There’s a time in the life of every self-proclaimed party band when a certain degree of (shall we say) “partyability” has been reached, and the various venues that play host become almost interchangeable — the shape of the glass can’t change the liquid being poured inside. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Situation Room under threat of nuclear war, partying is in its future. You can’t stop the signal.
The Rich Girls, Dallas’ favorite Hall & Oates tribute band and winner of the 2014 Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Cover Band, are putting that theory and their partyability meddle to the test this summer with a series of free pop-up concerts focusing on arenas that don’t usually feature live music. If you’re an extraordinarily lucky individual, or if you’re at least electronically savvy enough to check the Rich Girls’ Facebook page every so often, you just might find yourself being serenaded poolside with an exclusive performance of fan favorite “Sara Smile” or maybe even “Family Man”, the preferred choice of the cover band’s keyboardist and resident wild-man Kevin Howard.
Only the first of these mysterious monthly concerts has been announced thus far, and the members are fairly tight-lipped about specific future plans, aside from a desire to eventually knockout a pool party. Braindead Brewing will take the first slot with a post-brunch set Sunday, June 14th, and each new show will be announced one week prior, up through the month of August. Drummer John Solis describes the pop-ups as a way to pay back fans and emphasize the difference between the Rich Girls and the various other creative outlets in which they individually play a role.
Four-plus years into their existence, which started on a New Years dare, a string of free shows is emblematic of how the Rich Girls place pure enjoyment (for both the band and their audience) over any other concerns, including those of the monetary variety. As a group, they have very few delusions of artistic grandeur or pretentions to fame, despite a good deal of consistently positive attention from local press. Free from the stress of their other projects, which involve writing sessions and exponentially more practice to maintain, the Rich Girls’ regular gigs serve as an escape — a reminder of the simple joy of performance.
That’s not to say they haven’t worked hard to hone their craft, despite all of the fun they’re having. “I think people are surprised by how much we dedicate to the musicianship,” Justin Young says, who’s tasked with handling the often-demanding bass parts that partially give Hall & Oates their R&B flavor. “I had no clue what I was getting into, as a bass player.”
“You can’t really half-ass Hall & Oates, because if you do the songs will just fall apart,” Cheyenne Schweitzer says, the lead vocalist and one of two members who weren’t part of the New Year’s night’s original lineup. “You won’t be able to keep up with what they wrote.”
Solis emphasizes the way covering other songs forced each member to stretch themselves into new territory. “It’s a great way to learn some of the tricks of the trade, especially in that genre,” he says. “Just listening to this stuff and getting a feel for all that’s going on, it betters us as musicians.”
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The second late addition is Young’s more reserved wife Karen, a dual threat on keyboards and backing vocals, both essential ingredients of the music they’re reimagining. Having covered their bases with recognizable Hall & Oates songs, they’ve recently been expanding their horizons, so don’t be fooled; “Ignition (Remix)” is not secretly a yacht rock classic. “The age range is so broad, from the college kids to their grandparents,” she says. “I think we can keep going in the R&B direction and fill out the set even more.” The prospect of getting back into rehearsals is an exciting one for them, after years of having their selections down pat. Her husband, with some pride, calls the Rich Girls “a labor of lust.”
That lust takes an interesting, literal form thanks to Howard’s stage antics. At the climax of almost every concert, spurred on by a “USA!” chant no one remembers the origins of, the keyboardist strips down from his costume of the night to a speedo with a pride most of us can only imagine, and admire. He sees the pop-up series in a very singular light, with a humor that exemplifies the group’s self-effacing persona. “It gives me a chance to take my clothes off in a place I haven’t done that yet,” he says with a grin.
Guitarist Tony Webb has been AWOL of late, as he’s preparing to join Schweitzer among the ranks of parenthood, but they steadfastly assure me this summer series isn’t a farewell tour, despite the air of mortality occasionally entering their speech. If ever wise advice was given, it’s to go ahead and treat this season like it is the end of the Rich Girls and make your way to a pop up show. Every signal has to stop somewhere, and every party dies down eventually.