Rock Shows In The Fort: The D-Rays and The Red Plastic Buddha

photo by Rob Gaczol

by E.A. Poorman


There’s nothing better than a great night of rock n’ roll. Hard working guys and gals offering up some original sounds at high volumes as you spill that well-earned beer down the front of your shirt. After three or four of those draft beauties you don’t care because the music grabs you and slaps you around. It caresses and brutalizes. That’s what a great rock show does for the listener. The only thing that would make this show even better is when it’s right in your backyard. Well this weekend there’s not one, but two amazing shows going on right here in the Fort and you’d be a grade-A idiot not to come out to both.

First up is Friday, August 1st at The Brass Rail. The Whiskey Daredevils, The D-Rays, and Fort Wayne’s own Dag and the Bulleit Boys will be putting on a hell of a rockabilly-meets-surf punk-meets-gut bucket country kind of show. The D-Rays played in the Fort last year with Streetlamps for Spotlights and it was a great eardrum-shattering show. They’re mixing up Link Wray, X, and The Ventures into their own brand of surf punk you don’t want to miss out on. I recently talked to guitarist Erick Coleman about this Friday’s show and the band in general.

photo by Vikas Nambiar
photo by Vikas Nambiar

EA Poorman: So this isn’t your first Fort Wayne gig. How did the show go last time around?

Erick Coleman: The first D-Rays show in the Fort was awesome and in a way a homecoming of sorts for me. I lived in Ft. Wayne for about a decade a number of years ago and was fairly active in the local music scene. In addition to playing in The Beautys and a band called Fat Ass I also brought a good number of touring bands to town during my time there.

EAP: I think when folks here The D-Rays there are definitely some classic bands that come to mind as far as influences. But who or what do you site as inspiration for The D-Rays sound?

Erick Coleman: The D-Rays pull from a wide range of influences but the one that stands out the most would probably be Link Wray. His down and dirty instrumental style really spoke to me as a young player. Other influences include The Lively Ones, The Tornados, The Venture of course. A lot of reviews compare our style to Dick Dale. I can understand why they do but I am by and large unfamiliar with his catalog other than the hits.

EAP: Tell me a little about the show on August 1st at The Brass Rail. Who are you playing with?

Erick Coleman: The Whiskey Daredevils are a high energy rockabilly band from Northern Ohio. They’ve played the Brass Rail a time or two but we’ve never played there together, same with Dag and the Bulleit Boys. Their drummer Dave was in The Beautys, Fat Ass and a band called The Speed Knobs with me so I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with him again.

EAP: So let’s talk a little about the most recent long player by The D-Rays. You did some recording here in the Fort at Off The Cuff with Jason Davis, correct? Will you have some records available for purchase at the show?

Erick Coleman: Both our 7″ and 12″ records were recorded with Jason and in a way he’s become the 4th member of the band. His production style really goes over well with us and we trust his judgment more than we do our own. Our original intention was to record in a number of analog studios but after our first session with him we all decided Off The Cuff was the studio we want to call home. Jason has put in countless hours behind the board, has some amazing gear and the studio has a super comfortable working environment. Very conducive to making a great record. Yes, we will have both records available at the show.

EAP: Where else are The D-Rays playing this summer?

Erick Coleman: We kicked off the summer with a set on the main stage of the Nelsonville Music Festival, which was super fun. We have a bunch of shows on the books but some notable upcoming gigs include The Aquabear County Fair with WV White here in Athens, OH and the 6th annual Hot Rod Hula Hop in Columbus. Its a cool car show at an old bowling alley. We’ll be playing with the Supersuckers and Coffin Daggers. Both should be a blast!!

Sounds like it’s going to be a hell of a show. Get out to The Brass Rail Friday, August 1st and support local music and show some great touring bands the Fort’s hometown hospitality.

Now on the other end of the musical spectrum there’s a happening going on Sunday, August 3rd at The Tiger Room @ CS3. Chicago’s The Red Plastic Buddha come to town to play a triple bill with Fort Wayne’s own Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and Soft N’ Heavy with liquid lights provided by Dr. Robert’s Ocular Odyssey(say that three times fast.) I was able to chat with Tim Ferguson, The Red Plastic Buddha’s singer, bassist, and spiritual center about the band and their upcoming Fort Wayne debut.

photo by Rob Gaczol
photo by Rob Gaczol

EAP: So Tim, tell me about The Red Plastic Buddha. What should Fort Wayne know coming into this show?

Tim Ferguson: We are a psychedelic pop group from Chicago. If you like Black Angels and old Pink Floyd, you’ll probably like us too. We’re probably more song oriented and less 20 minute freakout than some in our tribe. I’ve always drawn inspiration from the first wave of British psychedelia, but I’m drinking from the same pool as most of the other new groups. I’m older though, so I went through punk and all that followed. I’m not really a purist about what belongs and what doesn’t stylistically, so there’s bits from here and there. I grew up with songs with hooks and choruses and we tend to go that route.

