Rock Star Club with Vinyl Shriner and My Left Arm

Melody Inn Friday, May 14

West Lafayette is seldom ranked with music-mecca college towns like Austin and Athens, but its late-’80s original-rock scene spawned a few success stories.

Purdue grad Paul Burch is now touted among Nashville’s top singer-songwriters. Jay McDowell was the founding bassist for honky-tonk revivalists BR5-49. And Ted Allen, then the deep-voiced frontman for a band called Mrs. Magrooder, followed an alternative career track, becoming the fabulous food and wine guru on Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Paul Kasprzak and Chuck Tipton were part of that scene, too. Their band, the Young Lords, was blending metal riffs with punk attitude just as similar sounds were sparking a rock revolution in the Pacific Northwest. After graduation, they moved to Chicago and waited to be discovered.

“There was kind of a signing frenzy at the time,” Kasprzak recalls. “We had no doubt we were going to be big stars.”

Alas, the wave came and went without them. In 1994, after an unsatisfying gig opening for Ace Frehley, the Young Lords broke up in the basement of Chicago’s Avalon Ballroom.

The break didn’t last long, however. For the past several years, guitarist Kasprzak, bassist Tipton, guitarist Justin Zucker and powerhouse drummer Eli Sabbagh have been building a Midwest following and an impressive catalog of independent releases as Rock Star Club. The band will play Friday at the Melody Inn with fellow Boilermaker alums Vinyl Shriner and Chicago rockers My Left Arm.

Rock Star Club’s fourth and latest disc is a new five-song EP, Bienvenidos a Grand y Western. The music is big and heavy, with monster grooves and harmonized guitar duels, but the lyrics are introspective and often amusing, devoid of the usual tough-guy poses. The title refers to an intersection in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, where yuppies, hipsters and struggling immigrants provide fodder for Kazprzak’s songs.

In “High Life,” Kasprzak notes the conflict between his professional life as a pharmacist (insert musician drug joke here) and his off-hours rock persona: “And it’s hard to break out of the pharmacy with its high security of obligations, bills and vacations.”

But break out he does, when his schedule allows. Rocking part-time beats giving up the dream entirely.

“We never gave up the torch, and at this point, I can’t,” Kasprzak says. “It’s something that brings us happiness.”

Learn more about Rock Star Club at the band’s entertaining Web site,