Funny thing happened along the way. Thanks to the evolution of popular music, a whole generation of current rockers became dated faster than at any previous point in history. These days, if it doesn't include a Pitbull sample, a Casio keyboard line or even the remote chance of "going viral," chances are it's widely recognized as old-school - or at the very least fondly adorned with adjectives like "throwback" and "retro."
A band like the Big Wheel Stunt Show falls squarely into this category. And, sure, the Tacoma three-piece plays into it a bit, too. These guys are kind of old school. Guitarist and frontman Evan Nagle wears an American-flag shirt that looks straight out of Woodstock, and plays a searing early '70s guitar fit for any Townshend-eque, arena-rock wet dream. Drummer Justin Gimse and bassist Jake Melius share an affinity for jean jackets and the gargantuan rhythmic backbones of rock's glorious heyday. Plus, the band is no stranger to facial hair.
All the signs are there.
"Those guys were really solid, serious, hard-working, lunch-bucket musicians back then," says Gimse of the bands from the '60s and '70s the Big Wheel Stunt Show is often likened to as compared to the popular bands of today. "It makes me feel better hearing someone say, ‘That song reminds me of a Moby Grape tune,' or something."
"A lot of what's going on today, especially with major pop music, it's all processed bullshit. That's just what people's ear grows to understand - this processed, computerized music," says Nagle. "Any band that does anything more roots-y or down-to-earth gets labeled as old school. It's definitely today's music that helps people see us as more of a throwback."
Still, it wasn't long ago that a group of guys like the three that make up the Big Wheel Stunt Show wouldn't have been classified as much more than a meat-and-potatoes rock band from Tacoma. But the trajectory modern music has taken has somehow added a weight to their load. The Big Wheel Stunt Show isn't just a band; they're keepers of history.
And they don't seem to mind. Finalizing plans for a third full-length record - a concept album, according to Gimse and Nagle - the guys that make the band churn seem happiest to do what comes organically: laying down the sweat-pouring, guitar-driven rock with heavy and rotating nods to bands like the MC5, the Who, Joe Walsh and Grand Funk Railroad.
Most important of all, the Big Wheel Stunt Show does this in a live setting. With passion.
Whatever music critics or adjective-wielders want to call it is fine by them.
"We put together songs that if you don't know them, you're immediately going to check them out and start tapping your toe or rocking out a little bit," says Gimse. "We've got a very nice chemistry together, and on stage it meshes."
Together since April 2009 (with Melius joining the fold in August of '10), Saturday's Hell's Kitchen show will be the Big Wheel Stunt Show's first ever all-ages gig in Tacoma in two-plus years of service - a fact Gimse and Nagle are stoked about for several reasons.
"We've got a lot of friends who can make a show once in a blue moon, but often times they can't because they've got kids or whatever. So, finally we've got one," says Gimse of the all-ages show Saturday.
"I'm really excited about it. ... Little kids love to rock, man," says Nagle
One year after the release of the band's second full-length, Cheetah Milque - which even this clumsy scribe named "Best Straight Up Rock Record" in the Volcano's 2011 Best of Tacoma issue, referring to the band as "straight ahead," "throwback," and, yes, "old school" - Nagle says the Big Wheel Stunt Show has come into its own over the last 12 months, having found its sound and sweetspot.
"The bond that we have as friends and brothers in the band, that's the hugest part," says Nagle. "I can say for sure that as far as the sound goes, things have become a lot more dynamic."
"We've really tried to steer toward things that are going to get the audience moving. In the past year we've seen that more and more," says Gimse. "With our next album coming out, there are a lot of ass-shaking tunes on there, but it's still going to be a bad-ass rock record."
Expect nothing less.
The Big Wheel Stunt Show
with Fonzarelli, Dreams Jaded and Dungeon Science
Saturday, Jan. 21,
8 p.m., all ages, $5
Hell's Kitchen, 928 Pacific Ave., Tacoma