Surf, Swing 'n' Sin: the Stylin' Sounds of the San Francisco Area
Written by Will “the Thrill” Viharo   

My home base, the San Francisco Bay Area, is a hipster hotbed of classic cool with a swingin’ soundtrack ranging from raunchy R&B to retro reverb, as reflected by these recent album releases by three distinctive bands that share similar sensibilities, while individually boasting their own unique styles, sounds and personalities. Dig.

Los Shimmy Shakers

Stiletto Nocturne
Skake 'Em If Ya Got 'Em

The Burlesque scene is alive and kickin’ deep into the 21st century, as evidenced by the success of the latest international Tease-o-rama event at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco’s North Beach this past April, not to mention regular revues around the region and beyond. The Bay Area’s booty boppers known and loved as Los Shimmy Shakers are currently quakin’ the grounds of success with their seductive sax-driven sounds of sonic sex that are like aural aphrodisiacs for your hot ‘n’ horny sections. Their two current CDs, tantalizingly titled Stiletto Nocturne and Skake ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, contain all original numbers with titillating titles like “Bombshell Betty Bump,” “Peek-A-Boo Panties,” “Stryptonite,” “Plenty O’ Toole,” “Have Your Pie and Eat It Too,” and my personal favorite, “Private Dick For Hire.” Every torrid track pulsates with the pulpy passions of pleasurable pulchritude, inspiring images of orgasmic organ-pumpin’ bump ‘n’ grinders to dance in your overheated head. The group - including Courtney Callahan on drums, Lawrence Chandler on guitar, Randy Johnson on sax, and R.D. Maynard on bass - performs live with a tassel-tossin’ troupe of gorgeous gals, taking their pop cultural cues from vintage 50s/60s Vegas-style “stripper” instrumentals, and they effortlessly evoke the voluptuous eroticism of that stylish era without skipping a single beat. These are awesomely atmospheric, smokin'ly sensual noir-burlesque-jazz-rock tunes for the peepin' private eye in all of us.

Lost Dog Found
The Jump Start ScandalHearkening back to the Swing revival of the ‘90s, when groups like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Royal Crown Revue, Lee Press-On and the Nails, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra bubbled up from the underground scene, bringing tightly orchestrated big band jazz and vintage jump blues to a mainstream boil before simmering back down to a stylish subculture, Lost Dog Found is a mirthfully manic music-making machine that snaps, crackles ‘n’ pops with crispy charisma. The Bay Area band also sports the bass-slappin’, guitar-twangin’ rockabilly edge and punk attitude that marked the sizzling sounds of the aforementioned archival anarchists, with poundin’ percussion, steamin’ sax ‘n’ trippy trumpet rounding out their boisterous, badass blasts of sassy sonic symmetry, aurally augmented by vivacious vocals. Bandleader Steve Mac heads an outstanding outfit including Chris Hudlow, Nick Miller, Scott Yost, Kyle Pesonen, Randy Johnson, and Adam Borden, with guest gigs by bassist Jeff Moon and sultry songstress Jatossha Davis. The original compositions on their debut album The Jump Start Scandal include “Tear Up the Floor,” “Pop That Cap,” “Turn Me On,” and “Jump Back,” and every single tune is a jumpin’, jivin’ classic that will rock your 21st century jukebox till it steams at the seams.

The Aqua Velvets
Tiki BeatThe Big Surf Music Wave of the ‘90s crested around the turn of the century, at least at mainstream sea level, but many great Bay Area bands like Pollo del Mar, Meshugga Beach Party and The Deadlies continue to literally reverberate throughout the region and around the globe. This endless ripple effect is largely due to the initial splash made by seminal neo-surf specialists like the Aqua-Velvets, which includes band leader/head guitarist/main songwriter Miles Corbin, Hank Maninger on rhythm guitar, Michael Lindner on bass/keyboards, and Donn Spindt on drums. They remain one of my very favorite groups in any genre, and I euphorically booked their recent reunion show at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, CA. Each of their albums, including their 1993 self-titled debut, Surfmania, Nomad, and Guitar Noir, are all richly cinematic in tone and mood, resulting in a smoothly sensuous sonic smorgas(surf)bord that echoes in time and space like the long lost soundtrack to the ultimate spaghetti western/spy/private eye/beach party movie. Their latest CD, Tiki Beat, is yet another excellent exponent of epic exotica noir, with lusciously ambient tunes that loop ‘n’ linger in your heart and soul and lull you into a deliciously dreamy delirium. With provocatively pulpy titles like “Tiki Beat,” “Tiki Noir,” “Palm Shadows,” “They Drive By Night,” “Surf Noir Kings Ride Again,” and “Napali Nocture,” these tracks are a timeless tribute not only to their many enduring influences, but to the band itself. Long play the Aqua-Velvets.

Will "The Thrill" Viharo is a freelance writer, host of the film series “Forbidden Thrills” at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, and creator of the long running cult movie cabaret “Thrillville.” He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife Monica “Tiki Goddess” Cortes and their two cats. His pulp novels “A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge,” “Lavender Blonde,” “Chumpy Walnut,” “Down a Dark Alley," "Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room," “It Came From Hangar 18,” and the "Vic Valentine, Private Eye" series are now available at


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