Posts Tagged ‘deadly fists of kung fu


* DELUNA FEST 2012-The End? + Local artists’ favorite concerts…in Pensacola.

As of April 4th, 2013, the future of DeLuna Fest is unknown. There are plenty of questions and the biggest one has yet to be answered.

Will there be another DeLuna Fest?


If 2012 was the last year of DeLuna, then the festival ended with the biggest bang possible. It was the diverse, rock-solid lineup that made it special.


Comparisons were always made between The Hangout Music Festival, DeLuna (both started in 2010) and Mobile’s long-running Bayfest. The Hangout (which began the same year as DeLuna) had the top lineup its first two years, but DeLuna edged everyone in 2012. No festival could touch what happened for those three days on Pensacola Beach.


It was pure Pensacola in every way (positive and negative). A city that dreams a little bigger and fights a little harder than the rest of the world thinks we should.

Will there be another DeLuna Festival? Has the festival on Pensacola Beach gone the way of Springfest? Will there ever be another music event to match what happened here in 2012?

As long as there are people in this town that are willing to play, pay, book, and listen to live music…there is always hope.


While interviewing bands for the Pensacola News Journal and’s coverage of DeLuna Fest, I included a game of word association for the local artists and one extra question; What’s your all-time favorite concert…in Pensacola?

Zac Hobbs and Jason Hurt of Deadly Fists of Kung Fu

ZH: Aw man, well there was that GodSmack show. (chuckles) Best show in Pensacola, Florida is…the Archers of Loaves shows where, what’s his name from Man or Astroman, played with the Archers. That was a really good show.

JH: I’m going to go with the Flaming Lips at Sluggo’s when they filled the entire building with fog machine smoke and they were so loud you couldn’t hear them.


MS: Deadly Fists of Kung Fu.

ZH: Taller.

JH: Taller?

ZH: We’re all taller except for you.

JH: No, I wish I was taller.

ZH: That makes a lot of sense.

MS: Pensacola, Florida.

ZH: You can’t say taller again.

JH: Actually, my first thought was “Broken-in shoes.”

ZH: Comfy couch.

JH: It’s got that big ol’ butt dip right…

ZH: It sure does. It’s got the remote for the TV that doesn’t work anymore.

MS: And the last one…DeLuna Fest.

JH: Kick Ass! Guided by Voices!

ZH: Bob Mould!

JH: Bob Mould!

ZH: Superchunk!

JH: At this point, I don’t even care that we’re playing. I just want to see Bob Mould.

ZH: Yeah, I’m pretty sure we get in for free now (laughs). That’s pretty exciting.


MS:  I’m glad you mentioned shows, let me ask you, What is your favorite concert of all time in Pensacola, Florida?

GL: Man, in Pensacola, I’m still a really big fan of the Torche’ show at Sluggo’s on Cervantes Street. That was probably one of the most epic, most powerful guitar onslaughts I have seen. And one the shows that struck me as far as bands playing to their peak was the Sharon Jones and Dap Kings show.  It was just like putting on a vinyl and traveling back in time. You don’t hear bands play their instruments like that. That’s like a whole other level. They whispered, they screamed, they jumped, it was like every aspect of dynamic sound that could be covered by instruments, they were in it. It was totally a pocket situation. I was really impressed with that show.


MS: Pensacola, Florida

GL: Really, immediately, it’s just…it literally is…it’s just…Home. Man, I’m probably thinking about this too much. Just “Home”. I wasn’t born here, but I’ve most of my life.

MS: DeLuna Fest

GL: Epic.

MS: Paloma

GL: (Laughs) Momentum.

MS: Raw Panda

GL: (Laughs) Family

MS: Anything else you would like the readers to know?

GL: Yeah, like I said, we’ve been trying in so many ways to-as far as our friends, as far as what the Raw Panda Showcase is- these are all our friends all bands that we enjoy, are proud of and it’s a the best way to come out to listen to Pensacola original music. It’s all about originality and you also listen to a lot of friends making music all on one stage. It’s all good. It’s a family. It’s a good collection of musicians.

MS: It’s seems like it’s an awesome time for Pensacola music. You’ve seen the crazy times, you’ve seen the dead periods and stuff.

GL: Even the dead days brought out some pretty good folk music and it’s temperamental, but I don’t know. You always got to write and you always got to listen and be prepared for anything.


MS: What’s your favorite concert of all-time in Pensacola, Florida?

CS: I have to think. I’ve seen so many good shows. I used to go to the old Sluggo’s on Palafox when I was in high school. Probably, there was a band called Weston, they were a fun pop punk band, they were really tight, but really funny dudes. That was one of the funnest…I’ve seen them twice. Weston and probably Hot Water Music. I saw Hot Water Music, probably one of my favorite shows, I saw them at the Nite Owl, that was in probably 97, 98. It was really exciting. Awesome show. I think the Nite Owl closed pretty soon after that too.


Pensacola, Florida

CS:  I just thought of the beach, which is like really obvious.

MS: No. that’s awesome. That’s how you feel. You’re coming from your heart.

CS: Actually Cordova Mall. I’ll just put Cordova Mall. (laughs)

MS: DeLuna Fest

CS:  Beach Ball.

MS: Twothirtyeight

CS: I don’t know, man. Can we pass that one?

MS: Discover America

CS: Columbus

MS: Christian Metalcore

CS: Stryper

– Michael L. Smith



* DeLuna Fest 2012: Day I. 09/21/12

Hell, I’m easy to please. Just the sound of a guitar makes me happy. Put that sound on my hometown beach, I’m in Heaven.

