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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

The funny side of rock

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Klip Calhoun looks an awful lot like Kyle Gass, one-half of the comic rock duo Tenacious D.

Same way of holding an acoustic guitar tight against his ample belly. Same devilish gleam in his eye. Klip's got a full head of hair compared to the bald dome of Gass - aka KG - but they still have more than a passing resemblance.

They're kind of like twins who ended up on opposite ends of the male pattern baldness spectrum.

When Calhoun's prog rock/Southern boogie/hair metal band Trainwreck (perhaps no rock group has ever had a more literally appropriate name from a musical perspective) hits the Frankie's Inner-City stage tomorrow night, faces will melt from righteous guitar solos, men will dance with abandon to songs like "Brodeo" and "Milk the Cobra" and more than a few people probably will call out to Gass..., er, Klip Calhoun.

"People will yell out 'KG' and I just sort of have to ignore them," Calhoun said in a phone interview from Las Vegas, where Trainwreck was kicking off its tour. "I think in the [real] world KG is my cousin who we lost to Satan."

Actually, Gass is doing just fine - Satanic conversions not withstanding - and Calhoun is his alter ego for Trainwreck, a five-member group in which each of the musicians has glommed onto a character who allows him to explore the more comedic aspects of his personality.

Basically it's an Americanized version of Spinal Tap, which Gass said was a big and obvious influence on him for both Trainwreck and Tenacious D, his more well-known ongoing project with Jack Black. The Wreck was born of Gass' desire to be out front a bit more in his own band.

"In the KG world, Jack likes to hear himself talk so much you have to play the dutiful sidekick in that one. And I actually think that was part of the reason for Trainwreck. [I thought] geez, I want to talk on stage more. I want to be kind of the lead chatterbox. I like to goof it up."

The band includes Darryl Lee Donald as frontman (a biker-hayseed who learned his dance moves from Billy Ray Cyrus and Jesco, the Dancing Outlaw), John Barholomew Shredman on electric guitar; Boy Johnny (John Spiker) on bass, and Dallas St. Bernard on drums.

The music is a weird mix of hair metal, prog rock (thanks to Gass' flute playing) and Southern rock. Perhaps the most indicative tune that captures the band's wacky eclecticism is "Milk the Cobra," which sounds like Jethro Tull meeting ZZ Top at a Cinderella concert.

Then there's the humor. Trainwreck's songs are filled with double-entendres, goofy faux sincerity, and a feeling that no joke will go untold.

Gass said the music comes first, and the only way to deliver the irreverent humor inherent in tunes like "Brodeo" and "Tim Blankenship" is to be sincere and passionate about the songs.

"We're all big rock fans and the band [members] are really accomplished musicians, and that's really more important than the humor. I think the humor goes in because that's what we are," Gass said.

"You don't really want to be like a guitar comic up there. I just don't think that's all that interesting."

With both Tenacious D and Trainwreck, Gass, who grew up in Southern California and has acted on a number of television shows, is clearly an accomplished guitarist capable of an impressive expanse of styles ranging from classical to rock.

So why not do "serious" music?

"In the world of music or art or anything, I think you want to express yourself kind of like who you are and I just feel a kinship with the fun and the funny," he said.

"It started out being a character-driven band, if you will, and it's kind of comic book characters come to life, and that's the world I delve into."

Expect plenty of hijinks at Frankie's and a nonstop run of gags. If they're not funny, don't expect Gass to linger too long on any missteps.

"Job number one is to really keep it moving and we're desperate to entertain, and it might be a fault at some point, but if it's not working we just keep it moving, keep that ball rolling."

Doors open at 9 p.m. tomorrow for the all-ages show at Frankie's, 308 Main St. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone 419-474-1333, ticketmaster.com, and at Culture Clash 419-536-5683, and Ramalama Records 419-531-7625). Tickets will be $12 at the door on the night of show.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.



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