Sharkskins ‘surf’ up a beach-inspired summer sendoff

As the beach-filled days of summer begin to fade away and students start to funnel back into the dorms and hallways of school, that means another year of College Union Board-sponsored Rathskeller shows. Last Friday’s surf-rock show with the Sharkskins made for a pleasant transition into the new semester.

Opening up early with the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run,” one of many covers, the theme of the night became “play what the crowd knows.” Or, at least, play what they may have heard before.

Decked out in the Sharkskin uniform of black slacks, blue blazers and dark shades, the four men from Philadelphia served up an interesting serving of beach-influenced rock ‘n’ roll.

Easing past a couple of unmemorable originals, they moved into a spunky version of the retro classic “Secret Agent Man.” Although the song is a well-known kitsch piece, it got the crowd going.

After the song “Cabo del Sol,” an ode to a spring break trip to Wildwood, N.J., the boys segued into another one of their own.

“This song’s about everyone’s favorite sport,” cracked Buddy Luv Goo, guitarist and vocalist. “This song is called ‘Penetration.'”

Sticking to the ingredients of guitar, bass, drums and limited vocal interruptions, the Sharkskins kept to the simplicity of the surf-rock niche and rarely changed the formula. While this often makes for a leaner sound, it can also have negative repercussions, since it makes it even more noticeable when the music goes askew.

And it did. Several times during the band’s performance the drummer lost the beat – a costly error.

Following a short break, the band went on into another set filled with treats such as “Long Beach Boulevard” and the landmark “Misirlou,” a song made even better with some keen usage of the pocket trumpet.

If there is one gripe to be had with the band, they rely too heavily on every clichéd song associated with the surf-rock genre. Instead of covering the classics that everyone expects, like the theme to “Endless Summer” or “Pipeline,” they could have easily taken any song and made it surf-inspired. They could play a few mainstay songs, but eventually move on.

This wasn’t to say that the Skarkskins put on a bad show. They were energetic, upbeat and put out a fun throwback to the carefree surfing days of the ’60s. It was refreshing to enjoy some nice ’60s nostalgia, especially under the constant bombardment of the alleged return of the ’90s.