Waves, sand and the sun confronting humanity’s greatest gift…rock n’ roll.

Not since Springfest have I felt Pensacola air saturated with this much music. I remember big concerts at the Civic Center and Bayfront, but the annual Springfest topped those by booking multiple big name acts for one weekend in Downtown Pensacola. 2005 was the last year of Springfest.

Outdoor festivals of that scale were officially dead in Pensacola until 2010.

Enter DeLuna Fest.

I’ve covered all three DeLuna events (links below) and while Springfest opened the door to what Pensacola could do with a music festival, DeLuna blew that door wide open.

Improving every year since the first one, DeLuna officials face a tough task if they want to top 2012’s music festival on Pensacola Beach because…

DeLuna Fest 2012 was the biggest music event in Pensacola history.

As I wrote in my music column for the Pensacola News Journal, “For three days in September, Pensacola was the center of the rock ‘n’ roll universe” and Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Cliff, Joan Jett, Bob Mould and Bad Brains lead a lineup of top shelf acts and local talent for an event that surpassed any concert/festival ever held in Pensacola.

DeLuna Fest, Day One:

PEARL JAM: On a day that included Fishbone, Dwight Yoakam, The Gaslight Anthem, Guided by Voices, Chris Thomas King and local groups Deadly Fists of Kung Fu and Pioneers! O Pioneers!, the highlight concert came from the band that helped Seattle take over the world in the 90’s. The first and only time I’d ever witnessed Pearl Jam live was in 1994.



My interview with Chris Thomas King for




My interview with Deadly Fists of Kung Fu for


The group headlined the “Rock For Choice” concert at the Pensacola Civic Center following the 1993 fatal shooting of Dr. David Gunn by anti-abortionist Michael Griffin.

Eddie Vedder opened Pearl Jam’s Civic Center set with a solo acoustic cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” to start a set of songs from “Ten” and “Vs.” (the only albums Pearl Jam had released).

I was just as excited to see Pearl Jam at DeLuna as I was seeing them in 94.

Nearly 20 years after my only Pearl Jam concert, time and experience sounded damn good on the group. I never imagined the Peal Jam of my Civic Center memories becoming more intense, but they did.


With numbers like “Do The Evolution” leading into “Porch”, the band drove us crazy for three hours. Pearl Jam was worth the 18 year wait as they performed what I thought would be THE concert of the festival.

Leaving Day One exhausted, I was confident that nothing else could top Pearl Jam’s concert at DeLuna Fest…

– Michael L. Smith


TCAS coverage of DeLuna Fest 2011 (Part III) Interview with The Constellations

TCAS coverage of DeLuna Fest 2011 (Part II) Interview with Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction

TCAS coverage of DeLuna Fest 2011 (Part I) TCAS coverage of DeLuna Fest 2010 (Part II)

TCAS coverage of DeLuna Fest 2010 (Part I)

The biggest controversy of DeLuna Fest occurred on Day One of 2012’s festival and involved the festival’s VIP program.


Here are two links addressing the VIP program and the events of the first night.

Article from Pearl Jam fansite “The Porch” detailing their VIP DeLuna Fest experience

Statement from Festival Organizers Regarding VIP


* 80’s PROM: Jukebox Superhero, The Exploding Boys (Deadly Fists of Kung Fu Tribute to The Cure) + INTERVIEW W/ ZAC HOBBS & JASON HURT 08/24/12

Its prom night and the headlining bands aren’t going to play?

The statement on Vinyl Music Hall’s website said it all;

“Unfortunately, due to illness, the Ultimate 80’s Tour featuring Bow Wow, Gene Loves Jezebel and Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio has been cancelled…”

As Ray Parker Jr. inquired…“Who you gonna’ call?”


Your best bet is to call the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu and Jukebox Superhero to save the day, and that’s exactly what the Downtown Pensacola venue did. Vinyl made it a free show and the prom went on as scheduled with all of the entertainment previously promised (minus the touring acts that cancelled)

Months before they played DeLuna Fest 2012, the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu revived their popular role as “The Exploding Boys: A Tribute to the Cure” to add even more nostalgia to the event and Jukebox Superhero played a set full of 80’s hits.


DFKF frontman Zac Hobbs and guitarist Jason Hurt stayed still just long enough to discuss DeLuna Fest and their part in the 80’s Prom for the Pensacola News Journal. (Here is a link to the PNJ article and the 80’s prom portion of the interview with a little word association follows below).


Deadly Fists of Kung Fu Interview


MS: Let me change the subject a little (We were discussing DeLuna Fest and superhero movies up to this point). Next week, you’re playing the 80’s Prom at Vinyl. Why did you decide to bring back The Exploding Boys? You’ve done a lot of tributes before, but why The Exploding Boys again?

ZH: We’ve always been real big Cure fans and it’s really easy. It’s very easy. It’s just kind of our briar patch. Somehow, three months turned into really short notice for us and so we got short notice that we were doing this show and so we’re like “Hey! We’ll do a Cure thing.” We can do that.

MS: Will you dress up for this set? You didn’t dress up last time for The Exploding Boys.

ZH: In my old age, I’ve become too fat and I’m afraid that I’ll bear too much resemblance to Robert Smith.

JH: Robert Smith is chubby!

ZH: It’s too convincing these days.

MS: No dressing up. What about…are you going to have (Brandon)Clarkson on keyboards or is it going to be the same lineup?

