Longevity should be celebrated. The Asylum Street Spankers, one of Austin’s top acoustic jug bands has done just that with a DVD they’re taking around the country on tours. The DVD, “Re-Assembly,” celebrates a decade of the Spankers, capturing two performances in Austin last year.
The Spankers bring the DVD and a full setlist to Sticky Fingerz on Thursday (June 8) in an 8 p.m. show. Conrad and Mason, members of Sugar and the Raw, go unplugged as a duo to open the show.
Admission is $10.
From the name –- which was actually derived from the long-ago name of the Guadalupe Street drag when it led to the state hospital outside of Austin -– it’s easy to surmise that the Asylum Street Spankers like to have fun, and their crazy stage show proves it.
“That’s pretty much the gist of it,” says co-founder, lead singer and multi-intrumentalist Christina Marrs.
She says the DVD, which they sell at the shows for $25, “is a great introduction to the Spankers if you haven’t seen us live. We’re so theatrical and visual, a CD doesn’t give you the whole story.”
The Spankers’ music ranges from blues to swingy acoustic to politically charged rap to comic vaudeville variety show. Marrs’ voice is compared to Betty Boop’s, and bandmates go by the names of Wammo and Sick. You may even catch a completely X-rated version of the old nasty ditty “Shave ’em Dry” on the setlist.
Marrs was born in Houston but has lived in Austin most of her life. Marrs was in an all-girl gospel band as well as singing in a jazz combo 12 years ago when she and Guy Forsyth met Wammo at an all-night party of performers, poets and writers in Llano, Texas. From there, a rehearsal among the trio became a gig, new players were added, and suddenly the Spankers were born.
“Right away, we knew we were on to something special,” Marrs said.
The Spankers were well into the acoustic movement before it became cool. “We’ve noticed a shift toward more acoustic music, though who knows how long it will last,” Marrs says of the genre’s popularity. “Years ago we noticed the swing revival, and that went pretty fast. Nobody is inventing any new musical instruments, as far as I know, and nobody’s inventing any new music. A lot of these so-called bluegrass bands today, I wouldn’t call them real bluegrass because real bluegrass didn’t have any drums any it. But, everything just comes around again.”
The DVD was produced by Christina’s husband, John Reedy. They reunited 21 Spankers on two stages for two three-hour shows in Austin and picked the best from the shows. “It was an amazing night,” she said. “We reunited people who hadn’t been in the band in years, brand-new Spankers like Sick with those who had been gone five or six years. There are some of us with 12 years behind us and a lot of others coming and going over the years. It was really cool, some of the best musicians in Austin having the time of their life.”
The Spankers’ tour lineup is Marrs; Wammo on washboard, harmonica and poetry; Sick on fiddle; Navado Newman on guitar; P.B. Shane on bass, and Scott Marcus on drums.