Make room for Dyno-Daddy rockersby Derrick Bracey
In a blast of feedback and power chords, an unlikely band of Coastal Carolina University professors stormed the stage at the Crafty Rooster’s Beerfest on April 19. The site of the Farmers Market in downtown Conway was converted into Dyno-Daddy’s rock and roll roost as the supergroup of higher education powered through one rock song after another. A band made up of three active and one retired professor feeds off of its alter egos.
Arne Flaten is chair/professor of CCU’s Visual Arts Department, co-founder/co-director of Ashes2Art: Digital Reconstructions of Ancient Monuments and the recipient of 2013’s Horry Telephone Cooperative Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Lecturer Award. Tonight, Flaten wears golden Elvis shades and flamboyantly struts around the stage wrapped in a feather boa as the vocalist for Dyno-Daddy.
Dan Ennis is the dean of the Edwards College of humanities and fine arts at CCU. He is a scholar who specializes in 19th-Century British literature, and has authored or edited three works on the subject. But he’s especially proud of being one-half of Dyno-Daddy’s rhythm section. A classic bass player, he gives the band a steady rock foundation.
Tim Underwood is the band’s balance, the thin line between the yin and the yang. He was once a CCU student, now a counselor at CCU’s Counseling Services. He alternates between keyboards and guitar.
Steve Nagle is a retired CCU linguistics professor. He has written and edited books and journals about syntax and southern English and societal aspects of language. But now he is letting his guitar do all of the talking.
The only member not associated with CCU is drummer James Poindexter. Nagle says, “We found him hitchhiking.” Ennis adds, “But we are going to give him a D.M.M., a doctorate in musical mayhem.”
Poindexter played his first show with the band on New Year’s Eve and has joined the band for four gigs since. He has played with Underwood before, in another project known as Gigglesnort Motel. “These guys will surprise you,” Poindexter says of Dyno-Daddy. “When you see them live, they’ll throw you off guard.”
Ennis, Flaten and Nagle were all involved in a previous supergroup of CCU professors, Virtue Trap, a band that evolved with different members for over a decade. But Flaten says, “This is not that. This is a new thing.”
Dyno-Daddy got its start as the Fanagles, a play on Nagle’s name. “I actually like that one better,” Flaten says. “But we changed it while Nagle was out of town. Dyno-Daddy just sounds more…”
“Retro,” Ennis interrupts.
“Right,” Flaten says. “It’s more cutting edge.”
“Plus,” Ennis says, “Some of us have kids, and we’re old.”
The band’s live performances are made up mostly of cover songs ranging from the ’60s to the ’90s. But the musician-scholars do occasionally work a newer song or one of their originals into the setlist. “Don’t matter,” Flaten says. “It’s all rock and roll.”
They seem to have a good time with the subterfuge, offering themselves as clueless rock stars. It’s part false bravado, part inside joke and all fun. The colored lights flash. The amps scream. With a swing of Flaten’s microphone stand in the air, the band launches into a song. The stage is alive with five animated figures swaying, thrashing their heads. Their energy is evident. Their faces show how much these guys love playing rock and roll. They’ll nail one song with precision and forget a whole verse worth of lyrics in the next.
“The debates in rehearsal about what a song means can get pretty heated,” Ennis says.
“I don’t argue about lyrics,” Nagle says. “I just don’t know any.”
“Yeah, when it comes to lyrics,” Ennis says, “we just take our best shot.”
After about two dozen songs, classic rock to pop, grunge to experimental remixes of favorites like “Bobby McGee,” they kick into an original, where the whole band screams the chorus, “It turns out life is high school.” It’s obvious these guys love the irreverence of their position – weekday professor/weekend rock star.
“This place is probably one of the best places we’ve played,” Ennis says. “All this beer definitely makes us sound better.” The night went on, rain poured along with the beer taps. Wind blew through the glassless windows of the Farmers Market. Everything got wet. Amps hummed and popped. But the band played on.
This was the final show on the band’s schedule for now, but they’re making plans to book some more shows over the summer. “We played this cool club down in Surfside, cool owner too, said he wanted us to come back and play,” Ennis says. “A month later, I drive by, and the place is closed down. Clubs are like bands, they come and they go.”
But the members of Dyno-Daddy have no intentions of going anywhere. Well, except to class.