The butterfly to punk’s caterpillar, hard-mashed rockabilly transmogrifies in the hands of fast-slapping bassists and at the lips of twisted-mouthed lyricists into what’s been dubbed "psychobilly". The genre is practically bred in Orange County, which leaks its rowdy, indulgent, and delightfully dirty psychobilly down south with the Cadillac Tramps, who play the Casbah this Friday, Dec. 6.
The Tramps came together some 25 years ago, having jointly been moved by the punk rock invasion that swept Orange County’s youth in the ’70s and ’80s. A motley crew of musicians from later-formed but better-known punk outfits such as U.S. Bombs and Manic Hispanic, the group combined that underlying ideology with blues guitar and Motown influences to form the sound that the Cadillac Tramps would massage over four albums in the next 10 years.
Though it’s been that long since the Tramps released a record, it hasn’t hindered their touring--or their ability to inspire crowds. Lead vocalist Mike “Gabby” Gaborno is an expert entertainer, attacking the mic with a smile and trading in punk aggression for cool, John Belushi Blues Brothers–type antics, hat and sunglasses always included. Johnny “Two Bags” Wickersham, another founding member and current Social Distortion guitarist, plays low but hard, moving across the stage in a bouncing dance.
An evening with the Cadillac Tramps is one spent in the presence of some of Southern California’s longest-standing punk rock performers: the aged greasers -- tattooed and scarred by hard times -- and playing forever on. Come Friday, the city’s Socs are better off indoors; By nightfall, the Ponyboys and Johnnys of San Diego rule the streets.