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’60s surf rock trippin' it with band lineup Saturday

Grab your boards and get ready to ride a wave of reverb all the way back to the '60s. This weekend, the Union Bar and Grill is hosting a night of surf rock featuring bands from near and far.

Both known for their high-energy instrumental surf music, the Madeira and The D-Rays will shake the Union stage Saturday night. Local garage-rockers Night Stalker will open the evening. To complement the vintage vibe, the bar has stirred up three 1960s-themed cocktails to be served exclusively on the night of the show.

Although they'll be making their first appearance in Athens this Saturday, the Madeira are no strangers to the surf music scene. Since 2004, they've played their music all over America, and even across the Atlantic during a 10-day tour of Italy in 2009. One of their songs was top-ranked on a Spanish radio surf show.

The Madeira's guitarist, Ivan Pongracic, is aware that you may not have heard of his band or his genre of rock - and he's OK with that. But he's still trying his damnedest to spread the gospel of surf.

"Surf music is alive and well... played in every corner of the world," Pongracic told The NEWS. "A lot of people think of this as kind of oldies music." Not the Madeira, however.

"We approach this as a living, breathing, driving genre," Pongracic said.

Based out of Indianapolis, each member of the Madeira offers a unique musical history to the band. Pongracic founded The Space Cossacks, Washington D.C.'s premier instrumental surf band during the 1990s, while rhythm guitarist Patrick O'Connor played with fellow Indianapolis surf-rockers Destination: Earth! prior to joining the Madeira. Drummer Dane Carter performed with Pongracic and Pongracic's father in the Troubadours, a group that played covers of the Shadows' songs.

Todd Fortier, the Madeira's bassist, seems to be the only member without an extensive surf background. Pongracic said the band contacted him through a classified ad.

"You don't play this music to make money," Pongracic said. "You play this music because you love it."

In regards to the Madeira's upcoming plans, Pongracic said the band will perform two back-to-back shows at The Melody Inn in Indianapolis this December to commemorate their 10th anniversary. The shows will be recorded and released as a live CD. Additionally, the Madeira already have written half of their next album, and plan to record it next summer.

In spite of his band's past success and ambitious plans, Pongracic admitted he's unsure how the band will be received in Athens.

"Hopefully, people will show up and enjoy [the music]," he said. "We love it when the audience starts dancing. If they just want to listen, that's fine too... We'll make them have a good time."

THOUGH THE D-RAYS may not have the worldly experience of the Madeira, they have the edge of a hometown crowd - after all, they are the evening's headlining act. If you're wondering what a D-Ray show is like, no one can tell it better than the band's own Erick Coleman.

A D-Rays show, Coleman explained, is "loud, it's reverb-drenched... it's real tight and it's fast-moving. We just cut to the chase and deliver a good rock show before anybody starts to get bored."

Formed in 2010 by three coworkers at local luthier company Stewart-MacDonald, the D-Rays drew as much influence from garage and punk as they did from surf. Although their original drummer moved away within six months of the band's formation, the D-Rays website touts the rhythms of replacement drummer Maceo Gabbard and bassist Missy Pence as the band's driving force.

Only a few months after the D-Rays acquired Gabbard, the band set out to record their first 45 record at Off The Cuff Sound in Fort Wayne, Ind. Jason Davis, the studio's owner, would become the D-Rays' producer and an integral part of the group.

"He's like the fourth member of the band," Coleman said. "He really understands what it is that we're trying to do as musicians and songwriters."

The D-Rays' second record was also recorded at Davis' studio, and has since picked up worldwide distribution.

Coleman's thoughts on the state of surf rock echoed Pongracic's. "It's not something that any one of us are going to get rich playing," Coleman said. "The scene is opening up quite a bit... I'd like to see it get even bigger than it is now."

Coleman expressed enthusiasm toward being part of the Athens music scene, and seemed excited for the upcoming show.

"I'd never really heard of [Athens] until I moved here, which really surprised me because I've played every nook and cranny across the U.S.," Coleman said. "I love it. It's tightly knit and people genuinely seem to support one another, no matter the night of the week, no matter who's coming to town."

Alexander Card

The Athens News

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