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The Rockabilly Circus

Rock(abilly) Around The Clock

The circus is coming to town, but donít expect to see any smelly elephants or obnoxious clowns. There wonít be a big top -- but probably plenty of big hair -- when the Rockabilly Circus rolls into town with a caravan of hot rods, a full weekendís worth of rockabilly and surf music, and enough shopping and food to keep the masses of betties, greasers and surf rats occupied.

The eventís planners wonít waste any time getting things hot when the festivities kick off Friday, June 16th at Thee Parkside Nightclub with the Ooh La La Burlesque Troupe and handful of bands, including Johnny Dilks and The Country Soul Brothers.

The circus continues a noon Saturday with Hot Dogs-N-Hot Rods Car show at Thee Parkside with music from Moonshine and Juke Joint Gamblers, before old-school rocker Rudy Grayzell -- he toured with Elvis in the 50s -- takes the stage at Bottom of the Hill later that night.

The fun continues Sunday at Hotel Utah Saloon with The Neptunas and The Diminished Men, before one last blowout later that night at the Knockout Nightclub with music from Texas Steve and the Git Gone Trio, Moonshine, and a jam session.

Greg Tietz, who is the main organizer of the event with his partner Zombo, took a few minutes to talk with SF Station about the circus and the subculture that inspired it.

SF Station (SFS): Are any animals involved or other circus activities?

Greg Tietz: No, basically it just started as a play on words like the Piccadilly Circus. Itís just a variety of rockabilly and surf related activities for the weekend.

SFS: Why do you think Rockabilly has survived all these years?

Greg Tietz: Maybe because thereís nothing very similar to it. I think because there are so many elements -- hot rods, tiki culture, tattooing, and musicians tend to be in contact with each other. Itís a very unique look and a very unique attitude.

SFS: So what should people that are not familiar with the culture expect to see? I imagine there will probably be a lot of guys with rolled up cuffs on their jeans.

Greg Tietz: Yeah, you will see that. Youíll see a lot of ducktails and greasers, a lot of vintage gas station shirts and the women with the rockabilly hairstyle. There will be plenty of hot rods. I know itís a bit stereotypical, but the people involved with the culture stay loyal to it for the most part.

SFS: How do the surf elements fit in?

Greg Tietz: I guess how that started is that Iíve been working at Bottom of the Hill for 10 years and, personally, the most fun that I always have there is when we have surf shows and when we have rockabilly shows. Both of those crowds interact well and they seem to have a great time. I really just wanted to bring all the elements together into one weekend. We are certainly not the first festival to do this or the only one == there are other ones in the Bay Area as well -- but I wanted to have something that was right here in the city that incorporated all the various fun parts of surf and rockabilly.

SFS: Is San Francisco a big hotbed for this kind of scene?

Greg Tietz: Yeah. The whole Bay Area has a really strong rockabilly culture. Thereís a very strong surf element too. A lot of people think itís mostly down in Santa Cruz for the surf, but there are a lot of surfers out at Ocean Beach. Anytime you have an event like this where any of the rockabilly bands play, they are all very well attended. Itís really, really strong in the city and in the Bay Area.