By Anita Stewart, Journalist and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer–Tampa Bay, Florida
Venue: The Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Florida–October 8, 2015
Stunning opening act, the Greg Billings Band rocked the house!
Well, no one knew just how good Here Come the Mummies would be and as a novelty act, we at Rock at Night thought it would be amusing to see them. We were told we should get our tickets early as the concert would be a sell out. To be honest, we had never heard of this band before. Well after seeing this show, we are now huge fans!
The venue was packed and the crowd was old, young, polished up in evening wear, suits and dresses, or dressed down in jeans and everyone was ready to party. Even though it was not planned, Rock at Night was joined in the front row with a few friends; two members of Shining Wheel Pagan Chorus, Lori Newlove and Brian Seachrist for some “front row fun” which consisted of all of us snapping photos and both of them wrapping their arms and hands with Ace bandages to mimic the mummy costuming.
Few sat in their chairs during the incredible rock and roll opening set by the Greg Billings Band. A local band from Tampa Bay which back in the day was renowned throughout Florida with a similar line-up under the name, Romeo and then another name change to Stranger after they had been signed to a major label. Greg Billings, the lead singer left the band in 1996 to form Damn the Torpedoes. Stranger tried unsuccessfully to continue on with the same name and momentum with a new lead singer but never achieved the accolades they had gotten before. Ronnie Wayne Garvin, the lead guitarist of Stranger then started to have marital problems and sadly he committed suicide later that same year.
Greg Billings and the original Stranger bassist Tom King are the only two original Stranger members left in the Greg Billings Band. The rest of the lineup includes George Harris on guitar and vocals, Rob Stoney on keyboards, vocals and harmonica, Mark Busto on drums and vocals and Kyle Ashley on guitar. These guys gig all over and definitely kick some rock and roll ass! Don’t miss them!
During the break between acts, we got to speak to Ron and Patty Martlage from Indiana who said they have been listening to Here Come the Mummies for years and told us they loved the band and that they were just plain fun! They filled us in a little about the history of the band and were knowledgeable since they had seen them live many times. They have a condo in Clearwater, Florida and when we asked if they were snowbirds from up north Patty said, “I’m too young to be a snowbird. We are ‘flitters,’ we come down here all year round.”
Well, Here Come the Mummies has it all! A polished sound that combines jazz, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, ska and more. Theatrics, costumes, stage personalities and the ability to stay in character! They formed in 2000 and have CD’s, EP’s, merch, the social networks and a huge support team so they can travel and do shows mainly throughout the midwest and southern regions of the US.
It is noted that the band members come from Nashville, Tennessee and that some of them have been awarded Grammy’s and that some play with notable and national music acts. But because of contractual obligations, the members of Here Come the Mummies keep their identities “under wraps” as it were. No, you will never know the names of the musicians. And no, they do not give interviews. If you ask them for one, they will just grunt at you. Their music is unique yet reminiscent of the funky big brass sounds of Rick James, the O’Jays, Ohio Players, Cameo, George Clinton, Sly and the Family Stone and even Earth, Wind and Fire.
The show itself opened with very carnival, hoodoo rhythms and the band marched to the stage from the back of the venue and through the audience. Their songs are comprised of great big funky, jazzy riffs, a big brass sound, superb musicianship, melodic vocal arrangements and harmonization. Choreography completes the whole stage performance. And most of their songs are filled with double entendres and innuendo and to put it in plain speak, the lyrics are dirty! This is definitely an adults only show! Especially the songs “Kinda Lingers,” “Everything But,” “Carnal Carnival,” “Where the Sun Don’t Shine” and “Innuendo.”
One of the highlights of the show was the “Cowbelt (Cowbell).” A belt-like contraption worn low around the waist and hip area, the Mummy wearing it thrusts and moves a metal hammer upward to hit the protruding cowbell attached to the belt several several inches above. Guaranteed to get the crowd howling with laughter!
Free downloads of some of their songs are available at their site but nothing can compare to this band’s live shows. The audience never stopped moving, dancing, grooving, laughing and just loving this band and their performance! My personal favorite songs were “Ra Ra Ra” and “Freak Flag.” Check out their tour stops on their website then don’t wait — get tickets and go see them!
Here Come the Mummies
The Greg Billings Band
A snippet from the Clearwater show
“Funky Little Baby” and demonstration of the cowbelt
“Peccadillo” and “Kinda’ Lingers”
WEBSITES-Greg Billings Band