Spotlight: Riverboat Gamblers

Beerland, midnight

Spotlight: Riverboat Gamblers

Playing fast and loose with Southern-fried punk rock, the Riverboat Gamblers always have something up their sleeve. The Denton fivepiece deals out spine-stunting mayhem that nearly always beats the house, something they grew accustomed to while playing parties in the North Texas college town.

Fledgling groups like Jimmy Eat World and At the Drive-In would come to town, and instead of playing at a club, they would set up in someone's back yard or living room. Singer Mike Wiebe reminisces about how the Gamblers knew they had something when inhabitants of emo-mad Denton began seeing the white light of their true-blue rock & roll.

"It was funny to see all these people who were into emo come up to us and start talking about AC/DC," he says.

Wiebe is joined by bassist Pat Lillard, guitarists Fadi el-Assad and Colin Jones, and drummer Jesse Hamilton or, in Gambler parlance, "Teko," "Spider," "Freddy," "ColinAmbulance," and "Jesse 3X." The band issued its self-titled debut, a 27-minute Lone Star swagger, in 2001 on Vile Beat/Beatville Records. All 12 numbers are Riverboat Gambler originals save for a cover of lost Ramones gem "Slug." Texas punk rocker emeritus Tim Kerr produced the disc, and it was his interest in the Gamblers that helped spread word about the band.

"I think we were the last ones who asked him to produce our record," Wiebe marvels.

The Gamblers are working with Kerr once again on their follow-up, due in June on Gearhead Records, pre-hype home of the Hives, Red Planet, Sweden's hell-raising Hellacopters, and most recently, Ohio ne'er-do-wells the New Bomb Turks. In the intervening years, the Gamblers have played more shows in Austin than in Dallas-Fort Worth. Wiebe says relocating has crossed his mind once or twice.

"I'd like to," he admits, "but I'm a little hesitant. Now we can come down for the weekend, hang out with all our friends, and go home. If we lived here, I'm afraid people would get sick of us."

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Riverboat Gamblers, Denton, Mike Wiebe, Gearhead Records, Tim Kerr

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