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Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

5 Card Studs Plot Holiday Extravaganza

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For the 5 Card Studs, every show is a festival, but the holiday season is a favorite time for the band and their fans.

"We have our act, our shtick," lead singer Cesar Palace says. "For some reason with Christmas you can just go that much more over the top with it."

The Studs' only two recordings, in fact, are Christmas albums. The Christmas Wishes album features the Studs covering classics like "Blue Christmas" and "Merry Christmas, Baby."

North Side of the Pole, a CD EP, includes a Christmas-themed parody of Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" and "A Few of My Favorite Drinks," a song Julie Andrews might sing if she went on a bender.

The Studs formed 13 years ago for a New Year's Eve party, and now play as many as a hundred lounge-filled gigs a year. Palace dedicates all of the group's songs "to the ladies" and is usually successful in getting the audience to sing along to tunes by Neil Diamond and Tom Jones.

The rest of the leisure-suit-clad band members include guitarist Blake "The Lake" Tahoe, bassist Reno Nevada, keyboardist Les Vegas and drummer Asti Spumanti.

This year, Palace says, the Studs have gone all out, planning a holiday show bigger in scope than any they've done in the past. They'll be joined by a horn section, guest singer, pianist, comedian and Grinch-load of Christmas decorations.

The "Hi/Lo Horns" joining the Studs includes Jamie Breiwick on trumpet, Mike Pauers on baritone sax and Aaron Gardner on tenor sax. The three musicians play in the Latin jazz group De La Buena and jazz and funk group Clamnation.

"You expect guys of that caliber to be pompous, but it's just the opposite," Palace says. "They're really amazing players and great to work with. They're going to be joining us on 11 or 12 songs."

Ms. Rocky Mountains will also join the Studs. Palace says that Mountains has been an occasional guest singer throughout the band's history and he considers her a "sixth Stud."

"She does an incredible version of 'Proud Mary' where she just belts it out," Palace says. "Backed by the horn section, it's going to explode."

Pianist Joe Hite will open the show and stand-up comedian Snowy Manne will deliver material between bands. Palace refuses to reveal the identity of Manne, but laughed just thinking about him.

"People will know him-it'll be worth it," Palace says, still laughing.

He then reflected on his own favorite Christmas song to sing. "It's probably a tossup between 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'-you know, the Lou Rawls version, which is just ridiculously cheesy. The other one is our version of 'The Christmas Song' (by Mel Torme) which we changed to the 'XXX-Mas Song' and changed the lyrics to obnoxious stuff about bedding down ladies."

The 5 Card Studs Holiday Extravaganza takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20, at Shank Hall.

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