Night of the Guana Batz: Edmonton, Jan. 2010

by | 27 Sep, 2013 | Live Show Reviews

[Written by tattoo artist Jo Ann Atwood for the unpublished first issue of Voodoo Tattoo Magazine, a snapshot of a psychobilly night in the Great White North! —Miss Psychobilly Bass]

Night of the Guana Batz
Edmonton, Alberta, January 2010

The line-up:
Guana Batz (Middlesex, UK)
The Smokin’ 45’s (Calgary, Alberta)
The Preying Saints (Edmonton, Alberta)
The Grave Mistakes (Banff, Alberta)

The mild Edmonton, Alberta weather was a good harbinger for the night ahead: the mercury hovered just around freezing, which is almost balmy for these parts at this time of year. That boded well for the turnout at New City on this mid-January night, as did the line-up. The headliners were psychobilly legends the Guana Batz, flown in especially for this show, supported by some of Alberta’s finest rockabilly: Banff’s The Grave Mistakes, Calgary faves The Smokin’ 45’s, and Edmonton’s own The Preying Saints. As friends convened to hear the music that we love, and to celebrate local boutique owner and scene stalwart Wendy’s birthday, it promised to be a great night indeed.

Guana Batz press photo

Guana Batz

Here in Edmonton (or E-town, depending on your mood… or Deadmonton, if you’re feeling REALLY snarky), like most everywhere, the rockabilly music scene centers on a few important aspects: cars, clothes, tattoos, and of course, the music itself.  Car clubs like the Road Demons and boutiques such as Rowena and Deluxe cater to the greaser in us all that loves a sweet hot rod with a sharply dressed fella or gal behind the wheel. Further expression of coolness in the form of beautiful tattoo work is facilitated in local tattoo studios like the long-standing Urge2 Tattoo, which, coincidentally, is where I ply MY trade, and how I came to meet many of the great people that always come to Edmonton rockabilly shows.

Edmonton psychobilly band Raygun Cowboys. PHOTO BY DANA ZUK

Edmonton psychobilly band Raygun Cowboys. PHOTO BY DANA ZUK

Unfortunately, when your scene revolves largely around cars and tattoos and you live in a place that “enjoys” six-month-long winters, there is not a lot of opportunity during the year to let those naked tattooed arms dangle out of your vintage ride as you cruise the avenue to the next hot rod show and picnic. So come October, when the weather basically turns to shit, it’s the local music scene that keeps us going and keeps us connected. Bands like Calgary’s Hurricane Felix and the Southern Twisters, and Edmonton’s Raygun Cowboys can get most of us into our warmest coats and out into the cold to see some great local rockabilly, and to reconnect with friends. (The dancing that always ensues is also great for staying warm.)

Come October, when the Edmonton weather basically turns to shit, it’s the local music scene that keeps us going and keeps us connected.

On this night the show was opened by the ski resort town of Banff’s The Grave Mistakes; two-thirds of which are a husband and wife guitar and double bass duo, respectively. I’d seen them play various shows here in E-town in the last year or so and as usual they did not disappoint. Their songs are catchy and the singer/ guitar player has charisma to spare. Watching his beautiful wife competently tear it up on double bass is also very enjoyable!

As the crowd began to warm up and get loose, Edmonton’s The Preying Saints, a quartet featuring veterans of local rockabilly bands such as the Krazy 8’s, the Firebrands, and the Igniters, got the crowd going with their high-energy style. Guitarist Greg Stefishen rocked out with skill and awesome rock ‘n roll stances, while badass double bass player Fernando Llanes worked his pinstriped and spider webbed bass like a pro. Singer Paul Balanchuk, purveyor of all things Deluxe and owner of the sweetest T-Bird this side of the Rockies, wowed the crowd as usual with his vocal stylings.

Up next was Calgary’s own the Smokin’ 45’s, a personal favorite of many here in Edmonton (which is 3 hours north of Calgary, in case you were wondering). Fronted by stand-up drummer Mike Fury, this trio is known for their awesome straight-up rockabilly style. Guitarist Scott Martin always plays flawlessly and makes it look so easy. Mike’s smooth, powerful voice and the 45’s catchy, well-played originals and covers ALWAYS get us dancing, and that night was no exception. Drinks were spilled as asses were shaking, and Wendy could barely keep the steady stream of birthday beers she hoisted from toppling as she shook her tail feathers.

They were playing to real fans, people who came out to see the Guana Batz and who truly appreciated their music.

When the eagerly-anticipated Guana Batz finally hit the stage, the crowd was pumped and ready to get their psychobilly on. In spite of having done this since 1982, singer Pip Hancox looked fit, was in good spirits, and seemed totally dialed in to the audience. Shirtless and spry, and covered in Japanese tattoos, all the ladies agreed (myself included) that the years had been VERY kind to him. The band seemed genuinely pleased to be gracing our humble burg with their craft, and the energy was definitely flowing to and fro. They were playing to real fans, people who came out to see the Guana Batz and who truly appreciated their music.

The floor was awash with movement and the vibe was pure fun. Pip had a winning smile plastered on his face the entire time. Everyone was happy to be there, and when the show ended with a psychobilly rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in the encore, the whole place erupted in unison as if hearing a Zep tune at the end of a rockabilly show was the most natural thing in the world. But truthfully, it just made sense. At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it? Rock and Roll.

 —by Jo Ann Atwood, January 2010

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