Ring in the New Year with steampunk

Alberta’s “steampunk swing” band Punch Drunk Cabaret will be rolling back the clock almost a century on New Year’s Eve.

Alberta’s “steampunk swing” band Punch Drunk Cabaret will be rolling back the clock almost a century on New Year’s Eve.

As cameras film a music video for the new song, Elixxxer, the three-piece group will entertain a live audience at a prohibition-themed New Year’s Eve concert on Thursday, Dec. 31, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.

“Bandmeister” Randy Bailer encourages fans to dress like 1920s flappers or ‘30s gangsters and gun molls so the vintage look of the hatted, vested musicians carries over into the crowd.

No actors were hired for the video shoot. “We’re going to go with real people, and just go for it!” said the frontman, who decided fairly late in the game that the retro look of Fratters would be a perfect setting for a video about a drifter-turned-bartender.

Word of mouth about the New Year’s Eve show must have spread like a grass fire, however. It’s already sold out — just like a previous Punch Drunk Cabaret performance in Red Deer was last spring.

Bailer said he’s in a tricky spot now, having to tell friends he’d invited there are no tickets left. But he promised to come back to Red Deer in the first half of 2016 for a return engagement, saying “it’s cool” there’s so much interest.

The trio live in three different Alberta centres: Wetaskiwin is home for gravel-throated singer/guitarist Bailer, Spruce Grove for bassist Terry Grant, and Hanna for drummer Sean Watt. Together, the musicians create “a potent cocktail of rockabilly, outlaw country and steampunk swing, delivered with the raw energy of AC/DC.” This means they get dance floors hopping.

Drawing on eclectic inspirations, including The Stray Cats, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, even big band swing, the group manages to sound more expansive by using unique instrumentation. Grant performs on a 12-string bass instead of the usual four-string instrument, and Watt’s cocktail drum kit is played while he’s standing up.

“It’s very unique and high-energy,” said Bailer, who noted Punch Drunk Cabaret thrives on crowd participation and interaction.

Bailer said the “steampunk” association came about because he thought the word aptly described the band’s unique meld of new and old sounds. Next thing you know, Edmonton’s Steampunk Society was calling up to ask if the group could entertain at its Steampunk Ball

“I didn’t know if we’d go over at all,” he admitted. “But it turned out great” — so great that the society has hired the band to play three years running.

Punch Drunk Cabaret has opened for Road Hammers, Hawksley Workman, July Talk, Sweet and Kim Mitchell. The group has two albums out including the latest, The Juke Joint Revival Hour.

The musicians are planning to start recording a third album in the new year that will include the song Elixxxer, which passed the live-performance test with audiences, said Bailer.

He expects both the single, its music video and new album to be out by next spring.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com