Noise

Mashup acts toe the line between high-concept art and silly fun

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Franks & Deans at the Double Down Saloon
Photo: Ryan Reason
Jason Scavone

On a Wednesday night in early fall, four members of Franks & Deans prepare to take the stage at the Double Down Saloon, clad in matching tuxedo T-shirts. The outfits encapsulate everything that makes the group what it is—a counterintuitive blend of old-school swank and slapdash incorrigibility.

It’s an obvious choice for a band that plays punk covers of Rat Pack swing, where NOFX’s “Stickin’ in my Eye” intertwines with “Mr. Bojangles;” where “The Lady Is a Tramp” comes with a jumped-up sleaze that makes it less about a brassy cocktail-era dame than a girl you’d see through dive-bar Marlboro haze, whose grudging attention you can rent for the price of a Hamm’s.

Obviousness doesn’t make it any less perfect. Which is fitting, because we’re living in the Age of the Tuxedo T-Shirt: an era of high-concept mashups that are getting more prolific, more specific and far more delightfully bizarre.

*****

“I understand why it clicks with me,” Mike Odd says in his Emo Phillips lilt. “I’m frankly surprised at the level that it’s connecting with people massively. I thought it was going to be a niche, weirdo thing. Usually when I’m in love with something, it doesn’t get this big.”

Odd is the manager of Mac Sabbath, the quartet of terrifying McDonaldland dopplegangers who rework Black Sabbath songs till they’re about fast food. “Children of the Grave” becomes “Chicken for the Slaves,” “Iron Man” turns into “Frying Pan,” ad—inexplicably—infinitum.

Mac Sabbath

Mac Sabbath’s members never speak directly to the media, and legend has it frontman Ronald Osbourne came to Earth through a wormhole in the space-time continuum. Odd groans when he learns the band will play Vinyl the same night Rob Zombie and Danzig co-headline the Joint inside the same Hard Rock Hotel, leaving demonic hamburger Slayer Mac Cheeze dueling with Zombie’s “Demon Speeding.”

In a sense, Odd embodies the struggle to make a practical living through the subtle arts of high weirdness. He also doesn’t seem to understand why Mac Sabbath has suddenly become a viable operation. “I guess for people who like psychedelic hard rock and cheeseburgers, it goes over pretty well. We’ve been in Washington, and we’re going to Colorado, so, you know …”

Even beyond the stoner demographic, though, it’s a golden age for acts like this. We used to see an occasional Dread Zeppelin or Richard Cheese, but now they seem to be everywhere—frequent Vegas players Metalachi, Macaulay Culkin’s Velvet-Underground-meets-’za tribute The Pizza Underground, girl-power-touting The Dan Band and punk-poppers Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies.

Part of the credit should go to an old-school hip-hop ethos, part to DJ culture and a significant chunk to the Internet, where aggregator-site headlines like “Check out these Star Wars posters reimagined as steampunk pin-up cosplay” have become so commonplace, they don’t even elicit a curiosity click. Maybe the online world has become so sprawling that we instinctively retreat to the comfort of the known. Or maybe it’s just fun watching deranged mariachis sing Slayer songs.

“Even though it’s music that has already been done before, people like to hear a different style, like Richard Cheese and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic,” Metalachi singer Vega de la Rockha says. “I think it resonates.”

*****

Franks & Deans bring Otis Day (of National Lampoon’s Animal House fame) to the Double Down on the 31st for a toga party marking the release of the Las Vegans’ first album. For a band that dresses up old songs in new costumes, it’s deft timing. They’ll give Day’s classic “Shout” a punk overhaul, and in the process highlight why bands like this work: by throwing a lifeline to an underserved audience desperate to hear something, anything, fresh. Even if those songs are 60 years old.

“You’re not hearing a f*cking Skrillex mix of it,” Franks’ bassist Rob DeTie says. “We’re doing these old songs so the generation who wants things heavier and harder can appreciate it, as opposed to a DJ generation wanting to hear two robots f*cking.”

Franks & Deans with Otis Day, Mercy Music. October 31, 10 p.m., free. Double Down Saloon, 702-791-5775.

Mac Sabbath with The Quitters, Strange Mistress. October 30, 8 p.m., free. Vinyl, 702-693-5000.

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