Home Spun

Home Spun

Santa Claus is coming to town
It’s that time of year when those who don the Santa suits are back in business. But what do they do the other 11 months of the year? Do they booze it up full time, like Art Carney in his masterful performance in the classic Twilight Zone episode? Or perhaps they just case department stores for potential heists, like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.

As for our local Santa impersonator Gary Sula Goff, currently wearing the red duds at Universal Studios, it’s his band The Last Dog and Pony Show that bides its time in the off season. 

Mutual understanding
The 61-year-old Goff has been playing music all his life, growing up on the East Coast then moving to California to raise a family. His son Evan is best known as the lead singer of 8STOPS7, and over the years, the elder Goff’s own music career became more of a hobby that found him playing covers and supporting his son’s band until the arrival of Mel Grace. Through a mutual friend at Guitar Center, Goff was introduced to the Texas native and songwriter, and they immediately connected over a love of blues and soul. In short order, The Last Dog and Pony Show took form.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number
For original live music, The Last Dog and Pony Show’s personnel are on the older side of things, with members ranging from 50 years old to older than 60 — but in many ways, that’s their secret weapon. When Goff and the gang load into venues like Sans Souci, Billy O’s and Rookees, patrons tend to expect a set of uninspired covers, but what they get instead is a fiery set of original rootsy blues jams that would be better suited to a bumping Friday night in a West Texas honky-tonk. “We know what people are thinking — ‘who are these old guys?’ laughs, Goff. “But once we get playing, it changes fast. It’s gratifying to see people surprised they’re enjoying it so much.”

Enjoying the ride
With a debut release under their belt, recorded live at Rock City Studios in just one day, and a solidified lineup that features Ed Dies on bass and Jack Wride on drums, the gentlemen of Last Dog and Pony Show are looking at a busy 2010 with talks of a studio release and a summer of outdoor shows and festivals. Members are at least as serious as the hungriest of youngsters, and they feel as if their time is now. “We’re clearly not getting any younger,” notes the ultrapositive Goff.

Christmas miracle
So the holidays are coming to a close, and soon Goff will be back to Last Dog and Pony Show business fulltime, but this season there was an added bonus for the music-loving Santa look-alike. When the call went out for a Kris Kringle impersonator to appear in a music video, Goff didn’t think much of it but he did get the job. When the artist turned out to be one of Goff’s heroes, all those years of playing Santa seemed worth it because not many people get to sit in on a private Bob Dylan jam session. That’s a story for another time, though. As the big fella says, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”   

Check out The Last Dog and Pony Show online at www.myspace.com/doggoneponyshow and Gary Sula Goff in Bob Dylan’s video for “Must Be Santa,” available on youtube.com.

chris@armyoffreshmen.com 

Home spun

Home spun

Residential space
In many larger cities’ music scenes, residencies are becoming increasingly popular. The basic idea is that one designated night a week, the same artist performs, usually for a full month before a new artist takes over the same slot. It’s a great way for established acts to try out new material and for newer artists to build a fan base. Such nights usually take place at trendy clubs like Los Angeles’ Spaceland or New York’s Mercury Lounge, but in Ventura, fittingly, the most popular residency is at a full-fledged dive bar: Billy O’s. This month, “the O,” as the midtown watering hole is affectionately referred to, will host Cheetahsaurus, the local scene’s gift to the experimental indie rock world,
Escape from L.A.

Cheetahsaurus’ genesis actually lies in the demise of a successful Los Angeles band, The Colour. Despite a major label record deal, network TV appearances and a national tour, the band split, leaving vocalist Wyatt Hull to follow his heart to Ventura, where he fell in love with and married auto harpist Jodi Hull. Inspired and eager to start a new project, Hull met and began writing and recording with longtime local guitarist Joe Bowls. They immediately set about writing and recording an EP of original, electronic-based rock that shares a sonic field with the Pixies and Portishead.

Arms wide open
The band began practicing and recording in the music rehearsal space owned by local legend and world-class shredder Rick Hunter. Home to acts like 8Stops7 and formerly Armand John Anthony’s Satellite Recording Studio, the gentlemen and lady of Cheetahsaurus, long before their first show, became somewhat of a buzz band as the moody programmed rock pouring from their space left neighbors wondering just what the band would sound and look like live.

The debut show at Nicholby’s on a Wednesday night last March drew a sizable and supportive crowd of local musicians and scenesters who weren’t let down by the rumors that a new and important local band had arrived. After the show’s success, Cheetahsaurus was seemingly everywhere this year, playing constantly at local clubs, releasing a debut EP and being chosen by this paper as one of the top bands to watch in 2009, an honor that found Jodi Hull sharing the cover with a who’s who of musicians in the local music issue.

Forward thinking
Cheetahsaurus, which, along with the Hulls and Bowls, also consists of Phil Tibbs on bass and Andy Guzman on keyboards and programming, is looking forward to a bright 2010. The band will be releasing its debut full-length digitally at the start of the New Year, while following up on interest from various indie labels for the hard release. As for its residency at Billy O’s, Cheetahsaurus will bring along a new opening act each week. Deciding where to be on Mondays in December will be an absolute no-brainer. More so because they say they’ll be adding a drummer to the mix soon, which should provide the missing puzzle piece to the band’s already hypnotic live sound. As Hull explains, “We’ve been lucky to have so much support from everyone locally. We felt with the new record coming out, a residency would be a good way to end the year and get ready for the new one. As for Billy O’s, not quite sure why residencies work so well there, but it’s undoubtedly a fun place to play.”   

Cheetahsaurus will take over Billy O’s for a weekly Monday night residency throughout December. 2819 E. Main St., Ventura, 652-0327. To hear tracks off the forthcoming CD, visit  www.myspace.com/cheetahsaurus.

chris@armyoffreshmen.com 

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