Good times were had when Scrog played the New World Christmas show in 2005.
By Julie Garisto
New Granada‘s Annual Xmas Night Extravaganza
Featuring Hankshaw, Davey von Bohlen, Jarvik 7 and King of Spain
9 p.m. Thursday
New World Brewery
1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City
21 and older only, $8
When the last present is regifted and the fruitcake has been secretly chucked this Christmas Day, a hearty contingent of Tampa folks will gussy up in their new clothes and head out for a local music show, decompressing with old-friend cheer and imported beer.
Yes, that’s right: a rock show on Christmas.
This Thursday night reputed Tampa Bay and national acts will entertain music lovers at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
For many, catching acts like Hankshaw, Davey Von Bohlen, King of Spain and Jarvik 7 is not only a Christmas night tradition; it’s therapy.
Keith Ulrey, promoter and label manager of New Granada Presents, has been putting on well-attended Christmas night rock shows over the past two decades.
These events typically feature a popular band from back in the day (Hankshaw), top-notch current acts (King of Spain and Jarvik 7, our local band profile this week) and occasionally a prominent national recording artist (Davey Von Bohlen).
“To be honest, I’m not sure why I became so attached to this tradition,” says Ulrey. “I participated in the first one at the Ritz in 1993. The next year, my band was going on a short tour and releasing a record, we used Christmas Night 1994 as the tour kick-off/record release show at Blue Chair Music. So, after that people started asking me about the next year’s show, and the next, etc. It just became my thing to do, New Granada’s tradition.”
According to Ulrey, venues have included the Ritz, Blue Chair Music, Gallery Film House (behind Blue chair), the Green Room, Tarantula Records and New World Brewery, where the event has been put on since 2004.
“Most years, the Christmas Night show is a simple affair, cool friendly bands doing their thing for their friends,” adds Ulrey. “But, sometimes I like to try things to make each show unique and/or special.”
He cites as examples the 2005 show, a “massive reunion of ’90s Tampa bands” – Scrog, Pohgoh, Tomorrow, My Own America – who got together to raise money for charity.
“Last year we brought the mysterious Blackwoods Orchestra in from New Orleans. And this year, Hankshaw – who holds the record for playing the most Christmas Night shows – maybe five? – will be playing their first show in a couple years. (The band has) re-worked, re-imagined and is re-visiting songs from their earlier releases on No Idea/Doghouse.”
In the late ’90s Hankshaw, named for Sissy Hankshaw in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, attracted big enthusiastic crowds to its bay area shows and the band toured with Gainesville emo progenitors Hot Water Music. The quartet evolved from a fierce indie power pop band to a more eclectic showstopper, tossing funk, psychedelic, disco, glam and other genres into the mix.
After Hankshaw released the raved CD, King Kandy in 2004, co-frontmen Milton Chapman and Harold Hasselback moved to Atlanta, but efforts to keep the band going fizzled out as Chapman signed on with up-and-comers the Hiss – which, sadly, disbanded this year.
Late last year Hasselback moved back to the bay area while Chapman remained with his family in Atlanta.
Hasselback recruited original bandmates, drummer John Gatto and guitarist Brian Roberts, plus bassist Chris Deininger of Pohgoh, to play classic Hankshaw tunes plus new songs that hark back to the band’s more energetic power-pop beginnings.
Along with the trumped-up Hankshaw reunion, a lot of buzz surrounds what Ulrey calls “the special, one-off solo performance” of Davey von Bohlen. The performer from Milwaukee got acclaim in underground circles as the leader/member of emo-pioneers Capn’ Jazz and The Promise Ring (both on Jade Tree Records). His latest band Maritime has a more subdued appeal but gets loads of indie love.
Why did the busy musician consent to playing a Tampa Christmas show?
“Davey has relatives in the area and has agreed to play this show to be a part of Tampa’s tradition,” Ulrey explains.
Also at the show, King of Spain will be joined on stage by Gabe Loewenberg, of Blast and The Detergents, in a special set that will consist of new material, as well as a few old ones reworked for the collaboration.
Roberts of Hankshaw says he recalls Ulrey’s Christmas shows fondly. He has either played in or attended a majority of them.
“Shows at Blue Chair were a lot of fun,” Roberts says. “Ybor wasn’t like it is now, and you never knew what you were going to run into. One night around Halloween we stumbled into a guy who thought he was a Ninja. He wasn’t really dangerous, just generally goofy.”
Now a member of local bands Rec Center and Murder Suicide Pact, Roberts has several musician friends in the scene and looks forward to the next installment of the Christmas show tradition.
“You run into a lot of people you haven’t seen in years, people who don’t have things to do Christmas night, moved out of town and are back visiting their family, old friends, high school friends, friends from the mid ’90s. It’s a great time to play catch-up with everyone.”