– Sinclair, Cambridge October 25, 2013 –
The notion that three of the nation’s finest retro-heavyweights should together put out a Halloween CD – “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” (Yep Roc) – filled with fresh takes on spooky classics, and new haunted holiday classics to be, was in short, genius. But, the idea that these same bands should spend much of (R)October bringing their newly minted musical treats to the masses is nothing short of brilliant. A fact easily demonstrated by the heavy turnout for this triple-headliner tour at Sinclair Friday night.
After all, without a tour like this, concertgoers would never have the chance to see garage legends The Fleshtones opening a show at the unreasonably reasonable hour of 8:45pm. Powerful, and seemingly energized by the venue’s big stage and big crowd, the band spent much of their time twirling around the stage, to point their invisible “Wheel of Talent” at an array of band members and special musical guests. So, while the crowd were treated to the Fleshtones’ spookier side, including classics like “Screaming Skull”, they also were joined on stage for unique moments that can only be seen on a tour like this – including a live performance of the band’s single “For a Smile” performed with Mary Huff from Southern Culture on the Skids. By the time they left the stage, the powerstance had been invoked, and we were all better for it.

Southern Culture on The Skids then twanged themselves into chicken fried bliss, immediately warming our Rockerzine hearts by early in the set dedicating “Liquored Up and Lacquered Down” to “anyone in the audience who had to get a babysitter tonight.” The ghoulish tunefest continued with a charging cover of the Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck,” as well an all hands on jam for “Zombiefied”, where the band not only attracted Fleshtones guitarist Keith Streng to temporarily join their lineup, but also an array of zombies from the audience to join them on stage to dance. The set climaxed with with a rousing rendition of “8 Piece Box” during which fried chicken was lobbed at concertgoers from a silver stockpot on stage. Alas, if only they’d been tossing Mary’s fabulously giant wig, I’d have been right up front to catch it.

One might reckon with so much talent in one night, Los Straitjackets might have just been the lucky ones to draw the short straw to play last, but their time on stage was no less filled with unique moments than the previous two sets. Currently a 4 piece, the band loaded their set with crazy Egyptian choreography, covers (“Tequila”) and originals (“Space Mosquito”) both smooth and spirited, and featuring a whole lotta gong, courtesy of (new-ish?) drummer Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague (Deke Dickerson, The Outta Sites). More creative cross-pollenation erupted in the form of Streng playing along on a handful of tunes, and Fleshtone Zaremba taking lead vocals on “Que Monstruos Son” – a fantastic Spanish version of “The Monster Mash” – as well as a hopping rendition of “California Sun”. But the special guests on stage weren’t limited to the bands. Indeed, one of the more surprising moments was when Straitjackets merch guy “Ritz Carlton” took the stage in a crazy leisure suit to lead a rousing rendition of Rocky Horror’s “The Time Warp.” But what song tonight actually set the audience slow dancing with nearby strangers in the crowd*? A soulful encore of “Sleepwalk.”

Encountering Zaremba after the show at the merch table, he aptly summed up the feelings of many in attendance “If I were in the audience, I think I would feel I got my money’s worth tonight.” adding “I’m exhausted, but also, I feel really satisfied.” Frankly Peter, we couldn’t agree more.

* No, seriously, this happened to me.