Questions for 5 Card Studs
Local cover band brings an animated Vegas lounge vibe to Cathedral Square tomorrow night.
Milwaukee-based band 5 Card Studs deal a strong hand of over the top 60s, 70s, and 80s covers. Originally formed on a whim at a party in 1995, band members Cesar Palace, Reno Nevada, Blake Tahoe, Les Vegas, and Asti Spumanti—all stage names, clearly—have taken their act to weddings, business events, massive outdoor festivals and intimate music lounges.
The quintet is known for their energetic and unpredictable performances, complete with an exaggerated Vegas lounge look that includes wigs, sunglasses, leather pants, popped collars, cigarettes and cocktails. Their performance is a mashup of 70s game show shenanigans, sprinkled with elements of a kitschy Las Vegas sideshow. It’s a combination that can initially stun audiences, but eventually listeners are swept away by the band’s impeccable covers.
The Studs play the likes of Neil Diamond, Engelbert Humperdink, Tom Jones, and Frank Sinatra; along with vintage one hit wonders and disco tunes. They will perform tomorrow, Thursday August 14, at the annual Jazz in the Park summer concert series. Music starts at 6pm in Cathedral Square Park in Downtown Milwaukee. They will also be joined by drummer Asti Spumanti’s father, famous harmonicist Jim Liban.
Each band member has a pseudonym, who thought of the idea and why?
We started in 1995 on a total whim at a Vegas themed New Year’s Eve party. We were all young and silly and we decided to all pick fake names. It wasn’t until 2000 that we really got serious.
Who are your main musical influences?
There are so many…Humperdink, The Spinners, The Temptations, Sinatra, just a lot of that weird golden age of 70s hit music.
What drew you to your style of music?
We like the Rat Pack, we like 60s, 70s, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond. Music was more innocent back then, and fun. Not so serious. We are a pretty tongue and cheek performance.
I would assume that it is the population of the city. We have so many different ethnicities, cultures, and classes…lower, middle class, and higher. Growing up in the 70s we developed that blue collar ethic. Watching the live music scene back in the 80s and 90s, plus our parent’s jobs have all influenced us.
What is your musical background?
I’ve been playing since I was eight. I watched my father be a professional musician and I have musicians in my family. Now I have a teaching background and degree, but this is really my profession.
What do you hope the audience gets out of watching you perform?
To be honest, we are kind of trying to educate. To make a bridge between jazz and everything that it has influenced. We are not technically a jazz band, but we do some jazz stuff. We want to show people that what we do is an offshoot of jazz.
What is your favorite thing to see in the audience while you are on stage?
Initially I love the look of… “What the heck is this?” I love that shock when they see some of the wigs we wear and Cesar doing his bit. Later I like to see them dancing; I love that we eventually win them over.
What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?
I guess we enjoy getting feedback from all ages. At first you get the six, seven, and eight-year-olds dancing, then we get the twenty-something’s laughing, and then their parents dig it because they grew up with it. We just played with Three Dog Night watching us from offstage. We hold them in such high regard. We’ve met Weird Al Yankovic and Leslie Nielsen. The respect of our peers is important, that’s part of our longevity. There are so many cover bands in Milwaukee but we have such a unique take on it.
What are some of your hopes and aspirations for the band?
Continue to play. To have people enjoy us. To keep it all together and keep it going until we feel we can stop.