The Taildragger Experience at JDI and the Wrocklage

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Ace April 1995
BY SUSAN BLANKENSHIP

Y’know that commercial where someone puts a Polish sausage in a microwave and it explodes all over the place. Or imagine being so overcome by the Holy Spirit that you’re moved to speak in tongues? For me, the Taildragger experience is kinda like that.

Taildragger (Rob Hulsman, Mark Hendricks, Jon McGee) Photo by Aimee Tomasek for Ace.

Rob Hulsman, drummer extraordinaire, confirmed for me that their music often does have a significant emotional impact on the audience. A couple at JDI’s was so moved, in fact, that they felt compelled to engage in mock sexual union on the dance floor. (Okay, it was either the music, or the beer they were generously sharing with someone’s amp.)

Way back in 1992, Aaron Lee of WRFL’s now long-defunct “The Haunted Garage,” lamented that Lexington was in dire need of bands that were willing to actually take some chances. No need to lament any longer; our fervent prayers have been answered. In this case, divine intervention has come in the form of three upstanding young gentlemen — Jon McGee (lead geetar, lead vocals); Rob Hulsman (drums, vocals) and Mark Hendrick (bass, vocals) — with the gift of creating music that sets your soul afire. To experience a Taildragger show is to experience a gen-u-ine happenin’. And no I ain’t talkin’ about some sterile performance art. It’s three guys producing some incredibly supercharged music the likes of which this town ain’t never seen, and having some highly ironic fun in the process.

If you’re looking for this band’s musical pigeonhole, y’ain’t gonna find it. And I don’t wanna be the one to construct such a pigeonhole. Jon McGee even mused that Taildragger’s enigmatic patrons are more than likely to conclude that “This band don’t remind me of nothin’.” Their own attempts to describe their particular brand of music stylings yielded “redneck rock with a touch of class” and “a better version of the Blueberries,” (they laughed when they said that).

Taildragger’s influences run the gamut: gospel, glam, country, bluegrass, metal, punk, rockabilly, you name it. The albums that changed their lives (my question; don’t blame them) KISS Rock n Roll Over (Jon); KISS Alive (Rob); and Iron Maiden, Peace of Mind (Mark). You may note a subtle metal undercurrent — I maintain this is still fundamental to their music.

Now don’t be gettin skeered and runnin’ off. We’re not talkin’ Motorhead or even “Jim Dandy to the rescue” (although maybe Jim Dandy comes close at times). In fact, Jon McGee willingly acknowledged a fifth grade epiphany whereupon he realized that “there’s something more to it than KISS.” I gotta fess up — I never was a KISS fan — and yet, I LUV this music. So this tells me that McGee is right — there really is more to it than KISS — and this comes through clearly in their music.

The McGee, Hendricks, Hulsman writing team has come up with a number of sweet little ditties of their own (“You Can’t Help Me,” Sweaty Betty,” She’s So Lazy,” “We Don’t Know,” and “Van Gogh’s Head,” among others). My personal favorite is one with some killin’ in it — “Hog Farm” — which tells the touching tale of a hog farmer who beats his significant other “blue and black” and consequently winds up with a knife in his spine, face down in pig shit. A sort of feminist anthem.

In addition to their original material, Taildragger covers NRBQ, George Jones, Son House, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Junior Brown, Waylon Jennings, and everything in between and beyond. The recent addition of Rob Hulsman’s rendering of NRBQ’s “Here Comes Terry” (Here comes Jon. There goes Mark. I am Rob.) is not to be missed.

On stage, these are men possessed. Jon McGee performs his guitar soliloquies as if he were handling a rattler. Bassist Mark Hendricks who was “resced from the depths of Christianity” will now and again spasm into one of his pogo/kickboxing fits. And last, but never least, is Rob Hulsman’s occasional possession by the spirit of Keith Moon which (if you’re lucky) moves him to trash his drum kit and come flying into the audience. As a courtesy to his fellow bandmates, Rob has now taken to forewarning them if he thinks he’s feelin’ the spirit so they can remove any valuable obstacles from his path. Audience members are on their own.

Taildragger recently put on a command performance for the students at Lexington’s School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA). As if things could get more ironic. The principal sternly warned the students to give these “gentlemen” their undivided attention since they were performing for them for their benefit. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Taildragger is starting a mailing list for people interested in finding out about upcoming gigs, CD/tape/vinyl/releases, and obtaining valuable Taildragger memorabilia (e.g., t-shirts, bumperstickers). Send your name and address to Taildragger c/o Rob Hulsman



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