Former Rave-Ups frontman Jimmer Podrasky promotes critically acclaimed new album with show at T. Boyle’s Tavern Saturday
By Bliss Bowen 05/14/2014
An old maxim insists that, if artists stay strictly focused on their craft and leave business logistics to others, success will come, which any seasoned pro can tell you is sweetly perfumed bullshit.
Pure talent alone won’t ensure success, but it does attract support from peers. For beleaguered Rave-Ups frontman Jimmer Podrasky, that support reinvigorated a career derailed by record label cluelessness, temporary homelessness, depression and even a nightmarish, unnecessary visit to a mental ward. (A sobering account of which was chronicled in a HuffPo piece last October; hard as it was to read, Podrasky says it’s sugarcoated Disney confection compared to reality.)
Poised to be The Next Big Thing in the mid-’80s — amongst contemporaries like the Blasters, Dream Syndicate, Guadalcanal Diary and R.E.M. — the Rave-Ups have retained cult status since performing in John Hughes’ film “Pretty in Pink.” Podrasky is “amazed that the legacy of the Rave-Ups has grown over the years,” thanks to diehard fans. Save for a brief mid-’90s stint with the Lovin’ Miserys, he seemed to vanish while he raised his son, Chance, and worked as a script reader.
Until he was introduced to Smash Mouth/Dwight Yoakam drummer Mitch Marine, who persuaded the reclusive songwriter to return to the studio to record “The Would-Be Plans,” released last fall. Podrasky had never given up making music. He just wasn’t doing it in public.
“I was always writing,” he says. “My son and I played an awful lot, but only for each other.”
Marine recruited Yoakam guitarist Brian Whelan, former Shooter Jennings bassist Ted Russell Kamp and Foo Fighters/Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee, and Podrasky tapped Bruce Springsteen pedal steel player Marty Rifkin. Deeply versed in rock, pop and country idioms, the band gave the album a sonic muscularity that’s a striking complement to Podrasky’s ruefully romantic poetry. (He started out a poet; he learned to play guitar upon realizing poets make no money.)
“It was good to hand the reins over to Mitch,” Podrasky admits with a laugh. “I would not have met Ted or Brian or all these people that have become friends, people that I genuinely admire and want to be around. Making this record was a good lesson in knowing when to let go. … It could easily have been made by the Rave-ups. But it was made by Ted and Brian and Mitch, and they put their stamp on it, big time. I love that. I still have a hard time saying it’s ‘my’ record … it certainly is as much their record as mine — musically, more so.”
Once again, Podrasky’s enjoying rave reviews while trying to reach audiences. So he’s saying yes to everything.
“I couldn’t go without music. It’s weird to do it again in front of people. I spent so long away from it, and I met so many people this past year who are just extraordinary. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I spent a lot of my life taking things for granted … I don’t want to ever do that again.”
California Roots Union presents Jimmer Podrasky, Ted Russell Kamp and FunkyJenn at T. Boyle’s Tavern, 37 N. Catalina Ave., Pasadena, 9 p.m. Saturday, May 17; $5. Info: (626) 578-0957. Jimmermusic.com, californiarootsunion.tumblr.com, tboylestavern.com