May 2008

Arts & Entertainment: Free Shotz - Seriously Unserious!

Author: Craig Hysell

The Songs You Like, the Way WE Like Them!

The Free Shotz might be loud, even brash, with some of the songs they play, but that’s exactly what they aren’t as people. Get them in a room together without instruments or an audience, and they are humble, grateful and polite. Almost shy. They laugh with one another constantly. Ideas and riffs spin like old records. And they are consistently becoming one of Hilton Head Island’s most fun acts to follow.

If the Free Shotz had a plan, “fun” would be it. Kind of… they guess… It’s more “not having a plan” that is the plan. And it works.

The guys who make up The Free Shotz know exactly what they’re doing. They’re playing music because they love music. That’s it. It’s simple. Getting paid for it is merely a bonus. (A really, really nice bonus.) But, how far can pure fun take somebody or some band? The Free Shotz are hell bent on finding the answer.

Jeff, the guy with the long goatee, round shoulders and devilish grin, won’t tell you he’s the lead singer in the band, “I’m just the guy that sings most of the songs,” he says, “and I have two ranges, ‘Jeff sharp’ and ‘Jeff flat’.” It is, of course, a subtle understatement, full of that humility/shyness again, but it gets everybody to laugh. And that’s okay, that’s what everyone’s supposed to do. “We’re not musicians,” said Jeff, “We’re entertainers.”

Actually they’re both. They just don’t want to admit it.

They are all career musicians. C-dub (bass) has been playing in bands for twenty years. Todd started playing his guitar in high school. Randy Rockalotta’s drums have been beating on the island for a long, long time. Jeff has grown exponentially as a guitar player and vocalist since he first got onstage one late night at Moneypenny’s all those years ago. (Back when Zach Deputy was learning who he was on the same stage.)

It takes most of us a very long time to get to a road where we can appreciate the journey more than the destination. That’s what The Free Shotz are all about these days—the journey. They can be; they’ve put in their time when it comes to destinations.

But, before they get too serious and their grasp gets too firmly wrapped around enlightenment or wisdom, they bring themselves and their audiences back down to earth with a free shot of reality. “We pull our set list out of our ass every time,” said Jeff. His devil’s grin curls upward again.

The Free Shotz know, and regularly play, over 80 cover songs, but the twist of originality comes from their nonchalance. They are adamant on being “a cover band, not a copy band.” The tag line of The Free Shotz comes from Randy Rockalotta, who proclaims without apology that the band is all about “the songs you like, the way we like ‘em.” And, like Forrest’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
At any given show the spectrum of tunes can almost defy logic. The Free Shotz can take The Stones, The Who, Zep, Metallica, Sublime, Prince, G’n R, The Chili Peppers (practically any band and every band), throw it into a pot, stir it up with the ladle of rock and pull out a set list or, what’s more impressive, a medley, that uniquely rips. You never know what you’re going to hear, because the band is never quite sure what they’re going to play.

They feed of each other. They feed off the audience. They feed off Jager. It’s a Molotov cocktail exploding into fun, adrenaline and the occasional flash of cleavage by excited females in the crowd. It’s what true rock and roll is—the same thing Todd likes most about playing in the band: an escape. By taking themselves less seriously, The Free Shotz let their audience have some serious fun.

It’s a lesson in paradox. They’re serious about having fun. They know an iPod full of songs, but are constantly stuck on random. They’re all talented musicians, but they would rather be known as entertainers. Over the last year, they have steadily risen in number of gigs with what C-dub calls “the whatever formula.” By not caring they have gotten people to care. They play the songs people like, but they play them they way they like ‘em.

For a band with no plan, what’s next? Maybe some originals. Maybe a CD. Maybe a few more road trips to places like Greenville and Columbia, SC. Maybe Todd might bust a couple more rhymes in the future. Maybe C-dub will one day enjoy playing Cyndi Lauper’s, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” But maybe not. Lots of maybes, mostly whatevers. And one or two consisitencies.

The buzz the audience gets from The Free Shotz is the same buzz the band members get: having fun, rocking out—enjoying the journey is what it’s all about. A free shot and ample cleavage never hurts either. “It’s like a roller coaster ride,” said Dubs. Jeff agrees, “You want it to rock, you have to rock it out.” It’s unclear if they’re talking about living life or life in the band.

Maybe we can all find some wisdom in paradox. Maybe. Whatever…

The Free Shotz play every Tuesday at Remy’s, every Thursday at Bluffton Ale House and every Sunday at The Tiki Hut. For additional dates and information, visit myspace.com/freeshotzz.

“There’s nothing like playing in a band with three good friends,” said Jeff. “There’s no drug that can compare. Nothing feels better than playing music… well…,” he pauses, reconsidering, “there’s some things that feel better than playing music.” The Free Shotz laugh. The party’s not over, they’re having fun.

How entertaining. How consistent.

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