Antsy McClain and The Trailer Park Troubadours party at The Palms

By From page A11 | December 26, 2013

Singer, songwriter, musician and humorist Antsy McClain and his band the Trailer Park Troubadours will return to The Palms, 13 Main St., for another show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28. This special concert is a CD release party for their new double album “Live at The Palms Playhouse.”

The titles of McClain’s songs give a glimpse into the lay of the land in his fictitious home-base of a friendly and definitely quirky trailer park called Pine View Heights —think Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon moved to rural Kentucky and gleaming with Airstreams. The up-tempo “It Ain’t Home ‘Til You Take The Wheels Off” and “Living in Aluminum” are celebratory country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. “Wreak of the Bookmobile” and “Cubic Zirconium in the Rough” are cleverly crafted touching ballads. “I Was Just Flipped Off By A Silver-Haired Old Lady With A ‘Honk If You Love Jesus’ Sticker On The Bumper Of Her Car” is a pun-filled reflection on the oddities of everyday life based on exactly what the title would lead you to believe.

McClain is the consummate entertainer. Whether he’s leading the Trailer Park Troubadours in up-tempo crowd-pleasers such as “Living in Aluminum” and “One Less Trailer (Here In Pine View Heights)” or playing more introspective pieces such as “Primer Grey Impala,” “Scrapbook,” and “Field Trip” solo, McClain can earn and keep an audience’s attention like few others.

McClain’s good-humoredly audacious performance style is a hallmark of his shows: from his pompadour hair to polyester clothes, from his no-holds-barred dancing to serio-comic delivery, this is a performer at the top of his game. Unlike many funnymen, McClain is able to mix in more serious songs without losing the flow — or the audience’s attention. His ability to ramp things up, take it down to a bubbling simmer, and then back to a rollicking boil is a testament to the range of McClain’s carefully crafted songs, to his warm, compelling vocals and especially to his prodigious ability to establish and maintain a remarkably strong rapport with the audience.

The members of McClain’s six-piece band, The Trailer Park Troubadours, have the musical skill and dexterity to bring each song vividly to life. Able to turn on a dime and follow each others’ impromptu leads, the Troubs are as tight a band as you can find — however much their bowling shirts and garish plaid pants might make you assume otherwise.

Long known to Palms audiences for high-energy performances, witty lyrics, and stellar recordings, McClain and the Troubs are now getting national attention with two television specials poised to air nationally on PBS, repeated playing on the long-running Dr. Demento Show and NPR’s “Car Talk,” and NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football. That’s right: some of the rockin’ music NBC uses comes from the same polyester-clad guy who is the subject of specials on PBS.

Last year the Troubs recorded two shows at The Palms with an eye to making a live album, and on Saturday they’ll celebrate the official release of “Live at The Palms Playhouse” right where they recorded it. A double album with songs drawn from their ten studio releases, “Live at The Palms” captures Antsy and the Troubs in full flight and simply effervesces with great music and flat-out joy. The production successfully includes enough crowd noise to preserve the live feeling and McClain’s superb rapport with the audience but doesn’t mask the music. The album purposefully lacks the polish of a studio offering, and compensates well with dynamic immediacy.

Why record at The Palms? Says McClain, “We (the Troubs) kept talking about this show or that show at The Palms Playhouse (when talking about favorite shows). And it was obvious that this is a favorite venue — not just for me, but for everyone in the band. So when we decided to do another live album, we wanted to do it at The Palms.

“It’s not the biggest venue we play, and that’s cool, because we wanted a smaller ‘club’ feel for the album,” said McClain via email. “The Palms has this cozy, intimate vibe, especially when you load the stage with six or seven guys. But there is just something that happens there. The audiences are always great. Dave (Fleming) and the staff are consummate professionals. They take very good care of us.

“It always feels like a family reunion when we come back.”

Tickets are $28 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if the show is not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and unhitched.com.

Kate Laddish

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