ZH: No, it will also be DFKF Prime, not Deluxe. When we have the “Human Baby” on keys it is in DFKF Deluxe of DFKF DLX. It’s a lot like KMFDM.

MS: To close it out, I want to play a little word association with you. I’ll say a word or a phrase, so just tell me what you feel, what you think….Deadly Fists of Kung Fu.

ZH: Taller.

JH: Taller?

ZH: We’re all taller except for you.

JH: No, I wish I was taller.

ZH: That makes a lot of sense.

MS: Pensacola, Florida.

ZH: You can’t say taller again.

JH: Actually, my first thought was “Broken-in shoes.”

ZH: Comfy couch.

JH: It’s got that big ol’ butt dip right…

ZH: It sure does. It’s got the remote for the TV that doesn’t work anymore.

MS: And the last one…DeLuna Fest.

JH: Kick Ass! Guided by Voices!

ZH: Bob Mould!

JH: Bob Mould!

ZH: Superchunk!

JH: At this point, I don’t even care that we’re playing. I just want to see Bob Mould.

ZH: Yeah, I’m pretty sure we get in for free now (laughs). That’s pretty exciting.

MS: Is there anything you want the readers to know about DeLuna or 80’s Prom?

JH: Come see us at both of those shows!

ZH:  Yes.

JH: We’ll rock at one and we will rock even more at the other.

ZH:  But we’re not going to tell you which.

– Michael L. Smith


* Modern English, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu (Performing as The Exploding Boys: A Tribute to The Cure) @ Vinyl Music Hall + INTERVIEW W/ DEADLY FISTS OF KUNG FU. 09/27/11

“Morrissey must hate fat girls.” And with that observation by guitarist Jason Hurt, I was given notice as what to expect when I stepped outside to interview the men of Deadly Fists of Kung Fu on a night when they opened for 80’s British rock group Modern English.

Modern English, touring with their original lineup of Robbie Grey (vocals), Stephen Walker (keyboards), Michael Conroy (bass), Gary McDowell (guitar), and Richard Brown (drums) and with a re-recorded version of their signature 80’s hit “I Melt With You” under their belts, the British group hit the Vinyl Music Hall stage with opening act Deadly Fists of Kung Fu performing as The Exploding Boys in tribute to The Cure.

After The Cure tribute, headliners Modern English took over the Downtown Pensacola stage. Before jumping into “Hands Across the Sea”, lead singer Robbie Grey tossed of his sport coat, and announced his pleasure with the crowd and the fact that this was the first time that the original Modern English lineup has played Florida in 25 years. The crowd was more than appreciative of the band’s return, especially when the group finally pulled out their hit song that was featured in Nicholas Cage’s film “Valley Girl.

After the show, the members of Deadly Fists of Kung Fu (Phread Touchette (bass), Zac Hobbs (vocals/guitar), and Jason Hurt (guitar) stepped outside Vinyl Music Hall and into a narrow alley way to answer a few questions about tribute sets, comic books, their favorite concerts/shows of all-time, Why Jason and Alex Steward are not allowed to have mics together, James Brown “quotes” and more.



