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Music: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Doesn't Sound Familiar

Local band proves itself to be one of a kind--even their cover songs sound original.

May 15, 1997|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Phish is arguably the best live band in the world. Tao Jonz was arguably the best local band in our area until they broke up a few years ago. Triwop & Whitey are reminiscent of both of those bands, even though they don't really sound like anybody else.

While the name may offend, this band--three Italians plus your basic white guy--can certainly play. Triwop & Whitey will be stirring up the dance crowd at a 9 p.m. Friday night gig at Cisco's Mexican Restaurant in Westlake.

Not only do Triwop & Whitey have the jam thing figured out--no song is ever the same and they have no set list--but all four members can really sing.

The players include Ryan Smith (keyboards, vocals), Patrick Generosa (drums, vocals), Anthony Silecchio (bass, vocals), and Greg Ruggiero (guitar, vocals).

"It's funk-rock swung out on the jazz and pop tip, with a '70s porn-appeal to it," said Ruggiero.

Could be, but it's also jazz, rock, funk, blues and about anything else you can think of, except maybe the polka, and thank goodness for that.

The band has over 30 original songs, which is a lot. And even the 10 or so covers sound like originals, such as the Beatles' "Blackbird."

Silecchio and Generosa began as a duo in Albuquerque in 1994. Soon afterward, they added Smith on keyboards.

Ruggiero, a jazz guitarist studying music at the University of New Mexico, was the missing link that completed the lineup in September 1995. Surprise, surprise, now here they are.

"We moved to L.A. in January," said Silecchio. "Two of us still live in Van Nuys, but now two of us live in Simi Valley.

"We were the No. 1 band in New Mexico. We packed all the hot places on the good nights, but there's no music industry back there, and we knew we had to come out here."

They played open mike night at the Craze in Simi Valley in January and had their first real gig there a week later.

They started a mailing list and about 15 people signed it. Now they have over 250 names. The band plays a couple of times a week in the county.

"We moved out here without knowing anybody, and we're just going to keep playing and build up a following," said Generosa.

"We have enough songs to make two CDs. We want somebody to sign us. We play full time; this is all we do."

They have the songs, but not the cash to make a CD just yet. So for now, Generosa sells tapes of a gig they recorded in New Mexico about a month ago. They sell for a fiver. But more importantly, more and more people are showing up at the gigs.

"At first, people just stare at us," said Silecchio. "They don't know what we are, but it's all moving-around music. It's a tougher crowd out here than it was in New Mexico.

"We went from being a big fish in a little pond to a small fish in an enormous pond. Now, a lot of musicians from other bands come to watch us play."

Cisco's, which has taken over the venue of the now-defunct Stargate, packs 'em in Thursday through Sunday on live-band nights.

Cisco's is at 925 S. Westlake Blvd. Call them at 497-3959 to find out more about this free show.

*

Singer-songwriter Katy Sullivan will be making her area debut with a pair of gigs at the ubiquitous Borders Books & Music stores.

The Borders connection is definitely happening for the Massachusetts mom--Sullivan has seven Borders gigs lined up in the next nine days.

The ones we care about are Friday at Borders in Thousand Oaks (497-8159) and Saturday at Borders in Santa Barbara (899-3668). Both 7:30 p.m. shows are free.

Sullivan is touring in support of her latest, "Nine Lives."

She boasts an eclectic set of influences, from George Gershwin to Nina Simone to the Beatles to Mozart.

The music encompasses jazz, rock and gospel, and Sullivan has the pipes to pull it off. She comes off as a world-weary survivor who takes good notes.

The county Borders is at 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., and the Santa Barbara outlet is at 900 State St.

*

The annual Extravaganza at Harder Stadium on the campus of UC Santa Barbara is clearly just what it implies: a bunch of bands all day long for free. Even the poorest students at Bicycle State U. can afford this one without any assistance from mommy and daddy.

Famous rock stars this year include Ben Harper, Dance Hall Crashers, Down by Law, Kurtis Blow and World Tribe.

Lesser known or local rock acts include those ska maniacs out of Carpinteria, the Upbeat, along with Five for Fighting, the Leftovers, Cool Water Canyon and Fidget.

The gates open at 10:30 a.m. with music on a couple of stages starting shortly thereafter.

A word to the wise: The line is long and everyone gets the once-over twice from security, so prepare for at least a 30-minute wait. Then there are the rules: No bottles, cans, alcohol, cameras, recording equipment or pocket chains. No pocket chains?

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