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Weekend music

This band is so money! The return of Hipster Daddy-O

The first time this columnist became really aware of swing music and dance was as a child, watching the Olivia Newton-John roller-skating fantasy "Xanadu." There's a scene in the film where dancers in stylish '40s costumes sway to the sounds of a big band while spandex and leopard print rock and rollers writhe to a live set by the Tubes. 

About 20 years after that movie came out, the big swing revival broke through. Bands like Brian Setzer Orchestra, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy helped turn the public on to the trend and swing dance groups started popping up seemingly everywhere. And much in the spirit of that scene from "Xanadu," the new batch of swing bands attracted a lot of rockers. Veterans of punk and ska and rockabilly bands found themselves well suited to play music that was fast and energetic and made people dance.

In spite of our city's reputation at the time as a premium exporter of "Desert Rock," Tucson did indeed have its share of swing bands, and as it turns out, one of them made it pretty far for one brief shining moment or two. Back in the late '90s, Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades pushed beyond the bounds of local fame to land a record contract, tour nationally and have songs featured in movies and on television — including a worldwide audience for a gold-medal Olympic gymnastics routine that featured one of their songs.

Saturday, the band is reuniting to celebrate their 21st anniversary, so I decided to swing by with some questions. 

TucsonSentinel.com: It's been a while. For our readers who aren't familiar, who are/were Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades? How'd the band come together in the first place and where did it all go from there?

Mike Piek: “I put the band together, I want to say 1997.” 

Ty Lebsack: “I think it was actually sometime in 1996, because I was still attending U of A.”

MP: “Well if you say so! Previously I had played with Eric Frey in the '80s and '90s in a band called Fall From Grace. When I started putting this band together I asked if he would sing. Eric had played with bass player Ty Lebsack in the past, so we asked him to join. Next we got Daryl Seymour on drums. Finally we landed the horn section (Grant Lang, Kris Wiedeman, and Andrew Sternberg) from adds in local papers and flyers we posted at the U of A School of Music. Once we had a set worked out, we played a lot of shows around town and eventually signed to SlimStyle Records. After that we toured the country for a couple years and had many cool adventures.”

TS: Introduce us to the cast of characters.

MP: “It's me on guitar and vocals, Eric Frey on lead vocals, Ty Lebsack on bass, Daryl Seymour on drums, Grant Lang on trumpet, Kris Wiedeman on trombone, and  Andrew Sternberg on sax. This is our original horn section which will play the Congress reunion show on the 12th of this month, but we've also toured and recorded with Jeff Grubic on sax and Andrew Skaggs on trombone for a period of time."

"I also want to mention Tim Miller, my best friend for many years, who became our manager — we would have not achieved half our success without him.”

TS: What were some of funner and more notable things that happened in the course of the band?

MP: “We achieved a lot of success in town right off the bat, and were playing all over to packed houses. We signed pretty quickly to SlimStyle Records and then recorded two albums, 'Armed And Swinging' and 'Diesel.' The song 'The Perpetrator' made it in to regular rotation on KFMA for a couple months. The song was also featured in the Jim Carrey movie "Me Myself And Irene." We had several nationwide tours and won Tucson's Best Swing Band award at the TAMMIES for 4 or 5 years running, as well as a few other awards. We also had the cool and unexpected experience of our song 'Daddy-O' being used in the 2000 Summer Olympics for Elena Zamolodchikova's gold-medal-winning floor routine. Had a lot of radio play throughout Europe and even got a write up in the German Rolling Stone.”

TL: “Yep, pretty much your standard small-town boys make good story, and then go on to fame and fortune - but without the fame or fortune part!” 

TS: What are some of your own favorite bands and influences?

MP: “I was heavily influenced by early punk and your more alternative stuff.  Bands like the Clash, Pistols, Misfits, X, The Cure and a bunch of other shit. I played trumpet growing up, but was not really influenced to heavily by old swing. Although jump blues and rockabilly did seep its way into my life as I got older.”

