On the road with Starlyn Garvy: The rigors of rock

by Jordan Green

There they are just inside the doorway of the Celebration Station: a rock and roll gang on the cusp of early adulthood, a half dozen of them wearing leather, thrift-store polyester, aviator glasses and sheets of luxuriant hair.

They project a look of menace and ennui born of romantic excess as they wait inside the lobby of this house of recreation full of shoot-the-hoop set-ups, videogames, giant stuffed animals hanging overhead, over-stimulated children and parents dutifully setting out the pizza and soda pitchers on this Sunday afternoon.

I wonder aloud if that was their van I’d seen circling the parking lot a moment ago. They break into wide grins. No, the van is full of gear, and it would have been more trouble than it was worth to unpack it to make room for the full entourage, one of them explains to me.

This afternoon will be a respite in a taxing rock weekend for them ‘—’ a time to gather strength. They played the night before at Somewhere Else Tavern near Guilford College and will play again tonight at Blur on the western edge of downtown. In this valley between they plan to eat some pizza, meet the press, play a round of miniature golf and pose for a photographer friend to get some publicity shots.

We locate a table upstairs since the lower level appears to be reserved for a giant birthday party judging by the 50-some hats placed at each seat of several long tables, and wait for our pizza.

The pitchers will be pouring cola, which appears to be just as well considering the residual effects of last night’s revelry along with the coming night’s libations. The photographer, Hannah Bennett, arrives, greeting everyone and acknowledging that she’s just awoken.

‘“I haven’t been here before,’” she remarks. ‘“It’s like a seizure waiting to happen.’”

Starlyn Garvy consists of a Greensboro rhythm section and the guitar gods of Randolph County.

Bass player Anthony Harrison, a proud member of Grimsley High School’s Class of ’06, wears a tweed jacket and readily acknowledges that he’s the pretentious member of the band. Drummer John Kelly, the only Starlyn Garvy member with a shorn mane, somewhat resembles Scott Weiland, with his hair choppy and short and a stubbly beard offsetting the feminine effect of light eyeliner.

Tristan Yonce looks the part of the classic charismatic guitar player, although his pouting lips and sinuous walk suggest any number of rock vocalists. Rhythm guitar player Tyson Davis, who befriended Yonce at Randleman High School, has a somewhat babyish and freckled face that brings to mind a young Jerry Garcia.

Also in tow is the band’s road manager, Jon Beal, whose surliness and swagger suggest, well, why not say it’… the character Dick Roswell in the movie Almost Famous. The third member of the Starlyn Garvy extended family is Regan Beal, a tall honey-haired woman wearing a green Rolling Stones sweatshirt who spends most of the afternoon in quiet conference alternately with Beal, Kelly and Harrison.

‘“People say we’re like the Who meets the New York Dolls,’” Yonce says. ‘“We all met through theater. We’re trying to bring the guitar solo back.’”

The band members also profess a love of the Band, and the influence of Bob Dylan’s famous backup group shows through in Starlyn Garvy’s ragged and organic interplay.

As with the best of rock and roll ‘— think of Little Richard, Freddie Mercury and Michael Stipe ‘— the members of Starlyn Garvy express a healthy sense of sexual ambiguity ‘—’ and camaraderie. The subject of other Greensboro-area bands that the members of Starlyn Garvy admire comes up, and the discussion turns to an assessment of the health of the scene.

‘“We’re like a fraternity,’” Harrison says of the bands Starlyn Garvy shares stages with.

Yonce rejoins: ‘“Except with no homoerotic initiation.’”

‘“What are you talking about?’” Harrison cries out.

‘“Except for you,’” Davis says. ‘“But you’re accepted.’”

Starlyn Garvy’s members are also consummate rock historians. The walls of the dining area are decked with LP sleeves ‘— Donovan, Aretha and the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange among them ‘— and the boys do not let this fodder go to waste. It turns out I can play this game too.

I point out that the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange marked the first time the Moog synthesizer was used to play a classical music composition.

‘“Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees was one of the first ones to use the synthesizer in rock,’” Harrison says.

We also talk about Bob Dylan’s legendary 1966 tour of England with the Band. This reminds Harrison of something he read in Mojo magazine.

‘“I heard there’s footage of the Byrds doing keg stands at a party, and Bob Dylan and Nico are making out in the corner,’” he says.

The whole table busts out laughing trying to envision the scene.

My apprehensions about Starlyn Garvy turn out to have been unfounded. They are genuinely nice guys.

‘“I’ve got your cell phone number,’” Yonce will tell me later as we knock the ball around the links. ‘“You seem pretty cool. We’re always looking for new friends to hang out with, anyone who can try to drink us under the table.’”

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