Rock-a-Betty Riot June 17 at Indoor Sports Center

Unless you’re a woman who spends most nights in fishnet stockings and roller skates, you’ve probably never heard of Uncle Leon and the Alibis. But to a growing number of America’s female roller derby teams, the band’s name has become synonymous with a single catch phrase: “Roller Derby Saved My Soul.”

Sunday, June 17, Rockford-area derby fans will get their first-ever chance to see Uncle Leon and the Alibis live, as part of the Rock-a-Betty Riot Afterparty, hosted by the Rockford Rage Women’s Roller Derby.

Uncle Leon and the Alibis, from Brooklyn, N.Y., play a rowdy mix of classic honky-tonk and garage-style rock. Last fall, the band recorded Roller Derby Saved My Soul, a manic, surf-tinged celebration of women’s roller derby. On a whim, singer Leon Chase posted the song on the band’s Myspace page. “Within a week, I had messages from roller derby teams in 46 states,” Chase said. “Apparently, they liked the song.”

Roller derby—the campy roller skate-based contact sport that hit its commercial peak in the mid-1970s—has experienced an underground resurgence in recent years, fueled by a new wave of do-it-yourself, women-run organizations. According to Chase, in the six months since recording his song, he’s heard from more than 100 teams, including leagues in Canada, England, Germany and Australia. Now, Uncle Leon and the Alibis are spinning their unexpected bit of cult fame into a two-week tour of America, based almost entirely on roller derby appearances.

“I guess you could say we’re a testament to the Myspace age,” Chase said. “We’ve got no money, no record label, a beat-up van…and a couple thousand online fans who apparently think we’re rock stars.”

This tour—the band’s first—was booked almost entirely through their Myspace connections, and coincides, whenever possible, with roller derby events.

The Rockford Rage are in the midst of their 2007 season. They will welcome Uncle Leon and the Alibis as part of the Rock-a-Betty Riot June 17 at the Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park. The Midwest Maulers will face off against the Demolition Dolls, with doors opening at 4 p.m. and the bout starting at 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 at the door. Portions of the proceeds benefit the Northwest Community Center.

Immediately afterward, the band will perform at the bout’s afterparty at Chubby Rain House of Tunes, 4210 Countryside Estates Drive, Poplar Grove. Performance is expected to begin at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s been a great feeling, meeting all these people who, until now, were just names on an e-mail,” Chase said. “The roller derby crowds are a great bunch to perform for. It’s like having a built-in party everywhere you go. And, trust me, there are worse people to have in your audience than a couple dozen hot, screaming rollergirls.”

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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