The Best Band You've Probably Never Heard Of
The Asylum Street Spankers
The Asylum Street Spankers are the Best Band you have probably never heard of. Until a few years ago, I had never heard of them either. But once I had heard them, I was hooked. Here is how it started for me:
On November 7, 2003 I went to see the band The Supersuckers at Valentine's in Albany, NY with my then girlfriend, Chrissy Munari as our first official date. As we waited to do my interview with the band, we had a drink in the bar downstairs. The jukebox was on and playing a variety of songs. Soon, a song about drugs and beer came on that was very funny. Chrissy and I immediately wanted to know who it was.
I walked over to the jukebox and looked up the song. It was titled "Beer" from the album Spanker Madness. It was performed by the band Asylum Street Spankers. Both Chrissy and I wanted to hear more. On that day I began two love affairs, one with an amazing and beautiful woman and another with an unbelievably talented band. (Unfortunately, Chrissy broke up with me several months later, breaking my heart. But my love affair with the Asylum Street Spankers continues and will persevere until my dying day. The band's music actually helped me through the dark period of the breakup and still cheers me today as I write this article.) A few weeks later, I saw that the Spankers would be playing in Utica, NY and requested an interview. They set me up, but on the day of the show we were unable to locate the venue and the phone number we had ended up being that of a Chinese restaurant.

They informed us in broken English that there was no band there! It was very funny. Chrissy and I were not able to see the Spankers and it bummed us out.
Chrissy and I are still wonderful friends and she loves the Spankers as much as I do, so as soon as I heard that the Spankers were coming to Rochester, I called Chrissy and asked if she wanted to go. She was ecstatic but unable to drive. I asked the lovely Miss Trinity Blunt to join us. Although she had never heard of the band, she told her boyfriend (My friend House) that she trusted my "impeccable musical taste" and would be more than happy to go.

The day of the show finally came, and Chrissy and I loaded into Trinity's vehicle and began the 45 minute drive to Milestone's in Rochester, NY. It rained most of the way and Trinity's windshield wipers SUCKED! It was so hard to see, and anyone that has ever ridden in a car with me knows that I am the world's most paranoid passenger. We had to smoke a big fat joint to calm me down! When we got to the club, I was feeling GREAT! We went in and all was ready. Our names were right there on the guest list in the number one slot. They showed us to a table and we sat down. On the table was a Spankers Spring 2005 Program. It proudly proclaimed the Asylum Street Spankers as "The Almighty God's Favorite Band!" Being quite familiar with the band, I found it incredibly hard to disagree. The girls and I read through the program and laughed.
Moments later, I saw the Spankers frontman and co-founder Wammo sitting at a table near the back of the club. I walked up and introduced myself. I asked where he wanted to do his interview and he said right there would be fine. So, after getting a beer, we began our interview. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and I know funny! His answers actually had me laughing so hard that I had tears coming out of my eyes. As we finished the interview he told me that I should do my interview with the band's other original member Christina Marrs, but not to tell her I had spoken to him. He said that way I would be able to put the interviews together and it would be hilarious. I agreed not to tell her. (She was unavailable to do her interview until after their performance.)
I thanked Wammo for the funniest interview I had ever done and headed back to the table where Trinity and Chrissy were waiting. When I got to the table, there were still tears running down my face from laughing so hard. I wiped them away with a napkin and told the girls about the experience with Wammo. We ordered a plate of Nachos from the waitress, and were soon eating from a huge mound of chips, cheese, beef, beans, sour cream and guacamole. They were delicious. We ate; we drank, and then went out to the car and got merry! Soon, we looked as if we were all part Chinese. ;o)
We came back into the club and headed out to the patio to have a cigarette before the show. As we sat and smoked under the giant umbrellas, I was joined by Sick, the band's fiddle player. He was very talkative and friendly. After finishing his cigarette, he told us there was about five minutes until the Spankers went on stage. We finished our smokes and went in to get comfy and see the show.
Before I go any further, I must give a brief history of the band, and although it is not as colorful and humorous as Wammo's story, it is still interesting. I have also included a short bio for each of the current members, so that you can understand the different aspects that had to come together to create the Spankers.
The Asylum Street Spankers are from Austin, Texas. The seven piece band defies genre classification. They take many different styles ranging from 1920's Jazz to modern Gangster Rap and combine them to create something so unique it cannot be defined. Their showmanship is amazing and they are all brilliant musicians and singers. They have redefined acoustic music in every way, and their list of accolades continues to grow.
The Asylum Street Spankers were formed in 1994 by Christina Marrs, Wammo, and Guy Forsyth in Llano, Texas. The band's name comes from a combination of the former name of Austin's Guadeloupe Street and "spanker," which is a descriptive term for a style of acoustic playing. Their infectious indefinable musical style and smart sense of humor soon won over listeners in Austin, Texas, which is no small achievement when you consider the sheer numbers of musicians vying for the public's attention in the Live Music Capitol of The World. Audiences were thrilled with the band and the Spankers were packing halls three nights a week.
In 1998, Guy Forsyth left the band to pursue other options. Since then, bandleaders Christina Marrs and Wammo have continued touring with their ever-evolving troupe of talented and eccentric musicians. They have toured all over the world winning fans and admiration from their peers and continue to do so.
There have been nearly thirty-five different members and/or guest members over the years that have been Spankers.
The current Spankers line-up consists of:
Christina Marrs: (Vocals/various instruments) Christina is the only female member of the Spankers and she has one of the most versatile voices ever. Her first love is Punk, but she knew her big voice was destined for something more. When the Spankers began, she played no instruments, but now plays five.
Wammo: (Vocals/various instruments) Born the son of an opera singer, Wammo played in many rock bands before deciding to give his ears a break and form the Spankers. He is a slam poet, spoken word legend, poetic provocateur, DJ, songwriter, and handles production duties for the Spankers. When he is not playing with the Spankers, he continues to make solo Rock & Roll albums.
Nevada Newman: (Vocals/Guitar) Nevada began his career in Phoenix, AZ as the front man for a Rockabilly band. In 1993 he began studies in classical guitar, piano, voice, theory and composition at the Montgomery College of Music. He joined the Spankers in 2002.
PB Shane: (Stand-up Bass/Vocals) Shane didn't consider music as a career, so he gave it up and went to college. A decade later, he returned to his senses and became active in the Los Angeles Rockabilly scene. He met the Spankers on a trip to Austin and soon moved there. He played with many country and swing combos before joining the Spankers in 2002.

