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Roadhouse Is Taking Modern Rockabilly for a Spin

The local group will be at Nicholby's celebrating its latest CD release, 'He's My Tiger.'


The hardest working band in the 805 area code, the Roadhouse Rockers--accent on "road" and "rock"--will stop by Nicholby's in Ventura on Friday night to throw a CD release wingding for its latest, "He's My Tiger."

The Santa Barbara-based Roadhouse Rockers have been at it for 14 years--a veritable eternity for a band, considering how few make it beyond the "Hey, let's start a group" phase. The Rockers feature Tony Balbinot on guitar. Micky Rae sings and plays--and sometimes rides--a stand-up bass that's bigger than she is. (You just gotta see it.) John Palmer is the camera-shy drummer--the one not in the photo.

"He doesn't like to have his picture taken," said Balbinot, the ranking Rocker. "Maybe he's wanted or something. I dunno. He always complains, so I told him to just stay home."

Well, if he's on the lam, he's with the right band. The Roadhouse Rockers are always driving somewhere, including up the coast for an opening slot at the Live Oak Music Festival a few weeks ago.

"Things are going pretty good. We're moving in a wider direction, building a southwestern loop," Balbinot said. "We'd like to get a steady gig for the summer around here, but it seems like we play somewhere different every weekend."

Not one of those Hollywood bands that plays a 45-minute set then takes a month off, the Roadhouse Rockers is used to playing four-hour sets. Thus, the group has lots of material.

In addition to the zillion cover songs they know--including a reverent rendition of "Hot Rod Lincoln" by Johnny Bond (not Commander Cody)--they have a vast repertoire of originals to draw from: two CDs, three cassettes and six vinyl 45s so far. So where does "He's My Tiger" fit into their ducktail and pointy shoe cosmology?

"Well, it's a lot different than the first one," said the guitar player. "It's all originals, all but one song. I guess I'm finally strikin' out on my own a little bit. I've always been reluctant to play original material. I'm the last original member of the band. The other guys were more into covers, but as they began to leave the band, I gradually added the stuff I was into.

"Micky has been with me for 10 years now. One guy said we played 'modern rockabilly,' and that's not too bad. It's not the traditional style, but it's not nostalgic, either."


When Balbinot was a kid growing up in Illinois, a boarder who rented a room from his mom used to bring home used records from the jukeboxes in town. While most kids were into Jimi Hendrix, Balbinot was into Duane Eddy and the other rockabilly gods.

"I remember that the TV didn't always work," he said, "but my mom always had a record player that did."

Headlining the CD-release party will be those raucous roots rockers, the Paladins, a band named for that mean Richard Boone character on "Have Gun, Will Travel," a classic television western.

The Paladins and the Roadhouse are no strangers, having shared a number of bills in the past, including gigs at the House of Blues. The Paladins get around even more than the Roadhouse Rockers. One of those 250-gigs-a-year bands, they've already been to Europe twice and Australia once this year.

Just another overnight sensation a decade in the making, the Paladins recently signed on with 4AD, one of the many Warner Bros. aliases. Their next album should be out in a few months. It's a live one appropriately called "The Million Mile Club."

This promises to be a night of American roots rock so hot that the pool balls will be too sweaty to come out of the pockets.

* Nicholby's is at 404 E. Main St. in Ventura. Expect to fork over $7. Call 653-2320.

The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center will host "The Day After Independence Day Rock Show" featuring three bands: Katja's Dream, Hoshua Path and Oversoul. This will be the second rock concert at the venue. Apparently because no one grew hair on their palms, went deaf, or decided to worship Satan after the initial show, the powers that be have decided to try again.

"The first rock concert last March was a test, and we passed with flying colors," said Fred Helsel, the center's assistant general manager. "Over 180 people ranging in age from early teens to their 60s showed up and had a really good time."

* The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center is located at 3050 Los Angeles Avenue. Tickets are $7 advance and $10 at the door. Show time is at 8 p.m., an hour before "The X-Files." Call 581-9940.


Other fun stuff worth checking out:

TODAY: Juice Newton at Oxnard High School; Acadiana at the Ventura Street Fair; Papa-Nata and Ska Daddyz at Bombay in Ventura (Friday and Saturday, too); The Hymen Blasters and Punctual Russ at Nicholby's; Rick Reeves & the Future Blues Band at the Deer Lodge in Meiners Oaks.

FRIDAY: Randy Rich & the Ravens at O'Leary's Side Bar in Ventura; Tijuana Hound Dogs at Eric Ericsson's in Ventura; Rick Reeves & the Future Blues Band at Joe Daddy's in Ventura.

SATURDAY: Guy Martin & Rude Mood, majority DOG, Fried to a Crisp, Choking Ghost, Point Conception, Blue Shift at The Stage in Camarillo; Acadiana at Olivas Adobe in Ventura; Blue Stew at Hi Cees in Ventura (Sunday too); The Hymen Blasters and What It Is at Nicholby's; Randy Rich & the Ravens at Joe Daddy's.

SUNDAY: Blimp at the Ash Street Coffeehouse in Ventura.

MONDAY: Harmonica Fats & Bernie Pearl at Cafe Voltaire in Ventura.

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