Purple K’nif at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 6/27/08
“Do you guys surf?” some guy in the audience asked. One of the veteran surf rock quartet’s two guitarists onstage laughed out loud.
“We’re from Ohio!”
None of the group were sporting colorful beachwear or drinking anything with an umbrella in it, proof that all you really need is the tunes and damn, these guys had tunes, over an hour’s worth, a long set. Especially at Lakeside where bands are given a strict midnight curfew so as not to disturb the neighbors. If surf music is your thing, or if just plain old good rock is your thing, you ought to see this band. Their set wasn’t especially loud, their original instrumentals don’t have a lot in the way of drama or big crescendos and they don’t ham it up onstage like a lot of surf bands do (a very good thing, actually). What they get over on is subtlety. Their mostly upbeat, major-key songs tend to swing, sway and even meander rather than punch you like a fifty foot wave. Occasionally, this gets pretty psychedelic. It’s hard to think of a more original surf band than Purple K’nif (the name is a reference to both an obscure Cleveland TV show host and a Cramps bootleg).
They did an amusing number that twisted sections of Besame Mucho Twist and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue together like a black-and-white cruller, a little strange but undeniably sweet. Launching into the next song, their Fender player told the crowd that “This is the saddest surf song ever written,” and it wasn’t, although the fairly long, contemplative number might be the slowest. They followed that with a more upbeat song driven by the drummer’s tribal rhythm, and then another original with a somewhat minimalist, Shadows feel. They also played a tune that their Gibson player sardonically called “The Cliché Song,” which might have been true in the sense that it nicked a whole bunch of licks from classic surf songs, but the way the band strung them together was clever in the same way as XTC’s tongue-in-cheek ripoff of 60s psychedelia on their Dukes of Stratosphear albums.
At the end of the set, they played their big youtube hit the Beer Theme, a catchy, comfortably buzzed tune and closed with a good cover of Bumblebee Rock, which like a lot of surf classics takes a classical melody (Flight of the Bumblebee) and rocks it out. The band swings through New York a few times a year, playing mostly here and at Otto’s on Unsteady Freddy’s surf nights the first Saturday of the month.