The Beggars are a blast. That, according to their athletic sparkplug of a lead singer Steven Tuthill, is the watchword. He can’t put it any other way, repeating variations on the phrase at least three or four times: “It’s been a blast.”
Ten years running and Detroit’s principal party-rock band is still going strong. Tuthill, with guitarist Jonny Wilkins, drummer Jim Faulkner and the newest Beggars, Pookie Grech (bass) and Chris Krez (guitar), have aspired toward the pure embodiment of rock ’n’ roll. When they’re on the stage, they’re instantly the life of the party.
With ebullient energy, near-gymnastic showmanship and an uncanny charm, you might call them the Belushis (or, more appropriately, the Blutos) of the local scene. It’s fun-loving but free of debauchery. They’re serious about their craft, but not above playing a local high school homecoming dance. Imagine the keyed-up celebratory soul of boogies like J. Geils Band’s “Detroit Breakdown” crossed with howl-your-head-off arena rock ballads like Van Halen’s “Panama” — and dash intriguing spices of jazz grooves, seminal funk and R&B — and you’ve got the Beggars. Put on your dancing shoes.
We talked to lead singer Tuthill (an intriguing character who proudly wears the title, “Pro-Wrestling School Dropout,”) and asked about the band’s weirdest shows, getting back into fighting shape, and the new live album coming this summer.
Metro Times: How’s it feel turning 10 years old?
Steven Tuthill: Good. We’re proud to have survived this long, but also proud we’ve totally stayed the same, basically being a straight-up rock ’n’ roll band throughout all the fads that came and went. This is our first show since doing Theatre Bizarre last Halloween, so we’re getting back into shape — back into rock ’n’ roll shape!
MT: Some bands second-guess themselves, try to change it up or shift with trends, but you guys stayed in your rock mold. Ever question it?
Tuthill: No, man, it’s just that fun genuine spirit. Our material varies, but it all sounds fun-loving. Rock was created for that reason, that escapism, man. We’re not supposed to make you feel more depressed, we’re supposed to make you have fun. We have a new song about the end of the world called “2016,” but it’s about living it up in those last few minutes of existence, dodging laser beams while having fun. “Cheers to adventure,” is my favorite lyric from that …
MT: You guys usually invite a riled-up kind of atmosphere to your shows. What makes that presentation so important to you?
Tuthill: Growing up in a great time [musically] to witness performers who gave a shit, back in the day, helped. James Brown, David Lee Roth, Rick Flair, I’m a huge fan of all three. But yeah, you’d pay to see a show and you got a show. When you go out, do you wanna act like a fool and have a good time or do you wanna just stand there? So the more of a fool I am up there, I lower the bar of behavior so everyone else can feel OK to pass through under it. We want people to have fun …
MT: But there’s precision to your performance, I mean, you were a wrestler, so it’s very physical and sometimes choreographed for peak rock-heroics.
Tuthill: Which means I don’t drink before the show. Alcohol does not make you more rock ’n’ roll; people think it does. I mean, you’ve seen me sloppy other times, anyhow, but not when performing. But, yeah, I have those pro-wrestling instincts. I always say I’m a “former future-pro-wrestling-star,” or “Wrestling-School Dropout.”
MT: Favorite memories from your years with the band?
Tuthill: During a big summertime blackout, before a show at the Loving Touch, their power blew out and we packed all our stuff and boogied down to the Post in Ferndale. Guerilla rock ’n’ roll! Gotta be ready for anything. But my favorite thing: Just the guys in the band or everyone we’ve met in the scene, like GBS Detroit too. We recorded with them recently, live, which is our natural environment. We’ll put that out on a 12-inch, 45-rpm vinyl in July, hopefully. Awesome friends down every avenue; we’ve been blessed. It’s been a blast.
The Beggars are performing at 12:40 a.m., Saturday, May 4 at Woodward Avenue Brewers (WAB), 22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.
Jeff Milo writes for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]