The Crown Hill Diggers resurrect Rockabilly Night at the Melody Inn A few heads turn as the sparkling turquoise and white chopper rumbles into the parking lot of the Broad Ripple Brew Pub. Its handlebars are raised higher than your normal bike, but the sled is guided with ease by a confident pilot. The bike disappears from the view of the pub"s patio seating and moments later, the rider appears, dotted with tattoos and swaggering from his ride, black hair pushed back and dark glasses shielding the eyes. He is followed by a red-haired tough with sideburns racing to his chin; his arms covered equally, if not more so, in ink.
The dark-haired cyclist is Chad Hasty, and the rough-looking fellow is Heath Crecelius. The two comprise the guitar and bass portions of local roots/rockabilly foursome The Crown Hill Diggers. It is not long before vocalist Brian Toombs arrives, smartly dressed in slacks and a short-sleeve button-down - appearing as stylishly retro as his corporate casual pompadour. The three, along with drummer Bill Backhoff, have spent the past few years knocking around the scene, playing rockabilly, with an emphasis on the rock, gigging where they can and providing support to larger-name roots revival music. Their first show found the four on a bill with the renowned honky-tonk rock outfit The Derailers. "They were very nice to us," Toombs states matter-of-factly. With a laugh, Heath adds, "They told us we were good." Not too shabby for the band"s first paying show. And what constitutes payment? "Free tickets!" Hasty laughs. "Free beer! We"ve played for free beer a lot of times." Included in the Diggers" history are numerous appearances at shows sponsored by Fairmount James Dean Gallery owner David Loehr. Loehr is the driving force behind the decade-old Rockabilly Rebel Weekend, an annual four-day event featuring well over two dozen local and national acts, and attracting fans from all over the country. For a time, Loehr promoted regular rockabilly nights in Indianapolis out of his own pocket. Unfortunately, the shows were discontinued due to a lack of financial return, a common problem among independent promoters. Recently, Loehr felt the pinch again, as his 10th Rockabilly Rebel Weekend faced stiff competition from another national weekend festival in Wisconsin. For a genre so entrenched in American culture, from the post-World War II scene of the music"s inception to countless revivals over the years, rockabilly can be described as one of the most underground mainstream movements in music. The Diggers find that they fit in well at places like the Slippery Noodle, with many of their basic rock standards, or even at the Melody Inn, relying on some of their heavier edge. "Our foundation is rockabilly but there are so many elements of hard rock, country ... punk. You name it, it"s in there," Toombs says. "We dabble." Though rockabilly reigns supreme in states like Texas, and even New York, true support for original roots music sometimes comes from only a handful of local enthusiasts, so the Diggers have started booking out of state. September will see them in Lansing, Mich., sharing a bill with Eightball Grifter (who are also responsible for producing a compilation CD, which will feature a Crown Hill Diggers track). Locally, aside from a select few bands in the state, The Crown Hill Diggers are an extremely rare breed, as Crecelius explains. "The only other bands that play any rockabilly at all is Bigger Than Elvis, and they play very rarely anymore. ... The Drunken Deacons aren"t so much rockabilly - I think they"re probably closer to an alternative country kind of thing. ... They"re friends of ours. We play with them a lot actually." Crecelius recently found himself in a unique position, moving up from being the unofficial promoter for the band, to becoming the unofficial promoter for rockabilly music in Indianapolis. To put it plainly, the Melody Inn asked the illustrated bass player and the rest of the band to take on the mantle of promotions for a semi-regular rockabilly night, figuring that someone who knew something about the music was better suited for booking the acts. The way Crecelius tells it, the deal was signed with a nod and a smile. "We played there a couple times and Dave [Brown, Melody Inn owner] said, "How"d you guys like to do a rockabilly night once a month?" So I was like, "Yeah sure." Then he said, "Well, you guys are going to host it."" As usual, the group refuses to call attention to themselves. "We don"t bring the other bands and let them play for 20 minutes and then jump up there for two hours," Hasty laughs. "People that are here can see us anytime we play. What we"re trying to do is bring in people that no one else has seen." They also insist on providing for the other bands on the stage. "We make no money at all," Crecelius says. "We just give all the door money to whoever comes and plays with us." Indianapolis isn"t the only city dealing with a post-swing-craze music scene, where all of the wagon jumpers have since abandoned the cart. Just like any other working bands, gig shares between cities are a must and payment is usually for the bare necessities (which usually means beer money and crash space. "If they sleep at one of our houses, that"s less money we"ve got to try to scrape up to pay them," Crecelius comments. "A band from Louisville said they"d come up for 100 bucks to cover gas and six-packs."). More information on The Crown Hill Diggers and Rockabilly Night at the Melody Inn can be found on the band"s Web sitehttp://home.earthlink.net/~crownhilldiggers/