Tacky Tunes From Aging Men in Wigs and Spandex: Wag Halen
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s lowbrow nongenius from Encinitas, California.
By Kevin Brass
If local music videos by aging tribute bands are a form of art, then “Encinitas Moms” is the “Mona Lisa.” All the ingredients are in place — Spandex, big hair and gratuitous pelvic thrusts. Not only does it capture the auteur of a lost generation of stoned amateur camcorder enthusiasts dreaming of MTV, it is a reminder of a time when dudes believed it was cool to wear Day-Glo gold lamé pants to the 7-Eleven (at least in certain parts of Los Angeles).
To be clear, we’re talking about a Van Halen tribute band of 50-something guys producing a parody of crappy ’80s hair band videos. Instead of girls in bikinis washing cars, the babes wear yoga pants and push baby strollers. The first response is, of course, Van Halen rates a tribute band? Yes, it’s true.
The formula was pretty simple: Drunken, nipple-exposing band prances around badly lit stage making lewd gestures.
This band is called Wag Halen, featuring four guys — from, you guessed it, Encinitas, a beach city north of San Diego — fully dedicated to rocking, when they’re not working in politics, real estate and law, and raising families. The video, which has received more than 310,000 hits on YouTube, is based on a song of their own creation, which reminds us immediately that it’s not really very hard to write a Van Halen song. Sample lyric: “Pushing babies, straight in a line / Ohhh, mama, you’re looking fine.” Could Eddie V have written it? Maybe.
Make no mistake, there is a definite homage here, an ode to an era ruled by men with large bulges who bathed irregularly and didn’t really get the humor of This Is Spinal Tap. (“That would be really cool if it went to 11.”) The formula was pretty simple: Drunken, nipple-exposing band prances around badly lit stage making lewd gestures. Add fire, smoke and lots of stripper babes. Send to MTV. The milieu was low-rent raunchy, so drenched in the strip-club debauchery of the era you felt like you might get herpes just from watching one of the videos — at least the best ones.
To re-create this level of art, Wag Halen spent about $5,000, according to lead guitarist Adam Kaye, aka Ag Wag Halen, who says he primarily participates in the band to torment his teenage daughter. Director and creative spirit Kerry Chestnutt, a working editor and videographer, says she sought to embrace the “corny factor” of the period. “Everything was so epic,” she says. “Even if it was forced epic, it was epic.”
Connoisseurs will note many of the subtle nuances of the genre in “Encinitas Moms” — the guitar sliding between the legs, the lead singer’s artful package adjust and the seductive maiden bent over the baby carriage. The key to making this work is an extreme level of “self-belief and enthusiasm,” Kaye says, artfully summing up the success of most of the bands popular during the Hair Band Era. “Encinitas Moms” spews self-belief and enthusiasm, capturing the fun of a genre that really shouldn’t be taken seriously. “Encinitas Moms” also serves as a reminder that there is still a place for aging quasi-delusional dudes who want to videotape themselves jumping around and acting like rock stars.