Get ready to party with Punch Drunk Cabaret
Punch Drunk Cabaret is ready to rock the Bailey Theatre again, this time for the Steampunk Party as part of the Jaywalkers Jamboree in Camrose on June 2. File photo
When the Jaywalk Jamboree organizers decided on a distinctly steampunk theme with a party to match, there was really only one band that fit the bill as a headliner.
Punch Drunk Cabaret has become almost synonymous with genre, but it was by complete accident that they find themselves at the forefront of the Alberta steampunk movement.
“It still sort of amazes me when we get accepted into the steampunk community,” said lead vocalist and guitar player Randy Bailer. “We’re a band first and the steampunk affectations come after the fact.”
In short, Steampunk combines 19th century stylings, be they Victorian or wild west, with a sci-fi technological edge. As a cosplay community, Steampunk has grown quickly in recent years with clubs popping up in Edmonton and Calgary and across Canada.
There is no real defined steampunk sound. As in all things art, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There have been some bands that have tried to combine classical instruments with electronica while others have gone for an even more robotic sound.
The genre just kind of found PDC.
The group is a unique blend of rockabilly, roots and swing. Seven years ago when the band came together, Bailer in trying to quantify it, described their sound as Steampunk Swing, and it stuck.
Soon after, the Edmonton Steampunk Group hired them to play their first annual Steampunk Ball and they have been back every year since.
“We didn’t know how that was going to go over, I had no idea what steampunk people even listen to,” said Bailer. “Were they going to boo us off the stage if we play something that’s sort of country sounding? But it’s been great.”
PDC was even mentioned in the soon to be released Steampunk FAQ by MacEwan University professor and avid steampunk enthusiast Mike Perschon as an example of the lack of a defined steampunk musical genre that is now starting to adopt certain bands and sounds as their own.
Their reputation is starting grow beyond Western Canada. They are working on booking Steampunk festivals as far away as Ontario and New Jersey.
Helping word get out about band was their live music video they taped at the Bailey Theatre in Camrose for “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” in January.
“It’s a little tough to gauge just what is getting over with people, you try to do as much as possible and sometimes it is word of mouth, sometimes it’s a video,” said Bailer. “We don’t have a management deal, we don’t have a label backing, everything we do is just as grass roots and old school as it gets.”
Their growing success includes a nomination for an Edmonton Music Award for their video for their song “Beard of Bees.” They gala an ceremony are on June 30.
The band does find itself playing a little more into their steampunk personas with Bailer going by Bandmeister Randy B., drummer “Captain” Sean E. Watts, and bass player Terry “Sawbones” Grant, but it is a natural progression for them and something they are able to have fun with on stage.
“It plays into the idea of having three distinct personalities in the band,” said Bailer. “We always thought that was important, and that comes from the KISS model where they had four distinct members, and they took that from the Beatles. We always thought a band made up of individuals was more interesting than a band that pushes the lead singer up front and everyone else is interchangeable.”
Organizers of the steampunk party are hoping the Camrose will eventually be able to form their own steampunk club or society and encourages anyone, even if they do not have a persona and are just interested in what it is all about, to come out to the party.
“It’s exciting. The steampunk communities ... they’re well educated, creative people,” said Bailer. “It’s an interesting group that way. Their No. 1 goal isn’t to party, the No. 1 goal is to express themselves and to share their creativity.”
The Steampunk Party goes June 3 at 8 p.m. at the Bailey Theatre. Tickets are $25 and are available at the Chuck MacLean Arts Centre, the Bill Fowler Centre and Candler Art Gallery.