While we’re on the topic of New Year’s resolutions, here’s one: You might start thinking about following Little Leroy and His Pack of Lies, a cover band that’s going to ring in the New Year at El Farol on Canyon Road.
And it ain't just gonna be "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight.
Little Leroy cranks out your classic rock and pop songs, which, in the end, fills the dance floor with baby boomers who've been known to air jam and sing along in a joint more known for its flamenco dancing than its rock 'n' roll.
From the Beatles to the Stones to Bob Dylan to Neil Young to Bob Marley, the band excels in songs like "Back in the USSR," "Brown Sugar," "Cinnamon Girl" and "I Shot the Sheriff" before swapping it up with a few blues cuts from "Sweet Home Chicago" to "Unchain My Heart."
They're even daring enough to mimic a few from Jimi Hendrix, who has long served as Little Leroy's inspiration, along with Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's first guitarist, whose use of psychedelics unfortunately led to his early departure.
But there are no bad trips here, no hallucinations; just Little Leroy's ensemble of hats, from Stetsons to the Mad Hatter, which serve to accentuate his short stature as he leads his Pack of Lies: Jake Jones on rhythm guitar, Myron Zuidema on the bass and Warren Stewart on the drums.
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously," says Little Leroy, 65, who likes to think of his band as entertainers as well as musicians. "We're out here to have a good time, and we want everyone else to have a good time. That's the point. The idea is to get the audience involved, not shut them out."
So it's not entirely uncommon that someone from the audience might take the mic or sit in on the harmonica. And the band's trademark, perhaps, is the banter that ensues between songs, mostly between Little Leroy and Jones, who pick on each other.
It's all in good fun, maybe politically unacceptable in younger circles, but befitting their generations, both in their 60s and who lived through segregation and integration.
The vaudeville stands out in particular as Little Leroy introduces the band members—not to the crowd, mind you, but to each other, as though they really don't know one another, which can often be the sad case among some groups.
But these four are tight. They got it going on, and in a city where opera singers and well-schooled jazz musicians and concert pianists rule the high-brow circuits, the band reminds us that the fun times, at least among the hard core, began in the garage or at the jukebox, which we fed with quarters and waited for our next shot, the pool stick in hand, keeping us standing.
And that's Little Leroy, in a nutshell, a guy who's got sense enough to even play obscure country songs, like "Dead Flowers" off the 1971 Sticky Fingers LP: "When you're sitting there/In your silk upholstered chair/Talking to some rich folk that you know/Well I hope you don't see me/In my ragged company/Well, you know I could never be alone."
Take us down, Little Leroy, take us down. He was born Murali Levine, worked at CBGB at the height of punk in Manhattan's East Village, and rubbed shoulders with the Ramones before moving to Santa Fe in the early 1990s, in what was then an escape from Los Angeles.
He's got musical chops. The New Mexico Music Awards saw his CD, Enjoying a Life, as good enough to win first place in the pop category in 2011, and it's available on iTunes. He's got nothing prove to himself—but everything to prove to his audience, and he's always hoping for a breadcrumb in return, often laying out an empty potato chip bag for tips.
Sure, there are great musicians who play great original music in Santa Fe, he says. But unfortunately, you've got to get to know the songs, he says, and listen to them more than once before you can fully appreciate them, and in a tourist town where quite a few people are more prone to cameo appearances than sedentary ways, the onus is on the cover band to show them a good time.
That's exactly what this band does, and that's no lie.
LITTLE LEROY AND HIS PACK OF LIES
9 pm Thursday, Dec. 31. $20.
808 Canyon Road