TL: “Everyone in the band has pretty diverse musical influences. I came from pretty much the same place as Eric and Mike in that I grew up listening mostly to bands like the Misfits, Social Distortion, Motorhead, etc. Later, in my early 20s, I started branching out and getting pretty heavily into rockabilly, a little ska, and other genres. Daryl (the drummer) comes from a hard rock and metal background. The horn section is all over the place, musically speaking, drawing from funk, jazz, blues, rock, you name it. Andrew and Kris were both in the U of A band back in the day as well, so they are both well schooled and have all that musical theory knowledge and training.”  

TS: What was it like to have a touch of small fame?

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MP: “Our popularity was very unexpected, we put the band together just for fun, and then it took off. This was about a year or so before the swing thing got big. It was a great ride for a few years and something that we all will always have great memories of.” 

TS: "What are you all up to now?"

TL: “Musically, Mike and I are currently playing in Bordertown Devils. Grant sits in with the Coolers on occasion. Musically speaking the obvious difference between Bordertown Devils and Hipster Daddy-O is the horn section, but at the same time they are both coming from a similar place. The bands that Mike and I listened to growing up and influenced our writing style find their way into both bands. Hipster Daddy-O was never a straight swing band, I feel like we always kind of skated on the edge somewhere between swing, punk, rock, and jump blues.”    

TS: Horn sections in rock and roll are a trend that comes and goes — for instance when things got really raw with early punk, new wave came along and brought back saxophones. Right now we're in a kind of horn drought with all of these garage and psych and surf influence bands. Do you all think rock and roll is due for the return of horns?

MP: “I love me some horns, especially my horn section. But I really doubt you going to see swing, ska or anything that fronts horns get big again. Which is fine for me, it makes it more special.”

TL: “I basically agree with Mike here, I doubt bands with a horn dominated sound will ever dominate the radio or commercial music quite like they did during the 3rd wave of ska and swing in the late '90s, but what is considered popular and trendy in music seems to ebb and flow, so you never know."

TS: For a brief spotlight of time, it seems like this kind of music really got the attention that was due. Was it all simply a passing fad, or is there something in particular about swing that made it special?

MP: “Well lets face it, as far as a commercial property, swing was a fad. Which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. I didn't put HDH together to become a swing dance band. I was experimenting with music and my songwriting, never really intending to become a swing band per say, it just sort of evolved into what it did. It's all based from blues, so there will always be a certain interest in jump blues and swing music. Just probably not a big interest.” 

TS: How did the reunion come about? Will it be one and done or do you see yourselves collaborating again in the future?What do you most look forward to about the upcoming show?

MP: “Ty and I play together in a band called Bordertown Devils, and it just came up out of our found memories and love for the band.”  

TL: “Last year we talked a bit about maybe doing a 20-year reunion show, but it never came together in time, so we ended up doing a 21-year reunion instead!” 

MP: “The biggest joy is spending time with the guys again and getting to play these really fun songs. Also, the chance to see all the guys in the band, as well as friends that I haven't seen in many years. As far as the future goes, I think a lot will depend on what happens at the show on the 12th. If it's a blast for us and the audience, this could be something that happens every once and a while. You're not going to see us playing out regularly no matter what happens. But if there's a little demand for it, and we can find the time, you never know. But having said that, don't assume you can see us again at some point, because this might be the only chance.”

TS: What would you like our readers to know about Hipster Daddy-O?

TL: “I would just like to mention how much fun it’s been reconnecting with everyone in the band, and playing all of these songs again. Eric mentioned to me how natural everything felt after our very first rehearsal getting ready for this show, and I totally agree. We are all super excited to be playing together again and this show is going to be a blast! 

MP: “It's going to be a really fun show, whether you know who we are or not, I make that promise. We're not your great-gerat-grandfather's swing band, so don't be afraid. We're something totally different and unique."

t: "The show is May 12th at Club Congress. It starts early with The Endless Pursuit kicking things off at 8 p.m. Those guys have a killer horn section and we are stoked  to have them on the show with us. We go on at 9 p.m. and look forward to seeing you there!”  

New venues, familiar faces - this week in local rock

This week, like last, boasts slightly better than average local music options, with the opening of a couple of new venues and another crop of touring musicians headed our way. While may bands in the local scene are mourning the loss (at least for now) of rock and roll bar and venue The Loudhouse, new spaces are just starting to fill their calendars for the first time including Fourth Avenue restaurant/venue Cans, Northside craft-beer haven Tucson Hop Shop and the newly expanded Mercado San Agustin.

