It’s Wednesday night. Ty Curtis, 23, has just hopped off a stage for a break from his regular weekly jam session at Half Penny Bar and Grill. He’s been playing guitar since he was 13 and grew up listening to his dad play. He calls playing in his band, which was voted “Best Salem-based Band,” “the best drug high without actually taking drugs.”
“I first got paid with a small pizza,” says Curtis, who now performs three to four times a week, including his jam sessions at Half Penny on Wednesdays and On the Rocs on Tuesdays. He’s also been known to play at Roseland Theatre in Portland, where he sells out shows.
“We mix it up with a big variety in our sets and it’s never the same thing,” says Curtis, who plays original songs but has been known to pull out a cover occasionally ranging from Michael Jackson to Tab Benoit.
Curtis says that his goal was to compete in the International Blues Challenge, held each year in Memphis, TN. He’s done it four times.
His goal now is to continue working on his guitar playing and writing songs. The band has two releases out now and a new one, “Cross That Line,” coming out soon. He takes pride in his live shows sounding like his recordings.
His advice to new bands? “Practice, know your stuff and be comfortable with it.”
Curtis also mentioned the second place in “Best Salem-based band” as one that he enjoys: The Funhouse Strippers.
David Ballantyne is a good example of the incestuous nature of Salem music. His name is included in the line-up for both Funhouse Strippers and the third place winner, Monoplane.
Regarding The Funhouse Strippers, Ballantyne says that they perform old-style throw-back rock and roll, “a little hipped up, a little faster.” He compares their style to the Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry’s style with a little added punk rock.
The band consists of CT Holman (drums and vocals), Karen McFarlane (lead guitar), Shoki Tanabe (bass), David Ballantyne (guitar and vocals), and backup singers, Jaime Marie and Chrissy.
“We’ve slowed down, we’ve been doing it awhile,” he says. He says the band only plays a couple times a year now. They have two CDs available for purchase at Ranch Records.
Ballantyne is focusing on his music in the recently formed Monoplane. They play modern rock with a twist.
According to drummer Doug Hoffman, “if Fugazi and Modest Mouse had a love child,” Monoplane would be it. Another influence is Spoon, though how that band figures in to the love triangle, we don’t know.
“We finished recording a seven track album with Kyle Sanders. We love Kyle so much we even named a song after him,” Hoffman says. Hoffman also picked up a nod for “Best Nightclub Venue.”
Monoplane will be playing at the New Year’s Eve party at the newly expanded Christo’s Pizzeria.
Best Salem-based band
First place: Ty Curtis
Second place: Funhouse Strippers
Third place: Monoplane