Getting the band back together: TCU reunites for one night only
You’ve got one more chance to see the band TCU. Only one. If you’re interested, you’d better jump at it, because it’s not likely to happen again. They haven’t played a show in three years, and no one necessarily expected a reunion, given the fact that the width of the continent of North America separated one member of the band from the rest.
Bands break up all the time. Life comes along; responsibilities pile up, family commitments, the unsustainable grind of the late nights, the lure of a regular paycheck from a day job, artistic differences — there are a million reasons. When Cody Elles, the frontman of the popular Greensboro-based cover band TCU (The Complete Unknowns), headed back to Southern California in 2016, he figured that was that, with the rest of the group sticking around North Carolina and moving on to other projects. So when Elles got a call from a “336” area code out of the blue a few months ago, he was surprised to hear the unmistakable baritone of Wade Gabel, owner of the Jamestown club, The Deck. When the band had been at their busiest, that venue, with its outdoor stage, had become a sort of welcoming home base for TCU. It was an energetic place that made the trip home after a late-night gig easier than trucking from some other city. As it happened, Gabel was in L.A. looking to get together with Elles for a drink.
Elles did what any Angeleno might do with an out-of-town visitor, taking him to some landmarks — a spot said to be favored by Jim Morrison, and an honest-to-goodness Hollywood-Boulevard dive bar. As it turned out, Gabel wasn’t just out on the West Coast looking to tour the noteworthy watering holes of the region. He’d come with a proposition for Elles: why not reunite TCU for one more gig at The Deck? Assuming the other members of TCU were up for it, Gabel would fly Elles and his girlfriend back for the show.
“I went out to Hollywood and tracked him down, and I wasn’t gonna leave until we had some kind of arrangement,” Gabel said. “We continuously have patrons [at The Deck] who ask to see if we can make one more show happen.”
And after some discussions with the other members of the group, many of whom have other projects keeping them busy, a date was set. And now, on Sunday, Nov. 10, the band will reconvene to roll through its impressive range of familiar and less-familiar hits and deep cuts from their extensive repertoire, which goes, as they like to say, “from the Beatles to the Black-Eyed Peas.” There may even be some new tunes that TCU has never performed live before.
Elles has been keeping busy on the West Coast. He’s still working on musical projects in California, writing originals and working with some others in the industry there. (Incidentally, Elles, who has acting experience as well, will be appearing as a contestant on an episode of the new game show 25 Words Or Less, which will air on local Fox affiliate on Oct. 28.) But he’s doing a fair bit of devoted rehearsing for this gig. The band had a special connection to The Deck, and they want to be prepared to rock accordingly.
“We played all over North Carolina, every weekend for eight years, but we had such a great relationship with that venue and the audiences there,” Elles said. “The Deck shows were just a different thing. I’m super psyched to get to play in November. The show’s gonna be fun. We always put on a high-energy show.”
A lot of bands will soldier on, reconfigure, or take on new members when someone leaves town or moves on to other projects. But the members of TCU pretty much figured that, when Elles left, the band would fold up its tent. Bassist Craig Allen said there was a feeling that things seemed to have come to a natural endpoint for the band.
“Cody had a real knack for bonding with audiences,” Allen said. “He’s a really good frontman and frankly, puts on one heck of a show. There was no replacing that performer.”
For the November reunion gig, TCU would include the two guitarists who played separately in the band over its tenure. Guitarist Danny Skeel left the band in early 2015, and Luc Gravely took over guitar duties for the last year the band was playing. Both will be on-hand for this turbo-charged iteration of TCU. “We’re gonna make a sort of supergroup of everybody, which is cool,” Allen said. Drummer Nick Savoyski (Elles’s step-father) will be supplying the beats.
The crammed rehearsals, the special travel arrangements, and the one-time-only nature of the show are all a way of celebrating the special chemistry between TCU, The Deck and the loyal audience. Elles gets credit for providing a creative spark that made the whole combination light up.
“He’s got a larger-than-life personality,” said Allen of Elles and his skills as a frontman. “He’s touched a lot of people, and a lot of people remember his presence in the band.”
John Adamian lives in Winston-Salem, and his writing has appeared in Wired, The Believer, Relix, Arthur, Modern Farmer, the Hartford Courant and numerous other publications.
See TCU at The Deck, 118 E. Main St. in Jamestown, on Sunday, Nov. 10. Event starts at 4 p.m., cover is $5. Thedeckatrivertwist.com