Tacoma gets hammered!

Dustin Lafferty’s band 9 Pound Hammer entertains and amuses

By Angela Jossy on January 17, 2008

After extensive research, I was able to determine that 9 Pound Hammer is a dive bar in Seattle, Wash., an old folk song, a punkabilly band in Kentucky, a small sledge hammer, and a Southern rock band in Tacoma fronted by Dustin Lafferty.

Like the hardware it was named after, Lafferty’s band was forged in metal, dragged through the backwoods and surrounded by enough rubber to make for easy swinging. What I mean by that (get your mind out of the gutter) is this acoustic guitar- and harmonica-infused rock music is happy, full of local references and lighthearted enough to give us a giggle once in awhile.

The band is a three-piece outfit with Lafferty (formerly of The Evergreens and The Alley Walkers) on vocals and acoustic guitar, Todd Arrighi (formerly of Lew Schmngy) on harmonica and vocals, and Jake Gurrido (formerly of the Earl White Revue) on drums.

I snagged a copy of their album Dustin Lafferty and 9 Pound Hammer from Lafferty a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed to see that it was produced by Conrad Uno, who is renowned for working with people such as Young Fresh Fellows, Mudhoney and The Presidents of the United States of America.

The first song that caught my ear Is titled “2710 6th Avenue.” The song is about Sluggo music store in Tacoma. He sings, “Bells they were ringing as I entered the door with ease, three of four long hair hippies, sittin’ around shootin’ the breeze.” Then he says, “At 2710 they accept you for who you are. I could go down to that corporate store, man, because they got a lot more, but I go to Sluggo music ’cause they got soul, four letter word soul, blues brothers type of soul man.” The spoken refrain that follows is hilarious: “We got no saxa-ma-phones neither … Hey I was wondering if I could use your restroom. How ’bout no.” I especially appreciated the added percussion of the front counter styled ring-for-service bell.

Another song on the CD is called “Downtown Bobby,” which Lafferty says is about his former boss, Bob Hill, owner of the Swiss Pub. Lafferty worked at the Swiss the first four years it was open — 1993-1997. He says, “I saw a lot of great bands come through there.”

When I ask about his choice of subject matter Lafferty says, “Most of our songs are about life in Tacoma. We are not talking about hate or teen-age angst or sappy love. A billion songs have already been written about that stuff. I look for subject matter that has rarely been written about. (Sluggo’s) is just a place where me and the people I play with like to shop. It’s been there thirty years. My friend Mike Coucoules used to work there. It’s just a cool place because when you go there you get lots of stories, advice and stuff like that.” 

Lafferty says that when the band performs live they like to think of themselves as the new vaudeville.

“Boring is the kiss of death,” he says. “We aren’t afraid to make fun of ourselves. When you do that, people let their guard down. I want people to think of Tacoma as good-time music. I play serious songs too, but I like to make people laugh. I want people to enjoy music again. We’re an exhausted society with an exhausted psyche. (The war, the economy) it definitely drags you down. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t go out as much. They are mentally exhausted. People sit in front of the TV just to escape.”

Lafferty says they often pass out fake mustaches at their shows right before they play a song they call “The Mustache Song.” He says, “People put them on, and it looks like a whole crowd of Saddam Hussein’s!” The song is a parody on the men of the ’70s and their lady-killer mustaches.

Lafferty laughs and says, “That look is coming back!”

He explains, “I grew up on Letterman and Carson, the geniuses of comedy, and they would have the comedians open for the musicians. To me, music and comedy go together. People will go there with you if you can make them laugh.”

Lafferty hosts an open mic at Station 56 every Tuesday night. 9 Pound Hammer plays unplugged at Mandolin Café Saturday, Jan. 19, from 8 to 10 p.m. Get there early and catch Kim Archer Band from 5 to 7 p.m.

[Mandolin Café, Saturday, Jan. 19, 8 p.m., no cover, 3923 S. 12th St., Tacoma, 253.761.3482]

My name is Angie and I’m just a shot away — angie@weeklyvolcano.com. If you can’t rock me, somebody will.