At Flycatcher on Friday night you can catch the psych/jangle pop of La Cerca along with Hannah Yeun's dark and dreamy indie pop melodies as the two bands support Phoenix group Emby Alexander. Meanwhile, over at Club Congress, Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards headlines with a little help from the lovely cypher of a band that is Crystal Radio.

Saturday offers up a veritable buffet of great music options including Juju Fontaine at the Hop Shop, Ryanhood's Cameron Hood at the Mercado San Agustin, Billy Sedlmayr at La Cocina, and the premier edition of Local e Live at House of Bards. Sunday night, Brooklyn's Stuyedeyed bring their brand of trippy psych-tinged garage rock to Club Congress while Greyhound Soul holds court at Che's. 

Later in the week, look forward to performances by Miss Olivia and the Interlopers, Whispering Wires, Little Cloud, and "grrl-powered" teenage punk goddesses the Frecks. 

Early summer promises to continue the trend, so stay tuned in the days to come.

Check your local listings...

Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources, including local musician Chris Black's site www.whoplayswhere.com. 

If you've like your event listed in this space, or if your local band has major news or a new release, drop me a line at arts@tucsonsentinel.com.

Friday, May 11

  • La Cerca, Emby Alexander, Hannah Yeun - 9 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Michael Batdorf - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Erika Wennerstrom, Crystal Radio - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Ice-9 - 8 p.m. Bar Passe (Downtown)

Saturday, May 12

  • Juju Fontaine - 6 p.m. The Hop Shop
  • Cameron Hood - 6 p.m. Mercado San Augstin
  • Miss Olivia & the Interlopers - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth (Downtown)
  • Bad News Blues Band, Tom Walbank - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress (Downtown)
  • Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades, The Endless Pursuit - 7 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Billy Sedlmayr - 7 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Rebekah Rolland, Peter Dalton Ronstadt y los Tucsonenses - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Arlo Hannigan & Ry Warner - 8 p.m. Exo Bar (Downtown)
  • Apocalyptica - 8 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)
  • Black One, Cuzn' It, Benny Loc, Ono - 9 p.m. Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • TV Girl, Wished Bone - 9 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Belinda Esquer - 9 p.m. Sky Bar (Downtown) 
  • Al Foul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge (Downtown)
  • Lisa O & the Ocean - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Local e Live w/ Hella Bells, BreakingGlass, Baptista, The JonesTown Band, End Of Swan - 7 p.m. House of Bards (Central)

Sunday, May 13

  • Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12[30 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Greyhound Soul - 7 p.m. Che's (Downtown)
  • Stuyedeyed - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)

Monday, May 14

  • Solstice , Warsenal, Magguts, Napalm Strike, Genocaust - 7 p.m. House of Bards (Central)
  • Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Just Juice, Joey Cool - 7:30 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)

Tuesday, May 15

  • Leeway, Rhythm of Fear, The Beautiful Ones, Sex Prisoner, Reasons - 6 p.m. House of Bards (Central)
  • Voice of Addiction, Bleach Party USA, the Frecks, the Distortionists, 21 Dreams - 6 p.m. Spark Project Collective (Downtown)
  • Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Brent Cowles - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Jeff Lownesbury - 8 p.m. Cans Deli (Downtown)
  • Amped Up Open Mic - 8:30 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Tom Walbank - 6:30 p.m. Sky Bar (Downtown)

Wednesday, May 16

  • Little Cloud - 7 p.m. Public Brewhouse (Downtown)
  • Mac Lethal & Wax - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Street Blues Family - 9 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Whispering Wires, TWGS - 8 p.m. Cans Deli (Downtown)

Thursday, May 17

  • Trashcan Sinatras -  7 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Despero, Dumpster Hump , Manopla - 7 p.m. Spark Project Collective (Downtown)
  • The Gloomies, Cullen Omori, Mute Swan - 9 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Alison Iraheta, Infinite Souls, Miss Olivia And The Interlopers - 9 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
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