The Hot Sauce Committee
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The Hot Sauce Committee


Band Pop Hip Hop


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words by Leah Williams Wright and Chris Wissmann

picture by Roger Jansen

Every year about this time, scores of patrons take to the Pinch Penny Pub beer garden regardless of the temperature.

The annual Polar Bear Party warms up Saturday, January 26 in the next-door Copper Dragon with a double dose of party-rock fun. The bill includes Hot Sauce Committee, a band that pays tribute to nineties hip-hop, and Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press, blaring out party tunes.

Hot Sauce Committee is named after a two-part Beastie Boys album, only half of which was released. Based in the Chicago area, the band consists of Front man Serv, guitarist and vocalist Bender, drummer Pauly C., bassist Roland, and DJ Kevin Phoenix. The group formed after Bender, who played in alternative and heavy rock bands the Branded and A Birdsong Valentine, went to an underground party in Chicago with Pauly C., where they heard Phoenix spinning 1990s hip-hop and thought about how fun it would be to play those songs as a live band.

Play, though, is sort of the wrong word. In a Nightlife interview, the word to which Bender keeps returning is interpret.

“We’re not playing it verbatim,” he says. “We pop things in from today’s music and media world to help them relate.”

Them, of course, is a college-aged audience that barely was born when hits like the Beasties’ “Fight for Your Right” or “Sabotage” or Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky” broke new ground in music.

“Yeah, these kids who were born in ninety-four, ninety-three, they didn’t grow up with this [music],” Bender says. “Everyone’s an eighties baby in the band, so it’s fun opening their eyes to it. They’re always coming up to us and asking, ‘Is this your song?’”

Bender chuckles, then notes that he really appreciates the hooks and verse-chorus-verse structure of 1990s tunes, calling that period an extremely enjoyable era in music.

But Hot Sauce Committee is trying not to fall into the tribute-band trap.

“There’s a lot of hip-hop bands out there” covering songs while playing live instruments, Bender says, “but for a lot of them it’s a gimmick. We try to bring out the actual musicianship [of the band].”

Back to the interpretation concept, as a guitarist who studied jazz, Bender loves the punk and metal guitar flourishes in 1990s hip-hop, from the more pop-oriented artists to still-extreme groups like Public Enemy and NWA. And in songs without significant guitar parts, Bender enjoys coming up with harmony lines for keyboard or vocal melodies.

But Hot Sauce Committee isn’t stuck in the 1990s or that era’s hip-hop. They play newer songs by Sublime, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg, and have a blast playing boy-band material by 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Of the latter category, Bender laughs, “The girls eat it up, and the boys get excited because there’s girls there.”

They also trade on audience participation, especially during Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” when they encourage women to come on stage to dance.

“For me, it’s all about presentation,” Bender says. “You let girls get on stage and give them that opportunity, and they’ll remember that forever. If they knock one of my tuning pegs so I’m out of tune or grab the drummer’s drum sticks and hit the ride cymbal off rhythm, and nobody can see the band and their boyfriends are getting angry, as long as they’re having great time.”

Meanwhile, Hot Sauce Committee is testing out original songs. They aren’t playing them at shows per se, just dropping snippets and choruses into their covers to see if they can generate some call-and-response from the audience and otherwise how they go over. Their goal is to figure out what’s working, then to record a few singles this summer, all while they build an audience.

“We all come from performance backgrounds and play in original rock bands,” Bender says. “In a market where nobody knows you, you need to be very engaging with the audience, and even then you still have people yelling ‘Freebird!’.... It’s challenging to an independent artist who’s just overwhelmed by everyone with a Reverb Nation page.”

Eventually, though, they’re hoping for a time when they can give an honest affirmative when someone from the audience asks them, “Is this your song?”

For more information about Hot Sauce Committee, search for them on Facebook.

who: Hot Sauce Committee

what: Polar Bear party w/ Rod Tuff Curls and the Bench Press (party rock)

where: Copper Dragon Brewing Company

when: Saturday, January 26 -

Please read link - Local Press


Demo 2011



The Hot Sauce Committee combines 90's Hip Hop, with guitars and club beats for a high-energy hot sauce experience. With Serv on the lead vocals, Bender on guitar, Nick on Bass, Danger-Russ on Drums and featuring DJ KevinPhoenix as well as DJ Vivid; these boys bring a crazy fun show to any stage they are on.


How long have you all known each other? and how did you meet?

Bender and Nick head out one night in Chicago. They end up at an underground party where Kevin Phoenix was spinning classic Hip Hop from the 90's. While watching the DJ, they thought to themselves how fun it would be to play these songs live. As they spend the night talking to Phoenix the idea gets planted. Learn 90's Hip Hop music, add some R&B pop songs and deliver it with a live band… all that is left is to find a great front man and a drummer. Like thousands of other bands in town, Serv was playing some shows here and there trying hard to get noticed. Bender and Nick saw Serv fronting his band at the Elbo Room, when they approached him after the show to say: “We can all do this better. More shows, more audience and more fun.” The first rehearsal did not include a bass player. Only the DJ tracks, the guitars, front man Serv and Nick on bass. Teaming up with KMA management they began developing the idea, the show and the brand. Not long after that, Danger-Russ was introduced on Drums and Vivid as a second DJ and the group was completed: The Hot Sauce Committee.

What inspired you to make music together?

Saved By The Bell, the original 90210, etc… We are also inspired by the idea of hosting an event, where people love and appreciate the 90's as much as we do. Dance your ass off, sing along and be part of the show. The Hot Sauce loves to invite the girls on stage with them.

What separates your band from all the other bands out there?

What separates the HOT SAUCE form other bands is the nostalgic sounds from the 90's brought to you with live guitars, an exceptional frontman, and the fundamental idea that we believe music from the 90's was the singular most ridiculous and fun era there has been.

What is your live show like?

Our shows are energetically delivered nostalgic sounds of the 90's which showcases an incredible DJ, great dancing frontman and the back beat to dance your ass off to.

Where have you performed?

We would like to play everywhere… so far, we’ve made friends in Chicago, Bloomington, Carbondale, Columbus, Cleveland, We even opened for “Color Me Badd”, Michigan City.

What are some of your highlights as a band?
We have only been together for a short time. So, already creating the splash that we have is certainly the most encouraging thing. We look forward to great moments with our audiences.


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