7/9/2021 SUMMER SURF PARTY Georgia Ensemble Theatre
Grumpy old folks like me often describe the “Best Time of Our Lives” as those carefree summers of our junior and senior high school years. We were out of school, our hormones were in attack mode, and some of us (unfortunately not myself) were experiencing first love. My own “Best Times” were the summers of 1965 through 1970, the heyday of the Beach Boys and “Surf Rock.”
Which is why I anticipated this concert with all the glee of a kid on the beach on the first hot day of summer.
Okay, truth be told, those days may not have been all that our nostalgic wallow wants us to remember – they were also the days of grueling summer jobs, rampant acne, pre-air-conditioned homes, and (fortunately not myself) first heartbreak. But the glory of the Beach Boys (and other memorable summer-song artists) is they focused our attention on what was really important – quitting time, day-off fun, and all those parties!
Chris Damiano and Jeremy Wood have compiled a marvelous tribute concert of (mostly) Beach Boys hits, gathered a band of talented musicians (Dolph Amick, Christopher A. Kent, and Zion Glenn) and taken over the Chattahoochee Nature Center for a delightful evening of song, dance, and fun. Interaction is encouraged, as is copious imbibing and slow dancing (the target audience – my generation – may just be too decrepit for the fast kind, though I was encouraged by the brave souls who made the attempt).
All your favorite Beach Boys hits are here – “California Girls,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann,” “God Only Knows” (which, of course, can’t be heard any more without thinking of the ecstatic finale of Love, Actually), and more. There are few hits from others – “Wipe Out,” “Under the Boardwalk,” even “Sweet Little Sixteen” just to show how “Surfin’ USA” is a direct copy.
What’s so joyous about these songs is that they make us all feel like Surfing is the Answer to all Life’s Problems, even if we have never touched a surfboard in our lives (and probably never will). There’s also a fair shar of “Worship the Muscle Car” songs that make us forget that we don’t know the first thing about big engines, not to mention that these puppies went through gas like a perfect ride cutting through a wave. Of course, gas was much cheaper then.
It is an irony, I suppose, that most of these musicians are about a generation (or two) behind those of us whose summers were dominated by this music. Drummer Zion Glenn is probably young enough to be a grandchild of a Boomer – but his talent is as outsized as anyone’s, as he proves on the drum solos of “Wipe Out.” He also has a velvety rich singing voice, admirably on display with “Under the Boardwalk.” Lead Guitar Dolph Amick has done this sort of thing before, and he has a ball playing elaborate solos and back up. Mr. Damiano and Mr. Kent are great on Bass and Rhythm Guitar, and Mr. Woods plays the keyboard to perfection. They all have their moments to shine, their songs to front, and their talent to share.
Summer Surf Party is the first post-pandemic (are we really “post” yet?) from Georgia Ensemble Theatre, and it’s a rapturously enjoyable wallow in songs those of us of a certain age grew up with. And, hopefully, it’s joyous enough to chase the rain away for the rest of its run.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #GETSummerSurfParty #ChattahoocheeNatureCenter)