sluggish economy has taken its toll on many business enterprises, including the
Asylum Street Spankers, whose long, strange trip is coming to end this spring.
17 years, the old-timey acoustic ensemble from Austin, Texas, is bidding adieu
to its fans with Spanks for Everything! – The Farewell Tour, coming
Saturday to Fountain Square's White Rabbit Cabaret.
big band, and it's always been a challenge to keep this many people out on the
road," says co-founder Christina Marrs, the last original member of a group
that has seen roughly 40 individuals cycle through its roster over the years.
"When the economy was good, a lot of small businesses invested and expanded,
and then all of a sudden it tanked, and we experienced a bit of that too. It's
just not a sustainable business model right now."
Spankers built their following with an engaging mix of traditional blues, jazz
and jugband music, vaudevillian theatrics and sometimes-bawdy original tunes.
until its crowds and venues grew too big and noisy to conquer without a PA
never our goal, even from the beginning, to be, you know, 'authentic.' We never
wanted to sound like a Smithsonian archival recording, or anything," Marrs
says. "As time went on, we did embrace about every American musical form that
there is, and probably stretched our wings quite a bit. But I'd say that ethic
was there from the beginning. We got together and we played what we liked. The
instrumentation has been the thing that was consistent throughout."
current seven-member lineup is Marrs on vocals, guitar, banjo, ukulele, saw and
percussion; Nevada Newman, lead guitar and vocals; Charlie King, mandolin,
harmonica, dobro and vocals; Morgan Patrick Thompson, string bass; Mark Henne,
drums and percussion; Shawn Dean, fiddle; and Trevor Smith, banjo, mandolin,
guitar and vocals.
as Marrs noted, the cost of moving a large ensemble around the country
continues to rise. And the onward march of technology threatens once-reliable
the biggest impacts has been this industrywide shift away from people buying
music in CD format, which is bread and butter for a touring band like us,"
Marrs says. "It's probably impacted our business to the tune of about $100,000
a year, which is a lot of money to suddenly find yourself without."
years, the Spankers cranked out nine full-length albums along with some EPs,
DVDs and live sets, and much of that merchandise will still be available for a
while on the band's website. Their most recent release, the "agnostic gospel"
collection God's Favorite Band on Yellow Dog Records, was just nominated in
the gospel category for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards.
Marrs says, the band was scheduled to make its final visit to Q95's The Bob
& Tom Show.
The nationally syndicated radio personalities took a liking to the Spankers years ago
years agoand significantly boosted the band's notoriety with several on-air
spots and heavy rotation of earthy Spankers originals like "The Scrotum Song."
has been doubled-edged, Marrs says. As the Spankers discovered, the Bob
audience had expectations different from those of the indie hipsters who
initially followed the band.
want to speak too negatively about The Bob & Tom Show, because we certainly
sold a lot of records because of them," Marrs says. "It was definitely the only
national exposure that this band ever got radio-wise, to have a tune played on
a widely syndicated show."
But on the
other hand: "For the people who were turned onto us for the first time via Bob
and Tom, we represented this one thing, this novelty band, and that's certainly
an element of what we do, but it's not all we do. It would seem a shame to me,
after all the amazing musicians who have gone through this band and all the
musicality of the band and the virtuosity and the talent, to have it all boil
down to one lowest-common-denominator song. ... I'd hate to be remembered only as
the band that did 'The Scrotum Song.'"