Big Bad Johns is back at Cafe Nine on Thursday and ready to rip

NEW HAVEN – The Big Bad Johns, one of Connecticut’s toughest roots rock bands of the 1990s, are a bit like Haley’s Comet these days – albeit a little more frequent and less regular in their visits.

Then they go back to their individual affairs and their respective corners of the country.

Drummer ‘Jumpin’ Jim’ Balga will return to Jersey.

Singer and frontman “Detroit Dick” Hulett will return to California.

Guitarist Gary “Buzz Gordo” Mezzi will head north – to North Haven.

Bassist Paul “Nervus Chet Purvis” Mayer won’t go too far – the man owns Cafe Nine, although people don’t see him playing bass too often these days.

But before they all take off, they’ll dust off timeless tracks like “Hot Rods to Hell,” “Hey Las Vegas,” “Where’s Waldo,” and “Smokin’ Joe,” their tribute to the former heavyweight champ. Joe Frazier.

And it’s a safe bet that everyone will leave satisfied, as in previous reunions in 2003, 2010 and 2014, all of which followed the departure of Detroit Dick and his wife, Leslie Turnipseed, for Los Angeles in 1999.

Doors open Thursday at 7 p.m., with Nashville-based Goldpark at 8 p.m., seminal Connecticut reform punk band The Cadavers at 8:45 p.m., and the Big Bad Johns at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at https ://bit.ly/3P0AEzi.

Also inspired by rockabilly and punk, the Big Bad Johns played a raucous and bizarre assortment of mostly original roots music, touring extensively in the eastern United States and Canada and releasing two independent albums, ” Plymouth Rock” and “I Will Be Good”.

Mayer, the former Gone Native, Big Bad Johns and Swaggerts bassist, and Mezzi – the only one who still regularly plays Big Bad Johns songs in his current band, Bronson Rock – both had a thing or two to say about this. subject during a one-rehearsal break earlier this week.

As has sometimes been the case in the past, this meeting took place because Hulett — who lived in New Haven from 1986 to 1999 — was coming for a visit anyway, they said.

In that case, Hulett comes for a memorial tribute to a late friend, the late New Haven musician Kerry Miller, Sunday at 2 p.m. The free memorial show will feature many of Miller’s former bands, including Hot Bodies, Valley of Kings, Cameraface, Peacock Flounders and more.

“Richard is coming for the Kerry Miller memorial on the 17th,” Mayer said. “We thought as long as we had him here it would be a good time to put on a show.”

The last time the Big Bad Johns played together in any combination was just before the pandemic at another memorial for the late Ross Haleen, he said.

So will they be ready?

“We do Smokey Joe and Hey Las Vegas” at Bronson Rock, Mezzi said. “We do about four Big Bad John songs in our set. … So I’m pretty confident about that.

“I know them all and I’m confident as hell,” Mayer said.

“We played so many gigs as Big Bad Johns…so there’s a lot of muscle memory involved,” Mezzi said.

Mayer said “it’s great that people are still excited” when the band returns.

This also applies to group members.

“There’s excitement among the guys in the band,” Mezzi said. “We texted each other.”

Hulett, who flew in Tuesday so she could rehearse multiple times as a full band, said earlier in the week from California, “it makes you feel good” that people still care. “What you hope as an artist is to share beauty. …. If you can share the beauty of what you do with the people who appreciate it, that’s just awesome.

Since the last meeting, “I haven’t had any public performance at all,” said Hulett, a native of Huntington Woods, Michigan, outside of Detroit. “I still play three or four times a week. I sit by myself and play guitar – or my head just won’t go well.

Her last two gigs were supporting her daughter at a public music night when she was in elementary school, and now she’s about to be a senior in high school and shopping for colleges.

For Hulett, returning for Miller’s memorial celebration was a no-brainer.

“When I first moved to town in 1985 or 1986, Valley of Kings was a big deal,” along with The Furors and Miracle Legion, he said.

He starred with Miller in Camera Face and “Kerry had those words of encouragement for me at a time when I thought I was in over my head. …Kerry really gave me…that staring eye…that said, ‘Don’t worry. You have this.’

Balga could not immediately be reached for comment.

Absent from this reunion will be guitarist “Country Bill” Collins, a later addition who toured with Big Bad Johns at a time when Mezzi was raising a young family – although both guitarists often played gigs in their hometown.

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