It was January 6, 2009, on the set of The Late Show down in New York City, and Conan O'Brien just couldn't shut up about Bang Camaro. Even the normally stoic Max Weinberg admitted to being a fan.
"He and Conan went crazy," says guitarist Bryn Bennett. "Conan came up to us and said, 'I've never seen anything like this, I can't believe you're from Boston.' "
Bang Camaro had just wrapped up a performance of "Revolution" that would be televised nationally later that night. In June 2006, the first Bang Camaro track had debuted in the Phoenix as the "MP3 of the Decade." Less than three years later, however, cracks were starting to show in what was Boston's (literally) biggest rock-and-roll band.
"I had a realization [that day] that I should be pumped right now, but I was pissed," Bennett explains over drinks at the Model Café. "Pissed at someone who should have been there but wasn't, dealing with the logistics of being caught between the band and managers. I was like, 'I should be thinking about ripping a guitar solo right now,' but I was worried about other shit. I had a really hard time appreciating certain moments."
In a homecoming of sorts, Bang Camaro return to the Paradise on Friday, the site of one of their first shows. Although they haven't broken up and are claiming they'll play the occasional driving-distance gig, the general feeling is that the party's over. But to appreciate this closing chapter, you need to realize how ridiculous this whole idea was in the first place.
Bennett and Alex Necochea brought Bang Camaro into being in 2005 after too many drunken late nights mimicking Randy Rhoads guitar solos and reminiscing about the music they and MTV's Headbangers Ball generation grew up with. The genesis of Bang Camaro was a role reversal for traditional rock: become a band with up to 18 singers, but have it fronted by guitarists.
And it exploded. They sold out their first three shows, appeared on the cover of magazines, and took over Boston as a wild-life street gang fueled by some sort of glam-rock pixie dust that the members' "day jobs" — their indie-rock bands — could not offer. The experience was like musical steroids. "There was a fuck-you attitude," says Necochea. "There were all these rules that we didn't care about. We were wearing our own T-shirts before we ever played a show. It was a beer-drinking boys' club, and it was so much fun."
And somehow they filled a void in the scene, despite paying homage to unfashionable bands like Skid Row, Kiss, and Dokken. When Bang Camaro broke out in 2006, Boston was having a local identity crisis. The Dresden Dolls had been the mime-painted face of the city for a while, and not everyone was pretending to be Irish as Dropkick Murphys kept shipping up to Boston. It was still a few years before Passion Pit would emerge, and no one was blowing up while still getting hammered at the Sil.