Boston-based The Upper Crust harks back to a bygone era. (Courtesy Ben Stas)

Boston-based The Upper Crust harks back to a bygone era. (Courtesy Ben Stas)

Upper Crust plays ‘roque’ and roll

Boston-based guitarist-vocalist Nat Freedberg’s love of stage costuming started over two decades ago with his surf-rock band The Clamdiggers. “We wore short clamdigger pants, usually white, plus sailor hats and various nautical paraphernalia,” he says. The son of a Harvard professor, he later turned his fascination with history into the showier The Upper Crust, playing Lord Bendover. He and his bandmates wear aristocratic attire of 1700s — powdered wigs, ascots and velvet knee breeches, even white face powder — as they blast through campy, AC/DC power-chorded “roque” anthems like “We’re Finished With Finishing School,” and on the new album “Delusions of Grandeur,” “Little Castrato” and “I’ll Be Wintering Elsewhere.”

Where can a modern gentleman procure a vintage powdered wig?

Oh, it’s almost impossible. There was a costume place in New York City, which had a warehouse full of beautiful wigs. But they went out of business, and now all I can find are the cheapo made-in-China wigs. So we’re nursing our wigs through senescence. And we have a couple of backup wigs, but it’s definitely going to become an issue, unless someone comes down the pike with a new supply of good-quality wigs.

What care do the wigs and stagewear require?

It’s difficult having to wear wigs and costumes. It’s a whole different set of complications that other bands don’t experience. Sometimes, we’re relaxing in our lingerie and pajamas, and it’s necessary to throw on the costumes swiftly before we meet our public. And it takes a great deal of assistance from our manservants to dress us properly.

Where do you find your fancy togs and face powder?

It’s all bespoke, all made to fit each and every one of us, according to our individual tastes. And we have seamstresses who have stepped up many times when we’re short on breeches. But there is one certain brand of face powder that we use. We buy it in bulk at BJ’s Wholesale Face Powder Market, and it’s called Ben Nye. It’s for highly professional clowns and actors.

In your travels, have you stumbled across weird antiques that you can incorporate in concert?

We used to use a lot of props onstage. But now we can’t be bothered, because we’re old and lazy. But we had giant Grecian columns that were covered with ivy, and fountains with nymphs and satyrs capering around. We even had dueling pistols, for our song “20 Paces,” and we used to do a dueling routine for it. But now we just have our guitars strapped on ––because we’re too shiftless to do it ourselves — and we blast through a set of “roque and roll.” And fans seem to like that just fine.

The Upper Crust
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. May 25
Tickets: $12
Contact: (415) 626-4455, www.bottomofthehill.comDelusions of GrandeurNat FreedbergPop MusicUpper Crust

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