Thursday, December 31, 2009

The gospel according to the Asylum Street Spankers

By Meredith Deliso

For most of their 15-plus year history, the Asylum Street Spankers have been belting it out Sundays at their gospel shows.

For those unacquainted with the roots band, these aren’t your typical gospel shows (and don’t be fooled by the name of their latest CD, “God’s Favorite Band,” either). Rather, the Austin-based band traffics in “agnostic gospel,” as they coined it, which includes old traditionals from bands like the Golden Gate Quartet mixed with originals that take a break from their usual riffs on alcohol, weed, and anti-war politics and examine the spiritual nature of mankind, Spankers style.

For all its agnosticism, don’t doubt that this isn’t a religious experience. Singer and co-founder Wammo has called this music the closest thing he’s had to one, and that through getting acquainted with gospel tunes, he’s learned it has more to do with soul than going to church.

For those looking to check them out, head to their upcoming Brooklyn show at the Bell House January 9. And for those who saw the band the last time they were in town, you can see them in their best form this go-around, as band co-founder Christina Marrs, who was on maternity leave last year, is back with the band.

“It will be a much different show than the last show,” says Wammo. Not having Marrs “totally affected what we can play and not play. It will be a dramatically different show. Brooklyn gets to experience her amazing voice.”

For their Brooklyn show, the band’s multi-instrumentalists will be breaking out some old favorites, including “Tripping Over You,” “War on Drugs,” and “Beer,” in addition to the new stuff.

“We’re mixing it up. We’re doing some oldies I haven’t done in a long time,” says Wammo.

So the first set will be songs off the gospel record – the salvation portion of the evening – and the second set will be more secular Spanker hits. “The nasty stuff,” says Wammo. “We actually like the salvation first. Then we sully the audience.”

Audience, you’ve been warned.

The Asylum Street Spankers play the Bell House (149 7th St.) January 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 718-643-6510. The next morning, the band performs a children’s show (no joke) at the 92Y Tribeca (200 Hudson St.) at 11 a.m. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 212-601-1000.


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