tight “Red Red,” with Dinty Child on lead vocals, sounded like a song that would have had Bo Diddley and Doug Sahm high-fiving each other at the Continental Club. Barbara Lynn’s 1965 chestnut “Can’t Buy My Love” brought some Gulf Coast strut to the room for the dancers; “Beer Town!” was an intoxicating mix of rock and monologue (the latter delivered by Child, extolled humorously the long process of how beer makes its way to the consumer); and “Changing Names,” a track from the new album, brought melodious rambunctiousness that rivaled the Who in their prime. “Once Proud Ghost,” just written recently, was a sweet instrumental showcase for Wood and Child, each bringing economy and wit to the solos.
When the encore came, it was an incendiary take of Link Wray’s gonzo instrumental “Jack the Ripper,” which ended several minutes later with Bates’ drum kit tossed out onto the dance floor and enough feedback from Wood and Child’s guitars to remove the chicken wing grease stains from Travis’ t-shirt.
Support live music and good food and drink, people!
THE CATBIRDS SET LIST
Fish Out of Water (Ronnie Dawson)
Stoned (Steve Wood)
Catbirds Say Yeah! (Travis and Greenberger)
Fool Killer (Mose Allison)
Another Night with the Boys
All I Wanna Know Is
First Warm Day
The Crutch of Music (Travis and Greenberger)
Who’s Sorry Now
I’m Comin’ Home Now (Mel Torme)
All I Wanna Do Is Love You
Pajama Pants Baby (Pete Labonne)
Move On (Betty Washington)
Girls (The Coasters)
Instant Karma (John Lennon)
Pudding Truck (NRBQ)
Red Red (Dinty Child)
7 and 7 Is (Arthur Lee/Love)
Don’t You Want a Lover Like That?
Don’t Say No
The Highway’s Comin’
Can’t Buy My Love (Barbara Lynn)
Baby, You’re the One for Me (The Bobettes)
That Girl’s in Love with Me (Neil Curry)
Groove Me (King Floyd)
Mambo Sun (Marc Bolan/ T. Rex)
Changing Names (Travis and Greenberger)
Once Proud Ghost
Go Get the One You Love (Lee Dorsey)
Hippy Hippy Shakes (Chan Romero)
Leaving Here (Holland-Dozier-Holland)
Jack the Ripper (Link Wray)
Review by Joel Patterson
Familiarity breeds contempt? I don’t THINK so.
The more time I spend with the Catbirds, both individually and collectively, the more deeply I fall under their spell. The sound they make drives twenty-something girls into feats of athletic frenzy, and their boyfriends to dive head-first toward the stage. It roars in with all the gentleness of a hurricane, loud and slamming and savage. You might mistakenly think people who play that blaring, thunderous rock and roll music all night are somehow brutes, at least a little brusque, if not totally downright beastly – you couldn’t be more wrong. These are four of the most sensitive, vulnerable spirits – with curious eyes wide open to the world – that you’ll ever meet in the time-space continuum.
I frankly grew up in an era when the musicians you followed and admired were intensely remote figures. I think our idolatry warped everything. They would take the stage, and we were all suddenly in a different world, a euphoria. On their off-hours, their songs narrated our lives on our car radios and at our parties. They were heroes, more than singers, if you really want to know, like sports stars or legendary outlaws. So then, enter the modern era – something at first is jarring to see Chandler Travis before the show, just mixing with the crowd, greeting friends, a human no different from you or me.
So somewhere in the back of my mind, tucked into one of its parietal lobes, I’m sure I think of Chandler Travis as the captain of a pirate ship. Dinty Childs is his trusty multi-instrumentalist first mate, a seasoned salt of the sea. Rikki Bates is the half-crazed drummer maniac, the most forceful and daring cat on board, who would climb up in a lightning storm to the crow’s nest if necessary. And Steve Wood is the burly worker man who coils the ropes and shreds, who could pull the ship, single-handedly swimming with one of those ropes, if conditions required, on the stormy sea of life. Eye patches, peg legs, all of it.
