enerally, the idea of four young men playing the music they enjoy is, at least to me, a frightening concept. I don’t find much in the modern thrash, metal, and grunge that interests me; it often seems like an excuse not to practice, since it’s unlikely anyone would notice.
Last night, we finished our swing dance lesson earlier than expected, and decided to risk a band called, if we heard the hostess at Beermann’s correctly on the phone, ‘The Pyronauts.’ An evening at Beermann’s is never wasted, and thus far, George’s ear for bands has been unerring. The Pyronauts are no exception.
As we crossed the street half a block away from Beermann’s, I could swear I heard the Ventures ripping into ‘Pipeline.’ Turns out I wasn’t far off.
Paul Beatie, Bob Butler, The Brett Cole, and Pan Smith are the tightest, snappiest, most professional young band I’ve ever heard. While many groups are composed of a star and some hangers-on, each of the Pyronauts is a talented musician in his own right. Beatie, lead guitarist and de facto front man, has written over a dozen memorable and distinctive instrumentals which sound as if they’re lost Deltones or Ventures tracks; no mean feat.
The band’s covers of tunes like ‘Pipeline’, ‘Walk, Don’t Run’, and ‘Sleepwalk’ are faithful to the originals without slavish mimicry. Each is arranged to suit their deceptively casual performing style (through the miracle of wireless guitars, Beatie fled the restaurant at one point and danced with some folks outside the front window, all the while delivering his solo with flash and panache.) Later, a cover of ‘Folsom Prison’ could have become a joke. Instead, it was a polished, professional homage to Cash’s original. I was surprised to hear bass vocals from the smallish (well, compared to Brett Cole, at least) Beatie.
Another smashing highlight was the final flail of the evening; Smith’s tour de force, after pumping out snap and pop enough for even a picky listener like me, was a smoking delivery of ‘Wipe Out’ including a final solo not copied from the Surfari’s version. Pan is light-years ahead of most local-band drummers; nothing is mushy or indistinct; despite the blur of movement, his sound is crisp, clean, tight.
These guys practice. The arrangements require coordination and concentration, and they deliver. Beatie is already a talented composer and arranger, and both Butler and Cole have contributed compositions as well. They get noticed; they’ve opened for Dick Dale three times in their short career.
I picked up their first two full-length CDs, ‘Surf or Die’ from 2001, and ‘Surf Motel’, recorded last year. ‘Surf or Die’ has three Beatie originals plus energetic and polished covers of Deltones and Ventures tunes. Beatie’s tunes don’t suffer by comparison; the multi-tempoed ‘Surfin Espa