Neon-red Christmas lights are draped across an amplifier. The word “Roach” is scrolled across the top and a plastic cartoon skull sits atop, his hollow eyes staring into the audience.
A life-size painting of a sphinx stands in the background and a painted Dracula figure hides in the darkness of stage left. Coils of bright green lights hang over a drum set. There is a painting of a monkey with its beloved bananas on the snare drum and a cute girl with short brown hair sits behind the set, anxiously drumming on her thighs.
A man no more than 5’ 6” tall walks over to one microphone. He fingers a few chords on the gold bass guitar he holds in his paws. After making a few jumps into the air, this man in skintight black jeans and hi-tops yells: “Who wants to have a rock n’ roll party with us tonight?”
He is answered by a few screams from the audience, which is made up of fans ranging in ages from seven to 40.
A few people lean against a wall in the corner, unsure of what they are about to see. They wait patiently trying to determine if this band on-stage is nothing but a bunch of monster loving Halloween enthusiasts with a thing for the Ramones. This is obviously the first time they have seen the Sacramento pop punk trio live — they are in for a treat.
A Groovie Ghoulies show is unlike any other concert one could imagine.
The stage is decorated with art hand-painted by the band’s front man himself. Occasionally, plastic spaceships or alien figurines find their way from the stage into the crowd.
The band members constantly exchange smiles with one another and those dedicated fans standing in the front row. Hailed as “the nicest band you could ever meet,” by many fans and friends alike, the Groovie Ghoulies make all their live shows more of a friendly get-together than a distant rock show and they have been doing so for nearly two decades.
Referring to each other as their “Ghoulie family,” Groovie Ghoulie fans form close friendships with each other and the band at each and every Groovie Ghoulies show; there are no lines between those onstage and those in the crowd— everyone is there to have a good time.
“The Ghoulies have a great live show,” said Portland resident Simon Tam, a long time Ghoulie fan.”They’re fun, they move around, they tell wonderful stories and they let the Ghoulie family hear the songs they want to hear.”
Although the current three-piece line-up has been around for only four years, the Groovie Ghoulies originally formed more than 15 years ago, with a number of different drummers filling the position from time to time.
Their newest drummer, Scampi, who has been the Ghoulies’ drummer longer than any other musician to ever hold the position, is truly the member the Ghoulies were searching for all along.
Kepi, the Groovie Ghoulies bassist and lead vocalist, cites the band’s beginning as the day Scampi joined the band, innocently ignoring the fact that the Groovie Ghoulies have been performing and releasing albums since the late eighties.
Kepi, 40, a man of short stature but great personality, is the original member of the Ghoulies, having been in the band since the beginning.
In 1989, the Ghoulies released “Appetite for Adrenochrome.” The 13 song CD included covers of songs originally recorded by artists such as the Monkees, Rolling Stones and Herman’s Hermits.
This is a trend that the Ghoulies have managed to carry on from album to album, covering songs by Neil Young and Neil Diamond throughout most of their full-length releases.
After the release of “Appetite,” Kepi was joined by his leading lady and lead guitarist, Roach, just in time for the band’s sophomore release titled “Born in the Basement.” Roach took over lead guitar and Kepi stepped back as the bassist.
Roach and Kepi teamed up with a number of musicians in the pop punk scene for many years and albums later. Kepi even filled in as drummer for a short time while recording their fourth album release titled “Fun in the Dark.”
Well-known musician B-Face, who played in other notable punk bands such as The Queers, occasionally filled in as bass guitarist for the Ghoulies in between drummers and rotating members.
In February of 2002, the Ghoulies began a search for a drummer who would fit into their family.
A Sacramento resident and long time Ghoulies fan, now known only as Scampi, heard about the Ghoulies’ search for a drummer from an old friend who at one time served as drummer for the Ghoulies.
“I saw the Ghoulies for the first time when I was 15. A few years later, a friend told me to audition,” Scampi said.
The audition process was a little nerve-wracking for the then 20-year old.
“I kept putting it off, but I finally worked up the nerve and auditioned,” Scampi said. “Kepi told me to learn a few songs, they liked me and I got to join.”
Scampi quit school and devoted herself fully to the Ghoulies and their consistent touring schedule.
Touring nationally and worldwide nearly eight months out of the year, the Ghoulies schedule is without a doubt hectic, but that is what their rock ‘n’ roll is about.
Although it is strenuous, it is well worth it. They have opened for the rock ‘n’ roll icon Chuck Berry and the legendary Jonathan Richman. Since 1997 the Ghoulies have done seven United States tours, three European tours and two Canadian tours.
Devoted Ghoulies fans come from far and wide to spend some time with their fellow music enthusiasts and their favorite musicians from Northern California.
“They’re one of the hardest working bands in the country and they tour like crazy,” Tam said.
The Ghoulies truly appreciate their fans’ dedication.
“We love them,” Kepi said. “They bring us donuts, they sing along, they stand in the front row and they are happy. They make life worth living.”
At Ghoulies shows, both local and away, Kepi, Roach and Scampi make themselves available both before and after their performances to share stories about their beloved cats, upcoming shows, monster movies, cereal, “The Simpsons” and their plans for the future.
“I believe that as long as Kepi, Roach and Scampi remain as the trinity known as the Groovie Ghoulies there will always be super amazing times to be had by all,” said long time Ghoulie friend and fan Suzi Emanuele-Manbeck.
“Once you see them live you are hooked for life, and if not, check for pulse.”
Although the Groovie Ghoulies are currently taking a break from the strenuous touring scene, they remain busy.
Kepi, who heads his own label, Green Door Records, is currently going to school for business. While he is not hitting the books he manages to curate local art shows and create art of his own, available through www.gogreendoor.com.
The Groovie Ghoulies may be taking a break in the meantime, but plans for summer tours are in the works and upcoming shows are already booked. In the mean time, the band remains busy with the Haints, a country influenced side band complete with all three Ghoulie members and a few other musicians. The Haints perform and record Ghoulie classics and other original pieces regularly.
The future looks bright for this pop punk trio from Sacramento. Their energetic stage antics, charismatic personalities and love for their music and fans have helped them stay strong throughout line-up changes and demanding schedules.
“We don’t know what to expect for the future,” Kepi said. “You hope for the best, expect the least and hopefully land somewhere in between.”
Valerie Rojas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.