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My best friend's ghoul: The Cars and more at Jinx Halloween

The Jinx’s annual Halloween show includes The Cars, Ministry, Tupac tributes

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By now, the annual Halloween tribute night at The Jinx garnered a reputation for being a must-see show this time of year. It’s a great concept—a lineup of local bands perform tribute sets to legendary acts. This year, they’ve stepped up their game with a stellar lineup that includes tributes to Tupac, The Cure, Ministry, Huey Lewis, and The Cars.

The Cars tribute, known for the night as The Dangerous Type, is actually none other than prominent local band The Magic Rocks. They’ve been participating in the event for years in some way or another, and are ready to pay tribute to the recently-departed Ric Ocasek and his groundbreaking work with The Cars.

The band is comprised of guitarist Craig Johansen, bassist Ronny Kersey, and drummer Jim Reed. They’ll be accompanied by keyboardist Phil Price and guitarist Stu Harmening.

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Ahead of the show, we spoke to Johansen about the process of putting together the set and expanding his band for the night.

Tell me about how you ended up choosing The Cars for this show.

We were talking in rehearsal one night about whether we wanted to do something for the tribute night. We hadn’t done anything as the three of us since Cheap Trick about five or six years ago. We had tossed some bands around, but The Cars came up and we all kind of started thinking we could do that.

Of course we needed to get Phil Price on keys, because if you don’t have the keys and synth for the songs, you can’t do it. So once he was on board we were all cool with it, and about two weeks later Ric Ocasek passed away.

Did that make you question the choice?

We were kind of like, “Should we do it? Is it too soon?” But we figured, why not? We’re all big fans of that band and grew up when they were coming up. We needed the extra guitar player, and Stu Harmening from The Train Wrecks was one of the guys I thought could nail it. Elliott Easton is one of those underrated guitar players that people don’t really think about, but he stands out. He was in a new wave band but had a quirky sound.

He played almost country licks sometimes.

Yeah, and then all this rock guitar would come in and you go, “Wow, what was that?” He was a guitar player that was always doing interesting stuff. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

Is there anything that has surprised you when you go to learn these songs?

The songs themselves, you could pick up an acoustic guitar and strum, and people would know what you’re singing. I think [Ric] came, from a songwriting standpoint, from very simplistic, catchy stuff. He has hooks in all of the songs. The lyrics are quirky, and the delivery was quirky—especially the keyboards for the time. It made them sound way out there.

The toughest thing about the songs is that the lead guitar and the keyboard are the hardest parts. The guitars, drums, and vocals are all pretty straightforward. But when you put it together, that’s when you go, “Oh, wow.” They stacked all of these background vocals, so when you go to do it live you realize you don’t have eight singers [laughs]. That’s something we keep working with as we go on.

All of these songs are very familiar to me—we grew up with all of them. There weren’t too many loops in that way, but there are so many keyboard sounds that Phil has to program in. They didn’t use just one keyboard [laugh]. But to have Phil on board makes things a lot easier. These songs have all seemed to come together fairly easily. We’re pretty happy with the way they sound.

It’s going to be a really great night from the looks of it.

The fun about doing that show is getting together with all of these guys, getting together, joking around and having a good time. The show goes by in the blink of an eye. You’re done in 30-35 minutes. We were talking about it at practice—Ronny says, “The show will be over it before you know it.” It always does. We’re used to playing three hours a night. At the Jinx show, you’re another piece of the puzzle for the night. It’s a good time.

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