TCAS: You’ve just finished The Cure set and you’ve been known to do a lot of crazy tributes (in the past they’ve rocked sets ranging from Prince, Tom Petty and The Cars before. (photos and article from Deadly Fists of Kung Fu The Cars tribute set at Vinyl Music Hall-oween show) How does this rank as far as tributes…
Jason: I sort of put it in the middle because it feels like we played it really well and that’s not as much fun.
Zac: In the spirit of The Cure, I’d have to say it was abysmal. (nearly evil chuckles ring from the trio)
TCAS: Did you guys consider dressing up? I know you guys have dressed up for other shows before (the band didn’t dress up on this occasion.)
Zac: We dressed up last time we did The Cure.
Phread: I had my skinny jeans in the car…I just never put them on.
Zac: My mom bought me a Siouxsie & The Banshees shirt just for this show. I’m the only 34 year old guy on earth whose mom bought…
Jason: There was thought of dressing up, but then the air-conditioning went out in my truck and so…you know…
TCAS: How did you guys get (Alex) Steward in the band?
Jason: Andy B.’s (Andrew Bennett) our regular drummer. He’s on hiatus right now, so…you know Alex is our buddy and Alex is a hoot! And Alex is about as kick ass drummer as there is on earth. So…
Zac: It’s like when that one guy on Voltron died. What was that guy? (short pause to recollect the name and then instantly) Sven!
Jason: Sven!
(The trio jump into a simultaneous outburst rivaling the most seasoned improv comedy troupes.)
Zac: Sven died and the other guy came and dropped the Blue Lion. Or Sven was the replacement guy…
Jason: No. The Princess. You’re calling Alex the Princess….
Phread: He’s a total princess.
Jason: Yes. Yes, you’re calling Alex the Princess…
Zac: He’s like the Princess of Voltron…with better hair.
Phread: He’s got the helmet.
TCAS: What do you have coming up as far as shows?
Zac: Nothing solid right now…
Phread: Well, besides that slumber party…that’s not public.
TCAS: Very private. Private Eyes Wide Shut party.
Zac: He was in Cockfight, you’re not going to freak him out.
TCAS: I’ve seen some crazy. You guys were in The Deads (formed by Eugene Swank of The Scaries and most recently The Ghostown Phantoms) so when did you guys start the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu?
Jason: It’s funny. The Deads. I f*cking loved The Deads. It was a great band, but we had that problem where nobody in it could get along. Like we all just hated each other, except for me and Zac. And the other guy we thought we got along with…after it was all over we found out…”No, I hated all of you f*cking guys.
Phread: You mean Zac?
Zac: Still is. I still hate all you f*cking guys!
Jason: But yeah, that’s how we first did a tribute set was after it was all over. It was like being in a band was a bummer for awhile so we just did this Tom Petty set to have something to do. And that was the first time Zac had ever sang and then it was like, why have you not being doing this the entire time? Why have we been putting up with singers since…you know…high school? So then we just started being a band as Deadly Fists of Kung Fu. Instead of doing Tom Petty songs, we do Tom Petty rip-offs.
TCAS: The superhero theme. I remember you guys used to have Captain America on the amps. Do you still carry on that tradition now? Is that a tradition? If you didn’t have them would you lose your powers?
Jason: You know what…we’re not as good as when we don’t have amp toys. So yeah, we definitely need…
Zac: I do get a little bit more excited when I have a man in tights to turn around and look out. Empowers me.
TCAS: So how did Phread get involved?
Zac: God, I have no idea.
Phread: I lost a bet.
Jason: We’ve had more bass players than Spinal Tap’s had drummers.
Zac: There have been like seven of them.
Jason: But Phread was the first and hopefully last of our bass players. So he is like the sandwich around the other bass players.
Phread: Delicious.
Zac: He’s also several of the meats.
TCAS: No vegetarian here, huh? How does the music come about? Do you sit around and jam?
Zac: There’s actually very little of that. We don’t jam very well.
Jason: We’ve tried to write as a group and it’s terrible. So we’re trying to write some new stuff.
TCAS: I’ve got to ask you this Jason. I know you like to banter with the crowd…
Jason: Right.
TCAS: Has it ever gotten you in trouble at a show or anything?
Jason: You know. It’s funny. We had Alex with us tonight. And one of the conditions was we couldn’t give Alex and I a microphone. And the whole time I was wondering is, “What the f*ck could he have said that’s worse than what I’ve said?” But no, I’ve never…like, surprisingly, no one has ever tried to kick my ass. I’ve never gotten kicked out of a show. There was one guy who got really pissed at one time when I said Lynyrd Skynyrd was from Alabama. But that was about it; that was the worst problem I ever had. Well the Van Zants are from Florida, but who gives a f*ck? You know! Lynyrd Skynyrd the band is from Alabama.
TCAS: What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?
Zac: Seen?
TCAS: Ever.
Jason: My favorite show personally. I guess 2000. Me and Zac and Zac’s girlfriend were going to see J Mascis + The Fog, which was Dinosaur, Jr. not being called Dinosaur, Jr., but when Mike Watt (Photos and article from the Mike Watt show at The Handlebar with Lite and Deadly Fists of Kung Fu opening) was playing with them. And on the way there Zac and I got into a fight and I had them drop me off at my granny’s house. And had someone else pick me up and then saw the show. But it was like the best show ever because Mike Watt was playing with them and they did all of these Stooges and Black Flag covers and it was just awesome.
TCAS: And you guys made up.
Jason: And we made up, yeah!
Phread: By knocking boots.
Zac: We’re bringing it back.
TCAS: (To PT): Favorite concert?
Phread: That’s hard to say. I saw Liz Phair at the 9:30 Club in D.C. and that was pretty f*cking awesome actually.
TCAS: “F*ck and Run” (Liz Phair song).
Phread: In her time…she’s sexy.
TCAS: Zac?
Zac: I would have to go with the Afghan Whigs at The Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans.
Phread: Oh man, that was…
Zac: Yeah, that was wonderful. I saw him (Greg Dulli frontman and architect of the Afghan Whigs) pass out on stage. Which was pretty awesome. They counted him out like it was a wrestling match.
TCAS: Did he finish the show or was that the end of it?
Zac: That was the end of the show, which was fine because he had done it for entirely too long at that point. I was one of like six people down there.
Phread: They played the Nite Owl and that was awesome.
Jason: Yeah, the Nite Owl they did that count to 36 before they started. Do you remember that? And they played “Retarded” twice because Pensacola was so retarded for “Retarded”.
TCAS: Who would you guys like to play or tour with?
Zac: Dinosaur. I’d love to play with Dinosaur Jr.
Jason: I would love to play with Dinosaur. I think right now, I’d really like to play with the Hold Steady.
Zac: Yeah. I’d like for The Replacements to do a reunion tour and us to play on it.
Jason: I would like for us to just go on tour as The Replacements.
TCAS: A lady, when you guys were playing, was screaming, “Now that’s a rock n’ roll band. No tattoos, no piercings, that’s rock n’ roll.” So none of you have piercings or tattoos?
Zac: Oh no, we have tattoos…but they’re hidden.
Jason: One of our other bass players, Scott Alvarez, he’s a tattoo artist (Alvarez’s Skin & Bones Tattoo Parlour Grand Opening w/ Kent Stanton performing). She would have hated us then.
TCAS: She loved you guys.
Zac: That’s a rock n’ roll band with tattoos. If she’d known the truth.
TCAS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Zac: Well, there’s always “Don’t pet a burning dog.”
Jason: I feel Admiral Ackbar (Star Wars Return of The Jedi) with “It’s a trap.”
Phread: Watch out for that.
Jason: I have a little devil and angel on my shoulders. The angel is Admiral Ackbar saying “It’s a trap” and the devil is James Brown saying “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.” And those are my two favorite bits of advice and I don’t know if James Brown ever said “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.” (At this point, everyone outside is rolling with laughter) But I feel like he probably did at some point.”
TCAS: Can you guys top that one?
Zac: No, no. I’m going to have to go with “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.”
Phread: Don’t roller skate in a bath tub. Bad idea.
Jason: There’s not very far to go, except down.
Phread: Which goes back to “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.”
TCAS: DC or Marvel?
Zac: Oh wow. Depends on what you’re asking.
Jason: I’m more of a DC person in that I love Superman and Batman. But I love the big overgrown cosmicness of the Jack Kirby characters like The Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom and stuff like that. So it is hard for me to say. Most of all, I just like men in tights punching each other.
Phread: That’s a good quote.
Zac: Marvel is just a little bit more circular and God, by no means are they simple. They’re just a little bit more simpler than DC. It’s a lot bit easier to grasp it. I have to go with, I’m a bigger fan of DC’s characters, but Marvel’s stories. Really they’re right there. They’re a little easier to read. And in no way are they an easy read. Their movies don’t suck nearly as bad.
Jason: That’s true. But DC’s got better cartoons.
Zac: DC does have better cartoons.
Jason: But cartoons don’t make as much money.
Phread: Man, if I had to choose, I’d go with DC, but I prefer the indie stuff. I used to like Image back in the day. Because I’m a hipster.
TCAS: Serious question. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
Phread: Easy. Creamy.
Zac: See, I dig the crunchy, but I can never get anyone to help me finish the jar and I’m not going to eat the whole f*cking thing. I like the crunchy, but it hurts my gums a little bit, but I think it’s worth it.
Jason: It lasts.
Zac: The crunchy? It doesn’t last as long. The creamy is a way better plan.
Phread: I’m just saying, you said…(The trio go off into another playful argument)
TCAS: Anything else you want to add before the end?
Jason: I feel like I haven’t embarrassed myself once, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

