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Easy Breezy Ballyhoo!

music_BallyhooThese reggae groove masters school Cruzans on relaxation
Ballyhoo! is a band that wants your attention. Not because the members are needy or dependent, feeding off attention in a desperate attempt to fill some hole of self doubt. They are not that way at all—in fact, they are just the opposite.    
These guys want your attention because they think you might actually enjoy yourself for once, if you would only listen to their music. Maybe you’ll get a laugh out of them, or a sense of satisfaction from their beachside tunes.
It’s no wonder, then, that they named the band Ballyhoo! Bassist J.R. Gregory describes the word as, “a loud expression. Like at a carnival—the announcer shouts a bunch of ballyhoo to get you over, to get your attention.”
Amidst all the chaos of this modern world, with everyone running around to do work and chores and errands, sometimes we forget to take a moment to breathe, relax, and soak up some rays. Ballyhoo! hopes to change that, by saying, “Hey, it’s alright to relax. Come with us, we’ll show you how!” And with their Sublime/Incubus/311-inspired ska reggae dub grooves, it’s easy to just slip away to some imaginary beach paradise. But sometimes even these masters of relaxation have issues. Gregory recalls some stressful times, being on stage about to start a set and not knowing where a band member is; or that one time, when their van caught on fire after one member pulled over to take a leak. Just like a typical day at the office, he says, “it’s pretty chaotic out here. But it’s always a good time.”
Vocalist/guitarist Howi Spangler admits he sometimes struggles with problems, too. He tries not to be “that band” and write lyrics about drinking and partying, but he says it often comes naturally since the guys have spent the last five years touring the country, so he “writes from the heart.” After all, “who doesn’t like to party?” asks Gregory. “The music brings the party.”
Don’t get Ballyhoo! wrong—these guys aren’t hedonists. Although they have progressed from Jagermeister to whiskey and now consider themselves “men,” they do try to promote a certain kind of well-being. “Don’t let work get you down, and get in that whole cycle of life where you gotta work and work so you can get that one week vacation,” says Gregory. “Enjoy the time that you have.”
Contrary to their laid-back mantra, the band decided to call their second album Do It For The Money, an interesting choice, considering fans often worry about their favorite bands “selling out.” But Gregory insists, it “isn’t all about the money. It’s nice to make money … life’s hard, you got to. We’re just trying to live, you know, actually get paid to do what you love to do. Unfortunately it’s [money] what life revolves around. I just want to live well.”
Ballyhoo! recognizes the realities of the working man—the members are like Bruce Springsteen in sandals and board shorts—and the daily struggle to live well. And just like The Boss, they want to provide some good ol’ American entertainment that anyone with a booty can groove to. So, if you need a break from the daily grind, head over to The Catalyst and really let yourself go, to what Gregory calls, “punk rock reggae with a pop sensibility—Ballyhoo!”


Ballyhoo! plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 7, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 423-1338.

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