Punch the Clown
Punch the Clown was a Davis, California-based ska band that was active in 1990s. The band's music featured eclectic influences from big-band to calypso, to old-school rocksteady. Punch the Clown (PTC) was formed by founding members Mark Groesbeck (vocals, guitar, harmonica), and Rick Rocklewitz (drums, vocals) in the summer of 1992. Other members were quickly added which included Bret Enlow (bass), April West (keyboards), Brian Copenhagen (trombone), Mindy Bauer (trumpet, vocals), and Keith Cline (saxophone).
The band's first performance was for an art show at University of California, Davis. PTC's infectious tunes, primarily written by Groesbeck in the beginning, earned the band a following and soon they were headlining at local clubs in Davis such as A.J. Bumps, The Cantina Del Cabo, The Brewery, and The Graduate. By 1994 the ska band began attracting crowds at established hot spots for up-and-coming talent in Sacramento such as The Press Club, The Kattle Klub, and Old Ironsides. The same year the band released their first album, but not before a few personnel changes which brought new members Kevin Newby (bass) and Joel P. Franklin (trombone). The band's first album, PUNCH THE CLOWN IS CAUGHT RED-HANDED, featured songs performed in PTC's live show.
Word spreading through album sales, performances, radio, and the internet gained the band a very hip and loyal following. PTC began playing more frequently at various clubs in Northern California including The Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, the Berkeley Square in Berkeley, The Red Room in Santa Cruz, and The Lava Lounge in Chico. The band was also a favorite at several venues in San Francisco including Miss Pearl's Jam House, The Last Day Saloon, and Slims.
1996 was an active year for PTC as the band continued refining it's sound before party crowds and club audiences and began touring with ska mates, Slow Gherkin. A Pacific Northwest tour took the two bands to Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian town of Vancouver. The same year, PTC released their second album, EACH SOLD SEPARATELY. The band's second release showed the band maturing as song writers and diverging somewhat from their ska roots towards a more eclectic sound. The overall sound on the album was rounded out by the addition of percussionist Josh Phillips. As on their first release, the album was recorded at Enharmonic Studios in Sacramento, California for the band's own music label, Raj Records and distributed worldwide by Valley Media, Inc. The end of 1996 included another personnel change as one of its founding members, Mark Groesbeck, left the band and the guitar vacancy was filled by beginning guitarist, Danny Muth, with Rick Rocklewitz and Mindy Bauer taking over most vocal and songwriting duties.
With the departure of Groesbeck the band's integrity declined. With the former front-man no longer present the band lost much of it's identity and any street credibility they previously had. Subsequent live performances consisted mostly of songs off their first two albums. They produced one more album, THE SECRET LIFE OF PUNCH THE CLOWN, before disbanding in January 1999.
Throughout the years, Punch the Clown graced the stage with many fine ska bands including The Skeletones, Let's Go Bowling, Undercover S.K.A., The Mudsharks, Skankin'Pickle, The Scofflaws, The Pie Tasters, The Skatalites, The Aqua-Bats, and Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, In addition, the band also shared the stage with non-ska acts as well including No Doubt and Cake, Julian and Damian Marley, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Alkaline Trio to name but a few.
Band members Rocklewitz and Newby ran Raj Records, which released seven albums: the "This is Raj & This is Ska" compilation, "12" by The Offbeatniks, "Two for the Road" by the Lesdystics, "Double Happiness" by the Slow Gherkins, as well as all three Punch The Clown albums.
* [http://www.sonic.net/~raj/ptc/ Punch The Clown]
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