2 IN THE CHEST INTERVIEW/REVIEW

Written by Selene Ball on July 16th, 2021

                  I’m a hard sell when it comes to a show, but I’ve been around the Phoenix music scene for a very long time. I’m almost as old as dirt; I was here when Phoenix flourished in its prime, and I was here when the sound of music in this city was barely audible above a death-rattle.

Back in the day, you couldn’t rent an un-air conditioned storage shed in July without tripping over a practicing four-piece band. There was gold in these here hills. Until there wasn’t. Then, the city became a morgue as, one by one, the iconic venues died. No more Devil House, Bostons, Desperados, Hammerheads, Gibsons, Bash on Ash, or Club Rio… no more Electric Ballroom, no more Mason Jar, and no more Hollywood Alley. If time didn’t change all things, the 2008 market crash certainly did. Those that survived didn’t last much longer. Goodbye, Joe’s Grotto. No sooner, it seemed, had we paid our respects when the pandemic washed more away, like a flood might if it ever rained in the desert anymore. Goodbye Club Red.

I live in a ghost town, haunted by spirits and lost souls that once sang and danced to the music of my own youth, but with faces I no longer recall.

In any case: It ain’t easy to beat that.

Or so I thought. And then, I bought a 2 IN THE CHEST t-shirt at a show a few months ago. I mean, I actually paid money for it. Willingly. I honestly can’t put a finger on the last time I bought a concert t-shirt at a concert, much less one that carried the branding of a local band. Remembering this – or not, I became determined to know more about the group that had for the first time in a long time blown me away.

Best saddle-up that stud you’ve been dragging to the watering hole, because 2 IN THE CHEST is about to play a deadman’s hand…

VELVET DE BLONKO

As Reverend Blackmore Jackson McBride tells it from the pulpit, the band behind my new fave apparel has humble beginnings, “Early in 2007, I met with Velvet De Blonko at a metal festival. At the time, neither one of us knew the other played an instrument… but as soon as we did, I pitched my concept to her and she was all in.” Today, McBride (singer-songwriter, rhythm guitar) and De Blonko (drums) are joined by Kimby The Mason McDaniels (backing vocals, rhythm guitar), Jameson Jack Coburn (lead guitar), Shotgun Lloyd Magill (bass guitar), and the wiley Mary Ella O’Sullivan. Altogether, this band of outlaws makes for a state-sized range of talent on a stage straight outta Old Tucson. No denying that.

REVEREND BLACKMORE JACKSON MCBRIDE

“It has always been my dream to bring not only entertaining music to audiences, but also a visual performance no one would ever forget,” explains McBride. “Most of all, I want to see everyone smiling and enjoying themselves at the shows.”

It’s hard to describe a 2 IN THE CHEST show. Theatrical? Definitely… but not in a cheesy way; theatrical in a cool, exacting, the devil-is-in-the-details sort of way. When the venue is equipped with a large enough stage and the band has carte blanche access, the result is unlike anything else in the Valley of the Sun.

Imagine a dive bar transformed into an old western drag, complete with a jail, a saloon, and a handy, unmarked pine coffin on deck in the event of a gunfight. Now imagine all the actors from Little House on the Prairie, but dead and playing instruments (yes, at the same time). Essentially, I’m saying this show might look a lot like the set of Poltergeist II – if it was a music video directed by Clint Eastwood. Somehow, the whole act blends together so well as to be virtually seamless in execution, almost perfectly normal, such that the average guy at the bar would never realize how much effort is going on under the spotlight. When the band brings all the bells and whistles, this is easily one of the most elaborate shows I’ve ever seen at a local level.    

Or maybe not so local after all? Believe it or not, the legendary status of 2 IN THE CHEST has reached well-beyond the outback – past the Sonoran, the new frontier, the great plains, and across the river Styx. I have it on good authority that a radio DJ in far-away New Zealand (that one place, past Australia) once coined these brigands “the world’s only rustic outlaw southern hard rock / metal band.”

JAMESON JACK CORBURN

That does sum it up rather nicely. I agree, the band’s wanted poster wouldn’t be complete without a roughly-drawn sketch of what would happen if Motorhead’s late Lemmy Killmister and any one of the three dudes from ZZ Top had a love child, but insist that the real life spectacle must be seen in living color to truly appreciate this band’s worth. In brief, this band will surprise the [bleep] out of you.

