Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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20190320 Spittin Image IMG 4566Ron Kriesel had no clue what was about to happen.

Sitting in the back row against the wall in McAllen Mobile Park's dance hall, Kriesel was picked out by identical twins Blain and Brian Swabb, known as “Spittin' Image,” and brought on stage along with two other “volunteers” to help with the performance of Queen's infamous ballad “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The three sat tightly together and answered (or didn't answer) a few personal questions. Then Brian explained what was about to happen. They didn't have to sing or dance, all they had to do was open their mouths or nod their head as Brian hit them on the head or shoulder (lightly, of course), with a Nerf mallet-type drumstick.

The result was absolutely hysterical and kept the audience laughing till well after the masterpiece had been concluded.

“It was hot up there,” said Kriesel who, along with his wife, made the trip to the Valley for the first time this year from Owatonna, Minn. “But it was a lot of fun. Those guys are great.”

That probably summed up the audience's feelings toward a show filled with comedy, interaction and harmony-filled classic and well-known songs such as “Pretty Woman,” “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “16 Tons” among others. Of course, the show wouldn't be complete without the brothers showing their skills on the instruments, Brian with his guitar and Blain with his eight-string or five-string mandolin. They were especially impressive on pieces such as the “William Tell Overture,” and “Spanish Eyes.”

20190320 Spittin Image IMG 4452Blain and Brian Swabb were born, raised, and still live in Greenville, Ohio. In fact, they were surprised to have as many Ohioans at the show, saying they thought that state's snowbirds went to Florida. They started picking their instruments at a young age, and by the time they turned 13 years old the twins formed their first group. At 14, they were performing most weekends. “Mom and Dad would have to drive us to the places we played – whether it was a senior home or a nightclub, where we weren't old enough to be in,” Brian said. “They took us everywhere so we could perform.”

After graduating from high school, the two traveled the Midwest playing the hotel and resort circuit. Later, they came back to their hometown to own, operate, and perform in their nightclub, “My Brother’s Place,” which they had for 15 years. In 1998, the twins went back out on the road, and now average more than 500 shows per year. They cover most of Ohio and surrounding states during the non-winter months and then hit Florida and Texas during the winter.

Brian does most of the lead vocals and also adds the harmony to the sound. He is a wonderful guitar player and probably knows a million chords. Besides sequencing all the added background instrumentation (drums, bass, piano, etc...), he is the emcee for the group.

Blain is the oldest twin (by 26 minutes). He's electric on his Gibson eight-string mandolin, but is equally at home on his custom-made, five-string mandolin. When he’s not playing the mandolin he is playing his harmonicas or adding his vocal talents. He also has a love of doing pantomimes.

“What is real special is that Brian can't do what I do and I can't do what he does,” Blain told the packed house. “We've been doing this for a long time – 47 years in fact. It's all we've ever done.”

It was obvious that the duo knew how to get in sync immediately. Their jokes came off as serious stories until the punch line hit.

“I'm so thankful Mom told me that there was no Santa Claus,” Blain told the audience. “She told me there was no East Bunny either. Then when I was old enough, she had that talk with me about the birds and the bees.”

“She told you about the birds and the bees?” Brian asked, clearly surprised about this turn in the story. “She never told me about the birds and the bees.”

“I always wondered why she told me twice,” Blain responded as the audience once again burst out in laughter.”

After intermission, the “third twin,” Billybob made his way to the stage, looking awfully like Brian but with hillbilly attire and a vile set of teeth. He wanted to show everyone a magic trick. He folded and smashed a banana (which he mistook for a “bandana”), folded it up in a towel and to the audience's amazement – and his – the banana disappeared.

Brian also happened to be fighting a cold that day, but it didn't matter. His vocals, combined with his brother's harmony were perfectly tuned. The comedy, interaction and high-energy performance on the instruments were more than just a treat.

Other songs included “Good Love,” “Rock Me Mama,” “Walk the Line,” “On the Road Again,” and Good-Hearted Woman.” It was a lot of music and more packed into a non-stop electrifying performance.

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