Photo submitted by artist
Dash Rip Rock
Saturday, July 15 at 8 p.m.
The Listening Room Mobile, 78 St. Francis St., www.thelisteningroommobile.com
Tickets: $20 artist donation
Mobile often plays host for numerous rock outfits from New Orleans. The increasing number of popular up-and-coming bands that do not fit the Crescent City’s jazz/funk mold is evidence that the city’s music scene is taking on a new personality.
Decades before this current musical evolution took place, Dash Rip Rock decided to use their fresh, charismatic mix of punk and country to create their own niche in the New Orleans music scene. According to guitarist/vocalist Bill Davis, the current growth of the NOLA rock scene is the same reactionary move that brought his band to the masses. Davis says while New Orleans will never lose its reputation for funk and jazz, people will always be looking for something different.
“When the mainstream is funk and soul, the kids are going to play something totally different from that,” Davis said. “They’re going to rip into some country, rockabilly or punk rock.
That’s what’s cool about the scene now. There’s some high-energy rock bands coming out of New Orleans that are bucking the trend.”
Davis credits college radio as one of the biggest inspirations for Dash Rip Rock’s sound, where stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge immersed Davis in the music of West Coast cowpunk and rockabilly groups such X, The Blasters, Social Distortion and The Beat Farmers. Davis says the bands he was hearing on college radio were non-existent in New Orleans at the time.
The guitarist recruited Ned “Hoaky” Hickel on bass and F. Clarke Martty on drums. The trio formulated a concoction of country, Southern rock and punk that was portrayed through rowdy tunes such as “Johnny Ace,” “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot” and “Rich Little Bitch.” Davis says the group also reflected the Southern alt. rock movement with choice ballads such as “Jarhead” and “Specialty.” As they began recording, the medium that had inspired the group also helped create a cross-demographic cult following that flocked to Dash Rip Rock’s stage.
“We got embraced by college radio,” Davis said. “From that, we just built a solid audience of mostly rock fans. It was really college-based. Through the ‘80s, you could pretty much count on us playing any college town in the country and doing well.”
As the band’s reputation grew, Dash Rip Rock scored opening spots for acts such as The Cramps, The Black Crowes, No Doubt, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Ramones and Lou Reed. Their electrifying live show and equally raucous sound led Spin to name them “the South’s greatest rock band.”
When Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra heard the band, he signed them to his Alternative Tentacles label, upon which they released four of their 17 albums. All the while, Davis said the band has maintained their trademark sound.
“We didn’t try to go off into anything too different,” he said. “We have an identifiable sound that people can relate to. You can’t get it from anywhere else. You have to get it from Dash Rip Rock.”
While their music has stayed the same, Davis said Dash Rip Rock has changed behind the scenes. The front man is following the current music business model with an in-house label. Named for Davis’ childhood band, Drag Snake Records has become the main platform for the band’s music.
After researching in-house labels, Davis decided that more profit could be earned from self-released albums. The digital music era has also allowed Dash Rip Rock to spread their music worldwide without any major label connections. Davis plans on releasing all future Dash Rip Rock albums on Drag Snake.
“It’s a fun little diversion and good little way to get our records out there,” he said. “We’ve got decent distribution. It’s almost like you don’t have to have any record store distribution anymore.”
Their most recent release, “Wrongheaded,” was released on Davis’ Drag Snake Records in 2015. This album is filled with the hard-driving alt. country tunes and emotional Southern anthems for which Dash Rip Rock is known. Davis credits muses ranging from Johnny Cash to Little Richard for his versatile songwriting style, inspiring “off-the-map, high-energy rock ‘n’ roll” and contrasting with “something pretty and thoughtful.” Dash Rip Rock was also shaped by the movement that brought notice to bands such as R.E.M. and Will & the Bushmen.
“We hit on that formula in the ‘80s, and it’s worked for us,” said Davis. “It’s an acquired taste, really. If you don’t know a lot about Southern music, then you’re not going to get it. It works if you think about Southern music through the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
Dash Rip Rock has always had a reputation for giving their audience an adrenalized live performance. In the ‘90s, many locals may remember the band’s memorable sets at the now defunct LoDa venue Monsoon’s. A rain of beer and hard liquor rained on the crowd as Dash Rip Rock blazed through their set and cushioned songs with hilarious stage banter.
Musically, Davis said the band’s live show has changed very little. The Listening Room crowd can expect an evening of “blazing, really tight, high-energy Southern rock and punk rock” separated by soft, Southern rock anthems. However, Davis admitted the band does not get as rowdy on stage as they did in the Monsoon’s days.
“We don’t set our stuff on fire,” he said. “We don’t spray the crowd with beer anymore. Every show from 1994 to 1999, we had a bottle of Jack Daniels onstage. We’d drink half of it and give the rest to the crowd. We’re more kind of a tequila band now.”