The Asylum Street Spankers return to the Rogue Valley for a concert at Equilibrium. - Asylum Street Spankers

Spankers bring their zaniness to Ashland

They're back, those zany musicians The Asylum Street Spankers from Austin, Texas. They will be performing at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Equilibrium, 140 Lithia Way, Ashland.

The group recently returned to the road after a two-week off-Broadway run of their new stage show last January at New York City's Barrow Street Theatre. It was the group's first stage production.

The New York Times described the Spankers as: "Dedicated to acoustic instrumentation, but mischievously unorthodox in every other way."

The Village Voice said "the Austin collective tap dances on the thin line between stunning virtuosity and goofy farce, an eight-person dervish of washboard/dobro/harmonica/clarinet/singing saw/upright bass/violin/etc., minimally amplified for maximum impact" and lauded the group's "delightful schizophrenia"

Variety said, "What is surprising is how cleverly and seamlessly the ensemble managed to weave its pre-existing material into a narrative tapestry that conjured up images of Kinky Friedman, Ray Stevens and the Firesign Theater without seeming like a pastiche of these influences."

The show that the group will perform here will draw on elements from the New York stage show. It will feature the Spankers' signature four-part harmonies, sophisticated arrangements, and humorous social commentary.

The Asylum Street Spankers began in 1994 when Christina Marrs and Guy Forsyth met Wammo at an impromptu all-night-sing-along at the Dabbs Hotel in Llano, Texas. The threesome made a pact to keep the all-night-sing-along-anything-goes spirit of that party alive.

When they returned to Austin they gathered a few like-minded friends and began playing free shows at clubs and busking on the Guadalupe Street drag. Guadalupe was known as Asylum Street because it led to the state mental hospital. A "spanker" is someone who can play their instrument vigorously and proficiently.

After Forsythleft in 1998, the band began venturing out into the wider world and founded its own Spanks-A-Lot Records in 1999.

Marrs and Wammo have pushed their troupe from simple country-blues revivalism toward the smart, challenging music for which the group has become known.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Call 488-8894.

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