The Twistin' Tarantulas' doghouse bass player 'Pistol' Pete Midtgrad is road savvy enough to know when his band is being given the once over when playing for the first time in a new bar.
"When people in the bar see that a rockabilly band is setting up, we get looks of 'Oh, here we go again with another 50s, no-hair-out-of-place, dog-and-pony show retro band,'" Midtgrad said. "But no. We surprise many by hitting the ground running, ready to rock hard, and playing loud as hell."
"Which leaves people saying, 'Who are these guys and who pissed them off?'" Midtgrad said laughing.
By arriving the hard way honestly--via the gritty streets of Detroit--The Twistin' Tarantulas are certainly more swagger than swing, much too rough-hewn even for matching suits, and definitely more punk than purist. When Midtgrad looks to book the band into various clubs, he tries to avoid being stuck where only rockabilly bands play.
"I look for the places which have a built in base of patrons because we do better outside the rockabilly scene," Midtgrad said. "The blues and rock crowd likes us, and then some in the rockabilly scene think we're not always true to form."
Tarantula shows are energetic and edgy affairs. The doghouse is one of the largest instruments you can play onstage--you can never just strum it either--so you get a full visual workout to go with a speedy cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."
"Most bands play like they're playing along with a record," Midtgrad said. "Even our slow tunes come with some desperation and sweat. The conviction has to be there for us."
Occasionally during sound checks at different clubs, The Twistin' Tarantulas get smirks and rolled eyeball looks taking them for granted without actually hearing them.
"We have a saying, 'In like chumps, out like kings,'" Midtgrad said. "They think we're the coolest thing by the end of the night."
The Twistin' Tarantulas tonight at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids. $6, 8 pm. The ChupaCobras open.
More Things Arachnid : www.twistintarantulas.com/main.html