Nearing midnight on Friday evening, New York-based big band/rockabilly crew Izzy and the Kesstronics kicked off their set by sending three of its five members into a moderately small audience at The Melody Inn. The band’s saxophone, trombone, and guitar players meandered around tables, walked into The Mel’s empty back room, peeked into the women’s restroom and even stepped outside as they played a jazzy instrumental opener. “They’ll be back,” the bass player reassured the confused and amused faces staring at the half-empty stage of musicians.
Early on, front man Izzy disclosed the band’s unique method for set list development: each member picks a song in turn on the fly, effectively assuring “you will never, EVER see the same show twice.” The group’s instrumental combination (guitar, bass, drums, slide trombone, and saxophone) lent itself to a variety of related styles including jazz, rockabilly, and bluegrass. With the entire band dressed in black, two-piece suits and flashy footwear, Izzy led his Kesstronics with authentic fifties charm and swag.
“This one’s about the uncomfortable subject of bar room infidelity,” divulged Izzy as he introduced “24/7”, a toe-twisting, booty-shaking, tune true to the rockabilly typecast (complete with Chuck Berry-esque licks and sassy vocals full of twang). “Everybody knows a little something about that,” continued Izzy. He added, “…except [drummer] Mikey’s grandma,”(who was actually in the audience).
During a cover of the Hank Williams Jr. song “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It,” Izzy explained that the famous honkey tonk icon is the band’s favorite of the “old, broke-ass country music stars”. They used it as a lead-in to a gathering of donations that would ultimately be deposited into their “Taco Bell fund.”
The Brooklyn band (which seemed comfortably at home and happy to be in Indianapolis) holds a couple of interesting connections to The Midwest. Bass player Seth Kessel remembered playing at The Melody Inn with a different group (The Black Market Band) once or twice before, and recalled that they also shared the stage with The Art Adams Band when they visited, just as Izzy & The Kesstronics did on this past Friday night. Further, trombone player Chapman Sowash (originally from Cincinnati, Ohio) performs regularly with The Green Room Rockers, a soulful reggae band from Lafayette. Coincidentally, Sowash had been at The Vogue just hours before playing with The Green Room Rockers when they opened for legendary ska band Bad Manners. “My lips have already been playing a lot of trombone tonight,” he pointed out while conversing with audience members during set break.
Izzy and The Kesstronics play more than 225 shows every year, so if you missed them this time, I’m sure you’ll have another chance to check them out soon enough. In the meantime, check out their awesomely bizarre video for "Mambo on Your Grave," filmed illegally in the cemeteries of New Orleans.
Danielle covers local music for NUVO.net and IndyMojo.com