P Skunk Willy, Solecrate and Thunderjeep rock the house

Colleen Stein

Colleen Stein

“I may have been abducted by aliens.” Erik Ritter, lead vocalist of art-rock band P Skunk Willy, explained the performance.

Ritter and his band were the headliners Friday night at the Jackalope Lounge, the Brookings hotspot for raw Midwest talent and local bands alike.

P Skunk’s logo, which depicts a disgruntled skunk in Robo-cop gear suggests the band has some sort of fascination with comic books and the outer galaxies, so I dared to ask the meaning behind it all.

I was expecting Ritter to say he was a hardcore fan of Star Trek or really enjoyed Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey.

I was a bit taken aback when Ritter said- in complete honesty-that he believes he was the victim of an alien abduction.

When “probed” for further details about the extraterrestrial kidnapping, Ritter explained that he has markings on his body that he cannot explain. He also said that if he is home alone for more than two days, he loses track of time.

Earlier evening entertainment at the Jackalope included Sioux Falls bands Soulcrate and Thunderjeep.

Openers Soulcrate consisted of two rapping brothers and a DJ named Dr. Barky.

The crowd reacted coldly in response to the brothers’ misplaced and classic Eminem-midwest-middle-class-white-boy-angst.

Former Slamhound DJ Mr. Barky, however, won the crowd over with his solos, showing off his scratching skills on his two turntables.

Jackalope veterans Thunderjeep were equally loud and energetic.

Performing their “she-loved-me-and-left-me” tunes, they held the crowd’s attention better than their predecessors.

Thunderjeep defined their music as hillbilly folk rock.

P Skunk Willy took on several different faces throughout their time onstage.

Once the guitars were plugged snuggly into their amps and the drummer situated behind his kit, Ritter sized the crowds attention by yelling

“Goddammit we’re at war!”

The somber moment died as quickly as it was born when Ritter and his band began playing old favorites like “Soul Gravy,” “Star Fruit,” “Hendricks and Heaven” and “Flavor of the Week.”

The band acted offended when one inebriated 20-something man asked for some AC/DC.

“That’s a way to get on my bad side, buddy,” Ritter said.

“We don’t play covers in here! We’re seniors!”

Ritter graduated from SDSU with a degree in General Arts.

He then went on to the San Francisco Art Institute and earned his masters in painting.

P. Skunk Willy was born in 1998, with over nine members alternating shows played in South Dakota and Minnesota.

“P Skunk Willy,” by the way, is Ritter’s on-stage alter ego. Guitarist Mike Buterbaugh is “Coca Mahler,” bassist Sean Egan is “Setharious Lardmonger” and drummer Jay Raney is “Earthman” in the Skunk universe.

Together, they work to counteract the negative musical energies discharged by pop-garbage performers like Puff Daddy and Christina Aguilera, who break the rules of creating original music with their formulaic, homogenized sounds.

Playing punchy, teasing, old-school beats with lyrics of abstract art and nonsense, P Skunk succeeded-at least on Saturday-in distracting impressionable ears both young and old from the Justin Timberlakes of the world.

While they style may seem ‘alien’ to many and playing small venues will never probably never get them limos or free tickets to the Grammys, the members of P Skunk can’t see themselves devoting their time to anything else.

“I try to remember that I am giving the listeners something they never had no matter if they like or dislike the project,” Ritter said.

“I want to deliver the highest percentage of a message I can.”

For those who missed P Skunk’s performance, the band will be returning to the Jackalope in the spring with band Great Girls Blouse.