Incidentally, ZZ Top (Bike Week, 2018) was actually the last big concert I believe I was genuinely impressed by. An unfair sentiment from the get, since my exposure to said group was limited to MTV; I knew ZZ Top as the trio of bearded guys in super-dark sunglasses that wrote songs about girls who apparently got makeovers and had great legs, stilettos, and cool cars. What was the big deal? I confess, I only went to the concert because I got in for free – but I was wowed in short order. Slack-jawed amazed. Those good old boys (what are they now… 70-something?) tore up a huge stage, and sounded really fn good about it too. Better than most musicians half their age. Because I was glued to the scene, I can report that performance was impeccable. For me, it set a new bar.

Ironically, McBride’s vocals are often said to be Lemmy-like, and I have often compared 2 IN THE CHEST with ZZ Top in casual conversation (not just because of the beards). Similar bluesy riffs over driving rhythms that summon steel horses aside, the two share the distinction of making my head spin right around on the tippy-top of my adjacent neck to see wtf is happening on that stage. Each time I’ve seen 2 IN THE CHEST, it’s been the same: These guys are good. Like, really good.

Without a doubt, our primo banditos know what they’re doing, and they do it well. I have discovered that the group, itself, operates like a well-oiled machine. Every part is integrated and performs a necessary function – from the eldest among them to the youngest member. Even as McBride, the driving force for the band, travels for work, McDaniels steps in as a slick second. Meanwhile, McBride continues to forward the band and remains committed to progress from the road, touching base and conducting business – I like to envision, safe from the Pinkertons in secluded cantinas tended by salty senoritas. To say that the band’s streamlined, cohesive, dallies and dealings suggest a tightly-knit unit falls short; 2 IN THE CHEST operates as a family unit in many ways, particularly when it comes to 2.5 kids and a white picket fence.

MARY ELLA O’SULLIVAN

McBride explains, “De Blonko and I have an autistic son on the extreme end of the spectrum. We love our children, but that has been somewhat limiting; it has kept us from reaching for the bigger goal. We did go out on tour in 2017, but we had to know our son was cared for while we were gone… It cost us our home at the time, and a ton of money,” No doubt, overcoming the challenges associated with balancing music, work and child-rearing requires a concerted effort for this pair, but this band has built-in routines and proven systems in place to facilitate working together in cooperation.

LLOYD SHOTGUN MAGILL

That commitment and dedication makes a difference in the performance. Anyone can see the characters on stage have a rapport, albeit the nuclear family is very much a part of the band’s environment and evolution otherwise. The daughter of De Blonko and McBride actually participates in the show on the regular. Practically poised to lead the gang in a blaze of glory when she comes of age, Miss O’Sullivan is something of a musical protege in her own right, and never fails to capture the love of the crowd. Obviously, having a young lady on board necessitates a PG-level radio-safe rating, but this detracts nothing from the band’s sound – which is truly hard rock / heavy metal at its core.

“We pride ourselves on being a family oriented group,” beams McBride, who goes on to add that the band’s schtick is pretty dang educational too, “99% of the songs are actual stories or stories related to the 1800s in some way.”

Huh. I was probably too busy picking my eyeballs up off of the ground to notice that last time they played.

“The crowd usually gives us their undivided attention. Some even smile throughout the entire performance,” says McBride.

            Forgive me, Reverend. I was just overjoyed. Here, I thought, I had come to the end of a journey. I had seen it all, the rise and fall, and I sensed it was curtains for me… when lo, did I see in the wasteland before me something that convinced me – for a moment, however fleeting – that I was, in fact, still alive.

            “I love to see people having a great time when we perform… and I love performing with the amazing players on stage with me. They’re having an incredible time as well,” says McBride.

Things I’ve learned from 2 IN THE CHEST:

1) Clint Eastwood would have made awesome music videos.

2) There might be a nugget of value left in this godforsaken place. Not in the hills, but in the wild creativity and the talent that seem to flourish in simple, beautiful things, like family-time and story-telling. Maybe we’re all overthinking it too much, and taking ourselves too seriously. Maybe we haven’t been dreaming enough, or having as much fun as we should. Those of us who have been here for more than a spell are surely spooked, but not by the seemingly-otherworldly people and places of yesteryear. We’ve been jailed in this ghost town by none other than our own limited thinking.

3) Always make new friends at metal festivals, and definitely, buy the t-shirt. 

KIMBY THE MASON MCDANIELS

To listen to music by the band,

CLICK HERE!!!

To follow 2 IN THE CHEST on Facebook,

CLICK HERE!!!

2 IN THE CHEST is co-hosting

 a “Summer Meltdown Party” at The Blooze, on August 28th. To find out more, CLICK HERE!!!  

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