Soul/R&B instrumental combo the Gimme 5's play one of their rare live shows Sunday at the York
By Bliss Bowen 05/24/2012
What if legendary Stax house band Booker T. & the MG’s had stayed together long enough to continue into the later 1970s, ’80s and ’90s?
That’s the question bassist Rob Douglas wanted to answer with an instrumental band of his own, the Gimme 5’s. Pulling that together, however, presented an ongoing series of logistical hurdles, thanks to members’ touring schedules. Douglas, who previously “bounced around” in bands with Chuck Prophet, Rusty Zinn, Everest and Mike Stinson, currently tours with singer-songwriter Robert Francis. Jason Borger mans the keyboards behind Laurel Canyon scene king Jonathan Wilson. Rick Holmstrom is bandleader and guitarist with soul/gospel icon Mavis Staples. Derek Brown drums with the Eels.
“This is our band for fun,” Douglas explains. “We get together when everybody’s in town and try to play as soulfully as we can.”
Touring schedules being what they are, those occasions are rare.
“[Social Distortion keyboardist] Danny McGough sat in for Jason a couple times, and Woody Aplanalp from Old Californio subbed for Rick,” Douglas says. “But typically we try to only have one sub. It’s hard for a lot of people to learn that repertoire and have it under their belts. We’ll take tunes by ELO and later Fleetwood Mac and cover them in a way Booker T. would have. We do ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by ELO but with a funk groove.”
The first song Douglas worked up with Borger, with whom he’d previously played in San Francisco bands, was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” — done “faux Latin style, a la Booker T. & the MGs.” Onstage, Booker T. hits form the foundation of their creative sets, and these guys know their “Green Onions” from their “Time is Tight.” Audiences respond warmly to the stretched-out solos padding their sets — an ironic byproduct of their lack of rehearsal.
“We had one stretch where we had three or four gigs in a row,” Holmstrom recalls. “But it’s [usually] one of these things where we haven’t played for two months, and it’s all instrumentals, and it’s not like you can just play blues to fill five minutes.”
They released an EP last year and just recorded four songs with Neighborhood Bullys frontman Davey Meshell for “Davey Meshell Meets the Gimme 5’s,” which will hopefully be released later this year. Whenever everyone’s in town, they play the last Sunday of the month at the York in Highland Park — where they’ll be this weekend, probably paying tribute to MG’s bassist Duck Dunn and Memphis Horns saxophonist Andrew Love, both of whom died within the last six weeks.
“I take the band incredibly seriously,” Douglas says, but he acknowledges it isn’t likely schedules will miraculously open up enough for the Gimme 5’s to tour.
“It’s an LA-only band,” he sums up. “We’ll occasionally get together and make records, and that’s good enough for me.”
Catch the Gimme 5’s at the York, 5018 York Blvd., Highland Park, 9 p.m. Sunday, May 27. No cover. Info: (323) 255-9675. facebook.com/thegimme5s, theyorkonyork.com.