The Rocks Off 200: Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? What? If ass is arse when the Irish say it, then bass should be barse, shouldn't it? All joking aside, meet Chad Smalley, the bass player and vocalist for Houston's kick to the head that is Blaggards. It's great Irish music played with a ridiculous punk-rock rush that makes it engaging and impossible not to like.
It was almost ten years ago when Smalley attended an open-mike night being hosted by fellow Blaggard Patrick Devlin. Smalley had been obsessed with the dream of being a musician ever since he saw the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense at the River Oaks Theater. He'd followed a string of music projects until landing with Devlin and forming what has become a Houston institution.
Currently Smalley and the other Blaggards are breaking in their new fiddler, Brittany Johnson. Smalley swears that 2014 is the year for the new album the band has been promising for years, but they'll have to sneak it in among the rest of their busy schedule. The North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, South Texas Irish Fest in San Antonio, Paddy's Day in College Station and Austin, and a Midwest tour in early April are all on Blaggards' itinerary, not to mention their fifth trip to Ireland itself.
Home Base: Blaggards rent a monthly rehearsal studio, but Smalley keeps his chops sharp at home with a little amp and head phones to keep him focused on improving his skill. Picking a favorite venue to play is a little harder when you've played as many as they have. Dan Electro's, Molly's Pub and Continental Club are just three of the many area spots Smalley loves to plug in.
One Good War Story: "We had some funny stuff happening in Ireland last year," teases Smalley.
In Cork, we borrowed drums from a local guy, but for some reason he didn't bring cymbals. So Mike [McAloon] had to play the entire show with snare, kick, and three toms. No cymbals or hi-hat. It was a true testament to Mike's talent that he was able to pull that off. But he had a vocal mike, so wherever a cymbal hit was supposed to be, he'd go 'psssh.' in the mike.
We couldn't stop laughing. Oddly enough the same thing happened in Galway a few nights later, but I made a few frantic phone calls to the guy who loaned us the gear, and like a trooper he showed up a few songs into the set and put the cymbals on right in the middle of a song, with the audience cheering him on. It was classic.
Story continues on the next page.