- Lizard brains: Awesome Party
If there's a perfect venue for the swaggering, beer-soaked power-metal of Awesome Party, it's got to be Tennyson Lodge. The Bethel Park strip club is best known as the home of "Bare-aoke" -- the only place in town where you can share the stage with a stripper as you butcher "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Though the Tennyson doesn't usually host bands, the owner made an exception for Awesome Party, who will play as part of Bare-aoke on Fri., May 29.
They're no joke band, but right down to their jean jackets sans shirts, the local group does a pretty good job of walking the fine line between metal tribute and caricature. Between memorable songs and entertaining performances -- these dudes have stage presence to spare -- it's easy to believe in what they're doing. "When everyone is musically on top of their game, it becomes a very good band," says vocalist Scott Attwood. Or, as drummer Jonah "Party" Frazier puts it, "Seriously, it's a serious party."
There's some disagreement -- and a little bit of lying -- about Awesome Party's genesis ("We went to London for six years to find ourselves, and then came back and started a band," claims Frazier). The members generally agree that it began about a year ago as a joke, based on little more than the name. And no wonder the details are hazy: As guitarist Stephen Lauck tells it, "I don't remember forming it because I was so drunk."
Lauck, of the bands Wrath Cobra and Lady Beast, later met bassist "Texas" Josh Hunt, and the two bonded over a shared love of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal -- the late 1970s and early 1980s movement that included bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead and Diamond Head.
"We started talking about how there's really nothing like that out now," Hunt says. "We very quickly realized that [Awesome Party] could be a good band with good song-writing." They recruited vocalist Attwood, who sings like a hybrid of Rob Halford and Angel Witch's Kevin Heybourne, and who fits the "rockin' metal" aesthetic. Frazier (also of Wrath Cobra) started drumming in order to play for the band and "Natty" Mike Cristello (FLAK, Red Fox) completed the lineup on guitar.
"Everyone thinks we're going to sound like Andrew W.K., but we sound like Diamond Head and Accept and KISS," Lauck says.
They only played one show "just to see if the band was worth even really putting any effort into," says Lauck. They rented some mics and set up a makeshift studio in Attwood's bedroom. The recording process took more than three months, resulting in a five-song demo which they hope to release as a 12-inch.
The demo is pure, triumphant, metallic force, and as energizing as watching the climax of any movie that features a battle of the bands -- you know, the scene where the underdog band finally proves itself, thoroughly rocking the skeptical audience. The self-referential opener, "Awesome Party," manages a kind of Thin Lizzy desperation, while also being hilarious. When Attwood demands, "I've got nothing to lose, just gimme the booze," you kinda want to do what he says. "Hot Shot" revels in "kicking ass and having a blast," and promises, with Judas Priest-esque bravado, to "always deliver, that's the deal." The ultra-catchy closing anthem "Who Dares, Wins" reminds us, "If it's too hard, you're too weak."
"We basically write to the lizard brain," jokes Lauck.
While no one is quite willing to say it's over, the future of the band is, to say the least, up in the air. The Tennyson show will be its last before Hunt heads to Europe and Lauck returns to his home state of California. Frazier jokes that they could do something like the Postal Service, and write songs by sending tracks back and forth. Soon the only way you'll be able to hear them is through your headphones, so don't miss what will probably be your last chance to see Awesome Party do what Hunt refers to as, "the whole '80s rock-star stripper thing."
Awesome Party, with Bare-aoke. 9 p.m. Fri., May 29. Tennyson Lodge, 4797 Library Road (Rt. 88), Bethel Park. $6. 412-833-4442