Hippodrome hosts “cross-breed” rock group

Seven years ago Jimmie’s Chicken Shack frontman Jimi Haha appeared on the “Jerry Springer Show” as the boyfriend of a girl who worked her way through college in the dominatrix industry.

“It was about a free trip to Chicago and $50 a day that I stretched to $500. I ate lobster and filet mignon in the Embassy Suites. Mostly I remember going out and milking it,” Haha, vocalist of rock band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, said at a GW appearance last weekend.

About 10 years ago, when Jimmie’s Chicken Shack formed, Haha did not see himself starting this band. He now finds himself playing music he never expected to be playing, proving a “joke” can go a long way.

“I always played acoustic, more the Crosby, Stills and Nash world, so it was kind of a joke,” he said. “We thought it would be silly.”

He calls the band’s music “mutt rock,” an eclectic mix of sounds that does not fit in one specific category. From hard rock to ska, there’s a little for everyone in the music they play.

Jimmie’s Chicken Shack performed its cross-breed music for about 30 people in the Hippodrome Saturday night, peppering an almost entire set of new songs with a few older songs like “High” and “Another Day.” The event was part of WRGW’s “Holiday Buzz” weekend event.

Haha grew up in Bowie, Md., then moved to Annapolis, Md., when he was 17 years old. He started his own band at 18 and had been singing and playing guitar for years before that. The band formed in 1992 in Annapolis.

“We just played a lot, everywhere we could for nothing,” Haha said. “I started Fowl Records, and we put out as much music as we could. We sold a lot and started playing different shows and just doing well from playing around a lot.”

The band’s name came from Malcolm X biography.

“It was just an old restaurant in Harlem that everyone hung out at, and Malcolm would deal drugs there. It was just like this shady blues joint where he hung out,” he said.

Haha’s influences had been just as varied as the music the band produces.

“I always listened to B-bands, the ones that start with B – the Beach Boys and the Beatles were probably the first things I liked, then Black Sabbath and Bob Marley,” he said. “I’ve gone through stages when all I listened to is fusion and jazz, and now I probably listen more to new grass like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas kind of stuff.”

The band’s most recent albums, Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope and Bring Your Own Stereo, emphasize the difference in style and varied influences.

Haha said, “Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope was trying to focus on one part of our sound, which is the more hard sound. We tried to be young mid-20s guys with this tough record.

“With Bring Your Own Stereo, I think it’s a much more musical record. Although I love the old record, the energy is much more based in love and not discontent and anger.”

Recently, the band lost its guitarist Double D, who did not know if he could live the rock star life anymore.

“Some people in the band are starting to change. They’re getting to a point in their life where they don’t know if they can do this life,” Haha said.

Haha hopes to put out a solo album sometime next year.

“It’s more like the stuff that I’ve always done – acoustic, bass. It’s Lyle Lovett meets Ben Harper,” he said.

Haha recently collaborated with vocalist Aaron Lewis from Staind on the single “Falling Out,” which Haha says is one of his favorite songs to perform.

“I don’t see him like everybody else sees him because I knew him right when their record came out,” Haha said of working with Lewis. “I see him in a totally different way, and he even says things about how people hang on every word he says. He says it’s his job to be serious and our job to be silly. There’s less pressure to be silly.”

–Kate Stepan contributed to this report

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