On record, I like to have lots of small things going on, even in quiet moments. Whirring things. Cicadas. Birds. Most people won’t even hear them, because I might have them mixed off to one side, or up in a corner, but they’re there. I go a little nuts building these sonic universes. It’s all about creating moods with sound that enhance the lyric and create a habitat for the words to live in. We’re a bit more chaotic live. Less glossy, more energetic.
As of this recording, I’m the last man standing of the original lineup. We are now Eric Ahlgren on keyboards, Neil Hunt on drums, Derik Kendall on lead guitar and Mike Connor on rhythm guitar. I sing and play bass.
EAP: How did the Tiger Room gig come about? Have you played with HGD before?
Tim Ferguson: We’re really excited to play with them. We’re definitely big fans, but I’m not sure when we first made the connection.

Psychedelic musicians are a really tightly knit community these days. One connection leads to another and you tend to just have all these friends who

photo by Rob Gaczol

are in bands all over the world who are making amazing music. HGD are definitely known in the larger community and I think it was a mutual friend who turned me on to their music. I had talked with Derek Mauger about setting up a show and we finally managed to make our schedules work. Our mutual friend Bob Wagner (who does lighting under the name Doctor Robert’s Ocular Odyssey) was available to join in on the fun and we also recently added Soft N’ Heavy to the lineup. It’s going to be a fun night.

EAP: Can you tell me a little about your newest album ‘Songs For Mara’? It’s been stated that this record is a little darker than your previous albums. Listening to a song like “Little White Pills” I can hear that. That song is certainly more early 80s Love and Rockets than a song like “Daisy Love” off of your album All Out Revolution. What was the sea change in the band’s sound?
Tim Ferguson: Love and Rockets? Hmm, I like that. Yeah, I’m not sure what came first on this one, the concept or the songs. Our last record ‘All Out Revolution’ was meant to be a hopeful thing. Psychedelic music as a positive reaction to the turmoil of the times – just like in the 60s. It was more life affirming. I think the songs here though are a result of me continually staring into the void. The name comes from Prince Siddhartha’s struggle against the lord of the underworld (Mara) – which was really just his own ego – on his way to enlightenment. These songs are based more on the things that modern humans are up against.

Modern life gives us distractions in the form of material possessions and drugs to round out the rough edges. Love is obscured by sexuality and enlightenment is promised by owning the latest greatest version of whatever material crap that the Wall Street monkeys are hocking this week. By following the prescribed path, we have become a society (and a species) that is looking without to find a solution to the problem within. I don’t think I’m offering any salvation or answers here, just casting a bit of a light into the darkness. Maybe it all comes off as pretentious. At the end of the day, I’m just another knucklehead trying to figure it out.
Looking back on your question, I’m sure that some of the things going on in my life (and within the band) got me started down the dark path. I lost some people. The band was falling apart. But life goes on and things get sorted. There’s some lessons I learned over the process of making this record that I needed to learn. I think that too often, we live in pain avoidance instead of accepting pain as a teaching tool and a dark blessing. If you don’t walk through it, you’ll never get to what is on the other side.
EAP: Where was ‘Songs For Mara’ recorded? Do you have a home studio?
Tim Ferguson: We’ve recorded Songs for Mara and our last record at Joyride Studios in Chicago. I’m certainly guilty of the ‘jack of all trades/ master of none’ syndrome in most areas of my life, but when it comes to recording, I leave it to the experts. Brian Leach and Blaise Barton have a wonderful facility, Brian is absolutely telepathic on the board, and he get the sounds we’re aiming for.

I find there is real value in having a neutral set of ears tuned in on the process, and although I feel a real kindred spirit thing going with Brian, he’s experienced enough to reel me in when I start orbiting a bit too far out.
EAP: What other shows does The Red Plastic Buddha have lined up for this summer?
Tim Ferguson: We’re in Grand Rapids on Friday, Toronto Saturday and finishing the weekend in Ft. Wayne. We’ve got some Chicago things going on throughout the year, including opening for Big Head Todd at Soldier Field in August. I’m working on more Midwest shows for later in the year, with Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Ohio on the radar. There’s also some talk of working with our friends The Orange Drop out of Philadelphia, but we’re still working out the logistics of that.

Things are going well. There’s a real energy and it’s a lot of fun to be leading a band again.
Thanks to places like The Brass Rail and CS3 -as well as excellent folk like The D-Rays, The Red Plastic Buddha, HGD, Dag and the Bulleit Boys, The Whiskey Daredevils, and Soft N’ Heavy- your weekend is already made for you. Just show up at The Brass Rail on Friday August 1st and the Tiger Room @ CS3 on Sunday August 3rd and let these fine bands do the rest. See you there.

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