The Pyramid Scheme
Saturday, Nov. 8
$7/$10 day of show
8:30 p.m. doors; 9:30 p.m. show
Recoil founder Cliff Frantz has been saying for decades he’d play Nigel Tufnel in a Spinal Tap tribute band at some point in his career — it was just a matter of when.
“By the time I was 27, I had pretty much given up on playing music for a living, but it’s been a lifelong dream to front a Tap tribute band, and the stars are finally lined up right,” explained Frantz, managing editor of the free regional satire and entertainment magazine and Sext Farm’s Nigel Tufnel. “Before March, I hadn’t played guitar in 12 years. I had to sell all of my music gear off to keep Recoil going during the lean years. Most people know me as a humor writer but I actually started off as a musician.”
Originally going by the name “Sex Farm,” a reference to the classic Spinal Tap song, the band attributes its racy new name to a “slight communication error.”
“There was a typo in the email Cliff sent to the girl who designed our band logo,” said Benjamin Hunter, who plays David St. Hubbins in the band. “So, now, we’re called ‘Sext Farm,’ which is actually better if you ask me.”
“It’s kind of like how Nigel wrote inches instead of feet on the infamous Stonehenge napkin in the film,” added Frantz. “We’re running into the same kinds of problems that Spinal Tap did — just 30 years later.”
Sext Farm — featuring Hunter, Ryan Cunningham as Derek Smalls, Tim Bober as Viv Savage and Scott Hickok as Mick Shripton — was formed through a single Facebook post by musicians who hadn’t played together (or necessarily even met) for the purpose of introducing Spinal Tap to a new generation of potential fans who don’t necessarily know what Tap is and couldn’t otherwise be bothered to look away from their cell phones long enough to find out.
“During the last year, I started to realize how many 20-year-olds have no idea what Spinal Tap is, and whenever I tried to explain the concept to them, I’d end up sounding like a complete madman: ‘It’s a band — well, it’s a movie. It’s a movie about a band, but it’s not real. Well, the movie is real, actually the band is real too…’” explained Frantz.
“So, I posted on Facebook that I wanted to start a Tap tribute band, and in 10 minutes, Ryan, Scott and Ben were ready to start rehearsing. I was like, ‘I guess I better learn how to play the guitar again.’”
Two weeks later, the band had started rehearsals as a four-piece before finding Bober to play keyboards, with Frantz borrowing guitar equipment from friends and the band using Hickok’s rehearsal space. Songs at Sext Farm’s first rehearsals included “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock Ya Tonight,” “Heavy Duty,” “Sex Farm” and “Hell Hole.”
“I was nervous showing up at our first rehearsal with no amp and a borrowed guitar, having barely started relearning how to play,” said Frantz, who played more than 1,100 shows as a rock guitarist during the 1990s. “All the other band members play in like four other bands, so I was the only non-working musician there. But when Tim came in and added keyboards a few rehearsals later, all of a sudden, we are the best-sounding rock band I’ve ever been in.”
Frantz said the idea of playing Nigel Tufnel in a Spinal Tap tribute band had been percolating since he first saw the movie This Is Spinal Tap when he was 14 growing up learning the guitar in Alpena, Mich.
“Spinal Tap was my introduction to satire. Seeing that movie at that time in my life influenced me so much that I went on to become a satirist and guitarist,” said Frantz.
Caught on film from day one, the band’s antics will be mixed with onstage performances to produce what Frantz is hesitant to call a “mockumentary film” shot mostly without a script during the band’s ongoings from concept to stage.
“I hate to call it a mockumentary because if we’re mocking anything, it’s ourselves,” said Frantz regarding his first attempt at filmmaking. “Almost everything in the movie really happens, it just looks made up because it’s so ridiculous.”
On stage, Sext Farm adapts gags from This Is Spinal Tap, such as Frantz leaning so far back during the guitar solo of “Hell Hole” that he falls on his back and is unable to stand back up while playing, requiring the aid of a roadie.
“We’re also replacing the violin from Nigel’s guitar solo with a Guitar Hero controller,” Frantz said, explaining the modernization of Spinal Tap for today’s live music audience. “The big question is ‘How are we going to pull off Stonehenge?’ So far, we’ve approached ‘Stonehenge’ differently at every show. As for our upcoming show at The Pyramid Scheme, you’ll just need to be there to find out.
Sext Farm will play twice Saturday, Nov. 8 at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, filming their first set at 9:30 p.m. before returning for a second performance at 12:30 a.m. Local acts Moto, HEAD and Antilogical will also perform. You can follow Sext Farm in progress on Recoil Mag’s youtube channel, or check out Sext Farm: A Tribute to Spinal Tap on Facebook.