‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, And sidled up to the bar,
Came a couple of drunkards who were rather bizarre,
‘Cause in all of their years, in and out of bands and careers,
They’d never paid proper focus to holiday cheers,
Mapped out on a napkin, punny names were brainstormed,
By the end of the night, Figgy and the Scrooges was born.
To be quite honest, I never really believed cover bands had much cache in this world, let alone comic Christmas-themed groups, running the sacred straight into the ground, when the carols we already have are themselves redundant. A sleigh on flames might be the proper metaphor. But David Banbury has always admired the absurdity of the idea, especially the fortuitous streak of punk albums that have mocked the holidays over the years — think the Ramones’ seminal “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).” The concept of Figgy and the Scrooges, an idea evolved from a name created by Banbury and Drift Mouth’s Lou Poster, was incredibly novel, a lark to be done once and killed off, but the pair persevered, and now the conglomerate, which includes drummer Rusty Scrooge and new member, bassist Jah Scrooge, are about to host the 8th annual Figgy Fest.
“It’s a big tent Christmas party,” says Banbury, describing why it’s continued to snowball into the huge tradition Figgy Fest is today. “There’s something for people who love Christmas and people who hate it. It has a ton of irreverence. Now if you love Christmas and get overly sensitive, you might not want to come.”
And after that first event, it was obvious that Figgy and the Scrooges weren’t the only ones in on the joke and willing to perpetuate the joke. Now there’s a total of 9 bands, made up of a number of reputable Columbus musicians, who have taken the X-mas motif to the x-treme — including Ebenezer Booze, the Angry Reindeer, Motorsled, and Hung Stocking and the Ginger Bred, just to name a few.
Last month, those bands and more, even collaborated to make an album for release on Black Friday. Holiday Blood — courtesy of Pat Dull’s Columbus Blood Records — features the entire manger of these artists and the seasonal cheer that’s been churning since the Scrooges wrote their first original, “12 Shots of X-mess.” The popularity of Figgy Fest and the want to join in on the madness, has even come to include Hanukkah bands. The Mitzvahs, who do holiday versions of Misfits songs, and 3 Speed Sleigh, who (on the new compilation) do a spot-for-spot rendition of the Bay City Rollers “Saturday Nights,” but as “Hanukkah Nights,” playing on Banbury’s “big-tent” concept. Throw in the demented chaos of Placenta Claus and the Human Santapede, whose “Carol of the Bowels” (instead of bells) is a distillation of Christmas depression turned loose to evil, and the irreverence that defines Figgy Fest is palpable.
Banbury talks about how after the first Figgy Fest, the net was a paltry $76, and instead of splitting the till with the musicians, they instead donated it to a foodbank.
Not knowing who to contact or where to reach out, the next year Banbury, and his Figgy Fest co-organizers Eva Bevans and Vicky Mahnke (who also play in Ebenezer Booze), formed a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Local businesses started donating raffle prizes large and small. And in essence, the true meaning of Christmas, won out. Now that giving spirit has become a huge reason Figgy Fest has maintained, raising over $15,000 for the organization since that earnest first donation.
“That first year I think that it ended up being exactly what we thought it was,” says Banbury, “just a big party. But over the years, as more people started getting involved, it became something else, and now it’s more about the charity.”
The 8th Annual Figgy Fest, featuring Figgy and the Scrooges, Ebenezer Booze, Angry Reindeer, the Ho Ho Hos, 3 Speed Sleigh, Placenta Claus and the Human Santapede, and the Mitzvahs, is Saturday, December 15th at Ace of Cups. All raffles and proceeds will benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.