-Michael L. Smith

Link to more photos from the concert by PNJ photographer Phil Bailey


* JTX, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu, Skin Wiggin @ Vinyl Music Hall. + INTERVIEW W/ JTX. 08/26/11

Part Detroit-Determination and part California-Cool, JTX brought their All-Party, Pop-Parade to Downtown Pensacola as their single “Love in America” is dominating the top of personal playlists, airwaves and satellite radio stations around the world.

Returning to the Vinyl Music Hall stage after recently opening for piano pop-rocker HUGO in March, the men of Skin Wiggin (Buck Pate (vocals/bass), Joe Whisler (guitar), Mark Lang (drums) started the show with their Gulf Breeze rock sound. Check out their video “Crash” which was a viewer favorite on the TV show The Uncharted Zone.

Opening with their hit “Love in America,” JTX made their first performance at Vinyl Music Hall. In a show filled with costume changes and tributes to 80’s pop influences, JTX (JT Harding) and crew (Carey Weaver (drums), Brian Carney (bass), and Joe Doc (guitar) wielded a generous blend of pop that was reinforced with heavy doses of rock, keeping the energy level of the night near clip.

Closing out the show were local favorites, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu. On the trail of the recent announcement that the rock foursome will be the opening act for the reunited, original lineup of Modern English (“I Melt With You”) when the British group invades Vinyl Music Hall in September, the group are well-disciplined in the arts of surprise and detail. Always keeping audiences on their toes, the band (Phread Touchette (bass), Andrew Bennett (drums), Zac Hobbs (vocals/guitar) and Jason Hurt (guitar) will perform as The Exploding Boys, a tribute band dedicated to The Cure. With past tribute performances ranging from Prince and The Cars (DFKF performing as The Cars @ Vinyl Music Hall-oween Party) the band, who are known for their near OCD accurate tribute sets, will assuredly create another must-see night of music.


After their set, JT and the rest of his band (Carey Weaver (drums), Brian Carney (bass), and Joe Doc (guitar) took a few minutes to discuss Madonna, Prince, playing for the troops in Afghanistan, the JTX Experience and more…

