Blacktop Badge
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Blacktop Badge

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The best kept secret in music

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"Blacktop Badge: Snow Blinding Rock"

Blacktop Badge at Station 4
From Pulse of the Twin Cities
Dwight Hobbes


It’s the first of March, day two of what has turned out to be nasty blizzard (a white conspiracy, I believe, in retaliation against Black History Month). At venerable St. Paul rockhouse Station 4, the weather has taken quite a toll. Loch Ness Mobsters have cancelled – that is, all except Ryan Simonet, who got the word late from his fellows and, since he’s here, figures he may as well stay and rock a solo acoustic set. Which, in fact, holds everyone’s attention (all half-dozen or so diehard souls) quite nicely. Especially a ribald little ditty about the perils of unprotected sex. Another band had better lines of communication: they all took the night off.
This leaves Blacktop Badge as headliners by default. Fine by me. If anybody is worth tromping through steadily mounting snow against a chilling wind, these guys are. Been ages since I heard anybody due justice to classic balls-to-the-walls rock. Their album, Blacktop Badge, is tailor made to leap off record store racks and into your stereo, for repeated playing. Again and again. It’s hook-rich, stacked top to bottom with solid material: damned good music, tight lyrics and, of course, that indispensable requisite, hard-charging vocals backed by fine playing that starts on overdrive and keeps picking up steam. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. And keep the bartender busy as possible.
The band immediately has to deal with, of all things, a heckler. “I don’t see Any Road on that set list”, carps some guy with a pronounced limp and a drink in hand. What business he has snooping at the band’s set list is anyone’s guess. Lead singer, Aaron McMenamy is gracious. “We can rectify that”, he promptly returns. Leaving the mouthy gimp nothing to do except go back, sit down and enjoy the show. Which, from jump, kicks hard as a country mule. Badge weighs in with “The Grind”, segueing into “Gone” brandishing that hallmark of truly superior outfits, doing both songs even stronger than they did on the album. Clearly, this band came to take care of serious business. Then, they do the anthemic “Star Spangled Man” and everything goes straight to hell. Guitarists Cory Jesok and Adam Whisner chug the intro. Dave Schermerhorn (bass guitar) – who pitched in with scalding vocals on “Gone” -- and Aaron Biggar (drums) nail the pocket right behind them. McMenamy sails. The song has a hint of Lee Michaels-style funk crossbred with a taste of Jimmy Page. And is kick-ass original. A few songs later, they, indeed, burn the place up with “Any Road”, influence taking a page from Ronnie Laine, execution, yes, still original as hell. As everyone of us got a clue from somewhere, it’s right to say Blacktop Badge has Chuck Berry at its core and, one more time, remains original. Give these guys good airplay, they’ll be playing halls instead of bars in no time flat.
As it is, they’ve been together for only 13 gigs. Last year, Dave, Aaron the drummer and Adam had knocked around for the longest, picking up session work and gigging awhile as power trio Big Junk. After auditioning more prospect than they care to think about, they lucked up on Cory Jesok and Aaron McMenamy. And haven’t looked back. “We needed to flesh it out”, says Dave Schermerhorn. “And we did.” No lie. Complimenting Adam Whisner’s screaming, nasty-ass leads, Jesok snakes tasty slide – and picks more than few bad licks, himself. And, in anybody’s book, McMenamy is a find. This man was born to sing. As is evident everytime he takes the mike. Intonation, phrasing and unbridled passion. The set includes a totally unexpected plus: a cover of “Soul Kitchen” that gives nothing up to The Doors and one of the Stones’ “Under My Thumb” you have to hear to believe. And there’s AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood, You Got It” with McNenamy switching to rhythm guitar and Whisner airing his spleen out. By the time, they’re done there is no doubt: Blacktop Badge came to take care of serious business.
Throughout the set, a camera flashes. Turns out, an attractive redhead named Beth can get enough of Blacktop Badge. “They are real”, she tells me. “They aren’t up there, trying to pose. It’s genuine. It’s not forced.“ Her friend, Joy, adds, “You can see the chemistry between them. You can feel it.” After the encore (didn’t many attend, but those who did appreciated), I get a chance to bounce Beth’s and Joy’s comments off the guys. A round table discussion ensues, boiling down to a few things. One, stardom-hungry egotism has no place in this band. Cory flatly states, “There’s no competition. It’s not about whose turn it is to hog the spotlight. That keeps it real. We don’t have to make an image, just play music.” Adam is quick to say, “We’re a family. A brotherhood. What’s good for one of us is good for all of us. That’s how we’re able to work off of one another so well.”
First rule of thumb for aspirant rock ‘n’ rollers. If you don’t have it in the pocket, well, you just a - The Pulse Twin Cities


Discography

Blacktop Badge's Self Titled Debut Record will be available soon on CDbaby.com

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Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Blacktop Badge is a new five-man, hard rock engine. Stripped down, two guitar, butt-shakin’ rock and roll. You know this music. The sound is easily recognizable as vintage FM radio influenced electric blues rock. They’re a high energy rock explosion and clearly just having a damn good time. You’ll hear primarily original music, featuring soul-tinged vocals and harmonies layered over raucous, weaving guitar lines. You might also hear a few carefully chosen, foot stompin’ versions of Exile-era Stones, early 70’s Aerosmith, CCR, or Zeppelin. Depends on the night.

The Minneapolis based band started as Big Junk, an eclectic rock/funk trio which played clubs like Nomads, The Uptown, and Lee’s Liquor Lounge. But something was missing. Aaron, Dave, and Adam started looking for a lead singer and guitarist. Who they found changed everything. Aaron McMenamy, a student at the Institute of Production and Recording brought screams, howls, and a soulfulness beyond his years. Guitarist Cory Jesok was such perfect fit it was as if he had been a band member from the start. Within a matter of months they had recorded their eponymous debut album. In true BTB hit-it-and-quit-it fashion, the album was recorded in 18 hours straight.