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Local Rockers the Heavenly Chillbillies Play Coney Island Festival

Left to right: Ben Abdallah, Mike Olczak, Gabrial Mayer, and Eural Irving of Heavenly Chillbillies

Hot Dog!

Women, beer and good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll embellished with a fine twist of DIY roots and paired with a humble vibe: these are just a few words to describe the music and attitude of Buffalo’s eclectic band, The Heavenly Chillbillies. As I rode in the back of the “Fart Locker” with THC members—bassist Eural Irving, drummer Mike Olczak and keyboardist Ben Abdallah and guitarist/vocalist Gabrial Mayer— Mayer drove us to Chilliam Studios before their gig at Hot Mama’s Canteen, I learned that having fun and engaging the audience to have just as much fun is one of their goals.

Known to some as foodies of the city’s music scene, The Heavenly Chillbillies will be representing Buffalo’s music community in front of some 40,000 people this Friday at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. “This is by far the biggest gig for us, there is no other band playing the event,” Mayer said, adding that he has never been on TV before.

The food aspect is no stranger to The Heavenly Chillbillies; the band has played Buffalo’s Wing Festival and Brockport BBQ and Music Festival three times.“If we could be known as The Godfathers of Food, it could be our little niche, I like the food aspect—food, beer and music; that describes us,” Olczak said.

These folks also described themselves as “a punk band who plays the blues, country, heavy metal, rockabilly and a little bit of everything else with the occasional jam session,” adding that they started out trying to play mainly blues music. The opportunity to play at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for this genre-hopping band all started one night at Nietzsche’s when Wing King Drew Cerza walked in with Mark DeCarlo and a gentleman in a chicken suit.

Cerza invited the members to check out the Wing Festival that next day. After Irving wrote a song called “Wing King,” the band pitched it to Cerza and ended up playing the Wing Festival. Through the festival, THC met George Shea who provided them with the opportunity to play at Coney Island.

The four-piece has written songs about beer and performed a song about a chicken wing party for the Wing Festival. Now, they have something in the works for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest but it doesn’t end there; THC is carving out their own food-related musical genre called “Feed Me, I’m Hungry.” Included in the mix will be songs about hot dogs, chicken wings and crab legs, to name a few tasty subjects.

The band is notorious for writing songs with humorous lyrics and a fun, dance-along yet sometimes heavy rhythm that also tell a story. Olczak said that their music is not about politics or saving the planet, it’s about having fun and drinking beers. You can hear this, quite literally, in their song entitled “Beer.”

Although the band has been together since 2008, their friendship goes even further. Irving and Olczak have been jamming together for years and moved to Boston together. Back in the 1980’s, Olczak moved back to Buffalo and started his own pizzeria. Soon after, Irving moved backed and the two reunited and started playing together again. Less than a week after being home, Irving met Mayer at a bar that Mayer was employed at and no more than two weeks later, the two found themselves in a basement jamming out together. Mayer and Abdallah were in a jam band 10 years ago called My Brothers Robot. After being a three-piece for four years, Abdallah joined the band. After hundreds of gigs and six food festivals later, THC has been granted an incredible privilege: for one night, they will be the face of Buffalo music in front of a crowd of thousands on national television, munching on hot dogs with positive vibes.

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