TCAS: What about the JTX experience gets you off the most? Is it the playing, the recording, songwriting…you’ve got a lot of songwriting credits.
JTX: Two things for me; playing live for sure, but hearing one of our songs on the radio. It’s a great feeling.
TCAS: Are all of you from Detroit?
All: Yes
TCAS: I know this off the topic, but…Stafford and Calvin Johnson (of the NFL Detroit Lions). Is it going to happen this year?
Joe: No injuries. No injuries.
TCAS: It seems like every year, the Lions have the team, but…
Joe: Don’t land on the shoulder, man. Just don’t land on the shoulder.
Brian: Where still proud of the Tigers though, man. We’re in a pennant race.
TCAS: That’s right. I remember the old Kirk Gibson days…
Brian: Good times in Detroit.
JTX: I made out with his daughter.
TCAS: Really?
JTX: Yeah. Yes. Yes.
TCAS: Kirk Gibson’s daughter?
JTX: My claim to fame.
Brian: I can confirm that.
TCAS: “Like Madonna in 85’”…
JTX: Yes.
TCAS: When did you lose your virginity?
JTX: I’ve only been with three girls my whole life. And what a night it was.
Brian, Joe and some people in the crowd: Oooooooooh!
TCAS: What Madonna era represents where you guys are now? There’s 80’s Madonna…wild and crazy. 90’s Madonna was self-empowerment. Post-Millennium was like…
JTX: Great question. I would say…and it’s not every day that I would compare myself to Madonna, but I would say in the beginning where she was trying to get noticed; “Like a Virgin” wearing a wedding dress on the MTV Awards. Yeah, trust me, the first time I’m on TV, people are going to remember it. I already wore a bra on The Today Show…Youtube it. And those songs were great too. We’re on our way up. We’re trying to get noticed. Bring me a wedding dress!
TCAS: What is the craziest thing you’ve seen at a JTX show?
Joe: (laughs and looks at their vocalist) JT.
Brian: A robot last night. A cardboard robot.
Carey: Machine guns.
JTX: We played in Afghanistan and after we were there for a week. After the songs…they wouldn’t pull the triggers, but everyone would cheer and hold up their guns. And you would see…because they’re never without their machine guns over there.
TCAS: Thank you guys for playing for the troops. My dad’s retired Navy. So, thank you. If you were voted the next President of The United States of America, what would your first action be and how wild would your Inaugural Ball be?
JTX: The Inaugural Ball would be really wild because I could get anyone to play it, I would imagine. Van Halen with David Lee Roth, Prince, Madonna, Prince. My first action would be…
Brian: Ban the designated hitter.
JTX: On the serious tip…
Joe: Whatever you want! You’re the President.
TCAS: Whatever you want.
JTX: Free health care for everybody. (Looking at his band) Fellows? Tough question.
Joe: End the wars.
Brian: Bring the armed forces back home.
JTX: And I want the ingredients for King Dongs.
TCAS: King Dongs or Ding Dongs?
JTX: Same thing. And I want Ron Jeremy to stop making films. (Chuckles all around)
TCAS: He has passed his prime.
TCAS: How many rounds would it take “Love In America” to knock the hell out of “Party in The U.S.A.?”
Joe: Ooh. I think it already has.
JTX: He’s talking about “Party in the U.S.A.” not “Party Like a Rockstar” (rap song by Shop Boyz)
TCAS: Oh, no, no, no. You’ve already knocked that out…
Brian: By Miley Cyrus.
TCAS: Yes, Miley. Everybody loves that song, but I like “Love In America” better.
JTX: How many rounds?
TCAS: Yes. UFC or boxing 12 rounds?
JTX: I gotta say, man. Claude Kelly wrote “Party in the U.S.A.” and he’s got some great melodies, but since that’s kind of a teenager song, we’d probably go a good 10 rounds. We’d come out on top with our cherry, vodka snow-cone, heavy-metalness. That man has great melodies in that song.
TCAS: Would it be a knockout or decision?
JTX: It would probably be a decision. I’ve got my nice hat on tonight. My band says TKO.
TCAS: Do you guys do any karaoke? What do you sing?
JTX: When the drummer does it, it’s Scaryoke. I do “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams.
Joe: Journey. Journey’s good.
JTX: You can sing Journey?
Joe: Scream and grab my balls.
Brian: Do a little “Man-Eater” by Hall & Oats.
(Everyone breaks out into the “Woo Ooh, Here She Comes”)
Carey: A little Johnny Cash.
JTX: Oh yeah! He’s got a low voice. Give me a low voice.
Carey: (lowering his voice and hitting a spot-on impersonation) “A little Johnny Cash.”
TCAS: The Man in Black.
TCAS: Now there is porn star karaoke out in L.A. Where they have the pornstars sing karaoke. Have you guys been to that?
JTX: No, no, but sign me up.
TCAS: How has the music industry changed from an artists’ standpoint and as a fan, as a lover of music?
JTX: Well, both because I used to love…and I miss going to record stores. So as a fan, I miss that. But as an artist, it’s great to know that with one click of a button you can email songs to anyone and they can find you on Facebook, especially as a new artist. And they can look you up on Youtube. Because how would anyone…how would you know we were even here? As a fan I do miss the record stores, but there are some in New York. As an artist, I love that you can get your music out to anybody.
TCAS: What are you listening to now?
JTX: Some of my favorite new songs. I’m a real pop fanatic. I love any song that you can hear one time and just remember. I love “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. I’m a big Counting Crows fan. I’ve always loved Bruce Springsteen. I saw Prince at Madison Square Garden this past year; it was incredible. I became a big Kenny Chesney fan after he sang my song (“Somewhere With You” which he co-wrote with Shane McAnally)
JTX: What are you listening to, Joe?
Joe: Pop radio. Katy Perry.
JTX: Katy Perry. We love that record.
Brian: I just went to a My Morning Jacket show. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It was incredible.
TCAS: I read the People article about your father (JT’s biological father is actor/comedian/talk show host, Jay Thomas; a fact that JT did not learn until he moved to California to follow his dreams. In 2008 People Magazine featured their extraordinary journey in the
Oliver Jones article, “The Son I Never Knew.”)
JTX: Yes.
TCAS: That blew me away. I did not know that until I read…
JTX: I didn’t either until I met him. (laughs all around) I thought it was Ted Danson. I was bummed out.
