I know what you’re thinking. I thought it too the first time I heard that a band named Royal Punisher was playing at a joint called Boneshakers: Great, another metal band playing at another metal bar. Real original, San Antonio. Still, intrigued by the sheer proximity of this Boneshakers place to my Southside abode, I ventured out, on a Monday night no less.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Boneshakers is a squeaky-clean neighborhood pub catering to the bicycle set instead of a smokey dive catering to the American Chopper set, and that Royal Punisher plays jazz standards instead of five-minute-long death metal odes to Charlemagne. Scratch that. I was flabbergasted. Pleasantly flabbergasted.
Fellow South Sider and Royal Punisher bassist Phil Luna told me he and his Fear Snakeface bandmate Sid St. Onge discovered Boneshakers one day shortly after it opened in June. Twelve hours later they left, after Luna had adopted the small venue just off the new Mission Reach as the number-one venue for his many musical gigs.
This includes a standing Monday-night show for the relatively new jazz quartet Royal Punisher. Formed by Luna, Ken Robinson (drums), Estevan Garcia (saxophone) — all bandmates from former Taco Land staple Shit City Dreamgirls (plus Worm, plus the Psychics) — the veteran jammers recruited guitarist Don Robin to complete a straight-up jazz vision.
Robin’s mellow tones round out the rock tendencies of Luna, Robinson (also the rhythmn-keeper for Snowbyrd, Boxcar Satan and basically one-fifth of all active San Antonio bands), and Garcia. Their two-hour set cherry-picks from some 40 standards, counting John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” and some oddball choices like Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”
Royal Punisher has also begun dropping original “jazzy alien tunes” into their repertoire. These tight little numbers are sure to expand with time, given the genre and the players’ proclivities toward improvisational jams, but for now they provide substantial filler sandwiched between songs by masters like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
With all the kowtowing to what we now call “traditional” jazz, Royal Punisher manages to keep things from getting too fusty. Due to the members’ strong rock ’n’ roll background, and all the showmanship that demands, the group avoids the typical stand-and-head-bob jazz-cat routine. Instead Luna and Garcia are kinetic co-frontmen, and Robin delivers his stylish fretwork sitting down stage left. Robinson lends a hard, precise edge to drumbeats that might otherwise turn to mush.
Just as Royal Punisher infuses their jazz with varied approaches, from rock to psychedelia, so too does the group bring jazz to nontraditional locations. While Monday night at Boneshakers might be the most reliable place to catch them — the band jokingly welcomed the audience to their “weekday practice” — the group helped incorporate a monthly jazz night at the Mix, and pop up anywhere that will have them. Recent gigs have included the underutilized Oak Hills Tavern Jazz Annex and Stefania’s Country Italian restaurant. Southside residency not withstanding, Boneshakers’ laid-back local vibe is the spot that really resonates with Royal Punishers’ anything-goes jazz attitude.•
Mon, Aug 2
116 W. Mitchell
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