Davis pop peddlers Preoccupied Pipers — of the legendary Davis band Lawsuit — are putting on The 1,000 Red Roses Concert Saturday, Aug. 23, in the E Street Plaza in downtown Davis. They’ll be joined by the Adrian West Trio and The Corner Laughers.
The show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and admission is free. The 1,000 Red Roses fund is a benefit for the Davis Arts Center. The fund provides the Center with financing to hire sign language interpreters for hearing-impaired students, enabling them to participate in art classes. For more information or to donate, contact Erie Vitiello at the Davis Arts Center, 530-756-4100.
“The Davis Arts Center approached us back in the ’90s,” Preoccupied Pipers founding member, Ned Sykes, told the Enterprise. “They asked us to put on a show for them to raise money for sign language interpreters. We feel art is enriching to everybody and it should be accessible to everyone. So we put on a show. We did it with Lawsuit for several years until the band broke up.”
When Lawsuit broke up in 1996, the members went on to form Preoccupied Pipers. The band is an 18-plus member collective that plays quirky, skewed pop-rock that brings to mind Ween, XTC and Guided by Voices.
“Preoccupied Pipers is a group of people who came out of the Lawsuit years,” Sykes said. “Back in the Lawsuit days, we’d do a lot of home recordings that weren’t Lawsuit projects, and we’d release it under the name Preoccupied Pipers.”
The band included other musicians they knew from Davis High School Jazz Band, Madrigals and drama.
“We know a lot of performing type of people,” Sykes said. “We started putting Preoccupied Pipers CD’s out around 1995. KC Bowman, who’s also in The Corner Laughers, has a home studio called Timber Trout Studios in Oakland. It used to be in Davis, it moves around. We all go there and record songs. Some of the projects are random and some are more focused.”
The band normally plays a show once a year in the summer. For many years they’d play the International Pop Overthrow festival, a music showcase that happens in many cities around the world.
“We’re not doing it this year,” Sykes said. “This year I got the idea to do it at the E Street Plaza. There’s a plaque there with my brother’s name on it.”
Paul Sykes, Ned’s brother, also of Lawsuit, died in 1999.
“The city of Davis paved the E Street Plaza and dedicated it to Paul. So it made sense to play the show there,” Ned said.
Because the show is free, how will the Davis Art Center benefit?
“We produced a bunch of limited edition T-shirts that we’ll sell to donate to the fund. We hope to contribute several hundred to a thousand (dollars),” he explained. “We’ll have a tip jar out there and we’ll talk about what it is. If we can get a bunch of people together to donate a little money, we can keep this thing going for another few years.”
Sykes also recommends the Adrian West trio.
“He’s a Davis High grad and he’s interesting,” Sykes said. “He plays fiddle on our albums. He also plays guitar and sings. He uses a lot of FX pedals to create loops. He loops his guitars, violin, fiddle and voice, with a bass players and drummer playing along. He comes up with interesting textures that are fun to watch live.”
What can we expect from Preoccupied Pipers?
“I don’t know what we’re doing yet,” Sykes said with a laugh. “We only play once a year. We all get together at the last minute to cram for the exam.
“We’ve all known each other since high school,” he added. “Some since elementary, and now we’re pushing 50. My sister is flying out from Boston this year. You always get different incarnations of the band.”
Donations are not necessary to listen to some great pop-rock tunes, all are welcome.
“Come out and listen to some music, dance a bit, and maybe bring a chair, there’s only a few benches,” Sykes advised. “Hopefully, the city of Davis will not complain about the noise. We will be amplified and there will be drums.”