by Jeff Milo
No more clichés, no more cynicism. Rock’s not dead. Never was. The Beggars are here to save the day. Rock’s redeemers, Steven Tuthill, Jim Faulkner, Pookie Grech and Chris Krez, each understand that rock n’ roll can be more than just music, it can be something to live for…
And don’t you dare doubt their powers. Attendees of Beggars concerts are often quickly converted by their charms: a combination of the wild and the raucous with the wholesome and the nostalgic; it’s head-banging, fist-pumping, guitar-shredding, ballad-belting music, but it’s done with this charismatic grin and studded with a classy (if half-crazed) showmanship that conjures the most glorious of rock’s glory days.
Last month, the Ferndale quartet released their second full-length record, a self-titled album produced by a powerhouse team, Eddie Spaghetti (of Arizona garage rock legends The Supersuckers,) Andy Patalan (guitarist of Detroit-bred alt-rock group Sponge) and local producer Tony Maisano.
The album is their most definitive work to date, with the versatile Faulkner’s driving backbeats, the dynamics of Krez’s cascading riffs, and Grech’s subtle coiling bass licks. It’s a rock that has a lot of heart and gets a floor shaking, rattles windows and brings bodies to move, dance or jump, spurred on by Tuthill’s trilling baritone lead vocal.
“Genuine rock and roll,” Tuthill calls it; “…the Good-Time Rock.”
That means drums that get you moving, blurring guitars bellowing those electric growls and bass that sweetens with a soulful crest. Tuthill, meanwhile, a former football player and wrestler, is keen to throw his whole body into his performance and that’s key to the infectious energy of the Beggars, assuming a larger-than-life presence on stage, ready to back flip off of turnbuckles, if they could. When rock n’ roll can seem heroic, like its participants, the performers on the stage evidently appreciate that certain kind of caution-to- the-wind sacredness that rock deserves. That’s when you know you’re at a Beggars show.
“We’re normal guys, most of the time,” Tuthill says, as he digs a Frisbee out of the bed of his truck. “But, when you get on that stage,” he stops to set his coffee down at the foot of an oak tree, “then it’s no time to be normal. At that point it’s like…” he tosses the Frisbee over to me, “…like you’re from a different planet, ya’ know?”
He nods, his long curled hair blown back by the late autumn breeze. “Not a better planet! Just…a different planet. It is a lot of fun.”
Tuthill meets me on the last beautiful day of the season, strolling through Geary Park in Ferndale on a weekday morning. “I couldn’t find my football,” he admits. “That’s like a low point, for me. I have to use my Frisbee…”
The Beggars have been a Ferndale band for a long time now. Tuthill’s second show with the band was performed at Club Bart’s (where John D now operates.) “I always love bringing up Club Bart’s cuz I have such fond memories of that bar, so many great shows, particularly with Duende.”
Indeed, Tuthill, and the entire Beggars alumni go way back… The band was started in the early 00’s by Jonny Wilkins, Jim Hansard, Joe Senac, Jon Epstein and Keith Thompson. That’s right, the current line-up of the Beggars technically has no original members. To his credit, though, Tuthill, the longest-serving Beggar, joined the band ten years ago. The album’s liner notes give respectful shout-outs to all former members, including Johnny Miller, Jim Hansard, Jeremy Cybulski and Rod “Pool Party” Jones.
“Awesome dudes all across the board,” says Tuthill with his characteristically easygoing exuberance. “And everyone still gets along great. All classy dudes, from start to finish Everybody’s still a family, it’s good. And that’s rare (for bands).” I can see a glint of contented nostalgia in his eyes as he pauses, “Man,” he says, “it’s been nuts, all of the great venues we’ve played at through the years. The Majestic, The Magic Stick, The Magic Bag…aWoodwardDreamCruisePartybackin2002, aHomecomingDanceorona Pontoon boat, or the Pig & Whiskey and DIY…”
“We plan to rock from here to eternity,” Tuthill assures us.
The Beggars perform on New Year’s Eve at The Loving Touch with Broadzilla and White Shag. Doors 8pm – more info at: http://beggarsrock.com/ / http://thelovingtouchferndale.com/
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