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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Swing a Song

Big Sandy and boys, in retro duds, play for their dancing fans at Mercury Lounge.


It'll be easy to pick out Big Sandy. He'll be the big guy with the sweet voice fronting his band, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Friday night at the cozy Mercury Lounge in Goleta. Opening will be local legends Extract, fronted by the one and only Marjorie Extract, who continues to insist that is her real name.

Big Sandy and the boys are hitting the road to push their third album, "Feelin' Kinda Lucky." And Sandy, born Robert Williams, seems to like the way it turned out--steel-guitar-driven country rock that could have made them kings of Bakersfield 40 years ago--and at least a favorite western dance band at present.

"I think it's more representative of our live sound," said Big Sandy during a recent phone interview. "There's no reverb or effects, just pretty close to what we really sound like. When we started in 1988, we were a rockabilly band, but I think we've added a lot of other influences, such as hillbilly, western swing and jazz to keep it interesting. Plus, most of our songs are originals."

So are the clothes. Unlike your basic rock stars, the band has a certain image to uphold and, much like the blues guys, they dress to impress--the retro look.

"Some of those vintage clothes can be expensive," said Big Sandy. "And once you get them all sweaty, they tend to fall apart fairly quickly."

Big Sandy has played in our area numerous times, plus the swing dancers like the band and should fill the smallish venue. The band is retro enough to warrant a Brylcreem revival--with ducktails, which don't mean the back of Daffy, and shoes that are pointy and polished.

"We do pretty well in bars and honky-tonks," Big Sandy says. "I like playing in small places because we're so close to the people. Originally, we had all these rockabilly kids, but now we're making inroads into the country scene, and lately, people have been dancing a lot. Swing dancing has swept the nation. I love it because it gets us going."

Originally from Anaheim, Big Sandy has more in common with '50s TV country music star Spade Cooley than other Orange County bands, such as Offspring, No Doubt, Barrelhouse and the Ziggens.

"There's kind of a mixture down in Orange County. A lot of the people from those other bands go to our shows, except lately we've been on the road a lot. It's a healthy scene. Yes, Spade Cooley is one of our heroes, but he was a bad boy. He killed his wife. They let him out of prison to play a benefit, and he died on stage."

And finally, featured prominently in the band bio and in many of the pictures, is the band's cool ride, a vowel-challenged 1949 Flxible bus. But if you know anything about Flxible buses, well, let's let Big Sandy tell it.

"It broke down. Unfortunately, it happened before this tour so we had to rent a van. It's kind of hard to find parts--sometimes you have to make them. Those things all have about a million miles on them. We may have to hold a fund-raiser to repair it this time."

* Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys and Extract at the Mercury Lounge, 5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta. Friday night, 9:30 p.m. $5. Call (805) 967-0907.


Performing but Not Talking: You might as well just rent a room because Santa Barbara is clearly going off this weekend. On Friday night, Bob's kid Jakob Dylan and his band, the Wallflowers, will play at the tree-lined Santa Barbara County Bowl. They nearly sold out the Ventura Theatre a few months ago when we still had a Ventura Theatre. Fiona Apple will open. But since neither of them wanted to talk to the press, the less said about them the better.

Same night at Toes Tavern, it's Star 69, named for that remarkable feature on your phone that enables you to immediately call back that suspicious and annoying crank caller. Star 69 is also a band fronted by Julie Daniels, a powerhouse singer. Opening are the Penny Dreadfuls, an all-girl pop punk band from L.A.

Up State Street at the Yuctana Cantina, it's raging ska from the best band in Carpinteria, the Upbeat, survivors of the bumfuzzle also known as Seafest at the Ventura Harbor last weekend.

The Upbeat's soundman was apparently booted by event staff, and so the band ceased playing after just half a dozen songs, leaving about 300 fans milling about with no soundtrack.

Saturday night in Santa Barbara appears to be equally entertaining. There's potent pop rock at Toes from the Cunninghams and the Tories. Singer-songwriter Melborne Moon will play his introspective melodies at Borders, and the Pontiax do the rockin' blues thing at the place in search of a capital "H," SOhO.

Also this weekend, at Oak Park, is the Ragin' Cajun Festival with music from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Check out Acadiana, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and JT & the Zydeco Zippers, same time, next day. Admission is free.

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