The Chop Tops Headline A Psychobilly Freak Out Night at Seattle’s El Corazon, By Holly Homan

The Chop Tops

Wednesday night, June 27, The Chop Tops headlined a show at Seattle’s El Corazon. I was unfamiliar with the Chop Tops, but heard the show advertised on KGRG, liked what I heard, so decided to check them out. I was not disappointed. The Chop Tops are a psychobilly trio from Santa Cruz, California. This means California surf music is tossed into their high-speed blender (with its lid off) along with Gretsch guitar, upright bass and manic percussion, ground up and then spewed out and sprayed everywhere.

The Chop Tops consists of Sinner, whose name is tattooed on his chest, and who stands behind a drum kit and sings all the songs with wild abandon. I hate to overuse this word, but the guy’s frikkin’ AWESOME! Accompanying him is Shelby on Gretsch guitar. Shelby never stands in one place for more than a few seconds as he bullies his guitar strings while they wail in protest. His Gretsch featured painted black and red spiders splattered on it along with what appeared to be a raccoon tail hanging off the end. There was something about animal tails at this show, but more on that later. The band’s newest member, Brett, took over on upright bass in 2008. He’s the one who holds things down with his steady, slamming and strumming. He rarely moves, although he did raise his upright above his head a couple times. Other than that, he just keeps slapping away. Yet, he’s fascinating to watch and I don’t know why. As energetic and manic as Shelby and Sinner were, I often found my eyes drawn to Brett. Perhaps I expected him at any moment to do something notable like the other two were. Whatever it was, this is a fun band to watch. They’re wild. Any psychobilly fan should check these guys out. You missed a fun show.

The Chop Tops

Preceding The Chop Tops was singer/guitarist Danny B. Harvey. He’s a gray-haired dude with a cowboy hat who sits on a chair and plays. Although originally from Texas, Danny B. has lived all over the globe, including New York and England and has played with such legends as The Stray Cats and The Pole Cats. Although he claims to have moved to New York at age six, he maintains that Texas style in his music. He plays guitar with such prowess, you can’t help to be awestruck. His partner on stage this night was a woman calling herself Necrofoxx. She stood behind a drum kit wearing a short gray t-shirt and fishnet stockings, sported long, thick locks dyed purple and blue. She almost stole the show and when she shed the t-shirt revealing a skimpy black body suit, the front of the stage was suddenly awash with frothing men. She was more than just a sex kitten, though. She could whale on those skins with manic passion while exuding charisma. She even sang some songs solo as well as duet swith Danny B. Her vocals were gutsy and gritty and the perfect complement to Danny’s powerful and gravelly voice. The duo was more billy than psycho and played stellar covers of such classics as Smokestack Lightning and Hit the Road, Jack. Their music was a little R&B, a little rockabilly and a little country all blended together. They were great fun to watch and I highly recommend them.

The San Diego trio, The Strikers, played prior to Danny B. and they’re the only band I didn’t like. It’s just a personal thing. I don’t like that style of vocal where the singer (and I use the term loosely) just screams and sounds like someone puking their guts out after a night of binge drinking. There’s no melody and you can’t understand a single word that’s screamed. Other than the vocal style, they sounded and looked good. Vocalist Joey St. Lucas looks like a cross between Gregg Allman and Kurt Cobain. Rob Brouillard on upright double bass and Donovan Teske on drums round out the band and they had great stage presence. But that vocal style repels me so much, I could only stay for three or four songs before hiding out in an adjacent room.

The Chop Tops

Radio Threat were the second band on the bill. From Ventura, California, they are, Favio – Vox / guitar, Johnny No Sleeves / Guitar, Erick / drums, and Bobby Ramone /Bass. It’s hard not to like these guys with their zany, non-nonsense hard rock with punk attitude mixed in. Their songs are catchy, yet hard core and complete with three-part harmony. Guitarist Johnny wears a fox tail attached to a back belt loop and it dangles next to the Misfits skull patch stuck on his back pocket. As I said, it was a night for animal tails for some reason. These guys are like one wild, rock and roll party on stage and are a ton of fun to watch. They’re a relatively new band though one wouldn’t know it by watching them. They’re pros on stage with as much prowess as an of the more seasoned bands.

Starting the whole show off was a quirky outfit called The Graceland Five. They had just gone on stage when I arrived and at first I thought the singer was dressed as a vampire, tying in with the common macabre motif that often accompanies psychobilly. But no, he was dressed as Elvis with sequined suit and sequined cape. Imagine if Elvis played punk rock. Yep, that’s right. Elvis playing punk This is what The Graceland Five are — an Elvis punk rock band. They play all Elvis songs all punk. Elvis serenaded audience members, performed a suggestive pole dance using one of the pillars on stage, and even hopped off the stage to mingle with the few people in attendance. An Elvis punk band is a very unique and clever idea and these guys are a ton of fun. They’re from Seattle so chances are they’ll be playing around. Check them out. They’re worth the effort.

Although the club filled up as the evening progressed, there weren’t a lot of people in attendance. It’s too bad. The Chop Tops are a force to be reckoned with in the psychobilly genre and this was one fun-filled night.

Holly Homan

All photos property of Holly Homan, all rights reserved.

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