Inside every recovering New Wave frontman there beats the soul of a fingerpoppin’ lounge singer — and Don Dazzo has reconciled these competing impulses as well as anyone, as will be witnessed when Everlounge meets LANGOSTA Lounge on July 29.
Alright, we’ve been told repeatedly that “there are no second acts in American lives” — something that was pretty much only true of the burned-out rummy who coined the quote. For the rest of us, there’s existence in a constant state of morph and reinvention that ranges from superficial tweaks to sex changes; stage names and screen names; Botox to body-mod teflon implants — even Second Life if you’re so inclined.
If you frequented NJ/NY rock clubs throughout the 1980s and into the 90s; if you listened to the old “modern rock” WHTG-FM or tuned into some of the more obscure corners of national TV, you surely had a run-in with the band called Whirling Dervishes. Fronted by gangly, baritone-voiced Don Dazzo and boasting a virtuosic, genre-bending musical attack, the Dervishes put out several essential EPs (including the surprise, still-up-on-iTunes Yuletide perennial Grinch), made it onto MTV’s 120 Minutes, did the theme song to the short-lived NBC proto-reality series The Adventures of Mark and Brian, and generally fit quite well within that smart, satirical/sophisticated strain of NJ-spawned alterna-rock vanguarded by Dramarama, The Smithereens, and The Groceries.
They also made a rather infamous movie, about which more in a moment.
Still, when the band reluctantly called it a career back in the early 1990s, they disdained the path by which veteran combos continue to embarrass themselves through neverending reunions, personnel reconfigurations and desperate rehashing of what “sells” in any current crazy climate. Instead, Dazzo and likeminded Dervs Billy Siegel and Bob Ardrey gazed deep into their collective navel, and what they saw gleamed back at them in a fever-dream of novelty shot glasses, table lighters and velour smoking jackets. They had gotten in touch with their inner Lounge.
Everlounge is the name under which the Dervish imprimatur has survived and thrived into the grave new millennium; a project (dedicated to “good humor, analog reverb and good Russian Vodka”) that’s employed the trappings of vintage lounge-lizard, generation-gap pop to stake out a place that’s nothing short of The Nexus of all Possible Musics. With two snappy, savvy, full length CDs under their no-doubt reversible belts (Vodka Context and Nice Set of Maracas), these frequent visitors to the Upper Wet Side of NJ most recently ished the sampler disc Everlounge Recommends Wine Women, Rock — a set recorded in part during a live gig at Asbury’s Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel.
It’s to Asbury that Dazzo, Siegel and the 2011 edition of Everlounge return on Friday night, July 29, when they rock ‘n fingerpop the modestly scaled stage (and expansively visioned Permanent Staycation) of Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge — a setting that the singer notes is “Asbury! On a Friday night in July! Just brilliant!”
Of course, the Shore scene has always held a special allure for the Garwood-based Dazzo and crew, who have made themselves at home everywhere from the dorkiest house parties to the swankiest Supper Clubs. Back in the Day of the Dervish, the band would find friendly harbor in such joints as the long-gone and lamented Cafe Bar on the Long Branch boardwalk — a bit of disappeared local scenery that did duty (along with the James Bradley Motel) as location sets for the shot-on-video, straight-to-video epic known as Thin Mints.
You’ll find almost nothing online about this absolutely unique, late 1980s foray into anything-goes decadence and scenester in-jokery, set to a snappy soundtrack of originals by the Whirling Dervishes. Produced as an alternative to your standard self-released album or EP (“one of the guys in the band was the video director at Union County College, and this was a way to get our new songs heard in a movie at a time when we couldn’t afford to release a record”), Thin Mints offers up such spectacle as an Ubu-like rock god, Girl Scout groupies and fecal-fetish sex — just in case you were wondering if it stopped short at fecal-fetish sex.
Of such convoluted cocktails are the perfect olio of influences made, and for the recovering New Wave frontman — who confesses “there was always a lounge singer lurking inside me all that time” — slipping into a retro sharkskin blazer was as natural a fit as slipping into the mix of “classic 60s, 70s, and 80s rock, pop, blues, disco and novelty numbers” that make up a typically untypical Everlounge set.
“When we started Everlounge, we had more of a jazz bent to what we were doing,” says Dazzo, who’s joined in the latest lineup by Siegel, fellow Derv vet Steve Brown on drums, bassist Joe Rowley, and regular guitarist Gregg Gulbronsen (Ardrey continues to take part in the occasional special gig, and for Friday’s gig Gulbronsen’s post will be manned by one Paulie Fuckin’ A).
“We kind of morphed into more of an 80s rock thing…then back to standards,” Dazzo explains. “But what matters most is that I just love to entertain. Just to be still working in front of an audience is amazing.”
Everlounge is set to take the indoor Langosta stage around 10pm on July 29; there’s no cover so be kind to your bartenders, your bridge tenders, your chicken tenders.