Article and photography by: Russ Vandermeir
“Rockabilly” – (def) A subculture that brings back the fashion, attitude and music of the 1950’s. See ‘Greaser’
Have you ever wanted to hop into a time machine and set it for the late 1950’s when cars were awesome, music was made on twangy gee-tars and big thumpin’ basses? When hair got piled higher than 2 weeks worth of laundry? When Levi’s jeans and leather jackets were considered formal wear? Rest assured friends, such a device actually exists! Chances are, you already own one. It’s your own car! To test if your car is equipped with such a device, simply hop into it on any Thursday night and drive to Brauerhouse in Lombard, Il. If you see a parking lot full of way cool vintage rides and motorcycles, you’ve won the Golden Ticket. You’ve found Tire Swarm. Welcome to the past. Pretty cool huh?
Tire Swarm is an event that could technically be called a cruise night in that there are cars and music, but with an authentic vintage vibe that has very deep roots. This is a big ol’ slice of Americana that needs to be preserved and continued. The events are co-hosted by Brauerhouse, the Voodoo Kings, 5 Aces car clubs, and the Wreckless motorcycle club. Now in its 3rd year, Tire Swarm has grown from an informal Thursday cruise night to a weekly event that draws hundreds(or hunnerts if you prefer.) Music is provided outside and inside the club via 5 Aces Radio with DJ Woodshop Joe at the turntables, spinning standards along with more obscure tracks along the way. Woodshop prides himself on never playing the same song twice in the same night. About 9 pm, a live band takes the indoor stage and blasts off. Bands change up every week, a great mix of national touring acts and local players.
Now about the venue, Brauerhouse is one of the longer running rock clubs in the Chicago area. It is a great friendly place with a very cool, tasty, and affordable menu. As far as music, this place rocks, alot. National acts are a regular stop here, and the locals ain’t bad either. As you walk in, you’re greeted with giant retro wall murals leading into the multi-level main room. If you go left, there is a game room with 3 pool tables & pinball machines. Several video monitors play retro movies or sports; depending on which one you look at. Don’t forget to see the airbrushed Marlin on the wall among the retro decor. Brauerhouse is well deserving of an article on its own.
About the clubs – These groups are dedicated to preserving a period of Americana. From the cars to the threads, they do it up right. The Voodoo Kings are a multi-state club, some of the best Kustom cars you’ll ever see. FYI- please, please please, never call a Kustom a Rat Rod. That’s like calling Justin Bieber a musician. VooDoo Larry, a world class Kustom builde, is the founder of Voodoo Kings. Not to mention he plays a mean, green metalflake upright bass with Lil’ Red & the Howlin’ Wolves. I’m hoping to have a much more detailed article about VooDoo Larry in the near future. Seriously, this guy is cool in layers most of us don’t even know exist. I’d like to send out a personal ‘Hey now!’ to him and his wife Collette. The 5 Aces are a newer club, growing rapidly. Their rides are a cool mix of nearly stock vintage cars, traditional and mild Kustoms, along with some classic bucket Model T Hot Rods. They bring their own music, hosting the 5 Aces radio show form the aforementioned Woodshop Joe’s mobile DJ setup, built into the bed of a vintage pickup truck. Informally headed up by Ace Wennek (or Crankshaft or Road Oiler or what ever the hell he changed it to this week) they are like a giant fun magnet. A little too close, and next thing some weird proximity effect kicks in and suddenly, you’re in the midst of wisecracks, mischief and general jackassery. When you run out of air laughing, don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Enough background, get to the dang article! So, rolling up to Tire Swarm in my oh so cool ’02 Honda SI had me looking for the ‘I can hide it here’ parking spot I can normally sneak into before anybody sees it and starts picking on my Bratmobile. Not so much this time. The 70 degree weather brought ’em out in droves, so much that when I eased up to where I normally do, a big powder blue ’58 Caddy was blocking the turn. I had to do the dreaded main aisle where the really cool cars are slow roll of shame.
Once I hid, I mean parked my car. I could see that attendance at this year’s opener was up. Way up. I’m going to estimate about 175 cars and about 75 bikes, and it was only 7:30. One thing about the Rockabilly community is we are a friendly bunch. It took me about an hour to say ‘hi’ and catch up with good friends I hadn’t seen in a bit. Between the parking lots outside and the club inside about 350 people were attending. The parking lots are divided up, the spots out front going to the host clubs, and 2 side lots where you’ll see all sorts of rides from classic Detroit Muscle cars to Rat Rods. The motorcycles all park in one row, makes for an impressive display. I grabbed a couple of photos before the daylight faded and headed in. It was time for some raw, rippin’ rock & roll from the World Famous Krank Daddies.
Krank Daddies are a national act, headed up by the one & only Chops McClintock. Despite some personnel changes and their legendary tour van the Iron Horse giving up the ghost, Chops and company continue to deliver some of the best originals and covers. These guys are crowd pleasers and have a well deserved loyal following. Tonight was no exception. No surprise the joint was packed. During the set, I got to hear a couple of my personal faves by them, “Pedal to the Metal” and “Johnny Cash Kicks Ass”. I won’t give away any of the onstage antics that happen, but I will say Chops’ gee-tar skills are matched only by his wit. His ad-libs will have you rolling.
So yeah, what more can I say? Jump in your car on a Thursday night, head out to Brauerhouse and step back in time. By the way- IT’S FREE! If you don’t have a good time, I’ll double yer money back.