Scott Marcus: (Drums) Raised on Classic Rock, Scott taught himself the drums and guitar at age thirteen. At nineteen, he left New York City for Austin, TX, where he formed the revered and influential band Glass Eye. For a decade Glass Eye toured and built up a devoted cult following. In 1994 he joined the heavy rock trio Starfish and toured with them until 1998. Eager to return to life on the road, Scott joined the Spankers in 2003.
Sick: (Vocals/Violin/Mandolin/Guitar) The youngest Spanker of the current line-up, this Rochester, NY native has been classically trained since childhood. Sick's teen years were spent playing Heavy Metal and Jazz. Once on his own, he moved to New Orleans, LA, busking for tourists and honing his distinctive Punk-infused style. His quest for collaborators led him through several Punk and Bluegrass bands before joining the Spankers in 2004.
Charlie Rose: (Vocals/Banjo/Mandolin/Guitar) Charlie comes from a musical family and began seriously studying Jazz guitar at age twelve. He played in his high school Jazz band and then studied music theory. At a bluegrass festival he discovered his passion and soon began playing mandolin and banjo. In Lawrence, Kansas he led the group Two Dollar Shoe until college graduation. He then moved to Colorado and played with anyone he could until he sat in with the Spankers, who invited him to join in 2004.
Ok, so now you are up to speed on the band and its members and I can continue the story.
Before beginning the show, Wammo asked the crowd to refrain from loud or drunken conversation during the performance and suggested that we save it for the after party in his van. He also encouraged us to join in on the sing-along songs and to go absolutely bonkers between songs. With that the Spankers began their set. The sounds of the Asylum Street Spankers soon filled the club. The band's brand of musical lunacy is unparalleled. The band was using a small amount of amplification, which is usually a no-no with this band. Generally, the Spankers play with no electric amplification, but in larger clubs it becomes necessary, just so the band can be heard over the crowd.
The band slipped easily from bawdy songs about booze and drugs to romantic songs, and then more songs about drugs, some instrumental pieces such as "The Minor Waltz" which featured Christina Marrs playing a saw, to sing-a-longs, and it was all done with a sense of humor that can't be beat.
The Spanker's ability to easily blend so many styles is nothing short of phenomenal. As they switched from one song to another, the stage seemed like a giant game of musical chairs as different members moved to the front to handle vocal duties. And every member was as wonderful as the next. From the sultry breathy vocals on "Breathin'" to the uproariously funny duet "If You Love Me, You'll Sleep On the Wet Spot" with Wammo, to the Betty Boop sounding "Monkey Rag," Christina Marrs handled her vocal duties with the grace and ease of the seasoned professional that she is.
Wammo also has a great voice that is able to transition between scat and blues to a rocking growl that would rival any other rock singer in the business. Wammo even did an acoustic version of "Whiskey Love Song" from his solo album: Lowriders on the Storm.
After about forty minutes, the band took a short intermission. During that time, some band members grabbed beers and others went out to the patio for a smoke. Chrissy and I went out for a smoke as well. Soon, we were all back inside out of the rain and the Spankers got back down to business.
For the most part, the crowd was respectful and quiet as the Spankers went through their set. At one point, several people were getting very loud with their conversations and many of the fans of the band were starting to get irritated. Wammo stopped the band after one song and had to ask the disruptive people to quiet down again. The rest of the performance went uninterrupted as the Spankers did songs such as "Whatever" and "Antifreeze" and "Beer." The band also played their version of Black Flag's "TV Party" and Sick did a wonderful version of the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer" with its chorus of "I Wanna Fuck You Like an Animal." It brought the house down and a funny look to his mother's face as she watched from the table next to us.
The Spankers played a phenomenal set and at the end, the crowd stood and gave them a standing ovation, which they well deserved.
After giving the band a short time to relax, I went to the backstage area and asked Christina Marrs if we could do our interview. She said it would be fine, so we sat down and began our chat. It was far different from the hilarious interview that Wammo had given me earlier in the evening. Christina gave the real story behind the band's origin. We also discussed the band's sound, the revolving line-up and how the band comes up with songs. She was wonderful and fun to talk with. We finished our interview and thanked Christina for her time. We posed for a few photos and made our way back into the club. We found and thanked Wammo, Sick, Nevada, PB Shane, Charlie, and Scott for a mind blowing performance.
I don't care what kind of music you like, if you ever get the chance to see the Asylum Street Spankers, do so! You will be VERY glad you did. If you don't, you will end up kicking yourself. They are a unique and wonderful musical treasure that should not be missed.

Spankers Website

with Wammo

with Christina Marrs

Asylum Street Spankers

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