Hickel and his mates (drummer Chris Luckette and vocalist/guitarist Bill Davis) may not be reeling in many trout these days, but they're certainly pulling in a stringer full of fans and critical acclaim. Since 1984, Dash Rip Rock has released five well-received discs (including Boiled Alive, a hell-raising live release) and wowed folks throughout the U.S. and Europe with a raging blend of rockabilly, country and rip-snorting punk energy that roots-rock wildcat Mojo Nixon once compared to "having your first sexual encounter." The trio's sound, a boozy blend of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash thickened with the speed and thunder of the Ramones and the MC5, prompted Spin to dub Dash "the greatest band in the history of the world." More recently, a reviewer in Denmark called the group's show "a conversion."
"We played to 40,000 Danish kids in the middle of a field," Luckette recalls. "And we barnstormed them."
While Luckette's philosophy on playing live ("Music is a life-or-death proposition") may partially explain Dash's legendary live status, bassist Hickel sheds even more light on the subject; he advises, "Don't drink so much that you can't stand up!"
Indeed, the typical Dash Rip Rock date is an alcohol-fueled experience. The band's sets feature drinking tributes like "All Liquored Up" (co-written with the aforementioned Mojo Nixon) and "True Drunk Love," which is highlighted by the immortal couplet, "She keeps throwin' up/And I keep fallin' down." The group's contract rider calls for a nightly bottle of Jack Daniels for Hickel, who proudly boasts that Dash is "the unofficial house band" for the Tennessee whiskey maker.
The musicians' onstage style, which Luckette calls "complete mayhem and drunken energy," is distinguished by stage theatrics and a loony, Three Stooges-esque sense of humor. Davis frequently plays slide guitar using the boot of a female audience member, and all three performers enjoy peppering followers with an endless stream of razor-sharp repartee. The tunes, too, are wickedly funny. "Longest Bridge," whose chorus requires Davis to draw out the word "long" over several measures, develops into a zany sing-along that leaves audiences gasping for breath; "White Lightning" and "Jambalaya" are given souped-up readings; and the gloriously irreverent "Stairway to Free Bird" (in which the lyrics of "Stairway to Heaven" are sung to the music of "Free Bird") and a lounge-music version of the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" are showstoppers.
The band's current signature number, however, is "(Let's Go) Smoke Some Pot," the final offering on its new CD, Get You Some of Me. The track--sung to the tune of "At the Hop"--began its life as an offhand gag Davis directed at a college crowd that seemed more interested in partying than music. The students loved the ditty, and soon people started requesting it. "They were coming to our shows and screaming for the pot song," Luckette remembers. "But the problem was, the song didn't really exist. It was just a one-off joke."
"Smoke," which didn't take its final shape until the recording sessions for Get You Some of Me, became something of an underground hit. "It became the number-one song at several major radio stations," Luckette says. But what makes its success most surprising is the fact that the cut satirizes, rather than celebrates, pot smokers. In the lyrics, Davis sings about Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic and other groups that enjoy "the latest sensation that's sweeping the nation." Then, after claiming to have forgotten the words ("Because I smoked too much pot"), he shouts, "Everybody solo!" The Rockers respond by flailing away at their instruments in a cacophonous, sarcastic slap at the reefer-inspired jamming engaged in by neo-hippie outfits.
Nevertheless, the song has become an anthem of sorts for those who embrace weed use; Dash even played at a recent bash for the staffers at High Times magazine. "The irony of all this," Luckette notes, "is that none of us smoke pot."
The band certainly smokes in the musical sense, though. "We're faster than Horton Heat, we're wilder than the Cramps, and we're better-looking than Southern Culture on the Skids," Davis boasts. Luckette adds, "We're a dangerous band, because if you're stupid enough to yell out a song request, we're stupid enough to play it." For their upcoming show in Denver, he promises a special treat: "In the middle of our show, we're going to have a truck-and-tractor pull."
In return, Hickel hopes that attendees will give something back to him. "If somebody could bring me some hand-tied Woolly Boogers," he says, referring to a famous fishing fly, "I sure would appreciate it."
Dash Rip Rock, with the Dangs and Marty Jones. 8 p.m. Saturday, August 10, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax, $7, 322-2308.