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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Go Do This Thing: The Chop Tops' Last Ride Revs Into Slims Saturday

Posted By on Sat, Mar 28, 2015 at 9:01 AM

click to enlarge thechoptopspresspic.jpg
The Chop Tops have been tearing up local and international stages for two decades, taking traditional rockabilly, chucking out the owner’s manual, boosting the power, streamlining the chassis, and hot-rodding it into something that’s altogether new.

“Every member of this band grew up listening to punk rock,” says Chops Tops singer and drummer Gary "Sinner" Marsh, who sees punk not merely as a type of music but an overall attitude.

That attitude will be on full display at Slims Saturday, beginning at 9 p.m., when the The Chop Tops headline a bill that also includes The Hellbillys, Hayride to Hell, and the Badmen. It will be the last time local fans will get to see The Chop Tops play in the Bay Area, as the band has announced it will be calling it quits after one final night of debauchery in Vegas April 3.
“There’s no drama or anything getting in the way," Marsh says. "At the two-decade mark, we were very satisfied, we’ve done everything we can do, it’s been an awesome ride. We looked at 20 years of our work, we looked at all of our accomplishments, we looked at 30 U.S. tours, two Australian tours, six releases—we were asked to play Viva Las Vegas for an eighth time, and we decided to go out with a bang. It was perfect timing for us.”

Taking underground punk's fierce spirit of independence, Marsh applied it to his first musical love, rockabilly, forming The Chop Tops amid the Santa Cruz-area punk scene of the mid-1990s. Today, the trio — Marsh along with guitarist Shelby Legnon and bass player Josh Liem — has become a well-oiled, high-performance machine that's logged thousands of miles and played more than 200 shows a year across the United States and beyond.

“We started a band for fun in a friend’s garage. We never intended do anything but just have fun and play shows and parties and that was it — and out of that came a career. This is our day job, this is what we do,” says Marsh.

The Chop Tops didn't get where they are by taking the easy road. Marsh and Legnon, on board from the early days, have undergone several lineup changes and endured countless hours of writing and rehearsing. “You really respect the people who have done this for a long time," Marsh says. "Bands like AC/DC, The Ramones, and the bands in this genre, like the Reverend Horton Heat. You understand what it is to be out on the road, how hard it is, all the hard work that goes into it.”

“We didn’t get into this because we wanted to be rock stars, we just liked playing music," adds Legnon.

The Chop Tops’ high-octane mix of classic and contemporary sounds combined with their unwavering work ethic has won the admiration of fans around the globe, including Australia, where the band has played twice. “We had to leave from Santa Cruz, drive for eight hours to L.A., get on a plane, fly for 15 hours, arrived in Melbourne, and then played almost right away," Legnon remembers. “But it was really cool, the people were really receptive — I was kind of surprised a lot of them knew our stuff!”

Liem, the most recent member, says he's just happy to have been part of the group's final chapter. “Honestly, this last year and a half was a testament to going from an amateur rockabilly bassist and then growing into playing with the big groups and the cream of the crop. These guys were the first ones I ever saw play music live, and to become part of it was legitimately a dream come true."

Marsh is proud of what The Chop Tops have done since he started the band, and he's looking forward to the last couple of shows. “For nearly half our time, we were doing vigorous touring, it was great, it was incredible. It afforded us opportunities we never would have had sitting at home and being a bar band. That being said, we’re an indie band, and we were burning the candle at both ends for the better part of a decade. [We did] everything that this band could have done.”

Guitar slinger Legnon echoes his fellow band mate. “All things must come to an end eventually. We’ve said what we wanted to say, and did what we wanted to do.”
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Sean McCourt


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