TCAS: Is he pretty supportive…
JTX: Yes. 100 percent. We’re kind of like long-lost fraternity brothers. We’re two wild men together.
TCAS: Who parties harder?
JTX: (pauses for a brief moment) He does. He’s been known to enjoy the…herb. But that’s not a secret; he says that on Letterman. But no, it’s great. He’s taught me a lot about the entertainment industry. He couldn’t be more supportive. He has me on his radio station all the time. We went on TV together…Dr. Phil…The Today Show… I acted like a complete fool. It was great.
TCAS: With all of that happening, as an artist, what has been the highlight of all this craziness going on? What has been the thing that makes you go “Wow! This is pretty awesome.”?
JTX: The highlight, honestly right now, there have been a lot of highlights, but seeing Kenny Chesney sing “Somewhere With You” for 80,000 people is good, but that’s someone else singing a song. I think that what’s happening with “Love in America” right now is exciting. It’s in the “Friends With Benefits” (romantic/comedy movie starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) trailer. It’s going to be used on X-Factor. It’s just kind of bubbling-up for us. We can all kind of feel it. We’re waiting for other people to catch on to it. So, it’s great. It’s right on the edge. It’s exciting. It’s on Sirius XM a lot. We drive around and here it all the time.
Joe: I think it’s crazy…everyday there are two or three new videos of fans filming themselves doing…some of them are pretty creative…
TCAS: I’ve seen some crazy ones too.
Joe: Yeah! It’s incredible that people would go out and spend their time to do something like that for this song.
TCAS: As a lover of music, what has been your highlight as a fan.
JTX: I saw Prince this last Christmas at Madison Square Garden. Two and a half hours, non-stop hits, no nonsense, no long jam solos. It was mind-blowing. It was hit after hit after hit. Are you a fan?
TCAS: Yes, yes, yes.
JTX: Also, I’ve been traveling a lot. I’ve been lucky. I met a lot of people. I met the singer of Third Eye Blind this year, that was a thrill…
TCAS: Stephen Jenkins.
JTX: Totally. I’m a big Counting Crows fan. I met Adam Duritz, I see him walking around New York a bit. I’m trying to think of other things. You’ve got some great questions.
TCAS: Thank you. Would you rather have an Academy Award or the highest grossing film of all time?
JTX: The highest grossing film of all time. Not for the money, but because more people would see it. An Academy Award would be great, but I would like for a lot people to see the movie. Now if I would rather have a Grammy or the biggest selling album of all time…the biggest selling album of all time. Would you rather be Michael Jackson or Men At Work? Hey guys, would you rather win a Grammy or have the biggest selling album of all time?
Joe and Brian: Biggest selling album.
Carey: Grammy.
Brian: Well I would think they would go hand-in-hand…
JTX: No, would you rather be Michael Jackson or Debbie Boone? Seriously.
Brian: I gotta think MJ has got a couple Grammys.
(a group of enthusiastic people stop by to say their hellos and thank JT and his band mates for their show)
TCAS: Academy Award, highest grossing film. Third option. Cult status.
JTX: Cult status…
TCAS: Like David Lynch, David Cronenberg…
Joe: So, you’ve got to wait 20 years for that to happen.
TCAS: Bruce Campbell has kind of got it, but you know…
Joe: Yeah and Bruce Campbell’s like 65 now.
TCAS: Ouch!
Brian: Another Michigan man himself, right there. Bruce Campbell.
JTX: Jay Thomas (JT’s biological father) kind of has cult status (without a pause or even breath) I’ll take the highest grossing film of all time. (JT cracks a smile and laughs with the crowd)
TCAS: Honest answer, I like that. Top 5 albums of all time?
JTX: There’s a lot of them…
Carey: “Joshua Tree” (U2)
TCAS: No particular order…
JTX: “Born in the U.S.A.” Bruce Springsteen, “Purple Rain” Prince. I mentioned Prince a lot. KISS “Alive II”…
Joe: Green Day’s “Dookie” still a great album. Timeless record.
Brian: I got some wild tastes, man. Weezer “Pinkerton”’s great. The first Mars Volta album (De-Loused in the Comatorium)
JTX: George Michael “Faith.”
Joe: “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s definitely top 5.
(People in the crowd and passers-by start throwing in their favorites)
JTX: Could be a confusing interview.There’s so many.
TCAS: What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
JTX: Great question. My dad said, “You could do whatever you want to do. Just do it your best.” So I said, “Alright.” And off to Hollywood I went.
TCAS: Along the same line, what is the best advice you could give to someone who wants to be where you are?
Joe: Turn down and stop playing so much.
JTX: Never take a day off. Rehearse on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve. You got a date on Friday night, that doesn’t matter. You better jam or have a gig, there’s someone else in line that wants to. So, that’s my advice. Kerry?
Kerry: If you ever get into a sticky situation and you get stuck, you pick the best road for yourself and you go with it.
Carey: Basically, trust your instincts. If you think you’re doing too much…you’re doing too much. If it’s not right, it’s not right. Just follow your gut.
Brian: Every morning before my dad would drop us off at school, he would tell my sister and I “Be a leader, not a follower.” I’ve got to pass that on. That was every morning like clockwork. I would be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” but now as you’re older, you realize it’s true.
TCAS: One more question…
Brian: No problem, man. We’re having a blast.
TCAS: Thank you, thank you. It’s kind of a serious question now. Peanut butter; crunchy or creamy?
(bassist breaks out in a laugh)
Brian: (immediately answers) Crunchy!
JTX: Crunchy.
Carey: Creamy.
Joe: I started creamy, I evolved to crunchy. So, I don’t know…
TCAS: You have to pick one. You cannot be on the fence.
Joe: I guess today I’m crunchy.
TCAS: Crunchy! It’s not peer pressure is it?
Joe: No, no, not at all. Tomorrow it might be creamy.
Brian: Definitely crunchy with raspberry jelly.
(A chorus of disapproval including shouts of “strawberry jelly”)
Earl Lyon (founder of local punk band Earl’s Killer Squiller): Concord grape!
TCAS: Anything you guys want to add?
JTX: Look up JTX on iTunes and Twitter and Facebook.
-Michael L. Smith


