By Michael Aushenker
A blues explosion is set to go off in Santa Monica when a pair of local bands, The Texas Instruments and Space Hurricane, descend on TRiP Saturday, Aug. 24, at 9 and 10 p.m., respectively.
Space Hurricane includes David Wilchcombe (“Moan Red”) on guitar/vocals; Justin “Sweet Licks” O’Reilly on guitar, Dave “Mess” Messer on drums/vocals, and bassist Rory “Roar” Snively.
“I came out here five years ago with the hope of putting together a rock blues band,” said the Lexington, Ky.-raised O’Reilly.
Sometimes a photo says 1,000 words, but in the case of this group, one band photo in particular conjured up two.
“It had this vibe like we’re sitting on a tarmac shooting a bunch of wind at us,” O’Reilly remembered.
Originally inspiring names such as the Runway Bros., the photo begot the moniker “Space Hurricane” after Wilchcombe took a shine to an article about monster weather and pinned it up on his wall.
“We’re a total Craigslist band,” O’Reilly admitted of how he and London native Wilchcombe found the rest of their band after they musically hit it off. On their first TRiP gig, “We ended up like packing the place. Even the booker was like, ‘Have you been playing long?’”
Playing some John Bonham-bottomed blues rock of the Led Zeppelin variety, Space Hurricane, also influenced by “Exile on Main Street”-era Rolling Stones, have been known to perform songs like Creedence Clearwarter Revival’s “Born on the Bayou,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House,” and Black Keys covers.
“He turns into Mick Jagger and you’re like ‘whoa what happened,’” O’Reilly said of Wilchcombe.
The young band has only played a handful of TRiP and Down ‘N’ Out shows, as well as the Doll Hut in Anaheim.
O’Reilly says the band democratically participates in writing their originals. “Sinister Love;” “Military Family,” “coming from the eyes of an actual soldier always shipped around seeing things in your mind you just can’t get rid of, things that nobody else sees” (Sweet Licks/Moan) ; and the Moan gems “Mistakes I’ve Made” and “Brat Revolutionary.”
Aside from their Aug. 24 gig at TRiP, Space Hurricane will keep busy performing at Three of Clubs in Hollywood on Aug. 22, the Down ‘N’ Out in downtown L.A. (Aug. 26), Club Los Globos in Silverlake (Sept. 9) and Skinny’s Lounge in North Hollywood (Sept. 10). They also have another pair of hometown gigs in their near future: O’Brien’s pub on Aug. 29 and a final residency show at TRiP on Aug. 31.
And O’Reilly added that playing TRiP has been, well, a trip.
“They give you an hour to rock!” he said. “(At other clubs), you only play like 30 minutes.”
More of a traditional blues band, The Texas Instruments precede Space Hurricane on a bill also including Jeremiah Mountain and Justin Moore.
Comprised of drummer Paul Allen, bassist George Niciforos, harmonica-player/vocalist Oliver Cornell, and singer-songwriter/lead guitarist Justin Kirby, the Instruments offer a slew of covers with originals mixed in.
Originally from Topanga Canyon, Kirby has led the mix of Venice and Pacific Palisades residents for nearly eight years. Santa Monica’s Moose Lodge pursued the group after a gig there and soon they were playing the Venice Bistro and O’Brien’s at Pier Street in Santa Monica.
Kirby and company dig Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddie King, Austin guitar-slinger Alan Haynes and early ZZ Top. On Aug. 24, guitarist Ryan Rhem will sub for Cornell while Scott Murrow fills in on bass because two band members will be out of town. The Instruments plan to play their Meters covers and a swampy, funky version of Mose Allison’s “Parchman Farm.”
“The music that we play is really driving and moving and involves a lot of soloing,” said Kirby, who, by day, teaches English at Fairfax High School. “It’s tasty.”
While Kirby said he laments the demise of L.A.’s blues scene, including the legendary Babe and Ricky’s Inn in South Central, Thunderbird Lounge in Burbank, and Cozy’s Bar and Grill in Sherman Oaks, he commends the South Bay, “which still has some blues venues,” and Santa Monica’s Harvelle’s.
With some 40 songs in their repertoire, Texas Instruments, on any given night, may play covers of Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow” or “Freedom,” some Robert Johnson, Leon Russell and Taj Mahal. They’ll also throw in some originals: “Straight From Yourself,” what Kirby describes as “a real Stonesy, driving straight-ahead rock n roll song (about) being true to what it is you’re saying to other people,” comes replete with slide guitar licks.
“I’ve always been drawn to the blues since I’ve learned how to play guitar,” said Kirby, whose outfit recently enjoyed playing Santa Monica College for a Relay for Life fundraiser. “I’m just drawn to its pure expression. It’s extremely expressive and emotional.”
As Elton John would say, “And I guess that’s why they call it the blues…”
TRiP is at 2101 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. Information, tripsantamonica.com.