Circus comes to town
Florida’s Viva Le Vox live for life on the road
Lake Worth, Fla., might not be what immediately comes to mind when you hear or see Viva Le Vox. Then again, the vaudevillian punk band doesn’t spend much time at home.
The band’s core members—drummer Antoine Dukes and guitarist-vocalist Tony Bones—have settled into an almost circus-performer lifestyle, traveling the country, performing for anyone who will listen and sleeping in their van. Musically, Viva Le Vox evokes turn-of-the-20th-century vaudeville and End of the Century punk energy … performed by visitors from another planet.
“We didn’t go into it with a particular style in mind,” explains Dukes, who rattles off a short-list of artists—Fats Domino, Charlie Parker, L.A. lunkhead punks Fear—that he and Bones hold dear to their hearts.
In February Viva Le Vox released their second full-length, Dirt For Sale, an album Dukes says was intentionally not recorded in the spirit of their riotous live performances. The record sounds surprisingly elegant and serene, filled with layers of guitar strums as well as fiddle, kazoo and even a saw, all of which commingle with Bones’ throaty, 30-grit rasp. It’s also the band’s first release to feature Kentucky-born, Chico-approved Joe Buck on upright bass (Buck will join the band on tour in May). The songs tend to steer clear of real-world topics (or do they?)—"Cardiovascular & Otherwise,” “Bloodstains & Bumholes” and “Confessions of a Masochist” all sound like the products of men who do their best work during the small hours.
It’s in the live setting where one gets the full experience. Think if the circus came to town from the Messier 83 galaxy. Of course, with that you get plenty of tattoos and Dapper Dan, and moustaches sculpted into imperials and handlebars, but there’s just enough ‘70s camp burrowed deep to keep things interesting. And whether Viva Le Vox is four-piece mode (with accordion and bass added), or ripping through songs with Bones’ distorted acoustic guitar and Dukes’ over-simplified drum kit (as they will for their Chico performance), the energy is always contagious. That’s not to say they sacrifice musicianship for showmanship.
“When people are enjoying themselves, you can’t goof off too much,” Dukes insists. “Although it’s definitely an in-the-moment kind of thing.”
It’s been a long road for Viva Le Vox, from the band’s early days performing at 24-hour laundromats on Friday nights to playing larger gigs all over the country. And as the audiences have swelled, so has the lifestyle. Last year the duo was on the road for nine months straight. The current tour finds Viva Le Vox booked through June (Bones insists that “he’s just gotta move").
And there’s a good chance Bones and Dukes will find places to play in between. Aside from their long-standing laundromat gig, Viva Le Vox have played their share of tattoo and record shops in addition to art openings and even at a Hot Topic in Fort Lauderdale. Bottom line: These blokes are quite comfortable in their tatted skin. Call them the everymen of circus rock.
“Sometimes it’s nice to play a big place with a big stage, but sometimes you feel like you’re alone up there—especially as a two-piece,” says Dukes. “We’ve played 800-person theaters and we’ve played to bartenders who are probably thinking, ‘Get me the fuck out of here.'”