It was incorrectly stated in Friday's Weekend section that a party tonight at the 9:30 club was open to the public. It is private.
THE SLICKEE BOYS are unclassifiable. This makes them happy. Lately, this also makes them some decent money -- especially for a band that shows up on stage in clothes that Jerry Lee Lewis, the Doors and Cindi Lauper might have worn if they'd sniffed glue together and broken into a Salvation Army store.
Not too long ago, a guy from Warner Brothers suggested to the Slickee Boys that rhythm guitarist Kim Kane -- who formed the band in Bethesda with lead guitarist Marshall Keith more than eight years ago -- might consider cutting his waist- length, brown-ponytail hair.
Everybody laughed. And Kane's hair still hangs down to his '60s.
Nowadays, the Slickee Boys are mostly men -- mostly, in fact, around 30. But if they ever do make it to the majors, and they might, it will be because the Boys can be boys.
"I look at it like, maybe someday we'll be picked up by a great label, a big label," says lead singer Mark Noone, who wears ruffles, sharkskin and shades when he's on stage and writes country songs with his graphic-artist wife sometimes when he isn't. "But I don't have -- and nobody in the band has -- any ideas about changing anything we do. Our hearts are really in this; we all believe what we do is pretty unique. You look at a band like the B-52s or, say, Devo -- they went with Warner Brothers, but they didn't change anything. The only difference in their music was the quality of the recordings."
The Slickee Boys' music, as a slowly growing number of fans in Washington -- or Baltimore, Boston, Minneapolis, Hamburg (as in Germany), Vienna (Austria) and parts of Sweden and France -- already know, is something you kinda have to hear. I could say garage-punk, psychedelic-surf rockabilly-grunge thrash music, and if that means anything to you, fine. If not, just expect a lot of burning, nonsynthetic guitar and fuzz-tone punch offset by unexpectedly catchy melodies and contagious, off-the-wall humor. Fun. No funk.
Someone did classify the Slickees' first EP, "Hot and Cool," as among the first "new wave" records ever released. It was recorded on eight basement tracks in 1976, and pressed into about 500 units of what Noone calls "really crummy vinyl, with dirt and rocks and stuff in it." After releasing numerous compilations and singles on Kane's own Dacoit label and the German import Line Records, the Boys entered a five-album deal last year with Twin Tone Records, a scrappy independent label in Minneapolis, and released their first real album ("Cybernetic Dreams of pi") last winter -- which Noone estimates sold about 15,000 copies, in the U.S. and among the Slickee Boys' followers abroad (the break-even point is "2,500 or something," Noone says).
"Last year was financially the best year the band has had," says Noone, who got calls from friends around the country last summer when MTV granted light-rotation status to the band's first video, a locally produced fluke (Vox-Cam, Travesty Ltd. and a video whiz in Greenbelt named Haven McKinney) of their neo-surfer romp, "When I Go to the Beach."
"We just recently started to make decent money," he says. "When we started, it was a trickle. Literally. Some nights the band would make sixty bucks -- for the band. And we have a sound man and a stage man."
The Slickee Boys have toured the East Coast and Midwest, but two of the band members -- Kane and drummer Dan Palenski (who is married with four kids and a house in Virginia) -- are still tied to day jobs and local responsibilities. Noone, Keith and bassist John Chumbris, who for a long time was the band's sound man, live off their music income.
"We'll just see what happens," says Noone.
The Slickee Boys' second Twin Tone release, recorded on 24 unbasement-like tracks in Minneapolis last year, is due out next month. And a video of their single, "Life of the Party," is in the works with the Travesty folks and others, Noone says.
In Washington, the Slickee Boys can be found frequently at the 9:30, the newly ambitious Psychedelly, Friendship Station; they opened the city's New Year's Eve concert at the Pavilion. But there's something funny about Washington (compared to say, Baltimore, where they draw more consistently full houses and frequent praise from the press), Noone says. People don't go out as much here, or something.
"When we were in Minneapolis, it was a Tuesday night and the Replacements (another Twin Tone act, based in Minneapolis) were playing. It was packed. We can play a Tuesday night, free admission, free beer, free pizza -- and my parents wouldn't even go. I don't know what it is.
"Because I've been involved with the D.C. scene here for a long time, and I've lived in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Boulder. And of all the places I mentioned, I think D.C. -- except maybe for Minneapolis -- D.C. has all these other scenes beat hands down, as far as camaraderie among musicians, the quality of bands. I don't think a New York or a Boston has anybody as good as, say, Tommy Keene.
"But I have no complaints whatsoever," Noone says. "This is the best job I've ever had." THE SLICKEE BOYS -- Appearing this Friday-Saturday at 9:30 Club, 930 F St. NW,;January 25 at an all-ages dance at Blessed Sacrament, Chevy Chase; January 26 at Girard's in Baltimore; and February 1 at Saba, 1214 18th St. NW. Other favorite Slickee Boys venues include Friendship Station, 4926 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the Psychedelly, 4846 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, and the University of Maryland ballroom, College Park.