The trio made its stage debut in 1996, sharing a stage with nouveau goth/emo/hairspray legends AFI at the infamous Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, Calif. Tiger Army linchpin Nicky 13 formed the band out of Influence 13, bringing band mate Geoff Kresge with him, assembling a crew that has changed throughout the years, but maintains the highly stylized visual and musical aesthetic that is psychobilly. The hair is pompadoured, the arms are heavily tattooed (these guys love the ink), jeans are pegged and the bass is upright. Tiger Army is like the sober, more cynical California cousin of The Reverend Horton Heat's Texas rockabilly legacy.
Psychobilly revels in the rock-and-roll lifestyle through ballads about Betty-Page-styled beauties that drive hearses from the graveyard to the chapel and back to the crypt, peeling out in the face of the undeserving dudes-the dudes that ditched them on prom night. The world of the Psychobilly is full of supped-up classic cars, high heels below pencil skirts listening to classics like Social Distortion and the Cramps. While we might miss out on a whole host of musical styles, Bend has actually been host to numerous psychobilly acts throughout the years including the Danish Nekromantix, Sweden's Horrorpops, So-Cal's Chop Tops and, of course, Tiger Army.
The band's Friday night show is one of two West Coast concerts before they jet back to Germany, followed by appearances at the big time Reading and Leeds festivals in the UK. This worldwide appeal is evidence of the strength of the Psychobilly phenomenon, which soars on speedy punk riffs, driving bass and drums combined with lyrics about being a ghost, or seeing a ghost, or wishing you could see a ghost.
Tiger Army is tough, or at least they look tough. They walk around in their dark blue jeans and pointy shoes, gathering in big, hair gelled packs that send people to the other side of the street. But don't expect the Domino Room crowd to be all that scared as they clamor to the front of the stage, hoping to make eye contact with the soulful Nicky 13 while passionately singing along the entire show. Nicky 13's voice is smooth and almost out of place with the hard-driving sound the band provides. And his voice also proves versatile, as evidenced by his recent toying with an alt-country side act and the melodic explosions found on tracks like "As the Cold Rain Falls" on the band's latest release, Music From Regions Beyond. The record is the band's fourth album on Tim Armstrong's Hellcat Records. Apparently, Armstrong had the right idea when he signed them so quickly back in the day.
Tiger Army isn't soft, but the band isn't so loud that your ears will ring for the next ten days so you can actually hear the humorous and horror-filled lyrics. Because if you can't hear the stories of psychos, it isn't quite psychobilly, now is it?
Tiger Army, Said Radio, War Tapes
8pm doors, 9pm show Friday, August 8. Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $15/advanced, $17/door. Tickets at Ranch Records or ticketswest.com.
You should see his underwear. The word "psycho" conjures many images: psycho killer, psycho ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, psychosomatic, psychologist, psychosexual, any number of suffixes will bring about an exponentially larger number of thoughts. When you attach -billy to the prefix, the visuals shift to a highly stylized music genre, which is succinctly defined by the band Tiger Army.