And yet, sitting around after the show, I wonder aloud if somehow the phrase “in the catbird’s seat” played a role in choosing their name – not, as it turned out, but Dinty got up from the table, consulted his computer, and returned with the news that the phrase originated in the South with the observation that catbirds would perch at the ends of tree limbs for the best view, and James Thurber immortalized the phrase in a story. The conversation glided into advice they’ve given their kids about navigating the temptations of youth, about the joys and trials of pets and horses, and certain non-negotiable clam chowder do’s and don’ts.
Bold, swarthy ruffians? Sure. And pussycats.
By Scott McLellan, Globe Correspondent – December 06, 2012
At the moment, Chandler Travis is a member of the Catbirds, the Chandler Travis Three-O, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, and the Incredible Casuals.
“I’d be fine with one band,” Travis concedes in an interview from his Eastham home. “But it’d have to be a really restless band.”
Still a prolific songwriter, Travis creates songs that range from roaring garage rock to pretty chamber pop to mutant big-band compositions to Christmas songs. This year he released “Catbirds Say Yeah” with the Catbirds, “This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater” with the Three-O (a quartet, no less), and is gearing up for three stagings of his annual Christmas Cavalcade concerts, which will bring in the Philharmonic and many of Travis’s musical allies.
Travis calls himself a human monkey wrench in the sense that he is happy gumming up the system and defying expectations. He knows that can be counterintuitive from a business standpoint — releasing two very different albums so close together was probably not helpful to either project he says — but artistically, Travis is just following the lead of the people who inspired him.
“It’s like Dylan coming up with a whole new voice for a record,” Travis says. “Or Paul McCartney. You listen to ‘Lady Madonna’ and you go, where’d that guy come from?”
‘I love Christmasmusic. I’m just fascinated by a holiday not only with its own music, but one that is so aggressive about it.’
Travis first gained notice in the ’70s playing with Steve Shook in Travis, Shook and the Club Wow before forming the Incredible Casuals in 1980. The Casuals became a Cape Cod institution, performing every Sunday for 32 years at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, where the band delivered a good-humored blend of primal rock ’n’ roll spiced with R&B. The Casuals no longer hit the Beachcomber every Sunday, but instead show up there about four times a season amid other gigs.
Travis says he piled up songs that didn’t fit well with the Casuals, and those paved the way to the Philharmonic’s configuration with horns, keys, and mandocello. Of course, the sprawl of the Philharmonic posed its own problems, especially in finding venues big enough for the nine-piece band. A few years ago, when offers came for some smaller gigs, the Three-O was born with Travis setting up a band with the Philharmonic’s bassist John Clark, multi-instrumentalist Berke Mc-Kelvey, and singer Fred Boak.
Around the time the Three-O came into shape, Travis also cooked up the Catbirds, a band that makes a glorious racket of jittery rock ’n’ roll of the sort teenagers make after hearing “My Generation” for the first time. Except in this case, these “teens” have a few decades of solid work under their belts, with Steve Wood playing unbridled electric guitar, Philharmonic cohort Dinty Child switching between guitar, mandocello, and accordion, Rikki Bates on drums, and Travis on bass.
“This is a band where I get to play like I did when I started playing,” says Bates, who first started working with Travis 35 years ago in Travis, Shook and the Club Wow and carried on into the Casuals, the Philharmonic, and now the Catbirds. “I like to hit the drums hard.” (No kidding; Bates busted a bass drum during a recent Catbirds show at Johnny D’s.)
Bates also likes the breadth of work Travis presents. With the Catbirds, Bates drums in the moment, maybe tossing in an extra half-beat that triggers a response from the guitar and so on; in the Philharmonic, it’s all about nailing the precision and nuance of the songs.
