So the guy who runs this thing rings up Professor Bunkum a few months ago and tells him a band called HOLY GRAIL from Pasadena is intent on reliving the glories of my NWOBHM formative years with a throwback sound to classic Accept and Maiden. Mildly aroused from my slumber with this news I belched forth a wholehearted “Ya?”, finished another bottle of wine and dropped back into my satisfying mid-weekend coma.
Then a couple weeks ago he tells me there’s another band from Pasadena called GYPSYHAWK that is reviving early 80’s metal with a distinct nod to Thin Lizzy, and that, along with PROFESSOR, makes three San Gabriel Valley bands trodding an oft-forgotten path of non-irony laden classic metal played from the heart. This bit of information got me wobbling across the room and fumbling for the computer.
Taking a look at GYPSYHAWK’s MySpace page, it looked like they had taken some semi-mysterio photos on hills behind my house and had the good sense to include females. Interest piqued, I started reading to find these guys list their influences as Lizzy, Hawkwind and Skynyrd (which is sort of “Ya whatever” when you had to live through the late ‘70s, but Skynyrd through a filter of COC or Pantera is hard to deny, as are guitarists actually concerned with tone). Then I took a closer look at the pics and realize these guys are just barely old enough to walk into a bar and lack the requisite fat man look of most currently breathing Lizzy/Hawkwind fans. “Ok,” I thought, “this is pretty fuckin’ weird these kids liking this music and these bands all popping up around here right now. I need to investigate this in the lab.”
The lab, of course, being the Buccaneer Lounge in beautiful downtown Sierra Madre. I was further surprised that my young subjects were familiar with this locale as well. So I set up an “interview.” By now I’m thinking the girls I met after the Krokus or Y&T shows in Sacramento in 1984 might not have been as diligent at birth control as they let on. “Son. . . Is that you?” After a couple of warm up drinks shooting the breeze with Tony at the Buc (please go there and spend your money now), in strode Gypsyhawkers Eric Harris (bass / vocals), Andrew Packer (guitar) and Joe Fabio (drums). MIA was Scotty Conant on second guitar. Seems that Harris and Packer provide the grime in the crew, while Conant and Fabio (of the L.A. Academy of Music) are tasked with keeping the time and running the scales. This really is Gorham/Lynott vs. Downey/Robertson all over again.
Harris is clearly the ring leader of this crew, having performed bass duties in SKELETONWITCH (after living in Louisiana and Ohio) before being summarily dismissed on the street whilst on tour in LA. With nowhere to go, he just stayed, did some time in HOLY GRAIL and then got the ‘HAWK underway. The search for a good drummer was of course never ending, and the first few months they honed the tunes to a metronome ‘til recording engineer Fabio jumped behind the kit and nailed a particularly complex piece, and the band was whole.
Harris and Packer are both incredibly nice guys. For two hours we talked bands ranging from Witchfinder General to Agent Orange to of course Hawkwind and Thin Lizzy. That’s a damn good two hours in my world. There won’t be any 3 Inches of Blood / The Sword-like “do they mean it or not” discussion about these guys. They are seriously playing from the heart, and Harris’s world-weary vocals belie life experience beyond his years. Can they pull it off? Will anyone care? Who knows, but they are apparently already getting a fan base with only a few shows under their belts. I, for one, having checked these guys out in the flesh, can honestly say that their enthusiasm and musical tastes reaffirmed my belief that there is a thread of quality woven into the fabric of heavy music over the decades. You gotta be diligent to catch it – the same band who did “Too Fast For Love” did “Theater of Pain” a few years later – but the rewards are there for those who seek out the real deal. Some people even have the balls to get a band together because of it. Check out GYPSYHAWK for the next generation. Their next performance is Monday at Les Deux.