OOPS, MY BAD... The lead singer of local rockabilly band Jumpin' Jupiter is Jay Jenc, and I apologize to him for mangling his name in a column a couple of weeks back. (Published 11/19/99)
WHEN Jay Jentz grabs the microphone and starts singing, it's as if he's trying to shout down an oncoming Mack truck. Jentz, frontman for the area's best rockabilly combo, Jumpin' Jupiter, leans into the mike stand, tilts it forward, wraps his hands around the microphone, finds someone to stare at and lets it rip.
His intensity is disconcerting at first, but then you realize it's in service to the music. Jentz raises the temperature of a room when he performs and after a few songs you can't help joining him in the revelry. With Jumpin' Jupiter, he's been celebrating the early days of rock 'n' roll for the past six years around town, with his pals Pat Cavanaugh on guitar and Doug Hoekstra on drums. They've recently added bassist Dennis Crolley to the mix, and a fine mix it is.
You can hear some of Jumpin' Jupiter's rave-ups on their recently released CD, "Ground Zero Grand Prix," but to really capture the Jupiter essence, you should see them live. "The stuff on that record are things we recorded a few years back and have been using as a demo, mainly to get gigs," Jentz explains. "But when the fans keep asking you, `When are you going to put out a CD?' and you keep having to say, `Gee, I don't know,' things get all cattywampus and out of whack." Cattywampus? "Yeah, you know, when things are all screwy and you have to do something about it." Ah.
So what Jumpin' Jupiter did about this cattywampus situation is release their old recordings, but with a promise of more to come soon. "We had 15 or so originals we'd been learning with our old bass player Mike Bolton," Jentz says, "so now all we gotta do is get in there and run 'em through the grinder with Dennis." Jentz says there might even be some slower stuff on the band's next offering. "I'm a sucker for good singing, and it's hard to concentrate on that when you're going a million miles an hour every song. Roy Orbison. That's the stuff. I could get lost in that."
Jentz's love for early rock began when, as a kid, his parents gave him a chunk of their record collection. "They'd moved on to Santana and Blood, Sweat & Tears, so I got all the old records: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry." When the rockabilly revival hit in the '80s (Stray Cats, Robert Gordon), Jentz was ready, and he played in several bands. "I was always trying to get these bands to play more rockabilly, but they wouldn't always get it. They'd want to play Billy Idol songs or something."
Finally, at a party, he met a kindred spirit in drummer Hoekstra, and another friend steered him toward Cavanaugh, a superb guitarist who'd been playing with Danny Gatton. One afternoon they all got together to see what would happen. "We spent about four hours learning stuff, and by the time we were done we had about 20 songs down. We all looked at each other and said, alright, let's do this again next weekend."
So they did, and to our benefit, they kept going and going.
See Jumpin' Jupiter Saturday at IOTA (703/522-8340).
nTo hear a free Sound Bite from Jumpin' Jupiter, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8131. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
LAUGHS WITH CAMPBELL
Andy Campbell is onstage at the Improv comedy club trying to decipher real estate ads. "I finally figured out what HWF means. Hard...wood...floors. Floooooors! And they're made of woooooood. And they're haaaarrrrrrrd!" He stretches the words out, eyes shining, as if he's just discovered the secret to cold fusion. Then, like a machine gun: "If it's got clear glass windows then I'm moving in!!"
A real estate ad stating the obvious as if it's an extreme luxury is perfect fodder for Campbell, who at 27 has figured out how to spot life's absurdities and take them to the next level for comedy club patrons. I first caught Campbell at the DC/Baltimore Comedy Showcase a few months back at the now-closed Fun Factory in Alexandria. He knocked me out in his short set by pointing out the increasing need for speed in our daily lives. "First we had Next Day Blinds, now it's Blinds to Go." Pause. Look around. Imploring scream: "Can someone please tell me when blinds became so urgent in this country?? `Honey quick! Get in the car! We've got to get some blinds!' "
Campbell last month won a day-long showdown at the Improv, competing against 100 other comedians for a possible slot at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., in February. Next week he flies to Los Angeles to compete with the winners from other cities to decide who gets to go to Aspen. Is he scared? "Not really," he says. "And it's not like I have nerves of steel or anything, it's just that to be honest I'm really excited to go do it. I'm not worried about winning or not winning."
Campbell's comedy has clearly been bubbling inside him all his life. He stalks the stage from edge to edge, a gleefully manic expression on his face, smacking his lips, arching his eyebrows. He looks like he's having the time of his life. "My dad's a theater director, and he had a penchant for nepotism, so my sister and I were cast in all the children's roles," Campbell says. "I had my first role at age 5, a munchkin in `The Wizard of Oz.' I came out on stage in a big goofy green costume with a giant lollipop and the crowd went wild. I told my dad then that he'd pretty much shot my chances for a desk job."
A theater and communications major at Washington & Lee University, Campbell came to Washington to work for the Capital Steps. He moved from administrative work to writing for the comedy troupe and also created a series of comic commentaries for WAMU-FM's "Metro Connection." He started a business with fellow comedian Tom Devine, writing funny bits for corporate events and such, before finally admitting to himself that he needed to be on stage. "I love that it's live," he says. "That's the whole fun about stand-up comedy. I'm not just doing it to a camera, I'm doing it to you, yeah you, there in the fifth row. I'm giving them this show and they're part of it."
Campbell, I'm telling you, is going to be big. Until then, catch him on Sunday night at the Improv (1140 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202/296-7008), when he'll be the evening's host and the support act for Dave Chappelle.
LATE NIGHT ON METRO
Don't forget that Friday night is the start of Metrorail's experiment with extended hours. For the next eight months, our region's subway system will remain open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, in order to better serve the late night crowds. The 1 a.m. closing is, to my mind, still too early for Friday and Saturday nights, when bars can stay open until 3 a.m., but Metro's board wouldn't go for longer hours. They said that after six months, they would count the ridership and crunch the numbers and then decide whether or not to continue with the 1 a.m. closing, or whether to extend the hours even later. The success of this experiment depends entirely on you, O nightcrawlers. You asked for later subway hours, and now you've got 'em. Get on board and vote with your farecard.