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NIGHT LIFE

CLUB SCENE : Have Guitars, Will Travel : Dramarama's 5 Young Men Went West With Their 'American Music'

May 03, 1990|BILL LOCEY

If guitars and more guitars are your own personal soundtrack, then Dramarama may be the band for you.

When they played Ventura about three months ago, the curtains parted and through all that rock 'n' roll smoke were five guys playing guitars in what is now the band's latest single, "Wonderamaland."

About the only variable for Dramarama is how many guys will be playing guitars on each song. Sometimes there are five; once in a while four play; and always, at least three strum their brains out. It'll probably be a lot like that when the band plays The Carnaval Club in Santa Barbara Tuesday night: lots of rock 'n' roll songs, no Taylor Dayne covers.

This will be Dramarama's fourth Santa Barbara appearance. They opened for Echo & The Bunnymen in 1986 at the Arlington Theatre, and have twice since played The Carnaval Club, a much smaller, more intimate venue. A few years ago, the band befriended a friend of a friend who turned out to be Bill Hardy, who now manages The Carnaval Club, hence the band's willingness to play in a small, sweaty bar, when the band doubtlessly will sell out the much larger Hollywood Palladium two days later.

Dramarama comprises five guys who met in high school in Wayne, N.J., formed a band, then followed Horace Greeley's advice and moved West.

"Everybody in New Jersey dreams of moving to California," said bassist Chris Carter in a recent interview. "Everyone in Minnesota too--anywhere where it's cold. The weather really does screw your life up. Like my Dad--he waits all year for a two-week vacation, then it rains for 10 days. Everyone wants to get out of the town they were born in--except people in the South. They don't want to move to California; they enjoy the slower pace of life in the South."

The band has recently returned from a cross-country tour in support of their third album, "Stuck in Wonderamaland."

"We did really well, especially in the East Coast area," Carter said. "It depends a lot on radio. Some nights, there would be 1,000 people who knew all the words to all the songs, then the next night, there'd be 40 people. That's sort of how we ended up in California. When we first started out, we decided we needed a record, and we ended up getting signed by this real small but real cool label from France called New Rose Records--I think they've still got The Cramps."

"Anyway, we cut this record. It was a big hit in France and also this DJ in California, Rodney Bingenheimer from KROQ, started playing our stuff. So he called us--we're all record collectors--and we ended up moving to California. We've been here for about five years. Rodney's still our pal, and KROQ still plays a lot of Dramarama."

Everyone should be playing lots of Dramarama--they're a classic meat 'n' potatoes rock 'n' roll band, who play, as the Blasters so aptly put it, "American music." Someone's going to have to invent some new adjectives to describe these guys because they're as good as anyone.

The front man, John Easdale, is a charismatic sort of pseudo-psycho James Dean-for-the-'90s. He's got this Richard Nixon three-day stubble that didn't really pan out during the 1960 presidential debates, but for a '90s rock band, who knows? Easdale also has "the stare" down pat--he's got the look that could melt through Robocop's undershirt or incinerate all Bad English albums within a 12-block radius.

With a powerful gruff voice, he staggers about the stage growling away, sort of like Joe Cocker at a pharmaceutical convention. He writes stuff like: "I'm all alone whenever we're together; when we're alone, it's worse than being by myself. . . . " Couple this Angst with bunches of guys playing guitars--hey, it's rock 'n' roll.

The band members are between 25 and 30 and were influenced by late-'60s, early-'70s bands, such as the Beatles, the Stones, New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Roxy Music.

The Carnaval Club is at 634 State St. in Santa Barbara, just a few blocks up from the freeway that is taking longer to get fixed than it took to build the pyramids. The doors open at 9 p.m., and it will probably sell out.

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