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music: Taking Off

The Reverb Rockets borrow from a rich lineage while going their own way.

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"You've got to do your homework and I've done my homework," the 45-year-old Richmond native explains. "[But] I've been literally blessed with the friends and influences I've had."

This litany of influences during the past couple of decades includes members of Don' Ax Me…Bitch!, the Good Humor Band, the Kingpins, and most recently, Big Posse. With its irreverent approach to country music, Big Posse was a Richmond favorite for seven years. But the novelty wore thin, and Lucas and Posse bass player Clark Ball started wood-shedding on their own in the late '90s. There was no set plan but the songs the duo was writing were not Big Posse tunes.

"We wanted to learn a new batch of songs," Lucas recalls. "We really didn't even know what direction to go in. The songs coming out dictated a surfy, rockabilly-type thing."

A sense of humor was a huge factor in Big Posse's success, and this lack of pretense carried over to the new songs Lucas and Ball were writing. After six months of rehearsal, the duo found drummer Rob Lytle. Now a trio that "just happened that way," the Reverb Rockets headed back to the barroom music wars afresh.

The overall sound, as captured by Lucas, Ball and Lytle on the Rockets' 2001 CD "Test Rocket," defies pigeonholing, but the group bears witness to '60s surf bands, Chuck Berry, Memphis Sun Records mayhem, Middle Eastern harem dreams, the British invasion and Link Wray. The short and to-the-point original tunes are upbeat, politically incorrect and anything but retro. The sharply defined taste and tone of Lucas' guitar heroics are the focal point, but, as Lucas is quick to point out, the Reverb Rockets are a team. Ball's steady bass and skewed lyrical observations are as important as the kick-drum and snare to the overall attack. Now, with new drummer Mark Watts on board, the Reverb Rockets are booking statewide gigs. On Wednesday the band opens for Dwight Yoakam at Innsbrook After Hours.

Lucas has as hard a time pinning down the group's sound as anyone. But whatever elusive musical genre the group falls into, it's one that will please fans of creative rock 'n' roll. After all, any group that works a reference to tartar sauce into its lyrics can't be that bad.

"It ain't just surf and it ain't rockabilly — the surf-a-billy stamp, that's not big enough," Lucas concludes. "It's not a kids' band. We're part-time players, yes. But we're also real. The people that dig it, dig it hard, and that's what's keeping us going." S



The Reverb Rockets open for Dwight Yoakam at Innsbrook After Hours, Wednesday, July 17. Tickets are $10 and gates open at 6 p.m. The band also plays Ashland Coffee & Tea, Saturday, July 20, 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. Call 798-1702 for information.

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