Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Travelin’ Light with The Astro Cats!

My little yarn, like many sordid epics, begins at the Barrel Tavern in Burien, on a Saturday night. Let's say it was rainy. The Barrel is a "mid-century" root beer/burger stand turned biker bar that is watering hole and community gathering spot for a diverse patchwork of acquaintances and friends collected through the fusion of music.

On that ostensibly normal Saturday night in October, if you happened to be in, oh, let's say a mile radius of the Barrel, you would have been sucked inside by the vortex of hot fun emanating from the remarkable musical interaction of The Astro Cats.

I interviewed drummer Charlie McDowell, who hatched the concept for this band years ago (protracted trademark litigation bound the band name Astro Cats up until March of this year).

"The first booking with the Astro Cats was with Scott E. Lind and Tom Austin,” said Charlie. “After that the band grew to include Hank Yanda, Billy Shew, Brian Lee and Angelo Guerrero. In reality, there are two different bands, and sometimes three, with a 'family' of musicians. The Astro Cats represent a true variety band ranging in music styles from Scott E. Lind's awesome screaming guitar, to Indy Pop and classic rock from Billy Shew, to a more blues and roots-based sound of Brian Lee. In any case, the mission is clear that anytime the Astro Cats brand shows up, it brings 'quality' shows up with it."

"The band is unique in the fact that we deliver a power house sound as a trio featuring Scott Lind and Tom Austin,” continued Charlie. “We also work as a four piece with Billy Shew, Brian Lee, Hank Yanda and me playing a combination of music I like to call 'Rockblusion'. Then just when you thought you've heard it all, we bring in the amazing saxophone of Angelo Guerrero for an incredibly unique different sound.

The line-up at the Barrel that Saturday night featured Charlie, Scott, and Tom. Of course, I don’t wan’t to forget MoJo sitting in on vocals at the Barrel!

"Everyone knows that bands can be a very challenging proposition,” said Charlie. “This kind of set up gives everyone the space they need to do other things and we all still get to play together and keep it fun and interesting. The Astro Cats are more about live music than anything else. We have no touring plans or nor do we plan to work in the studio."

Charlie spoke of difficult times last year when band mate Michael Kahler passed away so suddenly.

"I was one of the drummers playing with the Kahler Band up until his death in December of 2010,” he said.

“We really had some serious stuff going on, and quite frankly, after he passed I was really in the dumps. A month and a half later I was awarded my official trademark, and friends advised me that I really needed to move on, 'as Michael would want.' I just started planning, and one thing led to another, and here we are. At the end of November we will have played 81 shows this year since the beginning of March. There is so much talent in this area we just want to be a part of it and make our contribution."

Things appear to be really picking up for the Astro Cats based on the personal excellence of the individual musicians, great chemistry between band members, a wide variety of styles, and entertaining, danceable tunes. Scott Lind was “ON FIRE” according to the notes I took that night. I know you will thoroughly enjoy this band. Check out their website for band bio, calendar and selected preview cuts: www.theastrocats.com, or www.charliemcdowell.com.


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