In May, one of Funkytown’s iconic bands, The Transistor Tramps, was due to get back together. But because of health problems, the group instead went into hibernation. But Saturday was the 18th birthday of Chloe, the daughter of singer Elle and guitarist Richard Hurley — and the one thing Chloe wanted for her birthday was a Tramps reunion. It was on.
I slipped in the back door of Lola’s Saloon as Dead Vinyl was in the middle of a sound check. Unfortunately, I had just missed the mighty Panic Volcanic, and I still grieve over it. I’d been looking forward to a solid night of face melting. Life gets in the way sometimes. But the guys in Dead Vinyl did not disappoint — they never do.
But on to the main event: Chloe’s birthday party and the Transistor Tramps’ reunion.
“It was surreal,” said Elle Hurley on the patio at Lola’s after the performance, talking about her daughter’s insistence that the band perform for her birthday. “It’s been a moment waiting to happen. Chloe is the best song I ever wrote. She was my biggest fear, my biggest struggle, and my greatest success.”
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Indeed, Chloe was right on the edge of the stage from the downbeat, singing along with the songs and enjoying the show.
The band — also featuring keyboardist David Sebrind, drummer Jason Sweatt and newcomers/backup singers Angie Ntavyo and Morgan A’lyse Gardner — was tight as ever, despite Sebrind not being able to hear his keyboards in the monitors. The man is an amazing talent and a real pro.
The group’s brand of synth-pop/new wave/rock/post-punk sound was really filled out by the new vocalists. I have to admit I was skeptical when Elle told me about them earlier, but they not only fit in, they build on the already amazing sound.
“I met them in school,” Elle said, “and I heard them and I could hear some interesting harmonies coming from them. I’m sitting there in my school choir and I’m behind the two of them — they were just messing around and harmonizing before we did anything, and I was like ‘Hey, would you two be interested in doing this?’ They came into the practice . . . and they pushed our very first song. They floored us with it. These girls have skill. It meshed, it made sense.”
For the crowd, it was about getting to hear one of its sonic heroes come back from oblivion. With all that Elle has been through in the past few years, few expected that we’d see her up there again. But it was like she never left. She still had the same energy, the same stage presence, and the same voice.
For the last song, she got Chloe up on stage to sing backup. Apparently, this was unplanned, and Chloe had no forewarning. But she handled it like a pro, and as Ken Shimamoto put it in his blog The Stash Dauber “it was clear that she inherited her mother’s pipes.” Interestingly enough, the song they sang together was “Jackie Boy,” which was recorded years ago when Chloe was a kid, and Chloe provided the creepy child voice on the original song.
“Here’s the great thing about Chloe, man,” Elle said, beaming with pride. “When Chloe was a child she was terrified of everything. The loudest sound would make her cower in fear, she would hide under her blankets. And the time she wasn’t afraid was when I would sing — she would sing with me.
“For the first moment, I saw myself in her,” she continued. “The song ‘Moment of Clarity’ is about me waking up and seeing myself in my little girl and going ‘Aw d---, she’s going to be just like me. If she’s going to be like me, do I want her to be the good or the bad? And Richard and I had this opportunity to make it the good. She’s a good kid, she’s going to do cool stuff.”
The Tramps will be back, and they’re going to be recording again as well — maybe reworking some of their old stuff with the new backup singers. In the meantime, the old self-titled EP is still available, and if you don’t have it, get it.