Masked surf rock quartet Los Straightjackets brought a dose of goofy fun and plenty of rocking guitar licks to a packed Ale House Sunday night.
The quirky Nashville-based instrumental group – sans founding guitarist Danny Amis, still off the road due to a cancer diagnosis in 2010 – were up to their usual antics for their hour-plus set. These included some cute choreographed dancing, the band’s trademark Mexican wrestling masks — a bit discomfiting at first, especially since they completely obscured the eyes of three out of the four members — and stage banter delivered entirely in broken (and probably not very accurate) Spanish.
After the first few songs of the set, which began just after 9:30, the band’s goofiness quickly took a back seat to its tight musical acumen. Founding guitarist Eddie Angel, second guitarist Greg Townson, bassist Pete Curry and drummer Chris Sprague have all have chops to spare, and displayed them accordingly — from Angel and Townson’s call-and-response soloing throughout the thundering “Casbah” to the heavy groove laid down by the rhythm section throughout the primal “Caveman.”
The band’s latest record, last year’s “Jet Set,” was represented well, including the title track and an upbeat run through of “Space Mosquito,” punctuated by the band members alternately chasing a phantom insect around the stage in between their solos.
Throughout, the band slipped in musical asides including references to TV themes, and an all-out battle between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (this reviewer preferred the band’s garage-y stomping on “I Feel Fine,” but the audience seemed unsure, eventually clapping loudest when the band announced its own name afterwards).
The best came with the band’s epic closing take on Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the only time this tight ensemble really stretched out on an extended jam. Angel and Townson traded licks like madmen, covering the song’s horn parts with ease, while drummer Sprague literally stepped into the spotlight, dragging his floor tom out for an extended solo. The packed house cheered along as Sprague danced, clapped and eventually finished his solo by hitting Curry’s bass strings with his sticks.
Mersey beat revivalists The Outta Sites kicked things off with a rocking dose of oldies, and newbies that sounded very much like the oldies. Sprague moved up to vocals and guitar for this group, while Straightjackets bassist Curry handled drums here — both pulled double duty admirably. The group kept things light and fun throughout, with song titles such as “Shake All Night,” “Good, Good Lovin’” and “Shake, Shout and Go” giving a pretty good idea of the attitude exhibited.
During Sprague’s occasional guitar changes, the rest of the band would break out into humorous musical asides, including a run on the theme from “I Dream of Jeannie”; at other points Sprague, bassist Zack Simpson and organist Jason “Mongoose” Eoff broke out into go-go dancing. While the band’s hour-plus set began to wear out its welcome toward the end, overall the band’s scrappy energy helped pump up the already packed house.