Memorial for Red Star

The late, great Red Star Memorial.

The late, great Red Star Memorial.

You first might have noticed the matching suits: tailored black affairs that seemed somehow from an era when bands thought about such intangible elements as stage presence and “look”; this was a band that looked like a brotherhood (and in fact two of them were—or rather are—brothers).

When they hit the stage, they played like professionals. The singer worked the crowd like some country-pop-rock-tinged member of the Rat Pack, the guitar player’s solos were spot-on, and the rhythm section held the whole thing together with a sense of swing not often found on contemporary stages outside of Nashville. Not that this was a country band, although its sound did heavily reference musical roots—particularly 1950s- and 1960s-era Chet Atkins and the rock ’n’ roll-influenced Bakersfield country of Buck Owens). But perhaps even more than that, the suited four chopped into 1960s-era beach pop and, in grungier moments, the Rolling Stones’ 1972 rock/country/blues masterpiece, Exile on Main Street.

But just about the time when it seemed as if the band was almost ready to take off, it started to fade from view. Show notices seemed to lessen, and the rumored CD it was working on seemed to be “almost finished” for a year, then two and then three.

And then it was announced, soon after that debut CD finally was released, that Red Star Memorial was no more.

In hindsight, one could see the writing on the wall—or at least some of it. After all, Bobby Jordan had been (and still is) a longtime member of the Knockoffs and seemed particularly committed to playing and touring heavily with the Mr. T Experience, the pop-punk band that has just released its 11th studio album. There seemed a correlation between Jordan’s heavy touring and performance commitment to Mr. T, and Red Star’s decreased activity. Eventually, something had to give, and what gave was Red Star Memorial.

“Our breakup boiled down to Bryce [Gonzales], Chris [Amaral] and I wanting this band to be everyone’s No. 1 priority,” guitarist Steve Amaral commented via e-mail. “The three of us felt like that was a reasonable request and we wanted Bobby to be on the same page as us. Bobby couldn’t do it so it seem[ed] very logical to let it go and move on.”

In person, just days after the breakup of the band, Amaral appeared visibly shaken but nonetheless noted that the breakup was amicable and that there still remained much love between all four band members. “It is sad to me,” he noted, “but it is definitely not the end of playing music for Bryce, Chris and I. We are a damn good band, and we will find or start a new project and give it the chance it deserves.”

Music fans can look forward to whatever music that brings down the pipe. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with Red Star’s only released CD, the recently out (and ironically titled) It’s About Time. For those with an eye for nostalgia, there’s even a photo of the band members in their suits.

Farewell, gentlemen. To quote one of your song titles, “I only laugh to keep from crying.”