Category Archives: fabulous ones

Come all ye rambling boys of pleasure…

Two days ago, Famous Orchestra bassist Riley Broach went on YouTube looking for video footage that people might have uploaded from our shows this past weekend in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. What he found instead was a cover of our song “Ich Bin Berlin (The Sundown Song)” from a seemingly unlikely source: a band called the Rambling Boys of Pleasure who make their home in Ghent, Belgium.The song appeared on our CD Everything for Everyone.

Here’s the video, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_IwkDzgu6U:

The information they provided with the video says the following:

I’m puttin’ on my sunday best! I’m puttin’ it to the test! Een cover van The Viper and His Famous Orchestra. Stijn op ukulele, Clo doet percussie, David op bas en Godfried op gitaar. Nu nog een beetje oefenen op onze stage presence. 🙂

Which, using a Dutch-English online translator (Dutch being the closest thing I could find to Flemish as far as online translators go), I can render thusly:

I’m puttin’ on my sunday best! I’m puttin’ it to the test! A cover of The Viper and His Famous Orchestra. Stijn on ukulele, Clo doing percussion, David on bass and Godfried on guitar. Now we just need to work on our stage presence. 🙂

As Riley wrote in posting a link to the video to his Facebook profile: “Woah! Stop the phones, halt the advance, turn down the lights!” Trombonist Rob Henn’s comment was representative: “Holy crap. Where did you find this? WTF????”

Rob then himself posted a link to his profile, noting:

This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. I may even mean that literally. I believe it to be the first cover of a song by The Viper and His Famous Orchestra — and it’s by a group in Belgium. I assume they found our CD online somehow, …randomly, and then covered it. I s*** you not. A group in Belgium covered a song by an obscure niche band from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. We live in an internet world.

And the song itself is a pretty niche song even within the Viper repertoire: a late 1990s period piece about semi-urban sprawl and the increasingly far-flung commercial/entertainment districts of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. How these Belgian ramblers found and then figured out the song is something I’ll take up in a later post, along with my subsequent communication with at least one of the Rambling boys. For now, I’ll just confirm that they did find our CD online “somehow”; and that I know how, and that it is indeed an internet world.

July 10 and 12 set list

Rob, Riley, and Ryan practicing for this weekend's shows.
Rob, Riley, and Ryan practicing for this weekend's shows.

The Viper and His Famous Orchestra played two shows this past weekend in Chicago, our first shows with the full band since 2002, and our first shows to feature a significant amount of new material since 2000, when the Viper up and left for Ankara, Turkey.

Thanks to all who came, or told others to come, expressed an interest in coming, expressed regrets about their inability to come, expressed regrets about their ability to come, expressed no interest in coming, told others not to come, or walk-ran quickly away the moment we started playing. We had a great time playing and catching up with a lot of our favorite people this weekend. That includes each other: Ryan Jerving, Edward Burch, Victor Cortez, Rob Henn, Kenneth Rainey, Riley Broach, and Bill Whitmer (who leaves for Scotland on Tuesday).

Both shows were a welcome challenge and a lot of fun, not least for the wide-ranging and moving sets that Edward Burch played at each of them with various stellar collaborators (LeRoy Bach, Steve Frisbie, Kenneth Rainey, John Peacock, and Riley Broach).

We hope to see you August 7 and/or 9 in Champaign-Urbana at Mike ‘n’ Molly’s. Meanwhile, here’s what you would have heard this past weekend, and the keys in which you would have heard it:

Friday, July 10, Hotel SnS (house show)

  • Ich Bin Berlin – C
  • Hey! Rounders / Superbowl Shuffle – C
  • Das Kapital – A
  • Good Morning Irene – G
  • Whispering – C
  • Think about Your Troubles – Db
  • Drunk Bus – Am
  • They’re Knocking Down Our Home – E
  • Neapolitan – A/Bb
  • Ballad of the Henry 55 – F
  • My Seafaring Lassie – C
  • Pretty Is as Pretty Does – C
  • Benny Lava – Cm
  • Wanna Be Startin’ Something – B
  • Winnebago Bay – G
  • Last Call Waltz – F

July 12, Great Performers of Illinois 2009 festival, Millennium Park

SET #1

  • The Viper’s Blue Yodel no. 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd -G
  • I Left My Liver in Libertyville – Bb
  • There Is a Tavern in the Town – Eb
  • Das Kapital – A
  • Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been…Blue? – F
  • Fillmore & Buchanan March – C/G
  • Winnebago Bay – G
  • Good Morning Irene – G
  • Whispering – C
  • Think about Your Troubles – Db
  • Pitfall – F
  • Let’s Go Fishing – F
  • Heyse Latke Kalte Latke – D
  • Drunk Bus – Am

SET #2

  • First Round Polka – F/C
  • Randolph St. – D
  • Hey! Rounders / Superbowl Shuffle – C
  • Benny Lava – Cm
  • Next Time I Drink – E
  • Surplus Labor – E
  • Neapolitan – A/Bb
  • Ballad of the Henry 55 – F
  • My Seafaring Lassie – C
  • Ich Bin Berlin – C
  • Wanna Be Startin’ Something – B

Lean with it, rock with it

Here’s a scratch recording that I made for Edward Burch to practice along with, to get the Run-DMC-style vocal interpolations I want to do with him on the first verse of “Drunk Bus”

http://theviper.wikispaces.com/file/view/drunk-bus-first.verse.mp3/80335421
(click here to download the mp3)

“Drunk Bus” is a song by Macomb, Illinois-based rapper Tre-P, and it falls into my favorite category of songs: namely, songs about the details of local public transportation, particularly buses.* In this case, that bus is the eponymous free shuttle that would take Western Illinois Universities from the clubs back to their dorm late at night. Here’s Tre-P, in full flash animation:

Watch for the secret interpolated shot at 1:46.

* Cf. The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, “Ich Bin Berlin” (on the Champaign, Illinois MTD bus route up North Prospect to the Meijer grocery store, “where parking’s the only sound”) and “Ukulele Rhythm” (about riding on the Blue bus–the 4W bus–that went from my place on Hill St. in Champaign to the International Cafe on Wright St. in Urbana where the orchestra and I would sometimes play of a Friday afternoon in the late 1990s).

Hanukkah with the Viper, pt. 5

Though you wouldn’t know this from the scratch track, lead sheet, or cheat sheet, you would know from the recording that I posted on December 21 that the Paint Branch Ramblers pair our Hanukkah original “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” with another song, one composed by Bill Monroe and called “Jerusalem Ridge.”

Though the pairing seems obvious, in terms of relative keys, modal feel, and subject matter, it should be noted that “Jerusalem Ridge” is actually a 1970s tune based on the family farm in Kentucky where mandolin player and bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe grew up, and the site of an annual bluegrass festival.

Here’s Bill Monroe with violinist Kenny Baker playing “Jerusalem Ridge.” The video starts in media res with the recording and starts with a montage of photos, but halfway through switches to footage of Monroe and Baker actually playing.