It's one thing to call someone a Rock & Roll Lifer -- and depending on how well the leather jacket fits, it can be a term of respect or derision -- but Pat Oldani has earned the title of Rock & Roll Survivor, and not just because he's been leading hard-charging rock bands for more than fifteen years. A Stage IV cancer diagnosis in January of 2013 kept Oldani out of the spotlight for some time, but in between rounds of maintenance chemotherapy, he is now back in front of the microphone.
In a 2000 Riverfront Times article written by long-time St. Louis music writer Jordan Oakes, Oldani is described as promoting his then-current gig Starnineteen "with the charisma of a medicine man." Perhaps Oldani took that blurb to heart; his latest outing, Witch Doctor, is named for a different kind of shaman, but his adherence to the hoodoo-voodoo of hard rock has lost none of its zeal. Oldani most recently fronted the short-lived cock-rock combo Noisy Boyz under the name Calvin Flash, and here he goes by the similarly spangled handle Paddy Lee Bling. Whatever the stage name, Oldani's voice has a sweet snarl befitting his band's hair-metal aspirations.
In a town where the concept of the "KSHE Klassic" is a revered art form, few original bands hew closely to the station's "real rock" format without diluting it with irony or hipster affectation. Chris Walker, formerly of Head On Collision, writes crunchy guitar leads that can delve into EVH-esque finger-taps, while former LoFreq drummer Ted Magos is solid, no-nonsense beat keeper. There's certainly an element of campy peacocking in Witch Doctor's approach -- both leather pants and face paint are featured in the band's press photos -- and the songs don't always hold up to scrutiny. Much of the self-titled debut album is referential, from the riffs to the themes to the delivery, and a whiff of '80s-era debauchery permeates these eight tracks. You'll hear little deviation from the formula on the album, but Oldani and company's conviction in the power of this music is hard to deny.
Witch Doctor CD Release Show 9 p.m. Friday, May 15. Utopia Studios, 3957 Park Avenue. $7. 314-773-3660.
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