Boak, who went from diehard Casuals fan, to band’s merch guy (“I was at all of the shows anyway”) to Travis’s “valet” in the Philharmonic, to eventually becoming a full-fledged Three-O singer, echoed a point also made by Bates: Travis makes sure to tend to the details in his songs.
Chandler Travis leading the Catbirds in a recent set at Johnny D’s in Somerville.
“Chandler can do all of these interesting chord things and have a good hook,” Boak says. “He understands the concept of the hook.”
And Travis takes the hook wherever it needs to go.
“I love Christmas music,” he says, noting his four albums of holiday music and 26 years of annual compilations he’s made for friends. “I’m just fascinated by a holiday not only with its own music, but one that is so aggressive about it.”
And the Christmas Cavalcades are Travis’s showcase for all that is good about the seasonal songs, especially those that capture the opposing forces of joy and despair unleashed in December.
The 8th or 9th Annual Christmas Cavalcade to Benefit the Homeless happens Dec. 13 at Johnny D’s in Somerville and features the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Livingston Taylor, Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, Barrence Whitfield, Jennifer Kimball, Vance Gilbert, the Catbirds, Ray Mason, Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers, the Jessica Schroeder Dancer, Miriam, Shaun Wortis, Bird Mancini, Aaron Spade, Kami Lyle, the Darlings, the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, the Philharmonic Trombone Shout Band, and the Athol Thingerth. All proceeds from the show will go to the Somerville Homeless Coalition.
The Cavalcade then stops into the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater on Dec. 15 and presents the Three-O, Sarah Swain and the Swain Sisters, Christine Rathbun, Fred Magee, Robertchez, and the Trees.
The second Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade happens Dec. 16 at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans and features the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Ticks, Siobhan Magnus, the Rip-It-Ups, Tripping Lily, Bruce Maclean, Kate & Tad from Sidewalk Driver, the Catbirds, Steve Shook, Christine Rathbun, Fred Fried, Carla Kihlstedt & Matthias Bossi, Jay Cournoyer, Sarah Burrill, Sarah Swain & the Swain Sisters, Kami Lyle, Lydia Parkington, Stephen Russell, Toast & Jam, and the Athol Thingerth. Both of the Cape shows benefit the Noah Shelter of Hyannis.
No matter which Cavalcade you hit, count on hearing nothing but Christmas tunes — some originals, some vintage, some out of left field (there’s usually a lot of dibs on Robert Earl Keene’s “Merry Christmas From the Family”).
Then after the holiday, Travis will likely get back to feeding his bands.
“I write whatever pops into my head. I may wake up with something and just write it down, not sure where it’s going to go,” he says. “I love the process. They just float into my head.”
Chandler Travis is a bit of a madman. Fans of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic know this already. His e-mails pushing the Catbirds’ album release party for “Catbirds Say Yeah” — at Johnny D’s on Nov. 1st — are part poetry, part philosophy, part genius screed: in one he joked about not needed a press photo because the band was old and ugly. But I can’t hold that against the Catbirds. How could I? “Red Red” is so good.
One of the choice cuts off “Catbirds Say Yeah,” “Red Red” (listen or buy here) has the same raw thump as early Los Lobos, mid-period Replacements and late Blasters. These are all meant as complements. That Steve Wood guitar tone is wicked cool — also digging the punk of “Leaving Here,” sludge of “The Crutch of Music” and drunk bar blues of “All I Wanna Know Is.”
If you’re looking to wake up with your ears ringing and mouth dry after too many Slumbrews, this is a great show to see.
The details: Thursday, Nov. 1 – Catbirds with special guests Kangaroo Court plus cameo appearances from Sal Baglio (the Stompers), Shaun Wortis, Frank Rowe (the Classic Ruins), and Kimon Kirk at Johnny D’s (17 Holland St., Davis Sq., Somerville, 617 776-2004), 8pm.
Two more videos from our recent Woodstock debut at Bearsville Theater, both shot by our good friend Joe Patterson at Mountaintop Studios in Petersburgh, NY.
