Lead singer and guitar player Polka Kapolka is sharp and organized. Drummer (and Punksburgh contributing photographer) Randall ALWAYS wears pants. Bassist and driver Chunk is really good at navigating from his “Google phone.” Saxophonist Sky doesn’t have much luck with the ladies. Trombonist Joeseph, otherwise known as Baron Von Bone, was the highlight of the journey, and lead guitarist Jarad, a.k.a. Lefty’s, balls definitely weren’t stuck to his leg for the duration of the trip from Pittsburgh to Canton. And if you believe those things perhaps it’s best that you stop reading now and remain blissfully unaware.
“The Party Van” pulled up punctually at 5 p.m. to collect your friend and humble narrator. Greeted by toots of party noisemakers and it’s “WOOGAH!” horn, I climbed aboard, prepared for anything. Although off to a tedious start with, as Sky so perfectly put it, “Free parking on 376,” we were on our way, The Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band to open for the one-and-only, accept no imitations Clownvis Presley at Buzzbin Art & Music Shop and I to document the experience.
The Party Van is large and spacious, but alas, unair-conditioned, creating a tornado effect once we began making time. Coupled with the fact that I was charged with getting quotes from five members (Joe was regrettably unable to attend) and I knew that this was not to be a typical interview situation. Regardless, I did manage to question founding member Polka one-on-one for a brief amount of time. He and Randall have been playing music together in the Mon Valley since 1999 in such historical bands as “Hey Soose & The Drunken Apostles” and “Yinzers,” whose music Polka describes as “the same but worse.” For anyone not familiar with their sound it can be a tough one to describe. Maybe the only “Partycore” band that I know of, their Punk/Ska/Metal and at times even Rockabilly sound is, simply put, fun. Best listened to live and loud, some of their influences include Choking Victim and The Dwarves, both of whom they recently had the distinction of opening for, as well as Operation Ivy and NOFX. All of whom they profess to sound nothing like.
Roughly six months after embarking on their current project Polka and Randall added Chunk on bass and the core of The Party Band was in place. Although not before a full month of harassment at the hands of Polka, who proudly owns up to his torment, but acquiesced after Chunk was able to take the heat and because he “knows music.” You might say that torment is the glue that binds this band together. Indeed, there was much torment along the way over one another’s taste in music, as one of the first things that I heard in the van was, “What the fuck is this gay shit?!?” demanded by Randall. I was quickly informed that his soundtrack choices of Lady Gaga and Brittney Spears hadn’t gone over well with the rest of the guys. Meanwhile there seemed to be some disagreement over exactly what was gay since Polka had asked the very same of Randall’s choices. At one point the “gay shit” in question was Less Than Jake, which led to a heated argument over the relevance of that band with Chunk espousing,”But they have that song about cheese!” Only poor Lefty was consigned to worrying about the band coming off as “a bunch of homophobes that jack off with bacon grease.” I can assure you that there is nothing homophobic about these guys, though you’re on your own in finding out the truth about the bacon grease.
Expertly planned as this road trip was, what should have been a brief detour to Steubenville to pick up Punksburgh contributor Derick resulted in what. again, should have been more than enough time to question Randall, but he seemed more content to roast other local bands. Instead, screams of “Johnny and The Razorblades? Fuck those guys!” and “I’m about sick of The Jasons!” punctuated by “Write THAT down!” filled the time. At one point Randall even vowed to punch the next person he saw wearing a Jasons t shirt. After Polka had a minor conniption fit over whether or not a sign said “poop” and EVERYONE frantically panicked over “SOMEONE text Derick!” we finally arrived at his place. Much to the enjoyment of the passengers of the van and confusion of Derick, Randall made good on his promise, jumping out of the van without hesitation to belt Jasons merch-clad Derick. Derick survived unscathed and good-humoredly joined us for an otherwise problem-free drive.
Upon arriving at Buzzbin I was immediately struck by their impressive pinball machine collection, although I didn’t have much time to test them out as Subourbon Son was already commanding the stage. My involvement in this adventure was a last-minute addition, so I hadn’t had time to check out the bands that I was unfamiliar with and I was a bit surprised to find that Subourbon Son is a one-man band. Without seeing him, you’d be hard-pressed to guess that the expert Rockabilly/Garage/Blues vocals, guitar, drums, and harmonica were coming to you courtesy of just one guy from Missouri.
I regrettably wasn’t able to witness much of the next band, The Whiskey Daredevils‘ Country, Punkabilly, Rock set. Momma Chunk and RanDAD (“Look kids! Deer!/Ducks!/Horsies!”) stubbornly did not stop to take us to CiCi’s Pizza, and we arrived in Canton starving. Luckily the absolutely delicious George’s Lounge was open and located only about a block away. They also had live music, but I didn’t catch the name of the acoustic Honky-Tonk duo performing that night, nor did I uncover the reasoning for Canton’s obsession with waffles and no A/C.
Two-fifths of SFTAPB and I returned to Buzzbin with full stomachs and the guys began warming up while I nonchalantly kicked their ever-present balloons back onto the dance floor. Taking the stage it appeared as if the Cantonites didn’t know exactly what to make of the Pittsburgh partiers. The sound was a bit muddled, and I had to strain to hear Lefty’s rad guitar licks. For the most part the crowd kept their distance, standing relatively still. It was their loss, as this and all of their shows are, as their name suggests, all fun! The band sounded tight and well-rehearsed and Sky did an amazing job of filling the role of two horns with his lonely sax. I do believe that by the end of their set they had made some Partycore converts.
That left only Clownvis “The King of Clowns” Presley to perform. I had been introduced to Clownivs’ music and videos by none other than Polka in advance of their gig supporting him and Mac Sabbath last year. I wasn’t able to attend, and therefore was very excited to see him in the flesh. Oh my god. So much more than an Elvis impersonator or clown, Clowvis is a well-rounded performer in true vaudevillian style. His songs are clever and catchy, his comedy wry, in the vein of Neil Hamburger, and he does magic tricks! My only respite from hysterical laughter came during the musical interludes, when in the brief moments between lyrics, I was shaking my hips right along with the clown-turned-crooner. I would recommend that everyone catch a Clownvis performance at least once, and Pittsburghers can get their chance July 13th when he’ll perform at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls with The Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band and Weird Paul Petroskey! Bring your party pants!
After a only a slight glitch in which the keys were locked in the van, we satisfyingly, exhaustedly made our way home. Derick had the fantastic idea of asking Polka the exact same questions that I’d asked him while he was sober on our way home, when he was not-so-sober. Unfortunately, I was also less-than-sober and that never panned out. I’m relatively sure that had it happened, his answer to all of the question at that point would have been,”Randall sucks!” and then Randall would’ve undoubtedly had something to say about it…
Special thanks to The Party Band for letting me tag along and only creating one “fart tornado.” I didn’t even have to use the Febrese.
Be on the lookout for their sophomore release, the much anticipated follow-up to 2014’s “Super Fun Time Awesome Party Album” sometime this year. In the meantime you can pick up their debut release at a show or on bandcamp.