Certain folks seem like they were born into their careers, be they doctors, lawyers, or–in Dan Mulholland’s case–rock ‘n’ roll front men. Over the years he’s played with twenty-seven local bands, including the Urbations, the Navarones, the Boomerangs, and the Watusies. The resume’s so long, and the showmanship so strong, that it’s no stretch to imagine a young Mulholland strutting before he learned to walk. At sixty-four, his energy seems undiminished when he takes the stage with his latest lineup, the Vibratrons.
All five Vibratrons sport musical histories distinguished enough to qualify the band for supergroup status. Guitarist Brian Delaney and bassist David Roof also play with Dick Siegel & the Brandos, keyboard player Fred Klein plays with Detroit’s Blackthorn, and drummer Rich Dishman is well known for his work with George Bedard & the Kingpins. Together they make an eminently qualified group of old-school rockers, summoning the energy of late Sixies and early Seventies garage rock with professional ease.
Dishman and Roof are an able-bodied rhythm section; Dishman provides the band’s consistently danceable backbone, while Roof lays down simple but melodic bass lines. In an era when many rock bands devote themselves primarily to guitars, Klein’s keys are a welcome throwback, with nimble, groovy organ lines enlivening the proceedings. But as it should, Delaney’s guitar stands front and center. The Vibratrons’ repertoire is mostly covers, ranging from “Susie Q” to obscure cuts by Steve Earle and Scottish glam rocker Alex Harvey, and Delaney adapts equally well to rockers, slow burns, and ballads. But the Vibratrons are a rock band first, and Delaney’s chugging rhythms and raw riffs certainly do the trick.
For all the talent of the Vibratrons’ instrumentalists, though, you’ll have to forcibly tear your eyes away from Mulholland to really take notice of them. Even on the verge of being officially a senior citizen, Mulholland projects a boyish spirit. Tall, lanky, and bespectacled, with shaggy hair and a wide, wry smile, he’s slightly awkward when he’s just standing still. But like his more famous compatriot in musical spirit, Mick Jagger, Mulholland is a ball of seemingly limitless energy onstage. He high-steps, duck-walks, and occasionally leaps into the audience to sing from the dance floor. He constantly adjusts the mic stand in order to drape himself across it, sling it sideways while singing in an angular stance, or balance it on one knee while hopping around. Any self-respecting mic stand ought to cower in fear when he takes the stage.
To belabor an old cliche, Mulholland’s enthusiasm is contagious. Audiences seem to find the Vibratrons’ vibrations irresistible, and it doesn’t take long for the band to fill a dance floor. In three years together, the band has yet to release a recording (although Mulholland is prepping a two-CD career retrospective compilation for this summer). This is a group that is meant for the stage–�xADespecially one with a sizable dance floor in front of it.
The Vibratrons return to Live for happy hour on Friday, October 24.