* Mike Watt, Lite, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu @ The Handlebar. 03/21/11

Borrowing the title from a Big Daddy Kane song, there “ain’t no half-steppin” in the artistic world of Mike Watt. In a culture where the phrase “Do It Yourself” is thrown around like confetti, Mike Watt is testament to the biggest element of the DIY ethic, which is…“Doing It.” Going full-force, working your craft and keeping the adventure going once you’ve started it. Just as Mike Watt has been voraciously doing his art for over three decades.

While accolades are thrown at his feet like roses, Watt keeps his feet moving by jumping from creative stage to stage in a worldwide dance of touring, recording and collaborating. Even when his body is struck by illness and injury, Watt’s spirit and passion propel him to reach the visions he has created over his lifetime. On this turn of exploration, Watt and company jumped into his white 2005 Ford Econoline E-350 van and navigated another ambitious project that included a stop at The Handlebar in Pensacola, Florida.

First act on the three band bill were rock unit, “Deadly Fists of Kung Fu.” Formed in Pensacola, Florida, the DFKF tour throughout the Gulf region and are led by Zac Hobbs (vocals/guitar), Phread Touchette (bass), Andrew Bennett (drums), and Jason Hurt (guitar). With an upcoming gig in New Orleans, the band signaled the start of musically adventurous evening.

Second on stage were “Lite” from Tokyo, Japan. With an instrumental foundation, the members of “Lite” (Nobuyuki Takeda (guitar), Kozo Kusumoto (guitar), Jun Izawa (bass), and Akinori Yamamoto (drums) build a dynamically intense sound that mixes extreme technique and near-infinite energy. Playing 10 dates of Watt’s tour, “Lite” are contributing proceeds of their album sales to help survivors of Japan’s tsunami tragedy.

With the music of John Coltrane whirling in the bar, Watt and the Missingmen set up in preparation for their reel in the evening’s triple feature. With a promise of “No breakdancing” due to his knee injury, Watt and company transformed the Pensacola crowd into open-mouthed eye-witnesses of his most recent inspired feat. With the goal of performing his third and most recent opera, “Hyphenated-man” 51 times in 52 days, Watt began the opera with an introduction that seduced the boundaries of spoken-word touch with the emotion of a heartfelt greeting.

“…so much….good people of Pensacola…its been awhile….so sorry. And late for a work night…huh…so sorry. I’m very grateful you come. Really…really happy that you got to watch and hear my buddies from Tokyo, my brothers…Lite. Respect. This is the first time they ever played in Florida. You know…respect. It means a lot. Thank you. And Kung Fu..Fists… thanks for helping us with the amps and sharing the stage with us here…and you people at The Handlebar for having me back. We’re gonna play. We’re gonna do a f*cking weird thing now…”

With endearing salutation given, Watt and his Missingmen performed “Hyphenated-man,” a 30 song non-stop push of self-exploration. At the conclusion of the opera, Watt showed appreciation for the Handlebar crowd, both opening bands, and then introduced his band members before they kicked into another set of songs to the delight of the crowd.

-Michael L. Smith


* Magnapop, Ingram Hill, Deadly Fists of Kung Fu @ Vinyl Music Hall-oween Bash. 10/30/10

Karl Childers is in the bathroom mumbling away, Wonder Woman is far cooler in person than she ever was in the comic book, and Cyndi Lauper almost killed me because I mistook her for music/movie rival, Madonna. Such events could have only occurred at the Vinyl Music Hall-oween Bash this year.

Of the three musical acts on the bill, The Deadly Fists of Kung Fu provided the most entertaining set of the night with their tribute to 80’s music icons, The Cars. From the black sunglasses, suit/tie combo ala Rick Ocasek, via Zac Hobbs (lead singer/guitar) to the blonde coif of bassist Phread Touchette who portrayed the cool style of the late Benjamin Orr with keen accuracy, the entire band paid musical and fashion tribute to the Boston based hitmakers. Jason Hurt (guitar) morphed into the role of Elliot Easton while Andrew Bennett grounded the David Robinson drum attack and virtuoso Brandon Clarkson worked his magic while working a spell on the new-wave style of keyboardist Greg Hawkes. The only ingredients missing were moments of model Paulina Porizkova emoting in her bed and sitting on the floor in the corner of a room scribbling black markings on a white wall.

This musical time machine kept the crowd dancing with hit after hit. Before the band slowed down and cruised into The Cars’ slow tempo mega-hit “Drive,” Touchette confessed that he originally thought that Cory Hart (I Wear My Sunglasses At Night), recorded the song. Any 80’s pop music purists in the house would quickly forgive the harmless faux pa when the band finished the song and soon thereafter finished their set.

Even though The Cars’ tribute set was a tough act to follow, Ingram Hill filled the venue with the sounds of their Memphis-born brand of pop rock. The final performers of the night were Atlanta, Georgia rockers, Magnapop, who entertained the crowd with the music that made them underground champions of the indie music movement of the early 1990’s. With albums produced by such revered musicians as Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) and Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü) Magnapop were a good finish for a musical romp through memory lane.

Tons of prizes were awarded throughout the night and a wide variety of costumes were on display. Competing with a house full of amusing and interesting concoctions, Nathan Price came out the winner of the Most Creative Costume for his accurate depiction of Karl Childers (played by Billy Bob Thornton in the movie Sling Blade.)

Mustard and biscuits for everybody!


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