The first is a 21+ minute collection of several songs (Dinty singing the Pete Labonne classic “Pajama Pants Baby”, Steve “The Velvet Woo” chanelling Mel Torme on “Coming Home Baby”, Steve singing Barbara Lynn’s “You Can’t Buy My Love”, all three singers taking turns on the John Lennon classic “Instant Karma” – check out Rikki on those drum breaks!, Chandler taking on Don Gardner’s “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo”, and finally Steve singing “Leaving Here” ala the High Numbers).
The second is the encore from the show, Link Wray’s “Jack the Ripper”, featuring a driving beat from Rikki and Steve going nuts on his guitar (though it would seem he didn’t draw blood as he sometimes does during this song).
You can check out Joel’s other work and contact him via his website, joelpatterson.us
Thanks for all your work, Joel!
Thanks to our good friend Joel Patterson at Mountaintop Studios for shooting and posting this video from our September 14, 2012 performance at Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY. Dinty sings “Another Night With the Boys,” written by Carole King.
Joel also shot a song that night by our good friends and opening act for several shows this year, Cathy (Chandler’s nephew Jeremy Willis is the lead singer for Cathy).
You can check out Joel’s other work and contact him via his website, joelpatterson.us
Thanks again, Joel!
Review by Greg Haymes
Who are the Catbirds, you ask?
Well, according to their website, “If Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga had quadruplets, except somehow they ended up being kind of musical in addition to being rather large and rubbery, and it happened about 50 or 60 years ago, well, presto! – the Catbirds.”
And according to the promo sheet that was wrapped around the band’s delightful full-length debut when it landed in my mailbox, “We’re old and weird looking, just like everyone else, but louder.”
But, of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know that the Catbirds are one of the 347 bands led by the mighty musical maverick Chandler Travis, who also serves as the ringleader for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Chandler Travis Philharmonette, the Chandler Travis Three-O, Chandler Travis and, well, you get the idea, right?
For the Catbirds’ line-up, Travis rounded up drummer Rikki Bates and guitarists Dinty Child and Steve Wood from his stable of bandmates and dove head-first into the deep end of good, ole-fashioned garage rock.
It’s raw. It’s raucous. And it’s oh-so-very rockin’. Brimming over with distortion-laden, buzzsaw guitars, thunderclap drum thumpin’ and howlin’-into-the-wind vocals. Subtle, it ain’t.
The 12-track disc on the Iddy Biddy label cracks open with some wailin’ harmonica as they launch into the sweaty swagger of “All I Wanna Know,” which sounds like it came from the ’60s rather than from a bunch of guys in their 60s. Bates packs quite a big-drum wallop on “Don’t Say No” and gallops through “Stoned” like a bat out of hell (a real bat, not the Meat Loaf album). A few tunes are laced with a bit of a psychedelic frosting, and several of the mid-disc tunes take on a lighter, NRBQ-esque bounce instead of the usual crank-it-to-11-in-dad’s-basement, crash ‘n’ burn aesthetic.
It’s no surprise that Travis leads the way with seven songwriting credits (including a trio of co-writes with Greenwich’s own Mayor of Duplex Planet, David Greenberger), but each of the ‘birds pitches in with a contribution or two, and there’s not a clunker among ‘em.
They close out the album with a couple of well-chosen covers, including a tribal, amp-buzz-fueled stomp through “Pajama Pants Baby” deftly plucked from the vast, visionary catalog of Adirondack rock recluse Pete Labonne. And for sheer crunch ‘n’ punch, they wrap up the set with the Holland-Dozier-Holland gem “Leaving Here,” which drops a sonic bomb here that’s much more akin here to the fab Motorhead cover than the Motown original.
Last year’s Viborate EP offered a taste of what was to come, but for the most partCatbirds Say Yeah rocks harder, making for a more satisfying, fuzz-bustin’ listen.