White Cowbell Oklahoma do the Hoodoo, Voodoo Thing
If there is one thing missing from rock and roll these days, it is fire. Not the metaphorical “flames of passion” kind of fire. I mean pyrotechnics. If there’s a second thing missing, it’s probably cowbells—or chainsaws—or semi-naked dancers.
At least there is one band that is still flying the flag for the motto “nothing succeeds like excess.” Playing southern-soaked hard rock that recalls the Allman Brothers jamming it out with Deep Purple, White Cowbell Oklahoma have become infamous for their live shows that feature stuffed animals being chainsawed in half, lengthy guitar solos, a guy who just plays a cowbell (which, it should be noted, is usually on fire), and yes, beautiful, semi-naked ladies dancing on the side of the stage. Perhaps the only thing more unbelievable than their strange moniker is that this sextet of ruffians comes from Toronto.
“It’s really a lot of brown magic, physics, illegal, unproven science, astrology, voodoo, hoodoo and a few good recipes of Cajun cooking,” said singer/guitarist Clem of how the band got its start. “We were just bored as fuck with everything […] We wanted to bring value back to the rock and roll consumer.”
Rather than being discouraged that they must fit their arena-style stage show on the tiny stages of small Canadian clubs, they look forward to the possibilities that come from combining intimacy with a drunken audience and a drunker band.
“We actually like the small shows [because it puts] more explosive force into a smaller area. It’s physics,” said Clem. “It actually creates more destruction. [We’ve played huge festivals in Europe], and it’s cool, but you don’t get to meet people and smell their musk in the same way.”
Should you venture into one of White Cowbell Oklahoma’s shows, you’ll notice a few friends onstage who aren’t singing, playing cowbell or wielding a guitar. You might also notice that these friends are dressed in skimpy lingerie. If you’re about to make a snide statement about the objectification of women, you might want to sit down for a few shots with the dancers.
“We have dancers in our show, and they are powerful women,” said Clem, dismissing charges of sexism. “I wouldn’t fuck with them. We have probably just as many, if not more female fans than we do male fans.”
If you’re missing the message, let me dumb it down for you. White Cowbell Oklahoma come, they see, they rock. The only political message they have is that they have no political message. Well, there might be an environmental one stuck in there—if you’re like Clem and believe in Bigfoot.
“We can’t be held responsible when people wake up the next day, and they’ve gone against all their philosophical and political ideas, and woken up next to five sasquatches in the brush somewhere with an empty bottle of Old English malt liquor […] We have an emancipating effect, and anyone will admit that.”
White Cowbell Oklahoma will play Montreal on Nov. 25 at Katacombs (1635 Saint-Laurent Blvd.). Show starts at 9 p.m.
This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 15, published November 23, 2010.