Last year’s Summerfest was a great success, and this year the presenters have upped the ante by going bigger and better. The May 20 event is free, but one of the organizers’ goals is to raise awareness and encourage donations to the Audubon Kid’s Zone, a local non-profit that helps children.
Second Street, from Water to Main Street, will be closed and will hold food trucks, kids’ activities, a beer garden, lots of vendors, and a big stage with professional lights and sound featuring three great bands: Snake Oil, Cynthia Murray & End of Times and Xanderwolf.
Headlining the SummerFest 2023 is Snake Oil, a touring show of 70s and 80s rock music. Complete with full costumes, hair, makeup and sounds of your favorite records, they play and sing as rock superstars, such as Kiss, Heart, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Cher, Joan Jett, Rob Zombie, Pat Benatar and Van Halen.
In preparation for Summerfest, Henderson transplant, local musician and event professional, Tramp Lawing interviewed Snake Oil’s lead singer Darren Moore.
Tramp: I’ve really enjoyed watching the videos on Snakeoilrock.com and reading about the band. This thing that you do looks like so much fun! So, how long have you been doing this Ikons of Rock impersonations and tribute stuff and how did it get going?
Darren: All of us started off in original bands and did quite well. But when we weren’t out on the road, we got together and said, “Hey, we’re going to just play stuff we like to play.” Which is the stuff Snake Oil does now. So, one day, I don’t know why, I put some Paul Stanley makeup (KISS) on my face, left my hair all curly and came down to our house gig. Then in the following weeks I showed up as these favorite characters, and all these people just started coming out of the woodwork, coming to the shows and people were starting to dress up. And it really took off! So, I decided to get serious about this and start really imitating these bands. And we’ve been doing it now about six years. We’re just getting it tighter and tighter.
Tramp: You mentioned people dressing up at the house gig. Do you encourage the Snake Oil crowd now to dress up when they come to the show?
Darren: Absolutely! Absolutely! A lot of people do. They’ll come out in their 70s and 80s garb. Or they will go to Amazon or a costume store and get the worst, cheapest long hair wig they can find. It’s fun. Sometimes we get whole groups of people that come out dressed up.
Tramp: What other kinds of crowd participation things do you do?
Darren: Oh, we get them to clap and sing along. I do some of the Paul Stanley banter between him and the crowd from Kiss Alive 1 and 2. Also, crowds like to push up tight to the front of the stage and there have been a few times that we were accused of lip-syncing, so I’ll point the mic down at some people who are singing along and let them get in on it and prove that our mics are “live,” and we really do sound that good. We do all our music live. The only thing we use that is prerecorded is sound effects. Like we bring these geysers that shoot water-based smoke that is way safer than pyrotechnics, and we have explosion sounds to make those more real. And some things are sounds from the records, cars revving, sound effects and such.
Tramp: The band has two lead singers–you and a girl named Cristelle. I know you do all the male artists. There are so many! How many characters will you do? Cristelle does Cher, Pat Benatar, Blondie, but also Lita Ford, Heart and Joan Jett. Will she also play guitar?
Darren: Oh yeah, she does her own guitar work. How many? We have so many of these bands and characters that we do. We couldn’t fit them all into a 3-hour show. So, we mix them up so that each show is a little different. But there will be plenty!
Tramp: Are you based in Canada?
Darren: Everybody in the band is originally from Canada. I now live in Wisconsin, KK (Guitar) and Cristelle still live in Canada, and we have other guys based in Las Vegas.
Tramp: Are you going to do some of your original material? Snake Oil songs?
Darren: This is an interesting story. But during COVID, I wrote an album. And we did a video when we got together for a show. I posted it online about a year ago. It’s called “Blink of an Eye.” We posted it and record labels started to call us and wanted to sign us. So, we signed with a European record label, and we have an original record dropping May 20.
Tramp: That’s the date of your show here. This SummerFest can be your record release party!
Darren: Well, there you go! We’ll be looking forward to it!
Tramp: What kind of merchandise are you going to bring?
Darren: We bring these beanies. We call them tuques in Canada. And we’ll have drumsticks and picks as well.
Tramp: We are all looking forward to your show! Be safe out there and travel safe! Thanks again for speaking with me.
Darren: It was my pleasure. Sounds like we are all going to have a great time!
Be sure to don your rock star costumes, face paint and cool 70s and 80s outfits, and come downtown to SummerFest to see Snake Oil, Cynthia Murray and End of Times, and Xanderwolf!
Check out trampcamp.net!