Blasters frontman Phil Alvin — seen here at the Gothic Theatre on Saturday — still stinks of rockabilly. Photos by Todd Radunsky.
The Blasters made a stop in Denver on Saturday night to serenade a giddy Gothic Theatre audience with their high-energy blend of roots, rockabilly, punk and traditional blues. Vocalist and guitarist Phil Alvin wore his characteristically giant, frantic smile as proof that the place met with his approval, and the ceaseless swing in front of the stage signaled the audience’s approval of the band’s mission — to rock the Gothic to its proverbial knees.
Alvin was joined onstage by Keith Wyatt (lead guitar), Bill Bateman (drums — like a machine) and John Bazz (bass) for a 90-minute set of pure Americana — by a band that’s still running strong from their roots in the early ‘80s L.A. punk scene. Alvin’s spirited and impassioned vocal performance showed a deep love of the genre, and destroyed any potential accusations of mere mimicry. Every word he belted out to the close-packed pit in front, paired with Wyatt’s impressive rockabilly guitar, seemed to turn each song into its own mini-performance — and the Bateman-and-Bazz rhythm section provided a flawless backdrop.
In their earlier days, when Alvin’s brother, Dave, was their guitarist, the Blasters often shared the stage with legendary punk bands such as Black Flag and X. If you’re at all familiar with X’s Billy Zoom, you can imagine Phil Alvin’s stage personality: A constant, manic smile is forever pasted on his face, and he perfectly plays complex chord progressions as the rest of the band play and dance behind him.
The Blasters have an American rock ‘n’ roll history based on a solid and loyal following, largely because of their faithful dedication to their roots in traditional blues and rockabilly. Their Saturday-night performance perfectly showcased their energy and was a testament to the band’s longevity. While many other bands forged during the same era are playing lame reunion shows lost in a mixture of more contemporary punk bands, the Blasters are simply on the road playing and promoting the sound they love – and doing it proud.
Billy Thieme is a Denver-based writer, an old-school punk and a huge follower of Denver’s vibrant local music scene. Follow Billy’s giglist at Gigbot.
Todd Radunsky is a Denver-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.