SKA vs Rockabilly


TLF-The Infernos

Christine Bitomsky is one of those lucky individuals who has successfully combined her passion of rockabilly clothing and said genre of music into a working business model. Growing up on the “’50s scene” with her family in the UK in the ’80s, she wasn’t aware there was a ’50s revival going on as these clothes, this music and lifestyle (including their family business) was part of her normal family life.

However, after moving from England to Melbourne and leaving her family lifestyle behind, she discovered there was a huge call for these beautiful clothes here. So, clever Christine started up her own shop in trendy Brunswick St, Fitzroy, ironically calling it Christine’s. She described it as “the best of 1940s & ’50s reproduction clothing,” catering to musicians, rock & rollers, and rockabilly divas. In her words, “making the world a more glamorous place.” 

Cutting a long story short, it didn’t take long before the rockabilly and rock & roll crowd (including many known musicians) started frequenting her shop, allowing it to grow exponentially to the point where she’s now considered the queen of rockabilly.

Whilst showcasing her clothes at the many rockabilly shows she became friendly with the bands and promoters, eventually coming across “The Infernos,” who she really liked – so much so that she became their manager. Over a short period of time she earned respect not only as the supplier of quality rock & roll and rockabilly clothes, but also as an astute manager.

In fact, Bitomsky was instrumental in conducting a number of rockabilly weekends and even helped set up the Camperdown Cruise, the biggest festival of Rockabilly in Victoria.

It became evident that if she wanted a quality venue for her band with quality money paid, then she would have to create her own superior gigs. Luckily for punters, she did. Bitomsky discovered a jewel of a place called The LuWOW, nestled amongst bars and cafes, at 70 Johnston Street, Fitzroy.

The LuWOW is run by husband-and-wife team Barbara and Josh, who have spared no expense or detail in creating a tribal Hawaiian feel throughout its many rooms.

The Tiki Bar’s tropical island decadence has the main bar surrounded by intimate darkened spaces, with some thatched huts thrown in where one can indulge in the drinking of exotic cocktails. The Hidden Temple serves as the band room. Half-naked female statues with dinosaurs on leads, exotic palms and multi coloured lights decorate the walls and ceilings. There are two raised circular booths adorned with palms and skulls on bamboo poles that partially hide the rainbow-lit second bar behind.

The stage looks like a cross between the entrance to a Ghost Train Ride and something out of The Rocky Horror Show. There are skulls along the top of the stage and more skulls on tall bamboo poles garnishing small circular dance floors on either side of the stage that house the sexily-clad dancers during the bands’ performance. It feels like a volcano is about to erupt; the place is alive, vibrant, unpredictable, and loads of fun without the danger of being scorched to death.

Recently, Bitomsky successfully staged the Ska vs. Rockabilly event, showcasing two rockabilly bands and a ska band.

The Infernos’ rockin’ three-piece outfit had Don Wycherley on the double bass and vocals, David Rogers at the drums and Rob Citroni on lead guitar. If you like Rockabilly then you’d really dig this band ’cause their tight, fast rhythm was infectious. 

Rosie and the Mighty Kings; their polished combo of double bass, guitar and drums combined with Rosie’s vocals rocked. After their gig Don Giovinazzo, the bass player gave me their album Heath & The Mighty Kings and latest single, Voodoo Doll and I have to say, it’s pretty damn good.

The Resignators ska band was a hybrid of vintage R&R, punk, rocket groove, awesome horn section and “groovy” organ thrown into the mix. Their crazy “all over the place” vibe was contagious and combined with The LuWOW décor, you could easily imagine you were in a Tarantino film.

Rockabilly has been described as rock and roll come country music, western swing to boogie jump blues, and for good measure throw in Appalachian folk music too.

With America’s southern influence on music blending country with rhythm and blues, some suggest thinking of rockabilly as a bluegrass style with rock and roll that holds for strong rhythms, vocal twangs and the common use of tape echo. But the progressive addition of different instruments has eventually led to its dilution.

Apparently the term “rockabilly” is a mix of “rock” from rock and roll and “hillbilly” country music; nevertheless, just think Stray Cats and you’ve got an idea of rockabilly.

Says Bitomsky, “There are a few versions of rockabilly. There is psychobilly which is like a cross between rockabilly and punk; maybe picture the Stray Cats crossed with The Clash, authentic rockabilly which is like hillbilly, but with strong rockabilly overtones, and there is neorockabilly, which bands like The Stray Cats embrace strongly.”

With her years of experience and knowledge its no wonder Christine Bitomsky is known as the Queen of Rockabilly. The night was well executed, with much drinking of cocktails by all, gorgeous dancing girls shaking and shimmering, spacey, flashing illuminations, and the over the top but highly enjoyable décor. All in all, it was certainly a memorable night.

First published in Mint Magazine – December 2015

Author: Anne-Marie Tunks

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