Saturday, July 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Make a Scene: Big Wheel Stunt show gets the Holiday Spirit

A lot of great Northwest rock bands have Christmas songs. Pearl Jam has “Let Me Sleep (It's Christmas Time).” Harvey Danger has “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas.” Tacoma's Sonics and Fabulous Wailers put their cynical spin on the holidays with “Don't Believe in Christmas” and the Dylan-esque “Christmas Spirit,” respectively. To that tradition we can now add the rising stars of Big Wheel Stunt Show. The Tacoma power trio – singer-guitarist Evan Nagle, singer-drummer Justin Gimse and bassist Jake Melius – will play Jazzbones Saturday in support of Seattle's all-female AC/DC tribute band, Hell's Belles. Then, soon after, they'll release a downloadable holiday cut called “Fireball.” You know, Fireball? Rudolph's homie-turned-hater from the classic 1964 TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” Hey, do yourselves a favor and YouTube it, Scrooges! “Fireball grew up a little rougher after that,” Gimse says, “to the point where he leaves Christmas Town to go find out what else he can do.” He outlines a musical “Rudolph” sequel in which Fireball shacks up with a reindeer hottie named Suzy. “They're both kind of rejects,” he explains. But that doesn't stop Santa from enlisting their help when he's suddenly down a couple of sleigh pullers one Christmas Eve.

But, in a twist that would make the Teamster proud, Fireball initially declines, negotiating terms that get all his underemployed reindeer brethren into the holiday rotation. “He saves Christmas in a different way,” Gimse explains. “Not for personal glory, but to get these other reindeer a shot at it every year. It's just a quick kind of poppy Beach Boys and Grand Funk (Railroad) type tune.” The band debut “Fireball” during a Christmas-themed gig at Seattle's Sunset Tavern on Dec. 22. But fans will be able to download the new cut on iTunes earlier, after Dec. 1. This weekend, the trio will showcase the infectious rock fury of “Wonderful Life,” its newest album. It was recorded at Conrad Uno's Egg Studios, a place that produced some of the seminal recordings Mudhoney, the Posies and Presidents of the United States of America. It was released in July. And though it's not a live album, it's the first of Big Wheel's three discs to capture the manic energy of one of their live shows. Some credit goes to producer Kurt Bloch, a veteran of Seattle rock bands the Fastbacks and Young Fresh Fellows.

“I don't know how the energy got captured,” Nagle says. “I don't know if we can explain it. But the sessions were just so chill. Kurt and us, we were really in tune with everything. He was all about trying different stuff that he's never done before (with) miking and stuff like that.” Big Wheel's sound is raucous and old-school, informed by such titans as The Who and Led Zeppelin. And like their idols they've now tackled a staple of classic-rockdom: The concept album. “Wonderful Life” follows its main character from birth to death, with a possible alien abduction along the way. “The middle is where the trippy part comes in,” says Nagle, alluding to “The Landing/The Lights,” a cut that features Darrell Fortune – founder of online radio show Northwest Convergence Zone – as a freaky, otherworldly being. “The question we didn't answer (is) does this guy get abducted by aliens?” Gimse said. “Is it angels? Is it demons? What is it?” He adds, “There's nothing about anal probes or anything like that. It is true. You can overuse the anal probe.”

Big Wheel Stunt Show will play the 9 p.m. show on Saturday, not Hell's Belles earlier all-ages show. Tickets $12 in advance, $15 day of show; 253-396-9169 or for further details. After Jazzbones, fans can next see Big Wheel Stunt Show putting its unique stamp on Prince as the band takes part in the 10th annual double album Christmas Benefit Show, held by Seattle's Tractor Tavern on Dec. 15. The event will also feature Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Kim Virant and others doing cuts from Prince's 1987 classic, “Sign O' the Times.” Big Wheel will tackle track No. 2, “Play in the Sunshine.” Proceeds from the $10 ticket price will benefit musicians' safety net organization, MusiCares. The trio will be back in Tacoma for the city's alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration, First Night.