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Hullabaloo goes to Sun Studio in Memphis for 20th anniversary release

They also played 20 local shows in 20 days

Hullabaloo: still smiling after 20 shows in 20 days to celebrate 20 years.
Hullabaloo: still smiling after 20 shows in 20 days to celebrate 20 years.

I’ve heard of band members who were best buds in college, in high school, and even in grade school. But Steve Denyes — half of the hard-working kids’ band Hullabaloo — met his musical partner Brendan Kremer in the hazy crazy days of kindergarten. “We were friends from the start,” recalls Denyes, who just helmed the band through “Twenty Shows in Twenty Days” to benefit the local charity Feeding San Diego. “There was that one incident at recess in third grade, but we’ve managed to move past it. I maintain that it was, in fact, a touchdown. Brendan is resolute. We were just rehashing it last week. We’ve agreed to disagree.”

Music came as naturally as friendship. “By junior high, we put together our first rock band. In high school, we played a few school dances and backyard parties. That led to a regular gig at the Del Mar Fair as a surf band called the Woodies. During our college years and after, I was a full-on folk music geek. I kicked around in the San Diego coffeehouse scene that produced Gregory Page, Steve Poltz, Jewel, Steve White, Jeff Berkley and others. Brendan went down the rock path, and continues to play these days with Rock Garden and Guilty Williams.”

As for the slightly mad concept of “Twenty Show in Twenty Days,” Denyes seems matter-of-fact. “I love a challenge, and I love to do slightly ridiculous things. This was a nice combination of both.” The duo started at the Birch Aquarium and finished the series at San Diego Botanic Garden, which Denyes calls “another one of our favorite places. We did our first CD release party there 18 years ago.”

What about the logistics of booking of twenty shows? “That’s the really nice thing about having done this so long. We’ve got great relationships with all kinds of venues. I just reached out to a bunch of my favorites, and pretty much everyone was on board. This [San Diego] community has supported us for two decades and made this amazing life possible. We just wanted to give back. Feeding San Diego is working every day to end hunger in San Diego by diverting food that would otherwise go to waste to people who need it.”

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Hullabaloo celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year through that concert series. Also by releasing Live from Sun Studio, recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in the space made famous by “Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and some guy named Elvis. Sun Studio is a really interesting operation. On the one hand, it’s one of the most significant rooms in the history of modern music. On the other hand, you can rent the studio at night to record your karaoke version of ‘Hound Dog’ or make a legitimate album, like U2 did with Rattle and Hum.”

The historic spot features some, though not all, of the ambiance those rock ‘n’ roll recording legends knew. “Most of the original equipment is gone, but [Sun Records producer Sam] Phillips donated back a few items, including a microphone used to record Elvis. The original upright piano, played by Jerry Lee Lewis and others, is also back in the studio now. There’s an indentation in the floor where the peg of the acoustic bass always went. On the bass keys of the piano, there’s a burn mark where Jerry Lee Lewis put his cigar out.”

Adapting to old recording techniques wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. “The first few songs, we tried to do it without headphones, the way they used to do it at Sun. But being modern and slightly spoiled musicians, we just couldn’t get used to recording that way. We circled back and set up headphones. Unfortunately, the engineer wasn’t used to that, and we had all kinds of latency, when there’s a delay between what you play and when you hear what you’ve played. We recorded the whole first night with one ear of the headphones on and the other ear off, so we could try to play in time. By the second night, we got the technical issues sorted out, and it was a lot more fun.”

As for upcoming plans, Denyes laughs. “I have no idea! That’s one of the things I love most about Hullabaloo. It’s given us a great vehicle to dream up some crazy ideas and chase them down. After these twenty shows in February, we’ll get right back to dreaming.”

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Hullabaloo: still smiling after 20 shows in 20 days to celebrate 20 years.
Hullabaloo: still smiling after 20 shows in 20 days to celebrate 20 years.

I’ve heard of band members who were best buds in college, in high school, and even in grade school. But Steve Denyes — half of the hard-working kids’ band Hullabaloo — met his musical partner Brendan Kremer in the hazy crazy days of kindergarten. “We were friends from the start,” recalls Denyes, who just helmed the band through “Twenty Shows in Twenty Days” to benefit the local charity Feeding San Diego. “There was that one incident at recess in third grade, but we’ve managed to move past it. I maintain that it was, in fact, a touchdown. Brendan is resolute. We were just rehashing it last week. We’ve agreed to disagree.”

Music came as naturally as friendship. “By junior high, we put together our first rock band. In high school, we played a few school dances and backyard parties. That led to a regular gig at the Del Mar Fair as a surf band called the Woodies. During our college years and after, I was a full-on folk music geek. I kicked around in the San Diego coffeehouse scene that produced Gregory Page, Steve Poltz, Jewel, Steve White, Jeff Berkley and others. Brendan went down the rock path, and continues to play these days with Rock Garden and Guilty Williams.”

As for the slightly mad concept of “Twenty Show in Twenty Days,” Denyes seems matter-of-fact. “I love a challenge, and I love to do slightly ridiculous things. This was a nice combination of both.” The duo started at the Birch Aquarium and finished the series at San Diego Botanic Garden, which Denyes calls “another one of our favorite places. We did our first CD release party there 18 years ago.”

What about the logistics of booking of twenty shows? “That’s the really nice thing about having done this so long. We’ve got great relationships with all kinds of venues. I just reached out to a bunch of my favorites, and pretty much everyone was on board. This [San Diego] community has supported us for two decades and made this amazing life possible. We just wanted to give back. Feeding San Diego is working every day to end hunger in San Diego by diverting food that would otherwise go to waste to people who need it.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Hullabaloo celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year through that concert series. Also by releasing Live from Sun Studio, recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in the space made famous by “Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and some guy named Elvis. Sun Studio is a really interesting operation. On the one hand, it’s one of the most significant rooms in the history of modern music. On the other hand, you can rent the studio at night to record your karaoke version of ‘Hound Dog’ or make a legitimate album, like U2 did with Rattle and Hum.”

The historic spot features some, though not all, of the ambiance those rock ‘n’ roll recording legends knew. “Most of the original equipment is gone, but [Sun Records producer Sam] Phillips donated back a few items, including a microphone used to record Elvis. The original upright piano, played by Jerry Lee Lewis and others, is also back in the studio now. There’s an indentation in the floor where the peg of the acoustic bass always went. On the bass keys of the piano, there’s a burn mark where Jerry Lee Lewis put his cigar out.”

Adapting to old recording techniques wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. “The first few songs, we tried to do it without headphones, the way they used to do it at Sun. But being modern and slightly spoiled musicians, we just couldn’t get used to recording that way. We circled back and set up headphones. Unfortunately, the engineer wasn’t used to that, and we had all kinds of latency, when there’s a delay between what you play and when you hear what you’ve played. We recorded the whole first night with one ear of the headphones on and the other ear off, so we could try to play in time. By the second night, we got the technical issues sorted out, and it was a lot more fun.”

As for upcoming plans, Denyes laughs. “I have no idea! That’s one of the things I love most about Hullabaloo. It’s given us a great vehicle to dream up some crazy ideas and chase them down. After these twenty shows in February, we’ll get right back to dreaming.”

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