If he is, isn’t it surprising that such royalty would bring his minions of mirth to play in sleepy little Chatham at a Welsh pub that is as appropriate for music as a saddle is on a sheep? Ouch, okay, in the same breath let’s give proprietor Mr. Tom Hope credit for the decade of ongoing effort. I asked the venerable Mr Travis why he has returned with his compatriots for a third gig at the Peint O’ Gwrw.
“I dunno. It’s a fun venue – I we had a hole to fill in the schedule and made some calls.” This band likes to play. They don’t like spending a night off in a Super 8 motel somewhere. Besides, Tom provides excellent victuals along with liquid refreshments and a little bit of pocket money in exchange for The Chandler Travis Philharmonette giving the patrons of the Peint O’ Gwrw what they want,and that is a good time.
So here’s my first point – This is some crazy band. As someone involved in the Hudson Music Scene that’s a significant statement and I will qualify it. Hudson is used to noise shows, the sheer brilliance and idiocy of the Bunny Brains, Brian Dewan’s distorted autoharped spectaculars, Musty Chiffon, the Bindlestiff circus, the serious ghoulishness of Norway’s Thingumajig*saw and more. This impending configuration is a virtual plethora of parts of all the crazy bands involving the lunatic perspicacity of one Chandler Travis, international man about town and noted social disease. Let me tell you about some of the projects Chandler has been associated with The combo appearing next Friday, November 18 in Chatham will be The Chandler Travis Philharmonette which is a tidier and cuter version of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic. Wait, wait!I forgot to tell you the whole thing is a direct evolution from the popular 80’s band The Incredible Casuals which evolved from the comedic rock duo Travis Shook and Club Wow after they opened for George Carlin on Johnny Carson’s tonight show in 1978. The Casuals were sort of a popular rock band and were based in Cape Cod and were formed in 1981 by bassist and songwriter Chandler Travis, guitarist Steve Shook, drummer Vince Valium (also known as Rikki Bates) and guitarist Johnny Spampinato, brother of Joey Spampinato of NRBQ the members of whom popular local bass player Peter Toigo often gigs with. Chandler also has been known to play gigs as a solo act billed as Chandler Travis – King of the World! and a few members of the Philharmonic often get together to perform as The Catbirds a rock and roll project of which Chandler reflects – “If there weren’t so many crap noisy bands around, and so few good ones, there’s a chance the Catbirds wouldn’t need to exist.” and then there is the trio Chandler Travis Three-O .
Okay, so you’re thinking to yourself, – “Say I actually go out on a chilly Friday evening in Novenber to see these guys play – what can I expect?” Well I’m glad you asked.
Possibly the first thing you will notice will be Rikki Bates, distinctive, very tall amazing unforgettable drummer-in-a-dress.
Then there’s the bunch of maybe ruggedly handsome middle-aged musicians of various shapes and sizes some of them with horns and percussion devices, some with guitars and stuff, some just standing there. All of them dressed in bathrobes and pajamas. Why? I dunno. “Our stuff is not satirical,” Travis said. “It’s just silly and blissful. We specialize in joyful stuff. Don’t get scared because the words ‘comedy’ and ‘rock’ are in the same sentence.” As the evening progresses the re is the possibility of a regal coronal headdress attached to the now balding royal pate of the regal Mr. Travis – the King of the World. These guys dress pretty funny.
Fred Boak, “The Singing Valet” from Harwich Massachusetts will probably be there, he who was born in Manhattan and grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. will tickle his tonsils for your listening pleasure.
You can also expect some of the best song writing on the face of the earth. It is interesting, though not surprising due to the members many years of travelling and playing on the road this unique mix of sloppy appearance and professional attitude is a blueprint for expertise, the Chandler Travis Philharmonette is one of the few bands that can read the sonically difficult room that is the Peint O’ Gwrw and keep their volume at a level where the lyrics are easy to understand. Inspite of this, make no mistake about it – this is quite an experienced band of rock musicians and they are not about to let their unique sound get not lost in an overuse of volume.
Not convinced? Here’s what the professional critics have said about Chandler’s many incarnations – really these writers do this for a living, they get paid to write this sort of thing.
“He’s a true New England eccentric, a master of daft power pop, and live, he plays in his pajamas…” — Rob Tannenbaum, Village Voice
“…these musicians have got serious chops, as well as a really twisted sense of humor. The Chandler Travis Philharmonic is more fun than a barrel of pancakes.” — Greg Haynes, Albany Times-Union
“Travis treads a fine line between chaos and genius. … But even when he was just making noise, it sounded like beautiful music.” — David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer
“…first time I ever saw a trumpeter receive a pizza delivery onstage, eat a slice in two bites, and turn the plate into a mute before the song was over.” — Sally Eckoff, civilian
Okay, I’ll agree… the reviews are kinda useless let’s try a few review comparisons (a popular tool of contemporary music critics) that have been used in describing some recent shows –
The Kinks, the Beach Boys, Ringling Brothers, Burt Bacharach, Mose Allison, Gregory Corso, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Mardi Gras, Randy Newman, Dixieland, Avant-Jazz, Jonathan Richman, XTC,Louie Jordan and my personal favorite – “ Travis is a rock-n-roll Brittanica .”
Wow. I like all that stuff, all those people, but the doesn’t paint an accurate portrait of the brilliant madness of the Chandler Travis Philharmonette. You might just want get yourself out to the Peint O’ Gwrw next Friday and see for yourself
By Rob Caldwell, Musica/Notes From the Grid
Notes From the Grid is a bi-weekly column about the Columbia County music scene written by Rob. It is featured every other Friday in the “On the Scene” supplement of the Hudson Register Star.