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Bottles & Cans & Bananas & Velvet
A classic Warhol-inspired album gets the 'live' treatment
In rehearsal: The Andy Warhol Pop Group - photo by Bill DeYoung

To enhance the atmosphere at the opening reception for the SCAD Museum’s Warhol Trio exhibition, a group of local musicians will perform the 1967 album The Velvet Underground and Nico in its entirety.

The Velvet Underground was a rock ‘n’ roll band unlike any other – with singer/songwriter Lou Reed and violist/imagineer player John Cale, the band explored the darker side of urban life, through “pop” songs. This involved the use of non–traditional song structures, feedback and noise, quirky harmony and nihilistic lyrics that took the listener through the ravaged corners of the mind.

Warhol adopted the band as his own, and in the mid 1960s the Velvets were integral parts of the artist’s New York “happenings.”

“It’s kind of psychedelic druggy music, but all the music sort of was at that time,” says singer/guitarist Keith Kozel, who’ll sing lead with Thursday’s ad hoc Velvets band.

Warhol adopted the band as his own, and in the mid 1960s the Velvets were integral parts of the artist's New York "happenings."

"It's kind of psychedelic druggy music, but all the music sort of was at that time," says singer/guitarist Keith Kozel, who'll sing lead with Thursday's ad hoc Velvets band.

"Velvet Underground really stood apart, because most of the psychedelic druggy music then was very dreamy and oriented toward ‘flower power' and ‘brain change' kind of stuff. Velvet Underground was really about gritty street life in New York. That included the drug life, the S&M underground and things like that.

Warhol designed the well-known "banana" cover for The Velvet Underground and Nico, which featured the monotone vocals of his protégé, the West German actress/model Nico on several songs.

It was never a big-selling record, but today it's considered a classic record, a forerunner of the punk and "new wave" movements to come.

Bottles & Cans bassman Mike Walker was the first to receive a call from SCAD. "The first mention of it," he explains, "was ‘Could you guys do something that's sort of in a ‘60s vibe, maybe throw in a couple of Velvet Underground songs?'"

Walker spoke to guitarist Ray Lundy, his longtime Bottles & Cans partner, who was immediately in favor of the project. "Between us, we decided why not do that whole record?'"

And so they will, with Bottles & Cans drummer Jason Gecik, and guest vocalist Carrie Rodgers handling the Nico stuff.

"I told Ray and Jason, I knew we could get the form of the songs pretty good, but I was like ‘If we can pull off the vibe of it ...'" Walker says. "The vibe is way more important than technically hittin' every single note.

"In my opinion, though, we ended up being able to pull off just about the whole picture. I think we're doing a really good representation of the songs and the whole form. Pretty much the vibe and everything."

The band will do the VU album, straight through, as its second set. The first will consist of relatively obscure ‘60s psychedelia, the grittier songs, from the likes of Love, the Seeds and the Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow," not "Incense and Peppermints," the one everybody's familiar with).

For Kozel, who explores similar non-linear musical territory with his band Superhorse, "doing" the Velvet Underground is a no-brainer.

"When I was still in high school I went to see the punk band Black Flag," he says. "And I got a chance to hang out with Henry Rollins. After talking to him a while, he turned me on to the (VU) album White Light, White Heat. I listened to that record and then I discovered, in my attic, an original copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico.
"So I was still in high school when I heard it, and it just blew me away."

The Andy Warhol Pop Group

Where: SCAD Museum of Art, 227 Martin Luther King Blvd.

When: 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14

Admission: Free