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MUSIC | ROCKTALK

Rock at Rest

Tito & Tarantula don't waste energy on theatrics. It all goes into their music.

September 25, 1997|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here's what you won't see Friday night at Nicholby's in Ventura during the Tito & Tarantula set: rock 'n' roll posers gyrating all over the stage, dancing, strutting, bobbing their heads in unison and creating a musical cliche festival by shouting "Howzit goin', Venchura?" All these rock theatrics entail too much tiresome exercise, unpleasant bending and undue sweating for Tito & Tarantula, for the band has seen the future of rock, and it has nothing to do with all that exertion.

For inspiration, this band did not look to Elvis, Mick or Iggy, but more likely Grandma Moses, Buddha or the Lincoln Monument. Tito & Tarantula will be sitting around Friday night at Nicholby's. Opening will be bluesy roadhouse rocker types Barrelhouse, out of Orange County. It'll be the band that stands up.

The rockin' recliners among the headliners currently include Jennifer Condos on bass, Mick Vincent on drums, Lynn Bertles on violin and mandolin, Peter Atanasoff on lead guitar and Tito Larriva on vocals and rhythm guitar. Although nominally the king of the sic semper reclinus crowd, Larriva does stand up sometimes, but only for a while, as he explained during a recent interview.

"We tried standing up once, but it didn't work. Jennifer calls us 'rock & rest.' We don't want to get run down. Once in a while I'll stand up, but only when I get excited and can't help it. It's all at random."

So the band members aren't going to wear themselves out on stage--hell, they barely even sweat. They do, however, use straight-backed chairs and not recliners or couches, and thus far, none of the band has nodded off during a set, at least as of press time. Perhaps Tito & Tarantula can be the first band to be sponsored by a furniture company.

"We're plugged in. It's electric sit-down music," said Larriva. "People don't know what to think the first time they see us sitting down and getting down. But once they get past the sit-down thing, they enjoy themselves."

Despite the fact that if it weren't for the instruments, this could be a seminar or the soundtrack for couch potatoes, the band plays some sort of blues-based roots rock that usually begins slowly and builds into something as relentless as 20-foot waves at the beach, which is usually when Tito considers standing up for a moment or two.

"We're very casual. We don't rehearse--we've never rehearsed. Musically, these guys are so great; I mean, if you can't play a five-chord song, you're in the wrong business," he said.

"All the songs are mine--over 20 originals--and I'm open to playing them however anyone wants to play them, and we never do the same set the same way. But the lyrics I'm sticky about, because I have to sing them."

He may be laid-back, but perhaps Larriva could use a rest. After all, he's been around the L.A. scene for about 20 years, and the driving alone is enough to wear out most people.

"When I first started, there were all these kids with no hair and green teeth, but now they're brushing their teeth," he said. "The punk scene was a special thing, and I was in a punk band called the Plugz. We were famous because we did 'Repo Man.' Actually, I scored that film.

"Then we turned into the Cruzados and we put out a couple of albums on Arista, but then after a few years, we broke up. It was the usual band stuff. Nowadays, there's just a lot of bands that want to get a deal when the idea should be to play music."

After the demise of the Cruzados and lying low for a while, Larriva resurfaced. These days, the current band's music can be heard in a couple of films--"Desperado" and "Dusk 'Til Dawn." A self-produced CD is threatened for release next month.

"About four years ago, I started a band with no name that eventually became Tito & Friends, which became Tito & Tarantula," said Larriva. "We play pretty hairy music."

*

This week's recommended show by a band you've never heard of could be no other than The Negro Problem tonight at Nicholby's. This is smartly produced and multilayered music, right up there in intent and style with Love's landmark "Forever Changes" about 30 years ago. Wise-guy lyrics, too; trust me this time.

*

Also worth checking out:

TONIGHT: Zelig (Borders, T.O.), Teresa Russell (The Lobster Trap, Oxnard).

FRIDAY: The Buds (Hungry Hunter, T.O.), Stevie & the Stealers (The Clubhouse, Camarillo), Jimmy Adams Trio (Wine Lovers, Ventura), Melborne Moon, Danny Timms & Jodi Siegal (Cafe Voltaire, Ventura), Little Jonny & the Giants (Santa Clara House, Ventura).

SATURDAY: William James & the Slow Burn (Hungry Hunter), Stevie & the Stealers (O'Leary's Side Bar, Ventura), Dale Bozzio, the Monets (Nicholby's), Blue Line (Rendezvous, Ventura), Guy Martin Band (Santa Clara House), Steve White & the Barstool Pigeons (Local Hero, Ojai).

MONDAY: Big Six (Nicholby's).

TUESDAY: Jimmy Adams & Friends (Cafe Voltaire).

BE THERE

Tito & Tarantula and Barrelhouse, Friday, 9:30 p.m. at Nicholby's in Ventura, 404 E. Main St. Cost: $6. Call: 653-2320.

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