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DeLuxe plays New Year's Eve at Shy's

Sometimes it's the nightspots you'd never think of that can present surprisingly great live music. 

Early last fall, an associate and I ventured out on a Saturday night to Pier 21 in Medford. Far from the downtown bar scene and situated on Stewart Avenue, the place didn't promise much more than a scant few patrons sitting around and maybe, if we were lucky, some music playing from a satellite radio station.

My head turned when I heard a familiar guitar riff backed up by solid rhythms. There on a small stage — holding a couple of rosewood-necked, black Stratocasters — stood lead guitarists Kevin Ellison and Rob Gunderson, along with Dave Hodgkins on drums and Brad Irvin on bass.

Billed as DeLuxe, the band kicked out two sets of classic rock and blues from the '60s, '70s and '80s, and our quiet pint of beer in a neighborhood bar turned into several spins on the dance floor, right along with others in the crowd that night.

DeLuxe, led by Ellison, formed about two years ago. Members of the band came and went until Gunderson replaced a lead guitarist earlier this year.

"Once we got Rob, everything was great," Ellison says. "I knew he was a good guitar player and asked him if he wanted to come kick with us. He fell right into it and hasn't left. All of us in the band know the material really well, and we all get along great. We have a lot of fun."

Ellison and his band got their start playing at Shy's Cafe & Lounge in Shady Cove — another "local friendly" that's off the beaten path — and the place still feels like home to Ellison.

DeLuxe will play New Year's Eve at Shy's, 21303 Highway 62. The music starts at 9 p.m.

"Of course, we have a captive audience in Shady Cove because the residents won't leave town," Ellison says. "But they're well mannered, spend money and don't cause problems. It's the kind of crowd we like."

DeLuxe's players include a lineup of familiar talent: Gunderson's worked with the Terri Cote Band, Jen Ambrose's Rock Project and his own Rob Gunderson Band. More recently, he's played with former Merle Haggard drummer Jeff Ingram and his band at Redmond rodeo's Chute No. 9 and recorded with The Honeymoon Killers. Hodgkins played drums for Dead Sea Pedestrians and Pop Rocks, and Irvin played with The Roadsters and Identity Crisis, and sits in occasionally with The Rockets. 

"There's a lot of experience between the four of us," Ellison says. "We play music from the era we grew up in, and our fans grew up with the same songs. And we're versatile. Our set list is all over the place."

Call it a classic rock, blues and even a little country cover band, and look for hits by The Scorpions, ZZ Top, Allman Brothers, Badfinger, Alice Cooper, The Band, Joe Cocker and many more.

"If I had to name my favorite guitarists, I'd have say Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton," Ellison says. "Your old-school traditional blues and harder rock guitarists. There's even a little Pink Floyd in the mix.

"I play Gibsons and Fenders," Ellison says. "I used to just play the Strat, but then I bought a Gibson, a Les Paul, a Gibson SG ... and I really liked those, so I didn't play the Strat for like forever. Then I pulled it out of the closet after a couple of years and thought, 'Why haven't I been playing this? This sounds great.' "

Ellison also plays an acoustic hollowbody for nearly half of each DeLuxe show. 

The band will take a hiatus from playing live this winter to rehearse, add new songs to its set list and record at Ellison's house in Eagle Point. When the group resurfaces in the spring, it will be a force in the ranks of such local bands as Hot Gossip, Blowin' Smoke and The Rogue Suspects.

Find the band on Facebook or YouTube by searching "deluxesouthernoregon."

Brad Irvine, left, Kevin Ellison, Dave 'Lefty' Hodgkins and Rob Gunderson are DeLuxe. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta