One summer day, I was idly reading Metroland. I noticed a review by Paul Rapp about a band showing up at an Indian restaurant – in Clifton Park, no less – and doing a one-off show on the deck after appearing at Caffe Lena.
Who were they? I had to find out more.
My chance came on Saturday, November 20, when the Chandler Travis Philharmonic came to The Linda in Albany. Having never heard of them before Paul’s review, I had no idea what to expect. I had heard a couple of songs, and knew there was no way of pinning them down to any one genre, but that didn’t prepare me for what may be one of the more unique concert experiences I have had.
The first hint I had was of a very tall and thin, blond cross-dresser wandering around the nearly full auditorium in a purple sequined blouse. Turns out my first guess was right, this was Rikki Bates, the band’s drummer.
As The Linda’s Howard Glassman introduced the band, trombonist Bob Pilkington, attired in a Riddler shirt and Cat-in-the-Hat-style lid, gave him bunny ears as he passed behind. (Looks like this is going to be an interesting night). As the rest of the band filed on stage, they looked more like they were heading for a slumber party than a concert.
It was clear from the first song, “Everything Can Go Wrong So Easily,” they may not have taken themselves seriously, but they certainly respected the music. The evening was a stroll through almost every style I can think of. From a little alternative Dixieland (“Mid-Morning In Moscow”) to reggae (“Work It”), they had it covered.
Unlike most concerts, where the music is the central focus, the visual aspects were equally part of the show. There was so much going on around the stage, it was hard to know where to look. The “June Trailer Dancers” (otherwise known as the horn section) were so entertaining – whether they were playing or not – that is was almost impossible to keep from watching them. Besides Bob, there was also trumpet player Steve LeFebvre and sax/clarinet man Burke McKelvey.
On the other side of the stage, pianist Phil Clements was using his piano bench as both a seat and a go-go dancer platform, while founding member Dinty Child (accordion, mandocello, mandolin, vocals) stood on his amp to gain a little altitude.
Despite the controlled chaos, Chandler Travis remained the center of attention. Arriving on stage in a silk robe, which, along with the rest of his costume, he changed a few times during the night, ably assisted by Fred Boak, the Singing Valet. In fact, he had so many layers of fleece lounge pants, it’s a wonder he didn’t pass out from heat stroke. Through his vocals and rhythm guitar work, he kept the night moving, occasionally pausing briefly to set up the next song with a little story behind it, such as the ode to his neighbor, “Anne” or his rant from years of playing in bars, “Drunk Angry People, Shut Up.”
After an hour and a half show, it was clear he was in no hurry to leave as the encore was not a quick play-a-hit-and-leave, but more of a nice wrap up to the evening. After all, since they were already in their PJs, what was there to rush for? Several of the night’s songs were from the new CD “Chandler Travis Philharmonic Blows,” previously reviewed on Nippertown, and the encore was no exception, with the audience participation song “Fruit Bat Fun” (complete with visual cues, ala follow-the-bouncing-ball) and “The Day The Casuals Went To Sweden.”
As their Facebook page says, they “put the harm in philharmonic.” It’s great to see that Spike Jones is alive and well and living in Cape Cod.
Review by Ed Conway
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
THE CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC SET LIST
Everything Can Go Wrong So Easily
That’s What She Said
This Is Home
Sometimes I’m Happy (King Pleasure, among others)
Grand Route St John
Gotta Let Go Sometime
Born to Disappear
Drunk Angry People, Shut Up
A Camel Passing Through the Eye of a Needle
Ticky Don’t Do That
I’m Chandler’s Butterfly
Mid-Morning in Moscow
Boogie Woogie King (Jimmy Liggins)
Celery Stalks at Midnight (Will Bradley/Ray McKinley)
Never, Neverland (from “Peter Pan”)
Don’t Blame Me
Eje Ka Jo (Jimi Solanke)
Fruit Bat Fun
The Day the Casuals Went to Sweden