In a sign of the coronavirus times, Louisiana country-punk-rock institution Dash Rip Rock has only one gig on its calendar.
On Friday, Nov. 6, Dash Rip Rock plans to rip it up on the outdoor stage at Beauvoir Park. A co-production of the Manship Theatre, Long Law Firm and Bandito Fest, the limited-attendance show is sold out.
Bill Davis, leader of the internationally known trio he founded in Baton Rouge in 1984, admits Dash Rip Rock is a bit rusty. The band hasn’t performed an in-person show since Mardi Gras. So, unlike normal times, Dash Rip Rock will rehearse for next week's show.
“Because we’re so rusty, my calluses have worn off,” singer-guitarist Davis said from his home in Metairie.
In another strange development in a strange year, Davis’ bandmates actually want to rehearse.
“It used to be that when I called a rehearsal, everybody would find an excuse not to come,” he said. “So, I’d be like, ‘OK, we’ll wing it.’ A three-piece band playing rockabilly or punk rock can wing it without rehearsal. But now, when I pick up a guitar, it’s kind of foreign to me. Since I was 15, I’ve never felt that way.”
Davis, bassist Chance Casteel and drummer Wade Hymel have played a few online gigs this year, including a Facebook Live show in April that’s been streamed 45,000 times. They also performed a Zoom-enabled private show for the Brooklyn-based technology company Zipari. In previous years, Dash Rip Rock played anniversary parties for the company in New York.
“They were like, ‘We gotta do it!’ ” Davis said of Zipari. “So, we went in a recording studio and broadcast it to them. It ended up being a fun show, almost like a party.”
Dash Rip Rock’s return to the concert stage on Nov. 6 brings the band back to where it began. Davis, born in New Orleans but mostly raised in Baton Rouge, formed Dash Rip Rock while attending LSU.
“It was so easy,” he said. “You could just grab some guy off Chimes Street to play the drums. You didn’t need nice guitars or equipment. And we had a lot of inspiration. The Clash and the Buzzcocks. The Ramones and the Sex Pistols. If you knew a few chords, all that was so easy to get into.”
Davis named his band after Dash Riprock, a recurring character on "The Beverly Hillbillies." Donna Douglas, one of the hit TV sitcom’s co-stars, inspired the moniker. When Davis was growing up in Baton Rouge, Douglas was a neighbor he’d frequently see when she worked in her yard.
“We’d drive by her house and my dad would say, ‘There’s Elly May,’ ” he remembered. “ 'The Beverly Hillbillies' was still big on TV. I was starstruck.”
Davis kept the Dash Rip Rock name despite many naysayers among music journalists and his musician peers.
“A lot of journalists said, ‘This is a great band, but they should have picked a better name.’ But I thought, ‘It’s three words that sound like what we do. We rip and we rock and we jump and we kick. It could have been Dash Kick Jump, but it’s Dash Rip Rock.”
In 1985, Dash Rip Rock gained momentum following Davis’ reluctant college graduation.
“I was trying to find an excuse to stay in school because Chimes Street was so exciting,” he said. “There were great punk bands and it was a great scene. Everyone was friends. I didn’t want to graduate and have to leave.”
LSU’s loss was music’s gain. Moving to New Orleans that year, Dash Rip Rock toured and signed its first record deal. In 1995, the band’s punk-rock remake of Danny and Junior’s 1957 doo-wop hit, “Let’s Go to the Hop,” caught the ear of the then-hugely-influential MTV. “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot” burned up the nation’s college radio playlists. The shows, the tours, the albums and fun haven’t stopped yet — except for the pandemic.
“Everybody’s doing these outdoor things,” Davis said. “We’re sticking our toe in."
Dash Rip Rock
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6
Beauvoir Park, 2834 Greenwood Drive